On New Year's Eve, we went to my Japanese teacher's house, where we ate tons of yummy food and watched the New Year's music shows on TV. Midnight came, we said "Happy New Year!" to each other, but that was as much partying as we saw that night. We woke up the next morning to meet a friend who had invited us to to the Hatsumoude (the first shrine visit of the new year) with him and his friends.
The Hokkaido Shrine (the largest in Sapporo) was packed with people! We eventually made our way to the entrance, where we threw a coin at the entrance of the shrine to wish for good luck. Next, we each bought an omikuji, a small paper fortune, and tied it to special areas in the shrine for them to come true.
|My omikuji. Apparently I have little fortune, I'm going to have success in business this year, and I'm going to find something that I've lost.|
|Ethan tying his omikuji with the others.|
|Can you tell which emi is ours?|
Food eaten during the new year is called Osechi. We ate lots of sashimi, crab, and other seafood and vegetables. We spent several hours just talking and eating. Her family was delightful, and we all managed to have a great time despite my struggling Japanese ability.
Ethan found a friend in the family who played guitar, and they spent most of the afternoon playing various songs. He even learned some Jimi Hendrix songs.
Later that evening, we were off to meet another family who we'd become friends with and to partake in more eating and drinking. They had two small boys who found us particularly interesting, until the food came out, then they tore into the chicken and departed to play games. The grandfather of the house was particularly interesting, and when we started bringing out 800 year old tea cups and old gun replicas, I knew that this was a man that I wanted to get to know. He took a special interest in Ethan, since Ethan told him he was interested in Japanese history. That's when all the pictures came out: WWII pics of Japanese zeros, pictures he'd taken in Kyoto, each with a story he loved telling (he'd been taking English classes and was eager to practice his English with us. By the end of the night, he'd given us a Japanese lithograph that was over 100 years old. I would've taken pictures of all this, but I'd had so much to eat and drink by then that taking pictures was the last thing on my mind.
One thing we've missed by living in Japan during the holidays is that connection of family you always feel this time of year. So it was so nice for these families to take into their lives for this brief moment and really make us feel like we were a part of their family. And I think that's what traditions are all about - not only a way to connect with your family, but a way to connect with other people. I think all three of us can agree that yesterday was one of the best days we've spent in Japan thus far. Here's to many more of those days to come in 2012!