Even if preparing other Japanese New Year's dishes seems beyond your ability, you can't go wrong with toshikoshi ("year-crossing") soba, the noodles eaten just before midnight on o-misoka, New Year's Eve.

The traditional list of New Year firsts in Japan is long. From hatsumode — the first shrine or temple visit of the New Year — to hatsubasho — the first sumo tournament of the year — anything and everything imaginable is fitted with a hatsu prefix and celebrated as the premier happening of the new calendar. With so many firsts surrounding the New Year, it is notable that there is really only one "last" — the eating of the toshikoshi soba.

On the last day of the outgoing year, homes all over Japan are abuzz with the sounds of housewives shaking out the rugs, children running the vacuum and husbands sweeping out the garden in preparation for the three day o-shogatsu New Year's holiday. Seasonal housecleaning (susuharai) is repeated in shops and restaurants, where employees perform the final inventory and cleaning of the year (tanaoroshi).