New Year in Tokyo - Wilhelm Joys Andersen
New Year in Tokyo – Wilhelm Joys Andersen

I’m currently looking for the right car to import from Japan to the US. My last bid was actually on December 23rd 2015.

This just happens to be the last day that my exporter / aucttion agent will bid on cars. It turns out that even in Japan it is quite customary to take a holiday break around Christmas and New Year’s time. So the other day before bed I couldn’t really sleep so I did what I always do before bed and whipped out the iPad to look at cars on the auction blocks in Japan. None of the cars I am looking to purchase right now were up for auction, so I started to search for other cool cars that are usually available. Amazingly, there wasn’t a Skyline, Supra, RX7, or 300ZX to be found. It seemed like the whole industry shut down around the same time as my exporter.

So I started to wonder, why on earth does everybody close down around Christmas time in Japan?

I can see it in Western Europe, Canada, South America, or other largely Christian countries, but why in Japan? After all their religion is mostly Shinto and Buddhist. There of course some Christians. There is they have lots of ex-military Americans and even some Japanese. But that wouldn’t explain why they were off not only the 23rd 24th 25th in the next weekend but for the entire next week as well. So I started looking into what all was closed in Japan besides the car auctions. It turns out that the day before Christmas Eve thru the weekend after New Years is a very common   time for many businesses to shut down in Japan.

One example of another auction in Japan that is closed during this time is the Tsukiji Market (築地市場, Tsukiji Shijō)

The Tsukiji is a large wholesale market for seafood and produce currently located in central Tokyo. There are more than ten such wholesale markets that handle the distribution of fish, other produce and flowers throughout Tokyo. The Tsukiji Market is the best known of these and moves over 2,000 tons of seafood a day. You may know this market from the Newspaper headlines every year. Blue Fin Tuna have sold at opening day of the New Year auction for miliions of dollars per fish. The famous Tuan auction at around 5:25 AM at the fish market is normally 100% free for the public to enter. The auction is limited to 120 visitors so you’ve got to get there before 4 in the morning and sit on the floor of the waiting room to get a good view of the tuna auction. But it’s amazing that such a high profile and famous place is absolutely free.

Tsukiji Market -
Tsukiji Market –

However, this year from December 1, 2015 to January 17, 2016, visitors are not allowed to watch the tuna auctions, although the rest of the market is open as usual. The reason is that the tuna auction is a place of business, and Japan is very busy this time of year with holidays and people spending more money than usual just like in the United States and Canada. So as with the Japanese car auctions, there is so much going on, it is just a convenient time not to be open to the public.

There are a few reasons many Japanese businesses, banks, and public offices close on December 23rd. It’s probably not for the same reason that most Westerners would think though. December 23rd just happens to be the current Japanese Emperor’s birthday. You can imagine that a country that has dates periods based on the emperor’s reigning year would also take the day off for his birthday. Many Japanese also celebrate the Christian holiday of Christmas as well just based on their love of American pop culture and traditions.

New Year’s Eve is a very big deal in Japan.

The second main reason that the Japanese auction houses and many other businesses and public areas are closed the week after Christmas is that the New Year’s Eve is a very big deal in Japan. All over the Far East in general New Years is a huge time for celebration of new beginnings and reflection of the previous year. During this time, some businesses close down early, while many are open late for shopping, dining out, and partying in general. This time is also considered a time for businesses to create goals and expectations for the coming year. The auction houses seem to be no exception. For me, it is the worst time for them to be shut down because I keep checking back for cars to buy, but I will just have to wait. If it just so happens that this might be the time that you’ve got a little bit of extra time to peruse for cars for sale, I guess you are it the same boat.

New Year's Visits to Temple - Yoshikazu TAKADA
New Year’s Visits to Temple – Yoshikazu TAKADA

Maybe this is great time for you to set an automotive New Year’s resolution of your own.

Mine is to make it that much easier for anyone wanting to import their dream car from Japan to the United States. Maybe yours could be to save up the cash you need so you can start looking for your own. Or maybe you have your finances lined up and just need to get started. Either way, you can get started and stay current with throughout the new year. Let me know what you decide for your New Year’s resolution, and none of that diet and exercise crap either!

Why are the Japanese car auctions closed Christmas and New Year’s?
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