4 End of the Year Traditions in Japan Essential to Spend New Year Like a Local | Guidable - Your Guide to a Sustainable, Wellbeing-centred Life in Japan

4 End of the Year Traditions in Japan Essential to Spend New Year Like a Local

By Aika Kaise Nov 30, 2018

There are many different ways people in different countries enjoy the end of the year season. And it is no different for the people of Japan. There are different customs that are traditional to Japan, and people in Japan are reminded of these when they hear of the end of the year.
I believe it would be a great experience to learn and take part in these traditions if you are in Japan during the the end of the year season.


1. Soba Noodles on New Year’s Eve



One of the customs at the end of the year is to have soba noodles (buckwheat noodles) on New Year’s eve in Japan.
It is called “toshikoshi-soba” in Japanese.
“Toshikoshi” means to see the old year out and the New Year in, and “Soba” means buckwheat noodles.
There are instant buckwheat noodles in Japan as well and they are quite popular among those that want to have the noodles, but do not want to go through the trouble of preparing it by themselves.
It is traditional to have it in the midnight while watch TV shows that count down for thw New Year, and it is a moment that many look forward to.


2. Year-End Cleaning



It is common practice in the U.S. and a few other parts of the world for cleaning to be done in the spring (“spring-cleaning”). Unlike these areas, however, it is traditional for Japanese people to do their own cleaning at the end of the year.
The concept is to be able to go into the New Year with a clean home, so that everything feels new.
Cleaning is not just done at home, but also at work. Companies proceed to do whatever deep cleaning needs to done, and staff at these companies clean their rooms and desks as well.
Whether it is laziness or just people not having the time, it is quite common to hire cleaning companies to do this job.
Supermarkets also get on the hype and many different cleaning products are sold as well.


3. Year‐End Party



Like almost any other part of the world, year-end parties are also done in Japan. This is known as “Bonen-Kai”.
“Bonen” means to forget a year if it is translated literally, and “kai” means a party.
As you can probably tell from the word meaning, people in Japan have a year end party so as to forget the previous year, particularly the sad or bad things that happened in the year.
This is done not only among families but also in companies as well.
Because of this custom, restaurants become very crowded and you might want to keep this in mind if you plan on going out and are not fond of crowds.
I would recommend to reserve a sit at your planned restaurant.


4. Bell on New Year’s Eve



Bells during New Year’s Eve is another custom, this links back to Buddhism.
During New Year’s eve, some people gather at the temple….others watch it on TV (21 century peeps:D), while the bell is rang 108 times.
The bell is rang for this particular amount because it is believed to be the number of worldly passions and desires of human beings.
So, if you hear the sounds of bells at this time, you will at least know the reason why now.


In conclusion, Japan has some very interesting traditions , and I hope you able to learn something new from these.
What do you think of these traditions? And let me know which one was new to you!

Aika Kaise / Japan


Furthermore, enjoy reading about the ways to enjoy Christmas to the fullest in Japan.

Christmas in Japan: 5 Tips to Get the Most out of the Season