Since Japan adopted the solar calendar in 1873, the New Year celebrations start on January 1.  

However, in rural Japan, villagers continue to follow the lunar calendar and Oshogatsu is the Lunar New Year.  On New Year's Eve, shortly before midnight, Buddhist temples ring bells 108 times to remember Japan's hardships, and to send out the old year and usher in the new.  At dawn Oshogatsu starts with a Hatsumode (the first visit of the year to a shrine or a temple) to pray for a good and happy year. 


Visitors bring back the last year talismans to be burnt in the shrines and buy some new ones.  A favourite talisman (good luck token) is the hamaya, an arrow which, it is said, protects from the bad spirits and brings good luck.  They also consult the omikuji to hear their annual horoscope. 

During the day children play various traditional games that include tako age (kite), hanetsuki (a kind of badmington), karuta (a cards game presenting poems), and  koma (spinning top).  They also receive gifts (otoshidama) from their parents. 

The  New Year's day's celebrations end on the evening of 7th January (or 14th January where the lunar calendar is still used). On this day all New Year's decorations are burned during a joyous ceremony called dondoyaki.

Last modified on Friday, 14 February 2014 08:00

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