The Japanese way of celebrating new year countdown – Eating Buckwheat Noodles

Japan, New Year, Celebration

Cover Image via: Rakuten Travel

In a blink of eye, we are now into the year of 2017. Are you getting excited about where to celebrate the countdown this year? In the anticipation of new year’s arrival, Japanese do have their very own way of celebrating the countdown – with much peace and harmony. As a traditional custom, Japanese family members reunites for a buckwheat noodle meal on the 31st of December every year. But, why buckwheat noodle of all?


Why Buckwheat Noodle of all?

Omisoka means the last day of the year. This day falls on December 31st in Japan, the eve of New Year. While Chinese usually enjoy a sumptuous meal on the eve of Chinese New Year,  Japanese eat Toshikoshi soba (literally year-crossing buckwheat noodles) on the New Year’s eve.  The custom of eating buckwheat noodle started during the mid of Edo Period.  People eat buckwheat noodles which are supposed to symbolize a long and frugal life due to their slender shape and wish each other good health throughout the New Year. It is also said that buckwheat noodle is easily broken when chewed, hence it is hoped that all the past worries will be cut off as they bite the noodles into pieces. The buckwheat noodles are served both in hot and cold depending on the family’s preference.


Joya no kane: Ring out the old year.

A few minutes before New Year, some temples ring a large bell 108 times as part of a ritual called “joya no kane.” Why 108 times? Some said that 108 is the number of earthly desires that cause humans much suffering; some said that 108 represents 108 small Buddhas; while others said that 108 represents 12 months, 24 solar terms and 72 seasons in a year. All in all, ringing the temple bell can be perceived as a symbol to finish the old year (of bad luck) and welcome the new one (of good luck).


Watch Kohaku Uta Gassen

Though watching tv show is not a tradition countdown activity for Japanese, Kohaku Uta Gassen (literally translate to “Red -and-White Song Battle”) is a long-running show on every New Year’s Eve that receives more than 50% of viewership every year. This 4.5-hour long program involves a musical battle between two teams consisting of the year’s most popular and commercially successful artists. The artists are invited by NHK, so to be on the show is considered an honor. The audience and judges then vote for the best team. This is somewhat similar to Malaysians as we watch Astro countdown programmes on our New Year’s eve night.

While celebrations for countdowns are usually “happening” around the world, for Japanese, it’s a quiet, solemn family affair. If you do wish to have a different, yet peaceful countdown celebration, try spending your New Year’s eve night at a Japanese Guesthouse with the locals for the most authentic experience!

Next up: The traditional New Year custom of the Japanese

Translated from: 不说你不知!日本人12月31日的另类跨年活动 – 吃荞麦面。

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