Monday, January 16, 2006

A Happy New Year!

At the biginning of 2006 I want to introduce you a Japanese New Year. New Year's Eve and New Year are the season I like most in Japan. Every time New Year comes around, I miss Japan. New Year's Eve in Berlin is a horror to me. When I walk in a street, I have to stay alert for firecrackers which may explode all of a sudden. Compared to this, New Year's Eve and New Year in Japan are very peaceful. The atmosphere is also wonderful.

This is a traditional New Year's meal called osechi. It's very colorful, isn't it? The soup in this photo is not miso-soap, which most of Japanese eat almost every day, but ozo-ni. In this soap there is rice cakes (mochi) which is made from sticky rice (mochigome). Mochi is also typical Japanese food on New Year's Day.

My youngst brother is writing New Year's greeting cards (nengajo) to his friends and relatives. This is a custom in Japan just like Christmas cards in Western countries. New Year cards must be posted within a given period of time at the end of December so that they are delivered on New Year's Day. But in this photo, he is writing them on New Year's Day! It happens often to my family(^^;). Anyway, when I was in Japan, it was one of the biggest pleasures to get the New Year cards from my friends or relatives. Even in the time of E-Mail, nengajo remains popular in Japan. Office workers in Tokyo are said to write 50 - 60 nengajos on the average. Most of the postcards have the Chinese zodiac sign of the new year as design. The zodiac sign of 2006 is dog.

Another traditional custom in the Japanese New Year is to go to a Shinto shrine and wish a good luck for the new year. You can also draw a shrine lot (omikuji) which says for example "good luck", "luck" or sometimes "bad luck". Even if you get "bad luck", you don't have to be so disappointed. In this case, if you then bind up that shrine lot to a twig, it is said that you become "luck".

I wish a great and happy 2006 to you all!