A Very Japanese New Year…

あけましておめでとうございます! Happy New Year!

I had the pleasure of spending my New Year’s Eve doing very typical Japanese things, with my mum, my friends and their family, in Anjo.  New Year (Oshogatsu) is a big deal in Japan, probably the biggest festival, so it was totally awesome to do it properly!

First, a feast was cooked up, and we all ate together…


Here are some New Year decorations in the house:


Kamidana (god shelf) with New Year offering.


Tokonama with kagami mochi.

After dinner, we settled down with full stomachs and watched the famous New Year’s music TV show – Kohaku.  Appearing on Kohaku is a really big deal, and this year everyone was talking about one thing: Susan Boyle! She had flown over to Tokyo, and was appearing on Kohaku!

Susan Boyle on Kohaku

There was also a Michael Jackson tribute, danced by SMAP.

Michael Jackson tribute on Kohaku

During the TV show, and while we were waiting for midnight, we chatted, made a jigsaw, and even juggled!  It was really nice, family time.

Juggling time!

Just before midnight, we all go wrapped up warm and set off to a local shrine, for hatsumode.  We went to two shrines and a temple, but I only got the name of the first shrine: Shinmeisha.

There’s something very very cool about going to a little local shrine in the middle of the night…

Visiting Shinmeisha Shrine in Anjo at midnight

We watched the New Year countdown on a cell phone, and as we counted down and got to “1”, some fireworks were set off nearby!  The timing was perfect – only in Japan! 😉

Watching the New Year countdown on a cell phone...

As soon as it was midnight, the line started moving and people started praying and throwing their money into the box by the shrine.  At this particular shrine (and I heard this is an Anjo thing) they give you all sorts of swag when you leave! We had brought some plastic bags to collect it in.  We got lots of things: satsumas, canned coffee, crab sticks, crisps, candy… It was a bit like trick or treating!

Collecting swag at the shrine...

After the first shrine, we dashed off to the next one!  Here, we also got some swag.  At both shrines we got some sake to drink, and at this second shrine we also got another drink – a kind of warm, sweet sake soup.

Waiting in line at the shrine...

After this shrine, we went to a temple.  It was very quiet… until we rang the bell!

Ringing in the New Year at a temple

When I got back to Nagoya, and back to my apartment, it was snowing quite heavily and the night felt quite magical.  Even though it was about 2a.m., I quickly popped down to my local shrine, Wata Shrine.  I didn’t go all the way in, but it looked fantastic – they had a huge bonfire going!

Wata Shrine, near my apartment

The snow was so inviting, but I thought I ought to go to bed…

Snowy streets, near my apartment

Spending New Year like this was so much better than going to some party and getting drunk!  It was also better than going to Kyoto, which I did last year (although that was very cool, too!). It felt like a genuine Japanese New Year, thanks to my ‘family’ in Japan! 😀

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