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The Japanese New Year – Oseibo

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    In Japan people give some gift in a lot of occasion. Oseibo is the most common issue as a year-end gift. They give it to their superiors, customers and teachers to express appreciation for the special services they have extended to them. Bonenkai is a party usually held among office colleagues and bosses. Bonenkai litarelly means a “Forget-the-year party” to forget the unpleasant memories of the passing year and to welcome the New Year with a fresh and serene mind.

    At the party, bosses usually tell their stuff to be Breiko (to forget their position and be impolite!), because the relationship in the workplace in Japan is a bit strict. For example, Japanese language has various expression for each word. One is called a polite word and another is called a modest word. People use these words in formal situation such as in a workplace. Picture Hanazono shrine. Omisoka Omisoka is the day of New Year’s Eve. Since the New Year is the biggest event in Japan, people celebrate the Eve as well.

    People work so hard to prepare the New Year around one or two weeks such as cleaning (like spring cleaning in here) and shopping. The reason people do the cleaning in the middle of winter is to get rid of the dirty of the passing year and to welcome the New Year with a fresh and serene mind. And on Omisoka, with preparing the New Year’s special dishes called Osechi-ryori, people finish up all the work of the year. People eat Toshikoshi-soba at night and stay up till midnight to listen to the 108 chimes of a nearby temple bell. Toshikoshi-soba is a bowl of hot brown noodles in broth.

    The noodle is a homophone for a word that means “being close” and therefore signifies the approach of the New Year. The 108 chimes called Joya-no-kane, rings out the old year and rings in the New Year. It is supposed to release people from the 108 worldly sins. Shogatsu Shogatsu is the celebration of the New Year and is the most important holiday in Japan. Entrances are decorated with a Shimekezari. A Shimekazari is a twisted straw rope with fern leaves, an orange and other items of good omen.

    Family gather to their hometown and spend the time together. People celebrate the New Year with sweet sake called Toso, a soup called Zoni and Osechi-ryori during the holiday During the holiday, people give special allowances to their children, nephews and nieces called Otoshidama. It is the busiest season for toy shops to attract children to spend their Otoshidama. People send a lot of greeting cards to their relatives, friends, business acquaintances and customers to wish them a happy New Year.

    Post offices in Japan collect and keep them then deliver them on the New Year day all at once. This is a good opportunity to keep in touch with old friends and acquaintances. The shrines all over Japan are packed with people from the New year’s day to January 3rd. People go to shrine to pray for safety, happiness and long lives of the family. A lot of people are dressed up with their Kimono and buy a good luck talisman called Omamori. It is kept as a protection from illness, accidents and disasters.

    How to say “Happy New Year” in Japanese – Akemashite omedeto gozaimasu The Japanese New Year is an annual festival with its own customs. The preceding days are quite busy, particularly the day before, known as Omisoka. The Japanese New Year has been celebrated since 1873 according to the Gregorian calendar, on January 1 of each year (New Year’s Day where the Gregorian calendar is used). In Okinawa, the cultural New Year is still celebrated as the contemporary Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese New Years.

    Prior to the Meiji Period, the date of the Japanese New Year was based on the Chinese lunar calendar, as are the contemporary Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese New Years. However, in 1873, five years after the Meiji Restoration, Japan adopted the Gregorian calendar and the first day of January became the official and cultural New Year’s Day.

    In the Ryukyu Islands, a separate cultural New Year is still celebrated based on the Chinese lunar calendar. The most important and most celebrated part of the holiday season in Japan is New Year’s day, known as O-Shogatsu. It’s a very busy time between the 24th of December, when school gets out, and the first of January. Before the New Year, Japanese people clean their houses from top to bottom. Then they put up New Year’s decorations, especially Kadomatsu which are made from bamboo, pine branches and strips of white folded paper. When the house is clean and decorated, then everybody gets busy preparing New Year’s food.

    One of the most important New Year’s foods is Mochi. In our neighborhood, we have a mochi-tsuki party every year and make our own mochi. We gather on a Sunday morning in an empty lot. In one corner of the lot, someone starts to cook rice on an open fire. When the rice is cooked, it is placed in a special wooden dish and is pounded with a big wooden hammer. All of the neighbors take turns pounding until the rice mixture becomes a big ball of dough. Then everyone gets involved rolling small mochi balls which are eaten with different kinds of sweet or salty sauces and toppings.

    On New Year’s Eve, Japanese people spend time at home with their family. They eat, play games, and watch special New Year’s shows on television. Just before midnight, people can also watch temple ceremonies on t. v. where a huge gong is stuck 108 times to wipe away the 108 sins of the past year. Although Christmas cards exist in Japan, most people send traditional New Year’s postcards called Nengajyo. Some people sends hundreds of them. This custom is very nice because if you post your cards by a special date in December, the post office will deliver them all bright and early on the 1st of January.

    When you wake up on that day, your mailbox is full of happy wishes for you. After New Year’s breakfast, people get dressed up in their kimonos to go to the shrine or to the temple to pray for good luck and good health in the new year. This is the first temple visit of the year and is very important. After praying, people visit the temple market. All around the temple grounds, there are booths and little shops set up where you can buy traditional foods, cotton candy, balloons, toys and temple souvenirs. Daruma can also be purchased at the temple market.

    These are papier-mache figures that come in many sizes and that have two big white eye spots. Daruma are used for making New Year’s resolutions. With a magic marker, the buyer blackens in one of the eyes while making a resolution. If, during the year, they accomplish their wish, they can blacken the other eye to show they succeeded. At the end of the year, people return used darumas to the temple for a special burning and buy new ones. After visiting the temple, Japanese people return to their homes to eat, play traditional games and just relax. Children fly kites and play with wooden tops. Adults play poetry games and pratice calligraphy.

    Probably the most important holiday tradition for Japanese children is O-toshidama. These are little envelopes containing money that children get from their parents and other relatives. Even though the Japanese holidays are very different from holidays in America and Europe, since children are expected to be good all year in order to get O-toshidama, in a way, it is just like Christmas. Achur, Adam and Alex are from Latham, NY. In 1991, they moved with their family to Tsukuba, Japan, where they are the only foreign students in their small Japanese school. The first year was hard, but now they can speak, read and write Japanese very well.

    Their little brother Alex, age 4, started Japanes Yochien (kindergarten) this year and loves it! – originally published in the Holiday 1993 issue of ZuZu New Year (shogatsu or oshogatsu) is the most important holiday in Japan. Most businesses shut down from January 1 to January 3, and families typically gather to spend the days together. Years are traditionally viewed as completely separate, with each new year providing a fresh start. Consequently, all duties are supposed to be completed by the end of the year, while bonenkai parties (“year forgetting parties”) are held with the purpose of leaving the old year’s worries and troubles behind.

    Homes and entrance gates are decorated with ornaments made of pine, bamboo and plum trees, and clothes and houses are cleaned. On New Year’s eve, toshikoshi soba (buckwheat noodles), symbolizing longevity, are served. A more recent custom is watching the music show “kohaku uta gassen”, a highly popular television program featuring many of Japan’s most famous J-pop and enka singers in spectacular performances. January 1 is a very auspicious day, best started by viewing the new year’s first sunrise (hatsu-hinode), and traditionally believed to be representative for the whole year that has just commenced.

    Therefore, the day is supposed be full of joy and free of stress and anger, while everything should be clean and no work should be done. It is a tradition to visit a shrine or temple during shogatsu (hatsumode). The most popular temples and shrines, such as Tokyo’s Meiji Shrine, attract several million people during the three days. Most impressive are such visits at the actual turn of the year, when large temple bells are rung at midnight. Various kinds of special dishes are served during shogatsu. They include osechi ryori, otoso (sweetened rice wine) and ozoni (a soup with mochi).

    There are also a few games traditionally played on New Year, however, their popularity has decreased in recent times. Hanetsuki (Japanese badminton), takoage (kite flying), and karuta (a card game) are some of them. A very popular custom is the sending of New Year’s cards, which are specially marked to be delivered on January 1. It is not uncommon for one person to send out several dozens of cards to friends, relatives and co-workers. Visiting Japan during the New Year’s holidays can be both rewarding and frustrating. Elsewhere on the site is a page summarizing the pros and cons of visiting Japan during New Year. Any Questions?

    Ask them in our question forum. The Japanese celebrate the New Year in a big way. The official New Year falls on January 1st, however, in actuality the season itself runs from the 31st of December through the 3rd of January. Preparation for the New Year begins during the middle of December, with people preparing New Year’s postcards usually purchased from the Japanese Postal Service known as nengajo. These cards are sent to business clients and acquaintances, friends, and family members. Those destined for businesses are usually printed commercially at a print shop while those sent to family and friends tend to be handmade.

    For people with large mailing lists, though, the trend is to have all the cards prepared commercially. The nengajo often have caricatures of the animal representing the coming year on them, together with a standard New Year greeting. The person sending the card will usually add a brief, handwritten message to the back of the card to express his or her thanks for the assistance received during the past year with wishes for continued support in the new year. Cards are not sent to people who have had a relative pass away during the old year.

    People who have suffered the loss of a loved one during the year send out postcards asking that they not be sent nengajo beforehand, so a list is usually kept of who to send and who not to send cards to. Nengajo are mailed before the end of the year, although it is considered within etiquette to send them out until the 15th of January. This is important because quite often cards are received from people to whom cards have not been sent. The cards are delivered on New Year’s day by the Postal Service, which employs students part-time to help distribute the huge volume of cards which come in each year.

    When you consider that each Japanese person sends anywhere from 20 to several hundred cards, the need for the added assistance in delivering the cards becomes apparent. As the year’s end draws near, people begin cleaning their homes and workplaces in preparation for the New Year. This is a time of major cleaning and even temples dust off their Buddhist images. News programs often show the cleaning of major Buddhist images such as the Nara Great Budda ( Nara Daibutsu ) with monks climbing the images to clean them. New Year’s Eve is a big occasion and one of the highlights of the season.

    Buckwheat noodles are eaten during the day or the evening to ensure prosperity and longevity. The noodles are called toshikoshi soba (buckwheat noodles for passing the year) and are eaten at a buckwheat noodle shop ( sobaya ) or at home. Many people gather with their families on New Year’s Eve to watch the Red and White Song Festival ( Kohaku uta gassen ) broadcast by the national television station, NHK.

    The Song Festival features singers whose songs enjoyed the most popularity during the past year and is almost a New Year’s institution, ompleting its 48th broadcast in 1997. Another popular New Year’s Eve program is the Record Awards show (39th broadcast in 1997). As the evening goes on, some families will make an early start for the local Shinto shrine to welcome in the New Year. Others who want to visit more famous shrines will have arrived at their destinations and will be examining the wares of the many stands set up on the walkways of the shrines.

    At midnight, the Buddhist temples toll out the requisite 108 peals on their bells summoning in the New Year. T. V. tations broadcast the centers of activity at the various major shrines around the country and show the ringing of the massive temple bells at famous temples. People at the shrines get as close as they can to the main altar and cast coins and paper money at the doorsteps of the shrine. After making their offering, they clap their hands to summon the gods, then pray. At the local, less popular shrines where people can get close to the entrance, people toss their offering into the offeratory box, pull the cord attached to the bell hanging from the rafter in front of the box, then clap their hands and pray.

    Having offered their prayers, many people will draw their fortune from one of the stalls staffed by shrine maidens in white kimonos. After paying a small sum to be allowed to draw one’s fortune, a box containing bamboo sticks with numbers is shaken until the tip of a stick with a number pokes its way through the hole at the top of the box. The shrine maiden looks at the number then gives the drawer a paper with a fortune printed on it corresponding to the number on the stick. After reading the fortune, many people tie it on a branch of a tree near the shrine.

    Before going home, the visitor to the shrine might buy an amulet for good luck or other charm such as an arrow. The charms are usually good for a year and there are places in the shrine compound to deposit the old charms from the year past, which are ceremoniously burned after the New Year’s season. After going home, or having welcomed in the New Years at home, the tired New Year’s celebrant goes to sleep, hoping to dream of a hawk, Mt. Fuji, or an eggplant, which are considered as auspicious omens for the New Year.

    Awakening before sunrise is also considered important, as viewing the first sunrise of the year is thought to be a good and proper start for the New Year. Again, the T. V. networks which have been broadcasting continuously throughout the night, show pictures of the first sunrise breaking at various locations in Japan. New Year’s day is a quiet day, with most adults staying at home, watching T. V. or writing New Year’s cards. Children receive monetary presents on New Year’s day so young children often visit the local toy or candy stores which are open in anticipation of this.

    The children are given money in special small envelopes. Amounts are carefully noted by the parents, who have to keep track of the obligation toward the giver. On the 2nd and 3rd days of the New Year, people start to visit friends, go shopping (many retail stores have begun to open on the 2nd due to the economy), or just continue to watch television. Visits to teachers of traditional cultural art forms (flower arrangement, martial arts, etc) are often made during this period. Food during the New Year’s tends to be special as well.

    Traditionally, New Year’s food is placed in nestable, laquered boxes. These boxes contain food which does not spoil easily and which can obviate the need for cooking for the holidays. Contents vary from region to region, but popular items include candied black beans, fish eggs attached to seaweed, dasheens, kelp, and fish. Another popular New Year’s food with a regional flavor is the New Year’s soup known as ozoni. In West Japan, it tends to be made with a soybean paste base giving it a whitish appearance, whereas in East Japan it tends to be made of fish stock making it more like a clear broth.

    This soup is usually eaten on New Year’s Day, making it more of a family-oriented dish. Visitors during the New Year’s can be expected to be treated to a saucer of Japanese sake. Lovers of alcoholic beverages are encouraged to drink as much of whatever they favour and it is not unusual to find many inebriated folks making their way home on the trains and streets during this period. Variations of welcoming in the New Year are too numerous to be taken up in this short article, which is meant to be a brief introduction to the Japanese New Year’s.

    Some people celebrate the holiday by going abroad (although this year’s statistic of the number of Japanese spending the New Year’s overseas is the lowest in 17 years), others hit the ski slopes, and yet others enjoy the ever-popular ‘neshogatsu’, which literally translates as ‘sleeping through the New Years’ and is a New Years spent quietly sleeping and lying around the house. or the Japanese, Oshogatsu (New Year; literally, “new month”), is the most important celebration of the year, a festive occasion with good feelings and nostalgia.

    The Japanese New Year’s celebrations evolved out of rituals associated with the changes of season, which are of utmost importance in Japanese farming. The New Year’s events are widely celebrated and enjoyed in Japan, beginning on New Year’s eve with the tradition of striking the joya no kane (end-of-the-year bell) from nearby Buddhist temples. The tolls represent the leaving behind of 108 bonno, or worldly concerns of the old year, which, according to Buddhist belief, torment mankind.

    During this ceremony, each toll is struck after the reverberations from the preceding toll have dissipated. The last peal of the bell is struck at midnight, coinciding with the first few seconds of the New Year; thus a new beginning dawns, enabling the start of a prosperous and joyous year. Throughout most of its history, Japan went by the lunar calendar, so the holiday would fall at different dates on the Gregorian calendar. But these days, New Year’s is observed on January 1. The Japanese New Year’s holiday used to last several days; now it’s been pared down to just three.

    New Year’s Eve is devoted to kite flying and other fun and games. January 1 and 2 are feast days. Most Japanese households and most families of Japanese descent living in the United States still observe rituals that go back as far as the Edo period of the 17th century. New Year’s resolutions in Japan are made to bring prosperity and happiness for the future. Any unfinished business requires attention at the end of the year, so houses are cleaned, debts are paid, and foods are prepared prior to the New Year so the holiday can be enjoyed with leisure.

    Wearing new clothing, family members rise early on New Year’s morning and visit the family shrine before they settle down to a breakfast of ozoni, the traditional soup made in any number of regional styles, and join in a toast for good fortune with otoso, (sweet sake brewed with cinnamon and other spices), which is believed to prevent sickness. Friends and family spend New Year’s day visiting one another. The New Year is considered a time of forgiveness and cordiality to all. In Japan, as the end of the year approaches, the customary and familiar symbols of the New Year appear in the streets and in homes.

    Many of the symbols are based upon or linked to the Shinto, Buddhist, or folk traditions of Japan. The kudomatsu or “gate-pine” is an arrangement of pine, bamboo, and sometimes plum blossom. The arrangement is placed on either side of the front entrance to the house to ward off evil dominance and invoke fertility, growth, and the power to resist adversity and old age. The pine represents strength, longivity and youthful optimism. The bamboo, which is straight and unbending, symbolizes resilience, uprightness, rapid growth and finial piety; it leans with the wind, but does not break.

    The apricot or plum braves the winter season and has sweet blossoms despite the cold and snowy weather. They symbolize steadfastness in adversity and are looked upon as a good omen for child-bearing. Fertility is also associated with kazunoko (herring roe) and ikura (red salmon roe), both of which must grace the holiday table. The kadomatsu symbolizes the hope of the household that the upcoming year will bring vigor, long life, and strength to all family members. The shimenawa is fresh rice-straw laced in a particular fashion to form a rope.

    This ornament is placed at the entrance of the house or over cooking stoves during the oshogatsu season. In the Shinto tradition, the shimenawa indicates a sacred area. It is believed that no evil can pass beyond the line of the shimenawa. Color is also important. White and red are especially favored, with white denoting innocence and purity, and red representing the sun and its bursting energy. Although the traditional Japanese New Year’s feast requires hours upon hours in the kitchen, almost everything can and should be prepared well in advance.

    Some of the most enjoyable New Year’s dinners are either shabu-shabu – where diners cook their own meals in a communal pan placed in the center of the table, selecting paper-thin sliced beef, fish and vegetables from trays placed on the table – or mixed sushi. Like shabu-shabu, mixed sushi is another do-it-yourself preparation, though the host or cook has to do a lot of prep work. Each diner is served mori (seaweed squares), a bowl of sushi rice and small bowls with wasabi and dipping sauce. They then select from a lavish tray laden with all manner of foods to create their own sushi.

    Since the god of the New Year is responsible for the rice crop, a sake offering is also very appropriate. It’s all part of osechi, or offering food to the gods and ensuring a healthy, prosperous and wise year ahead. We all raise our sake cups to that! Japan has adopted the solar calendar since 1873 and the New Year celebration starts on January 1. However, in rural Japan, villagers continue to follow the lunar calendar and Oshogatsu is the Lunar New Year. The New Year celebration lasts for five to six days.

    Everything associated with the New Year is symbolic of “firsts” of the new year. Thus, the New Year gives a sense of renewal. On New Year’s Eve, shortly before midnight, Buddhist temples ring bells 108 times to remember Japan’s hardships. The ritual is a way to send out the old year and usher in the new. Oshogatsu is a time for peace and resolution. Japanese people don’t go to work on New Year’s Day. They rest and celebrate the holiday with the family. They go to temples to pray for a prosperous and healthy new year. The first visit to the temple is called “Hatsu Mohde,” which means the first visit.

    On New Year’s Day, the family starts the New Year with a “mochi” or rice cake breakfast. The rice cake is served in a stew called “Ozoni. ” Rice pounding to make mochi rice cakes is a popular new year activity. However, many modern Japanese families buy them from supermarkets now. Like other Asian New Year traditions, adults give money to children on New Year’ Day. It is called “otoshi-dama” or the “new year treasure. ” Children also play various games to usher in the New Year. A popular game is “Furuwarai” which is the American version of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey. There are many “good luck” charms associated with the New Year.

    Cranes and turtles are symbols of longevity and happiness. Houses are decorated with origami cranes to bring peace and happiness to the New Ye2012 Japanese New Year will mark the beginning of a new era. The celebration in Japan for New Year is always grand. The celebration to welcome a new year starts from the eve. On the New Years’ Eve Japanese welcome the New Year God Toshigami. Then cleaning of the house is followed after worship. At midnight the Buddhist temple rings the bell 108 times at midnight to welcome the New Year. This event is popularly known as Joya No Kane. There are 108 elements in a human mind.

    The bell is rung 108 times to pay tribute to the elements. Red and White Year-end Song Festival is a television in Japan which has reached its zenith and is telecast during New Year. Adding more to it a contest of songs between male and female are performed. This contest is in action since the last 60 years and is popularly known as Kohaku Uta Gassen. Japanese New Year As per the Gregorian calendar the Japanese New Year is celebrated on 1st of January every year. This day is the most important day in the Japanese Calendar. After the Meiji period the Japanese follow the Gregorian calendar.

    Earlier they used to follow the Chinese calendar. The 2012 Japanese New Year will be celebrated on 1st January too. As per the Japanese New Year osechi is eaten by the Japanese. The dish consists of boiled seaweed, fish cake, mashed potato and chestnut along with burdock root and sweet black soyabean. The culinary tradition of Japan is worth a mention. Most of the dishes for New Year are sweet, sour and dried. The Japanese rice cakes called Mochi are made especially for the New Year. As per the Japanese culture and tradition, they have to send New Year cards to all relatives, friends, Co-workers and family.

    One must post the New Year card during mid December for the card to reach on time. The New Year day is celebrated with joy and hope every year. Some plan to stay at home and spend time with family members. While others like to spend the New Year outdoors. The custom of giving money to the young one at New Year is common in Japan. This tradition is called otoshidama. Japanese visit the Shrine or a temple during New Years’ Day. The worship during the New Year is for good health, joy, prosperity and wealth. This tradition is popularly known as hatsumoude. The Celebration in Japan for New Year

    January 01 is marked as a New Year worldwide and Japan also celebrates the day as New Year. The celebration continues till 03 January. 2012 Japanese New Year will be no exceptional. The New Year celebration day is called Hatsumoude. For good health and wealth people dress in kimono and visit the traditional temple to worship during New Year. Talisman called Omamori is bought by people who bring good luck to the family. The most important day in a Japanese calendar is 01 January. This day is also known as shogatsu or oshogatsu. The entire business sector is shut during 01 January to 03 January in Japan.

    You may also note that the 24 hours of the day also correspond to these “animals”. The New Year is always an important holiday in Japan and other East Asian nations. Christmas is celebrated in Japan in much the same way it is in the West, but “New Years” is by far the more significant holiday. Before the Meiji Restoration, the New Year was celebrated according to the Chinese lunar calendar (January 23 for the year 2012). These days, though the calendar still has great influence on festivals and celebrations, the Gregorian calendar change is celebrated by most people as the “official” New Year.

    In Japan, people busily prepare for the New Year by cleaning house and buying/cooking food (osechi) to welcome the “god of new life”. At this time, the Post Office is flooded by New Years’ cards which each person sends to friends, relatives, and associates. Rail and air terminals are jammed with people trying to get back to their home towns to spend the New Year’s “night” and “daybreak” with their relatives. Japanese express wishes for the New Year by saying “Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu! ” (pronounced ah-keh-mah-shteh oh-meh-deh-toe go-zah-ee-mahss).

    In ancient lore (under the lunar calendar), the New Year was seen in relation to change in both the sun and moon as well as the symbolism of their luminance. The meaning(s) of the phrase “Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu” may be somewhat complicated, but (roughly translated) may include the following: “The year is changing… darkness gives way to light… new life begins… Congratulations! ” Following tradition, many Japanese on New Year’s morning brave the cold to find places with unobstructed views of the Eastern Horizon and eagerly await the rising sun… the break of day… the symbol of new life… the first day of the New Year.

    The sun is making its journey back to the North, and in these latitudes, the Vernal Equinox is eagerly awaited. The New Year of 2008 was special in that it began another 12 year cycle of the Chinese calendar [based on positions of Jupiter with its 12 year orbit (and consequent position about the ecliptic); also associated with 12 clockwise geocentric directions (beginning with North) and named after animals as seen above]. While the lunar calendar is no longer “officially” used in Japan, the tradition of using animal names for the 12 directions and associated years is popularly maintained in the “New Style”.

    Hatsumode If you are in Japan during New Year, you can join the crowds doing hatsumode, the year’s first visit to a shrine or temple. Hatsumode festivities are held at practically every shrine and temple across Japan. At popular shrines and temples you can experience a festive atmosphere with food stands and many people lining up for a prayer at the main hall, purchasing lucky charms for a fortunate new year and disposing their lucky charms of the past year. Most atmospheric is a visit to a temple around midnight on New Year’s eve, when the temple’s bell is rung repeatedly.

    Some of the most popular shrines and temples, such as Tokyo’s Meiji Shrine, Kyoto’s Fushimi Inari Taisha, Osaka’s Sumiyoshi Taisha and Kamakura’s Tsuruoka Hachimangu each attract more than a million visitors over the first few days of the new year. Expect to line up for more than an hour at the more popular hatsumode sites in order to reach the offering hall for a prayer.

    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 December 23. ) The Emperor and family members are scheduled to appear on a glass protected balcony around 10:10, 11:00, 11:50, 12:40, 13:30 and 14:20, waving and shortly speaking to the flag waving crowd. Transportation Domestic and international travel activity is intense during the New Year holidays, as many people visit their families on the countryside or undertake domestic or overseas trips.

    Travel activity is usually particularly intense from December 29 to December 31 when many urbanites leave the big cities (especially Tokyo) and from January 2 to January 4 when they return home. As a result, trains, airports and expressways get very congested. In 2012/2013, the travel peak is expected to take place between December 29 and 31 (especially on December 29) with people leaving the big cities, and between January 2 and 6 in the opposite direction.

    Closures Many tourist attractions, stores and restaurants are closed on one or more days between December 29 and January 4, limiting your sightseeing, shopping and dining choices, especially on January 1. Museums are typically closed for multiple days over the holiday season. No nationwide pattern can be recognized for gardens and castles, some of which close on multiple days, others on a single day and others not at all. Temples and shrines naturally do not close over New Year. Shops typically close on January 1, but are open on all other days around New Year.

    In recent years, an increasing number of shops keeps open even on January 1, especially in modern shopping districts and malls of larger cities. Restaurants typically close on one or more days over the holidays, especially January 1. Many fast food chains, hotel restaurants, as well as the restaurants in the above mentioned modern shopping districts and malls, also open on January 1. Below is a list of selected tourist attractions from across Japan, indicating closure days (colored red). If an attraction closes already before December 29, the first closure date is mentioned in the field of December 29.

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