Tuesday, January 15, 2013

My Japanese New Year

New Year has come and gone, we're already in mid-January, but this has been the most memorable experience I've had in Japan. Unlike my usual New Year celebrations usually spent dancing in a crowded, noisy nightclub and fueled with bubbles, this year was completely different. Quiet, relaxing, meaningful, and surrounded with love, kindness and scrumptious fare. I've always wished for a traditional New Year, and this time I was kindly adopted by an extremely generous and warmhearted Japanese family, who invited me into their home and taught me about Japanese traditions.

Japanese New Year, oshogatsu, is all about family time and traditions, a bit like our Christmas back home. On New Years Eve, we ate toshikoshi soba noodles, which symbolize longevity, and softly welcomed 2013 while sitting around the table and cheering with Japanese sake. The following days were filled with more traditions, such as visiting the local shrine to pray and draw our fortune for the upcoming year, and eating osechi, the traditional New Year foods. Those consist of a variety of small dishes, all so tasty: prawns, colourful kamaboko (broiled fish cakes), kohaku-namasu (daikon and carrots salad pickled in sweet vinegar and yuzu), just to name a few. My favourite part was ozoni, a soup of rice cakes in a light broth- so beautiful and delicious! I also tasted amazake for the first time, a sweet drink made from fermented rice. It has a very low alcohol level, even kids can drink it. I wish I could drink it every day- maybe I should.

I ate so many amazing dishes and tickled my taste buds with so many new tastes. The days surrounding New Year were spent eating, bathing, drinking green tea, sleeping, and having long, late-night chats with my lovely hosts. I feel extremely lucky I experienced a traditional Japanese New Year, with such a kind family who made me feel completely at home and comfortable, and treated me like a part of the family. I'll never forget this, and I hope someday I'm able to do the same.

Photos by Maaserhit Honda

Green tea and sparkly nails

Heart necklace and cat jumper

New Year Day morning tea

It was such a warm, sunny day

Ozoni, so colourful and tasty!

My chopsticks had my kanji name written on it, such a lovely touch

Osechi, lotus roots and various vegetables, so yummy.

Kohaku-namasu, a delicate blend of vegetables and flavours

Prawns prawns prawns

Beautiful and tasty kamaboko

Osechi, presented in bento boxes 

Deer encounter near the shrine

Men making soba at the local shrine

Steamy soba, ready to eat on the spot

Buying warm amazake

You can add a dash of ginger on amazake 

Serving hot amazake

The local shrine boasted festival foods stalls, like okonomiyaki

Daruma dolls... make a wish

Cute character toys abound at Japanese festivals

Impressive torii gate, and the shrine was filled with people

Best New Year's ever.


Anna Gustin said...

That sounds like so much fun! I love the pictures!

Vanessa said...

Vivian, these pictures are AMAZING. What an amazing New Year, you had! Truly dreamy and meaningful :-)

Christine loves to Travel said...

What an amazing experience! Love the photos :)

philly said...

Ah, Vivian! Now you've done it. You've made me homesick for the many families who opened their homes and hearts to me during the numerous home stay exchange programs I worked to facilitate with Canadian students. It's a remarkable experience to be taken into a family, made welcome and loved in that way.

Funny, January is particularly bad for that home-sick-for-Japan feeling.

Nat AndMatt said...

And where did you pick up this family? :)

Vivian said...

Anna- Thank you!! It was so much fun!!!

Vanessa- Thanks!! I'm extremely lucky I have a photographer in tow ;)

Christine- Wonderful indeed. I haven't forgotten about your Japanese treats, sorry for the delay!!!

philly- Thanks for your kind comment- I'm glad it brought up memories although I'm sorry it made you homesick. I know the feeling! I'm glad you can relate to my experience.

Nat and Matt- Haha!!! I am a lucky, lucky girl ;) Hope you guys had a good one!!

Michi Munster said...

You always look like you're living in a cozy wonderland. I love it. A happy new year to you love!