Japanese New Year is one of the most important dates in the Japanese calendar. The night’s celebrations usually start with the broadcasting of Kōhaku Uta Gassen on national television. This song contest has been running since 1951 and
It runs for 4 hours and is one of Japan’s most watched TV shows. Afterwards families and friends gather to eat toshikoshi-soba or toshikoshi-udon noodles. Toshi-koshi means “crossing over from one year to the next” and long noodles are required to make the crossing, to symbolize a long life and a letting go of the old because the noodles are easily cut through. Cooking on New Years Day is considered bad luck so Osechi is prepared in advance. These morsels of goodness may consist of boiled seaweed, fish cakes, mashed sweet potato with chestnuts, simmered burdock root, sweet black soybeans, and mochi rice cakes. At midnight Buddhist temples ring their bells 108 times to symbolise and cleanse all the worldly desires that cause human suffering. To end the festivities on January 7th a cleansing 7 herb soup is prepared to clear out the overworked digestive system.