Monday, January 2, 2012

Hello 2012

Amongst the usual reasons for enjoying holidays, I have a rather odd reason for loving New Years in Japan: it is the only time of year where the whole country is suddenly inundated with traditional music. Since I play and adore hogaku, it is a wonderful feeling to be surrounded by it.

Besides the shopping areas, where the fight for the best fukubukuro rages on, the rest of the city is quiet, the trains empty. And in the distance you can hear the drums and flute of a matsuri bayashi ensemble, a cheerful sound with strong Chinese rhythms and tones.

While slowly boiling out all the extra calories at the local sento (I hope), Miyagi's famous piece for koto and flute, Haru no Umi, trickles like silver through the steamy air, followed by a series of other beautiful koto arrangements.

New Years was a nice, low-key house party followed by hatsumode at our local shrine, hidden on the opposite hill. I tried my hand at making some osechi (on the left), which actually came out quite well! Wave-chan's mother also made me vegetarian osechi (the much more impressive set on the right).

 The atmosphere at the shrine was convivial, aided by the free cups of moonshiney sake, everyone squealing in delight or dismay at the fortunes in their omikuji (apparently in my case failure will come from an unexpected quarter, my chances of snagging a husband are very high, and if any health issues arise I should consult with the kami... good to know?).

Every year that I have been in Japan I have bought one fukubukuro of accessories (since the likelihood of clothes fitting properly is so very, very remote), and this year was no exception. After that expedition, I got out at Gakugeidaigaku on a whim, to walk the quiet streets and preview interesting places... of course, I will have to go back when they are open!


  1. Happy New Year..!! :D That osechi looks delicious! Hopefully you'll get all the good parts of your fortune with out all that bad ;)

  2. wow you did a great job on your osechi!!ive only had one new years in japan and i liked it a lot more than the parties ive been to in canada. all the foods and traditions are so fun :) happy new year!!

  3. Happy New Year!
    What did you get in your fukubukuro? I'm too afraid of spending money on those... since I'm not an accessories type of girl, and as you said clothing is wayyy too risky for us tall people, I wouldn't even know where to go. :\

  4. Hi girls!
    Alyse- Thank you! I got a kichi fortune, so most was good ;p

    Sarah Marie- the ones I made are actually pretty easy, you should give it a try :)

  5. Hi Indi,
    Fukubukuro come in all sorts!
    I actually saw that Kaldi had some food ones, and a lot of cosmetic brands do them as well. Lush has one with a bunch of different soaps.
    My fav are those from interior stores, where you can get blankets, warm socks etc...

  6. Mmm, the osechi looks delicious! I think you did great! :D

    Posts like these make me so sad that I'm years away from participating in these traditions! :P

  7. Hi Alyse, that is not necessarily the case... food can be made anywhere, as long as you have the ingredients ;p

  8. Happy New Year!!

    I think your osechi looks fabulous. Granny K makes a small selection every year and I think we still have some of the beans in the fridge. I'm not a fan of the very traditional stuff and spent hours on line looking for half Japanese half western box sets of osechi to get delivered. Too many to choose from. I should probably just try my hand at some...

  9. Hi GW!
    I love the black beans, yum! It seems that recently 1/3 Japanese, 1/3 Chinese and 1/3 Western osechi boxes are all the rage. Yay globalization?