Unique Japanese New Year Traditions

Unique Japanese New Year Traditions

Celebrations of the new year can be seen all across the globe, with traditions differing between countries. Aside from the usual firework displays that can be seen across the world, Japanese new year traditions vary slightly from what many might be used to. Rather than limiting celebrations to the evening before the new year like many, various Japanese New Year celebrations take place between the 29th of December and 3rd of January, which is when most people are off work. Keep reading for some of the more unique Japanese New Year traditions!  

Japanese New Year Traditions

Japanese New Year

Bonenkai Parties

Japanese New Year celebrations begin in the office with parties known as Bonenkai, translating to ‘forget the year party’! As the name suggests, these parties are for forgetting all that has happened in the year, and instead letting the hair down to celebrate the start of a new year in Japan. These parties are commonly held in the office itself, either with the whole company or different departments. Office Bonenkai parties have garnered some dissent over the years, with some Japanese workers saying they dislike the tradition and would rather their bosses spent the money on a Christmas bonus rather than a party. However, in a more fun style, friends can also celebrate Bonenkai either at someone’s house or at a restaurant. These parties usually involve a large consumption of alcoholic beverages, and can be held at any point during December.

Sake Barrels for Japanese New Year


Shinnenkai celebrations are similar to Bonenkai, but differ slightly. Like Bonenkai, Shinnenkai involves alcohol and is often celebrated between both co-workers and friends. Shinnenkai is usually celebrated in January as a way of welcoming the new year in Japan. With this Japanese New Year party, some traditions from the main Japanese New Year celebrations, Shogatsu, are carried over, including breaking open sake barrels with a wooden hammer and drinking it together.

First Sunrise on New Years in Japan

Hatsuhi Sunrise

Another unique Japanese New Year tradition involves waking up to see the first sunrise of the year. Many families choose to wake up early on New Year’s morning and see this sunrise, considering it to be a great way of bringing in a successful new year. This is usually followed by a big breakfast shared between the family.

Shinto Shrine at New Years in Japan


During the day at the beginning of the new year, many people believe it to be important to visit a Shinto Shrine in Japan. Here, crowds pray at the shrine to send well wishes for the new year. This is an extremely popular practice, with many shrines and temples opening before midnight on New Year’s Eve, ahead of the crowds. However, this visit can be on the first, second, or third day of the new year. During Hutsumode, some choose to dress in a full kimono, while it is also common to dress in regular clothing.

Osechi Ryori for Japanese New Year

Osechi Ryori

Dishes associated with Japanese New Year are known as Osechi Ryori, with each dish symbolising something important, such as happiness, longevity, and health. It’s common to have as many as 30 of these dishes at New Year and as this is a mammoth task, many buy assortment sets of Osechi Ryori from local supermarkets. Popular Osechi Ryori dishes include Datemaki, which is a sweet rolled omelette; Kuri Kinton, candied chestnut with sweet potatoes; Namasu, daikon and carrot salad, and Chikuzenni, simmered chicken and vegetables. They are often served in trays or boxes with compartments, much like bento boxes. Trying a Japanese diet is a great way to start off your New Year with a boost as Japanese cuisine has proven health benefits and incredible flavours.   These are just a few traditional Japanese New Year celebrations! All traditions incorporate celebrations with friends and family to get the new year off to a good start. To learn more about Japanese culture and festivals, head over to our blog. If you would like to bring some Japanese-style luck to your home before the year’s end, why not pick up some lucky gifts for yourself or your loved ones?  
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