Does Japan Celebrate Lunar New Year?

The most important holiday in Japan is the New Year (Oshgatsu). People begin cleaning and decorating their homes, preparing special delicacies, throwing parties, and writing greeting cards weeks before New Year’s Day ( Ganjitsu). The Japanese festivities are over by the time Japan’s Asian neighbors begin their own New Year’s celebrations in late January or February.

Japan is one of the few East Asian countries that does not celebrate the Lunar New Year, which is one of the world’s major holidays.

Does Japan celebrate the Lunar New year like the same country in Asia?

No Longer Lunar

As part of the Meiji Restoration, Japan adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1873 in order to bring the country in line with the West. At the time, many Japanese elites believed that Asian practices were inferior to Western ones and would hold Japan back unless they were abandoned.

When the Meiji administration decided to adopt the Gregorian calendar, they simply projected lunisolar calendar events onto the new calendar rather than modifying the dates. As a result, Ganjitsu, the first day of the lunisolar calendar year, fell on January 1, the first day of the Gregorian calendar year, delaying Japan’s and its neighbors’ New Year’s celebrations by one month.

Does Japan Celebrate Lunar New Year?

As part of the Meiji Restoration, Japan adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1873 in order to bring the country in line with the West. ( Source: Internet)

In contrast, China introduced a dual-calendar strategy in 1912, in which traditional festivals were scheduled using the Chinese lunisolar calendar and the Gregorian calendar for all other purposes.

The edict to stop the use of the lunisolar calendar was issued so abruptly that people had little time to prepare for the New Year. There wasn’t enough time to bake year-end rice cakes, therefore one had to buy New Year’s rice cakes from the rice cake shop, according to author Asano Baid (1816-1880).

Some people hung the kadomatsu, a traditional ornament made of bamboo and pine, on the second day of the twelfth month, while others did not.

At first, there was a lot of resistance to the transition, and many people celebrated the Lunar New Year far into the 1900s, especially in rural areas. However, the lunisolar calendar eventually vanished entirely from Japan’s daily life.

That is, nearly entirely. You can still see traces of Japan’s Lunar New Year celebrations if you know where to look.

Lunar New Year Festivals in Japan

As previously stated, there are a variety of public events held to commemorate the Lunar New Year, such as those hosted in Yokohama. The lion dance is a significant Lunar New Year custom that ranges from charming and funny lion dances to dramatic martial arts exhibitions.

How to Celebrate the Japanese Lunar New Year

Even yet, the Japanese New Year celebrations incorporate the Chinese zodiac animals, maintaining their symbolic significance. The fact that so many Chinese immigrants and their offspring continue to reside in Japan and keep this significant occasion alive for both themselves and the tens of thousands of people who attend the festivals is another reason why Lunar New Year celebrations are still held there.

does Japan celebrate lunar new year

Even yet, the Japanese New Year celebrations incorporate the Chinese zodiac animals, maintaining their symbolic significance. ( Source: Internet)

Anyone can celebrate the Lunar New Year in Japan by simply adhering to the aforementioned customs and going to a festival or open gathering. You only need to locate the Chinatown that is most nearby.

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Special cuisine for the Lunar New Year

There are certain meals to be savored during this time of year, particularly Chinese cakes, as with other celebrations. However, because Japan is Japan, other sweets are also relished throughout the Lunar New Year.

does Japan celebrate lunar new year

There are certain meals to be savored during this time of year, particularly Chinese cakes, as with other celebrations. ( Source: Internet)

With wagashi (traditional Japanese sweets) shaped after the Chinese zodiac animal for that year or with little cakes shaped like the New Year’s animals, Japanese patisseries and bakeries celebrate the New Year.

Experience the fun and enrichment of the Lunar New Year in Japan.


1. Do People Celebrate the Lunar New Year in Japan?

The quick response is “no” Japanese New Year celebrations differ from those of other Asian nations.

Japan used a calendar that mixed lunar and solar calendars starting in the sixth century BC. Up until 1873, this was the primary method of telling time in Japan.

Up until that point, Japan celebrated the New Year alongside its neighbors China, Korea, and Vietnam.

What was altered in 1873? The Gregorian calendar, which was then widely used around the world, was chosen by the Japanese government in 1873 in order to bring Japan into line with the West. Many historians agree that the Japanese at the time believed that Asian customs were inferior to those of the West and that they needed to be abandoned in order for Japan to progress.

Because of the way the lunar calendar works, there are 13 months in a year. On all levels, this was extremely tough to manage. Dates were abruptly changed, preventing payments from being paid and appointments from being kept.

That is why, in 1872, the government chose to adopt the solar calendar, which was already in use in many other countries throughout the world at the time.

However, the transition to the new calendar system was challenging. Unfortunately, Japan did not change the dates of its previous celebrations to correspond with the new calendar.

The New Year was likewise advanced by a month, and any of the previous holidays were simply superimposed into the new calendar.

The new calendar is believed to have been implemented so quickly that individuals didn’t even have time to properly plan their New Year’s celebrations.

Comparatively, China also adopted the solar calendar in 1912, but they preferred to maintain a dual-calendar system, in which the Gregorian calendar was applied to all national activities, with the exception of their customary festivals and holidays.

The Chinese lunisolar calendar continued to be used to time these. Additionally, this method is being used in China’s neighboring nations, including Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Indonesia.

Many individuals in Japan initially rejected the calendar shift and kept the lunar calendar’s New Year’s celebrations going.

Up until the 20th century, celebrations of the lunar New Year were still common, particularly in rural areas.

There are now only a few remnants of these customs in Japan because over time the Japanese adopted the Gregorian calendar as a part of daily life.

2. Is It Possible To Celebrate The Lunar New Year In Japan?

However, the lunar New Year is still observed in a few regions of Japan. For instance, you can observe the yearly lantern festival in Chinese neighborhoods or cities with a sizable Chinese population, like Nagasaki.

This has become a custom not just for the Chinese residents, but also for the local Japanese residents who participate.

Because the lunar New Year is not celebrated as widely as it is in other Asian nations, it is not a holiday, and people continue to work.

However, in locations such as Okinawa and on certain southern Japanese islands, people hang flags and eat traditional soba for New Year’s.

3. Why doesn’t Japan observe the Lunar New Year?

Japan and China used to celebrate the New Year using the traditional lunar calendar. However, during the Meiji Period, the Japanese government began to Westernize by adopting the Gregorian calendar, with the New Year beginning on January 1.

4. Is the lunar calendar still in use in Japan?

No, the lunar calendar is not used in Japan. Japan follows the Gregorian calendar for a variety of reasons, including corporate and governmental. Japan adopted the Gregorian calendar in the late 19th century as part of a greater drive toward industrialization and Westernization.

Final Thoughts

Does Japan celebrate Lunar New year? Now, you can have answer! We sincerely hope you found this article informative. After all, we write all of our articles with the intention of improving the lives of foreigners in Japan. So, follow us and stay tuned!

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About Hayami Mori

Hayami Mori is an awesome travel blogger & photographer. She was born and raised in Tokyo and have been here for nearly 25 years. She loves traveling and always wants to introduce her beautiful Japan to travelers from all over the world. Therefore, her blog is a great source of information for people looking for what to do in Japan as well as provides some tips to make their trips unforgettable.

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