These days, there's not a lot to do during Oshigatsu (the New Year holidays). In earlier years, I used to go to Ise in Mie Prefecture, or to Kyoto, and spend New Year's Eve going from temple to temple, drinking New Year sake, viewing the kimono, and watching the sun rise.
Now, we go to the in-laws in Gobo and I sit on the couch and watch the Kohaku on TV with the rest of the family (and most of the nation).
The Kohaku is singing contest pitting the year's most popular female singers and groups against the year's most popular male singers and groups. The music ranges from pops to rock-and-roll to enka (country ballads). The show starts at 8:00 in the evening and runs until about 11:45. The winning gender gets a special flag. Whee.
Then the countdown to the new year begins, with scenes from temples and shrines around the country. There are the usual shots of uku-billion people at the more famous temples, and tiny gatherings at some of the more beautiful temples. Priests at the various temples are shown striking the temple bell 108 times, which is the sacred buddhist number of humanity's 'sins'. The overall ambience is one of peace and holiness, quite unlike the raucous celebrations in the west. And in my opinion, these 15 minutes at the very end of the year are the most beautiful of the entire year's tv programming.
Calvin, Yuuji and Kouji showed their respect for the traditions of the Japanese new year by playing with Godzilla toys and seeing how high they could stack Duplo blocks. (This was actually done on the second day of the four-day holiday. Note that the TV is showing the Kohaku being played from tape -- for the third time that day!)
|Nothing special about this photo of Michelle at Grandma Kariya's during the new year holidays.|