What do Japanese do on New Year’s Eve?

Japanese modern lifestyle

2020 is ending soon! How was this year for you? It has been a little tough for everyone. Hope 2021 is more joyful and brighter!!

So today’s column is about New Year’s Eve. We call it “Omisoka(おおみそか)” in Japanese. What is the Japanese way of spending this day? Let’s check it out!

The spirits of New Year for Japanese

For Japanese, New Year is the biggest event in the year. Families get together, greet, eat special food and spend time together. Brothers/sisters living in different areas also gather with their parents.

Let’s see how we spend the day before New Year’s day.

What do Japanese do on New Year’s eve?

Cleaning up the house

We know that year-end cleaning should be started early, but the reality is that many people are too busy to get it done. Let’s finish all the cleaning and the preparation at an early time of New Year’s Eve and welcome the New Year with a calm feeling in a clean house.

Making traditional food osechi

Japanese traditional New Year’s food is called “Osechi ryori(おせちりょうり). It’s a big bento with a lot of variety food such as kuromame(sweet black soybeans), datemaki(sweet egg omlet), kazunoko(herring eggs), kurikinton(sweet potatoes) and more! Each item has its meaning.

Ozoni(soup with rice cake) is also eaten with osechi on New Year’s day.

A lot of preparation is needed.

Applying Furusato nozei donation program

Furusato nozei donation program is a tax deduction given to tax payers who donate to local municipalities.

“Furusato” means hometown and “nozei” means paying tax.

We normally pay tax to the municipalities where we live, but with this program we can donate to other municipalities and get the deduction of same amount for tax.

Why we do this? Because the concept of furusato nozei is to support such a small or less-financial resource municipality. And tax payer will get “henreihin” which is like a thank you gift. Henreihin is usually the local specialty such as seafood, rice, meat or fruits.

It closes on 31th December every year. Every tax payers including foreigners are eligible to participate this program.

If you are interested, you can find more info these sites.

Watching TV

Kohaku sing competition (Music program)

This is very long running song TV show that every Japanese person has seen at least once. It’s 4hours and half program showed on from 7:15pm to 11:45pm on New Year’s Eve. From young to veteran on various genre such as J-pop, ballad or dance music.

Singers who do great throughout the year are invited to this TV show. Most singers in Japan desire to be there and do their best performance for many years.

This show is a sing competition. The teams are separated into female and male and audience will vote which is better. It’s always very exciting and fun to watch this TV show.

New Year comes right after this program ends.

Waratte ha ikenai (Comedy show)

It is also long running TV show which is popular for young generation. Very popular comedian get all together and do a lot of silly things.

The concept is “no laughing”. The main comedians are not allowed to laugh even though they do very silly things. When they fail and laugh, they will be punished. Also many other comedians come to make them laugh.

Very silly, fun and traditional TV show which is loved by Japanese.

Eating toshikoshi soba

We eat toshikoshi soba at the countdown to New Year. “Toshikoshi soba” in a special way to call even though it’s the same soba as you know. “Toshikoshi” means entering new year.

Long soba noodles represent long life, so people eat them in hopes of longevity.

Joining countdown events

There are usually many countdown events especially in big cities. Bars, hotels, concerts and amusement parks etc. USJ (Universal Studio Japan) hold a big party every year for countdown.

Unfortunately the event for 2021 has been cancelled due to COVID-19. Hope we can have it next year.

Listening to Joya no kane

Joya no kane is “New Year’s Eve bell”. Bells are rung 108 times at temples around midnight on New Year’s Eve.

The number 108 is said to correspond with worldly desires or evil passions. Buddhist monks ring bells 108 times to expel those bad desires.

If you live near temples, you will hear the bell ringing around midnight. Japanese people hear the bell-ringing and feel the New Year is coming soon.

Year-end Jumbo lottery

It’s the end-of-year massive lottery! Many people buy the lotto and dream to get a lot money. Mmm yes of course.

It was sold from 24th November to 25th December. Many Japanese should be excited or nervous until the result is announce on New Year’s Eve.

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