Sendai Hatsu-uri: A Shopper’s Paradise

Who wouldn’t love getting a great buy on sale? In the United States, Thanksgiving is a much anticipated holiday, and not just because of its actual meaning and cultural relevance in American society. It also marks the day-after nationwide sale at most stores across the country. Hordes of people flock to their favorite stores, some lining up the day before the sale to get that much coveted item at a discounted price.

In Japan, the New Year is considered the most anticipated and important holiday. The long celebration runs from December 31 to January 3. During this period, all sorts of ceremonies and customs are practiced.


The crowd during Sendai Hatsu-uri.

Something similar to the Black Friday sale is “Sendai Hatsu-uri.” From the first burst of sunlight on the 2nd of January, early bird shoppers flock downtown ready to shop until they drop. In Japan, the 2nd of January is supposed to be a lucky day for doing things for the first time in the new year and is called “kotohajime.” Other examples of activities done for the first time in the new year include “hikizome” (first playing of an instrument), “kakizome” (first time to write calligraphy in the new year), “hatsuni” (first shippimg of stores), and “sendai hatsu-uri” (first shopping, first sale).

Screengrab of YouTube video of Sendai Hatsu-uri. | とうほく復興カレンダー

Sendai Hatsu-uri can be traced back to a book entitled “Sendai Nenchu-gyoji.” It was published during the the Bunka and Bunsei eras (1804–1824). Sendai Hatsu-uri has been a tradition for over 200 years and today is a popular event that attracts both local and foreign attention. The big sale event also includes traditional Japanese drum performances, lion dances, free drinks, and more. The lively atmosphere is catchy and has the vibe of a full blown festival. Shoppers try to zoom in on lucky bags that contain items more expensive than their actual tag price. Sendai Hatsu-uri  is a unique Japanese traditional event with both sellers and shoppers praying for a blessed New Year for one and all!