What do you do on Okinawa during the New Year?

It’s finally the end of the year 2023, and so it’s time to ask how was your year 2024? Good memories, bad memories, each person has their own. Probably many local people are still hard at work in their companies.

In Japan, including Okinawa, most businesses will close on Dec. 27th or 28th, and the last working day is called “Shigoto Osame” or “Goyou Osame” that simply means “Closing Business Day.” Following kind of conversation is very common between friends or families this season. “When is your company Shigoto Osame”? Also, on the day of Shigoto Osame, most companies are not working business as usual, but spend the day cleaning the office in and outside.

The first day of business after the New Year is called “Shigoto Hajime” or “Goyou Hajime” meaning “Business Starting Day,” which usually is January 4th or 5th, because it’s a “Oshogatsu” celebration through January 3rd when families get together to celebrate the new year with “Osechi Ryouri”, special “New Year dishes.” Kids will get “Otoshidama,” small envelopes of New Year gift money from family members, relatives and parents’ friends. Many families go shopping with the aim getting “Fukubukuro” which is a “Lucky Bag.”

Right after welcoming the new year, just past midnight on January 1st, many people visit a shrine or temple to make wish for the new year. The custom is called “Hatsumode” that means the “New Year visit to a shrine or temple.” You will see long lines of people making their Hatsumoude at most shrines and temples during the first couple of weeks after the New Year. When you visit a shrine or temple for Hatsumoude, toss a coin or two, anything from 1 to 500 yen, (some people toss even bills), into a box called “Osaisen bako” at where you pray. The money is considered an offering to the god. At the shrine or temple, you can also buy “Omikuji”, a fortune paper. They are quite popular at Hatsumoude for people to read their fortune forecast for the coming new year. It’s usually said that visiting Hatsumoude by the 15th of January is preferred, although there are no exact rules for that. You can visit whenever you like, and your first visit to the shrine or temple will be the “Hatsumoude” for you.

Although the lunar calendar is still used in some parts of Okinawa, Oshougatsu, “the New Year holidays” is celebrated according to the Gregorian calendar, and is one of the most important holidays in Japan, including Okinawa.

The most popular Hatsumoude places on Okinawa are “Naminoue Shrine” in Naminoue, Naha, “Gokoku Shrine” in Onoyama, Naha, “Okino-gu Shrine” also in Onoyama, Naha, “Futenma Shrine” in Futenma, Ginowan, and “Naritasan Fukusenji Temple” in Ishado, Nakagusuku.

There are more smaller local shrines and temples on Okinawa, and we hope you try to visit one for Hatsumoude of the New Year 2024. Have a Happy New Year!!

23:11 22 Jul , 2024