New Year's in Japan

Here are a few images from our New Year's. It's a very different kind of celebration than what I'm used to in New Zealand. Firstly, it's entirely family-oriented. Very quiet. It's more like Christmas in that respect. It's heavily centred around food and all of the food has a special meaning. We eat things to encourage a long life, for prosperity, to ward off evil. That kind of stuff. It's the one time in the year most Japanese people visit a shrine to pray. I find people in Japan to be religious in a more "it's just part of our lives" way, part of the culture rather than something they consciously practice, on the whole. That's just my observation. 

So in our family we do this: 

As soon as Christmas is over we take down the decorations and start preparing for the New Year.

Food is ordered, cooked and stowed away. We're supposed to do a huge spring-clean. We are slack about this since our house is relatively new and we are lazy. We get flowers to decorate with. 

On New Year's Eve we eat special noodles to farewell the old and welcome the new year. On New Year's morning we open the boxes pf prepared food and feast until we cannot walk. We drink sake for breakfast! The items in the boxes are strictly for New Year's only and are universally loathed by kids I think.

Hundreds of New Year's postcards arrive in the mailbox, from everyone you have ever known in your life. These depict either Mt Fuji or the current animal zodiac - this year is Year of the Sheep. The kids receive envelopes of money from their uncles and aunties and grandparents. The amount is determined by age and can be up to a hundred dollars in our family, for the older kids. 

At some point we usually stroll to the shrine. We don't drive as it's not far, we've been drinking, we need to walk off breakfast and there's not much parking at our local shrine. This year was cold, so cold. We decided to visit another shrine, driving there later in the afternoon. That's pictured although you cannot see the snow!

We spent the evening with my in-laws and ate sushi, pizza and KFC. The pizza and KFC may well be for my benefit but I DO like sushi too. They buy coke for me. Everyone else drinks beer. I am the designated driver.

We're on holiday until January 3rd officially. In the old days shops and banks were closed too but these days the big malls open on January 1st. I think that is cruel and unusual punishment for the people who work there. But as I said in the previous post I DO go shopping on Jan. 2nd.

So that's a really brief run-down of New Year's at the Miyabayashi Family's home.