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“O-misoka”- the Last Day of the Year in Japanese-

What Do the Japanese Eat on the New Year's Eve?

In Japanese, "O-misoka" is the last day of the year. In the past, it was customary for family members who were away from home for work or other reasons to return home and spend New Year's Eve together, welcoming the New Year in peace.

However, in recent years (before the COVID19), more and more young people have been taking advantage of their New Year's vacations to go on domestic or overseas trips or to participate in countdown events or concerts at theme parks such as Disneyland and Sea in Tokyo and Universal Studios Japan in Osaka. Many people gather at the Scramble Crossing in Shibuya, and the crowd (or commotion) becomes so large that the police are dispatched, and it becomes a hot topic. In this article, I would like to introduce "O-misoka," New Year's Eve, a day that Japanese people are very particular about.

Table of Contents

1. What is "O-misoka" for the Japanese? Meaning and Origin of the Name

2. How to Spend New Year's Eve and "Joya-no-Kane" (New Year's Eve Bell Ringing)

3. Wishes Expressed in "Toshi-koshi Soba" on New Year's Eve

4." New Year's Eve dishes" with a strong local flavor

5. Summary

1.What is “O-misoka”? Meaning and Origin of the Name

As the Japanese expression "Yuku Toshi and Kuru Toshi" means "Year of the Rising and the Year of the Falling," O-misoka is the day that marks the end of the year in Japan. O-misoka is the day when we prepare to welcome the god of fertility, Toshigami, who will bring us good fortune and abundant harvest of rice in the new year.

"Misoka" in "O-misoka" refers to the last day of the month. In other words, "O-misoka" with the "O=big" in front of "misoka" means December 31, the very last day of the year. The night of New Year's Eve is positioned as the end of the year and the beginning of the year. For this reason, since ancient times, people in Japan have not gone to bed on the night of New Year's Eve but have welcomed the New Year's deities and offered hospitality to pray for good fortune and a good harvest in the new year.

Nowadays, the original meaning of the New Year's Eve ritual has become less important. Still, customs such as "not sleeping until the date changes (to confirm the year of the coming and the year of the going)" and "going out to pay a New Year's visit at midnight" remain.

(The photo shows Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine, crowded with worshippers on New Year's Eve before the COVID19.)

2.How to Spend New Year's Eve and "Joya-no-Kane" (New Year's Eve Bell Ringing)

Although Japanese people have become less religious and "O-misoka" means more about marking the end of the year, they still carry on customs such as cleaning the house and ringing the bell on New Year's Eve.

Cleaning is essential to welcome the new year with a refreshed mind by removing the dirt and bad luck accumulated. It is not advisable to postpone cleaning until the last day of the year, New Year's Eve, but to start cleaning in mid-December and finish with a simple sweeping on New Year's Eve. New Year's Eve is a day to get everything ready for the New Year, not a day to get busy.