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  • Phillip Radcliffe

Japanese End of Year Customs

Updated: Jan 12

(Japanese translation below)


By Kyohei Fukayama


The end of the year is December 31, and people around the world hold events on that day. Japanese people call that day "Nenmatsu" in Japanese and have a custom of doing various things before the New Year. Here are some of them.



The most famous Japanese year-end cultural event is the New Year's greeting card (nengajo). People send postcards saying "Happy New Year" to those who have helped them during the year, including relatives and business associates. Basically, one week before the end of the year, people decide whom they will write to, and if they receive a New Year's greeting card from someone they did not expect, they send one back immediately after receiving it.


However, as a matter of etiquette, one should not send a New Year's greeting card to a bereaved family member who lost a relative that year. In the unlikely event that you do send one, you will receive a postcard back called a mourning postcard.


This is not something that all Japanese look forward to, but it’s the custom to clean more carefully than usual before the New Year. Rooms that are usually only vacuumed are wiped with water and re-waxed, and some people use this time to declutter.


The year-end jumbo lottery is the last test of luck for the year and attracts a large number of people waiting in line. The lottery awards hundreds of millions of yen in prizes to a select few, but instead of giving nothing in return to those who miss the lottery, the money they pay goes to fund lottery operations as well as to support volunteers who protect the earth. Some people play the lottery out of a desire for money, while others buy the lottery solely to raise money and hope to receive a prize if they happen to win.


The "Kohaku Uta Gassen" is a historic annual year-end singing program broadcast by NHK featuring artists of a wide range of ages and genres, from those who became famous in that year to the greats who have long been and still are popular today. The audience votes on which performance is the best, and the show is divided into two groups, the red group and the white group. In this way, Japanese people cherish events that conclude the year, which have been handed down from generation to generation. These events will continue to be ingrained in Japanese culture into the future.



日本の年末の習慣

深山 恭平


12月31日は1年の終わりで、その日には世界中の人々が行事を行います。日本人はその日のことを「大晦日(おおみそか)」と呼び、新年を迎える前に様々なことをする習慣があります。そのいくつかを紹介します。


日本の年末の文化的行事といえば、年賀状が有名です。親戚や仕事仲間など、その年にお世話になった人に「あけましておめでとうございます」と書かれたハガキを送ります。基本的には年末の1週間程前に送る相手を決め、万が一年明けに思いがけない相手から年賀状が届いたら、すぐに返事を出します。


しかし、その年に身内を亡くした遺族に年賀状を送るのはマナーとしてNGです。万が一、送ってしまった場合は、喪中はがきと呼ばれるはがきが返ってきます。


日本人全員が楽しみにしているわけではありませんが、新年を迎える前にいつもより念入りに掃除をする習慣があります。普段は掃除機をかけるだけだった部屋も水拭きやワックスがけをし、この機会に断捨離をする人もいるようです。


年末ジャンボ宝くじは、その年最後の運試しとして、多くの人が行列を作ります。この宝くじは、選ばれた人に数億円の賞金が出ますが、外れた人には何も見返りがない代わりに、支払ったお金は宝くじの運営資金や、地球を守るボランティアの支援に使われます。お金が欲しくて宝くじを引く人もいれば、募金だけが目的で、それがもし当たって賞金がもらえたら良いなと思って買う人もいます。


年末恒例の「紅白歌合戦」は、その年に有名になったアーティストから、昔から今もなお人気のある大御所まで、幅広い年代とジャンルのアーティストが出演するNHKの歴史ある歌番組です。どのパフォーマンスが一番良かったかを視聴者が投票し、紅組と白組に分かれて合戦します。


このように、日本人は一年の締めくくりとして、代々受け継がれてきた行事を大切にしています。これらの行事は、日本の文化として根付いているのです。

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