Friday, January 2, 2009

New Year in Tokyo

Japan, in its efforts to westernize, celebrates the western New Year rather than the Chinese New Year. During the first few days of the New Year, people go by the thousands to shrines and temples where they make a wish for the new year. Many are dressed in kimonos, and many people bring traditional New Year's decorations from the previous year which the shrine will burn. Many people buy arrows and other amulets which must have some significance unknown to me.
People wait in long lines in order to make a wish at a shrine. When asking the gods to fulfill the wish, the people offer a coin, ring the bell to get the gods' attention, and make the wish. Afterwards, they clap their hands twice if they are at a shrine. If they are at a temple, they simply bow.

This little girl wore a kimono that her grandmother had worn years ago. Here, she uses cloth napkins to protect the kimono while eating her lunch.New Year's decoration
Daruma for sale. Per Wikipedia, Daruma dolls are hollow and round Japanese wish dolls with no arms or legs, modeled after Bodhidharma, the founder and first patriarch of Zen. The doll has a face with a mustache and beard, but its eyes only contain the color white. Using black ink, one fills in a single circular eye while thinking of a wish. Should the wish later come true, the second eye is filled in. It is traditional to fill in the right eye first; the left eye is left blank until the wish is fulfilled. Because of their low centers of gravity, some types of daruma doll are roly-poly toys: they return to the upright position after being tilted to one side. As such, the daruma has become symbolic for optimism, persistence, and strong determination.
Here, an employee of the shrine burns old amulets that people bought the previous year, for good luck. Amulets include Daruma and cards from shrines or temples that people obtained during the previous year.

These women are selling cards that tell your fortune, amulets, and holy Japanese sake at the edge of the shrine. Their white and red clothing indicates that they work for the shrine.

In the train station we happened upon a small performance. Here, a woman plays a koto, or stringed instrument.

Also in the train station, a lion dances. The lion is believed to walk around traditional villages and eat evil things, getting rid of them. The lion will pretend to bite children to get evilness out of the children. The lion is a good figure for Japanese people, not a scary figure.
Happy New Year to you all! Thanks for reading my blog.

1 comment:

Carla said...

We got a Daruma for our wedding. It is one of our prized items on a high shelf above reach from the children, and has moved countries with us. Looking at it reminds us of the wish and what we need to do to make it happen.
Thanks for keeping us updated with your blog. Love reading it!