NEW YEAR IN JAPAN
The main festive celebration in Japan is definitely welcoming the new year. Its cultural, reflective, involves feasting, shopping, and prayer.
I'm sure that the party style celebrations do occur in parts of Japan, but the focus in this household and on TV was the cultural aspect with traditional influences on stages throughout the night.
In my family's household it all starts with my Japanese-mum, spending dawn to dusk in the kitchen cooking copious amounts of traditional foods. She later explained that she rests for 3 days after as there are enough left overs, with most households following this practice.
Dinner time comes and the annual feast is Sukiyaki with top grade Wagyu beef. The TV also comes on with a variety special airing for the whole night, reflecting on moments to remember.
As the moment draws closer sober noodles are prepared in a simple broth, eating these at midnight is meant to encourage long life, hence the slurping of long buckwheat noodles.
The TV is changed to NHK just before midnight and visions of a shrine are on screen. No fireworks, drunk presenters or trashy outfits, just a simple switch to 0:00 of the time at the top left of the screen and a monk giving a huge bell a simple 'Gong'....... it is now 2016.
In contrast to the live stream of Sydney's 'look at me' fireworks on youtube earlier in the night, there are definitely two views on how to ring in the new year. I'm not saying it is better but simply different. To actually stop and reflect on 2015 instead of counting down at the top of your lungs, reaching midnight and forgetting why you were so excited. The Japanese process is clean, sterile and focused.
As part of the new year a early rise is required to catch the first sunrise over Mt Fuji on TV. I missed it due to over sleeping...
Now to everyones favourite part, the New Year sales. Japan's version of a boxing day sale on steroids. Everything is on sale, and the unique aspect every shop has what is called a 'Lucky Bag'. For a true experience of mayhem I've been told Ginza is the place to be, but the local Aeon mall was enough for me.
Now these lucky bags are pretty much a show-bag of items from that store at a set price. I assumed they would be old stock items that they can't sell but I was wrong they are all top quality. The ride home on the pushbike was wonky due to the load I was carrying of sale items in the basket.
After shopping the feast occurs. It is similar to an Australian christmas lunch with all family members coming over to a buffet of delicious food. Before eating a welcome to the new year was given by Japanese-dad, and a small envelope with an undisclosed amount of money is handed to each child. The feast was delicious and contained traditional new year foods of Japan.
Finally a moment of prayer for the new year and what lay ahead, We walked to the local shrine to throw a few yen into the collection box and make a simple request for luck. This particular shrine had a bell similar to the one rung to welcome the new year. I gave it a good gong. Some incense was also lit and a personal yearly fortune written on paper fished out of a box. As luck would have it I got the BEST fortune there is for the year. I tied it onto the string to catch the wind and hope the year pans out like the prediction.