I hope the New Year has started out well for everyone. We just got back to Tokyo this weekend after spending a few days with the in-laws to celebrate the New Year, or o-shogatsu. Japan used to follow the Chinese lunar calendar but adopted the Gregorian calendar about 140 years ago and has followed it since. This is why the Japanese New Year starts on January 1st whereas the Chinese New Year is celebrated later, in case anyone was wondering.
The population of Tokyo decreases considerably during the New Year's holidays as many people return to their hometowns to visit with family, and we were among them. We started our trip by buying some Kyoto style bento boxes for the shinkansen (bullet train).
After we arrived we spent some time visiting with H's family and others. Then on New Year's Eve it started to snow and by the next morning, it looked something like this!
Sometimes we try to go out to visit a local shrine or go somewhere around the town where H's parents live but this year we mostly just stayed put, out of the wind and snow. Tokyo almost never gets snow though so I was happy to be able to see it at least once this year.
A lot of the New Year's celebrations revolve around food. On New Year's Eve, we had toshikoshi soba (happy year end buckwheat noodles). The noodles are long and signify longevity. Then on New Year's Day we had the traditional o-zoni soup. I couldn't help thinking of the nameless cat in Soseki Natsume's I Am a Cat, and his experience in Volume One attempting to eat some leftover mochi.
We also ate osechi, the quintessential New Year's food. Typically the preparation is done beforehand so minimal cooking is needed during the first couple of days of the new year, and traditionally each ingredient has some special significance. You can read about some of them by clicking on the link above.
And then it was time to take the shinkansen again. Back in Tokyo, we visited Takahata Fudoson shrine, for Hatsumode, the first visit to a shrine in the New Year to pray for health, and success in the coming year. Even though it was the afternoon of the 3rd (the peak is on January 1st), and not a big shrine like Meiji Jingu in central Tokyo, it was still quite busy.
So the New Year's rituals are complete and it's very nice to be home. I only had my iPhone with me so I'm really looking forward to starting to catch up on blog-related stuff this week. Finally, right?
Note: The Hello Japan! mini-challenge for January will be up tomorrow.