In Japan, New Year’s Eve is an important holiday to celebrate the end of the year and prepare for the New Year. As it is an extremely big holiday, various different events are held on this day every year. Here we introduce some typical ways to spend New Year’s Eve in Japan along with the most popular countdown events that you don’t want to miss in Tokyo!
- 1. Join Countdown Events and Parties
- 2. Celebrate The Year’s End with a Bonenkai Party
- 3. Eat Toshikoshi Soba
- 4. Watch New Year’s TV Show: Kohaku Utagassen
- 5. Cleaning The Whole House to Welcome the New Year
- 6. Win Big Money?! Try Your Luck With The Year-End Jumbo Lottery
- 7. Get Osechi for New Year’s Day
- 8. Enjoy the bustling atmosphere at Tsukiji Fish Market
- 9. Listen to Joya no Kane (Ringing of the New Year’s Bell)
- 10. Getting Ready for The First Sunrise
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1. Join Countdown Events and Parties
In Japan, countdown events are held all over the place on New Year’s Eve. One good example is on the south side of the main deck of Tokyo Tower, the new year(date) is displayed when the clock strikes midnight and it becomes the New Year. It would be quite interesting to spend your New Year’s Eve in front of Tokyo Tower, the center of Tokyo.
Theme parks are also putting more effort into countdown events. Tokyo Disney Resort also holds the New Year’s Day countdown event every year, and is open until midnight only on the New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. When the date of New Year’s Eve changes, gorgeous fireworks are set off and you can celebrate the New Year’s Day with all the Disney characters. The event is so popular that tickets are sold by lottery every year.
Popular countdown events in Tokyo 2022-2023
- YOU MAKE SHIBUYA COUNTDOWN (Shibuya)
One of the biggest countdown events in Tokyo, the countdown in Shibuya is for party goers who want to have a crazy countdown experience. It’s similar to Times Square’s countdown event in New York. The famous Shibuya Crossing gets packed with hundreds of thousands people waiting for the new year to come.
*This year it’s canceled
- AQUA PARK 2022 Countdown
An aquarium located in Shinagawa, Aqua Park hosts the exciting water countdown show for New Year’s eve! The circular pool where there are usually dolphin performances turns into a stage for the Hawaiian themed entertainment show. Celebrate the coming year and watch the performances by artistic swimmers and Tahitian dancers with happy Hawaiian music and popular Disney music!
11:50pm – 12:20am (Open 10:30pm)
- Kasai Seaside Park (Edogawa)
Kasai Seaside Park offers a countdown event around the big ferris wheel with a big countdown clock. On the ferris wheel, you can see the beautiful night view over Tokyo and the sunrise if you ride it in the early morning. You can see some famous Tokyo attractions such as Tokyo Tower, Skytree, Rainbow Bridge and Tokyo Disney Resort from the top!
*This year it has yet to be announced
- Park Hyatt (Shinjuku)
If you are up for a luxury and elegant party for New Year’s eve, make sure to visit Park Hyatt’s countdown at the lounge. Special cocktails and champagne are served to celebrate New Year’s, exciting music played by DJs, and of course there is a stunning night view from the 41st floor. The whole experience will be a special one, especially because you will be away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
9:30pm – 1:00am
- Tokyu Silvester Concert (Shibuya)
How about spending New Year’s Eve with a classical concert? Every year the Tokyu Silvester Concert is held on New Year’s Eve starting from 10pm. It is separated into 2 parts, not only an orchestra performance but also ballet can be enjoyed during this three-hour-long special concert. If you can’t get a seat, you can also watch the concert on TV. It’s a great way to start off the new year if you are a fan of classical music.
10pm – 12:45am
- Tokyo JoyPolis (Odaiba)
Tokyo JoyPolis is an indoor amusement park in Odaiba with roller coasters and exciting attractions. The countdown event, it features live comedy shows and lotteries from which you can win exclusive gifts. If you want to spend New Year’s Eve enjoying rides and games, Tokyo JoyPolis is the place to be!
*This year it’s canceled
- Tokyo Tower Countdown (Minato)
As mentioned above, Tokyo Tower holds a smaller countdown that isn’t quite as crazy as the event in Shibuya. The lights on the tower change color as the clock strikes midnight and the new year is displayed (this year 2023). There is always a crowd celebrating in the area with balloons etc.
- Port of Yokohama Countdown (Yokohama Minato Mirai)
Yokohama is not technically in Tokyo, but is very close and worth the short trip if you want to ring in the new year in a fun way. Although this isn’t necessarily a planned countdown, it takes place at the port and everyone celebrates when the big clock on the Cosmo Clock 21(ferris wheel) turns midnight. There is a special light show usually with fireworks and an illumination.
- Tokyo Disney Resort (Chiba)
As you may have guessed, Disney does New Years pretty big like they do any other event. The whole park is different on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day and there is a special fireworks show to ring in the new year alongside all of your favorite characters.
*This year it’s cancelled
Popular clubs for countdown parties in Tokyo
- Club Camelot (Shibuya)
- Harlem (Shibuya)
- Club TK Shibuya
- Womb (Shibuya)
- ageHa (Shinkiba)
- V2 Tokyo (Roppongi)
- Maharaja Roppongi
- Esprit (Roppongi)
2. Celebrate The Year’s End with a Bonenkai Party
If you are working in Japan, you probably know what a Bonenkai Party is, but if not, it can be roughly translated as a “forget the year party.” Coworkers and friends come together to celebrate their hard work over the last year. A bonenkai is meant to be a relaxing and fun time with bottomless drinks and delicious food for everyone. Bonenkai season peaks at the end of December every year, and many companies make reservations for this party at izakaya.
3. Eat Toshikoshi Soba
There is one food that is traditionally eaten on New Year’s Eve all throughout Japan. Soba. There are various reasons for eating Soba on New Year’s Eve, such as the desire to live long like the length of a soba noodle, the hope to steer away bad luck and hardships of the last year and have a good next year because soba noodles are easy to cut, as well as the wish to stay healthy and strong just like soba. The time you soba is eaten varies from person to person, but many people eat it at 11:00pm or at dinner time on New Year’s Eve. There are soba noodles eaten in hot Japanese broth or chilled with cold water, and sometimes tempura is eaten with it as a topping. This is an indispensable and of course delicious food eaten on New Year’s Eve in Japan!
4. Watch New Year’s TV Show: Kohaku Utagassen
There are some go-to TV shows to watch on New Year’s Eve, and Kohaku Utagassen (紅白歌合戦) is one of them. NHK, Japan’s public news broadcaster, broadcasts this music TV show every year from 7:30 pm until the very end of the evening.
This event is held at NHK Hall which is located near Yoyogi Park. And you will see many people lining up and trying to get a peak or sound of it from outside. The history of this event dates way back and has been held for over 70 years now. “Kouhaku (紅白)” means red and white, and popular Japanese singers compete with each other in songs and performances, divided into a red team and white team. TV viewers and judges at the venue vote for either the red team or white team and the winner is determined at the end of the show. It is considered a great honor for a singer to be invited to participate in Kouhaku Utagassen, and many Japanese singers dream of once being a part of it. Since it is only held once a year, each singer’s performance is often quite spectacular, involving the use of large stage sets. When New Year’s Eve comes around, the typical way to spend this evening is to watch the Kohaku Utagassen and eat soba noodles with your family.
5. Cleaning The Whole House to Welcome the New Year
After a whole year, dust and dirt inevitably accumulate. By doing a deep clean on New Year’s Eve, we can welcome the New Year with a nice clean and refreshing house. This custom is heavily influenced by Japanese Shintoism, and is said to have originated from a religious belief that Toshigami-sama (年神様) will bring wonderful fortune to your house on New Year’s Day every year, so your house needs to be clean to welcome the god. It varies from person to person, but some people wash their cars, clean the air conditioner unit and remove all the dust from the whole house. Cleaning is a very important part of the New Year’s tradition to welcome New Year’s Day and rest and refresh your home as well as your mind.
6. Win Big Money?! Try Your Luck With The Year-End Jumbo Lottery
Every year for a month from the end of November, a lottery called “the year-end jumbo lottery” gets extremely popular and many people line up at the lottery booths. Since the lottery results are announced on New Year’s Eve, it is the biggest test for your luck on the last day of the year. Many people dream of getting rich on New Year’s Eve because you can win several hundred million yen if you get lucky and win the first prize!
Believe it or not, there are several places said to have higher chances for winning the lottery in Tokyo on New Year’s Eve. Nishi-Ginza Chance Center, Shinbashi Station Karasumori Exit Takarakuji Lucky Center and Yurakucho Daikokuten Takarakuji Center are popular places that are known for having a higher chance of winning some big money.
7. Get Osechi for New Year’s Day
Since New Year’s Day is a very important day for all Japanese people, they prepare for it very carefully. Osechi is a typical New Year’s feast with many kinds of food packed in jyūbako boxes (重箱). For example, there are certain foods that should be included in Osechi, such as kamaboko, datemaki, and kazunoko (herring roe), etc. As the New Year approaches, various markets and supermarkets start to sell these foods for osechi and many people go out to buy them in order to prepare the feast. They also buy tuna, sea bream, crab, and other luxurious foods, which fit the atmosphere of New Year’s celebrations.
If you stay at a ryokan or hotel, you will probably have the chance to eat a small osechi meal for breakfast. If you want to try a big osechi meal, department stores such as Shinjuku Isetan and Matsuzakaya in Tokyo offer gorgeous osechi sets which come perfectly prepared.
8. Enjoy the bustling atmosphere at Tsukiji Fish Market
Tsukiji Outer Market is the center of culinary culture in Tokyo. The end of the year is one of the busiest times of the year for Tsukiji with people rushing into the market to prepare their big meals for the New Year holiday. If it’s your first time visiting Tsukiji and would like to explore with fewer people around, it’s probably best to visit the market before the middle of December before Christmas. Right after Christmas, people go into New Year’s mode, and the streets of Tsukiji Market are filled with people like rush hour on the train.
If you decide to visit Tsukiji at the end of December, it’s best to go in the early morning with the first train! Please note that on New Year’s Eve, some stores are closed or change their opening hours.
9. Listen to Joya no Kane (Ringing of the New Year’s Bell)
Joya no Kane (除夜の鐘) is a Buddhist event held at temples throughout Japan. The bell in the temple is struck exactly 108 times once midnight strikes. The kanji for “除” has the meaning of “throwing away the old and welcoming the new,” so it is a perfect event for New Year’s Eve and welcoming the new year. It is said that ringing the bell 108 times is to purge “klesha”, which are the 108 worldly desires. Bells are rung at temples all over Japan, and you can even strike the bells yourself at some places. However, some charge a fee or give out numbered tickets for ringing the bell, so it is better to check in advance.
In Tokyo, you can visit Zojoji temple in Roppongi which is one of the biggest bells in the Kanto region. To ring the bell, you need to pay and get a ticket beforehand. Araiyakushi Baishouin in Nakano City allows visitors to strike the bell until 2am for 500 yen. Honsenji in Shinagawa also allows visitors to strike the bell, but please respect the rules that state that you need to take off your hat, smartphones and cellphones are not allowed, and there is no-smoking in the temple.
10. Getting Ready for The First Sunrise
Watching the first sunrise of the year is called Hatsu-hinode, and it’s one of the popular activities on New Year’s Day in Japan. Many people go out and get ready to see the first sunrise from the night of New Year’s Eve. There are some great spots where you can see the stunning sunrise in Tokyo, and the most popular spot is Mt. Takao. From Shinjuku, you can get to Mt. Takao in less than an hour. Since it’s a very popular spot for the first sunrise, usually there’s a long line even after midnight to get to the top for the best view.
Tokyo Skytree is another popular spot to watch the first sunrise. Tokyo Skytree is the tallest structure in Tokyo and stands at 634 meters in height. At the observation deck, you can see the rising sun overlooking Tokyo! The special admission ticket on New Year’s Day is sold on a limited basis, so it’s best to get yours early.
If you are willing to go a little bit further outside of Tokyo, Choshi City in Chiba is a great option as well. Cape Inubo is one of the best spots for watching the sunrise where you will catch the sun rising over the horizon.
Another day trip destination is Oarai Beach in Ibaraki which is known for the scenic view of the beautiful torii gate on the beach. This is a part of Oarai Isosaki Shrine, and it is also a popular spot for the sunrise view as well as hatsumode, a New Year’s tradition of visiting a shrine or temple.
There are many events on New Year’s Eve that represent “leaving the old behind and preparing for the new”. New Year’s Eve is a very important day to welcome the New Year with joy. We hope you find your own favorite way to spend a special New Year’s Eve in Tokyo.
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Mao Goto is a Japanese freelancer who was born in Hayama, Kanagawa prefecture, and raised in Tokyo. Since 2016 she lives in the Taito Ward, home to a lot of Japanese culture hotspots such as Asakusa, Akihabara, and Ueno. She has been interested in the field of English education of Japan and got her Master’s degree in March, 2020. A lover of photography, travel, sweets, and cross-stitch. Contact her via Facebook.
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