Turning over a new leaf (or something)

18 Jan

New Year, or お正月 (oshogatsu) in Japanese, is basically the biggest holiday in the Japanese year.  New Year’s is a time when people spend time with their families, eat traditional New Year’s foods like ozoni and play traditional New Year’s games like karuta, and go to temples for the special New Year’s visit, or hatsumode. New Year’s is the only time that I simply get time off from school without having to take paid leave or else sit in the school building despite not teaching any classes.  All of my coworkers spent the time busily cleaning their houses, writing and sending the all-important nengajo or New Year’s cards, and preparing for relatives to visit.  I spent the time relaxing and enjoying the time off from work.

ImageThat’s not completely true actually; I spent the time cleaning and preparing for my little sister to visit, so in essence, I did some of the same things.  But unfortunately, when it comes to
hatsumode, and nengajo, I don’t know where to start, so we spent New Year’s the American way, eating, drinking, and being merry on New Year’s eve, and sleeping it off the next day.  We watched the Japanese New Year’s broadcast, Kohaku, a music show where popular artists compete on the red or white (New Year’s colours) teams and at the end of the show, audience vote determines the winner, as well as a countdown right at midnight produced by Johnny’s, and thus was mostly idols singing and prancing around with a countdown to midnight.  All in all, it might not have been very Japanese, but it was fun.

ImageI was very excited that my little sister was coming to visit me in Japan for New Year’s; it was her first time to Japan, and we hadn’t seen one another in a long time.  Because I was so excited, I planned a big New Year’s dinner– S made latkes, and I tried to recreate some delicious fried sausage dumplings I had had at an izakaya once, as well as making pork, mushroom, and  onion gyoza.  My sister helped, and this made us feel very in touch with our Chinese heritage!

ImageThe meal was delicious, and afterwards, we had more cake and sparkling wine!  We bought two bottles, so that we could drink one while watching Kohaku and use another to toast at midnight.  It was still fairly cheap stuff, but it wouldn’t be New Year’s eve without sparkling wine!  For the roll cakes, we got one white cake with strawberries that I though would be like strawberry shortcake but turned out to be a bit too sweet for me, and a matcha cake.  I really love matcha, and I was excited to introduce my sister to the flavor!  I was afraid she might not like it, because she can sometimes be a bit picky, but luckily, she did, and so a good time was had all around… even if my sister was so jet lagged that she ended up taking a nap around 9 pm so that she could stay up until midnight!

ImageNext year, I would like to find someone who will take me to hatsumode, and perhaps let me wear a kimono or something of the like.  But I was really glad that my sister came to visit me this year, and I had a really good time with her, too.  Part of being a foreigner is mixing a little bit of your own traditions with the traditions of where you’re staying, right?  Still, hopefully next year I’ll be able to have a little more Japanese in my oshogatsu.


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