Celebrate 2018 with Japanese Oshogatsu New Year Festivals in NY, CA, FL and OR

Arts Japan 2020 is an online celebration of Japan-related cultural programs across the United States. This preview features a representative example of upcoming Japan-related cultural programs across the United States. To recommend other programs for Arts Japan 2020 to feature, click here. For a directory of organizations that create, present and support Japan-related programs in the United States, click here.

Oshogatsu Celebrations in the United States

Oshogatsu, the start of the New Year, is considered the most important holiday in Japan. Businesses close for several days, families gather, houses are cleaned and decorated, millions of people visit shrines throughout Japan, and celebrations are held (including bonenkai, or "year forgetting" parties). 

In Japan, 2018 will be the Year of the Dog. (The Chinese Zodiac and its symbolic animals have been embraced by Japanese culture.) Images of dogs emblazon many celebratory items, including nengajo - New Year's Day cards that people all over Japan send to their relatives and friends.

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Traditional Oshogatsu celebrations honor the ancestral deity Toshigami-sama, who was said to visit Japanese homes at the start of each new year to bestow good energy and fortune. In honor of Toshigami-sama and to celebrate the harvest, a special soup called ozōni is eaten on New Years. This soup containsmochi, or rice cakes. Mochi are often associated with Japanese new year's festivities; a traditional Oshogatsu ceremony called mochitsuki features the smashing of mochi. Another longstanding practice during Oshogatsu involves otoshidama, or gift envelopes; adults give these envelopes to children in celebration of the New Year, often with money inside.

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Across the United States, a number of festivals commemorate the Japanese New Year. These Oshogatsu celebrations feature traditional music, dance, food, crafts, martial arts demonstrations and mochi pounding events. Below are details about notable upcoming Oshogatsu festivals in California, Florida, Oregon and New York. And this article from Japan Today features more information about Japanese New Year traditions.

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Little Tokyo Japanese New Year Celebration

Jan. 1, 2018 from 10:30 A.M.–4 P.M.
Weller Court in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles

Visit Little Tokyo for this lively Oshogatsu Festival. Attendees will enjoy Japanese Taiko drumming performances, mochi making, traditional dancing, Japanese calligraphy, and games and crafts for children. For more info, click here.

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Oshogatsu Family Festival
at Japanese American National Museum

Jan. 7, 2018 from 11 A.M.–5 P.M. 
Japanese American National Museum, Los Angeles

This free annual event celebrates Oshogatsu with arts, crafts, food and cultural activities. Traditional mochi pounding, dog candy sculptures and musical performances will be featured; Year-of-the-Dog-inspired crafts, origami and coloring activities will be available for kids. Click here for additional info.

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Oshogatsu: A New Year's Celebration
at Morikami Museum in Delray Beach

Jan. 7, 2018 from 10 A.M.–5 P.M.
Morikami Museum of Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach, Florida

This celebration of the new year will feature tastings of high-end sake, Japanese beer and sake cocktails along with a mochi pounding event, taiko drum performances, a tea ceremony and bonsai demonstrations. For more information, follow this link.

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Mochitsuki Japanese New Year's Celebration
in Portland

Jan. 28, 2018, from 11 A.M.–4 P.M.
Portland State University in Portland, Oregon

A popular annual event since 1996, Mochitsuki celebrates Japanese and Japanese-American cultural traditions. Featured events include mochi pounding, taiko and koto performances, a traditional tea ceremony, kendo demonstrations and more. Tickets are required; click here for details.

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New York City Oshogatsu Celebration

at Japan Society

Jan. 28, 2018, at 1 P.M.
Japan Society in New York City

Ring in the New Year with a day of festive music, games, crafts and traditional Japanese activities, including Taiko drumming, calligraphy, traditional rice pounding, storytelling, kite-making and the children's game fukuwarai. For ticket information, click here.

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2018 New Year's Sekku in Long Beach, CA

Feb. 4, 2018, 12:30–3:30 P.M.
Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden in Long Beach, California

The Japanese Gardens on the campus of California State University, Long Beach will celebrate the year of the dog during this afternoon festival. Enjoy music throughout the garden, as well as traditional Oshogatsu decorations, art activities, games and treats. Admission for Garden members and their guests is free. Click here for additional info.

This is a representative sample of upcoming programs. Don’t see your favorite program on the list? Tell us about it here.

Arts Japan 2020 is a program of the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission (JUSFC) and is proposed by the Arts Dialogue Committee of the U.S.-Japan Conference on Cultural and Educational Interchange (CULCON). Learn more about us and the events we feature at artsjapan.us.