Both our Tokyo HQ and Kyoto office will be closed during the Japanese New Year celebrations from 29th December to 3rd January.
What does New Year mean to Japanese?
With obon (a holiday to honor one’s ancestors, similar to the Chinese Ching Ming grave sweeping Festival) in mid-August, the New Year period is the most spiritual for Japan.
The first few days of the year are spent celebrating with family, consuming delectable food and sumptuous sake, as well as making a visit to the local shrine to pray for good fortune over the coming year, but the weeks and days before the new year are a frenzy of cleaning and tidying to make sure no clutter is carried over (Marie Kondo, FTW!) into the fresh start offered by 1st January.
This means that first our offices, then our homes and even cars are given what English-speakers might call a thorough spring clean. The great honour for completion of these tasks is the right to hang a special New Year decoration. These are different and specific for workplaces, homes, and cars. Generally they feature an evergreen leaf and a mikan (mandarin orange).
As with all great celebrations, after the cleaning, it is time to focus on the food. The traditional, exquisitely presented o-sechi that is served in three-tier obento boxes (only used at New Year) is meticulously and laboriously (see a previous blog post about the virtue of struggle) prepared over a number of days, typically 29th – 31st December. The plan is that this o-sechi will provide sustenance throughout the various family and community gatherings and celebrations on 1st, 2nd and 3rd January (when most businesses – including restaurants – are closed anyway!).
Thanking our industry colleagues –
Our industry colleagues – particularly hoteliers and professional caterers – are also busy at this time of year, with demand for accommodation as families gather, and a desire to indulge in o-sechi meals prepared by a professional chef.
We do try to give our guides a bit of a break to recharge at this time of year. However, if you are making the most of the opportunity to explore Japan’s winter traditions and celebrations in temples, shrines and streets, there will be someone ready and willing to share the fun with you.
Yoi o-toshi-o – and have very happy New Year celebrations!