As discussed in an earlier post, Christmas Day isn't a big deal in Japan being somewhat overshadowed by Christmas Eve dates and Kentucky Fried Chicken, however New Year is a different matter. Adopted in 1873 in the early days of the Meiji Restoration, New Year in Japan is celebrated based on the western calendar rather than the previously observed floating dates of the Chinese calendar (still celebrated in China and a number of other countries across Asia).
New Year is the time families come together, the surviving generations visiting their ancestors graves and enjoying the morning with an equivalent of Christmas Dinner, though somewhat more focussed on soup and mochi, the pounded rice cake that sticks to everything like baby poo to a blanket. If you try it, make sure the vacuum cleaner is close by; don't ask, but just make sure you know where it is. And a number of years ago I was invited to join a New Year family gathering.
Money being the traditional gift for children, the two young brothers proudly showed me their haul for the day. These being crisp, new notes, I spent the morning teaching them how to fold paper airplanes. However, these being young brothers, soon one pushed the plane up his sibling's nose resulting in a quite impressive nosebleed, which, according to all assembled, was clearly my fault. From today people will start returning to their family homes and if you're lucky enough to be invited, have a great new year. And ask about the vacuum cleaner, it will make them laugh.
|The making of mochi - the vacuum cleaner is used when |
you're choking on it if you're still wondering