Monday, January 03, 2005

New Year ritual

Our New Year ritual has become the same over the last few years. We used to go to a bigger shrine,but we got too old to want to deal with the crowds. Sometimes, recently, we've gone somewhere on the second or third, but not for a couple of years, and probably not this year either. We've become comfortable and boring.

In the afternoon of the 31st, as I mentioned before, we headed off to Okaasan's place. On the way I took a picture of another manhole cover. This is the one for her area of Nishinomiya, which is famous for the Koshien baseball stadium. The manhole cover has the stadium featured on it.

In the evening, after our little trip to the new shopping centre, we sat around at Okaasan's place. I drank green tea. I drank a lot of green tea, because Okaasan kept filling up my cup when I wasn't looking and if it's there I drink it. I also ate far too much before dinner, mostly Japanese sweets that people had given Okaasan.

I showed Okaasan my camera, and she was amazed. (She is always amazed by technology. She was amazed by the new phone we gave her several years ago, too. We got it for her because it had a wireless extension, so she wouldn't have to run downstairs every time the phone rang. Several months later when we visited we discovered she was keeping it in a cupboard for emergencies, and was still using her old monstrous black rotary dial thing.)

I showed her how the camera worked by taking a picture of The Man, who was reading a Shogi magazine at the time.

Okaasan then tried it out, and took a picture of her finger.

Quite late, we ate soba noodles in soup, the traditional New Year's Eve meal, and after watching the countdown on TV (Okaasan giggled but participated enthusiastically when I hugged her at New Year), and after more tea, The Man and I headed off in the cold for the local shrine. It took about twenty minutes to walk there along the quiet streets. It was a beautiful night, clear and crisp. We'd had snow in the morning but it was washed away by rain in the afternoon and by evening the sky was clear.

There were not very many people at the shrine, which is a very small one. It had a cosy, intimate feeling. People greeted each other, and the atmosphere was friendly and welcoming.

We went up to the shrine to throw some coins, jangle the bells, and pray. This picture is not of us.

After that we got our fortunes. Mine is on the right. It is a 'small luck' fortune, which says that only if I am good I will have a lucky year. But I must behave myself. I'm not too sure if I can manage that, but I will try.

The Man got one that said it is a good year for him to travel. Well, that is one of the things it said. He was delighted.

After reading our fortunes, we folded them carefully and tied them to the fence provided especially for that.

We were then given sake by the beautiful shrine maidens. (Well, the sake part is true, anyway)...

...and took it to the big fire pit to drink while we warmed our hands, which were by now turning blue. People bring their talismans from last year to burn in the pit, and they also burn wood from the annual trimming of the shrine trees. Boy Scouts tend the fire.

It was a windy evening, and every time a Boy Scout threw another log in the pit sparks flew up and somebody caught fire. This is also a New Year tradition. What would the Boy Scouts do all night if they weren't rushing around brushing sparks off people every five minutes? One time I brushed sparks off a Boy Scout, and the balance of the universe was disturbed.

On the way home I noticed a shabby little house where someone had hung New Year decorations inside the front door, creating an unexpectedly beautiful effect with the frosted glass and the light behind it. I took a picture.

We got home at about 3.30 am, and after some more tea, went to bed.

Happy New Year!


tinyhands said...

My you've been busy! The 'wild English' may not be tamed, but it has learned to eat from your hand. (No, I took that metaphor too far- I should have just said it's better than the English usually seen.) Lots and lots of photos! Given your propensity to photograph interesting manhold covers, I'm surprised you haven't started taking rubbings. (Can't you just see the headline? Foreign woman repeatedly run-down by motorists not expecting to see a woman in the street with her crayons.)

Badaunt said...

The English wasn't bad, I have to admit, but it was... strange. I always wonder what they were thinking when they wrote it. I mean, it's clear they spend a lot of time designing these signs and things, so you'd assume they spent a lot of time thinking about them too, right?

So where did the jewel box come from?

Do your own manhole rubbings. Photos are good enough for me, thank you. I've already been run over once, and I'm not risking that again.