14 Emojis You Didn’t Know Relate to Japanese New Year

Do you see that New Year’s spread? It is referred to as osechi ryori, or New Year’s Day cuisine. Every year families including my own, spend countless hours over the span of many days, to make this important meal–all because it sets the precedent for the entire year! That’s right, one meal can determine your future.

Staying awake until midnight to watch the ball drop has always been less of a tradition in my family’s household than making sure to start the New Year the right way. This meant family gatherings to pounding rice into mochi, eating symbolic foods, and wearing a new clothing item for the New Year! As I grew up, this became an important part of my winter break because it not only meant spending time with family, but also because it was the one time of year that I’d see many of these special foods prepared. 

This year, I wasn’t able to attend the family festivities, so I was thinking about how I could share some of these traditions with my students. What better way than with EMOJIS. Because the first emojis were created for Japanese users, there are quite a few of these fun little graphics that are more iconic in Japanese culture than others. Many of them are only familiar to me because I have seen the real life versions of these foods, structures, or decorations. I’m excited that I’ll be able to share 14 EMOJIS that can be connected to the Japanese New Year traditions with my students, so they will know more about the emojis they might simply scroll past!

One activity I plan to have my students complete is an OSHOGATSU (New Year) GROUP CHALLENGE. For the first task of the challenge, students will split up the amount of emojis they have to go around the room to learn about. Once they’ve taken notes, shared out, and reflected as a team, they’ll blindly select from one of three options for their next task. All of the options are an Emoji Match, with varying levels of difficulty that will ask them to apply what they’ve learned. The hardest part of the challenge, is that it all must be completed within thirty minutes (our Advisory block).  Sometimes when we’re bound by time, we’re more focused and productive. Plus, it wouldn’t be a challenge if it was easy, right?!

Another activity I plan to have my students try out is a nengajo. This is a Japanese New Year’s card that expresses gratitude towards a family member, friend, coworker, etc. I’m going to have each of my students draw one name, notice this individual’s actions for 2 days, and then write a New Year’s card for them. The card will thank them for a specific action or behavior they used in the classroom that contributes to a better community of learners. (See how we’ll also be going over norms without actually going over classroom expectations?) Students will have an opportunity to draw their New Year’s cards on the days in between selecting a name and writing a personal note.

You can grab the COMPLETE resource titled
“Japanese New Year Traditions in Emojis” in my TpT. It is full of reading passages in multiple formats, SEVEN different comprehension or writing activities, banners, fun extension activities, and MORE! This is a great activity for your students to complete upon returning from Winter Break or even if you are in a unit learning more about Japan! If you’re interested in trying out the New Year’s card activity, you can download the NENGAJO FREEBIE by clicking the button below! Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu! Happy New Year!

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