New Year’s Eve is a big deal in Japan — just not in the same way as it is in other countries.
Until 1873 and the adoption of the Gregorian calendar, Dec. 31 passed quite normally in Japan. Lunar celebrations were transposed from their previous position (late January to early February) and affixed neatly to coincide with the end of the year according to the West. But that didn’t mean New Year’s Eve would be all countdowns, fireworks and all-night raves — not yet, anyway.
Typically, Ōmisoka (New Year’s Eve) is a family affair — even in the global metropolis that is Tokyo. Urbanites take trips to see their parents and relatives, the city becomes less busy, independent businesses close, and so begins three days (at least) of feasting. The new year itself is ushered in at the stroke of midnight by joya no kane: the ringing of temple bells 108 times — one for each of the worldly sins according to Buddhism.
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