Tokyo Travel

New Year in Japan: Top Things to Do 2019/2020

New Year in Japan is one of the biggest celebrations of the year for Japanese people. Most people are off work and they spend the first three days of the year with their family. If you’re in Japan during New Year, there’s no reason for you to miss out on the new year celebrations! In this article we’ll be showing the things you HAVE to do if you’re in Japan during New Year. From new year food to activities you can only do at new year! Keep scrolling to find out more!

1. Eat New Year Soba

Picture of soba dipping noodles eaten during New Year in Japan
Soba- dipping noodles
Photo Credit

Soba are a type of dipping noodle that are traditionally eaten during new year in Japan! They are super tasty and are sure to be liked by everyone because…who doesn’t love noodles?! You can usually choose whether you want them hot or cold but I personally prefer them hot! The best thing is, there are tons of soba shops all over Japan there is sure to be one near you and on top of that they are usually very cheap.

Soba shop located in Tokyo station. Soba is eaten during New Year in Japan
Example of a soba shop in Japan.

So if you’re looking to experience traditional Japanese culture whilst also traveling on a budget, make sure to grab a bowl of soba this new year!

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2. Go and Pray at a Temple for the New Year

People entering Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa during the New Year
Senso-ji Temple, Asakusa on New Years Eve
Photo Credit

On New Years Eve and New Years Day Japanese people go to the temple to pray for good luck in the new year ahead. If you’re in Japan during this time, you have to go and experience this amazing cultural practice because the atmosphere is simply amazing! if you have a bit of extra time, why not rent a kimono before going to the shrine and go dressed up in Japanese traditional clothing! It is a fun activity and really allows you to experience Japanese traditional culture!

It can get very busy so prepare for the crowds! Even the lesser known shrines will be busy so there’s not really any way to escape it…but it all adds to the atmosphere anyway!

Praying place in a japanese temple or shrine.
The place where people pray.
Photo Credit

TIP: When praying in Japan, you first have to throw a coin into the wooden box in front of you (5 yen coins are said to bring the most luck). After doing this, ring the bell by the large rope located near the money box. Bow twice, clap twice, pray and then bow one last time.

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3. Ring in the New Year at a Temple

People ringing the bell at a Japanese temple during New Year
Bell ringing on New Years eve
Photo credit

After praying at the temple don’t forget to ring in the new year! Most temple’s in Japan will have this huge bell with a piece of hanging wood located next to it. On New Years Eve people go to ring this bell by swinging the piece of wood at it. This is a great thing to do as there is nothing like this in western culture.

The bell is supposed to be rang 108 times to symbol the 108 temptations that are a part of buddhist teaching. However, nowadays the temples tend to let everyone ring the bell even if more than 108 people turned up…so don’t be worried to get rejected! The atmosphere is best around the time leading up to 12:00AM, so if you can get to a temple at around this time make sure you go!

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4. Watch the First Sunrise of 2020

People watching the first sunrise of the New Year in Tokyo, Japan. Mount Takao.
People watching the first sunrise of 2019, Mount Takao

This is actually a very popular activity for Japanese people to do during the new year and one of the most popular places to go to see the sunrise in Tokyo is at mount Takao. Mount Takao is a mountain fairly close to central Tokyo which can be accessed via train. The mountain offers spectacular views of the sunrise and it is honestly such a heart warming and special experience to see it there.

The sunrise over tokyo city, viewed from mount Takao during new year.
Beautiful shot of the sunrise over Tokyo city.
Photo Credit
More information about Mount Takao:

Address: 2177, Takaomachi, Hachioji, Tokyo 193-0844

Access: From Shinjuku Station take the Keio Line to Takaosanguchi Station. Then take the cable car up to the top of the mountain.

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5. Go Fukubukuro (lucky bag) Shopping

Fukubukuro- Japanese lucky bags. red with kanji on them.
Japanese lucky bag.
Photo credit

During New Year in Japan many shops make ‘lucky bags’. These are bags that are filled with last years items and are sold for a set price. You don’t know what is in the bag and so you don’t know if it will be good or bad, but it is a super fun activity to partake in either and you can usually get some pretty good deals! There are tons of different lucky bags on offer in Japan but the most popular ones are located in Shibuya 109! People will queue up hours before the stores open to try and get the best lucky bags…and they sell FAST.

Most bags in Shibuya 109 usually cost around 5000yen to 10,000yen but they usually have some pretty good items in them! If you don’t like an item, people usually wait around in Shibuya 109 to trade items with others, so have a look around and see if you can trade!

Contents of a pokemon fukubukuro sold in Tokyo.
Example of some lucky bag contents.
Photo Credit

Another popular lucky bag are the Pokemon lucky bags sold at the Pokemon centers around Tokyo. These lucky bags usually tell you items that you are guaranteed to get, for example a plushie etc. But the rest is a surprise! These bags sell super fast so if you’re looking to get one make sure you get there early and wait!

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6. Eat Mochi (Japanese rice cakes)

Mochi soup full of vegetables and mochi.
Mochi Soup
Photo Credit

I’m sure most of you have heard of the sweet treat in Japan called ‘Mochi’ and is usually filled with red bean paste. But Mochi is actually a traditional dish that is eaten in Japan during New Year. However, It is usually eaten slightly different during New Years in Japan. The Mochi is often baked or put into soups and eaten as a savory food rather than a sweet food. It is also used as a new year decoration and is called ‘Kagami Mochi’. But if you don’t have a means of cooking in Japan, eating the sweet version is fine and is available to buy everywhere!

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Thankyou for checking out our article! We love to hear what you think so make sure you join the discussion and leave a comment down below! ♡

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