New Years Day in Japan – A National Holiday

New years day in Japan is taken seriously by the Japanese. There are several traditions each Japanese person tries to accomplish on the first day of the year. 

New years day is a national holiday in Japan, so most Japanese have the day off to complete their to-do list. Preparing New Years’ lunch, giving money to young relatives, and a temple visit are just a few. 

New Years Greeting

Like many cultures, the Japanese greet each other on January 1st by saying Happy New Year! You can hear them exclaim “akemashite-omedetou-gozaimasu” to each other. They smile at each other and continue by discussing what they will do today. Just a short, polite greeting, and then they continue about their day.  


Traditional Japanese food at New Year’s is osechi ryori. Served in colorful stacked dishes called a Jubako box, each layer has several Japanese food types. Each food type has a different meaning. 

Black Beans – Health

Sardines boiled in soy sauce – Bountiful Harvest

Fish cake – Good luck

Sweet dumplings – Financial prosperity

Seaweed – Happiness

Shrimp – Longevity

Taro root – Many children

Soba – Long and happy life

The family gathers and eats until every scrap of food is gone. In Japan, wasting food is rude. Even so, the country waist 6 million tons a year. Wow!

Mochi (rice cake) is the traditional snack to have at new years. You can find different types of Mochi in stores and Festivals. It’s close to eating taffy.  

With more husbands and wifes working these days, it’s easier to pick up food from the supermarket on New Year’s Day.

Temple Visit

Throughout the day, people visit temples and shrines. The first-time shrine visit is called Hatsumoude and usually occurs on your first day off of the new year. 

They give offerings (money) and say a quick wish or prayer. Often they ask for a great year ahead for everyone. Good health and fortune are also popular. 

Visitors place their first wish of the year on the shrine grounds, usually grouped in the thousands. People wish for anything, and it’s a convenient way to pray.

Even with COVID out of control in Japan at this time, millions of people are still visiting temples and shrines today. Several are saying an extra wish for the COVID to end. 

Otoshidama (New Year Money)

School-age children receive money from adult relatives on New Years Day. Usually, they receive a few thousand yen from 5-6 people. The money is in small envelopes, and usually firstborn gets the most considerable amount. 

It’s not unusual for children to have over $500 by the end of New Years Day. Children are expected to open their envelopes in private. To do otherwise is considered rude. 

Long lines


New Year specials are everywhere, and it’s one of the best days to shop. 20-50% off regular prices are standard, and unlike western countries, the stores don’t mark everything up the week before.

Have you visited Japan on New Years Day? Let me know in the comment section below.

Do you have any questions about New Years Day in Japan? Please ask in the comment section below.

Leaving a wish

2 thoughts on “New Years Day in Japan – A National Holiday”

  1. It’s nice to know in your article about Japanese culture during New Years’. I have been to Japan but don’t know much about the celebration. I know some Japanese and the New Year’s celebration is important to them. Your article gives me more insight into Japanese culture and celebrations.

    I liked reading your article, and I enjoyed it.


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