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Is Lunar New Yr Celebrated in Japan?

Dragon dances, pink packets crammed with money, decorations with a brand new animal yearly…all of those are simply recognizable symbols of Lunar New Yr. Generally that is even known as “Chinese language New Yr.” The celebrations bring to mind traditions from East Asia, however does that embody all nations from the area? Is shōgatsu (正月), Japan’s New Yr traditions, simply one other phrase for Lunar New Yr? 

Let’s dive into the small print under! 

Figuring out even the fundamentals of Japanese may help you determine hyperlinks between tradition and language, deepening your understanding of each. With Rosetta Stone, classes, studying instruments, and extra are at your fingertips that will help you discover Japan via language. 

What’s Lunar New Yr?

Lunar New Yr is the celebration surrounding the beginning of the lunisolar calendar and the start of spring. It’s an important vacation in China, however it’s also celebrated in Vietnam, South and North Korea, and nations with excessive Chinese language populations. Traditions differ between nations, however all place a give attention to welcoming the brand new 12 months, spending time with household, and having fun with particular meals for the vacation.

Historically, Lunar New Yr is a fifteen-day, nationwide celebration. As a result of it’s based mostly on the lunisolar calendar, the dates usually are not the identical yearly on the Gregorian calendar. In 2023, Lunar New Yr started on January twenty second, however the 2024 Lunar New Yr will start on February tenth. Regardless of this wide selection, the primary day of Lunar New Yr will at all times fall between January twenty first and February twentieth.


Why is the zodiac essential to Lunar New Yr? 

Chances are you’ll be conversant in the Western zodiac utilized in astrology that’s segmented into 12-month cycles and related to the celebs and planets. For instance, an individual born between March twenty first and April nineteenth is an “Aries” and an individual born between September twenty third and October twenty second is a “Libra.” Every of those 12 indicators have a wide range of traits with fortune-telling points comparable to persona and romantic compatibility. 

The Chinese language zodiac consists of 12-year cycles moderately than 12 months. On this zodiac, the 12 months you might be born underneath the lunisolar calendar is your related signal. Every year is tied to certainly one of 12 animals:

  • Rat: 1912, 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020
  • Ox: 1913, 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021
  • Tiger: 1914, 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, 2022
  • Rabbit: 1915, 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, 2023
  • Dragon: 1916, 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024
  • Snake: 1917, 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013, 2025
  • Horse: 1918, 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014, 2026
  • Sheep: 1919, 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015, 2027
  • Monkey: 1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, 2028
  • Rooster: 1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, 2029
  • Canine: 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018, 2030
  • Pig: 1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019, 2031

Different points of the zodiac embody tie-ins to the 5 Chinese language parts (earth, water, hearth, wooden, and steel). These animals additionally differ barely relying on the nation, comparable to Vietnam utilizing the cat and buffalo as a substitute of the rabbit and ox.


Does Japan have a good time Lunar New Yr?

Not precisely. Out of all the holidays in Japan, New Yr’s is an important, however that pertains to the Japanese shōgatsu traditions which start on January 1st, following the Gregorian calendar. 

Lunar New Yr just isn’t celebrated in Japan at massive, however there are some areas that placed on occasions. The 2 largest minority teams in Japan are Chinese language and Korean, so these communities proceed to watch Lunar New Yr following their very own traditions. After Japan’s annexation of Korea in 1910, the Korean inhabitants elevated drastically for the primary few a long time of the twentieth century and lots of of their descendents reside in Japan as Japanese residents right now. In the meantime, Chinese language migration to Japan picked up within the late nineteenth century when Japan opened commerce after a protracted interval of isolation. The three main Chinatowns (or chūkagai 中華街) in Yokohama, Kobe, and Nagasaki proceed to thrive right now.

Fashionable-day Japan doesn’t have a good time Lunar New Yr the identical approach its neighbors do, however a number of shōgatsu traditions are comparable given their shared historical past. Cleansing the house earlier than the primary day of the brand new 12 months is essential to brush away the issues of final 12 months in each Lunar New Yr and shōgatsu (referred to as ōsōji 大掃除, or “large cleansing”). Whereas kids celebrating Lunar New Yr obtain cash in pink envelopes with gold lettering, Japanese kids celebrating shōgatsu get their cash in white and pink envelopes (referred to as otoshidama お年玉, or “12 months’s jewel”). Chances are you’ll discover much more connections the extra you find out about shōgatsu traditions!

Similar to Lunar New Yr itself, the Chinese language zodiac has influences in Japan’s New Yr celebrations. In Japanese, that is known as jūnishi (十二支, twelve branches) or eto (干支, sexagenary cycle) and can be utilized in fortune telling. Nonetheless, the animals additionally play a central position within the New Yr celebrations of any given 12 months.

2023 is the Yr of the Rabbit, so rabbits featured in some decorations for the brand new 12 months. Vacation playing cards (nengajō 年賀状), banners, retailer commercials, and extra have been adorned bunnies all over the place. 2024 would be the Yr of the Dragon, so an identical theme might be discovered utilizing pictures of dragons.

On January fifteenth, some Japanese folks nonetheless observe “Little New Yr” or koshōgatsu (小正月). This takes place on the primary full moon of the 12 months in a nod to Lunar New Yr. Households eat a rice and adzuki bean porridge referred to as azukigayu (小豆粥) to have a good time, sticking bamboo cylinders into the dish earlier than consuming. The quantity of rice within the cylinder is claimed to point how bountiful the following 12 months’s harvest might be.

In fashionable Japan, that is additionally the day most decorations are taken down and the Japanese god of the New Yr, toshigami (年神, 12 months god) is bid mata rainen (また来年, see you subsequent 12 months) till subsequent 12 months.

>> Get the information on Japanese honorifics to have a good time each vacation with respect. 


Why did Japan largely cease celebrating Lunar New Yr?

Japan has a protracted and storied historical past with China. Commerce and diplomatic relations between the 2 nations date way back to the start of the frequent period. China launched Buddhism, structure, rice cultivation, and even the writing system nonetheless used right now (kanji 漢字). The kan- in kanji itself means “China”! 

Lunar New Yr was no exception. The Chinese language lunisolar calendar was launched to Japan within the sixth century, and it continued for use in some type over a thousand years with some uniquely Japanese additions.

Nonetheless, in 1873, Japan deserted this calendar in favor of the Gregorian calendar in an effort to match the Western world. After a protracted interval of isolation between 1603 and 1868 (referred to as the “Edo Interval”), Japan started buying and selling and constructing relations with nations from Europe and the Americas as soon as once more. They went to nice lengths to align their authorities, economic system, and different main establishments to extra carefully resemble Western fashions. 

As part of this transformation, Lunar New Yr was put apart and shōgatsu started on January 1st from that time onward. Even so, the Chinese language zodiac stays, in addition to different reflections of Lunar New Yr traditions.

The place can you discover the remaining Lunar New Yr celebrations in Japan?

Simply because Japan now not celebrates Lunar New Yr nationwide doesn’t imply you’ll be able to’t discover celebrations in Japan! Communities all through Japan maintain Lunar New Yr occasions in locations comparable to:

  • Yokohama: The largest Chinatown in Japan has held Lunar New Yr celebrations since 1986. In years previous, there have been lion and dragon dances down the streets, acrobatics and martial arts showcases, and parades.
  • Nagasaki: The oldest Chinatown in Japan, Nagasaki’s Lunar New Yr pageant goes past the Chinatown space to a lot of venues all through town in a celebration of Chinese language tradition. Often called the Nagasaki Lantern Pageant, it options over 15,000 lanterns.
  • Kobe: Nankinmachi (Kobe’s Chinatown) has additionally featured a big number of Lunar New Yr occasions since 1987, together with lion and dragon dances, musical performances, and extra.
  • Tokyo: The Chinese language neighborhood is flourishing in Ikebukuro, a district in central Tokyo. Whereas not an official Chinatown, you’ll be able to nonetheless discover Chinese language outlets and eating places celebrating Lunar New Yr, and it’s an incredible place to attempt some genuine Chinese language meals.

Lunar New Yr celebrations at all times finish with the Lantern Pageant on the fifteenth day of the brand new 12 months. Homes are adorned with lanterns, dances and parades are carried out, and fireworks are lit to start the brand new 12 months with a bang.

>> Choose up some Japanese dialog fundamentals for whenever you attend these celebrations!

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Lunar New Yr will not be central to Japanese tradition, however its longstanding affect continues to be current. And if you end up in Tokyo or Nagasaki in the course of the vacation, why not take part on the enjoyable? 

For conversations about Japanese holidays and past, get began with Japanese on Rosetta Stone! Its Dynamic Immersion methodology and TruAccent speech-recognition engine have you ever studying Japanese naturally from the very starting. Somewhat than emphasizing rote memorization, you’ll choose up Japanese in the identical approach you first realized your native language. 

Written by Alexa Bevan 



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