By : Angelika Putri
Hello! 久しぶり！Long time no see!
I’m one of the participants of Asia Kakehashi, AFS Program, as an exchange student from Pontianak, Indonesia to Japan!
Here, I’m going to introduce you and tell you about my unforgettable moment that I’ve experienced, that is my First New Year ever in Japan. And it’s really special because nor I ever imagined before, Japanese new year is really attached to their culture and tradition. They have unique, fun and so many interesting things to do to celebrate the new year or they call it お正月！(Oshogatsu). That is known to as the most important holiday in Japan!
If you want to know and learn more about Japanese culture, especially the New Year tradition that i thinked they have the unique new year tradition ever, and that you can’t ever find it in another place, I think my stories will help you to get to know more about it!!
Started with Mochi-tsuki, or pounding rice to make mochi (rice cakes), is an important traditional event in preparation for the New Year. It’s usually performed at the end of the year, from around December. And I’ve done it twice! With my Lp and friends and with my host family! We are gathered together with the neighborhood and made the mochi together. We had the mochi with red bean, soy sauce, mentai And my favorite was mochi daifuku ice cream which contains strawberry, red bean paste (i love it so much! ) and vanilla ice cream.
I also help my host family clean the house called “Oosoji” That is a tradition of cleaning the house before new year. And Japanese New Year also have some decorations that will be around the house. In front of the door we hung “Shimekazari” which is an ornament made of straw rope, pine branches and bamboo which aims to ward off evil spirits. Then there is also “Kagami Mochi” which is stacked mochi and also oranges that is placed on top of it. And we also have “Kadomatsu” that are paired bambo that are set in front of the entrance ways
These are called “Oshogatsu Kazari”
On New Year’s Eve, we ate Japanese “soba” noodle together. The tradition called “Toshikoshi soba” which symbolize a general wish for long life. And after that we went to the shrine (Jinja) to see a show of people dressing up like Japanese Gods, beating drums and burning leaves. And participated too in one of the most important tradition, “Joya No Kane” That is ringing the New year’s bell at midnight and the bell has to be rang 108 times, that is meant that you’ll be cleansed from the bad things or evil.
And then we pray at the shrine for hope for the coming year. I also got an “Omikuji” with 100 yen that is a fortune written on a paper to determine the luckiness or either the bad luck in the new year.
New Years on January 1st, we woke up early and saw the sunrise at the beginning of the year and after that we walked from house about 20 minutes to the shrine to pray. This is called “Hatsumode”. We toss a coin and pray for luck, happiness and hope for the upcoming year. Back home after, we enjoyed the New Year’s dishes “Osechi Ryouri”. Osechi Ryori is the traditional food enjoyed on New Year’s day in Japan. And we have to eat this three days in a row until Oshogatsu ends. They come in an assortment of colorful and served in a tiered box called “Jubako”. There were fish cakes, fish egg, sweet black beans, mashed sweet potatoes, shrimp, and many more, where each dish has its own name and meaning. It was really good that I can’t stop eating, like each part of the dish just taste like how it looks.
And my most favourite one was “Otoshidama”! The tradition of giving money to children up to 20 years old on New Year’s Day. With attractive and colorful envelopes, I received many Otoshidama envelopes and it made me feel very grateful and happy! And after that, I and My host family also the neighborhohood gathered together to plays card! If was so fun and i’ll always have a special space in my heart for that moment. In a cold winter season, but with furnace and the togetherness, it felt so Warm.
And there are still some things that Japanese people do in the new year. With this newsletter, I hope I can introduce you to Japanese culture and one day you’ll be able to celebrate it too! I myself, who have celebrated it in person, have been very impressed and will never forget this memorable moment! Especially when i’ve done it with my host family, the people that I loved.
Thank you for reading!
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