Does Japan Celebrate Chinese New Year? Lunar New Year in Japan | Guidable
lunar new year, chinese new year, japan

Does Japan Celebrate Chinese New Year? Lunar New Year in Japan

By Guidable Writers Jan 31, 2022

The Lunar New Year, also known as Chinese New Year is usually celebrated between late January and February, during the first new moon. This year, it will be on February 1st, 2022.

But if you’re in Japan, you may be wondering, “Does Japan celebrate Chinese New Year?” Here’s what you should know.

Does Japan Celebrate Chinese New Year?

Does Japan Celebrate Chinese New Year?

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Almost all Asian nations celebrate the Lunar New Year, but you won’t find much in Japan in the way of celebration. In 1873, Japan stopped using the lunar calendar and switched to using the Gregorian calendar to match Western countries. However, it is still not completely clear if a desire to match the West was the reason Japan switched to using the Gregorian calendar.

Lunar New Year in Japan 

Japan is a popular destination for tourists from China. And while there won’t be any Chinese tourists this year due to the pandemic, there is still a significant number of Chinese refugees, immigrants and their descendants remaining in enclaves such as Yokohama, Kobe, and Nagasaki’s chuukagai (Chinatown) and new communities in the Ikebukuro district of Tokyo.

lunar new year in japan, Does Japan Celebrate Chinese New Year?

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The Chinese Lunar New Year is a festival honoring the ancient rituals and ancestors of the family and celebrating the coming season. Various traditions, practices, and superstitions call back to early Chinese stories attached to New Year’s festivities.

Although Chinese Lunar New Year may not be technically a national holiday in Japan, it is the most notable annual celebration in Chinese culture and is still commonly celebrated.

Lunar New Year Customs

To start the coming year fresh, people traditionally clean their homes before the new year, just like the tradition of spring cleaning in Western cultures or oosouji in Japan. Any bad luck from the past year is thought to be washed out to make room for good luck to come in. During this time, doors and windows are opened to attract good fortune into one’s home. However, make sure to put away the broom until New Year rolls around, or you might risk sweeping away the good luck of the new year.

lunar new year custom japan, Does Japan Celebrate Chinese New Year?

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Another Lunar New Year tradition is the practice of visiting relatives and friends. Elders usually send lucky red envelopes containing crisp bills of money to children and adults younger than them during this period. It is called “lucky money”!

Specialty Food

Chinese cakes are not the only desserts enjoyed in Japan during the Lunar New Year. With wagashi (traditional Japanese sweets) being fashioned into the year’s Chinese zodiac animal, Japanese wagashi-ya (sweet shops) also help welcome in the new year. Aside from the wagashi made by Japanese traditional sweet shops, Japanese bakeries also often bake small Western-style cakes in the shape of that year’s animal.

lunar new year, chinese new year, japan

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What is The Lunar New Year Animal For This Year?

2018

February 16 (Dog)

2019

February 5 (Pig)

2020

January 25 (Mouse)

2021

February 12 (Buffaloes)

2022

February 1 (Tiger)

2023

January 22 (Cat/Rabbit)

lunar new year, chinese new year, japan

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How to Celebrate Chinese Lunar New Year in Japan

Historically, Japan used to celebrate the New Year according to a traditional lunar calendar like China. However, during the Meiji period, the Japanese government shifted towards westernization and began following the Gregorian calendar, with the new year beginning on January 1. Yet, the symbolic significance of Chinese zodiac animals remained, with the animals being introduced into the new Japanese New Year festivities. What’s more, because of the significant number of Chinese immigrants and their descendants, the Chinese New Year celebrations are still being observed in Japan.

In Japan, of course, Chinatowns across the country still celebrate the Lunar New Year. One example is the annual Nagasaki Lantern Festival. It used to be a festival used mostly to mark the Lunar New Year for Chinese people living in Japan. Now it has become an opportunity for people to experience Chinese culture in the Nagasaki region. The festival lasts for two weeks and includes fireworks, lion dances and a procession marking the route crews of Chinese sailors used to take into the city.

Unfortunately, the festival this year has been canceled due to increasing COVID-19 infections, however, that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate in other ways. Why not go visit Yokohama’s Chinatown which has a lantern illumination event that is on until the 28th of February 2022, or Tokyo Tower which will be lit up red for the fourth year in a row to celebrate the Lunar New Year?

lunar new year okinawa, Does Japan Celebrate Chinese New Year?

Lunar new year is also celebrated in some towns in Okinawa and some other southern islands in Japan, but it is not a national holiday, which means that businesses are open, and people need to go to work. Unlike many other Asian nations, it is not celebrated as a Nationl Holiday, but many people in Okinawa still put up flags and eat some Okinawan soba, the same way people eat toshikoshi soba (long-life soba) for the New Year in mainland Japan.

Lunar New Year in Japan 2022

Please note that some events may be canceled due to the pandemic. So please check the latest information carefully when planning your travels. And also, please don’t forget to wear a mask and practice social distancing! Protect yourself and the people around you!

Does Japan Celebrate Chinese New Year? Now You Know!

Now, if you’re in Japan, you can prepare for your Lunar New Year celebrations! The Guidable team hopes that you found this article helpful! After all, we aim to help create a better life for foreigners in Japan through all of our articles! So, stay tuned and follow us!

Follow @guidablejapan for your daily dose of Japan on Instagram!

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This article was originally posted on Feb 11th, 2021, but was edited and reposted on Jan 31st, 2022.

Featured photo credit: Canva