Thursday, 14 January 2010

Cultural Divide

So Christmas was a bit of a bust, and I was rather upset about it, especially it was U's first "real" Christmas. The silver lining is that we got another chance at a whole different holiday almost right away! By the time New Years rolled around we were both over our bouts of sickness and although my thesis and a paper he is way past due on meant we didn't have a lot of time for relaxing (and opted to spend it just the two of us at my place instead of turning it into me meeting his parents for the first time - wheeeeeee!) But in the end we had a great time, traditional and low-key and still lots of fun.

We started with decorations - kagami mochi (rice cake).

And then we watched the traditional New Year's eve TV programs Kohaku uta gassen - (literally "red-white song battle" a sing-off between the women/red and the men/white).

This year's surprise guest was Susan Boyle, who looked a little overwhelmed at being flown all the way around the world and showered with all the adoration (apparently she was randomly proposed to by a couple of different young cute Japanese guys!).

Then we bundled up in warm gear and headed out just before midnight. We were waiting for a train as it ticked down to midnight so we didn't have a countdown, and I didn't even get a New Year's kiss! (although I bullied poor U into giving me a quick peck on the cheek - aaack! public displays of affection - oooh! the horror!!) We headed into Tokyo, to Zojoji - or rather to the small Shiba Toshogu shrine next door. (I've had a thing for Toshogu ever since I first went to the biggest one in Nikko, and for a while was planning on studying the shrines as my PhD. That plan is no longer in play, but I still have a thing for Toshogu and U has developed a liking for them too, we've been known to spend hours trying to track an itty bitty one down...) Anyways, so we headed off to Zojoji...

Which, I found out later, is where a big count-down happens, so there were hordes of people there. Luckily, however, they were mostly leaving when we were arriving.

Shiba Toshogu lit up with paper lanterns was magical. I'd only ever seen it deserted in the middle of the day, so it was really special to see so many people there and see it so festive.

It was great fun, but we were getting cold and sleepy so we headed back to the station - walking past Starbucks that was both open and PACKED at 3 am! The train too was full, and it seemed surreal that it really was 3 am.

We came home and slept, getting up around midday on the first. U was in charge of food, but we had wimped out and bought a selection of traditional fare. I had tried various types of osechi (New Year's food) made by friends in Canada, and really liked it, but apparently it wasn't the "traditional stuff" that it turns out most people don't like much (or at least don't like unless they've had copious amounts of sake!) But both U and I like ozoni, a New Year's soup that varies widely from house to house and region to region. So I convinced U he should call his mom and ask for her recipe. As I suspected she was THRILLED that her son was making me ozoni and was even more thrilled that he wanted HER recipe (which turned out to be so basic it wasn't even a recipe!).


  1. What a wonderful way to start the new year! I have to say I'm quite "homesick" after reading this! Great memories... :)

  2. Beautiful! So glad that New Year's was happily memorable. Your comment about the public kiss was funny. My friends who just came back from Japan had a similar story. After Kazue successfully defended her PhD thesis, and when almost everyone was gone, her non-Japanese husband, Erik, gave her a kiss - to the surprise of everyone left in the room, including Kazue!

  3. The previous was me, love and hugs, C

  4. Melanie - It was a great, if somewhat low key, way to spend New Years. Actually my first ever in Japan! I look forward to many more in the future, and to starting new traditions in the process!

    Oh, and if there is anything in particular (that would fit into a box!) that would ease your "homesickness" just let me know, and I can pop a care package into the mail for you.

  5. C - U is getting better about public displays of affection. While I hardly doubt he'd ever be okay with any real action happening while others could see, he is willing to steal a quick peck on the cheek if nobody is in the immediate vicinity.