The New Year (Shogatsu) is the most important celebration in Japan, so the preparations begin immediately after Christmas. For Christmas, the decorations are identical to those used in the Western world, but for the New Year people are enjoying the Japanese traditional decorations.
Every time when I visited Japan during the New Year’s period I was delighted to see them, because these are not simple decorations, each element is a symbol of something: they are protecting against evil spirits or against bad luck, or they are welcoming the Kami bringing prosperity and good luck for the next year.
Let see a few of them…
On the sides of the entrance to houses, institutions, shrines or temples, you will see kadomatsu 「門松」, “gate pines", decorations made from 3 diagonally cut bamboo pieces and pine or ume twigs, tied together with a straw rope. The bamboo symbolizes strength and growth, while the pine symbolizes long life. Kadomatsu has the role of welcoming toshigami, the God of the New Year. Toshigami brings prosperity and good luck in the next year to the families (or the businesses) protected by kadomatsu.
Here’s a pair of kadomatsu photographed in front of a traditional house from Asakusa, Tokyo.
Yesterday’s Japan Photo: