Japanese customs- End-of-year traditions
December in Japan
December is also called "shiwasu” (師走) in Japan. 師 means teacher or mentor and 走 means busy. A long time ago, many households would welcome priests (師) to perform Buddhist rituals, such as reading sutras, during this month. Therefore priests were very busy for the entirety of this month.
Preparing for the New Year in Japan
In December, one cleans the house to get rid of any dirt from the year while welcoming in the New Year, makes mochi (rice cakes) to decorate for the New Year, and eats soba noodles (年越しそば, toshikoshi soba) on New Year's Eve. The soba noodles are thought to represent long life (due to the length of the noodles), and the durability of the buckwheat plant also represents strength and resilience for the year to come.
New Year’s Eve soba
All in all, December is a busy month in Japan.