Omisoka is the day of New Year’s Eve. Since the New Year is the biggest event in Japan, people celebrate the Eve as well. People work so hard to prepare the New Year around one or two weeks such as cleaning (like spring cleaning in the states) and shopping.
'Hyakunin-isshu', a traditional New Year card game played in Yasaka Shrine, Kyoto
The reason people do the cleaning in the middle of winter is to get rid of the dirty of the passing year and to welcome the New Year with a fresh and serene mind. And on Omisoka, with preparing the New Year’s special dishes called Osechi-ryori, people finish up all the work of the year. People eat Toshikoshi-soba at night and stay up till midnight to listen to the 108 chimes of a nearby temple bell. The 108 chimes called Joya-no-kane, rings out the old year and rings in the New Year. It is supposed to release people from the 108 worldly sins.
Shogatsu is the celebration of the New Year and is the most important holiday in Japan. We are so excited to spend this day with our Japanese friends. We are going to have a special breakfast with them and then visit their neighborhood shrine to participate in a New Year's Day prayer of safety, happiness and long lives with our family!