Most of Japan shuts down over the New Year holiday as festivities are traditionally focused on families gathering together to celebrate the coming of the new year. In recent years, however, Hiroshima is not quite as quite at this time of year as it used to be and for families who are are looking to get out from under the kotatsu, here are a few suggestions.
January 1st New Year’s Day
It is the Japanese tradition to visit a Shrine on New Year’s day to pray for another good year in life. Even if you are not Japanese and do not know anything about the religion or ritual meanings of the visit, it is an interesting way to celebrate the event in Japan.
Our kids like to go to the shrine, make their wish at the altar (clap twice and pray) buy a fortune (they have special ones for kids on sale at most Shrines), buy a lucky amulet for the year – like the lucky Daruma on the right (grants wishes), drop off last year’s charms in a pile and then head home.
Our visits don’t last much longer than 30 minutes, but it has become a fun family tradition. If you are keen, you can visit the shrines at midnight for a lively moonlit version of this event.
January 1st~4th at the Green Arena main hall
Bouncy Castle “Fuwa Fuwa” Festival
Called the Fuwa-Fuwa Kids Festival, this is a very popular (get there early), family fun event held every year in the main area of the Green Arena concert hall (behind the old Hiroshima baseball stadium). The event is held over 3 days, January 2nd~4th from 10am to 5pm each day. The busiest times are from 11am to 2pm, but it will likely be fairly busy no matter when you go.
There are Japanese Food stalls outside, special events held on the stage inside with popular anime characters who will perform shows and pose for photos with kids throughout each day. The biggest highlight of course is the huge bouncy castles, there are 26 different air-filled rides to enjoy. Prices: (save 100 yen if you buy tickets beforehand)
Entry ticket of 600 yen or 1500 yen for a family (up to 4 members)
Ride tickets cost 1,000 yen for 11 tickets or get unlimited rides with a “free passport” for 2,500 yen
Every year at the end of the New Year holidays, a fun event showcasing the skill of our local firefighters is on display for everyone to enjoy in Central Chuo-Koen park. The event in Japanese is called dezome-shiki [消防出初式] and includes a parade, demonstration of Edo-era ladder acrobatics (hashigo-nori), fire fighting and helicopter rescue demonstrations, and an impressive grand finale.
Great fun for families with kids, but anyone is welcome to join- there are no admission charges.
Around the city, most Shrines will hold a bonfire ceremony to burn the amulets of previous years and use the fire to roast some pounded mochi rice cakes. This is an interesting, culturally rich event that kids enjoy and every one living in Japan should experience at least once.
The ceremony usually starts around 9 in the morning as the priests bless the old amulets. Then these good luck charms are piled into bonfire shapes and set alight- it is quite a sight. You can bring your own mochi to roast as many people did, or someone will likely take pity on you and come and give you some. The locals at the shrine that we went to were very friendly and welcoming.
What are you going to be up to over the holidays?