Oshogatsu: A Japanese New Years

Besides Groundhog’s day, my favorite holiday is New Years — I look forward to it every year. I always forget though that most people just think it’s a day to watch football, or a day to recover from a night of partying. For those who don’t know, New Years or oshogatsu in Japan is the most important and elaborate holiday of the year.

When Japanese Americans talk about New Years, they usually just mention the osechi (New Years’ food). Things like: soba (buck wheat noodles) on New Year’s Eve for a long life, the zoni (soup) on New Years’ morning with kurikinton (mashed sweet potato with sweet chestnuts) and kinpira gobo (simmered burdock root) and, of course, the shot of sake.

But when I think of New Years, I think about the Japanese superstition that everything you do on that day is a reflection of the way the rest of the year is going to turn out. To me, this is better than the resolution system because I get to actively shape what’s going to happen to me in the coming year.

I want a good/calm year so I will spend my New Years day relaxing and hanging out with my wife and my doggie. I will also do some writing, take a long walk and make sure to stay happy and positive all day.

Planning the day can be stressful but with the right prep it tends not to be a problem. For example, I can’t spend any money since I don’t want to be spending money all year. So I have to make sure to buy everything I need the day before. I can’t clean or work or do things that can be construed in any way as negative since the last thing I want to be doing next year is any/all of those things.

This tradition has always comforted me because it means that no matter how bad my previous year was, I can shape how the coming year will be.

Are you worried about what you’re going to do on New Years? Don’t. You just have to plan.

(Flickr photo credit: marcokenmoeller)

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About Koji Steven Sakai

Writer/Producer Koji Steven Sakai is the founder of Little Nalu Pictures LLC and the CEO of CHOPSO (www.CHOPSO.com), the first Asian English streaming video service. He has written five feature films that have been produced, including the indie hit, The People I’ve Slept With. He also produced three feature films, a one hour comedy special currently on Netflix, and Comedy InvAsian, a live and filmed series featuring the nation’s top Asian American comedians. Koji’s debut novel, Romeo & Juliet Vs. Zombies, was released in paperback in 2015 and in audiobook in 2016 and his graphic novel, 442, was released in 2017. In addition, he is currently an adjunct professor in screenwriting at International Technological University in San Jose.
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