Japanese New Year — Gods, Symbolic Foods, and TV Extravaganzas

Old and new ways to ring in the new year

Children dressed in elaborate kimonos beneath a shimenawa rope hung with tassels. Two boys are dancing, one boy is sitting on the ground with his kite, and two girls are sitting and chatting near a bonsai plant on a low table.
New Year, from Precious Children’s Games of the Five Festivals, by Kiyonaga Torii, late 1700’s. (Public Domain)

After first arriving in Japan in 1987, I quickly learned to stock up for the first three days of the New Year since all stores would be shuttered while their owners and employees spent time with their families.



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