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Every country has its own traditions to celebrate the past year and ring in the new. Through the food, clothes, or practices, most people intend to open up the new year with clear intentions, good fortune, and a hopeful mindset. Regardless of how you spend the end of year, whether it’s at home spending time with family or out with friends, see if you can implement some of these fascinating Japanese new year’s traditions that hold deep meanings of good fortune, good health and longevity, as well as stability and resetting our lives.

 

1. Clean Up And Reset Your House

 

Following the narrative and significance of “spring cleaning”, Japanese traditions close the end of the year with a deep cleanse of the house and their surroundings, also known as 大掃除 \ oo-souji \, directly translated as "the big cleanup". The key point here is to cover small areas and corners that people usually don’t tend to when they are cleaning daily. Mostly all families clean their house in the last few weeks with the intention to rid the ‘impurities’ of the year and bring in good fortune.

 

 

💡 DID YOU KNOW that the big clean up originates from the Heian period (794-1185), where sweeping soot off was said to welcome and bring good fortune from the kami (god) of New Year?

 

2. Watch The First Sunrise Of The Year & Make Wishes For The New Year

 

Many traditions like to follow the ‘firsts’ of an activity on the first day of the new year, from a first kiss, to the first sound of the bell, to your first dream. This includes, seeing the first sunrise of the new year, also known as 初日の出 \ hatsu-hi-no-de \. Japanese wake up early to experience the opening rays of the new year and solidify their resolutions. A fulfilling and hopeful way to set good intentions while having something to admire in the meantime as well.

 

Photo of a sunrise over a tori (gate) in Japan symbolizing first sunrise of the year

 

If you are not a morning person (granted, it’s hard to wake up at 6:30AM) there are definitely other ways to also create new wishes and resolutions for the coming year. Purchasing a daruma, a manifestation doll and a symbol of good luck and perseverance, is a perfect way to create a goal and keep track of them. Many purchase them at the end of the year to create a goal, and fill the left eye of the daruma. Once the goal is achieved, the other eye is filled in.

 

💡 DID YOU KNOW? No need to worry if you haven’t reached your goal that was set with the daruma by the end of the year! Most daruma dolls are made out of washi-paper (paper-mâché), where you can throw the daruma into a fire, reset your goals, and start over!

 

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3. Write A New Years Greeting Card To Loved Ones

 

What better way to greet your family members, friends, and acquaintances, than with a New Years greeting card, also known as 年賀状 \ nen-ga-jyou \. Just like having greeting cards during Christmas, the Japanese people like to write handwritten messages on the back of a card to thank people that helped them over the past year and wish them a good year ahead. It is a lovely way to show your appreciation, your care, and your intention to always stay connected with another. In other words, showing the omotenashi spirit, or ultimate hospitality.

 

 

💡 DID YOU KNOW that the greeting cards usually have designs and templates based on the following year’s Chinese zodiac. 2023 is the year of the rabbit, which signifies mercy, elegance, and beauty.

 

4. Eat Foods That Bring Good Fortune To The New Year

 

You may have eaten the popular Japanese dishes such as sushi and ramen, but the Japanese welcome the new year with dishes that hold significant meaning and taste!

 

Osechi: Beautifully-Assorted Foods in Bento Boxes

 

お節 \ osechi \, a traditional Japanese stacked bento box filled with an assortment of foods, originated as offerings to the kami (god) celebrate during New Years for a good harvest or for good fortune. In modern day, osechi is presented and eaten at the end of the year with the family as the assortment of food found inside the stacked bento boxes, also known as 重箱 \ jū-bako \, are carefully made to symbolize good omens and good wishes. The food is neatly packed in the boxes as everyone shares and eats together to spread good wishes and good health among the family members. We breakdown some of the foods found in the bento box and what they mean:

 

Food
Ingredient
Significance
黒豆
\ kuro-mame \
Black soybeans
To be able to work hard and live happily
かまぼこ
\ kamaboko \
Cured fishcake
The fishcake is cut into a half-moon shape to represent the sunrise
海老
\ ebi \
Shrimp
The shrimp and it’s back bend represent living a long life until you are ‘bending over’
蓮根
\ renkon \
Lotus Root
The holes in the lotus root symbolizes the ability to see your future and the many possibilities that your life has
こんにゃく
\ konnyaku \
Konjac Root
The special shape of the konjac root forms a bridle used to control a horse. The konjac bridle-shape symbolizes strictly disciplining oneself

 

 

 

Photo of osechi, two bento boxes filled with an assortment of traditional Japanese food

 

💡 DID YOU KNOW that the konjac is a vegetable root found in many different Asian dishes, but can also be used as an exfoliation sponge as well? Our konjac sponge gently exfoliates the skin and is 100% compostable as it fully sourced from the vegetable root!

 

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Toshi-Koshi Soba: Longevity Noodles

 

In hopes to live a long and healthy life? Try making some soba noodles at home. This simple, healthy, and tasty bowl of noodles are called 年越しそば \ toshi-koshi-soba \, a noodle bowl made out of buckwheat noodles symbolizing longevity. Traditionally, the noodles are eaten on the last day of the year to symbolize a long life and good fortune for the coming year. Soba noodles are thin and long, representing longevity and ‘to extend’ the fortunes of the family. The noodles are easy to bite through, signifying a sharp cut and end to all hardships and calamities in the coming year. It’s also just a yummy, easy-to-make, warm bowl of noodles to eat on a cold day! Find how to make the soba noodles here.

 

via GIPHY

 

There are many more unique traditions and foods to cover during the New Year's in Japan, but we hope that this gave a little insight and inspiration to ring in the new year’s with a fresh determination, good fortune, and tasty food!

 


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