Happy New Year and warm greetings to everyone from Japan.
New Year is one of the most important holidays in Japan. Most businesses shut down from January 1 to January 3, and families typically gather to spend the days together. In Japan, there are two different words to describe New Year celebrations and New Year's Day itself. The Japanese New Year celebration is called shogatsu, and New Year's Day is called gantan. The New Year's is a great time to celebrate the end of a year and the beginning of another year. In Japan, there are also customs and traditions associated with bringing in the New Year. One of the more traditional New Year's customs is Hatsumode, or the first shrine visit of the New Year. Many people go to visit a shrine on January 1st, 2nd, or 3rd, in order to pay their respects and also to wish for a happy and healthy year. The shrines tend to get very crowded, and families tend to all go together. Thousands of visitors, including many women clad in traditional kimono, proceeded toward the main shrine building to make “saisen” monetary offerings. Major destinations, including shrines Meiji Jingu in Tokyo, Tsurugaoka Hachimangu in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, and Ise Jungu in Mie Prefecture, were crowded with visitors wishing to make a fresh start.