The Japanese can take credit for being one of the first countries anywhere to make use of fireworks, so it's no surprise that they light up the city skyline on New Years Eve with a fireworks that can be viewed for miles around across the famous Tokyo Bay. Tokyo also holds a number of parties on NYE and the city's hotels are packed with visitors from across Japan and abroad.
New years eve in Tokyo is renowned as being one of the most hectic and raucous parties of the year, and in a city that's packed to the rafters at the best of times that's quite a claim - although a lot of residents actually head out of town to visit with family their places are taken up by the influx of tourists wanting to take in the unique Tokyo atmosphere during the festive season.
It does make it especially important to make your plans well in advance though, this isn't a place you can just turn up on the day and expect to walk into the best parties, you'll need to have a pretty well sorted agenda along with all the requisite tickets, directions and travel arrangements well before you arrive.
The Japanese name for New Year is Shogatsu, and it is one of the biggest nights of the year across the country. One popular tradition unique to the place is that of hatsumode, where people make their first visit of the year to their local shrine or temple. At midnight the temple bell is then rung 108 times for the crowds to celebrate the arrival of the new year - the city's most popular shrines are visited by well over a million people over the new year period.
Generally all of this means that new year's eve in Tokyo is more of a quiet family event than you might find in other major capital cities, but there is still some more lively nightlife if you look for it - the Shibuya and Shinjuku areas are the places to head for to find a party.
A relatively new addition to the Tokyo skyline is the Skytree, which opened in May 2012 and is now officially the tallest tower in the world. It includes a restaurant and observation tower, with the Tembo Galleria sky walk giving fantastic panoramic views across the city to all sides. It seems certain to be a popular new year destination, with the best fireworks views of the whole city available anywhere - get your Skytree tickets here.
On January 2 each year the festival of Ippan Sanga takes place to mark the New Year, which involves The Emperor of Japan making rare public appearances at the Tokyo Imperial Palace. It is one of only two occasions during the average year when the inner grounds of the palace are opened to the public and you can expect to join very large crowds to enjoy the event.
If you’re of an athletic persuasion then you might like to hang around until the 2nd January for the Hakone ekiden, an extremely tough but very popular endurance event that takes place over 2 days and 135 miles from central Tokyo out to the iconic Mount Fuji. The race involves relay teams of 10 runners and is the largest annual sporting event anywhere in Japan.
For eating out on new years eve then Tokyo has a fantastic range of restaurants, serving a lot more than just the traditional sushi. The Tripadvisor pages for the city include in excess of 37,000 restaurant listings, a quite staggering amount so I'm not going to even try and compete - check out their listings and reviews here.
Places to watch live online - with a fantastic view of the city skyline check out this:
If you're planning on visiting Tokyo over the New Year period, there are plenty of venues to choose from and an early reservation is strongly recommended. You can search, check availability and book local hotels here.
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