New Year’s

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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Happy New Year from the RocketNews24 Team!

As 2013 comes to a close, all of us at RocketNews24 have been taking time to reflect on the past 12 months. We’ve gone through a lot of changes as a site and staff and we’re all so grateful for our steadily growing readership. Most of all, we’re proud to have brought you an entire year’s worth of funny, interesting, and at times downright crazy news from Japan and Asia. Looking back, 2013 was our biggest year yet and we hope for your continued support of our small site of translator/writers who just can’t get enough of Japan.

Wishing you all a wonderful 2014 and thanks for being the best bunch of readers our humble site could ever hope for! Here’s to a wonderful new year filled with even more dancing Tokyo granniesotter handshakes, and Mr. Sato adventures…and of course a bit of Japanese language and culture sprinkled in for good measure!

Love always and forever,

The RocketNews24 Team

Image: 58 Pic

How most Japanese people spend their New Year’s: eating nonstop at home 【Poll】

How will you be spending New Year’s Eve this year? Celebrating with family or friends? Watching a countdown on TV? Sleeping, oblivious to the world and perfectly happy about it? Here’s what Japanese respondents on one online poll said they’re be doing when the ball drops, the clock strikes twelve, and the temple bells are rung 108 times.

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【Thursday Throwback】7 reasons New Year’s is the best time to experience Japan

Christmas is less than a week away and I’m sure many of you in the Americas and Europe are looking forward to a (hopefully) relaxing day spent with family, good food and, of course, presents.

Here in Japan, Christmas seems to be getting bigger and bigger every year, but the flavor of the holiday is probably much different than it is abroad. For example, Christmas was originally popularized here as a holiday for couples to have a special night out in the city: have dinner at a fancy restaurant, exchange gifts and then spend the night together ‘celebrating’ at a hotel.

While still viewed as a ‘lover’s holiday’, Christmas has since spread to the household, with many families feasting on the now-traditional Japanese Christmas foods of cake and—thanks to an incredibly successful marketing campaign by KFC—fried chicken.

But for most Japanese families, the real holiday spirit is felt during the time around New Years. In fact, New Years is probably to Japan what Christmas is to the US and other Western countries.

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Cha-Ching! Kids in Japan Receive Up to $1,500 During New Year’s

Happy New Year!  Here’s a fist full of cash!

In Japan, there are many interesting New Year’s traditions. Aside from watching TV all night, risking your life eating mochi, and indulging in a ton of specially prepared food, those lucky enough to be young receive money.

Otoshidama, roughly translated as “New Year’s gift,” is the act of giving children small, decorated envelopes filled with money during New Year’s. Parents, relatives, and close friends usually give Otoshidama to children in elementary school to high school.

After collecting envelopes full of money from their closest adult relatives and friends, these kids make out like bandits. But just how much are these kids hauling in? The Benesse Corporation conducted a survey of elementary school children to find out.

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【Japanese Culture】The Meaning Behind Osechi Ryori: Traditional New Year’s Food in Japan

Much like Christmas in many western countries, New Year’s is a time for family in Japan.  No ball drops and champagne popping over here, just time spent with family huddled under the kotatsu, eating mikan and watching New Year’s specials on TV.  There are many New Year’s traditions in Japan, but the most delicious tradition is the eating of osechi ryori, special food eaten to give thanks and wish for happiness and prosperity in the new year.

Osechi ryori is characterized by an array of colorful dishes packed together in special boxes called jubako, which are eaten communally on New Year’s Day. Since New Year’s is a time for rest in Japan (according to tradition, nothing should be cooked on New Year’s Day), preparation of osechi ryori is typically finished before New Year’s Eve.  Many of the dishes are either dried or contain a lot of sugar or vinegar to preserve the food and enough is made to last a few days.

Osechi ryori is arguably the most important meal of the year, each dish serving as a symbol or wish for the coming year. The food is even eaten in a special way by using chopsticks that are rounded on both ends; one side for humans to use, one side for the gods.  Let’s take a look at the meanings behind some of the traditional osechi ryori foods.

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A Very PokeChristmas: Pokemon Center Announces 2012 Christmas and New Year’s Goods

Pokemon Christmas and New Year’s goods will soon be on sale at all seven of Japan’s official Pokemon Center stores.  Pokemon Christmas goods will be released on October 27 followed by Pokemon New Year’s goods on November 3.

Here’s a sneak peak!

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