There are only a few days left until the New Year. Everyone is already looking forward to the holiday and the New Year holidays.
As for us, the New Year in Japan is the most important calendar holiday. As I wrote earlier in my notes on the Japanese New Year, many rituals and ceremonies are associated with the New Year in Japan. I wrote about some of them in my article “New Year in Japan”. Today I decided to tell you about what was not in the previous notes.
Every coming year, both here and in Japan, and I think in all countries, is traditionally seen as a new start, new opportunities, new discoveries. Therefore, all the duties available in the outgoing year should be completed by the end of the year.
During December, the bonenkai, which can be translated as “seeing off the outgoing year”, is held everywhere in Japan, with the aim of leaving all the worries and troubles of the old year behind. Bonencai is very similar to Russian corporate events in December. They are necessarily held at every Japanese company, for which a restaurant is booked in advance. Bonencai is also organized among friends, interest clubs, etc.
It is worth saying that despite the festive mood, the New Year’s Eve in Japan is quite troublesome. At home and at companies, it is necessary to carry out a general cleaning. When I worked in Tokyo, one of the last working days (December 27 or 28), all employees were required to conduct a large cleaning in the offices. Housewives did general cleaning in houses and apartments. That is, everyone cleaned everything, threw out the trash, sorted out unnecessary things, got rid of unnecessary papers in the office, etc. However, this tradition is similar to our country and to others, where it is also recommended to clean your house of junk before the New Year.
On December 31, that is, in fact, on New Year’s Eve, the Japanese serve “toshikoshi soba” (buckwheat noodles), symbolizing longevity. I myself had to eat this gray noodles several times on December 31 in the company of Japanese people.
As I wrote in last year’s notes, especially zealously all Japanese observe the custom of visiting the temple in the first days of the new year. It’s called “hatsumode”. The whole family goes to the temple either on January 1, or on January 2 or 3. Usually, they choose either the temple next to the house, or a particularly revered one in the city where they live. In the temple, you need to make a small donation, pray, and buy amulets for the upcoming year.
One of the most popular temples in Tokyo is the Meiji Temple in the Harajuku area. In Meiji Shrine, during the first 3 days of the new year, several million people spend hatsumode. Most impressive is hatsumode at the actual beginning of the year, when the large temple bells ring at midnight.
But perhaps the most interesting and fun begins after returning home from the temple. First, everyone usually sits down at the festive table, where they are happy to accept New Year’s treats-o-sethi reri. After a rest after a sleepless night (if you did not go to bed), the Japanese start traditional entertainment.
Most lucky Japanese kids. They receive a traditional New Year’s gift-envelopes with money, which are called お年玉 “o-toshidama”, which can be translated as “New Year’s treasure”. By the way, in the first years of my stay in Japan, some Japanese families, which I managed to visit at the beginning of the new year on winter vacation, also gave me o-toshidama, apparently, they considered me in their country as a child, since I was still an ignorant Gaijin 🙂 I was very pleased to receive such an envelope with Japanese yen!
On the first New Year’s Day, children play traditional games. The girls play hanetsuki, a game similar to badminton. Rackets in this game are made of wood and decorated with drawings on one side. The boys go to the open space and fly kites-так “takoage”.
Well, adults play their own games, for example, dice or cards. And usually taking during the game rice wine sake 酒, most often warmed up, which is called 熱燗 “atsukan”. Also, one of the favorite activities of the Japanese in the first days of January is parsing and reading a pile of New Year’s cards 年賀状 “nengadze”.
In recent years, traditional entertainment is gradually being replaced by modern entertainment. For example, as with us, collective viewing of New Year’s shows and concerts on TV. There are concerts with modern J-pop music, they are more for young people. And for the elderly Japanese, concerts are recorded with old Japanese songs 演歌 “enka” (like ballads).
When Japanese people go out on the street, they meet their neighbors and friends and bow and say the words “akemashite omedeto: gozaimasu”, which means” Happy New Year!”.
By the way, it is not customary for the Japanese to visit guests on New Year’s holidays. The New Year is considered an exclusively family holiday that unites people of different generations. Therefore, usually adult children who live separately from their parents try to come to their parents ‘ house for the New Year holidays, and those who already have their own children, respectively, together with their grandchildren.
After the New Year holidays are over and the employees of the companies return to work, the echoes of the New Year celebration will continue throughout January. The companies are holding corporate events again, but now they are dedicated to the New Year. These New Year’s parties are called “shinnenkai”.
In my Tokyo company, bonenkai and shinenkai were always held, and the latter often went to other cities. For example, once we went to Nagano Prefecture, Karuizawa city with an overnight stay to celebrate the New Year there.
I wish all my readers and students a Happy New Year. Before the New Year in Japan, it is customary to speak and write in letters よいいいい! (To her o-toshi o omukae kudasai), which can be translated as ” I wish you a good new Year!”
And add 皆様にとりまして、幸多き年になりますよう心よりお祈り申し上げます! (Mina sami ni torimashite ko:ki Toshi Ni Narimasu E: Kokoro Yori O-Inori Mo:si agemasu), which roughly translates as “With all my heart I wish everyone great happiness in the New Year! “or as an option” I pray for everyone with all my heart” (more literal translation).
So, you got acquainted with the traditions of the New Year in Japan. I hope you were interested. Write comments and questions.