Web Japan > NIPPONIA No.34 > Special Feature*
NIPPONIA No.34 September 15, 2005

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Hanabira mochi
This type of mochi rice cake is eaten to celebrate the New Year. The rice cake is wrapped around miso paste and burdock root simmered in syrup. The recipe was originally for cakes used in New Year rituals at the Imperial Court.
Hatsu mode (first visit of the year to a shrine or temple)
Hatsu mode is the visit to a shrine or temple made early in the new year to express a wish for the health of family members, a promotion, world peace, etc. Years ago, it was customary to make the visit on New Year's Eve, while the bells were ringing. Today, it is common to go on one of the first three days of the year. Millions of people visit famous temples and shrines, such as Meiji Shrine (Tokyo), Naritasan Shinsho-ji Temple (Chiba Prefecture), Kawasaki Daishi Temple (Kanagawa Prefecture), Yasaka Shrine (Kyoto), and Sumiyoshi Shrine (Osaka). (Photo credit: Naritasan Shinsho-ji Temple)

Shin-nen Ippan Sanga (Citizens's New Year Greetings to the Imperial Family)
The grounds of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo are usually closed to the general public, but on January 2 everyone can enter to offer their New Year's wishes to members of the Imperial Family, who wave to the crowd from a palace balcony facing the East Garden. It was only after World War II that all citizens were given the right to visit the palace grounds for this purpose.
(Photo credit: The Mainichi Newspapers Co.)

Ganjitsu (New Year's Day, a time to eat o-sechi ryori)
O-sechi ryori are special dishes prepared for the first three days of the year (these days are called san-ga-nichi). The fancy dishes are prepared in advance. After that, little cooking is done during the holidays, so preparation methods and ingredients are chosen to ensure that everything remains fresh for the three days. Traditionally, each of the dishes represents a wish for happiness and success for the family. For example, simmered black soybeans (mame) are served in the hope that everyone will lead a healthy (mame) life, and herring roe (kazu no ko, which can be translated as "many children") is eaten in the hope that one's descendents will be prosperous. (Photo credit: JTB Photo)

Seijin no Hi (Coming of Age Day)
In Japan, people gain the right to vote, drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes at the age of 20, when they are legally recognized as adults. Coming of Age Day celebrates the beginning of adulthood for people who have their 20th birthday that year. At ceremonies in municipalities throughout the country, young men in business suits and women in brightly colored kimono gather for speeches and performances aimed at instilling in them an awareness of their new status as adults. (Photo credit: JTB Photo)

Ganjitsu (New Year's Day)
Emperor's Cup championship game,
at the National Stadium in Tokyo

Japanese amateur and professional soccer teams compete in the Emperor's Cup, a prestigious tournament with roots going back 80 years.
1st to 3rd
Hatsumode(First visit of the year to a shrine or temple) (See photo)
Shin-nen Ippan Sanga(Citizens' New Year Greetings to the Imperial Family) (See photo)
Kaki-zome(first writing of the year)
The act of writing with a calligraphy brush for the first time in the new year. Auspicious phrases and expressions are written, and a wish is made that one's calligraphy will improve.
5th (approximate)
Shokan(the "lesser cold")
Shobo Dezome-shiki(New Year's parade of fire brigades)
Jinjitsu / Nana-kusa
Following an old Chinese custom, five of the old sekku (special days of observance) are still celebrated, on January 7, March 3, May 5, July 7 and September 9. On the first of these days, jinjitsu, seven herbs, including seri (Japanese parsley), nazuna (shepherd's purse), and gogyo (marsh cudweed), are simmered in a rice gruel, which is offered to the gods and later eaten by members of the family.
11th (4th or 20th in some regions)
Kagami-biraki(cutting the New Year's rice cakes)
Large round kagami mochi rice cakes are traditionally offered to the gods during the New Year festivities, and on this day the mochi cakes are cut into small pieces and eaten in o-zoni (vegetable soup) or o-shiruko (adzuki bean soup). Once they are cut up, New Year's is considered to be over.
15th (approximate)
New Year's decorations, such as kado-matsu (decorative arrangements of vegetation) and shime-kazari (straw cord ornaments), are taken to a neighborhood shrine or other place and burned. Warming up beside the flames is supposed to bring one good health and happiness for the whole year. This ritual is performed throughout the country. The event at Torigoe Shrine in Tokyo is especially well known.
Second Monday in January
Coming of Age Day(See photo)
20th (approximate)
Supposedly the coldest time of the year.
Hagoita rackets like this one are used in a traditional New Year's game called hane-tsuki, to hit a feathery shuttlecock back and forth. (Photo by Takano Akira)


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