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A group of young people in formal suits and kimono gather together.
Public Holidays
  1. New Year's Day or Shōgatsu (January 1)
  2. Coming-of-Age Day (second Monday in January)
  3. National Foundation Day or Kigensetsu (February 11)
  4. Spring Equinox Day or Vernal Equinox (March)
  5. Golden Week (Late April-Early May)
  6. Marine Day (Third Monday in July)
  7. Respect-for-the-Aged Day (Third Monday in September)
  8. Autumnal Equinox Day (September)
  9. Culture Day (November 3)
  10. Labor Thanksgiving Day (November 23)
  11. Emperor’s Birthday (December 23)
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People line up at a shrine at New Year's to buy good luck charms.
New Year's visitors shop for good luck charms at a Shinto shrine.
Photo Courtesy of Ryoko Yamamoto
New Year's Day or Shōgatsu (January 1)
January 1st, or ganjitsu, is the most important holiday in Japan. Many businesses and government offices are closed for the first three days of the year. People spend time with family, pay respects at shrines, and visit friends to offer new year’s greetings. Special dishes are prepared and served at the new year. Osechi, delicacies considered to bring good luck, beautifully arranged in pretty boxes, and zoni, or broth with balls of sticky rice, are typical new year’s specialties. A relaxing New Year’s Day in Japan consists of visiting the neighborhood shrine, eating zoni and osechi, reading new year’s greeting cards, and watching special TV programs. New year’s traditions have their origins in ceremonies welcoming the god of the new year. At year-end, Japanese families clean their homes thoroughly and decorate them with kadomatsu, sacred arrangements of bamboo, pine stems and plum tree sprigs; shimekazari, wreaths and ropes made of fresh straw and white paper; and kagamimochi, stacks of sticky rice cakes. At midnight on New Year’s Day morning, Buddhist temple bells toll 108 times to dispel the 108 types of evil from the world. Many families welcome the new year by eating buckwheat noodles as a symbol of longevity while listening to the sound of the temple bells.
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