In Japan, special events during the Shogatsu period (especially the first three days of the New Year) are the most important in the year. People begin to clean every inch of rooms in their houses and make the new year’s preparations from around the 20th of December in order to welcome Toshigami-sama (Shinto gods).
Apart from this, towns are lit up by illumination from the beginning of November for driving away the dark and cold atmosphere of the winter, and the towns become brilliant thanks to the Christmas trees and displays at the approach of Christmas Day.
It is the year-end scene seen every year in Japan that the Christmas events, however, are definitely finished, and the new year’s preparations are made from the 25th Day of December. The Japanese culture is totally different from that of Europe and America, and thus the atmospheres of the two worlds produced by music and decorations are quite different from each other. In Japan, you can experience the two totally different worlds in a short period of time of 4 or 5 days.
Let’s see the year-end and new year in Japan.
Illumination in Winter
Illuminations are held in various places in Japan from about the beginning of November every year. I went to “Osaka Castle Illuminage” held in Osaka Castle’s Nishinomaru Garden. The castle tower of Osaka Castle was lit up, and various places in Osaka from the Age of Civil Wars to the present day are expressed by illuminations in the Garden, using the castle tower lit as a borrowed scenery.
Beautiful Christmas displays including Christmas trees begin to catch the eye in department stores or large commercial facilities at the approach of the Christmas season. The many Christmas songs often make us buoyant.
This restaurant building, standing along Ashiyagawa river, is wrapped by a red ribbon at the Christmas season every year. The restaurant is a popular Italian restaurant “Bellini.” You can reach it for about 5 minutes on foot.
First Visit to Temple in New Year
When the new year starts, every place is filled with a Japanese atmosphere. The songs heard in a shopping street are changed from Christmas songs to Japanese music played by koto (Japanese harp) and shakuhachi (a five-holed bamboo flute), and you may see persons wearing a kimono. We go to a shrine or temple every year to give thanks for the last year and to pray for the safety and peace of this year to gods and Buddha during the first three days of the new year.
We went to Mondoyakujin Tokoji Temple this year. This temple deifies Yakujin Myoo who repels all of disasters and is famous for prayer for warding off evil. The precincts were crowded with many people.
New Year Display
Kadomatsu (the new year’s decorative pine trees) was mainly made of pine trees and bamboo, but recently it has been made by using showy flowers, in addition to the pine trees and bamboo, like a flower arrangement. In this season, big ikebana (Japanese art of flower arrangement) is displayed in display windows of a department store, and it delights our eyes.