The New Year Celebration in JAPAN

japan temple

Episode #37 from the Respecting Diversity in the Class podcast is part II of our mini series on international festive celebrations! We are learning about Japan today with our friend Ayako!  She shares with us what Japanese people do to celebrate the New Year in Japan! We have the chance to hear her speak in her beautiful language from time to time in this episode. Read through this post to get the highlights – and listen to the podcast to further expand your understanding of the Japanese New Year! 

The New Year’s season is the most significant season for the Japanese people.  Christmas decorations are switched to the New year’s in a blink! The New Year decorations and symbols include pine trees, bamboo, plums and rice cakes. The New Year is called shogatsu or oshogatsu.  

New Year’s Eve Traditions in Japan

  1. Greeting to others:  Wishing happiness for the coming year
  2. A major house cleaning
  3. Countdown to the New Year
  4. A midnight dinner of soba noodles as it symbolizes a long life. 
  5. The gong rings 108 times

New Year’s Day Traditions in Japan

  1. A special set of greetings is exchanged among people.
  2. Many Japanese people visit Shrines and Buddhist temples to make wishes for the coming year.
  3. New Year’s Day is celebrated with a very special traditional Japanese dish.
  4. People give gifts of money to children or grandchildren during Shogatsu.
  5. The Koto is played as a celebration of the New Year.

How can you celebrate a traditional Japanese New Year with your class? You can make the traditional Japanese New Year’s cards! (Nengajo)

The Nengajo is a special postcard used only for New Year’s greetings. Bringing attention to the language, the students can learn how cards addressed in Japanese are normally written vertically with the address running down the right-hand side of the card. You can download a free template here for how to address a Nengajo to use in your classroom and basic instructions for what to put on the card (translated to English of course!)

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