The Japanese have a custom of sending New Year's Day postcards to their friends and relatives, similar to the Western custom of sending Christmas cards -- the sender and the Japanese post office do their best to ensure the postcard arrives on January 1st. The post office actually hires students for the day to help get all of the Jan 1st postcards delivered. Most of the postcards have the Chinese zodiac sign of the New Year as their design.
On New Year's Day, Japanese adults give money to children in small decorated envelopes called 'pochibukuro'. This tradition is known as otoshidama.
Hatsu—a list of “firsts” that the Japanese observe during the first two weeks of each new year. Some of these are:
- Hatsudayori: The first exchange of letters.
- Hatsu-dori: The year’s first rooster crow.
- Hatsuhinode: The year’s first sunrise. Some people gather in places known for having beautiful sunrises and celebrate the arrival of the New Year with the rising of the sun and pray for good health during the coming year.
- Hatsugama: The first tea ceremony of the new year.
- Hatsu-mode: The year’s first shrine or temple visit. People pray for a variety of things during this visit, like good health throughout the year or safety for their family.
- Hatsuyume: The year’s first dream. The dream, seen the night of January 1st, foretells the luck of the dreamer in the coming year. It is considered to be particularly good luck to dream of Mount Fuji, a hawk, and an eggplant. The most popular theory suggests that this good luck combination arose because Mount Fuji, falconry, and early eggplants were favorites of the shōgun Tokugawa Ieyasu
- Kakizome: The year’s “first writing.” On January 2nd each member of a family takes a turn inscribing a favorite poem or proverb with a brush and ink on a long strip of paper.