2. Tokyo, Japan
Oshogatsu (Japanese New Year) is the most important holiday on the Japanese calendar, making it a lively yet crowded time to visit. Rather than Christmas cards, Japanese people send New Years cards to friends and family, and often return to their home towns for the celebration. Houses are cleaned to signify a philosophical rebirth and a fresh start come January 1. The tradition of Hatsumode has the locals visiting temples or shrines where the bell rings 108 times at midnight, literally ringing in the New Year. Millions of people visit Tokyo’s Meiji, Asakusa and Yasukuni Shrines, among others, to pray for good fortune and to buy Omamori lucky charms. Tokyo nightlife ramps up for the occasion, with amazing parties, bedazzling lights and firework displays in Shinjuku, Shibuya, Roppongi, Ikebukuro and all around the vibrant city. On January 2, the Emperor and Empress of Japan give a New Years greeting from the Imperial Palace, one of only two days a year where visitors are allowed on the Palace grounds.