Some people start gathering around December 31st to stay up all night and eat soba noodles for dinner to wish for a life as long as the noodles; but eating it past midnight is avoided. New Year day should be a stress free day so cleaning on this day is a no-no. Some other traditions for New Years in Japan are:
Eating mochi and a osechi ryoeri which is a traditional foods eaten for the New Year celebrations.
Ringing the temple bells 108 times at midnight as the old year is gone and the new year is in.
Visiting a temple or shrine. Especially during sunrise on New Years day which is believed to have special supernatural powers. One of the popular temple’s are Tokyo’s Meiji Shrine.
Entrances to homes are decorated with pine and bamboo kadomatsu. These represent the suppression of desire to obtain virtue and strength to overcome adversity. Some are even decorated with plum trees.
There are also New Year postcards sent out the end of December to the beginning of January.
On New Year’s Day Japanese people also have a custom to give money to children and that’s called otoshidama.
There are also year forgetting parties to leave behind all the worries of the year.
Also don’t forget to watch the Kōhaku Uta Gassen or listen to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony on New Year’s Eve.