Japanese Vocabulary: New Year おしょうがつ Oshogatsu

Are you interested in the Japanese New Year?

New Year is the biggest annual event in Japan. We celebrate this day traditionary. 

Watch this video and you can learn Japanese New Year vocabulary, say appropriate New Year greetings and understand Japanese New Year culture!

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Related post: How to say “A Happy New Year” in Japanese

Japanese New Year Vocabulary

Before New Year begins:

おおそうじ osoji

Preparing for New Year starts from the great cleaning called おおそうじ osoji.

We make sure everything is clean. We clean our house to invite good spirits. It is believed good spirits are coming to clean house. So cleaning our house is not only physical matter but a spiritual issue.

おかざり okazari

Once our house is cleaned, we put New Year decorations, おかざり okazari. We normally put these decorations on the entrance to invite good spirits and also inside a house, including bathroom, to make sure the good spirits comfortable stay our home.

かがみもち kagamimochi

We also put a special New Year mochi called かがみもち kagamimochi. It’s an enormous one, and it doesn’t look like an ordinally rectangle or round mochi. You can see how beautifully it is decorated.

ねんがじょう nengajo

Then, we’re writing New Year’s postcards, ねんがじょう nengajo. These are for friends and relatives,  colleagues and, if you run a business, for your business partners and customers. Some people write a few hundreds of ねんがじょう nengajo. You can see the sample designs of ねんがじょう nengajo. The favorite design is the animal of the year.  The animal of 2017 is a chicken so that you can see a lot of chicken illustrations or photos on ねんがじょう nengajo.


おおみそか Omisoka

New Year’s Eve is called おおみそか Omisoka.

としこしそば toshikoshi soba

We eat soba noodles としこしそば toshikoshi soba because it is very easy to cook. おおみそか Omisoka is very very very busy for at the last minute’s preparations, so soba is good to prepare for this busiest day. And soba is very long, so we wish our life is longer.

じょやのかね joya no kane

At midnight, you can hear all the temples’ bells ringing. It’s じょやの かね joya no kane. They ring 108 times to get rid of all bad spirits or evil desires we have. It is believed that these bell sounds cleanse our body and heart spiritually.


がんたん Gantan

And finally, New Year’s Day morning, がんたん gantan.

はつひので hatsuhi no de

The first sunrise is called はつひので hatsuhi no de. Many people go to mountains or the seaside to see はつひので hatsuhi no de and wish great New Year.

はつもうで hatsumode

And lots lots lots of people visit Shrines or Templars for the first visit. はつもうで hatsumode. Many people wear traditional dresses called きもの kimono. We wish our good luck in the new year.

ねんがじょう nengajo

がんたん gantan is the busiest day for postmen and women because they must deliver ねんがじょう nengajo on this day. ねんがじょう  nengajo is supposed to arrive on the New Year’s Day. After you post ねんがじょう nengajo, the Japanese post offices collect all ねんがじょう nengajo and store them and deliver them on がんたん gantan.

おぞうに・おせち ozoni, osechi

We have special もち mochi soup called おぞうに ozoni. The way of cooking おぞうに ozoni differs from area to area. There are also lots of New Year dishes called おせち osechi. Traditionally we cook them, but nowadays many people buy them in supermarket or department store.

おとしだま otoshidama

We have a special gift for kids called おとしだま otoshidama. Adults give money as a gift to children in their family.

はつゆめ hatsuyume

At night, we want to have great dreams because we believe the first dream in the New Year, はつゆめ hatsuyume, is like a fortune telling and some people put a special picture like this under their pillow. This image shows seven gods in a treasure boat. It is believed that they will bring good fortune for the New Year.


かきぞめ kakizome

The second day of New Year, some people write the first calligraphy, called かきぞめ kakizome.  Many school children write かきぞめ kakizome because it’s a part of their winter homework. They write good words such as dreams, hope, and peace.


しごとはじめ shigoto hajime

Around the 4th day, we start working. しごとはじめ shigoto hajime. The first working day in New Year. You’ll be busy to say the New Year greetings to your colleagues, business partners and customers. We’ll learn how to say it later.


ななくさがゆ nanakusa gayu

On the 7th day, we eat special rice porridge with seven kinds of wild herbs, ななくさがゆ nanakusa gayu. We eat lots of New Year dishes and drinks, so our digestive system is a bit tired. ななくさがゆ nanakusa gayu detox your body.


かがみびらき kagami biraki

In 11th day, we break かがみもち kagami mochi into pieces. This is called かがみびらき kagami biraki. We eat them as おしるこ oshiruko, sweet azuki bean soup.


どんどやき dondo yaki

The 15th day of January is the end of New Year’s season. In the local area, all the new year decorations are piled up and burned. This is called どんどやき dondo yaki.


New Year’s greetings

しんねんの あいさつ Shinnen no aisatsu

Before New Year starts, we say

よい おとしを

Yoi otoshi wo.  

Best wishes for the new year.

Once New Year begins, we say

あけまして おめでとうございます

Akemashite omedeto gozaimasu.  Happy new year

Happy new year


Do you want ALL New Year vocabulary for your reference? 

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How many words have you ever heard?

Have you ever tried Japanese-style New Year?

Please post a comment below and Let me know.

I hope you all have a Happy New Year. よい おとしを!

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This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Asuka

    The paper you put two mochi is called “shihoobeni しほうべに 四方紅” It’s the special kind of paper for Kagamimochi.
    The square paper you can fold to make a crane or something is called “origami おりがみ 折り紙.” ?

  2. Karen Niki

    I a looking for the word of the paper you put the 2 mochi with orange. It can be a fish, or crane. What do you call that paper. In Hawaii okazari sounds like the word… But in trNslati g word differs

  3. Asuka

    Thank you so much for your kind words, Charles san.
    I feel honored to have such an enthusiastic student like you!
    Happy learning.

  4. Charles O'Flynn

    I’m so grateful to receive your helpful emails and to keep in touch with you. I really enjoyed your Japanese lessons at Southampton University and thought that you were a really effective teacher as well as having a delightful personality. Thank you, Asuka sensei.

  5. Asuka

    Thank you, Martin san. I’m so glad to hear that.

  6. Martin L G

    I realised the importance of New Year in Japanese culture but didn’t realise how involved it was.

    I really find learning about about culture alongside learning a language makes the whole process come alive.