Enter the Rabbit

Shinen omedeto gozaimasu! Happy New Year! So New Year’s has been a very big deal in Japan. I’ve never really been all that thrilled about Christmas, but I do love New Year’s, so I have enjoyed the festive air. The Japanese seem to really appreciate the ever-appealing idea of a new beginning. I’ve learned that on New Year’s they:

  • clean the house (I didn’t actually do this, but I really liked the idea of starting with a clean house).
  • eat a special meal with a lot of pickled things. Again, I didn’t do this, but I did make black-eyed peas.
  • bedeck their doors and gates with tasteful, seasonal decorations like bamboo, pine, oranges, rice straw wreaths, and paper. These are supposed to welcome the ancestors (don’t quote me on this) and ensure prosperity for the new year (I think). Anyway, it’s something I could really see Martha Stewart embracing.

Hayama being a fishing village(/resort town), people also decorate the bows of their boats. Fuji-san in background.

  • Then, after two weeks, everyone takes their New Year’s decorations down to the shrine and burn them. How cathartic is that? I would love to burn my Christmas decorations.
  • People exchange daruma dolls. Don’t be creeped out be their vacant stare–you get to draw the eyes on! You draw one on when you make your New Year’s resolution or wish, and the other when it’s fulfilled. The roly-poly shape symbolizes the ability to bounce back from difficulties on your journey to complete the resolution.

You can see that the daruma in our house has not yet been resolved upon. Its owner must be perfect.

  • Mail! The Japanese send New Year’s postcards, and I got one! I am thrilled but the problem is I don’t know who sent it…

Isn't it lovely? Wish I could read it.

Note the rabbits. This year is the year of the rabbit, and being the trend setters that they are the Japanese don’t wait until the lunar New Year to start celebrating it. Take that, all you other Asian nations still wallowing in the year of the tiger. You might be interested to learn that children born in the year of the rabbit are gentle, serene, diligent, elegant, tactful, and lucky gamblers.
And, finally, it is cold here, but that good kind of clean, clear cold that has yielded some spectacular Fuji days. Fortunately Chip received a lot of Christmas gifts to keep him warm.

All kitted out. It took me three tries to knit the hat, and Chip actually refuses to wear it.

Despite the cold, this morning I saw a man jogging down the beach in only a bright blue Speedo. Now there is someone serious about keeping his New Year’s resolution.

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