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1 Year Nickname of 2011 is “Usagi” (Rabbit)
2 Hoikuen entrance application for April 2011 made by January
3 Application for “Hokago Room” (After-school Child-care)       
4 How to Use Public Bicycle Parking Lots for a Year  
5 Event calendar
6 Year-end and New Year Habits of Japan
7 Funabashi Music Festival by Thousand Players, 2011
8Japanese Cooking
9 Japanese Expressions 
10 My experience with Japanese Habits 
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Year-end and New Year Habits of Japan

The three-day period from January first (Gantan) until the third is what we define as the “New Year.” We celebrate the end of a safe year and the fortune of being able to welcome a fresh year by decorating special ornaments(Shimenawa), eating New Year’s food (Osechi ryori), and enjoying particular events. I would like to introduce Nengajo, (New Year’s cards,) Kakizome, and Kagami-biraki.

New Year’s cards are sent to people you wish to thank and say things such as, “I am ever so grateful for your help. Wishing you a Happy New Year.” If you post these cards around December 15-25, they will reach the people you wrote to on January 1. Incidentally, it is customary not to give the cards to people if a member of their family has passed away this year. These New Year’s cards are available at the post office in November, so why don’t you send the words of gratitude?

Kakizome is practicing calligraphy at the beginning of the year (traditionally on January 2).  Originally, it was an event in the palace, but it was popularized in the Edo period and has spread widely among the common people. At school, when the winter break ends, it is normal for students to do Kakizome. There are large gatherings for producing the first calligraphy of the New Year. To do it, you’ll need a writing brush, Chinese ink, suzuri (an ink stone) and more. All of these items are sold as a calligraphy kit, and you can purchase it at a big stationery store.

Kagami-biraki is a celebratory event in which you take down the Kagami-mochi (a set of special round flat rice cakes) you have been displaying and eat it. You can get Kagami-mochi at a supermarket after Christmas and display it on December 28 and stack each circular flat cake on top of each other, placing them on tokonoma, (the alcove) or kamidana, (the household Shinto alter). On January 11, you retrieve the rice cakes that have been displayed in to break them into bite-sized pieces and eat in zoni, a special New Year’s soup or shiruko, a sweet red bean soup. Depending on the area you live in, the date of Kagami-biraki may differ. However, the custom is the same, and if you would like to get a taste of this occasion, you are encouraged to buy Kagami-mochi and present it.

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