New Year’s in Japan (in general)

This is the last entry I’m going to write for this year. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little blog so far!

In Japan, it’s customary for people to visit their relatives (pre-pandemic) and then just sit around with them for a few days, watching TV and eating mikans. I love this general tradition of sitting around watching TV, and Japanese TV during the first few days of the New Year is usually entertaining, at the very least.

Some go-getters (myself sometimes included) like to go shopping for the elusive “fukubukuro” that’s actually nice, but it’s hard. Fukubukuros are basically where a shop realizes they have things that aren’t selling, so they shove all of those items into paper bags, seal them shut and sell them for whatever price they want. You have no idea what’s in the bags, although lately shops have been just telling you, so you don’t know if it’s a bargain you’ve stumbled across or overpriced junk. I think they’re fun, anyway.

Another tradition is to visit a shrine. Some people wait at their favorite shrine all night on New Year’s Eve until midnight so they can be some of the first people to pray there for that year. You then do something called “omikuji” where you grab a slip of paper at random at the shrine, unroll it and read your year’s fortune. People who get bad luck tie that slip of paper to a nearby rope and leave the bad luck behind.

You also go and buy an arrow that has no sharp point to it. The belief is you hang it up at the highest point of your house and it’ll help ward off evil. At the end of the year you bring it back to the shrine, return it to them to burn and then buy yourself a new one.

I’m hoping to just sit around, enjoy TV and eat mikans and then hopefully make my way to a shrine at some point, probably later on in the year to avoid the crowds.

Here’s to hoping 2021 is better!