New Year is the most celebrated holiday in Japan. We usually do a big cleanup before the New Year and decorate the house with Kagami-mochi (two round-shaped rice cakes), tangerine, and green, which elevate the spirit of the coming New Year.
Then, big New Year’s cuisine, called Osechi Ryori will be prepared! I remember spending all day of New Year’s Eve cooking with my mom and my sister and filling the table with New Year’s Eve food! This includes many traditional dishes such as Kuromame (black soybeans, symbolizing a wish for good health in the New Year), Kazunoko (herring roe symbolizeing a wish to be gifted with numerous children in the New Year), Konbu (seaweed associating with joy), etc. We take out special “Jubako” (tiered lacquered boxes) and artistically fill them with these special dishes.
After the sunset, we enjoy the food with hot sake while watching a traditional TV program. It’s a relaxing night - just appreciating the time with family and a cozy and peaceful time.
Also, it is our tradition to eat soba (buckwheat noodles) before the New Year arrives. We call this as “Toshikoshi Soba (passing the year noodles)”. This thin long noodle is the symbol of longevity and health for the New Year. Yes, we eat a lot on New Year’s Eve!
Traditionally, before midnight on New Year's Eve, temple bells across Japan begin to toll slowly 108 times. It's called joya-no-kane. People welcome the new year by listening to the sound of temple bells.
New Year’s Eve, we call it “oomisoka”, is a truly special time for Japanese people. We spend time to reflect the passing year and refresh our mind for New Year. I miss my home country especially this time of the year!