Sunday, January 02, 2005

New Years in Japan

Here's some info about the New Year's holiday as observed in Japan that I gathered off the web.

I'm off to my local shrine tomorrow to take part in various festivities - don't know how much I'll be partaking in the food mentioned below, but you never know.

Hope your New Year's was great.

It's only been one day into 2005 and I've already experienced a first of sorts. It snowed in Taisha tonight and a thin blanket is currently covering the ground. Having grown up in Texas and Southern California, I've never really lived in snow, although we did get the occsional bit in Dallas when I was a boy (more icce than snow). So having to get around and deal with snow is all new to me. And boy is it cold! Lord knows what my heating bill will be for December and January, but it's freezing in my apartment, so I'm willing to spend the extra to keep all my bits from falling off.

On to the info:

January 1st to 3rd are shougatsu (New Year's holidays) in Japan. These are the most important holidays in Japan. People say to each other "ake-mashite-omedetou-gozaimasu" (Happy new year) whenever they see at the first time in the new  year.

Japanese people eat special dishes called osechi ryouri during shogatsu. Osechi ryouri is packed in a Jubako box, which has several layers. The foods are colorful and artistically presented. Each dish has a particular meaning. For example, prawns for long life, kuromame (cooked sweet black beans) for health, kazunoko (herring roe) for fertility, tazukuri (teriyaki taste small sardines) for a good harvest, kurikinton (sweet chestnuts and mashed sweet potato) for happiness, and more. It's also traditional to eat mochi (rice cake) dishes on New Year's Days.

It is traditional for Japanese people to visit to a shrine or a temple during New Year's Days. People pray for safety, health and good fortune. The first visit to a temple or shrine in a year is called Hatsumoude. It is not a very religious event but rather a custom. You can go any shrine or temple near you for Hatsumoude. Many well-known temples and shrines are extremely crowded. For example, Tokyo Meiji Jinguu, Kanagawa Kawasaki Taisya, Chiba Naritasan, Nagoya Atsuta Jinguu are very popular and expect a couple million visitors during New Year's  Days each year. If you want to visit one of the famous shrines or temples, be aware of pickpockets.

Since most businesses are closed during the first three days of the year, the streets tend to be quiet except for those near shrines and temples. Nowadays, it is common for many department stores to hold New Year's special sales at this time. So, you see many shoppers in the street too.

The only thing that's affected me so far as far as business being closed is that the banks are closed and they don't refill the ATMs, so if you didn't get money before the 1st, you're out of luck until the morning of the 4th. Luckily I was warned and remembered to get some.

My local shrine (IzumoTaisha) is one of the most crowded in Shimane at this time. They expect 2 to 3 million visitors over the course of the three New Year's holidays. That's an amazing amount of people in my tiny town, so I'm gonna go check it all out tomorrow.


1 comment:

Emily Watkins said...

Beats sitting alone at home with a bag of Doritos, watching the ball drop on Leno.

Yeah, I'm definitely doing New Year's in Japan next year.