Happy New Year!
Now that it’s all over, I can honestly say that 2014 was my best year in a long time. I’m certainly going to make the best of 2015 as well!
Taku and I are spending the New Year’s holidays together this year. We didn’t meet until after last year’s holiday season, so this is our first time spending it with him!
Let me give you a little background about how the holiday season works in Japan. Once Halloween is over, Japan goes into full on Christmas mode, with Christmas trees put up in most every train station and shopping centers. There are also “winter illuminations”, which are elaborate holiday light displays set up around city centers and parks.
As you would expect, because Japan is not a Christian country, Christmas serves a different purpose here. While kids have come to expect a visit from “Santa-San” on Christmas morning, the holiday is not as family centered as it is in many other countries Asian or otherwise. Rather, it functions a lot more like American Valentines Day, where couples enjoy an night out, exchange presents, and spend a lovey-dovey evening together. (Perhaps I’ll talk about Japanese Valentines Day another time.)
The Japanese New Year’s holiday however is the biggest event of the year, where most workers have an extended holiday off, and most people either head back to their hometowns to be with their families or use the time to take a vacation.
This year, Christmas fell on a Thursday, so we had to spend the holiday apart. On the bright side, due to New Year’s Day falling on a Thursday, most workers in Japan have been given a whole week off from work this year! Taku and I have been spending this week together enjoying the local sights, shopping, and eating. Mostly eating.
I bought two cookbooks, one for Japanese egg dishes and another for nattou (fermented soy beans), because Taku loves egg dishes, and I love nattou. Needless to say, we ate a lot of tamago-kake gohan (a rice bowl topped with various ingredients and a raw egg) and nattou this week. I’m not so good at taking delicious looking food photos but I think I might give it try sometime…I don’t cook so many complicated dishes when I’m alone, but I do when Taku’s around.
While most of our outings were for eating or shopping, but we did have a chance to experience a bit of the romantic atmosphere of the season.
First, we tried to visit the peak of Mt. Sarakura (皿倉山) in Yahata Ward of Kitakyushu City. The view from the top offers a gorgeous view of not only Kitakyushu City but also the Kanmon Bridge and Shimonoseki, the southernmost city of Honshu. We only made it as far as the cable car station before learning that due to an “incident” the it had stopped running for the day…In any case, we enjoyed the “free view” from the station, which while not as clear as from the top, was still pretty impressive.
We also visited Mojiko Retro, a port area in the northeastern part of Kitakyushu City. It flourished as an important trade area in the past, and the old fashioned buildings have been kept intact, leading to its popularity as a tourist spot. At this time of year it’s set up with illuminations and other seasonal attractions, so despite the cold wind coming off of the water, it was nice to just walk around, talk, and take in the sights.
We also spent some meaningful time at home watching Japanese “Hulu”. It has Japanese subtitled versions of American TV shows, so I’ve introduced Taku to the American sitcom “Modern Family”. He’s really come to like it! It also gives me a chance to introduce American culture to Taku, as well as some Latino culture through the character of Gloria. I can finally prove that I’m not crazy, just Latino…
We spent New Year’s Eve watching 紅白歌合戦 , the “Red and White Singing Battle” an annual concert program that takes place live every year. When it ended at 11:45, we headed to the local shrine for the first shrine visit of the year at midnight. We did our praying and pulled a fortune for the 2015 year. We both got an “average luck” prediction. Better than bad luck, I suppose!
We still have a few days to enjoy together before everyone heads back to work next Monday. We hope that everyone’s New Year’s holidays are progressing splendidly!