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Japanese Culture: New Year’s Eve in Japan Posted by on Dec 23, 2008 in Holidays

This December 31st will be a busy day all over Japan.  New Year’s Eve is called Oomisoka (大晦日) in Japanese.  Towards the end of the year many companies will hold office parties called boonenkai (ぼうねんかい).  Boonenkai (ぼうねんかい) can be translated as ‘end-of-the-year party.’  Many employees will present an oseibo (おせいぼ) or an end of the year gift for their boss.  Oseibos (おせいぼ) are usually wrapped in a thin tissue paper called noshigami (のしがみ).  Oseibos (おせいぼ) are obligatory gifts.  Technically speaking you don’t have to give a gift for your boss, but it’s a good idea to prepare one.  Number one, you don’t want to offend your boss and start the new year with bad feelings.  Number two, who knows, you might get that promotion you’ve always wanted.  For a lot of employees, it’s a good opportunity to suck up to the boss with an expensive bottle of wine.

New Year’s Eve is also the day companies do their oosooji (大掃除).  Oosooji (大掃除) is a term used to describe a thorough cleaning of the entire place.  It’s a day when employees clean out their desk, get rid of old (or suspicious) documents, clean out files, etc.  Many households do their oosooji (大掃除) as well.  The entire house is turned upside down with cleaning solution and dirty rags.  All this cleaning is done to prepare a fresh start for the New Year.

Around seven in the evening on New Year’s day, families all over Japan will watch a popular show called Koohaku Uta Gassen (紅白歌合戦).  It’s a musical show divided into two teams.  The two teams are divided by sex.  The red team or akagumi (赤組) consists of female singers and the white team or shirogumi (白組) consists of male singers.  It’s a battle between the sexes to determine which side has the better singers.  Koohaku Uta Gassen (紅白歌合戦) is a musical program with all sorts of musical styles like pop, rap, and traditional Japanese music.  It has everything for everyone.  All of Japan’s famous singers are on the show, so it’s a great show to watch if you want to know the most current and popular singers in Japan.

Around eleven in the evening families will eat a traditional meal of toshikoshi soba (年越しそば) which are buckwheat noodles.  The noodles symbolize long life and the Japanese eat it out of the desire to live a long life.  During this time, shrines all over Japan will pass out amazake (甘酒) to all the people who have made a pilgrimage to the shrine.  Amazake (甘酒) is a sweet, alcoholic traditional Japanese drink that people drink on New Year’s Eve.  During this time a bell called a bonshoo (ぼんしょう) will strike at midnight to ring in the new year.

Ok, well this is going to be the last post for this blog for this year.  I can’t explain it, but I feel kind of sad that the year is ending, but excited for the new year as well.  I’ll post again on New Years, so look for that post.  See you next year!

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