Saturday 5 January 2008

Our New Years

I put a counter on the blog just before Christmas and I amazed at how many people pop in for a look and from all over the world so I thought I'd tell you about our traditional Japanese New Year....
We travelled down to my in-laws, never a favourite trip of mine since half of Japan is travelling at the same time and it is quite a trek.
The run up to new year is a time to clean the house and get any unfinished jobs completed but luckily the in-laws had got most of this done by the time we got there so New years Eve we went for a walk around Wakayama Castle. The castle wasn't open so we wandered around the grounds but it was very cold so we didn't stay too long, they also have a small crappy zoo, BabyEbi enjoyed seeing the animals, I found it quite depressing seeing the animals caged up like that.

That evening we had sukiyaki for dinner - one of my favourite Japanese dishes. It is cooked at the table and is a dish cooked in a soy sauce and sugar soup with beef, leek, konyaku noodles, mushrooms, tofu and fu, you take whatever you fancy from the pot, dip it in raw egg then eat it - yum.
Later we watched a really silly program - the sort that gives Japanese TV the reputation that it has back home. It was 5 famous comedians at a hospital, dressed as nurses. During the day various pranks were set up to make the 'nurses' laugh, each time one of the cracked up a ninja nurse would come out and smack them with a baton, very silly but very amusing, or maybe that was the beer! The alternative was a famous music program which is basically boys Vs girls, different artists take it in turns singing, all types of music from pop to enka is included. At the end of the program the audience hold up boards or red or white to vote for who they liked best, the Japanese birdwatching society have people on standby to count the boards and declare which side is the winner.
The programs finished around 11.30pm so we watched the news showing temples around Japan bringing in the new year by ringing a big bell, it continues into the early hours of New Year's Day, 108 times in all. According to Buddhism, a human being has 108 troublesome desires. The ringing of the bells is to expel these troublesome desires. Once it had turned midnight we all said happy new year and went to bed.
New Years Day we were up early thanks to BabyEbi, who hasn't yet got the concept of lie-ins. It was Osechi for breakfast served with warm sake. Osechi is traditionally prepared the days before so that the women of the house can have a break from cooking. The one we had was three layers and from the shop, they are not cheap though, ¥10,000 a layer! and contain a weird and wonderful collection of small dishes. It is also served with tai fish another new year speciality. After the osechi (it isn't all eaten some is saved for the next day) we have zoni soup, a kind of miso soup with mochi - every year there are reports of old people choking on the mochi, a dangerous food if you ask me.
If you want to know what all the bits are in the osechi, have a look at the images on Flickr, click on the image then run your mouse over the picture to see the notes.

By 9.30am I was drunk on sake, which is never a good thing and by 10am a hangover started to kick in. We went to the local shrine, just a small one 5 minutes walk from the house to pray, take a fortune prediction (mine was quite good for once) and ermmm drink more sake!

The rest of the day was spent relaxing, eating, drinking, sleeping - not necessarily in that order and that just about sums it up really.


  1. I find it quite interesting to read about a typical japanese new year.
    One thing i noticed is that most of the Osechi is fish. Do you eat alot more fish in japan than we do in the western countries, or was that osechi a special "fishy" one?

  2. I think generally the Japanese eat far more fish, my in-laws eat some kind of fish everyday, I hate the stuff which can make life difficult sometimes - I have learnt not to be TOO fussy with the whole fish stock thing though.


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