As soon as Christmas is over, the Japanese begin preparation for the year-end and New Year events. Compared to Christmas, these events are often deeply involved in religion, following the tradition of Japan. However, for most Japanese, there seems to be a strong perception that it is just a custom rather than a religious affair.
So, I will explain about New Year’s Eve in detail, including the meaning of New Year’s Eve and how to spend New Year’s Eve, so let’s look at it together.
What does “Oomisoka” mean?
“Oomisoka” refers to the last day of the year. So why do Japanese call the last day of the year “Oomisoka?” Actually, “Oomisoka” comes from “Misoka” in the lunar calendar. The word “Misoka” means last day of the month.
Origin of “Omisoka”
Until about 150 years ago from now, the lunar calendar had been used in Japan. At that time, the Japanese called the last day of the month “Misoka.” In other words, there was “Misoka” every month. Adding the letter “大” (Oo) indicated the last day of the month of the last month of the year. Many Japanese people unexpectedly don’t know about the meaning and origin of the word “Oomisoka,” although the term is familiar to them since they were children.
Speaking of “Oomisoka,” we must bring up “Toshikoshi soba.” Let’s look at “Toshikoshi soba” in detail next.
What is “Toshikoshi soba?”
Toshikoshi soba (year-crossing soba) is buckwheat noodles for Japanese people to eat on “Oomisoka.” Some people eat Toshikoshi soba at home, others eat at a soba noodle shop. A soba noodle shop on “Oomisoka” is crowded from morning till evening as many people come.
The beginning of “Toshikoshi soba”
The custom of eating soba on “Oomisoka” is said to have started around the Edo period. There was a custom of “Misoka soba” (30th soba) where merchants ate soba at the end of the month. This custom gradually changed to Japanese people eating “Toshikoshi soba” only on “Oomisoka.”
Why do Japanese people eat “Toshikoshi soba” on December 31st?
What about udon?
There are various reasons to eat “Toshikoshi soba” on “Oomisoka.” This time, I will introduce two leading reasons among various theories.
1. The first reason is that soba is thin and long, so it is said to be auspicious (good luck). While eating “Toshikoshi soba,” we wish for long life and good fortune for our family. This is the most well-accepted theory.
2. The second reason is that because soba is easy to cut, that echoes the wishes of cutting down the hardships and disasters of a year cleanly as much as possible. Surely, buckwheat noodle is easier to cut than udon.
Next, I will explain the “Kohaku Uta Gassen” broadcasted on NHK every year on “Oomisoka.”
What is “Kohaku Uta Gassen?”
“Kohaku Uta Gassen” is one of the Japanese traditions on “Oomisoka.” “Kohaku Uta Gassen” is a music show broadcasted every year on December 31th until 23: 45. The show is a long running TV tradition having been started in 1951 by NHK. At the end of this program, the seasonally traditional Jyoya no Kane is rung. While listening to the sound of the bell that night, Japanese feel deep emotion at the moment when the year crosses.
Composition of “Kohaku Uta Gassen”
“Kohaku Uta Gassen” is a singing battle by two teams. Successful singers, who had hit songs during the year, are selected as competitors.
The singers and artists are divided into two teams, red and white based on gender. Female artists are on the red team and male are on the white team. In the case of a male and female mixed group, the gender of the main vocal takes precedence, regardless of the number of men and women. Also in case of male and female duo, it is basically decided to become a red group.
Characteristics of “Kohaku Uta Gassen”
Red and white singing battle is decided by a high audience rating. Also, you can see a lot of performances that surprise viewers and audiences during singing. In the past, the competitors were wearing spectacular costumes, which were as extravagant as the stage, but they have calmed down for the past few years.
Victory or defeat of “Kohaku Uta Gassen”
The victory or defeat of “Kohaku Uta Gassen” is decided by scoring which group was better by judges such as celebrities and athletes who have been successful throughout the year. In addition, members of the audience and TV audience, chosen in advance, help with the judging. In recent years, you can also vote using a mobile phone or a bidirectional TV system these days.
How was this article? The way to spend year-end and New Year in Japan is different from those in Western and other Asian countries. By all means, I encourage you to spend your year-end and New Year like Japan once.
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