Top 10 New Year Japanese Words – Happy New Year 2019 from FAQ


2018 is coming to a close, and maybe you’ll be drinking, eating, dancing or relaxing the year away. So, this our top 10 New Year Japanese Words for 2019.

You may also be interested in our other year-end posts including Japanese Buzzwords of 2018, Kanji of the year and our Christmas vocabulary list.

If you’re interested in our FAQs Section, you can check our Life in Japan FAQ or our Exploring Japan FAQ.


Top 10 New Year Japanese Words:

1. お正月

お正月 (おしょうがつ or Oshougatsu) refers to the new year period at the calendar year-end. More specifically, it means the festival that occurs on the first couple days of January. At this time, most businesses close, and people take a break from their stressful jobs. Japanese people mostly spend this time with their families, generally heading back to their hometown. There they will spend time celebrating together, saying farewell to the year-end and welcoming in a fresh new 365 days.

2. 年越し

年越し (としこし or Toshikoshi) literally translates into ‘New Year’s Eve’, the 31st of December each year.

On the 31st of December, it is common for many to enjoy 年越しそば (としこしそば or Toshi Koshi Soba) basically means ‘New Year’s Eve Japanese buckwheat noodles’. This allows people to farewell any of the negativity and grudges held from the previous year. So, they do this by making soba their last meal, a symbol of saying ‘Sayonara’ to their past grievances.

3. 元旦

On 元旦 (がんたん or Gantan) or the 1st of January, the following day, families will then welcome in the new year with a variety of activities. In Japan, there are a lot of cultural traditions that continue over the New Year period, which we have listed in this post.

4. 明けましておめでとうございます

明けましておめでとうございます (あけましておめでとうございます or Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu) is the same greeting as ‘Happy New Year’ . Additionally, you can use other abbreviations like あけましておめでとう (Akemashite Omedetou) or the casual あけおめ (Ake Ome). The casual greeting is more popular between friends or family.

5. お節

The New Year’s meal of お節 (おせち or Osechi), is a variety of meals (such as seafood, vegetables, rice cakes and more). They are typically packed in special boxes, similar to お弁当 (おべんとう or Obento) meaning ‘lunch’ boxes. The meals generally represent people’s hope of blessings, good fortune and long health. However, there are many kinds of meals that people eat on this day, which have a variety of different meanings.

6. 亥年 or 猪年

亥年 or 猪年 (いのししどし or inoshishi doshi) literally means the ‘Year of the Pig’ and is this year’s 2019 representative of the Zodiac calendar. However, ‘Inoshishi’ in Japanese actually means ‘boar’, representative of the wild pigs you can find in the Japanese wilderness.

In any case, the Zodiac calendar has a regular cycle and rotates every 12 years. It starts from February in the current year to February the following year.  People who fall into the year of the pig are born in a range of years. These include 1923-24, 1935-36, 1947-48, 1959-60, 1971-72, 1983-84, 1995-96, 2007-8, 2019-20, 2031-32, etc.

According to Chinese Zodiac horoscopes (and we treat this as pure speculation), those who were born in the ‘Year of the Pig’ could be in for a rollercoaster ride in 2019. On the plus side, you will find support and encouragement from your colleagues. Furthermore, single females may also have the chance to a fresh new relationship. However, in terms of wealth your luck appears to be regarded as relatively low to fair. Despite this, we hope everyone has a bright and successful start in January 2019!

7. 初詣

初詣 (はつもうで or Hatsumoude) refers to a person’s first visit to either a お寺 (おてら or Otera) meaning ‘Temple’ or 神社 (じんじゃ or Jinjya) meaning ‘Shrine’. On one of the first few days in January, many visit a temple or shrine. As the Japanese tradition goes, they visit these sacred places of worship to pray for good fortune and health throughout the year. People usually make a small coin donation too, for example, typically 5 yen coins.

Five yen is commonly used as a donation due to its connection to fortune. 五円 (ごえん or Go en), which is the word for 5 yen, shares the same word as 御縁 (ごえん or Go en), which means fate or chance. Thus, 5 yen is broadly seen as a good luck charm or symbol.

After following a few simple steps, people pray to the gods in hope of having their wishes granted.

8. 新年抱負

新年抱負 (しんねんほうふ or Shinnen Houfu) is literally translated into ‘New Year’s Resolution’. Across many cultures, people use the new year as an opportunity to make some kind of improvement or positive change in their life. Naturally, the biggest difficulty with making any significant change is sticking to it. If you can truly maintain your motivation then hopefully you can also make a positive long-term improvement. Best of luck!

9. 新年会

新年会 (しんねんかい or Shinnenkai) is the term used to describe ‘New Year Parties’. These are quite popular events in Japan, especially in the corporate world. They generally occur in January of each year and are designed to welcome in the new year with colleagues or even new or existing contacts. They are very similar to 忘年会 (ぼうねんかい or bounenkai) which are ‘End of Year Parties’ that occur in December.

10. お年玉

お年玉(おとしだま or Otoshi Dama) is the Japanese custom occurring on January 1, New Year’s Day. On this day, parents will give money to their children. The gift is usually presented to each child in a brightly decorated or red coloured envelope. The amount of money the parents give usually depends on the age of the child. Yet, it is not uncommon to see amounts of 10,000 yen or more handed out. Hopefully, you too were also lucky enough to get some kind of financial reward (as pictured below).

To all our new and existing readers, Happy New Year for 2019 from FAQ. We hope you all have a prosperous and exciting year ahead. Further, we hope the top 10 New Year Japanese Words for 2019 will make it more meaningful.

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