明けましておめでとうございます2013

Another New Year comes crashing around, and I’m hoping for another good one. No retrospectives, or lists or anything by the way; I tend to want to look forwards at this time of year.

As far as our New Year celebrations went, we had a quiet one at home for the midnight tick over, but then we were up just after 5am this morning to get the family ready and down to the beach to watch the sunrise with a few thousand other people. I did this last year, and though it was busy, it was fairly quiet. This year it seemed to be a complete circus, not just with the thousands come to see the sunrise on the Pacific beaches, but the roads were busy, especially with young guys in heavily modded cars. If anything, it added an extra flavour to the morning, and in the cold and with a few clouds, we watched the sun rise for the first time on 2013.

Given the shape of the bay, we could also see the sun’s rays hit Mt. Fuji for the first time, as surfers got their first waves of the New Year in. It was all quite relaxing given the hour and the temperature. Potentially the kids may not share my opinion of that.

As soon as the sun was fully up, people began bustling away, and we got some breakfast at one of the cafes which was open on the beach road, and then made our way home. I have to say, I do quite like this ‘first sunrise’ event, called ‘Hatsuhinode‘ (初日の出), and even if we left Japan, it’s something I’d probably still do.

Soon after lunch though we were out again at the local jinja (that’s a Shinto shrine, not an o-tera, which is a Buddhist temple, and they’re usually attended at midnight on New Years Eve) to pray to the local deities and made a small donation. I’ve been to a few shrine events, so I just had to help the kids get through throwing the coin, two bows, two claps and a prayer and move on. It went went well apart from my youngest, when seeing us close our eyes shouted, “Don’t go to sleep!” which got a ripple of laughter from those behind us in the queue.

There’s always a queue on January 1st., and for most of the o-shogatsu period, as people pray for good luck for the year, and pick up various objects to bring good luck for the year, such as a hamaya, which is a small wooden arrow to bring luck, given it’s origin is that of a weapon to slay demons. We picked one of these up for a small fee, as my wife had never had one when she was a child, so she was keen to get one with our kids.

We also got an ‘omikuji‘ (お神籤), which is a printed fortune selected by which piece of wood you get at random from a drum. Some people tie them on frames of string, or trees and such near the shrines. (For what it’s worth, ours was a pretty good one – dai-kichi).

After that, it was late afternoon and time for a break, so we’ve concluded New Years Day with a lamb stew I’d been cooking for a few hours, a glass of red wine, and having an evening in with the family. I should say that there is some traditional food for this period, called ‘osechi ryouri‘, but we don’t have them (my wife really doesn’t like them, and I’m not keen), and instead take the time to cook a few more winter based meals.

All in all a great start to 2013!