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Home » 5. Rites and Festivals » State Rites
  "New Year's Felicitations to the emperor." In ancient times these characters were read "mikado ogami." In the ancient Japan, it was a state ceremony carried out at the Daigoku Hall with the participation of the many ministry officials. From the mid-Heian period (ca. tenth century) through the end of the Tokugawa period (ca mid nineteenth century) the ceremony transformed into a "Small Imperial Audience" (Kochōbai) and occurred in the Seiryō Hall attended by only those closely serving the emperor. After the Meiji Restoration, the imperial felicitations were revived and became a national New Year's celebration. Early in the morning on the first day of the new year, the emperor makes obeisance to the four directions (shihōhai) in the garden of the Shinka Hall and performs rites known as saitansai in the palace's Three Sacred Halls (ikyūchū sanden) dedicated to the imperial ancestry and entire pantheon of kami to pray for the welfare of the nation. After the rites, he receives his first new year's felicitations from the imperial family, then proceeds to the main hall—crossing it three times—and receives felicitations from the palace officials, the provincial officials, and so forth. A similar ceremony occurs on the next day. These new year celebrations were referred to alternately as the "Dawn of the New Year" (Shōgatsu gantan), Obeisance to the Four Directions (shihōhai), and the First Day of the First Month (ichi gatsu tsuitachi). Though the name for the celebration is not designated, the holiday is officially called "New Years" (shinnen) was one of the "three great annual observances" (sandaisetsu), the other two being the Observance of Era Change (Kigen setsu), and the Observance of the Emperor's Birthday (Tenchō setsu). In practice, the imperial News year's felicitations include two elements: first, the official "New Year Felicitations Ceremonies" (shinnen shukuga no gi) conducted on January 1 in which the heads of the three branches of government, and heads from the cabinet, government bureaucracy, and provincial heads participate; and second, felicitations from the general public on the following day, called "New Year's General Felicitations" (shinnen ippan sanga).

— Takeda Hideaki
"Establishment of a National Learning Institute for the Dissemination of Research on Shinto and Japanese Culture"
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