The world over, New Year’s Eve/Day is seen as a time to celebrate and reflect. Here in Japan, it’s an auspicious event. Never celebrated like a local? Here’s your chance!


A popular activity is the pounding of mochi! Pre-soaked sticky rice is placed in a wooden/stone bowl known as an usu, and a large hammer known as a kine is used to pound it into paste. After this it’s shaped into balls. Some are made into offerings, with one smaller mochi sat atop a larger one; a symbol for New Year. The rest is saved and eaten post midnight. Some even do it just after New Year! If you don’t want to make your own, you can try pre-made Mochi at any supermarket or convenience store.

Have a bonenkai party!

Years are seen as separate, and it is expected to have all of your affairs in order before the clock strikes midnight. It’s common to hold a “bonenkai” (or year forgetting) party, to wrap up the previous year, before moving on to the next. There’s no specific day, just usually in December. The tradition involves lots of alcohol, but drink responsibly! Grab some Orion and snacks, and enjoy!

One last meal.

It’s customary to serve toshikoshi soba right before the New Year falls. Toshikoshi is made with a buckwheat noodle, and symbolises longevity. Head to any Japanese supermarket for ingredients, and follow this simple recipe:

Greet the day.

January 1st is the most important day, best started with hatsuhinode, or sunrise viewing. A perfect spot is Comprehensive Park. The lavish settings provide a perfect backdrop. Find it here:,127.807914,14z/data=!4m8!1m2!2m1!1scomprehensive+park+okinawa+map!3m4!1s0x34e50d9e1b5cad4b:0x5ba4ec886ffce0a7!8m2!3d26.3039023!4d127.8254235.

Pay homage.

A shrine or temple visit is also a must (known as hatsumode). Held from January 1st- 3rd, most have festivals with food and games. If you visit on New Years Eve, some even ring a bell at midnight (108 times, a Buddhist tradition). Check out Naritasan Fukusenji (’59.2%22N+127%C2%B047’53.5%22E/@26.2831,127.7980632,21z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x0:0x0!8m2!3d26.2831!4d127.7982), lots of fun games and beautiful omamori! Futenma shrine (,+Ginowan-shi,+Okinawa-ken+901-2202/@26.2931321,127.7751581,16.65z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x34e512c4ac1ed9f5:0xa72f712070a0aba8!8m2!3d26.2929103!4d127.7772201) also celebrates big, with the surrounding streets awash with stalls and festivities.

Grab a lucky bag.

Another must-try is fukubukuro. Fukubukuro means mystery/lucky bag, and almost all retailers have them. Stock is cleared out at the end of the year for new items, so merchants place old wares in a bag, seal it, and sell it for a heavily discounted price. You won’t know until after what you get, but that all adds to the fun! Head to Aeon Mall Rycom for a great selection of shops:,127.7933576,17z/data=!3m2!4b1!5s0x34e51262f0f5d3b3:0x15d76c2c91145648!4m5!3m4!1s0x34e5126214d2f427:0xcb2e803176e4f16b!8m2!3d26.3142589!4d127.7955463

Have a great New Year’s from all of us at Total Okinawa! See you in 2017!

Celebrate New Year's The Japanese Way Article