Christmas and Oshougatsu in Japan

Christmas and New Year (oshougatsu / お正月)

In America, people gather with family and friends to celebrate on Christmas Day. It’s also the season to start shopping for Christmas gift exchanges. Department stores and malls start to sell the Christmas stuff in November. It is the most festive time of the year. In fact, I have not even started shopping yet so I feel a little pressure around this time almost every year.

On the contrary to American Christmas traditions, Christmas in Japan is like Valentine’s Day. It is considered to be the most romantic day of the year in Japan. Couples usually dine at nice restaurants and enjoy the most romantic day. People even start looking for dates just before Christmas, so it is still one of the most celebrated holidays in Japan. Although Christmas is not an official holiday, towns are decorated for Christmas and department stores, especially jewelry stores, start Christmas sales. Typical Christmas gifts include jewelry and accessories, so it is a good time for jewelry market to maximize the Christmas market.

New Years is celebrated differently in Japan and America. New Year’s Eve is called “oomisoka / 大晦日” and New Year is “Oshougatsu – お正月”. Traditionally Japanese people spend time with their family on New Year’s Eve. We used to get together on the New Year’s Eve to start cooking and watch Kouhaku utagassen (music contest with famous musicians on TV of new years eve only).

At midnight, we eat Toshikoshisoba / 年越しそば and then received Otoshidama / お年玉 from my grandparents and relatives and then we went to a neighborhood temple to drink Amazake 甘酒 and drew a sacred lot (omiguchi おみくじ) to try our luck for this year. I remember being delighted when I got Daikichi (an excellent luck) because it meant that my new year will bring me a great luck.

It is very interesting to learn how we celebrate major holidays, Christmas and New Year, differently around the world. This year, I will exchange gifts with family and have Christmas dinner here in America. I hope to spend the next new year with my family in Japan though!

How do you celebrate New Year in your country? Share it with us and write a comment.

Click here if you want to read more posts from our guest author Yumi.


Doraemon is one of my favorite childhood animation growing up in Japan. Fujiko Fuji is the creator of this famous Japanese manga series, and if you grew up in Japan, I am almost certain that you know Doraemon. I had never missed an episode as a child! Doraemon was first published in 1969. Due to the popularity of this series, this Anime TV series started a few years later. So I pretty much grew up watching Doraemon cartoons.

Doraemon is actually a robotic cat from 22nd century that came to help a wimpy boy, Nobita. Whenever Nobita faces problems, Doraemon comes and rescue him. If Norita needed help for the test, Doraemon gave him Ankipan, which is a memory bread. Norita didn’t want to memorize words and prepare for the test, he decided to take an easy way out by getting help from Doraemon.

This is his pattern in every episode, and actually this is the theme of this anime. When Nobita gets bullied at school, he again cries for help. And Doraemon is back helping Nobota by handing a tool from his tiny pocket. This tool can be used to get revenge on bullies. Doraemon often warns Nobita not to misuse his tools, but Nobita often uses that in a wrong way to get ahead of other kids or to get revenge on bullies. Nobita almost always learns some kind of lessons in the end. Actually my parents didn’t want me watching Doraemon, because they thought that it wasn’t an appropriate animation. They said that this could have given me a lazy attitude toward life..well, but the whole point of this animation is that we get a very strong message from each episode that we can’t always rely on others to solve our problems. If we get some help, we must not misuse that. So I personally think Doraemon is a great Japanese animation every kid should be watching. But this is just my personal view on this.

What makes this animation more attractive and exciting for us is that Doraemon is also giving us the dreams, many of which are unrealistic so they are just dreams. But sometimes we all need to dream about something especially as a child. I remember saying to my friend in 5th grade that I want Doraemon!! It would have been so cool to have him at my house, and he could have introduced me to all these tools which can make my dreams come true. I wanted “dokodemo doa”, which means anywhere door. You think of where you want to go, and then open Doraemon’s dokodemo doa, you are there! This will never happen realistically, but it was cool to think about that. So I very much enjoyed watching that animation every week. And that is why even adults still like watching draemon. And I am one of them even though I haven’t watched in years.

Here is a clip with the entry sequence of the anime series including all songs.

About the Author

Hi My name is Yumi! I am originally from Japan and have lived in Southern California for many years. I have been tutoring my native language on a part-time basis. I look forward to contributing articles about Japanese language and culture. If you have any questions, please feel free to write me. 🙂

Yumi is the owner of the Yumi to Lesson website which helps students to learn Japanese (


Why is Japanese language so popular?

Hello everyone.

Thank you Nicolas san for creating a wonderful website for all learners of Japanese language. This website has the most comprehensive list of Kanji that you can use to prepare for Japanese language proficiency exam.

Since this is my first time posting here, I would like to briefly summarize my background. I am originally from Japan, and initially moved to Southern California to go to college after finishing high school. I have lived here for over 10 years (long time, I know!), have been tutoring Japanese on a part-time basis for eight years.

I’ve met many people who are truly fascinated by Japanese language, history and culture here in Southern California. Japanese is definitely one of the most popular languages as you can also find countless Japanese language websites. People in America learn Japanese for both personal enrichment and career advancement. There are two reasons my student almost always give me when I ask them why they are learning Japanese.

Japan is one of the most advanced countries in the world. Companies such as Panasonics, Honda, Toyota, Toshiba are all from Japan, and their products are used by millions of people around the world. There are many other Japanese companies successfully exporting their products to the international market. As Japanese companies continue to grow in global market, you are more likely to work with Japanese people. Naturally fluency in Japanese language makes you more competitive in the job market. The US economy has been stagnant, so some of my students are looking into applying for English teacher positions in Japan.

There is another obvious reason, which makes Japanese a popular foreign language. Japanese has a long history and its fantastically rich culture has been admired worldwide. Sushi is actually very popular in where I live. I was shocked to see people eating raw fish when I first moved here. There are many Japanese restaurants and grocery stores here, so people are introduced to fascinatingly unique Japanese culture in our daily lives in Southern California.

I can come up with many other reasons that make Japanese language and culture special, but I am going to end here. I am looking forward to posting more articles about Japanese language and culture! Thanks for reading.:>

Please share with us why you are learning Japanese in the comment section below!

About the Author

Hi My name is Yumi! I am originally from Japan and have lived in Southern California for many years. I have been tutoring my native language on a part-time basis. I look forward to contributing articles about Japanese language and culture. If you have any questions, please feel free to write me. 🙂

Yumi is the owner of the Yumi to Lesson website which helps students to learn Japanese (

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