Posts tagged ‘new year’

Lucky Charms for the New Year

Around New Years I like decorating my apartment with auspicious little trinkets. It’s silly superstition, but I still like believing.

Right now, I have a tiger gazing at me. I made him from origami. It’s the year of the Tiger, and although it’s not my particular zodiac sign, I want the luck of this ferocious creature on my side:

Across Japan, most households decorate their New Years mantel with a heap of kagami mochi:

It’s a mound of chewy rice cakes topped with a winter tangerine. Japanese lore dictates that mochi represents a purified body and soul, and the succession of mochi represents the family-generations that come and go; so it’s about starting anew, but respecting the old. Though just like people, mochi gets moldy after a while, so watch out!

Another fun thing to have around is o-mamori:

You can get it at the local shrine to help ward off evil, whether it be a car accident, illness or bad grades at school. I keep mine in my wallet, and even though you’re technically supposed to throw it away by the end of the year, mine still keeps evil at bay.

Here’s to a new year of JOY and SUCCESS! HAPPY 2010!! \(^o^)/

Himawari

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January 19, 2010 at 3:54 pm Leave a comment

Japanese New Year

At the stroke of midnight into the new year everyone across Japan turns to each other and says…

あけましておめでとうございます。(Happy New Year!)
Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu.

Followed by…

今年もよろしくお願いします。
Kotoshimo yoroshiku onegaishimasu.

That’s a little harder to translate but it’s akin to “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” – a kind of camaraderie you verbalize with people when you first meet, and again at the start of the new year. It’s not as warm as a big hug and kiss, but these two phrases carry a lot of weight on the esprit de corp scale.

I said these phrases to my grandma on January 1 as she handed me a plate of beans, another Japanese New Year tradition. The sweet, black legumes are regarded as a force of good (not evil) and you’re supposed to eat one for every year you’ve been alive. Pink and white fishcakes and soft-boiled vegetables are other fortuitous items. Who knows what’ll happen if you don’t eat them? I sure don’t, but I’m not willing to find out.

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And an even better tradition than eating is receiving money envelopes from elders, which can contain anywhere from a quarter to a couple hundred dollars. I look forward to getting them but as I get older I realize I should eventually switch from receiving them to giving them. Eventually…

It’s still cold outside so I hope everyone bundles up and sips hot chocolate in front of a crackling fire. Have a tangerine while you’re at it. That’s a Japanese tradition as well.

Himawari

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January 14, 2008 at 8:50 am Leave a comment

Birds of Prey Ring in the New Year

On January 2nd and 3rd in Minato-ku, Tokyo, as part of an annual New Year’s tradition called Hoyojutsu Jitsuen, there was a cultural demonstration of falconry, in which beautiful, majestic goshawks show how they catch prey.

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In this video (from November), large birds swoop low to the ground from trainer to trainer. Check out the windmill action as one of the trainers (or falconers) flings a tempting treat sky high for the hawk to catch. The birds move so fast that for a brief, horrifying moment, I thought the guy was throwing the hawk into the air after violently swinging it in a circle.


A leisure sport with military roots, Japanese falconry (takagari) dates back to the 6th century, where it was viewed as a status symbol and reserved for emperors and other nobility. Besides being dangerous, it was also extremely expensive, since it’s a pretty pointless exercise unless you have a lot of land! Takagari reached its peak popularity in the Edo period (1603-1868), but even today there are still falconry schools that claim to teach traditional methods.

Sarah S.

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January 11, 2008 at 10:08 am Leave a comment


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