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A rant about the Japanese idea of a new years holiday.

Revenant

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Something to which I have never understood, is the traditions that go along with the week long or more Japanese New Year Holidays. After having lived with my Japanese parent-in-laws for a couple of years, I was always relieved for the New Years holiday to come to an end, and the regular worklife to begin again.

The Japanese tradition is to clean the entire house, prepare a traditional New years dinner, and send out New Years cards before the New Years comes around.

Cleaning the entire house, washing widows, scrubbing walls, showers, replacing shoji paper, are all very time consuming and hard work when the rest is added in.

The Japanese New Years Dinner which includes ricecakes, and a whole lot of specially prepared foods that in themselves take a long time to prepare, I wonder why my mother-in-law complains incessently about having to stay up till three or four in the morning, and then get up again at seven to continue for two or three days in row to finish all this, and then go onto to say she will never do so again, all to do the same the next year. The rest of the family pitches in to help, when we are not cleaning, but still get at least six hours of sleep.

And then the New Years Cards. Those, even using a computer are time consuming, as one must enter all the names, addresses, and messages, choose out and alter a design for the cards, and then send them out before New Years rolls around.

All that is just exhausting, and holds none of the meaning of a holiday, which in my books should be a rest from the busyness of work. It's quite the opposite, and I would prefer work to all that.

Then the New Years rolls around, and most people sleep, or watch TV. That's at least what my family does. We have a New Years dinner, and then a couple family get togethers. But all in all, it is mostly quite boring (I am not a fan of just sleeping and watching TV, and I usually don't watch TV.

A couple years ago, bored, I decided to get out of the house and look at some magazines, or just go to a cafe, or even just rent a video. But nothing was open beyond a few convenience stores. No restaurants, no cafes, no video stores, nothing.

On New years eve, everyone watches special New Year comedy or music programs. Perhaps they might take a trip in the morning to the nearest shrine, but it really isn't what I would call fun. At the strike of twelve, rather than a countdown and cheers, it is the 108 tolls on the bell to purge the 108 worldly desires that we hear.

End rant.

So for those of you who spend, or have spent New Years in Japan, what was your experience like? Did you enjoy it?
 

Carlson

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Well. this was my new years in japan

Went to ATM got 20000 Yen
Went off base down to "Bar Road"
Found some Hostess Club got drunk out of my mind.
The End
Same for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and all other holidays...



This year i hope it will be a bit nicer. my GF (Japanese) and her mom invited me over for New Years.
 

Kinsao

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It sounds like your peeves about New Year in Japan are really similar to many people's peeves about Christmas in the UK...

I can see your point, though - doesn't sound like much of a 'holiday' to be working your butt off all through.

But... maybe it wouldn't be such a bad thing if we had some kind of custom that practically makes you clean your house thoroughly... I think I could benefit... 😌
 

RockLee

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last year I was with my friend in Sapporo @ New year, the only thing that I found odd was that there was NO FIREWORKS on new year ☝

The rest wasn't that bad, except for my friend to spend a lot of time on cards & cleaning, instead of spending it with me :embarasse
 

Mandylion

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Alright, maybe this is a sign of how truly odd I am, but I love Japanese New Years. I'm sure it is different from family to family, but we do all the "traditional" things - perhaps we do them from a different frame of mind.

We do all the cleaning in about half a day. Everyone does it all at once in a mad dash. While not a religious family, this o-soji does carry extra meaning. It took me a while to warm to the idea when I first got to Japan, but having a clean house does produce a "sukkiri" feeling in a person. I really like to change the paper in the paper screens - and I am damn good at it, IMHO. DOn7t know why, perhaps because I like making/constructing things. Other times of the year you will have to drive me with a switch toget me to clean, but New Years holds a lot of associations with family and togetherness - and hold more meaning to me than New Years in other countries I have experiences (even with my own natal relatives)

My in-laws do all the traditional cooking, but then that is it as far as food prep goes. The whole idea, as others have mentioned, it that the women of the family won't have to produce food for two or three days. I'm not a big fam of traditional new years fare, but I love mochi in all its incarnations.

During down-time, we usually all hang out together, go to see a movie, etc. Since the rest of the year everyone is so busy, it is nice - but then again we all like each other and want to spend time together.

I like the aesthetics of New Years, the decarations. I like the contrasts between biting cold and warm houses (but then again, winter is my favorite season) We all help with the New Years cards, and while most of them are just demanded by social custom, the ones to really friends or people who have helped you out over the year are fun to do - makes you feel good to be thanking you for everything over the past year and entreating them to do the same for you. Honestly I could do without all the ones to businesses and people with whom you have little association, but I think it is a nice practice (think of it as taking the place of Christmas cards).

We all do stay up to midnight and then make the religious rounds. My in-laws live in a small, rural town, so the trip to the local shrine is made without cars, through quiet streets. The shrine has a nice festival mood to it, and it feels good to be out with everyone, saying hello, touching base with people again.

In contrast, New Years in the west seems worthless. Christmas - the big family time for most - has just finished up and most people are pretty tired. My family has never done anything big for New Years in the US, and parties you go to are simply framed around staying up later and drinking more. Fun yes, but a lot less meaningful for me.
 

ArmandV

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Except for the housecleaning bit, I find the Japanese New Year's traditions interesting. (If one kept their house clean all year, the chore should be at a minimum.) I wouldn't mind experiencing New Year's in Japan. Out here, we do have a family tradition of having family and friends over drinks and tamales.
 

epigene

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I think Mandylion's description of Japanese New Year is exactly what it is all about for the Japanese. It is Japan's equivalent of what Christmas is to Christians--that's why no fireworks!!😊

It's the best time of the year where we enjoy the peace and quiet--and being with family and relations you don't see for the rest of the year and eating and drinking all day. It doesn't have the strong religious association as does Christmas, but it is the same in that it's all about family and peace. Visit to the shrine is an outing for the family without strong religious meaning (at least for the average Japanese person), just to pray for good health and fortune during the year.

As for Revenant's rant, I think the problem is because you live in Okayama (I don't live there, but my family comes from neighboring Hiroshima). Traditional New Year lives strong outside Tokyo (probably as well as other metropolitan areas in Japan).

New Year is Tokyo is different--a lot of stores are already open in Jan. 2 and the quiet lasts only for 24 hours... (I have to stay in Tokyo during the holiday season ☝ )
 

DoctorP

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I actually like the Japanese New Year. The cleaning to me is just as "spring cleaning" is in the US. Everyone helps out and does the jobs that were put off during the year, but need to be done. Once finished...no problems. I'm not keen on all stores being closed, but I do like the idea of businesses alowing time off to be with family. I see many families going camping, fishing, BBQ's, etc...just a fun time with no worries of work, school, whatever.
 

Pachipro

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I'm with Mandylion, CC1, and epigene as I just loved the Japanese New Years and very much looked forward to it every year when living there. You could just "feel" it in the air as the day drew closer. We would buy the traditional plants to place outside the house and the symbolic decoration to attatch to the grill of the car.

When I got a little older and married, instead of partying in Harajuku all night and taking the train to the beach for the traditional viewing of the first sunrise, New Years eve would be spent quietly at the in-laws home after we first cleaned our own house form top to bottom, inside out and sent out our own New Years cards. At around midnight, while watching NHK and their live cameras from shrines around the country and the tolling of the 108 bells, the traditional soba would be served and we would eat the long, thin brown noodles. This tradition is to wish for a long, "thin" life in the year and years ahead. "Thin" meaning a simple, but not lavish or greedy life. Then it would be off to bed.

The next morning the festivities would begin. The traditional food, the sake and beer, (yes, with breakfast!) the watching of silly programs on TV. Then maybe a nap. After awakening there would be the walk to the shrine to 'pray' and wish for a healthy and prosperous new year. Sometimes I would even don a black kimono and geta shoes. It was always nice to see the young women dressed in their colorful kimonos and carrying around the white arrow. The white arrow would be placed inside the house to "safeguard' the house during the coming year. Then it would be back home for a hot bath and then more eating, drinking, and watching TV. This would go on for like three days and it was really alot of fun and something I looked forward to. Relatives that hadn't been seen throughout the year would visit or we would visit them for a day during the week. Always with eating and drinking and the TV on. My favorite is still Ozoni. Rice cakes cooked over an open fire and served in a soup of chicken and vegetables.

We try and make it to Japan for New Years every other year as the air fare is very expensive during this time. When we can't make it, my wife keeps the tradition of the cleaning of the house, the cooking and preparing of the traditional food and the soba on New Years eve. And I do my part by helping out and drinking the sake.

It didn't bother me (after I got married that is!) that everything was closed as we never left the house anyway except to visit the shrine or visit a relative or two. It was a festive atmosphere and you could just feel the stress leave the men, including myself, knowing we didn't have to work again for about a week! Just eat, drink, and be merry! And of course sleep!

It was a time for family and joyous times and it gave me a good, warm feeling inside to be around my Japanese family at this time of year as I always felt welcomed and loved by them. I really was "one of the family". I also enjoyed the fact that it went on for a few days. It wasn't just a one day thing that everyone would forget about the next day and go to work. Even today I still can't fathom working the following day after New Years and Christmas and always schedule at least two days off after each one.

So to answer Revenant's question, my experience was always a good one and I very much enjoy it and look forward to it.
 

epigene

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Looks like the "senior" members of the forum like the Japanese New Year! 😊

I actually understand how Revenant feels about New Year because I have heard my kids complain about it every year! 😄

So, I'd like to post some of the rants from my kids:

(1) The "otoso"
09264-1.jpg

This is not ordinary Japanese sake. It contains medicinal herbs (I forgot what they are but remember one of them is cinnamon) and tastes AWFUL.
Every year, the entire family (and relations staying over in the house) gather the first thing on New Year Day to take sips of it to pray for good health during the year.
The kids detest this. :giggle:

(2) The "osechi"

The traditional New Year fare is cooked to last for the first week or so, so it's very sweet, very salty, or pickled. Because kids of today don't like heavy tastes, they hate that they have to eat this. They moan and groan every year...
The only food they are willing to eat is the "o-zoni"...

and "sashimi" and "sushi."
Last year, my son purchased ingredients for dishes he wants to eat and baked us lasagna and other Italian dishes (that he learned to cook in the US)...😆

(3) TV
Since they don't have anything to do during the holidays unless they go visit relatives, they have to watch TV. The New Year programs are almost the same every year, and the kids used to make a run for the video stores to grab the videos they want to watch (video stores become empty of the popular movies during this time of year). Fortunately, we have SkyPerfect TV now. :joyful:
The kids stock up on junk food and stuff themselves--claiming they're too full to eat "osechi." 😌
 

.::b|ue Ash::.

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I'm not big on holidays in general. Most of them I do not celebrate.
If I get to hang back, eat good food, get **** drunk and be entertained with friends in some way then it's all good for me. The holidays are what you make of them.
Though I will admit, all the stores not being open is nothing less of an inconvenience to me.
 

NagoyaIan

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I spent my first new year in Japan last year, and it was great. Because it was the first new year since I was 15 when I wasn't drunk. I went to a shrine with my fiancee and her family, lovely. Going home on the tube at 2 am, no drunk people, no violence. After many new years in the UK, it's a blessed relief to be away from all that drunken madness.
 
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A question is asked to you who are present in Japan in the New Year.🙂

Is "OTOSHIDAMA" given children?:?

I prepare OTOSHIDAMA for a nephew child:p
 
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