History of Japanese New Year’s Celebration.
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In Japan, as the end of the year approaches, the customary and familiar symbols of the New Year appear in the streets and in homes. Many of the symbols are based upon or linked to the Shinto, Buddhist, or folk traditions of Japan. The kudomatsu or "gate-pine" is an arrangement of pine, bamboo, and sometimes plum blossom. The arrangement is placed on either side of the front entrance to the house to ward off evil dominance and invoke fertility, growth, and the power to resist adversity and old age. The pine represents strength, longevity and youthful optimism. The bamboo, which is straight and unbending, symbolizes resilience, uprightness, rapid growth and finial piety; it leans with the wind, but does not break. The apricot or plum braves the winter season and has sweet blossoms despite the cold and snowy weather.
The shimenawa is fresh rice-straw laced in a particular fashion to form a rope. This ornament is placed at the entrance of the house or over cooking stoves during the oshogatsu season. In the Shinto tradition, the shimenawa indicates a sacred area. It is believed that no evil can pass beyond the line of the shimenawa.
Omisoka is the day of New Year’s Eve. Since the New Year is the biggest event in Japan, people celebrate the Eve as well. People work so hard to prepare the New Year around one or two weeks such as cleaning (like spring cleaning in here) and shopping. The reason people do the cleaning in the middle of winter is to get rid of the dirty of the passing year and to welcome the New Year with a fresh and serene mind. And on Omisoka, with preparing the New Year’s special dishes called Osechi-ryori, people finish up all the work of the year. People eat Toshikoshi-soba at night and stay up till midnight to listen to the 108 chimes of a nearby temple bell. Toshikoshi-soba is a bowl of hot brown noodles in broth. The noodle is a homophone for a word that means “being close” and therefore signifies the approach of the New Year. The 108 chimes called Joya-no-kane, rings out the old year and rings in the New Year. It is supposed to release people from the 108 worldly sins.Pictures: Stone statue of Jizo and inside shrine.
The 2100-lb., sixteenth-century Japanese bronze bell is originally from a temple in Tajima Province in Japan. It will be struck 108 times with a large custom-hewn log. According to Japanese custom, this symbolically welcomes the New Year and curbs the 108 bonno (mortal desires) which, according to Buddhist belief, torment humankind.