PICA Things We Love Japanese Design Prints

Thoughts

Happy International Women’s Day!

ThoughtsAlyonaComment
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Celebrating all the mothers, daughters, sisters, girlfriends, inspirational role models, and dreamers out there! The world just wouldn’t be the same without the XX chromosome. So be bold, daring, and awesome as nature intended us to be. Happy Women’s Day! Everyday.

The dog is out! 新年快乐! 恭喜发财!

ThoughtsAlyonaComment
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Happy Chinese New Year! A year of rolling in the coins!

Today we are ringing in the year of the Earth Dog. This forever loyal companion urges us to be proactive and work hard this year. And as earth gives us metal, this year will hound us the well deserved wealth.

So this year go out there, do your best, and reap the shiny round rewards! 恭喜发财! (Gōng Xǐ Fā Cái! Wishing you a prosperous New Year!)

Happy, Happy, Happy ‪New Year!

ThoughtsAlyonaComment
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明けましておめでとう! С Новым Годом! 新年快乐! Happy New Year! to all corners of the world.

While sending the old year away with all the festive glory it deserves, we are welcoming the new year with new wishes and goals aplenty.

So as the clock strikes 12…

May this year be glorious, prosperous and full of cheer for you, for us, and everyone else under the sun!

From our family to yours with love.

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Oh, and if you haven’t done so already, be sure to check out our post on the art of celebrating New Year in Japan here:

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Oshogatsu, the New Year in Japan

New Year in Japan all about the food, the family, and New Year fortune. And in truly Japanese way, it is also curiously unique.

Happy Holidays! Happy Unwrappings!

ThoughtsAlyonaComment
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It’s that time of the year again! The smell of baked goodies filling the house. The bright cheery decorations adorning every nook and cranny, floor to ceiling. That festive music playlist you finally feel in the mood to listen to. The good ol’ films about giving, love, and a bit of mischief. Yes, it’s finally here! The grandest jolly merrymaking time!

And in the spirit of the season, from our PICA family to yours, wishing you a very Merry Christmas and Happy Unwrappings! We are forever grateful for all your love and support this year. Hoping that everything you wished for came, and in a nice pretty package to boot. And if you are like us and do the unwrappings with the New Year chimes, the fun is yet to come!

Oh, and if you haven’t done so already, be sure to check out our post on the peculiarities of celebrating Christmas in the land of wa (和), here:

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Merry Christmas! in Japan

We all know and love the spirit of Christmas in the West. But what about Japan? Does Japan celebrate Christmas? And if so, is it all the same as the one back home?

Our Happy PICA Birthday! We are turning 3!

Thoughts, PICA NewsAlyonaComment
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Today marks three years since we launched our first set of bright pop art prints into the world! And this year, our third, was definitely a very busy year for us. Settling down in a new place, let alone in a new country, has kept our days full with lots to do. Busy putting down the much needed foundation for a forthcoming creative new year. As I am typing this we already have a pair of new prints underway in their final stages of brand new colour scheme development for us to kick off the new PICA year on a creative note. *Spoiler alert* This time we are taking a new direction and going a bit more historical, channelling the upright warrior nerd in all of us. *End spoiler*

 

Ambitions aside, we are very excited to have made it into our 3rd year of our artistic endeavour, and endlessly thankful for all the support and feedback we have received from you! We are hopeful and eager to grow our toddler enterprise into something big one day, to continue to spread and share our love for colour and Japanese culture with the rest of the world. Because at PICA we believe that everyone should have a dash of happiness on their walls!

*making a wish and releasing the balloons*  ゝ(▽`*ゝ)

10 Things We Love about Tokyo DisneySea

Photo Journey, ThoughtsAlyonaComment
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Japanese love Disney and Disney products, so when it comes to their version of the Happiest Place on earth, it is a game-changer. If this is your second trip to Tokyo, then the DisneySea park is an irrefutable must-see. And plan for the whole day, because you need the entire day to truly experience all the wonders it has to offer.

Word of advice: get up early! I am not a morning person, but for DisneySea I get up before the sun is up to try to make it right for the opening. It gives me a chance for a shot at the fastpass for my top favourite rides. Japanese take their fastpass game seriously, and some of the most popular rides close their fastpass booths in just mere 15 minutes!

So what’s so special about DisneySea? Isn’t it just like any other Disney theme park? Well, yes and no. And here is why this one is special to us.
 

1. A getaway from Tokyo

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Tokyo. But sometimes, for a day, I want to escape to somewhere different, somewhere brimming with excitement. Don’t we all? And DisneySea does that best. It is a true theme park that lives up to its name. It is not just about the attractions, but also the experience. The minute you disembark the Disney Resort Line (a themed monorail train connecting the Disney theme parks and hotels in the area) you are automatically transported into a world of imagination, discovery, and adventure. But don’t take my word for it, come and see for yourself. (=^▽^)σ

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So what makes is so special in comparison to other Disneyland parks, you ask? Well, for starters, it is not your typical Disney theme park as it doesn’t feature any of the iconic Disney fairy tale castles. Instead what greets you is a majestic Mt. Prometheus, an erupting volcano, ready to go off at every hour. This is quite fitting, as DisneySea is all about the adventure—bringing you to the spectacular nautical corners of the world: Mediterranean Harbor, American Waterfront, Port Discovery, Lost River Delta, Arabian Coast, Mermaid Lagoon, and last but definitely not least ...

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2. Mysterious Island

Hidden and isolated within the towering Mt. Prometheus rock walls, Mysterious Island is a magnificent tribute to the classic Jules Verne’s adventure novels. Set in the futuristic 19th century setting, this part of the park is a true steampunk heaven, transporting you into the age of new discovery and exploration. The design elements in details are stunning and awe-inspiring. Situated on what seems to be a man-made construction above the sea within the volcano, Mysterious Island is ready to take you on the adventures of exploring the earth’s core and the deepest depths of the sea. Take an excursion on the Journey to the Center of the Earth or the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea—two of some of the best and unique rides that Disney park has to offer.

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Click to view the Mysterious Island panoramic shot.

 
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3. Photographers’ playground

The DisneySea theme park’s architectural design is beyond beautiful. It’s iconic, vibrant, magical structures against the backdrop of the shimmering water canals and colourful cast members alongside park’s personnel in character uniform are what brings the magic to this park. It’s all in the details. Even the dustbins are a work of art! And if you love photography, DisneySea gives you a hella playground to play in!

Mediterranean Harbor

Mediterranean Harbor
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American Waterfront is filled with the passion of the roaring 20s. The details in the grunge meets glamour architecture, the energetic atmosphere, the colourful early century rolling motor vehicles, and even the 20th-style department store decor inside the souvenir shops—everything transports you back in time.

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Arabian Coast’s magical rooftops, narrow streets, and colourful persona gives you a sense of an exotic backpacking adventure in a land of stories as old as time.

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4. A place to chill

The DisneySea, in comparison to other Disney parks, has a laid-back sort of vibe. It feels like a place where you can slow down, chill out, and simply enjoy the scenery. There are times when we visit and only go on one or two rides, yet it never feels like we are missing out. Coming here even if just to enjoy the scenery and good food is more than enough and absolutely worth it.

 
An occasional yukata on hot summer's day.

5. For adults and couples

Speaking of food and chilling out, did you know they have beer and other alcoholic beverages in the park? Between the two Tokyo Disney parks, DisneySea is definitely geared more towards adults and couples. There are of course kids present, but in comparison to Tokyo Disneyland, there are not a lot of them here. So if you feel like you might be too old for a theme park, don’t fret as DisneySea seems to have been designed with the mature audience in mind.

 
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6. Quirky fashion trend

On our recent trip to DisneySea this month there seemed to be a new fashion memo that unfortunately we didn’t get. It seemed like most of the couples and even groups of friends were all dressed in matching outfits! No, I am not talking about matching Disney t-shirts that you can buy at a gift shop and put on to blend in. I am talking about full on matching clothing. There’d be pairs, groups of three or five, couples, and double dates all dressed in matching clothing. All-girl groups, I am sure, had an easier time coordinating. However, my favourite ones were the couples and their creative ways to match each other’s ensembles. At first I wasn’t sure about this fashion movement, but as the day went on I found something intriguing about it, and even began to feel left out. Well, there is always next time.

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Here is a well matched couple.

Here is a well matched couple.

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7. Snack game

Let’s just say snacking in DisneySea is what it’s all about. Their snack game, or specifically popcorn game, is crazy good! From the moment we stepped onto the park’s grounds till the end of the day I had a popcorn cup in my hand. Can you blame me? There are caramel, chocolate, white chocolate, salt, and my favourite black pepper and curry flavours, to name a few! Oh, and don’t forget that there are also special seasonal limited edition flavours throughout the year.

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Other than popcorn, you’ll be sure to find churros, mountain of ice cream, smoked spicy chicken, smoked turkey legs, and other classic street food scrumptiousness.

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This was my highlight drink of the day: the sparkling mango juice with tapioca and jello. Not one bubble out of place! I would go back in a heartbeat just to have it again!

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Tower of Terror

Tower of Terror

8. Attractions for all ages

There is literally something for everyone! I, myself, not much of a roller-coaster gal. And having acrophobia often leaves me left out at attraction parks. Not here though! Here there are great attractions for all ages, heights, and fears (or lack of them). If you are a thrill seeker, then Tower of Terror, Raging Spirits, and Journey to the Center of the Earth are for you. And if you are like me, who loves the excitement of a fast ride, but without the free-falling aspect, then try the Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull or the Toy Story Mania!, which is just plain old-fashioned fun! For the little ones, Mermaid Lagoon is packed with smaller kid-friendly rides. But don’t worry, there are plenty of adults like myself who are more than happy to stand in line to ride the Whirlpool—the Little Mermaid themed classic teacup ride.

Toy Story Mania! in Toyville Trolley Park

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Port Discovery

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A heavenly cooling mist on a hot summer's day.

A heavenly cooling mist on a hot summer's day.

Aquatopia

Aquatopia

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Warning: You do get wet!

Warning: You do get wet!

Mermaid Lagoon

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The Whirlpool

The Whirlpool

 
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9. Parades and the spectacular night show

I’ve never seen anyone save a spot for a parade hours before it happening at a theme park, except in Tokyo Disney parks. And I can see why. The parades here are beautiful and awesome. And if you stay till the end of the day, there is the Fantasmic! nighttime light show on the water, and a grand fireworks display to round off the day.

Pirates Summer Battle "Get Wet!"

Literally pouring water over the audience.

Literally pouring water over the audience.

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10. Souvenir paradise

If you are into shopping, or maybe just browsing the store merchandise, DisneySea will not leave you disappointed. Japanese take consumerism seriously. And it is not a surprise that at DisneySea they are truly great at it. Here you’ll find an amazing collection of some of the best Disney merchandise I have ever seen. Some are unique, beautiful, and eclectic. And some are sold exclusively only at a handful of Disney theme park stores around the world. Yes, I am talking about Duffy, the Disney Bear, and it’s recently newly added friends. Or my personal favourite, Disney themed Tomica cars. There are Disney stores around Tokyo, but most of the time the merchandise sold at the park is exclusive to the park. So if you like something, know that you might not find it again after you leave the DisneySea grounds.

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Final word: It was an extremely hot sunny day. But thankfully being located at Tokyo Bay, at times it was also quite pleasantly windy. Yours truly.

Trying to keep the wind from messing with my hair.

Trying to keep the wind from messing with my hair.

Almost got it. I think...

Almost got it. I think...

Happy Women's Day!

ThoughtsAlyonaComment

To all my fellow girls out there: I raise a glass in celebration of all that makes us unique, special, and simply amazing. To making the world strong, beautiful and exceptional since the dawn of humanity! Cheers!

The chicken has hatched! Gong Hei Fat Choy!!!

ThoughtsAlyonaComment

Happy Chinese New Year! A year of accomplishing all our ambitions!

Today we are ringing in the year of the Red Rooster. The diligent and earnest Rooster under the fire element urges a rewarding and venturesome year ahead for us. This is the year to realize those goals and ambitions you have been setting for yourself all this time. The Red Rooster will sure be there for you to see all of this achieved with fervour and zeal.

It is also the year to shine! Embrace the Rooster’s love for perfection, vanity, and self-assurance to exhibit and boast about your best work, achievements, and accomplishments.

So set your goals, and be fearless! Make the best of the Red Rooster year by taking your objectives seriously with fire, energy, and full on determination!

Happy New Year! It’s 2017!!!

ThoughtsAlyonaComment

The day has finally come! It is a brand new year. Clean slate. A chance to start all over or build upon the awesome stuff you have achieved the year before. It is a year for new opportunities, grand plans, and wild possibilities to shine in new light. It is a hatching egg for new ambitions, aspirations, and reaching your goals. We’ll only have 2017 once, so we urge you to make the best of it!

At PICA we absolutely loved our 2016. We made big plans. We worked hard to reach our goals. We moved across the world (again). It has been a great and kind year to us. We wish that this year we’ll be just as great, and with some extra love and dedication, perhaps even greater. And that is what is truly amazing about the start of a brand new year—the prospect of attaining and even surpassing one’s ambitions. Just think about it: next year on New Year’s Eve you could be toasting to something incredible that you had no idea was coming! After all, the world has a way of surprising us now and then.

We wish that this year the world will be kind, bright, and giving to all of us. That there won’t be limits we won’t surpass. That we’ll have the courage to make bold plans. And we’ll have the means to make these plans a reality. The chicken is hatching. And with it are the new prospects for achieving that formidable greatness. Happy New Year, friends! Happy new everything!

Cheers!!

Oshogatsu, the New Year in Japan

Japanese Culture, ThoughtsAlyonaComment

The New Year is just around the corner, and I honestly couldn’t wait for the day to come. Personally, I have always felt that New Year is the biggest, most important day of the year. Growing up in Russia it was definitely the most exciting day of the year. A somewhat of a Christmas and Thanksgiving fusion of lively winter holiday music, “New Year” tree adorned in ornate glass ornaments and string lights shimmering in the corner, Father Frost bearing gifts, a generous feast, endless supply of sparkling wine, and fireworks—New Year celebration is a party for the old and the young from sundown till daybreak. It is the grandest day of the year that is all about the family, and is celebrated traditionally as such. We have a saying: “The way you spend New Year’s Eve is the way you will spend the rest of the year”. And wouldn’t you agree that food, fun, laughter, and love are the most important ingredients for a wishful happy New Year.

In Canada I feel that New Year celebration is always second place to Christmas. The atmosphere following the 25th would suddenly change. The cheer would fade. The decorations removed. The festive store shelves emptied. It just isn’t the same. New Year in Japan, however, is a whole different story. Similarly to the Russian spirit of New Year celebration, following Christmas the festivities to do not end there. They are just beginning. For New Year here is the biggest as well as the longest holiday of the year. It is once again all about the food, the family, and New Year fortune. And in truly Japanese way, it is also curiously unique.

The Oshogatsu Tradition
Oshogatsu (お正月) is the first month of the year, January, but most commonly associated with its first three days known as 三が日 (san-ga-nichi). These three days are spent visiting shrines, extended family members, and friends. The entire country takes a break from its busy life to enjoy and celebrate what really matters.

The preparation for Oshogatsu (正月事始め, shogatsu-koto-hajime) begins early in December. There is a lot of work to be done, making it for most families the busiest month of the year. It starts off with cleaning. Not just any cleaning, the susuharai (煤払い) cleaning—similar to spring cleaning in the West, but in December. Literally meaning to brush off the soot, the practice dates back to the 17th century, when the common folk began to follow the custom first established at the Edo Castle in 1640 of cleaning ones household to purify and welcome the god of the New Year (年神, toshigami). Today many families will take the time to show their home some love in hopes of beckoning luck and prosperity on the New Year’s Day.

Any celebration is not the same without the decorative tokens of the festivities. The same goes for Oshogatsu. As Christmas comes to a close, families will begin to take down the Western decor and replace it with 正月飾り (shogatsu-kazari, New Year’s decorations). The Oshogatsu custom comes from the early harvest thanksgiving and ancient religious practices; reflecting this are the festive decorations prevailing today. The main three are kadomatsu, shimenawa, and kagami mochi.

Kadomatsu. Photo by katorisi.

Kadomatsu. Photo by katorisi.

Kadomatsu (門松), literally ‘gate pine’, is a pine and bamboo decoration placed at the entrance, usually in pairs, of one's home or shop. It can begin to be seen around by mid-December until January 7th, commonly featuring three bamboo shoots cut diagonally in different lengths, pine, and a base made of straw. The bamboo and pine are linked to the Shinto belief of god spirits residing in trees, and are symbolical as they represent longevity, strength, and prosperity. The different lengths of the bamboo denote the heaven, humanity, and earth from tallest to shortest respectively.

Shimenawa. Photo by kazue1984.

Shimenawa. Photo by kazue1984.

Shimenawa (しめ縄) is a braided straw rope that can often be found in Shinto shrines to mark or enclose sacred areas as a talisman against evil. The Oshogatsu shimenawa or shimekazari (しめ飾り) is often braided resembling a wreath commonly adorned by daidai (橙, bitter orange), and placed at the entry, similarly to kadomatsu, to signify that one’s home has been purified and is ready to welcome the toshigami. In addition, the bitter orange in itself is a symbol of longevity as the fruit if not picked will remain on the tree for several years, which also can be linked to its homophone 代々 (daidai) meaning several generations.

Kagami mochi. Photo by nolabwork.

Kagami mochi. Photo by nolabwork.

Kagami mochi (鏡餅), literally ‘mirror mochi (rice cake)’, is a two round mochi pyramid, believed to have originated in the shape resembling an old-fashioned round copper mirror, topped with daidai (bitter orange), and placed in various locations around the house. Each location in the house is believed to have a corresponding Shinto god, and thus one would place each kagami mochi at such locations: for kamado-gami (かまど神, god of stove) in the kitchen, nando-gami (納戸神, god of back room) in the bedroom, kawaya-gami (厠神, god of toilet) in the toilet room, and suijin (水神, water god) in the sink and bath facilities.

The kagami mochi are easily found in supermarkets and are encased in plastic molding to prolong the rice cake lifespan. The kagami mochi are put out near the end of the year until January 11th, the Kagami Biraki (鏡開き, New Year’s rice cake cutting) Day. The cut mochi is then added into ozenzai (おぜんざい), a traditional red bean and mochi soup.

Nengajo
In addition to the cleaning and decoration preparations, families are busy sending out written nengajo (年賀状, New Year’s post cards) adorned with the Chinese zodiac animal of the coming year. Similar to the Christmas cards in the West, the post office makes extra effort to deliver the nengajou by New Year’s Day.

Oseibo
Some also partake in the old tradition of year-end gift giving, called oseibo (お歳暮). In December time supermarkets and departments stores around the country set up a special section near the entrance displaying exceptional sets of delicacies, such as confectionary, high grade marble beef, alcohol, and fruits. These are then sent out as oseibo gifts by the family. Traditionally these gifts are meant to say thank you to people who showed kindness to you this year. Today these gifts are more commonly sent to parents, relatives, and superiors at work.

Hatsumode. Photo by Japanexperterna.se.

Hatsumode. Photo by Japanexperterna.se.

December 31st
December 31st, New Year’s Eve, is the most important day. As the year comes to a close the sound of the temple bells will begin the fill the crisp winter air. The bells are rung 108 times (除夜の鐘, joyanokane)—107 on the 31st and one last one past the midnight of the New Year. The 108 chimes symbolize the human worldly desires, and is believed to expel the sins of the previous year. The celebration will thus begin and continue all through the night until the first sunrise of the year (初日の出, hatsuhinode). Hatsuhinode is believed to have spiritual powers, with many coming out at the break of dawn to wish upon the rising sun.

It is also the day of shrine visits, hatsumode (初詣で, first shrine visit of New Year). Families first visit the shrine at midnight and then again on New Year’s day to pray for health, prosperity, and happiness in the new year, and pick up omamori (お守り, protection charms) on the way out. Because of this it is the busiest day for the shrines. Some young women will dress up in brightly coloured beautiful furisode, a traditional long sleeve kimono used for special occasions, making the shrine visit a treat for the eyes.

Ikura. Photo by Adam Chamness.

Ikura. Photo by Adam Chamness.

Dining Oshogatsu
On New Year’s Eve to ring out the Old Year, soba is the dish of choice. The toshi-koshi soba (年越し蕎麦), literally year-crossing soba, symbolizes a wish for a long life, as long as the noodle. Soba is also an easy dish to make, allowing the housewives to rest after a long day of New Year preparations.


On the morning of the New Year’s Day families will gather to eat the first meal of the year, a homemade osechi-ryori (お節料理). It is a specially prepared feast that was originally designed to wish for a rich harvest in the New Year. Osechi is served in special stacked boxes that resemble bento, called jubako (重箱). The boxed meals contain foods that are considered to be auspicious, with the ingredients prepared to last for days into the New Year. The osechi tradition first took roots in the Heian period (平安時代, Heian jidai, from 794 through 1185), when using a stove to cook a meal in the first three days was considered taboo. The osechi meals were thus made close to the end of the Old Year allowing the women to rest from cooking meals during the sanga nichi period (the first three days of the New Year). This tradition is still observed today, as many housewives prepare the osechi meals to be enjoyed in the days to come. The osechi contents may have changed over the years, but the practice strives to this day. In addition to the homemade osechi, many supermarkets and stores will have ample amount of ready-mades readily available for order.

Osechi-ryori. Photo by Dave Nakayama.

Osechi-ryori. Photo by Dave Nakayama.

Just as the decoration pieces have their own symbolical meanings, each osechi ingredient is envisioned to bring luck as well. For instance, due to its curved back and long whiskers shrimp is thought to resemble an old person, and is thus believed to bring long life. The holes in the lotus root suggest ease of looking through to the year ahead. And cooked herring roe, kazunoko (数の子)—’kazu’ meaning number and ‘ko’ children—have the power to bless one with children. For more on the osechi dishes and their meanings, check out this article by Fae’s Twist & Tango.

Otoshidama envelopes. Photo by Jnn.

Otoshidama envelopes. Photo by Jnn.

Otoshidama
There might not be any presents under the tree for the kids, but there is otoshidama. Otoshidama (お年玉), literally New Year’s present, is a small gift given on the New Year’s Day to children. Similar to the Chinese New Year practice, children receive small envelopes (ポチ袋, pochibukuro) filled with money. The amount differs with age and family traditions, but commonly it is around ‎¥‎5,000 ($40~50).

Wishing “Happy New Year!” in Japanese
Leading up to the New Year, when parting at last it is common to say「よいおとしを」(yoi otoshi wo). Literally “Happy New Year”, it is a wish for the year-to-come to be a prosperous one.

Once the New Year is here, it is 「明けましておめでとうございます」(akemashite omedetou gozaimasu), literally “Congratulations with the beginning (of the New Year).”


On this note we’d like to wish everyone a Happy New Year! May 2017 be prosperous and kind! よいおとしを。

P.S. If you are reading this in 2017, 明けましておめでとうございます!!