Monday, December 31, 2007

What I did on my New Years Eve

In a departure from tradition, I'm going to write an actual journal like post. New Years looks identical to Christmass in Australia, except you start later in the day. Whereas Christmass is all about lunch and the excitement of the morning on the day, New Years in Japan predictably works around 12 midnight.
So at 4.30 we got in the car and headed on over to a friends place to eat a lot of food, there was rice cakes, prawn fry, a seafood version of shabu shabu, beef to eat with soy sauce, crab salad, and boxes of what only got described to me as 'new years special' then we sat around watching crappy Lord of The Rings: Return of the King, in this regard it was exactly like some of my past christmasses. Man does that film never end, how did it win an oscar, let alone a million.
After that we left the place at 9.30ish or so, and then I was told to meet the family again at 11.30. This suits me fine, I can't take company for a solid stretch of 8 hours. After reading more Huckleberry finn, I got up at the appointed hour, or half hour and stepped outside to test the winter air against my superior metabolism. It was pretty chilly, but the new years atmosphere is very different. I heard solemn drums and bells gonging out into the ether, and little lights flickered everywhere.
After that we bundled into the car and headed to Shinsuke's sisters house.
I ate some soba noodles called toshi-koshi soba, which are how you are meant to start the new year. Then I realised without fanfare it had already gotten to 12.15 last year this would have been around the time that the fireworks would wrap up and you start trying to shove people out of the way on flinders st bridge.
But this is roughly when new years started here in Handa city, we first went to a buddhist temple, and I literally took a number (30) and got in line to ring a big bell, I had taken photos of these bells before but getting to ring a big bell by swinging a log at it is 5 seconds of fun.
Then after that, we traipsed along for about 800m to a temple, which had a big bonfire in it and lined up with about 10,000 locals to creap up the steps and then pray like you would on any other day at a shinto shrine. Except the shrine maidens and dudes were in full regalia, dancing, playing pipes and beating drums and there were things to eat. There was no time to eat though as we had two more temples to go to. The first one was for family, the second one for the sun, the third one for the sea. But because of the freezing temperatures my host family gave up on the third one. I drank some corn soup at the sun temple.
After that we popped into Shinsuke's mothers house for a quick hello and I got to bed at about 4 am. I drank moderately, but I saw it was quite safe for unnattended children to go tripping about the temple. A murderer could do good business new years eve in Japan.
Happy new years.

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