In Japan, New Year’s day (also called shogatsu) is an auspicious three day celebration, beginning on the 1st January and ending on the 3rd of January. Here we have mentioned a few mindful rituals that Junko Sophie Kakizaki, our inspiration for the Kyoto Range, follows during the New Year.
The Japanese New Year celebrations are comparatively quieter than the rest of the world’s New Year celebrations. It is more family oriented and grounded.
The Japanese begin their New Year by stepping into the daylight and letting go of the past by viewing the first sunrise of the year, a ritual called Hatsushinode. Many people in Japan will leave their homes early in the morning to view the spectacular sunrise. The practice represents hope and renewal, and is meant to be a serene and peaceful experience.
People go to the temples and shrines to appreciate last year’s health and happiness and pray for another good year. The ritual called Hatsumōde is the first shrine or Buddhist temple visit of the New Year. During this visit, we buy a written oracle called omikuji, in which the fortune can either be positive or negative. If the omikuji turns out to be good, people carry it back home for the luck to stay. If the omikuji turns out to carry bad luck, the paper is generally folded and tied to a tree or pole in the shrine so that the bad luck does not follow you.
Another important ritual that the Japanese follow is thoroughly cleaning the house. One of the rituals of the New Year celebration, called osouji, is to “deep-cleanse” the house. This is done to put the past behind and keep the home fresh for the New Year. Every nook and cranny of the house is cleaned, including behind heavy furniture.
Japanese New Year celebrations are never complete without food. According to Junko, “the traditional food prepared during the New Year celebrations is called osechi and is considered to give the individual longevity”, she explains.
Hanabira mochi is the sweet for New Year. Junko says that “it is made from sweet-bean paste, burdock root, and miso-bean paste with a thin layer of mochi”. It is usually served during the first tea ceremony of the year, called Hatsugama.
The name Daifuku means “great luck”, and it's no wonder why daifuku-cha is eaten during the New Year’s. “It is typically made from dry plum and kelp in hot water or green tea” Junko shares.
There is also a special drink for the New Year called Toso. “Toso is a spiced drink which is typically served in sakazuki, or sake cup,” Junko says. It is drunk in celebration of the New Year and to wash away previous years maladies. She says that, “it has a special aroma and the people believe that toso is the elixir of life”. She shared with us the directions for making toso, “A bag with several kinds of spices ground up and mixed together is soaked in mirin (sweet sake) in order to make toso. Japanese pepper and cinnamon are typical spices used for making it”.
New Year is a day of letting go of the past and looking forward to new beginnings. It is the day when you can turn over a new leaf. We hope that with these mindful rituals, you ring in the New Year with peace and prosperity.