January 8, 2024

Discovering the Magic of New Year in Kyoto

Happy New Year!

We look forward to serving you at Kogei Art KYOTO in the New Year.
In this first blog of the new year, we will introduce the charms of New Year’s in Kyoto.

Introduction to Kyoto’s New Year

As the old year gives way to the new, Kyoto, Japan’s ancient capital, transforms into a tapestry of cultural traditions and festivities. Unlike the boisterous celebrations often seen in the West, Kyoto’s New Year, or “Oshogatsu,” is a time of reflection, rejuvenation, and profound beauty.

The Spiritual Essence: Temple Visits and Bell Ringing

One of the most enchanting experiences in Kyoto during New Year is the custom of “Joya-no-Kane.” As midnight approaches on December 31st, the temples throughout the city begin to ring their bells 108 times. This ritual, symbolizing the 108 earthly temptations, is meant to cleanse the soul for the coming year.

"Joya-no-Kane."

The Culinary Delight: Osechi-ryori

No New Year in Kyoto is complete without the traditional Japanese New Year cuisine, known as “Osechi-ryori.” These are specially prepared dishes, each symbolizing good fortune, health, and prosperity. The colorful arrangement in jubako boxes (tiered lacquer boxes) is not only a feast for the eyes but also a representation of the rich cultural heritage.

"Osechi-ryori."
“Osechi-ryori.” in jubako boxes

Kyoto’s Unique Flair: Special Foods and Customs

In Kyoto, the New Year’s delicacy includes special items like “Kuromame” (sweet black beans), symbolizing health, and “Kazunoko” (herring roe), representing fertility. A unique Kyoto twist is the inclusion of “Kyoto-style Ozoni,” a soup with mochi (rice cake) and white miso, distinct from the soy sauce-based ozoni found in other parts of Japan.

"Kyoto-style Ozoni,"
“Kyoto-style Ozoni,”

Experiencing Hatsumode: The First Shrine Visit

“Hatsumode,” the first shrine visit of the year, is a significant event. Kyoto, with its plethora of shrines and temples, offers a serene and spiritual setting for this. Fushimi Inari Shrine, with its iconic torii gates, and Yasaka Shrine are popular spots, offering a chance to pray for good luck and prosperity.

Torii of Heian Jingu Shrine
Torii of Heian Jingu Shrine

The Festive Atmosphere: Decorations and Markets

The city is adorned with “kadomatsu” (pine decorations) and “shimekazari” (woven straw ornaments), adding to the festive spirit. Traditional markets like the one at Toji Temple offer antiques and crafts, perfect for experiencing Kyoto’s vibrant culture and for finding unique souvenirs.

"kadomatsu" (pine decorations)
“kadomatsu” (pine decorations)

Conclusion: A Unique Blend of Tradition and Serenity

Celebrating New Year in Kyoto is a tranquil yet profound experience. It’s a time where the ancient and the modern blend seamlessly, offering a window into the soul of Japan. Whether you’re savoring the traditional cuisine, partaking in spiritual rituals, or simply soaking in the atmosphere, Kyoto’s New Year is an unforgettable cultural journey.