Omisoka or New Year’s Eve is considered to be the second most important day in Japanese tradition. Families gather together for one last time in the old year and have a bowl of toshikoshi-soba or toshikoshi-udon. The tradition is based on eating the long noodles to cross over from one year to the next.
When midnight comes, the Japanese visit shrines or templed for Hatsumode. Shinto shrine prepares amazake (fermented Japanese rice drink) to pass out to the people and most Buddhist temples have large cast bells which get rung one for each of the 198 earthly desires that are believed to cause human suffering.