While Japan is usually the overworking capital of the world—complete with their own word for “death by overworking,” 過労死 or karoshi—the New Year it’s time for everyone to just chillax and laze around in front of the TV.
The cost, however, is that because New Year’s is overwhelmingly celebrated as time spent relaxing with family (as opposed to the wild parties of western cultures), most of the nation shuts down to take a break for several days, including shops, restaurants, and even doctor’s offices.
It goes so far as some bank ATMs not even running during the New Year, and they don’t even have families or a reason to rest!
Still, Japan is overflowing with awesome-looking traditional decorations, incredible food, and unique cultural ceremonies during the holidays.
To enjoy your start to 2020 to the fullest, read on to learn more about how Japanese people usher in the New Year in style. Expect lots of lounging in front of a TV, tasty (and sometimes dangerous) food, and plenty of luck-generating activities!
1. Sing along to the Kohaku
Kohaku (紅白) is a Japanese word comprised of the kanji for red and white and is also the title of a New Year’s Eve television tradition where popular musical artists split into two teams: men (the White Team) versus women (the Red Team) who face off in a singing contest.
This year will mark the show’s 70th anniversary and its first installment in the new Reiwa Era, with top musical artists such as Radwimps, Perfume, and AKB48 in the lineup. Presenting will be Naomi Watanabe and "Terrace House's" Yama-chan. At the end of the show, the judges and audience vote to decide the winning team. It’s good and thoughtless fun—the perfect thing to mindlessly watch and start shutting off your busy brain for the holidays.
2. Watch the New Year Ekiden
The New Year Ekiden is an annual collegiate relay race from Tokyo to Hakone that people from all over Japan tune in to during the New Year. The two-day, round-trip, 218-kilometer-race is another staple of New Year’s TV shows and usually causes some buzz and conversation points for the holidays. The course is split into 10 different stages that are about half a marathon each. It’s held on the second and third of January and is organized by the Inter-University Athletic Union of Kanto. What better way to motivate yourself to get in shape for the new year?
3. Gorge yourself on osechi
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