The most important
and elaborate holiday in Japan is
Oshogatsu -- the celebration of the Japanese New Year. More than just a
single day, the holiday festivities usually begin on the eve of the new
continue to the first full moon of the year, usually in mid-January.
The days leading up to New Year’s Eve are referred to as osoji, a
“cleaning” that clears the way for a fresh start for the
coming twelve months. Osoji has its origins in purification rituals and
a great deal of time is spent cleaning up houses, shops and
Japan officially adopted a solar calendar in 1873 and the New Year
starts on January 1, but in rural Japan villagers continue to follow
the lunar calendar and Oshogatsu is the Lunar New Year.
On New Year's Eve, shortly before midnight, Buddhist temples ring bells
108 times to remember Japan's hardships.
The ritual is a way to send
out the old year and usher in the new.
Many Japanese families start the New Year with a "mochi" or rice cake
breakfast. The rice cake is served in a stew called "Ozoni."
pounding to make mochi rice cakes was once a popular New Years
activity, but many modern Japanese families buy them from supermarkets.
are many "good luck" charms associated with
the New Year. Cranes
and turtles are symbols of longevity and happiness.
sometimes decorated with origami cranes to bring peace and happiness to
the New Year.
Shinto is rooted in reverence for nature and its endless cycles of
renewal. Although no sacred scriptures in the Western sense exist,
three compendiums of records, rituals and prayers -- all completed
between the eighth and 10th centuries -- comprise its basic tenets.
The central idea is that the world is populated by countless guardian
spirits called "kamis," from which the religion derived its name.
In Shinto, almost every living thing has a kami, as do such
forms and forces as mountains, rivers, earthquakes and storms. So do
groups of people, households, buildings, skills and professions, and
commercial activities -- including car manufacturing.
shrines, in fact, far outnumber Sony and
Mitsubishi plants. An
estimated 80,000 shrines, great and small, dot rural villages as well
as every Japanese city.
Grand Shrine of Ise in south central Honshu
commemorates the sun
goddess Amaterasu Omikami, considered the founder of the Japanese
nation and ancestor of the emperor. Millions of Japanese make annual
pilgrimages to Ise not only as acts of religious devotion but as
expressions of patriotism and respect for the imperial family.
make pilgrimages to major Shinto shrines at important junctures in
Maneki Neko Fortune Cat