While Japan is already living the first day of 2019 and has already greeted the very first sunrise, I am still counting the remaining minutes of 2018 and keeping my champagne chilled until the Big Ben strikes midnight London time.
You may know it already, but in Japan New Year is more like Christmas in the West, that is, a time for a slowdown and a quiet family time. However, before you can actually slow down, the last week(s) before that tend to be super busy with cleaning, tidying, and finishing all other unfinished “business”, so that a new cycle could begin from a fresh (and clean) start. In Japan, this New Year is a special one as it is the last one of Heisei Era. In Japanese calendar, the year is counted based on Emperor’s rule, thus, 2019 starts as Heisei 31. However, as the Emperor Akihito is expected to abdicate Throne next year, the Heisei Era is likely to end on 30 April 2019.
If you happened to be in Japan tonight, have you witnessed the very first sunrise? Some go to Mt. Fuji, some climb to Tokyo Tower, yet others choose to hop on a plane to watch the sunrise from above and so on depending on creativity and possibilities at hand. One year I happened to witness the first sunrise from the plane, more by accident than planning though.
Once you have tried Osechi ryori, or Japan’s traditional food for the New Year celebration, and paid your first visit to a shrine, the next thing on the list is Fukubukuro, or a lucky bag. As shops re-open on January 2nd, this is the first thing that disappears from the shelves. Unlike other sales, you do not know what is inside your lucky bag until you buy it, though they say the value tends to be significantly above the price paid.
If you have ever tried (or plan to try) any of the above for the New Year, please drop a comment with your experience. In the meantime, I will go to get my twelve grapes and twelve wishes ready based on a Spanish tradition, champagne and some toasts with fois gras and jam based on the French tradition, and the lyrics of the “Auld Lang Syne”, a song that is commonly sung just before the midnight at the New Year’s in many English-speaking countries. I find it interesting that a song that is considered to symbolize the endings and new beginnings, is also quite often used in Japan in its instrumental version… as background music in many stores and other establishments to let customers know that the closing time is approaching.
With that notion of endings and new beginnings, I wish you all a great start of the New Year 2019, whichever traditions you follow to mark the occasion. May it bring many great experiences, love and happiness, and give us even more opportunities to meet over new blog posts! Cheers!
“Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne.
For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
For days of auld lang syne”…