New year in Japan.
I hope you had a good winter break, if you did. But, if you were anything like me, you had a break from your real job, but your side jobs took over. Between, photography, blogging, Youtube, making flutes, preparation for the upcoming 4T podcast and looking after my kid, there was no real break.
Aside from self-imposed work there is a lot of work to get ready for the New Year in Japan. So, what is there to prepare, you might ask – there is a lot. In my house you know the New Year is around when giant gleaming steam pots appear outside stacked high on top of fires slowly burning sending steam up cooking the mocha rice, a particularly sticky kind of rice.
Soon after the fires die and the rice is cooked you can hear the familiar sound of the mocha machine churning the rice into mochi, rice cakes. The sound continues until late in the night for several nights until the house is filled with mochi molds from the floor to the ceiling. But of course there is still more to do.
The next few days are filled with grunting as we try to cut to the hardened mochi into suitable size for shipping to friends and family around Japan. After all the mocha is given away then there is one more batch to make, our own.
Then comes New Years eve, when everyone starts cooking for dinner at lunch time. The final dinner of the year is large and filled with many different types of food. Fish, soup, rice, vegetables, etc. your plate is filled to the brim but no one can eat. Before any of the food is eaten one meal has to be offered to the gods after which it is divided out to the family to eat for good luck and health.
As you can see, compared to America the New Years in Japan is more involved and busy. There are a lot more religious connotations to the end and beginning of the year than for Christmas, which is just a Hallmark holiday. Though times are slowly changing, there are some things that may never change and New Years in Japan may be one of them.
Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed this. If you have ever celebrated New Years abroad I would love to hear how you celebrated it. I would also like to hear about any traditions you have in your household, like making a few hundred pounds of mocha…