Thursday, February 10, 2011

New Year's Celebrations in Japan

Selling door ornaments called shimekazari, made with oranges, paper and tree branches in a local market in Osaka. 

New Year's is probably the best and worst time to visit Japan. Best time, because you can see the traditional culture of Japan. People visiting temples and shrines, people preparing their homes for the holiday, and just a sense of general excitement and anticipation that is in the air, similar to being in America around Christmastime.  Worst time, because museums are closed, the locals are busy and visiting families and temples may be packed with visitors, making for less than attractive photos and difficulties seeing the sights.

I was fortunate enough to get a chance to ring this big bell. Japanese ring a bell and make a wish for the new year. Small bells can be seen all around various temples, but not everyone gets to ring one like this! It pays to make friends with the local monk ^^.

In the homes, moochi (Japanese rice cake ... kind of like 떡) is placed in the home. I asked what the meaning of this was, but no one knew. I guess I don't know what the meaning of a Christmas tree is either. It's just something that belongs there.

Here is Nori's front door, adorned with a shimekazari. This is made of shimenawa (rice straw), tree branches and an orange. It is placed there to ward off evil spirits. This blog has a good, simple explanation.

Temples are a hubbub of action. We came to this major temple in Kobe a little earlier than most and missed the evening crowd. Japanese like to visit the temple at midnight on New Year's to hear the monks ring the bell 108 times.

Passageways are lined with vendors selling anything imaginable, but more than anything else was lots and lots of food.

In the morning, we came back to the same temple and found it packed. We pushed our way through the crowd and followed the police directing foot traffic into the temple to make our New Year's wishes.

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