Sunday, February 13, 2011

New Years Eve in Tokyo

When you think of New-Year-Celebration in Asia, the first things that come in your mind are probably china crackers and fireworks. Same for me, so I was a little surprised when I recognized that New Year in Japan is everything, but no noisy fireworks. Its more the opposite, a time to come together with the family and go to a Shinto – shrine and pray for a good luck in the New Year. New-Year in China is celebrated in February, and I recently had the chance to see a Chinese New-Year-Celebration in Chinatown in Yokohama. But I will come to that in another post. Here, it’s New Year in Japan. There are a lot of traditions to celebrate this event. One is to eat long soba noodles. It is said that this will safe you a long life. And as I said often before, when the point comes to increasing your lifetime, we should listen to Japanese, they have the oldest persons in the world. So, one of my New Year resolution is to eat more soba noodles. I recently started; see the newest food-in-Japan post.
A New-Years-fire; a shintoistic ritual
But let’s get back to New-Years-Eve. 
Because we have no family here and we are not shintoistic, we decided to celebrate New Years-coming in a semi-traditional semi-western-style way. Roppongi is a district known as a place for tourists, with a lot of bars and clubs. But it also has the zojoji-temple. This Buddhist temple is located just next to the Tokyo-Tower and offers a great perspective on the modern steel tower, with the old wooden temple in the front. So, we went there to celebrate New-Year’s coming at the zojoji-temple, with the highly illuminated Tokyo Tower dominating the area. It’s unnecessary to say that it was quite awesome. On the one hand there were Japanese people, praying in the Shinto shrine or listening to the drums of a Buddhist ritual in the temple, on the other hand were the foreigners and tourists, standing together, drinking a beer and enjoying the atmosphere. Japanese people seem to be very relaxed concerning religious matters, at least at this place. They sold transparent helium-balloons for a few hundred yen. At the end of the New Year countdown, thousands of balloons climbed the sky, accompanied by the cheers of the people. It was a really great experience.
999 air balloons ..
Afterwards, we went to one of the clubs I mentioned before. But this is not to talk about in a public blog ^^
But to have the experience of celebrating New Year in a Japanese way, we went to the famous meji-shrine with some Japanese friends next day. It was, of course, well visited. The shrine is the biggest in Tokyo and the path leading to the shrine is for sure 30 meters wide. However, we had to wait for more than an hour and the queue was maybe 600 meters long. Fortunately, Japanese are the best organized people I know and they had an efficient system to deal with so many visitors. It is too much to explain here, but it includes a special subway-entry only for this event. 
Meji-shrine next morning
When we finally reached the shrine, we prayed for the new year while throwing coins to the temple and clapping the hands for two times. Because 5 is a lucky number in Japan, 5 or 50 yen coins are most effective.  The amount of coins varies. Most of the people throw one or two coins, but there was at least one guy who threw 2, 3 hands of coins to the temple. Probably he has had a very bad year 2010. Hopefully, the year will be better for him, as for all of us. At least for me, I feel well prepared now.  
To see more pictures, click here
pay the gods for a good fortune

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