Sunday, January 1, 2012

Omisoka

New Year’s Eve in Japan is the second most important day because it is the last of the old year and the eve of the New Year, which is the most important holiday for the Japanese. The two years are seen as separate, with the New Year being a fresh start.  All cleaning and tasks are to be finished on New Year’s Eve in order to start the new year with a fresh mind.

As you probably know, I like a clean house. Ted also likes a clean house, but doesn’t want to be the one who cleans it. We had a beautiful day, so Ted took his camera and snow shoes outside so I could get the house ready for the end of the year.  I’m quite pleased to say that with my recent acquisition of Pine-Sol, the house is New Year’s clean.

The Haruki closed at 5 pm and will remain closed for the New Year holiday.  Ted said it was crowded with everyone making their last minute food purchases.  I guess it is like the day before Thanksgiving in the US. For dinner, Ted made a delicious shrimp and rice meal, with these giant shrimp from the Haruki. 

The traditional Omisoka meal is udon or soba noodles at 11 pm, with the long noodles representing crossing over from one year to the next. Another Japanese tradition is to visit a shrine and toss a five yen coin for good luck. At midnight, when the year turns, large bells are rung 108 times to represent the 108 human sins. We knew of a shrine on the way to the train station and decided to be there at midnight for this tradition.  We didn’t want to wait 366 days until the next New Year's Eve (2012 is leap year) and besides no one is guaranteed another year. We want to make the most of the time we have. 

 We left the apartment at 11:15 pm.  It was 27 degrees F and clear, perfect for walking. Near our apartment things were eerily quiet, but as we got close to the shrine, there were cars out and people lined up at the bell.  We watched for a few minutes, then climbed the steps to the bell with the others. 


We each took our turn to gong the bell, then put incense on the coals and left our coin. 



 We received these little candies and nuts in return.


We climbed down the steps and stood and watched a little longer, smelling the incense and listening to the gongs. Being at the shrine just as the new year came in was kind of mesmerizing. I’m so glad we went.

Happy New Year!  I think this is going to be the best one yet.




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