Happy New Year!

Despite begin stuck in Japan, 2010 ended pretty well and started quite peacefully!

After a crazy few days in the run-up to Christmas, I managed to settle down a little and spent Christmas Eve with a friend of mine and her family. This friend did a homestay in the States when she was in high school, so her host family from back then always sends her kids a lot of presents, and she celebrates Christmas the right way! We watched love actually once her kids went to bed, then we put all the Christmas presents under the tree; the next morning I was subsequently woken up by her kids (boy called Haru, 6, and a girl called Mika, 4) who shouted – Santa ga kita! (Santa came!). After opening the presents we had some gingerbread for breakfast – a pretty normal Christmas actually!

Then I went to meet 2 other friends and we went to the Marriot for a buffet lunch (I never ate so much in my life!!) and then we went back to their place to have some mulled wine and delicious Wittamer Christmas cake. Nice! Had more mulled wine on Boxing day with some other friends – all together a pretty cool Christmas.
For New Years I hung out with the same friends as at Christmas – we decided to keep it low-key so we bought a monopoly board and played that into the New Year. I won, so I got to keep it ☺

On New Year’s day I went to the biggest shrine in Nagoya – Atsuta Shrine – and followed a Japanese New Year’s ritual. It was really busy so I had to wait and waddle towards the shrine like a penguin, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I threw in my money, clapped my hands, prayed for good luck and did the bow.

Then I went and bought an omikuji (or fortune) which I’ve not yet deciphered, and hung it up. It was interesting to see what Japanese people do! I didn’t eat osechi (New Year’s food, which they make in advance as they’re not allowed to cook for the 1st 2 days of the New Year, and to preserve it it’s loaded with sugar) even though you can buy it at the supermarkets nowadays, because it all looks very jelly-like and fishy.

I also went to the shops to have a look for “fukubukuro” – or lucky bags. This is the Japanese version of super sales. They put all their clothes from last year in bags (size-divided of course) and you buy one of these bags. The trick is that you can’t look inside them, so you don’t know what exactly you’re buying (which is why they’re not my cup of tea). However, you can buy a bag for, say, 10,000 yen (about 80 euros) but the content is actually worth 3 or 4 times as much. Apparently people go crazy over them.

I think most shops start their sales of them today (02 january) as all shops were closed yesterday except for Gap and Zara. Funny, only the western shops didn’t take a break…

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