But New Year’s Eve is a big deal in Japan and Tokyo has unique celebrations. Here’s a rundown of things to do and events in Tokyo for NYE. And hey, keep reading for a NYE beach party.
And of course in this day and age any story involving travel must come with this disclaimer: various facilities around Tokyo may change their operating days or hours due to COVID-19. In addition, some events may be canceled or postponed.
New Year’s Eve Culture In Japan
New Year’s Day has traditionally been the most important holiday of the year for Japanese.
In order to thank the gods for giving people the strength to survive the coming year, many temples and shrines have held a Susuharai, or “a sweeping soot off” ceremony, on Dec. 13th. It is considered an important ritual to dispose of the difficulties and doldrums of the previous year and to help forget the unpleasant things. In Japanese, the phrase Toshi Wasure means “forgetting the old year.”
It is a uniquely Japanese expression meaning “to be able to quickly forget the bad things of the previous year and welcome the coming year with a fresh and clear mind.”
New Year’s Eve Countdown Party
Many Japanese celebrate the coming of a new year by visiting a shrine or temple. Meiji Jingu Shrine receives more visitors than anywhere else in the country. Zojoji Temple offers a spectacular view of Tokyo Tower, and a chance to hear “joya-no-kane”—the ringing of a temple’s bell 108 times to usher in the new year.
Another great – and lively – option is to visit Shibuya‘s Scramble Crossing. Here the streets are closed to traffic, and the entire intersection turns into a huge countdown party to midnight.
Oji Fox Parade (Kitsune no Gyoretsu)
A print by a famous ukiyo-e artist, Utagawa Hiroshige, depicts an old legend: on New Year’s Eve, foxes put on costumes and parade towards Oji Inari Shrine. Every year, the residents of Oji recreate the scene by dressing up as foxes. They hold paper lanterns and join a lively procession towards the shrine.
Asakusa Hagoita Fair
Hagoita are rectangular wooden paddles that were originally used to play a traditional game similar to badminton. They became seen as auspicious objects that “hit away bad luck,” and have been sold as good luck charms for welcoming the new year since the 19th century. Link: Asakusa Hagoita Fair
Ogasawara Islands NYE Beach Party
True PubClubbers will probably prefer to be on the Ogasawara Islands, where there is a NYE beach party and a New Year’s countdown on Chichijima. Afterward, an event on January 1st marks the opening of the local public beaches.
The countdown party starts at around 11 p.m. You can drink Ogasawara rum, try passion fruit liqueur and watch a slideshow featuring highlights from the past year.
And be ready to continue the party on NewYear’s Day, starting with a Shinto ceremony in which a priest prays for safety at sea. Afterward, the beaches are declared open for the year. Along with the usual beach activities there are local performing arts shows, a traditional rice cake-throwing ritual and a raffle with prizes.
Learn More About Tokyo
For more things to do in Tokyo for New Year’s Eve and beyond, to the tourism board’s official website at: gotokyo.org.