The holiday season in the U.S. is winding down now, and Christmas, the big event, has passed.
But here in Japan the New Year’s holiday season is just getting started. Most companies take off for at least a full week starting today. People head for their home towns, Tokyo becomes very quiet, and the air becomes crystal clear as all the factories close. It’s during these holidays I can best see Mt. Fuji from my bedroom window.
The climax begins New Year’s eve and continues for a few days afterwards, as people make their first visit to shrines (hatsumoude – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hatsumōde). New Year’s eve is the only night of the year the Tokyo trains and subways run all night.
The first dream of the year (hatsuyume – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hatsuyume) is considered important. May you dream of Mt. Fuji and hawks.
There are also some other “hatsu” firsts of the year I won’t detail here, but which you might look forward to. 🙂
Companies and friends are having bounenkai (forget the year parties – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bōnenkai) now, and the liquor is flowing freely. After the year starts up again and people return to work there will be another round of shin’nenkai (new year parties).
It used to be that all the stores would close at least for the first couple of days of the year. Unfortunately, with growing competition, a lot of stores are opening, even on new year’s day. I think that takes away some of the special feeling. The same thing happened in the U.S. too. When I was in grad school, I couldn’t even find a 24 hour restaurant to eat dinner at on Christmas Day. But I understand there are lots of places open on Christmas there now. The same thing happened here with new year’s day.
Yoi otoshi wo (have a good new year). Rainen mo yoroshiku onegaishimasu (this doesn’t translate so well in English, but essentially means please show me the same kindness next year as you did this year). From New Year’s Day onward, when you meet someone for the first time that year you can say akemashite omedetou gozaimasu (happy new year) and kotoshi mo yoroshiku onegaishimasu (please show me the same kindness again this year).
Happy Year of the Dragon!