On a New Year`s Day in Japan

(See page 2 for the German version)

I wake up at 9 o`clock, without a hangover or other party side effects. No wonder, as we didn`t really do anything yesterday, other than spending the evening at the house of my boyfriend`s family and eating toshikoshi soba, which promise a long life. Thus, the New Year has started in a quite unspectacular way. On the one hand I find it relaxing that you, compared to Germany, don`t feel the pressure to go out and attend the greatest party of the year on New Year`s Eve in order to end the year with something special, – but somehow doing nothing at all is not satisfying either. Next time we should definitely at least visit a temple at midnight.

At 10 we gather at the breakfast table to eat the traditional New Year`s food. With it, warm sake is served, which is not my favorite drink first thing in the morning, but I nevertheless bravely take a small sip. Of course we eat Osechi-ryori. My boyfriend`s mother spent hours in the kitchen to prepare everything, rather than ordering an already made set like it has become popular in Japan in recent years. Every food in it has its own symbolic meaning, such as „fertility“, „success“ or „happiness“. I avoid the herring roe or other fishy dishes, for which it is still too early in the morning and instead stick to the black soy beans which symbolize „health“, and the sweet potato salad with chestnuts, of which I gladly take a second helping.

My boyfriend recently said to me: „Think about how you would feel on Christmas day in Germany. In Japan, people feel the same on New Year’s Day.” Indeed, the family comes together, and everyone eats a lot and drinks together. Only the presents and the kitschy decorations are missing. I feel a little warm inside, but I cannot decide whether it is because I am able to be part of this family gathering, or whether it is just the effect of the sake. The talking, mostly done by uncle or father, refreshingly revolves around political topics, about the problems in China and Korea, the history of Europe, and sometimes also about the delicious strawberries from Nagasaki that we are eating. In the background the TV is turned on, showing the annual New Year’s relay race (ekiden) from Tokyo to Hakone. I think about my New Year`s resolutions, running a half marathon, learning more Kanji, learning how to better handle the stress in Tokyo, sleeping enough every night, trying out new and old hobbies.

After eating, I write some New Year cards that we have specially designed and printed out. Since, according to the Chinese Zodiac, 2015 is the year of the sheep, our cards also show a cute little sheep next to the Fuji. New Year cards in Japan are sent to all the people, with whom you more or less closely stayed in contact during the year. I’m a little late, as ideally the cards would arrive on New Year`s Day at the addressee`s house. My boyfriend`s parents have received about a hundred cards that came in the mail today.

In the afternoon we finally go to the temple to pray for the New Year. I really like this tradition, even though it is unusually cold in Tokyo today. Shivering, we join the queue of people waiting; everyone is talking about the few little snowflakes falling from the sky. Then it is our turn, I throw my 5-yen piece in the offering box and wish us, my family and friends a wonderful new year.
Needless to say, I also buy a paper fortune (omikuji): I receive „sho-kichi“ small luck, for this year: „If only you believe in the Divine and dedicate yourself, you will be justly rewarded.“ Well, not that bad, right?

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2 Gedanken zu “On a New Year`s Day in Japan

  1. ZENKOJI!!!

    I love Nagano, it was my first city in Japan and it is still one of my favorites (or not my absolute favorite) place in all of the country.

    Your new years in Japan sounds so wonderful! I love the photos as always.

    Gefällt mir

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