What do the Japanese do during the New Year holidays?
January 1 is the start of the new year.
It was originally celebrated annually to welcome the gods of harvest and the spirits of ancestors who protect their families.
Kadomatsu (gate pines) and shimekazari (sacred rope), both decorations for the new year, are prepared to invite the gods of harvest, and kagamimochi, two pieces of round rice cake, one on top of the other, are offered.
On the morning of New Year's Day, the whole family gathers to wish one another good health and to celebrate the coming of a new year by drinking a special kind of rice wine called otoso that is said to promote longevity.
And they eat a special dish called ozoni, which contains mochi rice cakes in a vegetable soup.
There are several ways to prepare ozoni, depending on the region.
Dishes that are prepared for the New Year's holidays are collectively called osechi.
At the opening of the year, most Japanese visit Shinto shrines or Buddhist temples where they pray to the deities that they will live safely through the coming year.
These New Year visits to shrines and temples are called hatsumode.
On New Year's Day and on January 2 and 3, certain famous sites such as Tokyo's
Meiji Shrine and Kamakura's Tsurugaoka Hachimangu shrine are filled with over a million visitors.
Children are given otoshidama (a New Year's present) by adults, in most cases money, as a gift from the gods to encourage children to do their best.