Wondering how to make the most of New Year’s in Tokyo? Dive into these annual traditions loved by both locals and visitors!
Source: Sylvia Wakana
On the evening of the 31st, dine at a soba restaurant to enjoy this traditional dish. The thinness of the noodles makes it easier to cut and is analogous to cutting off any bad luck in the past year. Eating long soba noodles is also symbolic of welcoming the fortune and hope of having a long life. This tradition has been around since the mid-Edo period. When you’re having the noodles, don’t forget to slurp them!
After a heart dinner of soba, you could walk the streets for a while before doing your first shrine visit of 2024. Hatsumode refers to just that. You can expect crowds of people out past midnight because some trains will be running all night! Take in the sights of crowds, the occasional gong of a bell, and smell the smoke from the burning of old amulets and charms. Burning them is seen as a form of purification. As you wait for the clock to hit midnight, you can pick up an omikuji (a fortune) to see what sort of luck related to different aspects of your life you might get in the next year. You can also opt to make a wish by writing it on an ema (wooden plague) that you can purchase before hanging it up at the shrine.
Source: Tokyo Skytree
You could stay out all night before catching the first sunrise or just wake up extra early for it! There’s nothing quite like feeling the first sun rays of the new year reminding you of the exciting possibilities ahead. Both Tokyo Skytree and Shibuya Sky are open super early just for this.
Source: Umami Kit
Settle down after an eventful night and then find a chance to try osechi, Japan’s traditional New Year dish. It comes in many different arrangements, but there are a few common ingredients with special meanings associated with them. Here’s 3 that are good to know: Datemaki is a sweet roll omelette which resembles a scroll, so eating it is seen as being similar to consuming knowledge. If you want to double your chances of having a long life after having soba, you can also eat ebi (shrimp) in osechi (its curved body resembles that of an aged spine). Kuromame refer to sweet, black beans. Their significance can be found in how mame means not only bean but is used to describe someone a hard worker. Many households make their own osechi, but you’ll also find them readily available in supermarkets.
As a final treat for yourself in the new year, you can go lucky bag hunting around Tokyo. A lucky bag is basically a blind bag consisting of a random selection of items of a certain brand (sometimes multiple brands depending on where you purchase it) that you buy at a fixed rate, but the amount of everything within is guaranteed to be higher than the price you paid. There are lucky bags that are so popular (like the Starbucks’s one) that you’ll need to join a lottery early just to get the chance to purchase them. Most lucky bags contain exclusive items and it’s exciting to imagine what you might get!
As you wrap up your journey through these traditions, let the spirit of the new year fill you with excitement and anticipation. Here’s to a fantastic start and a year full of travel! 🎉