Winter 2019 Anime: Official Twitter Hashtags & Pages
2018 is almost out, guys and girls, and that means that another anime year is ready to take its place.
Japanese people sure know how to make every celebration special. Christmas and New Year’s Eve couldn’t be an exception! The streets are filled with joyful citizens, ready to be entertained by the amazing festivities. Sweets, parties, fireworks, and traditional customs are taking over Japan at the end of the year.
Let’s see why these days are the finest for visiting Japan!
We all know Christmas is an annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, observed primarily on 25 December as a religious and cultural honoring. It’s celebrated by Christians all over the world.
Are Japanese primarily Christians? No.
Do they celebrate? Yes!
Are you confused? Keep reading!
Christmas in Japan became popular during the post-war period. Japanese don’t celebrate in a religious way and Christmas is not a national holiday. It has more similarities with Saint Valentine’s day and it’s the perfect time to take your date out in the town. You should dress fancy and look radiant because a romantic dinner for two awaits. On the other hand, in Christian countries, Christmas is a stay-at-home-with-family event. You may think that it’s not appropriate celebrating a holiday without understanding its true purpose, but the truth is Japan managed to love Christmas in its own special way by keeping the ‘love’ part in.
There is gift-exchanging with your significant other (or between coworkers), dates, and of course, food! The emphasis is given on the 24th of December instead of the 25th, and that’s when all these cool stuff happens!
One of the must-do things when visiting Japan at Christmas is eat a strawberry shortcake – it’s pronounced ‘kurisumasu keeki’ in Japanese! It’s the most popular sweet of the days, surpassing even the western-style candies that exist in the Christmas markets. Yes!! There are Christmas markets in Japan and they are amazing. You can find everything there, and they are inspired by the U.S.A. and the European ones. Some of the best markets are located in Tokyo and in Sapporo.
Except strawberry shortcake, which is the most popular food at Christmas? Fried chicken from KFC. It seems crazy, I know, but after a genius campaign the company did in the 1970s named Kurisumasu ni wa Kentakkii: Kentucky for Christmas the promotion went national in Japan and KFC replaced turkey.
Another great option is attending the Disney Christmas Parade. Costumes, Santa-Claus (or Santa-san in Japanese), fun, music, and candies are waiting there. Plus, Tokyo Disney Resort is pretty popular for dating during Christmas. Fun fact, a very popular song for this time of the year is Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and it’s final act, the ‘Ode To Joy’.
I kept my favorite for last: the magnificent Christmas Illuminations! Everything seems like an illusion, especially the Nishinomaru Garden at Osaka Castle. It stages a spectacular 3D projection mapping throughout the Christmas season. The highlight is the display on the inner citadel Osaka’s famous castle.
Visiting Japan during Christmas is a great idea. You surely will enjoy yourself and won’t be able to stop admiring the surrounding beauty. So, love Japanese Christmas for its own right, because if you relax and stop comparing it with the Western ones, you will have the time of your life!
New Year’s Eve (shogatsu or oshogatsu) is the most important national holiday and celebration of the year. Years are traditionally viewed as completely separate, with each new year providing a fresh start. So, this fresh start can be celebrated in a traditional or in a more modern partygoing way.
Most Japanese people prefer to spend the day with their loved ones. Families spend the day together and decorate their homes and entrance gates with ornaments made of pine, bamboo, and plum trees. They serve osechi, which has various dishes with auspicious significance, Toshikoshi Soba (noodles that are not cut since they represent a long and happy life) and Ozoni -a tasty soup with mochi.
Japanese people visit temples and graves of relatives, and they pray for prosperity, safety, and good health (and whatever else they’d like to come their way). Hatsumode traditionally refers to visiting a shrine, temple or grave between January 1-3. There is also an event known as the joya no kane. This Buddhist ceremony is performed as the bridge between one year and the next and refers to the ringing of a temple’s bells 108 times. At many temples, the bell is rung 107 times leading up to the very end of the year, and once just as the new year begins.
Another tradition is sending greeting cards to relatives or friends, as well as giving money to the younger family members. Also, many Japanese people like to write haiku and deliver them on 1 January.
You can’t miss the first sunrise of the Year! Pick up your favorite park/mountain/beach and enjoy the view, as Japanese do. What else is worth doing? You can see the Emperor’s New Year’s Greetong on 2 January, at the Tokyo Imperial Palace. It is one of only two occasions during the year when the inner grounds of the palace are opened to the public. (The other is the Emperor’s birthday on 23 December).
Another -not so famous but still amazing- tradition is the Oji Fox Parade. It’s an all-night-long festival and is based on a legend. Legend has it that a long, long time ago, one New Year’s Eve, some foxes dressed up as humans and visited Oji Inari Shrine. But at this festival, it’s the other way around, as humans dressed as foxes make their way to the shrine to receive some blessings.
Many people go back to their hometowns, so Tokyo and other big cities may be a little emptier -but it still is crowded and countless people gather to attend Countdown parties. They dress in their fanciest clothes and dance till dawn. Roppongi is extremely famous for the clubs and the parties, so check it out! Another popular option is karaoke!
Of course, you can’t miss the amazing firework shows, so you may wanna visit Yokosuka and Yokohama Hakkeijima Sea Paradise!! Or, you could take a luxury cruise and enjoy the view!
New Year’s Eve in Japan is an experience that everyone should live, at least once in his lifetime. I would prefer the traditional way of celebration, but adding some fireworks isn’t a bad idea! There are myriad options to have fun and/or learn something new.
See ya in Japan on New Year’s Eve!