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Making the Most of Nenmatsu Holidays in Japan



As the year winds down in Japan, the Nenmatsu holidays—comprising the end of December and the New Year—usher in a time of reflection, tradition, and celebration. This festive season offers a unique blend of ancient customs intertwined with modern-day revelries. If you're fortunate enough to be in Japan during this time, here are some enchanting activities and cultural experiences to immerse yourself in:


Embrace the Oshogatsu Spirit


Oshogatsu, or New Year's, holds significant importance in Japanese culture. Join locals in their preparations by cleaning your home (known as "osouji") to bid farewell to the old year and welcome the new one with purity and freshness. Adorn your doorstep with a kadomatsu (decorative pine and bamboo arrangement) and shimekazari (ritual New Year's decorations) to invite good luck and keep misfortune at bay.


 

Experience Hatsumode at Shrines and Temples


Engage in the age-old tradition of Hatsumode, the first shrine or temple visit of the year. Popular sites like Meiji Shrine in Tokyo or Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto teem with visitors praying for health, happiness, and prosperity. Take part in the rituals of tossing coins into offering boxes, ringing temple bells for good luck, and purchasing omamori (amulets) for blessings.


 

Indulge in Traditional New Year's Cuisine


Savor the flavors of traditional New Year's dishes such as osechi ryori, a beautifully arranged assortment of symbolic foods served in jubako (tiered lacquerware). Delight in dishes like ozoni (mochi soup), kagami mochi (two-tiered rice cake), and toshikoshi soba (year-crossing noodles) that symbolize longevity, good fortune, and the crossing into the new year.



 

Join Festive Countdown Events


Experience the lively countdown celebrations, especially in major cities like Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya. Gather at bustling hotspots like Shibuya Crossing or attend special events at theme parks, temples, or shrines. Catch spectacular fireworks displays lighting up the night sky as the clock strikes midnight, marking the arrival of the new year.


 

Unwind in Onsen Retreats


Embrace relaxation and rejuvenation by indulging in the warmth of onsen(hot springs). There's no better way to unwind and reflect on the past year than soaking in mineral-rich waters, surrounded by serene landscapes. Many resorts and ryokans offer special packages and activities during this festive season.


 

Explore Illuminations and Winter Markets


Marvel at the enchanting winter illuminations adorning city streets, parks, and shopping districts. Enjoy the festive ambiance and vibrant displays of lights, transforming ordinary spaces into magical wonderlands. Don't miss the opportunity to explore traditional markets selling seasonal goods, crafts, and delicious street food.


The Nenmatsu period in Japan is a time of joyous celebration, rich traditions, and heartfelt moments. Immerse yourself in these cultural experiences and create lasting memories as you bid farewell to the old year and welcome the new one in the Land of the Rising Sun. Happy Holidays! -Manu 12/19/2023

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