New Year Poems

New Year in Japan: A Fukubukuro of Poems for the New Year

Joanne G. Yoshida

New Year.

This year, 2011, is the Year of the Rabbit.

These are short poems in honor of my daughter, who was born in the year of the Rabbit, and is turning twelve!

In Japan she is considered a "Toshi-Onna", because this is her "Rabbit" year.

For all girls and women born in the year of the rabbit this year they are toshi-onna, and for the boys and men they are toshi-otoko.

This occurs for each person every twelve years, at the Zodiac sign that you were born under, at 12, 24, 36, and on up.

It is said in Japan that we all go through 5 full cycles of 12 years, and then start again at 60 years old. Whatever animal year you were born in, from the mouse to the wild boar, that is the year your 12-year cycle begins.

Meanwhile, these poems are made in fun and in celebration of the New Year's Traditions that we love in Japan, from watching the first sunrise, to eating mochi, to playing ha-go-I-ta (a game like badminton, but with no net and wood paddles with a colorful 'birdie).

I am not putting translations next to all the words, as they are meant to be read lightly, so please enjoy the sounds of the words even if you are not exactly clear of each custom! See if you can imagine what it might be by the short poem description.

Happy New Year!

New Year.
New Year.


Feathers fly at the first sound of hitting wood.

I glance up to catch

The crescent moon.

Toshi-Onna (1)

Black beans simmer for hours.

The chef is almost


Toshi-Onna (2)

From nen-ga-jo


Fuku buku


She loves

The whole


New Year.
New Year.

Toshi-Onna (3)

She writes on all her new years cards

That this year she is

a toshi-onna

Toshi-Onna (4)

Are you the rabbit

In the moon?

Toshi-Onna (5)

You've lived them all:

Dragon, snake and horse,

Sheep, monkey, rooster,

Dog, wild boar,


Ox and


One full cycle complete,


New Year.
New Year.


Can't wait

To wake up

On New Years day.


A long life

A healthy year

Eat all your noodles!


Climb up steps to the shrine

Then back to the temple

To ring the bell.

Hatsu-hi-no-de (1)

This year you slept

Through it.

Under the covers,

Luxurious futon

And somewhere in there,


Hatsu hi-no-de (2)

A jumping fish &

A sliver of moon.

The year of the rabbit.

Hatsu hi-no-de (3)


In the sun

Rise place

There was

The moon.

Deer at the Year of the Rabbit

I went with Uncle Tsuki-yoshi

To see the deer,

Who swam all the way

To this island.


You hoola-hooped

Through most

Of it.


Don't count your chickens before they hatch, I say.

You say you'll count them anyway.

And decide on your Fukubukuro

Well in advance.

O-manju for O-ba-a-chan






(this year you made o-manju for o-ba-a-chan. Everyone said, "Great!" it's delicious, and you even made the red bean paste yourself!)



Oh, mochi

Ohh mochi

You are

New Year

Joanne G. Yoshida

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