All over Japan, people have been preparing to celebrate the New Year on Sunday night (31 December) and Monday, New Year's Day.
All over Japan, people have been preparing to celebrate the New Year on Sunday night (31 December) and Monday, New Year's Day. This is Japan's main winter festival and is marked by eight days of national holidays which started on Wednesday (28 December). The Japanese New Year coincides with that of the West since Japan and many other Asian countries abandoned the age-old Chinese calendar in favour of the western Gregorian system.
SYNOPSIS: The "Year of the Horse" is ushered in at midnight on Sunday when Japan says farewell to the "year of the Snake". Here, at the glass factory of Tsukiyuno-machi in central Japan they have been busy. These ornaments mark a special date on the calendar, the "Year of the Elder Brother of the Earth Horse" which occurs every 60 years.
The "Year of the Horse" is said to be especially fortunate for those in creative work or in businesses that require a lot of activity. Here at Tokyo's Stock Exchange, hub of the nation's business, that should be good news.
The jobbers can enjoy their holiday knowing fortune will be smiling next year. They end business with the traditional Sanbonjime, a triple handclap.
In Tokyo's markets and in other Japanese cities, people have been buying gifts for the New Year. For many the traditional present to mark the festival is a hagoita -- a toy racket with which girls and young women play a game similar to badminton. In the past the rackets were decorated with traditional paintings or images of Kabuki actors. Now these compete with images of pop stars and sportsmen for popularity.
Throughout the country, people have been buying traditional New Year decorations which are hung up to ward off evil spirits and to attract kindly ones.
Many of the traditions once observed under the old Chinese calendar have been transferred to the new holidays, but with their accent on gift-giving it is also an opportunity for shops to do a roaring trade. Among the best-selling items of all are seafoods such as octopus, tuna fish and salmon which are traditional dishes for the season.