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Wednesday, 30th December 2015
In Events In Japan,

How New Year is celebrated in Japan

The Christmas decorations have now been removed in Japan and the country is gearing up for oshogatsu – or first month – which we would recognise as New Year.

Lasting until January 3rd, the celebration is an important one for the Japanese and is full of traditions based around the family.

Unlike Christmas, most people get enough time off at New Year to return home and spend it in the place where they grew up.

Anyone visiting Japan will notice special decorations known as kadomatsu and shimekazari on the front of shops, but they are also present in home across the nation.

The three bamboo shoots of the kadomatsu represent prosperity, while the pine symbolises longevity and the plum branches are said to bring steadfastness.

Gods are said to live inside them at this time of year as they come to bless people, but by January 15th they are no longer needed and are usually burned.

Shimekazari are usually hung above the door and are also for the gods, with a sacred straw rope at its centre, accompanied by pine and bitter orange for prosperity.

Shrines throughout Japan sell items for families to put on their alters at home. These range from an arrow to destroy bad luck to a paddle for playing an auspicious game.

They are usually joined by an offering of two rice cakes topped with an orange that is placed on the shrine for the gods.

If you peeked through the window of any Japanese house on New Year’s Eve the chances are you’d catch the family watching Kohaku Uta Gassen.

It has been broadcast on the NHK channel since 1959 and lasts for no less than 4.5 hours, with viewers sitting down to watch it at 7.15pm.

Expect an epic musical battle between the biggest Japanese artists of the day, with the winner decided by a group of judges and the audience.

Just before midnight, the Buddhist temples ring a bell for 108 strikes to purify the people ahead of the coming year.

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