New Year’s Day in Japan is called shogatsu and is normally a quiet holiday dedicated to family time – but that doesn’t mean the city shuts down completely on December 31. Spend the last night of the decade like a Tokyoite by sipping creamy amazake at a temple or counting down the last seconds of 2019 at Shibuya Crossing (or at one of the many NYE parties in town). And good news: most trains will run all night – albeit at a reduced frequency – so you don’t have to miss the countdown for the last train.
There’s certainly plenty to look forward to in 2020: not only is it the start of a new decade, it's also the year Tokyo hosts the Olympics and Paralympics.
RECOMMENDED: New Year's Eve train schedules across Tokyo
Say hello to 2020
Shibuya Crossing may be most infamous during Halloween but it’s a whole other street party for the last evening of the year. Bundle up in your warmest coat, grab a warm cup of amazake and count down to the New Year in the middle of the scramble right outside Shibuya Station. Do keep in mind that Halloween’s crackdown on public drinking has extended to the New Year, so be sure to imbibe indoors – who wants to be drinking outside when it’s freezing anyway?
Hatsumode is the tradition of visiting a Shinto shrine (a Buddhist temple is okay, too) during the first few days of the new year. Some shrines and temples start the celebration early and set up festival tents, similar to a summer matsuri (festival), and sell winter fare like oden and amazake. The largest festivals are held at Meiji Shrine in Harajuku and Sensoji Temple in Asakusa while Zojoji Temple offers a majestic view of a glowing Tokyo Tower. Don’t forget an omikuji – it’ll tell your fortune for the new year.
There’s nothing like counting down to the New Year on a steamy dance floor. Clubs like Shibuya WWW, Womb and Ageha throw extravagant countdown parties with headlining local and international DJs until the early morning of January 1. Club events are just as packed as any other holiday, so it’s best to purchase your tickets in advance. For an aquatic twist, Hakkeijima Sea Paradise throws an all-night bender finishing with the first sunrise.
Hatsumode is sometimes synchronized with joya no kane, when a large bell at a Buddhist temple is rung 108 times, each ring for one of the Buddhist worldly desires, kind of like a sin, to begin the new year afresh. Normally the bell is rung by a Buddhist monk but temples like Tsukiji Honganji and Shinjuku's Tenryuji allow the public to ring away. Get there early because the tickets are handed out via a lottery system or first-come-first-serve basis.
Did you stay up the whole night partying? Great news: you can also see the first sunrise of the new year, called hatsuhinode. The sunrise is expected around 6.50am and the early hour doesn’t prevent hordes of people taking up the best spots.
Hatsuhinode can be done anywhere and popular destinations like Tokyo Skytree (only 50 day-of tickets are available at the door; the rest were doled out via a complicated lottery system) and Tokyo Tower get packed, so avoid the crowds by getting out of the city.
Beaches are always a free option while nature lovers can hike Mt Takao and potentially see a clear view of snow-capped Mt Fuji in the dry winter air.
What to do after the New Year parties
Here are the best traditional and cultural events taking place in Tokyo over the New Year holidays 2020
Many restaurants in the city are closed for the New Year holidays, except these. Take your pick from sushi and ramen to Spanish and Asian cuisines
Enjoy the city at its most sparkly – when Tokyo switches on its festive lights and illuminations come autumn and winter
Lace up your skates and glide around the capital's frosty selection of indoor and outdoor ice rinks
Plan your January in Tokyo with our events calendar of the best things to do, including concerts, winter festivals and art exhibits