Friday, January 03, 2014

A Very Japanese New Year

So this is my first New Year in Japan. It's kind of a big deal here, well, Christmas is a time to eat sponge cakes with cream, see Santa-san and go to KFC for dinner. No, that is not a joke! So New Year is more special, involving spending time with family and visiting temple. Which is what I did.

Lining up at the temple.
People decorate the front of their house with pine tree-branches, sometimes combined with bamboo. Actually this simple piece of decoration can be seen many places around town and Japan. We made the trip down to Yokohama on the 30th and have another day here before heading back to Ichinoseki, where it is much colder than here. We left snow, no sign of it here. Day time maximums around the 12 degrees (positive) so that's a mercy, I can tell you!

I went with my wife yesterday to Iseyama Kotai Jingu (temple) where there was a long queue but nothing compared to many other temples. People line up to make a prayer. When you finally reach the temple, bow five times, throw some money into a wooden receptacle, and clap twice. This temple is famous for a rock (without a name) too, which apparently gives off good energy. Stalls went down the street selling mostly fried delights for those who dared to test their stomach.
Food stalls.

Looking down on some Osechi.
We also enjoyed a traditional New Year's food. Osechi it's called, but sadly I failed the cultural food-based test badly. Although the chicken was ok! I found most of what I was offered very difficult to eat. The hardest was Kamaboko, hard to describe but my wife likened it to ham, but to me it tasted very seafoody. In fact I was just told it's made of fish paste! It looks like some sort of sweet, but it doesn't taste like that at all!

We did get to see a wonderful sunset over Mount Fuji on New Year's Eve, but it's not so much the party-celebration western countries experience, rather it's for the family. And otherwise it was pretty quiet. How was your New Year's?

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