HAPPY NEW YEAR!!
I hope you all celebrated the New Year with style!
On New Year’s Eve, I kept it quiet and stayed in to watch the celebrations on tv. I contemplated going clubbing but I had to get up at 8:30am on New Year’s Day so I decided against going. I prepared my last meal of 2013 – soba noodles, fresh octopus, and Osechi egg roll. It’s a tradition to have soba noodles on New Years Eve in Japan as the strands of noodles represent long life, so I had to have it for dinner!
The next day I met up with Atsuko, her daughter (Mai) and granddaughter (Manao) at Higashitokorozawa station. Manao wanted to go New Year’s Day shopping so we queued outside her favourite shop waiting for it to open. In other countries, like the UK, there are sales after Christmas i.e. Boxing Day sales. But in Japan, since they celebrate the New Year instead of Christmas, the shopping sales start from the 1st January.
The most popular thing on sale at this time of the year are “Fukubukuro”, which are lucky bags. Basically, you pay for a bag of goodies but you don’t know what’s inside. Most of the time you don’t know what’s inside, but sometimes they tell you what’s inside but it’s like a bundle of goods that are collectively cheaper than if you were to buy each item separately.
So this shop we were queuing outside sold clothes and other household goods. Manao wanted to buy the clothes Fukubukuro – you get a handbag stuffed with 6/7 items, such as a coat, tops, jumpers, trousers etc.
Manao and I both got the same Fukubukuro, while her mother and Atsuko went and bought futon and other bits and pieces.
After all that shopping, we went to have lunch as this old Japanese style restaurant. You could make your own bento box, ie. choose what kind of noodles you wanted, what kind of dessert etc. Very tasty indeed!
We ate so much that we decided to go for a walk around the area. This is when I found out that Hayao Miyazaki used to live in Tokorozawa and the area is said to be the setting of the film Totoro. Mai and Manao live in between Higashitokorozawa and Tokorozawa, so it’s basically where Mr. Miyazaki used to live. The area is so rural and it really is true Japanese countryside – I thought living in Kodaira was countryside, but Tokorozawa is even more ‘backwards’. Many years ago the area was covered in bamboo trees and fields of tea bushes – there are some areas that still remain like that and we walked past a tea factory, but most of the land has been converted into building houses and other things.
Atusko says that she will take me to ‘Totoro no Mori’ which is the Totoro forest where Totoro supposedly lives. Near to this forest there is also a really good cake shop which Mr. Miyazaki often goes to (according to the shopkeeper) so I will definitely do a post on that when I have the chance!
During our walk, we went past a shrine so we decided to go and pray for Manao – she recently had some exams to get into High School so we prayed that she will pass.
Many people go to shrines and temples to pray on New Year’s Day, and they’re often crowded with people making wishes etc. But since we got to this shrine at about 4pm, there weren’t many people so we were able to take our time.
I didn’t have enough money on me to buy a charm, but I got one of those lucky dip fortune pieces of paper. You pay 100 yen and stick your hand into this box full of fortunes that will predict what will happen to you this coming year. If it’s bad then you’re supposed to tie it onto a tree, but if it’s good you can keep it. Apparently I got the biggest amount of luck you can get so I’m definitely keeping mine!
The sun started setting and it was getting cold so we headed home. When we got back, Atusko and Mai insisted that Manao and I try on our new clothes so we ended up having a fashion show and having our photos taken.
I was then invited to do some calligraphy, more specifically Kakizome, which means the first calligraphy of the year. Normally this is done on January 2nd but Manao wanted to do it today and because I was with them they said I should take part too (thank you!).
All students in Primary and Middle School have to do it as part of their winter holiday homework, so Manao practised writing hers a few times before we voted for the best one.
It was then my turn to have a go. Manao’s Kakizome looked pretty difficult and since I had never written one before, they gave me her younger brother’s one to copy as the kanji was a bit simpler to write.
And here are our Kakizome!
It was coming up to 6pm at this point so we headed out for dinner, which was Kaiten Sushi! It was slightly more expensive that other ones that I’ve been to but it was SO DELICIOUS! I have no photos of the restaurant as I was too busy eating, sorry!
Despite not celebrating New Year’s Eve in a spectacular way, I had the most amazing New Year’s Day which I celebrated with some really lovely people. I definitely don’t regret not going out clubbing last night!
The next few days are going to be a bit boring, I’m afraid. I’ve got SO much work to do and it’s all due for next week. Only one more month of university and this term will be over! Holidays start in about 5 weeks time! :O
Thanks for reading this super duper long post!