Japanese festivals are traditional festive occasions. Some festivals have their roots in Chinese festivals but have undergone dramatic changes as they mixed with local customs. Some are so different that they do not even remotely resemble the original festival despite sharing the same name and date. There are also various local festivals that are mostly unknown outside a given prefecture. It is commonly said that you will always find a festival somewhere in Japan. Unlike most people in East Asia, Japanese people generally do not celebrate Chinese New Year; although Chinese residents in Japan still do. In Yokohama Chinatown, Japan's biggest Chinatown, tourists from all over Japan come to enjoy the festival. And similarly the Nagasaki Lantern Festival is based in Nagasaki's Chinatown. New Year observances are the most elaborate of Japan's annual events. Before the New Year, homes are cleaned, debts are paid off, and osechi is prepared or bought. Osechi foods are traditional foods which are chosen for their lucky colors, shapes, or lucky-sounding names in hopes of obtaining good luck in various areas of life during the new year. Homes are decorated and the holidays are celebrated by family gatherings, visits to temples or shrines, and formal calls on relatives and friends. The first day of the year is usually spent with members of the family. People try to stay awake and eat toshikoshisoba, noodles to be eaten at midnight. People also visit Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. Traditionally three are visited. This is called sansha-mairi. In the Imperial Palace at dawn on the 1st, the Emperor performs the rite of shihōhai (worship of the four-quarters), in which he offers prayers for the well-being of the nation. On January 2 the public is allowed to enter the inner palace grounds; the only other day this is possible is the Emperor's birthday (December 23). On the 2nd and 3rd days acquaintances visit one another to extend greetings and sip otoso (a spiced rice...
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