New Year’s

In Japan and the rest of the world, 2017 comes with a bit of extra time thanks to the leap second

Have you ever wished you had just a little more time? Well, you should have been more specific!

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IKEA Japan lucky bags? We’ve got them covered!【2016 Lucky Bag Roundup】

Yes, in Japan, even IKEA offers new year’s lucky bags — join us to find out what goodies were in their fukubukuro this year!

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Annual New Year’s Eve singing competition Kohaku will be invaded by Star Wars

Disney is getting its hands on all it can this year—you’ll even be able to catch a special performance by Star Wars characters and Arashi at annual singing contest Kohaku Uta Gassen this year.

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Luxury new year’s lucky bags are in — including a $1.6 million gold tea ceremony set!

New Year’s lucky bags, or fukubukuro, are a fun and exciting Japanese tradition, but just how much would you be willing to spend on one of them?

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Kit Kat celebrates the Year of the Monkey with special Chinese Zodiac packages

Japan loves sweets, cute animals, and seasonal celebrations, so this had to happen.

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A delicious way to celebrate the Year of the Sheep — cute sheep bread!

As we follow the Chinese zodiac here in Japan, we too are celebrating the Year of the Sheep this year. Not surprisingly, that means we’ve seen an abundance of sheep-themed products for the New Year, including some in edible form. Famous bakery chain DONQ is just one of the many companies that offered such sheep-related food items, and their selection of sheep breads was so cute, we simply had to share them with you. Just take a look at the pictures, and we think they’ll get you in the mood to start off the Year of the Sheep in good cheer!

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Lucky Bag Roundup: Our reporters choose the best fukubukuro of 2015

Japan has many wonderful New Year’s traditions, including visiting the local shrine, eating auspicious food, and sending postcards to all your friends. But one of the most exciting and potentially disappointing activities that occur on the first day of January is the purchasing of fukubukuro. Commonly referred to as “Lucky Bags” in English, fukubukoro are specially priced parcels of surplus items from popular stores across Japan that are usually valued well over the purchase price.

This year, we sent 10 of our Japanese reporters out on the streets early New Year’s morning to gather up the best Lucky Bags they could find. Some came back with somewhat useless products even Mr. Sato wouldn’t want. Other’s were pleasantly surprised to find rare and valuable items nestled in their bags. But despite deep discounts, Lucky Bags aren’t always worth the wait and price, so in order to save you time on next year’s Japanese New Year’s shopping adventures, each of our writers has chosen the best Lucky Bags this side of the Pacific.

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The pets of Japan wish you a happy new year (some are happier about it than others)【Photos】

Just like how families in the west put lights on their homes and ornaments on trees for Christmas, Japan has its own traditional decorations for New Year’s. One of the most common is kagami mochi, a stack of two or three rice cakes topped with a mikan or daidai, both orange-like citrus fruits.

No one’s exactly sure why it’s called kagami mochi though, since even though the name literally means “mirror rice cake,” there’s no mirror included in the display. As a matter of fact, in the minds of some animal lovers in Japan, the design options for kagami mochi are wide open, as shown by this collection of photos where adorable pets take the place of the rice cakes.

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What wonders do a Super Potato Lucky Bag hold? Grab your retro gaming hat and let’s find out!

When you buy a fukubukuro (lucky bag) from a store in Japan, you can usually be sure that the value of their contents will surpass the amount you paid for the bag; it’s a guarantee, or else no one would ever buy them! But when you decide to buy a fukubukuro from a secondhand store, you certainly can’t feel 100% sure that you will get your money’s worth.

Are your secondhand items going to be in good condition? Are you going to be getting some good value? Or are you getting the games that even the secondhand store just wants to get rid of? Let Tokyo’s most famous used video game store Super Potato help you decide after the break.

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Contents of Starbucks Coffee’s 2015 lucky bag REVEALED!

Happy New Year! At the start of the new year in Japan many stores release fukubukuro, or lucky bags, where you can get a selection of goodies for less than they usually retail for, as well as limited edition items. People rush around the stores picking up fukubukuro from all their favourite brands, but often the items inside are a secret. We’re here to reveal some of them so you can make an informed decision on which to go for.

Here we have Starbucks Coffee’s offering, which sells for 3,500 yen (US$29). Read on to find out what’s inside!

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Pet owner celebrates the Year of the Sheep by inserting their cat into ridiculous costume

2015 is the Year of the Sheep! If you live in Japan or in the vicinity, that means your life is going to get flooded with sheep-themed merchandise for the next 12 months. We’ve already gotten Disney sheep stuffed animals, sheep ice cream, sheep stamps, and there’s plenty more to come.

But there’s one item that rarely gets the Chinese zodiac-themed touch each year: cat costumes. Thankfully Japanese Twitter user @hizashi414 put an end to that by creating a sheep outfit for their cat and taking plenty of pictures to prove it.

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Six non-traditional osechi New Year’s meals in Japan

New Year’s in Japan is usually celebrated with family huddled under the kotatsu while munching on mikans, and sharing a dinner of traditional food, called osechi. Each component of the meal retains an auspicious meaning, granting the eater with good fortune, health, or fertility, among other things, during the coming year.

However, in recent years, an increasingly large population of Japan’s youth have chosen to forgo eating osechi. There are many reasons osechi has been disappearing from Japanese homes during New Year’s, but these changing tastes have given rise to a smorgasbord of strange, unique, and, frankly, comparatively tastier pre-made osechi meals. From cooked isopods to a box full of meat, let’s take a closer look at six modern day osechi.

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Special 2015 New Year’s stamp shows adorable sheep completing a 12-year project

With November half over, it’s time to start worrying about the big holiday this season: New Year’s! While Christmas might be the big winter holiday in many countries, for those in Japan, the changing of the calendar is a far bigger event and everyone from school kids overworked salarymen gets a row of days off.

In addition to lazing about and eating way too much food, January first also means nearly mandatory New Year’s postcards in Japan. Next year is the year of the sheep (or goat, depending on who you ask), and the Japanese postal service has revealed their special postcard stamps featuring an adorable four-legged wool giver just for the occasion. However, eagle-eyed patrons with a good memory have noticed something special about the stamps…

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Celebrate New Years in Pokémon style — with a monster ball filled with traditional osechi food!

In Japan, when you start hearing about Christmas cake promotions, it also means you have to start thinking about New Year’s osechi food as well. Osechi consists of different traditional foods typically prepared for New Year’s to wish for luck in the coming year and are usually items that keep well so that you can have the pre-cooked foods throughout the New Year’s holidays without having to do much cooking during that time. You can, of course, choose to keep it simple and simply buy just a few of the key items like datemaki (sweet rolled omelette) and kuromame (black soy beans) at the supermarket, or go all out on a luxury osechi set from a famous restaurant or department store. Well, this year, it looks like a Pokémon osechi set is also an option, and it even comes in a unique container in a shape that fans will find quite familiar — a Poké Ball!

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Absolutely wow: Dawn of the new year seen from 30 km up【video】

The new year has arrived and it feels like we’ve already fallen into the same old routine. A well-known and comfortable routine, so we’re not complaining! But it is a bit sad to let the wintry festivities go.

Fortunately, there’s still a bit of fun to be had leftover from New Year’s Day: One enterprising Hokkaido resident took it upon himself to film the dawn of the new year–from the freaking stratosphere! He posted the video on YouTube and it is absolutely beautiful.

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Too lazy to think up excuses for not getting anything done? This calendar has them for you!

I recently took a few days off to visit my hometown in California. In keeping with Japanese norms, I spent most of my time there eating and loafing around my parents’ house (in my defense they have a really nice couch, and the soba noodles my wife makes at New Year’s are amazing).

Reenergized from a week of rest and relaxation, I arrived back in Japan and went to sleep, fully intending to jump out of bed at the crack of dawn and get right to work. But when I woke up around 5:30 a.m., I stopped to reconsider my plan. Given the near-freezing temperature, was crawling out from under my warm blankets really the best choice, health-wise? Shouldn’t I take it easy for a day and make sure I was over my jet-lag? I could always get serious about work the next day, right?

It turns out that not only is New Year’s procrastination common, there’s even a calendar for it, with solid excuses for nothing doing anything printed right there on it.

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North Koreans reportedly forced to memorize Kim Jong-un’s entire 26-minute New Year speech

All around the world, people celebrate New Year’s Day in different ways, most with a sense of optimism that a new year means a new chance at achieving their dreams. However, in North Korea it’s a time of enormous anxiety for the people. Reports out of China claim that North Korea’s New Year is rung in with a speech by Kim Jong-un, and by his order everyone in the country must commit the entire speech to memory.

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New Year’s greetings from 39 Japanese illustrators!

The New Year’s break has sadly ended for most people in Japan by now, but the traditional season itself doesn’t fade away as soon. After receiving nengajo (New Year’s postcards) from clients and vendors, many office workers’ first task when they get back to work after the holiday is to contact the senders to thank them for their kind greetings.

We’ve already seen the best civilian nengajo efforts of 2013, but here are some of the coolest New Year’s greetings from Japan’s most talented manga artists and illustrators!

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Japan’s coolest New Year 2014 greeting cards

New Year in Japan means food, visiting temples, food, getting money, food, and, of course, New Years postcards. Like the many people all over the world, Japanese folks make a habit of sending cards to nearly everyone they know to mark the start of another year. The average card often features a family photo or some traditional illustration connected to the new year.

That’s the average card–some people, though, take the opportunity to send cards with a bit more pizzazz using everything from illustrations of Attack on Titan characters to an actual pack of Pokémon cards. Check out some of the best nengajo (Japanese New Years cards) we’ve found below!

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How much should we give in a New Year’s otoshidama without looking like a jerk?

A lot of Japanese people complain about the tipping culture in the US and Canada. Although parting with more money than necessary is a big part of the complaint, a lot of people in Japan dislike the mental anguish of figuring out how much is appropriate.

However, the New Year’s traditional cash presents of otoshidama, while great for kids, are just as riddled with anxiety for adults. Rather than the ambiguous sentimental value of presents, an envelope filled with cash is instantly quantifiable and wide open to judgment.

To avoid looking like a cheapskate or breaking your own bank account, our reporter surveyed those around her to figure out what the going rates for otoshidama are these days.

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