Saturday, February 3, 2018

New Year's Weekend (repost)

Saigo Matsuri

After the Amu Plaza Christmas Market ended last week, I checked Amu's online event schedule, and there didn't seem to be anything particularly interesting coming up for New Year's Eve. On the other hand, I was still pretty busy with cleaning up the apartment for the coming new year, and I didn't have much time or inclination for doing much outside during the week. It didn't help that most of the live music during the Christmas Market was boring, and I was so busy I missed almost all of it, including the stuff I did want to see. In essence, I'm suffering from an extreme case of pessimism.

Anyway, I finally managed to scrape together some free time, and I walked up to Amu Plaza on Friday. Turned out that they're hosting the Saigo Matsuri from Dec. 27th to Jan. 8th. Saigo was The Last Samurai at the end of the Meiji revolution, and is a major local hero. He's also the focus of the new NHK TV drama, "Segodon", starting this year. Amu's Saigo matsuri is a combination of New Year celebration and advertising for the TV show. The food booths are the same ones from the Christmas Market, but with white boards instead of red. Otherwise, it's the same companies and the same food.

Although they still had the event stage, for the most part it was just there to hold the TV show promo poster, and the empty barrels of celebratory sake. Plus the new year's bamboo display.

Saigo loves King of Sausage.
There was nothing else special going on Friday, so I just did a little food shopping, then returned home to keep cleaning the apartment and working on the computer. On Saturday, I went to the zoo, which I'll write about tomorrow. On Sunday, I hit Amu Plaza for a few minutes, but there was still nothing exciting happening. I did some more shopping, then returned home to read one of the books I got for Christmas (Proof: The Science of Booze, by Adam Rogers) and reply to online student assignments as they got handed in prior to the midnight deadline. Because I had to stay in front of the computer right up to midnight, I had to spend New Year's Eve indoors. None of the radio stations did a midnight countdown, so I brought out a small bottle of sparkling wine I'd gotten that afternoon at a konbini, and had my own private countdown. Yippee.

The Saigo matsuri advert board had fliers available, and I'd grabbed one on Friday. The sheet said there'd be dancing and free food on Monday, the 1st, between 12:30 and 2:30 PM. I got out the door a little late, and didn't reach Amu Plaza until 12:45. As it was, all that was happening was one of the local female personalities was acting as MC, walking around the food booths and trying to get people to buy stuff. I went inside and got some free sample coffee from Kaldi. I killed time, then came back out at 1:30 PM. One of the dance schools had three of their female dancers dressed up in kimono, and two of their male dancers in suits. The PA played rock disco, and the dancers pranced about a bit, mostly voguing with their hands near their faces. Only the one guy at the right, and the one woman at the left actually tried to dance; the others faked the motions and kept looking at each other for clues as to what to do next. The crowd loved them anyways.

At 2:15, a line was forming next to Bar Snowdrop to get the free food. This consisted of a small bowl of warm sweet red bean soup with a block of rice mochi in it, and was to be handed out to the first 100 people. I tried getting into line, but one of the attendants redirected me away and over to the stage. That was annoying, because it seemed like I was being told that I didn't qualify. A couple Japanese people that I know did get into the line later, and they did get the red bean soup, so I know the issue wasn't that they'd hit the 100 person limit already. On the other hand, I wasn't all that committed to getting the soup, and I spent the time I'd otherwise be waiting in line by going to Seattle's Best Coffee, eating rice crackers I'd gotten as a thank you gift from the parents of one of my students, drinking coffee and reading the newspaper.

Mos Burger Year of the Dog

At 3 PM, I returned to the stage, but there was nothing else happening then. I gave up and headed into Tenmonkan before going to Terukuni shrine. Most of the shops in Tenmonkan were closed, with the exception of a couple food places. Remember the Mos Burger Creepy Balloon Santa? It got repurposed.

Here's the Year of the Dog that bit you.


Hatsumode is the Japanese practice of making the first shrine visit of the year. It doesn't have to be on Jan. 1 - many people wait until a week later when the crowds have thinned out. The idea is just to take the family to the shrine of choice, toss some coins into the collection box and pray for good luck for the rest of the year. Some people will buy fortunes or good luck talismans. Some of the festival food booth people are hoping that spending a couple hours in line will make at least SOMEONE hungry along the way. Plus, there's toys to amuse the kids.

Surprisingly, there was a political candidate out, trying to build up name recognition. Just about everyone ignored him.

Two lines, no waiting. ...?

Well, maybe a little waiting.
The weather was good, and the temps were in the low 50s F. I thought it was comfortable.

Some of the good luck charms at one of the many tables selling them on the grounds.

Symbolic arrows are popular talismans. Between 1,000 and 5,000 yen ($9 to $46 USD) for one. The better ones have little dog charms.

Although 2018 is the Year of the Dog according to the Chinese lunar calendar, there aren't that many dog motif images in Kagoshima right now.

Looks like Sweetheart from the Skin Horse webcomic.

More lines, some wishes for a happy new year, and more fortunes.

If you get the regular fortunes, you can tie them to something in the shrine grounds to either try to alleviate the bad luck forecast, or cement the good luck being predicted. Lots of fortunes on just the first day.

After getting the photos I wanted, I went back up to Amu Plaza. There wasn't anything else happening on the stage, so I talked myself into going to the store to buy eggs (the 12 eggs cartons have been sold out since Friday, and the little 6 egg half-cartons cost almost as much as the bigger ones would. That's disappointing. I'm hoping that the store restocks by Wednesday... After that, I went home and processed photos for the blog. I ended up taking 80 shots over the weekend, and I kept most of them. I finished writing up this blog entry at 11 PM. I'll start the zoo entry next and have that ready for Wednesday morning (my time).

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