Tag Archives: New Year

US Navy flights during oshogatsu

The issue of the US military in Japan has often been a touchy one for many people.  Voices against them have been getting louder, mostly when one of the servicemen rapes or murders a local person, resulting in tightening control over the soldiers and imposing a curfew on them.  However, there’s something that is irritating a lot of people, even though the military isn’t setting foot on Japanese soil outside the base.

They are doing training flights or exercises over the central Kanagawa area, which is exactly where I live.  Atsugi base is nearby, so there are bound to be many jets flying overhead.  I’ve come to accept that as normal.  However, January 1st to 3rd is Oshogatsu, the Japanese New Year, and the most important holiday period in the country.  It’s a time spent quietly going to shrines and temples to pray for the new year.  Quietly is the key word.  Around here, and especially the Fujisawa and Kamakura areas with many big temples and shrines, there are thousands of people trying to pray and wish for a good year.  But with frequent booming roars of jet engines overhead, it’s got a lot of people furious.  You’d think they’d tone it down a bit to pay some respects to the local traditions. It seems like I get to hear a jet, plane, or helicopter over my home every 30 minutes.

For a couple of days, many people just want peace.

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Hatsumode in Saitama

Happy New Year from Monjuji Temple in Saitama City. I’m spending the day with my family in Saitama at my in-laws’. We went to Monjuji Temple for Hatsumode, or the first visit to a temple in the new year.

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Monjuji’s main hall.

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My holiday plans

I just finished day 1 of my 8 day holiday, and I have plenty planned.  Due to this weekend’s rain, I won’t be doing much out this weekend, but I will be working on my blogs a lot.

Non-blog plans include going to my in-laws’ house for New Year’s Day, as well as visiting Zeniarai Benten in Kamakura again.  Not sure if I’ll take pictures for that, as I did last January.

As for this blog, I have plenty planned! I will be doing a year in review by the end of the year.  I’ll also be starting a new series on Japanese prefectures and cities.  This is meant to give some basic information, as well as showcase places I want to visit.  Also, I’ll continue with photos from the past couple of months, and hopefully go back to photos from 3 years ago.  Finally, I plan to back up all my Instagram photos and start posting more of them.

So, here’s to a good new year!

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Oshogatsu 1: The local shrine and temple

In Japan, one of the most important times of the year is the Japanese New Year, or Shogatsu.  This holiday period lasts from December 29th to January 4th, with January 1st being the most important day.  On this day, most families get together and visit while eating and drinking.  They often go to a temple or shrine to pray and wish for a good new year, often getting their fortune (omikuji) or charms.  Children receive money from relatives, which I guess is kind of like my usual Christmas.  People usually eat osechi, which is Japanese traditional New Year’s food.  I’m not particularly fond of it, though.  Extremely bland for the most part, and my wife doesn’t seem to like much of it, either.

However, this year’s New Year for us was nothing like last year’s.  Last year, we visited my wife’s family.  This year, due to the baby’s incorrect positioning and a visit to the clinic on January 1st, we went with shrines and temples.  We visited a lot of them!  For this post, I’m going to show you January 1st’s temple and shrine visits near our home.  Parts 2-5 will feature the four places we visited in Kamakura on January 3rd.

We first visited a small temple near the Hikichigawa river called Jishouin (自性院).  It was very quiet, with us being the only people there.  We didn’t stay long, but I took a few pictures.

This is the entrance to Jishouin.

On the right side, we see this.

Here's the main temple building. It's not impressively large, and doesn't seem busy at all.

Another temple building.

I guess we were somewhat disappointed.  We’d heard a bell ringing, so we thought this was the place, but while we were there, we heard the bell again.  We saw where it was coming from, across the river and up the hill.  So, we went to a shrine that we had no idea was even there!  Nice surprise!  What we found was Sawa Daimyoujin (佐波大明神).  There were people there!  We even bought a couple of fortunes (omikuji).  Mine was just okay.  Anyway, here are the pictures.

This is the entrance and torii to Sawa Daimyoujin. Plenty of lanterns were hanging for the New Year.

A closer look at the torii.

That's the main shrine building.

Getting a bit closer. It's open for the New Year's prayers.

After praying at the shrine, people were ringing this large bell. Wish I'd tried it.

These lights have been at many shrines during the New Year holidays.

That’s it for part 1.  Coming soon is part 2 of this Oshogatsu series.

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Filed under Festivals & Events, Fujisawa, Japan, Kanagawa, Shrines, Temples

A look back at 2011

It’s the final hour of 2011, and as I think about the past year, I’m amazed about how much has happened.  It’s been a year of some amazing highs and incredible lows.

The highs

I couldn’t have expected such an incredible year.  This year, I got engaged, then found out we were having a baby, then got married.  Getting engaged was interesting.  I had to figure out how to ask my wife to marry me, but thought about our first date.  We were at Yuigahama Beach in Kamakura, and that’s where I proposed, close to a year later.  It was a beautiful early February day, though a bit cold to be at the beach.

Later, in the spring, we found out we were going to have a baby.  I’ve chronicled this adventure on my other blog.  To put it into a few words, it’s been amazing watching how my wife has been getting a bigger belly, feeling the baby move, and seeing the ultrasound.  Now that the birth is only about 3 weeks away, it’s getting so very real.

Getting married was a big day, too.  However, it seems that many people don’t even realise that we’re married now.  I’ve had a few friends surprised about it, because they’d missed the announcement.  We actually got married at city office.  We had no wedding, though we’re planning to in the future.

Some other good things that happened were discovering Instagram and this blog becoming more popular.  Of course, that’s what I’d hope!

The lows

While my personal life has had some amazing highs, Japan itself went through some unbelievable lows.

March 11 was a day I’ll never forget.  Biggest earthquake recorded in Japan and 4th largest in the world, plus a giant tsunami that killed over 20,000 people, and a nuclear disaster.  It’s been difficult for Japan, which has been going through a recession it just can’t seem to pull out of.

If the earthquake wasn’t enough, the Tokyo area was hit by the most powerful typhoon to hit the region in a few years.  There was more damage  from the typhoon in the Tokyo region than there was from the earthquake.  It certainly was a surprise to experience such strong disasters this year.

2012

So, what’s coming for 2012?  Well, hopefully bigger things for this blog, but the biggest thing for me is the birth of my daughter in the first month of the year.  I also plan to work hard on studying Japanese.  This blog will see some new things, and hopefully a return to frequent posts.  I think 2012 will be another year to remember.

Happy New Year, everyone!

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New Year Resolutions

I have a few goals this year.  I’ve lived in Japan for nearly 5 years, and there are so many things I haven’t done or seen.  I’d like to do some of those things this year.  Here are my goals:

  • Study Japanese every day and practice speaking with Japanese friends.  It’ll take a while, but I eventually want to pass JLPT 1.  And to my students, I won’t speak Japanese to you at the school.  That’s an English only zone for me.
  • Travel to another part of Japan.  Right now, I’m thinking about visiting Osaka.
  • Visit a new place at least twice a month.
  • Attend some festivals.  Yesterday, I went to my first festival.  Yes, that’s right, I’ve never attended a festival in Japan before.  I’ve seen them through my classroom window, but never attended.
  • Watch sumo live!  I might even do this next Monday.
  • Cook in my apartment occasionally.  It’s cheaper.  And I think it’s more delicious than conbini bento.
  • Get a table and chairs so I can use my computer at a table instead of the kotatsu.  I want to use my kotatsu for heat.
  • Get a microwave oven.  Very important!
  • Exercise and eat less.
  • And of course, update this blog more often and keep it up-to-date.  I’m a few months behind in photos.

Here’s a wish list, but not essential:

  • Get a Nintendo Wii, but not the Japanese version.  There’s no English language support on those.  I’ll check duty-free shops in Akihabara.
  • Get a bookshelf.  I have so many books, but nowhere to put them.

So much to do this year!

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