Kōshin 更新 – Renewal

Out with the old and in with the new! In Japan, where the new year is a time to purge and purify, rituals abound: from burning last year’s o-fuda (御札) amulets that bring luck or good health, to joya-no-kane (除夜の鐘) ringing a temple bell 108 times.

Other customs to ensure a happy, healthy and prosperous year include:
OOSOUJI – The Big Clean-up
The Japanese believe in welcoming the new year with a clean slate. A few days before year-end, homes, offices and schools undergo major maintenance, i.e., cleaning light fixtures, furniture, and heavy appliances. In dojo, floors or tatami are polished to a mirror-like shine, weapons and training equipment are scrubbed, and discarded obi (belts), gi (uniform) and gear are thrown out. The dojo takes on a fresh appearance, and even an old school is revitalized.

Buddhists welcome the new year by ringing a temple bell 108 times – the number of virtues one should strive to develop in this lifetime.

During Shinen-keiko, the first class of the year, different new year sounds can be heard in dojo as gi snap, weapons lock, and thunderous kiai resonate throughout training halls. These sessions are viewed not merely as physical practice, but a symbolic mental and spiritual sanitization.

DARUMA ME NO GO (達磨 目の菩 ) – Daruma goal dolls
In Japan, goals-setting often entails using a papier-mâché doll representing Bodhidharma, a legendary monk believed to have introduced zen and martial practices to China. The round shape and fierce features of these red and white figures remind practitioners that while working to achieve our objectives we may fall and rise repeatedly, but if we remain resolute, we will succeed.

We illustrate our intention with a few simple steps:
  1. Establish a goal, wish, or promise for the year;
  2. Fill-in one Daruma eye (initially, they are white/blank); and,
  3. Work toward your objective daily, and once it’s achieved, paint the other eye.
Sample karate goals could vary from training two to three times per week for one year, improving particular skills, rank advancement, or reading a martial arts book monthly.

OSECHI RYORI – Traditional Japanese New Year Meals
Osechi Ryori features small servings of Japanese fare. On December 31st, a jubako (bento box) is displayed at the center of a table and served to the family on New Year’s Day. In dojo, post-Shinen-keiko meals typically include Japanese treats and long, firm noodles – symbolizing both wishes for longevity and a willingness to “break or cut through” another year, and the menu may extend to furusato (local cuisine) with pizza and fried chicken. Training, eating, goal-setting and laughing together establishes and solidifies the budo bond.

HATSUMODE – First Annual Shrine Visit or Telephone Call
On January 1st, families meet at shrines to pray for blessings and good fortune, and when in Japan, we enjoy making the trek to crowded, lively temples.

Closer to home, we connect and demonstrate our gratitude for fellowship with phone calls (often to Okinawa), and local visits to family and friends to exchange small gifts.

In addition to toasting 2020 with a glass of champagne, if you view the new year as an opportunity for gratitude and growth, you might adopt one or several of these practices, or at the very least, develop a better understanding of how other cultures celebrate the end and beginning of another “renewal” cycle.