あけましておめでとう (A Happy New Year!)

あけましておめでとう Hirotaka Nakayama 中山ひろたか Yasunari Murakami 村上康成 1990s

Text :  Hirotaka Nakayama 中山ひろたか 

Art : Yasunari Murakami 村上康成 

Published : 1999 

Personal Recommendation : 3-5 years old and older 

Since it is January (already late January though😊), I would like to pick something “New Year” today.   This book is all about “Japanese traditional New Year Day”.  Unlike other area/country like NY, Japanese New Year starts with very quiet atmosphere where all the family gathering as well as Shrine visit to pray for good health for the rest of year.   If you are interested in Japanese picture books and also in Japanese culture itself, this book is great way to have a sneak-peak on our traditional New Year Holiday Time spending.   Here is the storyline. 

  • It is New Years’ Day today. Everybody says “Happy New Year” to celebrate its beginning. 
  • We decorate New Year Style BONSAI in front of the gate/front-door of the house. 
  • We usually get big fat news papers filled with all the ads. When turning on TV, all the TV guests on the show are wearing beautiful traditional cloths (KIMONO)  
  • On New Year’s day,  Traditional feast called OSECHI is served at the table.  Each item/ingredients for OSECHI has certain meaning/wishes, so that those who eat them can fulfill its wishes/goals. 
  • Rice Cake in the soup (called Ozouni) is also popular New Years’ Food.  
  • Stacks of New Years Cards are usually delivered by post office worker on New Year’s Day. (which most of cards are for Dad anyway 😊)  But kids can also receive some from friends. Thus it is “Happy New Year” indeed.  
  • As a tradition, kids can get some cash as allowance from parents/relatives (adults) etc. This tradition is called “OTOSHIDAMA”.   My Dad game me some money as OTOSHIDAMA. Yay!   It is “HAPPY NEW YEAR” INDEED!  
  • We play Japanese card game called “KARUTA” and board game called FUKUWARAI.  We also play with kite letting them fly in the sky, and Japanese traditional badminton-like sports called HANETSUKI.  Whenever losing point during the game, the opponent can get to draw other’s face with ink so that dirtier face means loser of the game. 😊  
  • We visit Shrine to pray for the good start of the year as well as health for the rest of year.  Many crowd are usually found on the shrine site where all the small shop/food truck are there to server those visitors.    
  • With all those special traditions, we feel refreshed as new beginning of the year and thus we say “Happy New Year” from bottom of our heart. 

As you realized, there are list of Japanese New Year’s Day ritual. I have to say, some of those awesome traditions are fading away (especially decoration of Special BONSAI tree/ FUKUWARAI Board Game) as our life has been more westernized for all the families in Japan.  But when it comes to New Years, we Japanese tend to think of above traditions as our Japanese spirits and we continue to do (at least we need to pass those feeling to next generation to preserve this unique culture.   If you ever have a chance to visit Japan during New Year’s holiday, I would recommend to spend time with your local friends so that they can provide the essence of such traditions! 

You can purchase this book here. 広告はこちら


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