Updated： April 17, 2018
Things To Do In Japan In January: From Shrine Visits To Sumo Eating Sumo Meals
If you're wondering what there is to do in Japan in January aside from the usual things, here's a guide you might find interesting.
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Hatsumode: The Year's First Shrine Visit
As a new year custom, many people in Japan visit a Shinto Shrine to pray for the year to come to be a good one. Everyone is welcomed to do this ritual, even though you are not of the Shinto Religion. You just have to follow some basic rules and do the ritual with genuine respect of the tradition. What you pray for is up to you. There are some popular spots to do this in Tokyo such as the Meiji Jingu Shrine. Those places may get really crowded, but it's definitely an interesting experience to have if you are in Japan in January! To know more about Hatsumode and where you can do it, please refer to this article.
Admire The Beautiful Kimonos Of Coming Of Age Day
There is a very important tradition in Japan that falls on the second Monday of January. This day is a national holiday called Coming of Age Day or "seijin no hi" in Japanese. On that day people who turned 20 years old during the year gather for a special commemorative reunion to celebrate their adulthood. What's interesting is that even if you are not invited to the formal ceremony, you will see young adults in beautiful winter kimonos in many places such as parks or in gathered in front of where their ceremony will be held.
Visit A Huge, World-Class Auto Salon
If you love customized cars, take note of this one. The Tokyo Auto Salon is one of the best auto shows in the world which showcases modified and tuned cars. The event is held every year in January in the suburbs of Tokyo (Saitama). You can get there by train from Tokyo in about one hour.
Get Yourself A "Lucky Bag"
The selling of lucky bags called fukuboukuro in Japan is a tradition that resembles the post-Christmas sales or the black Friday sells in other parts of the world. Items are generally sold at 30-50% discounts (or even much more in some cases). But there is a different twist: they are sold in secret bundles of around 5 items. So you don't actually know what you are buying until you open your bag. Every bag usually contains at least one pricey item. But be aware that it's all up to chance. You may get a really expensive thing that you absolutely don't need. Sales begin at on January 1st and generally last a week.
Watch A Mountain Burn In Nara
In Nara Prefecture, in the Kansai region, there is an ancient tradition called Wakakusa Yamayaki that consists of burning a grassy mountain near the city of Nara. There are also some fireworks and other festivities related to the event. This is one of the major winter festivals in the Kansai region.
Sumo competitions are held throughout the year but the ones held in January gather particular attention as they are the first in the year.
Attend A Fire Festival In A Small Onsen Town
Dousojin Matsuri, Nozawa Onsen fire festival is held on every January 15th of the year in a small town in northern Nagano Prefecture. There is a huge fire that is made by burning new years ornaments and you can enjoy the sight and the festive atmosphere. This is one of the popular fire festivals in Japan.
Attend a Local Dondo Yaki
You don't have to go to Nagano to attend a bonfire event. The tradition of burning ornaments called Dondo Yaki is present all over Japan. If you are in the Tokyo area, a popular Dondo Yaki event is held every year in Machida's Oyama Dairi Park. The fire is lit at 1 PM and you can place your own ornaments to be burnt if you arrive early.
In Osaka, Pray For Business Success
At the small but culturally important Imamiya Ebisu Shrine in Osaka, you can pray for your business success for the new year during the Toka Ebisu Festival on the 10th of January. This is a huge event in Osaka as the town was, by and large, a merchants' town for a good part of its history. Series of lanterns light the site which creates an enchanting atmosphere. There are countless ornaments that can be purchased that are blessed good-luck charms for business prosperity.
Have a Shinnekai Get-Together
Whereas Bonenkai was to forget the year that had past in December, Shinnenkai is basically a drinking and eating party held in January to celebrate the new year that has come. Gather with friends and eats lots of food and drink lots of alcohol at an izakaya!
Have a Chanko Nabe (Sumo Cuisine!)
The winter cuisine in Japan is simply amazing. One of the best dishes you can have that really warms you up and gives you lots of stamina is the "chanko nabe" which is a hot pot often eaten by sumo. There are a couple of good places to have it in Tokyo.
- Japanese food culture enthusiast. Love to explore new areas and discover local specialties.
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