Well, another New Year’s has come and almost gone. It’s kind of sad to note that New Year’s in Japan is different from before. It is not as special as before, like maybe 20 or 30 years ago.
Here are my then-and-now comparisons:
- New Year’s was the Japan’s biggest holiday and national observance. Most shops and businesses closed for almost a week during the year end and New Year’s. We had to stock up on food before the holiday started or face holiday starvation. Now, most stores are open throughout the New Year’s holidays, not to mention the ubiquitous 365/24/7 convenience stores.
- Nengajo or New Year’s postcards was once all handwritten before the advent of inkjet printers. People practiced their finest calligraphy with sumi ink and a brush when writing the addressee’s name and address. Today, few people use a brush to write nengajo. And many use inkjet printers.
- The news has reported that fewer nengajo are being sent. Many are sending New Year’s greetings electronically via email (including cell phone text messages). Many people also think of writing and sending nengajo a big chore.
- Much fewer people wear kimono when going to pray at shrines during New Year’s (hatsumode). It’s quite rare to find kimono-clad women even on New Year’s Day at Tokyo’s Meiji Shrine.
- NHK TV’s Kohaku Utagassen Red and White Song Contest aired on New Year’s Eve continues to draw fewer viewers. It is no longer a “must-watch” program (for those of us in Japan anyway).
These trends make New Year’s feel less special, and it’s sad to see another special thing gradually becoming just ordinary.