New Year’s Eve
In Japan, it is traditional to eat soba noodles on New Year’s Eve. The Soba noodles are very long and represent long life.
New Year’s Eve, they seem to represent long lines. We actually got there at 11:30am to “beat the crowds” but unfortunately there were a lot of people with the same plan. When we arrived, there was a camera crew filming everyone’s pilgrimmage for the noodle dish. Chase and I left Cliff in line while we walked to our café for takeout hot cocoa and green tea latte. Once we finally got a table, I realized the way they were able to turn tables so quickly was only giving customers 2 choices. Sarashina-Horii is a historical landmark here in town.
Later that evening we met up with Michael and Nghi and had a wonderful evening at Roy’s at Roppongi Hills. I have since decided I need to cut vodka out of my diet. The rest of our evening was pretty quiet. This year, I have finally accepted that New Year’s Eve partying is really for single, young people. Since I’m not single anymore, I’m happy to ring in the new year in my soft robe, champagne glass in hand. At midnight, all the Buddhist temples ring their bells 108 times to represent the number of passions and desires entrapping us in the cycle of suffering and reincarnation. The ringing of the bell symbolizes the purification from the 108 delusions and sufferings accumulated in the past year. It is known as joya no kane and even though it sounds kind of macabre, it gives everyone a sense of renewal.
Happy New Year’s Day
According to the Japanese, the first day of the year should include no work for anyone. This is part of the reason why no restaurants or shops are open. As soon as I returned from our ski trip, I went to the grocery store to stock up on food because everyone warned me that Tokyo pretty much shuts down. So in honor of tradition we didn’t do anything on the first, although we did take in our first movie “Real Steel”. I highly recommend it. It was a lot like Rocky but with robots doing the boxing. At Toho Cinemas, they encourage online ticket buying. I have to say, the idea of reserving specific seats for a movie seemed strange to me at first, but in a crowded city, it makes a LOT of sense. Plus, it’s so nice to be able to go and know you will get a decent seat. Having lived here almost 5 months (gasp!), I have come to realize no matter where you go, there will be a crowd.
In the States, everyone gets excited about the After-Christmas Sales. Here in Japan, the big time to buy is after the New Year. Many of the traditional stores and restaurants will remain closed, but other retail stores will be open and CROWDED. There are deals to be had, but to be honest, I hate shopping in a crowd. I feel so claustrophobic. Many of the Japanese stores will provide a fukubukuro: mystery bag for sale. This bag has a surprise from that store which is guaranteed to be at least 50-75% off retail, but you just don’t know what it is. Unfortunately, I didn’t see any fukubukuro at Jimmy Choo, Cartier, or Chanel. What I did find was a perfect winter coat:
I think it is pure wheaten terrier! I really miss Maggie. I wonder if she is going to like this coat or be afraid I might turn her into a matching stole?
The other thing people do, is go to a temple to pray for good luck in the new year. Cliff and I ended up doing this at Higashi Hongaji Temple near the Kappabashi district. We were hoping to do some kitchen shopping (more on Kappabashi when I experience it) but alas, the whole area was shut down until the 5th. Cliff goes back to work Wednesday (tomorrow) and Chase goes back to school Thursday. The period of time between winter break ending and summer beginning seems to get shorter and shorter. Each passing year makes me feel older and older. Does anyone else out there say stuff like, “remember the 1900’s?” I know it can be a cool, bonding experience to reminisce about different decades, but when you can compare different centuries it’s a little creepy. 108 sufferings and delusions? I think I just came up with my 109th.
Until next time…