No idea what to do or where to go around the New Year holidays? It can be exciting but also a quiet time, as lots of businesses and shops close, even in Tokyo. But fear not, because we’ve gathered the best events and things to do, from spiritual experiences to thrilling performances, so you can enjoy your Tokyo New Year’s to the max.
Before New Year
1. Have a Bonenkai with Friends
Bonenkai is a gathering of friends (and often co-workers) to celebrate the end of the year whilst drinking enough to forget the whole year. Get together with a group of friends and have a small party to reminisce about 2022 while looking forward to 2023.
2. Go Ice Skating on a Rooftop
What’s more wintery than going ice skating under the stars? Ginza Six’ rooftop garden is decked out with an ice-skating ring until December 31. Young and old can enjoy a fun time skating and admiring the Christmas decorations and illuminations. Find out more about Ginza Six’ Rooftop Star Skating Rink here.
3. Watch Kohaku Uta Gassen on December 31
A Japanese New Year’s Eve tradition since the 1950s, Kohaku Uta Gassen is a 4.5 hour long show where the year’s most popular artists have a musical battle. Join in this modern tradition to ring in the New Year with song. The 73rd Kohaku Uta Gassen is broadcast on NHK from around 7:15 to 11:45pm.
After New Year
4. Geikosai: Enjoy the Fire Ritual on Mount Takao
From midnight to 5pm on New Year’s Day, the head priest at Mount Takao performs multiple goma fire rituals to pray for family health and happiness in the coming year. The ritual brings thousands of people to the temple. They gather at sunrise and sunset, with the sounds of conch shells and sutras being recited echoing through the mountain area. It’s a memorable start to the New Year.
5. Go Out for Hatsumode and Purchase an Omikuji
Hatsumode is the first shrine visit of the year, a tradition that gathers over 3 million people on the first three days. Get your prayers in to welcome an auspicious start to the year and purchase an Omikuji, or fortune, to guide you in your next steps. Meiji Jingu Shrine is the most popular for its convenient location and lush surroundings, but for more options, please see our article on the most popular shrines and temples to visit for hatsumode.
6. Get Yourself an Osechi
Osechi are carefully prepared layered boxes with various dishes that are typically eaten on New Year’s Day. People tend to make them at home, but you can find beautifully prepared and packaged ones at department stores such as Shinjuku Isetan or Matsuzakaya. Recently many people having been buying their osechi online too. Although they can get quite pricey, you can find some cheaper options for under ¥10,000.
7. Treat Yourself to a Fukubukuro
New Year sales start on January 2 all around Tokyo. Perhaps the most fun part of this sales season is the surprise fukubukuro bags (literally “lucky bags”) filled with a random selection of products. Let yourself be surprised.
8. Have a Mochi Pounding Experience
Making mochi is a typical Japanese tradition and something that isn’t easily replicated at home. Ariake Garden has a special mochi-making event from January 1-3, where you get to experience using an old-school pestle and mortar to pound mochi. Participation is free but there is a numbered distribution on the day, so it’s advised to come early. For more details on the event, see this website.
9. Watch a Taiko Drummer Performance
Taiko drums are traditional Japanese percussion instruments that produce beautiful and enchanting sounds. The Taiko ensemble Drum Tao captivate audiences in compelling stories through music. They will perform their new show from 6-7 January. A great way to start the year with a bang.
10. See Tokyo’s Illuminations Shine On
Many of the city’s illuminations will stay up until February, so why not go for a walk among the twinkling lights? We have a list of major illuminations in the Greater Tokyo area with plenty of options, no matter where in Tokyo you live.