I've been told that new year in Japan is a moment to spend with family, that means everyone goes home and reunites with their family. People who live in cities visit their families in other cities or even in countrysides. Just like "mudik" for Lebaran tradition in my country, home for Christmas in the west. It's a good tradition. Leaving the old year and welcoming the new year together with the people you come from: father, mother, sisters, brothers.
Since we're two of gaijin (foreigner) who don't have families here, there are not many options to celebrate the new year's eve other than: escaping for holiday, going home to either of our homes, or remaining here do whatever we can to celebrate it. And since we had decided not wise to go for another abroad holiday for new year, we stayed in Japan, not even leaving our little shelter in this little town of Kuwana, mingled with locals, celebrating new year in a very local way like the locals usually do.
Having said to plan to cook nabe sometime, we finally decided to cook it for our new year's eve dinner. So pork, Chinese cabbage, green onions, lots of garlic, kimchi, mushrooms, daikon (white radish), spicy kimchi paste, and water, cooked in a pot on a portable stove, just right on our kotatsu table.
The Worshiper Of Cthulu
We had an invitation to our friends' place, Daito and Chihiro's. January 1st is Daito's birthday! So there we went, to celebrate old and new and to celebrate Daito's birthday.
We showed up at Daito's, which is in the same apartment building as Matthew's, around 10 pm. Some people had been there. So Daito introduced me to people who had not known me. Chihiro, Daito's wife cooked some Japanese food, and all I needed was hot tea. So Chihiro generously poured hot Nihon cha (Japanese tea) for me.
Phil, Australian, neighbour of Daito and also Matthew's, brought playing cards to play "The Worshiper of Cthulu". So we gathered to play this new game. The game is about finding the murderer in a village. We had fun accusing one another. My prime suspect was always my husband. I said, "Who could have been meaner than you are?" But some people did accuse me. Yazuo said, "Because you keep smiling and talking." We played 4 rounds, I was never the murderer. I always had the "villager" card, I died twice, my husband died three times and I always accused him, Matthew was the murderer twice, and I kind of always suspecting Daito, judging from his laughing all the time, as far as the game went on, Aki played a real innocent, and he was always a villager, just like me.
Thanks to The Worshiper of Cthulu, we missed 0.00 AM! When we saw the clock on Daito's wall, Chihiro switched on TV to check and of course, so that we could yell "Happy new year!", but we had missed it! But it was ok, we congratulated one another "Happy new year", And.. "Happy birthday!" to Daito. He's 33 years old now.
I said, "What! You went there too? To Camp Nou? When?"
"September," he said. He watched a match between Barcelon FC versus who I don't remember. Then I told him that my cousin, Tinuk, also went to Barcelona and visited Camp Nou like in November. Daito asked if my cousin also watched a match, but she didn't. Daito told me how overwhelmed they were, he and Chihiro, in the shop, that they like could not decide what to buy. Nice. I totally understand that.
Local New Year's Eve
After a while chit-chatting and had our pieces of chiffon cake, we left Daito's place, together we walked to a nearby shrine, to see locals doing their new year's ritual in a traditional way.
When I said shrine, it meant Shinto shrine. People tossed coins, clapped their hands, prayed, and then pulled a thin bamboo stick out of a box, to see their fortune forecast for the year. I am never interested in fortune telling or whatever you call, because to me, you'll never know what you're gonna get, and no single human can see what your life will be. However, this time, I was interested to do the thing other people did. So, I pulled a stick, and Matthew, who was so happy to have his "best luck" forecast, screamed, "Oh no! You have the worst luck!"
"You're kidding," I said.
"Nope, I'm not. This means 'the lowest'," he pointed at two kanjis written on my fortune forecast. And then he showed his own. "See? Mine is the highest."
I shrugged. "Well... You'll win Lady Gaga's." He's in a video-making project to win Lady Gaga's video contest.
"Yes, I know, I will!" That's why Matt was so happy. Best fortune is what he really needs this year, to really win that contest. I've seen that video. It's on Youtube, search "blind devotion matthew keehan". Kinda scary though. :D
Ah, who knows what those papers really mean. Do I need fortune? Maybe not. I think I'm lucky enough.
There is a tradition of celebrating new year in Japan, it is having mochi. I've seen mochi in so many shapes when we went to Ogaki city, another quiet city, a weekend before. So, in this shrine too, that night, we had desert made of sweet red beans and mochi.
So it was. No fireworks, no people going out in the streets. Just completely different from what I always experienced in my country. Semarang, Bali, and of course the other cities. Parties, fireworks, barbecues, food, drinks, all night. Earlier I mentioned to my husband that I wanted to see how Nagoya in new year's eve, since he said that train goes all night, but after spending that night, it didn't matter anymore. It might have been different in Nagoya, but what if it hasn't been? What if people have left the city to their hometowns, and have chosen to spend the night solemnly, having a peaceful time with their families, as the impression I had about celebrating new year? That could have been worse even, seeing Nagoya in quiet.
New Year's Day
January 1, 2010 (Heisei 22).
We went out. I wanted to see how city was in the New Year's day. However, saying "city" means a bigger city nearby, and that could mean either Yokkaichi or Nagoya. So, to Yokkaichi we went, which is closer to our place than Nagoya. Beside, we had already gone to Nagoya twice that week.
I had guessed how it would be. However, I was still surprised how empty it was. Shops were closed. Even shops in Kintetsu Station. Snow fell down shyly when we reached Yokkaichi. Only tiny flakes. I only wanted to have coffee at Starbucks, study a bit, teach Joe a bit of Bahasa Indonesia. So, if Starbucks was closed, our plan B was to have early dinner at Everest, a very good Nepali restaurant around that area. And if Everest was closed too, then plan C: go home, and mourn for our wasted 1,160 Yen for train back and forth.
Shops were closed on New Year's Day.
That was my first New Year's celebration abroad. Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu, happy new year, 2010 or Heisei 22 in Japanese calendar.