Stephen Pollard is complaining, with some reason, about the horribleness of the enforced jollity of New Year's Eve parties. Well Stephen, maybe I have an alternative to going to bed early with a cup of horlicks... visit Japan, where New Year (Shogatsu) is the equivalent of Christmas elsewhere and where seeing inthe new year is a dignified visit to the local shrine or temple (kind of a midnight mass for shintoists or buddhists) plus a family toast or two.
We're having a white new year here in the depths of Shimaneken (for those not up to the geographical details of Japan it is number 34 on this map) as you can see by the snow covered shrine to the right. That picture was taken yesterday and some of the snow melted leaving me worried that maybe we would just have slush, but then last night and this morning we have had continual snow so a white shogatsu seems assured as the photo below may hint at:
Inside the house all is confusion as my in-laws do frantic last minute cleaning and tidying (it is a tradition that everything be as clean as possible for New Year) and they have put up some New Year decorations around the house's religious bits: The Shinto bit The buddhist bit the scroll adjacent to the Buddhist thingy.
My in-laws don't seme to have done it (yet) but many places have a pair of highly decorated things either side of the door or entrance gate. This one that I took at the O-Miwa Jinja near Nara a few days ago is an excellent example: I'll try and describe what we get up to after its done tomorrow. It is possible that I will semi-live blog it which could be a world first...
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PS Clicking on the photos gets you to enlarged ones.