New Year is a big deal in Tokyo and it’s celebrated in a uniquely Japanese way. Here’s how to eat, drink and otherwise revel like the locals.
Toshikoshi soba noodles are traditionally eaten in Japan for the New Year. The long buckwheat noodles symbolize a long life and they should be slurped up by midnight on New Year’s Eve. Mandarin Bar on the 37th floor of the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo offers a taste of Japan on December 31; the finest toshikoshi noodles are available from 9 p.m. until 1 a.m. or you may prefer the lobster and champagne pairing available from 5 p.m. Enjoy this fine festive fare with a view of Tokyo’s night lights while listening to live jazz music until countdown.
Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo starts the celebrations early on New Year’s Day with an authentic Japanese osechi breakfast of beautifully presented chilled crustaceans and vegetables is served with free sake at the on-site Miyuki restaurant — complete with a view of the 700-year-old Japanese gardens. Osechi with sake is the traditional way to start the year off in excellent health.
A Japanese temple is the traditional place to ring in the New Year — literally. Large bells are rung 108 times in temples across the land to rid us of our 108 human sins. Whether or not you are a religious Buddhist, this is a delightful custom. Some temples even offer members of the public a chance to ring the bells, so give it a whirl if you get the chance.
Sensō -ji in Asakusa and Zōjōji in Shibakoen are two of the older and more popular temples to visit on December 31, but you can have just as much fun at the backstreet temples that are dotted all over Tokyo streets. Crowds flock to their local temples to purchase lucky charms, burn incense and eat the food from the festive stalls set up for this special occasion.
After taking in all the noodles and temple sights, you’ll probably need a drink. Bars all over town will be congested, but if you can weave through all of the shoulders, you can welcome 2016 in style at The Peak Bar on the 41st floor of Park Hyatt Tokyo. This year’s celebration starts at 10 p.m. with cocktails, canapés and free-flowing champagne. In between all the noshing and staring at the panoramic city views, move to the beats of critically acclaimed DJ Sarasa.