Tuesday, January 30, 2007
so where to start??
wow, so there's a lot to share since the new year...
So I guess I'll start with my new year's celebration- it's a little late though, so not sure who cares (or who's still reading!)....
It's a really mellow, traditional holiday, compared to the craziness in New York and everywhere else I've ever celebrated it. Jun, Paul, and I feasted at our favorite izakaya and around midnight, headed off to the enormous shrine in Amanohashidate.
There were hundreds of people there already, waiting in line to pay their respects, ring the giant bell, and make wishes for the coming year. First we rinsed our hands, scooping the freezing cold water with the ladles and pouring it over our hands, then sipping from it. Families, obachans, children, and teenagers all mingled about and patiently inched their way up to the steps of the shrine. We joined them and when we finally got to the front, we tossed a few coins into the slatted offering box, rang the bell, clapped two times, and bowed. I have no idea at what point the new year started, but of course, there was no kissing or Auld Lang Syne or champagne, but the experience was still pretty magical. It was shattered by the commercialism of the brightly lit stands selling little charms and colorful trinkets to bring people luck for the coming year. Just to be on the safe side, I bought a small red owl bell to hang on my key chain.
Next came the wishes. Jun directed us to a box where we bought paper fortunes that predicted our upcoming year's luck, ranging from health to career to love, etc. People were folding their fortunes up into long strips and tying them to tree branches or to the cords strung across the courtyard.
That was it. I think we were home by 1.30am! No mochi or special new year's meals since I had no real Japanese family to hang out with. It was awesome that Jun chose to spend her New Year's showing me and Paul around. We ended up biking back over to Amanohashidate the next couple days since the weather was so nice! The place was mobbed though- this is one of the times when people from all over Japan travel back to their hometowns and families. Most of the country is also shut down during those first few days of the holidays, so there was nowhere else for people to go except to go sightseeing and go to the temples and shrines in the area. We even got Bryn to come over and have french toast with us!