New Year is one of the most important Holidays in Japan. Most of the business, banks, and shops are closed from January 1-3. It is widely celebrated in the country and observed until on the third day. Being a foreigner in this country. We are curious how the people celebrated here, the customs they follow, what they eat and how they spend their New Year Holiday. We pursue the Japanese way of New Years Celebration.
New Years Eve
Families gather together where they eat Toshikoshi soba which symbolizes longevity. They usually watched a musical show of famous Japanese artists on TV. Since we don’t have a Japanese friend or family to crashed on New Year’s eve. We joined at Ada and Eric’s home ( Travel in boots) NY celebration. Together with their friends, we savored the best grilled Turkey, boozes and enjoyed social games in PS. We crossed 2017 of eating 12 pieces of grapes and make wishes of each munch. This is actually a Venezuelan New years tradition shared by one of the guests. Of course the countdown and making some noise isn’t complete( Pinoy pa?)
Japanese customary visits the temple or shrine on the first day of the year. Hatsumode festivities are simultaneously held to mostly all of the shrine or temples across Japan. Meiji Shrine in Tokyo, Fushimi Inari in Kyoto and Tsuruoka Hachimangu in Kamakura draws million of visitors during the first few days of the new year.
We didn’t let pass this opportunity to observe this Japanese tradition. But instead visiting these famous shrines we opted to visit the one close to our abode. The queue in Hikawa Shrine was expected as people surrounding Akasaka and Roppongi converge here. We joined the line by two’s approaching the main hall where the bell is hung. Honestly, we don’t know how to do it, but we just observe them and followed suit.
Offered a coin and tossed it in the wooden stash. Pull the string and rung the bell twice or thrice, clap twice and offer a silent prayer. We’re so glad to do it the right way despite being a first timer.
Emperor’s New Year Greeting
Another activity that Japanese do during New Year is visiting the Imperial Palace to meet and greet the emperor. The palace is only opened during the Emperor’s birthday and on the second day of New Year. It is an event that shouldn’t be missed when visiting Tokyo during the New Year holidays. The Emperor and royal family appeared on glass shield balcony at 10:10, 11:00, 11:50, 13:30 and 14:20, doing a short speech and waving to the crowd.
We arrived at the outer area of Imperial palace just in time for the last appearance. It is heavily secured as we had to go through with two screenings before waiting at the cordoned area. But we didn’t bother as the weather was perfect, Sunny in Winter. Besides this is one of the two occasion that we can go inside the palace.
The crowd of mostly Japanese and some expats could be not less than twenty thousand marching to the palace. The queue moves slowly as people are more patient and mindful not to hurt others. Something that we Filipinos should emulate.
As we reached near to the entrance of the Imperial Palace. We can feel the excitement of everyone, especially the first timers (including us). Can’t help to snap photos to our heart’s delight. Most of the people walk graciously as they approached near the hall where the Japanese Emperor and royal family will appear.
Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko together with the royal family appeared at exactly 14:20. He waved to the crowd and the people proudly raise the Japanese flag. We heard the word Banzai screamed countless times which literally mean ” you may live ten thousand years”. The Emperor made a short speech and the crowd went frenzy in response. It was a spectacular and historical moment to witness as this could be a last New Year greeting of the Emperor. He intended to abdicate his post due to age and health reasons. We can really say that the Emperor with Royal family is well loved by its people. Banzai!
Akemashite omedetou gaozaimasu!
Sky and Summer