Mt. Fuji (富士山)
It is considered to be particularly good luck to dream of Mt. Fuji, a hawk, and an eggplant in the new year. This belief has been in place since the early Edo period.
The first sunrise (初日の出, Hatsuhinode)
One of many “firsts” that the Japanese take note of during the celebration of the new year. This tradition has been practiced since ancient times – originally performed at the beginning of spring based on the lunar calendar, hatsuhinode is now practiced faithfully on January 1st and has been since the switch to the Gregorian calendar in 1873.
Taken from Cape Inubo (Choshi, Chiba Pref) by Tomoko Komatsuzaki
New Year’s visit to a shrine/temple (初詣, Hatsumode)
The first Shinto shrine visit of the Japanese New Year. Some people visit a Buddhist temple instead. Many visit on the first, second, or third day of the year as most are off work on those days. There are often long lines at major shrines/temples throughout Japan.
Lion dance (獅子舞, Shishimai)
A form of traditional dance in Chinese culture and other Asian countries in which performers mimic a lion’s movements in a lion costume. Versions of the lion dance are found in China, Japan, Korea, Tibet and Vietnam.
Taken at Higashi-Ojima Jinja Shrine (Koto-ku, Tokyo) by Sosen Imai
A traditional Japanese dessert. It is a sweet porridge of azuki beans boiled and crushed, served in a bowl with mochi. There are different styles of shiruko, such as shiruko with chestnuts, or with glutinous rice flour dumplings instead of mochi.
New Year chopstick rests (箸置き)
All Japan High School Soccer Tournament (全国高等学校サッカー選手権大会)
An annual nationwide high school association football tournament, which takes place during the winter school vacation period, culminating in a two-week final tournament stage with 48 teams in December to January at National Olympic Stadium and other venues in Greater Tokyo Area.
Visit of the General Public to the Palace for the New Year Greeting (新年一般参賀)
Greeting the royal family during their New Year’s public appearances. Held at the Imperial Palace on January 2 every year.
Toshikoshi Soba (年越し蕎麦, Lit.”Year-crossing noodle”)
Japanese traditional noodle bowl dish eaten on New Year’s Eve. This custom lets go of hardship of the year because soba noodles are easily cut while eating.
Hakone Ekiden (箱根駅伝)
Officially called “Tokyo-Hakone Round-Trip College Ekiden Race” (東京箱根間往復大学駅伝競走). It is one of the most prominent university ekiden (駅伝, relay marathon) races of the year held between Tokyo and Hakone on January 2 and 3. The first day distance is 108.0 km while the distance on the second day is 109.9 km.
Osechi (御節料理 or お節料理)
Traditional Japanese New Year foods. The tradition started in the Heian Period (794-1185). Osechi are easily recognizable by their special boxes called jubako (重箱).
Kagami mochi (鏡餅, Lit.”Mirror rice cake”)
A traditional Japanese New Year decoration. It usually consists of two round mochi (rice cakes), the smaller placed atop the larger, and a daidai (橙, a Japanese bitter orange) with an attached leaf on top.