The New Year is celebrated a few different ways here depending on your religion. I welcomed 2006 Buddhist style. I actually live just 2 blocks away from the biggest temple in this area. So 30 minutes before the hour I just walked up in there like I was a regular hoping to blend in.
This is what happened in a nutshell. First, you are offered some sweet sake (rice wine) at the door. Second, you line up for your turn at the alter. Then once you get to the alter you bow, throw your money in the huge money box, say a prayer, take a pinch of "magic dust" and throw it into the bowl of burning incense. This I had to learn on the spot through observation as there wasn't anyone who could explain to me in English.
Of course there were chanting and gongs and a little sermon. I didn't know what they were saying but it was special nonetheless.
The celebration here was more solemn and reverent... at least at this temple. There was no countdown, no shouting and no hugging and kissing at the strike of midnight. It just quietly slipped into the new year.
Afterwards you could hear the bells ringing from all over the city for over an hour and a half. 180 bells I've been told. Cheers to the New Year.