New year decorations in Japan

The new year is the most important festive moments of Japan. To make it gorgeous various traditional decorations are made in every shops, offices, houses etc. Kagami mochi, Shimenawa, kadomatsu etc. are the Japanese traditional New year decorations.

Kadomatsu(門松)

Kadomatsu

Kadomatsu is another decoration done at the entrance of the houses, institutes as well Shinto shrines of Japan. The words ‘Kado(門)’ means gate and ‘Matsu(松)’ means pine. This new year gate decor is used to please the Shinto god ‘Toshokami’ who will bless the family and bring good fortune throughout the year. The simple form of Kadomatsu consists of the bamboo pieces and a pine branch ties together. Plum flower, Kale, etc. are also used for decorating Kadomastsu. Pairs of Kadomatsu are placed on both sides of the entrance gates. Every element in Kadomatsu has its own meaning. Bamboo which grows straight is believed as the symbol of strength and pine is a holy tree used in every decoration associated with deities, while plum flowers and Kale are believed as the symbols of ‘good fortune’. It will be done some days prior to the New year and is removed on Jan 7th.

Shimenawa(しめ縄) or Shimekazari(しめ飾り): Straw rope decors

Shimenawa are ropes made of twisted straws. It will be hung everywhere decorated with paper strips and other tangerines. Temples, shrines, shops etc. hung this kind of small and big Shimekazari with the wish for bringing good luck. Shimenawa could be usually seen in Shinto shrines decorated with zigzag paper strips, which is always a symbol of sacredness.

Shimekazari

Kagami mochi(鏡餅)

Kagami mochi could be seen sold in every supermarket during the new year time. It consists of two round rice cakes placed one above the other and a mandarin orange. The bottom-most mochi represents ‘last year’ and the upper one represents ‘new year’.

Kagami mochi

The Kagamimochi is used in every Japanese house for decoration. It represents ‘continuity of generations’ where the uppermost orange fruit is used to represent the coming generations. Japanese households used to make mochi ahead of the New year which was used for Kagami mochi during the ancient times. There are still people making mochi for the New year day. The process called Mochitsukuri which is a bit difficult and time-consuming. Today’s busy generation prefers buying it from some shop for the New year celebrations.

Shrines and temples place offerings like harvests to the deities. Every shrine of Japan will make special arrangements to welcome lots of visitors during the New year days.