From the 1st to the 3rd of January, we celebrate the New Year in Japan, which  derives from a Shinto ritual.  We make a preparation in December.  The following is a description about some of the tradition.
Excerpts from this website with a liberal English translation.



A2:「門松」は年神様が降りてくるときの“目印” です。

門松 (Kadomatsu)

“Kadomatsu” is a mark that 年神様 (“Toshigami”, a deity of the year) visits us.

Image: Wikipedia

煤払いをして家の中をキレイにしたら、 「年神様」を迎えるために門松を立てます。
門松は「年神様」が降りてくる際の目標であり、 それぞれの家に入る前にいったんとどまる、 依代(よりしろ)”の意味もあります。

After cleaning up more than usual to purify our house, we place “Kadomatsu” at the entrance to welcome “Toshigiami”.
“Kadomatsu” is the mark that “Toshigami” descends at and it also has a meaning of an object that a deity is drawn or summoned to.




We should avoid placing the Kadomatsu at the entrance on certain dates.

  • The 29th of December: The number nine is a homonym of  the Japanese term “suffering”.
  • The 31st of December: We prepare a funeral with the ornaments such as flowers, etc, one night before the ceremony.

“Kadomatsu” should be placed sometime up until the 28th or on the 30th of December.



Meanings of the plants in the Kadomatsu

  • Pine: Pines are evergreens and are considered to be a tree that deities live.
  • Bamboo: Bamboos grow to our height in a few days, symbolizing vitality.
  • Plum: Plums bloom before the other flowers, meaning the beginning of the year.


しめ飾りは、しめ縄にうらじろ、だいだい、ゆずり葉などをあしらって作ります。 しめ縄が年神様の居場所を区切る結界とされ、魔除けも兼ねています。 最近の住宅事情をうけ、門松は飾らずにしめ飾りだけを飾る家もよく見られます。 しめ飾りを飾る場所は、地方や家でさまざまですが、 一般的には年神様を迎える門や玄関に飾ります。


“Shime-kazari” is made of a “Shime-nawa”, some Urajiro (Gleichenia japonica), a Daidai (a bitter orange) and some Yuzuriha (Daphniphyllum macropodum).  Shime-nawa is considered to be a barrier distinguishing the space of a deity, and also to ward off evil spirits.  In modern housing, many families put out only Shime-kazari, not Kadomatsu.  Shime-kazari is generally put at a gate or an entrance.



しめ縄: 稲わらで豊作祈願。しめ縄にして神との結界を表します。
うらじろ: 裏白科のシダは「裏が白=後ろぐらいところがない」という意味とされています。
だいだい: “代々栄える”にかけています。
ゆずり葉: 新しい葉が出てから古い葉が落ちるので、 家が「ゆずられ」続いていくことを意味しています。

Meaning of the ornaments of Shime-kazari

  • Sime-nawa(literally “enclosing rope”): It is made of rice straws praying for a good harvest.  It shows a barrier from a deity.
  • Urajiro: Urajiro literally reads “white at the back side”, meaning purity.
  • Daidai: Homonym of Daidai is “generation after generation”, meaning “prosperous for generations”.
  • Yuzuriha: This plant grows new leaves before old ones fall, symbolizing that the family continues by succession (Yuzuru in Japanese).



Image: Wikipedia
A shime-nawa in Izumo Taisha shrine

“Shime” of “Shime-kazari” indicates the space that deities occupied.  The verb “to occupy” in Japanese reads “Shime-ru”. “Shime-nawa” derives from a Japanese mythology “Ama-no-Iwado”.  Below is an extract from Wikipedia.

Ama-no-Iwato (天岩戸) literally means “The cave of the sun god” or “heavenly rock cave”. In Japanese mythology, Susanoo, the Japanese god of the seas, was the one who drove Amaterasu into Ame-no-Iwato. This caused the sun to hide for a long period of time.In order to get Amaterasu out of the cave the other gods threw a party outside. When she heard the noise she got curious and peeked but got blinded by the mirror Yata no Kagami and so she thought they were celebrating the arrival of an even greater and brighter goddess than herself. Though in reality it was her own mirror image. Then Tajikarao forced the cave to open up the rest and the world was bathed in light once again. As Amaterasu stepped out of the cave a holy seal was applied to it so that she couldn’t go back into hiding.

This holy seal is the origin of “Shime-nawa”.