Oshogatsu | Morikami Celebrates the Year of the Sheep

Shishimai lion dance - Oshogatsu - Morikami Museum and Japanese GardensThe holidays certainly can be a blur. Luckily, the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens offers those who may have missed those New Year’s revelries a chance to collect their breathe and give it one more try to ring in 2015 with the thirty-seventh annual Oshogatsu festival. The traditional Japanese New Year’s festival normally lasts throughout the month of January, bringing family and friends together to participate in traditional ceremonies, performances and dining. The Morikami will be distilling the month-long festivities into a one-day New Year’s bash on Sunday, January 11.

   As with many Asian countries, Japan’s traditional New Year’s celebration coordinates with a lunar calendar. Twelve animals represent the Japanese zodiac, much like the Chinese, in a twelve-year cycle, stemming from when Buddha invited all the animals of this world to join him in his kingdom. As the story goes, only twelve heeded the call. To show appreciation, he named a year after each one of them, thus creating the cycle. 2015 happens to fall in the Year of the Sheep, which is said to be a harbinger of good luck, while people born under the sheep zodiac are said to be warm-hearted, clever, and are drawn to beauty and art.

  • Festivities begin Sunday, January 11, from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • For tickets and more information, call 561-495-0233 or visit morikami.org.

Fushu Daiko - Oshogatsu - Morikmai Museum and Japanese Gardens

This year’s Oshogatsu festival will feature some of Japan’s most important New Year’s rituals and activities:

  • Visitors can take part in mochitsuki, the pounding of rice to make mochi, large Japanese cakes. This traditional activity, always a crowd pleaser, requires at least two people to take turns pounding the cooked rice with a large wooden mallet, flipping the rice mound between strikes. Catch demonstrations at 1 and 3 p.m.
  • Another favorite custom is shishimai, the lion dance, accompanied by taiko drumming by Fusho Daiko. At the end of the dance, the lion “bites” the heads of a few watchers to bring luck. Performances will thunder at the Shishimai Stage at 12, 2 and 4:30 p.m.
  • The Koto Stage will be the place for a unique musical performance with world-renowned shakuhachi artist Marco Lienhard. A flute made out of bamboo, shakuhachi came to prominence in Japan in the eighth century by the Fuke sect of Zen Buddhist monks, who would play the flute with a wicker basket over their head as they begged for alms. A master of the Dokyoku style, Lienhard will bring this ancient and unique instrument to life alongside the Friends of Koto on the Koto stage for three performances – 12:30, 2 and 4 p.m.

Daruma Doll - Oshogatsu New Year festival - Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens - 36th annial

  • The museum also is hosting tea ceremony demonstrations, which encourage participants to learn and practice serenity, peace and meditation. Ceremonies will take place at Yamato-kan at 1:30 and 3:30 p.m.
  • For the green thumbs, join Morikami staff for Japanese Gardens 101 and get an inside look at one of the six historic gardens of Roji-en. Tours meet in the lobby at 12:30 and 3 p.m.
  • Interested in creating your own bonsai? At 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., join in the bonsai demonstration and watch as experts properly trim the mini trees, as well as get some expert info on caring for your own.
  • Throughout the afternoon, festivalgoers can try their hand at hanetsuki, Japanese badminton, or peer into the future with the fan favorite omikuji, Japanese fortune telling ($1), and get your prediction of good fortune for the year to come.
  • For eats and drinks, the Kirin Beer Garden and Sake Station will have all the adult beverages one can handle. The Cornell Café will offer an abridged a la carte menu for festivalgoers, while food vendors will be on hand to fill any epicurean void with Pan-Asian and American fare.

New this year, Morikami and Stacole Fine Wines will host a VIP Tasting Room; $30 per person. Sake Specialist Midori Roth will take guests through a tasting of rare, high-end sakes and Japanese craft beer, explaining the nuances and complexities of each.

The tasting menu includes:


  • Chokaisan Junmai Daiginjo
  • Takasago Ginga Divine Droplet Junmai Daiginjo
  • Tentakajin Soul of Sensei Junmai Daiginjo


  • Echigo Red Ale
  • Echigo Stout
  • Echigo Koshihikari (gluten free rice beer)

 Photography courtesy of the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens

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