Saturday, January 4, 2014

Welcoming 2014

"Learn from yesterday, 
live for today, 
hope for tomorrow" 
Albert Einstein


I hope it is still not too late to wish you all Happy New Year 2014!

Here in Japan, it is a long holiday for us. Nine-straight days of holidays, and in result, my biological clock has gone haywire lol! After a few days of lazing around and indulging non-stop in good food, I bet it will not be easy to return to work come Monday.


Osechi-ryōri (お節料理) from nearby supermarket. Note that this is not really the accurate representation of a typical traditional Japanese meal on New Year's eve. 

Watching the first sunrise of the year is an integral part of New Year's celebrations in Japan, as people gather at various viewing locations to pray for a successful year to come. After spending more than seven years in Japan, it was the first time I went to see the first sunrise.

The spot I pick was the Heiwa otorii gate nearby Haneda International Airport in Tokyo.


Upon reaching the spot, the volunteers were distributing hot shijimi (freshwater clam) soup and sake for free to everyone.


While everyone were waiting for the sunrise, this hot bowl of soup came just at the perfect time.

Sunrise time for January 1st, 2014 was 6:51 a.m. for Tokyo. As the clock ticks on, the crowd began to pill up and thirty minutes to the sunrise time, there were an estimated of 2,000 people, mostly locals who have gathered there. A couple of minutes before the sunrise, everyone started to look closely to their watches until the time came.

Finally, after more than an hour waiting in the chilly morning, we saw the first glimpse of the sun ray!


The very first sun light of the year, rising from the horizon.


Watching the first sunrise of the year from the land of the rising sun. Cool, isn't it?


Another shot of the sunrise by Tamagawa river.

No words or photos can describe the beauty we saw that morning. We saw the sun rising from the horizon, and in less than a couple of minutes, the whole thing is out. The sun was in blazing orange, round, and bright! It was simply gorgeous. Something that you have to see it with your own eyes.

I guess the freezing morning we endured was worth it after all.


The two characters on the torii gate, which read heiwa (平和), meaning "peace".


Located just a stone's throw away from Haneda International Airport, this torii gate wishes for the world peace.


Long lines of visitors who queued up for the hot shijimi soup.

My next destination was for hatsumōde (初詣). In Japan, the first event of the New Year is hatsumōde, which refers to one’s first visit to a shrine or temple in order to greet the New Year. There is no set period for this practice, but many people perform hatsumōde within the first three days of the year.

This year, my pick was Asakusa's Sensoji Temple, which opens up for this special prayer ceremony as soon as the clock rings at midnight and the new year begins. Unlike visits to this temple on other time of the year, the temple grounds and the Nakamise shopping street in front of Sensoji itself are decorated beautifully to welcome all visitors.


Kaminarimon Gate, the entrance to Sensoji Temple.


Beautiful wooden carving of a dragon just below the giant lantern.


Nakamise shopping street, which is beautifully decorated to welcome the year of horse.


The five-storey pagoda and the main entrance to the grand hall.

I am not sure why, but the temple was relatively not crowded at all. I get to walk into the main praying hall like almost immediately, without queuing like always. Perhaps it was the timing I was there. So, lesson learned. Go for your hatsumōde around eight to nine in the morning next time, and the place should be quite empty, unless you enjoy the crowd and long queues lol!


The main hall of Sensoji Temple.


The saisenbako (賽銭箱), an offering box for you to throw your coins into and make your prayers, was specially enlarged for new year's celebration lol!


Another tradition is getting omikuji (おみくじ), to foresee the future fortune.


 We were supposed to shake this case until a stick which has number written on it comes out.


Half fortune? Hmmm, not bad-lar I think lol!


After the visit to the temple, it was breakfast time. Miso saba mackerel breakfast set at Gasto.

Since Tokyo Skytree is just nearby, I decided to kill some time there, while enjoying the atmosphere of the shoppers fighting for fukubukuro, another new year craze which happens in Japan every year. This year, 1,000 lucky visitors will get to watch the first sunrise of the year from the tallest location in Tokyo - Tokyo Skytree's two observation towers - 350 meters and 450 meters up - opened from 5 a.m. to 8 a.m. The winners were chosen by lottery, but guess how much one ticket cost? 

One ticket to watch the sunrise from Tokyo Skytree costs a whopping 5,000 yen! Crazy stuff. I'd better watch it from Haneda. Not only it is free, we were served hot shijimi soups to beat the coldness as well haha!


 Tokyo Skytree seen from Sumida river.


Acrobatic performances at Tokyo Skytree.


Not only there were quite good, they were fu*king funny as well lol!

And talking about new year, this year I got only two new year cards. A record low haha! Must be due to the fact that I moved to a new place since December 2012 and all my cards got bounced to the sender :(

Anyway, the two were from my lecturer in Nagaoka and another one from Shei Pien in Toyama. But the pick of the lot (not that many anyway lol!) was from Shei Pien.


Nengajō (年賀状) or new year greeting cards for the year of horse.


This one (keyword: horse, laughing) from Shei Pien really made my day. Thanks mouse! I am gonna miss her nengajō a lot after this!

Happy New Year again guys, and have a wonderful year ahead!\(^O^)/

4 comments:

All About Ipoh said...

明けましておめでとうございます

calvin said...

@ All About Ipoh:
Thank you! A tad late, but wishing you a Happy New Year 2014 too!

mun said...

Happy new year! It is now Jan mid month, I hope still can wish Happy New year.

Interesting that there is a traditional of watching sunrise for the new year. Very delicious food.

calvin said...

@ mun:
Hello Mun! It is now mid of February and I shall made it a double wish. Happy New Year 2014 and Happy Chinese New Year too hahaha!

Sunrise watching on New Year's day is pretty common here, but I do wonder if they watch the sunset on the evening of December 31st ^.-