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Ringing in the New Year in Japan

Unique celebrations mark the year's most important national holiday

A three-day national holiday, the most important of the year, Japanese honor the event with quiet family reunions and visits to the nearest shrine to say prayers for the coming 12 months.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- New Year celebrations in Japan are quite different from typical western observances of the holiday, which are marked by alcohol-fueled countdown parties and noisy merrymaking, typified, perhaps, by the annual Times Square gathering seen on global television.

The first three days of the year are national holidays and have been since 1873, five years after the Meiji Restoration, when Japan adopted the Gregorian calendar. Japanese honor the event with quiet family reunions with special New Year's dishes served, visits to the nearest shrine, to say prayers for the coming year, and shopping expeditions to department stores for new year sales bargains.

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