Monday, December 31, 2012

Yoi otoshi o

It's now New Year's Day, 2013, in Japan. Welcome to the future.

I've mentioned before, although it's been a while, that Japan and the West have opposite traditions regarding Christmas and New Year's. For the Japanese, Christmas is a time for couples to go out and have a romantic night together, while the period from roughly Dec. 28 to Jan. 4 is a time to travel back home and celebrate with one's family. Meaning that the time right around Jan. 1 is when all the stores close, people stay inside with each other and there's nothing to watch on TV. Some of the main traditions include going out to a restaurant to eat soba noodles (symbolic of longevity) on New Year's Eve, to watch the Red vs. White Song Battle program on NHK, to visit a shrine and pray for good fortune in the year ahead, and for adults to give envelopes of money to children. There are also certain dishes that are eaten at this time, including red bean soup, red beans with rice, and nabe (a soup with boiled beef).

In Tokyo, soba restaurants are open 24 hours on Dec. 31 to accomodate the demand, so my group figured it would be a good idea to start out at 5 PM yesterday to have an early dinner. Unfortunately, the one soba restaurant that we wanted to go to near the apartment was already closed for the holiday. So, we tried a second option a few blocks away and it was also closed. Seems that Kagoshima doesn't view soba eating as that important a part of the season. Eventually, we settled on the Royal Host family restaurant closer to the apartment, and ate spaghetti as a soba-alternative.

So much for the idea that everyone in Japan is the same.

Happy Chinese Lunar Calendar Year of the Snake.

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