Here’s Everything You Need to Know About Winter in Japan
There tons of celebrations and festivals to go to.
From the beautiful seasons of spring, summer, and autumn, it is now time for the cold winter of Japan which covers the months of December to February. Want to know what the Japanese are up to during this white snowy season? In this article, we list down the activities the Japanese look forward to during winter.
In Japan, December 24, or most commonly known as Christmas eve, is more frequently celebrated than Christmas itself. This is because most people see it as a day for couples, and no, we are not talking about Valentine’s Day.
On Christmas, like most of the world, kids get presents from Santa Claus. The staple foods during the celebration are roasted or fried chicken (not necessarily turkey), and strawberry sponge cake with whipped cream. So if ever you pass by KFC during the holidays, don’t be surprised to see people lining up.
End of the Year
On the 31st of December, people clean their houses to welcome the new year. They also eat soba to wish for a longer life and better luck within families.
*Tips: some Japanese vocabulary to describe the end of the year.
Nenmatsu, toshinose = end of the year.
Omisoka = special name of 31 December, meaning New Year’s Eve.
Beginning of the New Year
People place a lot of value in celebrating the New Year. They call it shougatsu, or in a more formal way, oshougatsu.
During the morning of January 1, people eat osechi which is a once a year kind of dish. Traditionally, the mother and grandmother prepare it days before the celebration but nowadays, people can easily buy them from department stores, online shops, or even at convenience stores.
People also decorate their houses with special ornaments such as kadomatsu, kagamimochi, and shimenawa.
Every start of the year, the Japanese visit shrines or temples to make a wish. Another activity they do during the new year is sending greetings like nengajou which is a postcard that’s made especially for celebrating the new year. The new year in a more communal sense is the time for families and relatives to get together and celebrate the holiday. Kids receive gifts of money called otoshidama.
On February 3, the Japanese people dress up as demons and get beans thrown at them. This is a tradition that is believed to drive away bad luck to bring in good luck.
In Japan, women are the ones who give chocolates every February 14 instead of men. They give these to their male friends, colleagues, and to that special someone they hold in their hearts.
Schools in Japan only have a short winter holiday break from around Christmas until the first week of January.
As the holidays come to an end, the school holds a kakizome (literally means the first writing) in which students do Japanese calligraphy. This type of activity comes from shougatsu custom where people write their goals for this year by using Japanese calligraphy.
In Japanese companies, their year ender parties can be called in many different ways such as bounenkai, noukai, or sometimes, they just celebrate it altogether with their Christmas party. There is also a new year party called shinnenkai. What people usually do in these parties are actually the same as other nomikais.
Known for being very hard working, the Japanese tend to work until the very last day. The last day of work is usually around the last Friday of December.
January 1 is called ganjitsu.
*Tips: The morning of ganjitsu has another special name, which is gantan.
The second Monday of January is a coming of age day called seijin no hi. It is a special event for those who just turned 20 years old to show their appreciation towards their parents for raising them well.
The Japanese celebrate the National Foundation Day of Japan during February 11. However, this holiday does not have anything extraordinary like fireworks, parades, or festivals. People just usually spend their day normally.
During winter, snow can be found mostly in northern parts of Japan as well as in the mountain areas. Because of this reason, people visit these places in winter to go skiing, skateboarding, or skating.
Although you can definitely enjoy onsen all-throughout the year, you will feel more relaxed and find it more pleasurable when it is cold outside. People also love the feeling of looking at the beautiful snow while they are in the onsen.
Season for Couples
As what popular belief would say, when it gets colder, we would definitely long for more human affection. Winter in Japan is perfect for couples because of the numerous events being held especially for them during Christmas Eve and Valentine’s Day.
(30 October 2019)