Posted by: Vanessa
Happy New Year!!!
Wow, I hope you had a great New Year's Eve!
Now it's really the year 2012! ^^
Time runs by so fast, don't you think so, too?
This day, January the 1st, is really special and important for Japanese people!
It's called Ganjitsu and there are many traditional things happening on this day, Westeners like me didn't know or ever hear before (so in Germany we have this day off, too, but do nothing special than sleep long and maybe share this day with family, but that's no must be). ^^
Ganjitsu is a very auspicious day on which many people strive to be up in time to greet the rising sun. This is called hatsu-hinode. We have some guests, who went out last night to Odaiba (but then stranded in Shimbashi ^^) extra for watching the sunrise. But it was really beautiful. ^^
So January 1st is supposed be full of joy and free of stress and anger, while everything should be clean and no work should be done. ^^ But hey, we give our best, even if we should be maybe a little bit more "lazy" today! :D
When you see someone the first time in the New Year, you should say "akemashite-omedetou-gozaimasu" (Happy New Year) whenever they see at the first time in the new year. ^^ But me poor Vanessa forget this Japanese phrase - but screaming from the bottom of my heart "Happy New Year!" was also working (I felt relieved ^^)! :D
And there is a custom of giving money to children during New Year's holidays in Japan. It's called otoshidama (お年玉). It is handed out in small decorated envelopes called Pochibukuro. So if you are going to family gatherings, it's good to prepare some money in cute Pochibukuro.^^
Japanese people eat special dishes called osechi. I wrote about that yesterday! ^^
The box, in which they are packed, is called a Jubako box and has several layers. Each dish has a particular meaning. Prawns for long life, herring roe for fertility, and so on.
It is also traditional to eat mochi (rice cake) dishes during New Year's holidays. Zouni (rice cake soup) is the most popular mochi dish.
A very popular custom is the sending of New Year's cards, which are specially marked to be delivered on January 1st.
They are called Nengajo and you can read everything about that here! ^^
It is not uncommon for one person to send out several dozens of cards to friends, relatives and co-workers.
So we get a huge amount of Nengajo and I hope, we'll win something with our lottery numbers, hihi! ^^
And today - since midnight - many people visit a shrine or temple for Hatsumōde, the first shrine or temple visit of the New Year in Japan is called. Sensoji is really crowded and there are many people outside, going there for Hatsumōde.
When you are wandering along Asakusa today, you can see many Kadomatsu, which are placed at the entrance of houses. Comprised of pine boughs (symbolising longevity), bamboo stalks (prosperity) and plum-tree sprigs (constancy), they are set up as an invitation to the god of the year, the toshigami (protector of household prosperity) to come in and bless the home.
Shimenawa, you can find, too. They marked sacred places and are a specially plaited rope (nawa) festooned with strips of white paper (shime) symbolising purity. They are meant to keep away evil spirits. During Ganjitsu, shimenawa are often hung on the doors of homes and businesses. Yesterday, I even have seen one on the spoiler of a police car! ^^
So, you see, there are many things, with long and deep traditions, you may not know from your country.
So if you are curious now, it may be a good idea to visit Japan this time of the year! ^^
But first, enjoy your Ganjitsu! ^^
Sakura Hostel Asakusa
Address: 2-24-2 Asakusa Taito-ku, Tokyo
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Posted by: Vanessa (January 1, 2012 5:08 PM)