Back to the Grind….

It was such a nice break but the harsh reality to work had returned. I’m actually a bit happy for it. I missed all my little kiddies and seeing their faces everyday. But I can’t say I don’t miss sleeping in. 

I actually started back on the 11th but I’ve actually been pretty busy. With the end of the semester starting the need for English had grown. My 3rd year JHS students are testing and getting ready to apply to high schools and we have a speech contest called FEPCS coming up so each grade is picking 4 or 5 reps from each class. So I’ve been busy listening to presentations which is fun. It’s interesting to see what the students are interested in. 

But upon returning to work I had this on my desk awaiting me. 

I had an 御年玉(Otoshidama) waiting for me on my desk!! 

Otoshidama is a New Years gift that is given to children by family members. It’s essentially pocket money. Students have told me that sometimes they can get a total of 100-200 dollars every New Years! But mine was filled with chocolate coins. But the gesture really touched me!! 

Jaaaa~~~~

My New Years Experience…..

New Years is by far one of the coolest things I have seen in Japan. Japan is thought to be as very religious and very conservative….and well that’s true to some extent. As someone who grew up in the southern bible belt Japan is not religious…but in America we may say that the Japanese are more spiritual. And I am not talking about all of Japan, I am sure they have some christian churches or catholic ones, this is just from what I’ve seen.

There isn’t really “church” here.  Where I grew up I have seen churches on every street and on every corner, but here I have yet to see a church. So people in Japan don’t go to bible study, or church every Sunday, or do revival or anything like that. And if and when they do go to the shine it isn’t every Sunday, they just go when they need to ask on one of their  hundreds and thousands of gods for something. Like a boyfriend, or health, or money, or blessings for building a new house. So my ramblings about religion actually mean something, I promise.

In America New Years Eve is about going out club hopping with friends! Dressing up in your cutest dress and going out on the town with as many people as you can. And New Years day is for recovering from that night.

But in Japan New Years is for family and is considered the most spiritual time for Japanese people.

So around Christmas time people start putting out pine and bamboo decorations called kadomatsu. Many homes, and stores and shrines all have these. It is believed that the New Year’s gods come down from the spiritual to the earthly realm and it helps guide the gods to the house so you can have good luck and blessings in the New Year. And it is believed that the gods dwell in the kodomatsu until the 7th of January, after the 7th people take these to the shrine to be burnt and it releases the gods back to the spiritual realm.

Another thing that gets put out is Kagami Mochi. My teachers told me back then people would make the mochi, but now many people just buy it from the stores. but in kindergarten my students and some fathers who came to volunteer helped make kagami mochi for the school. Mochi is a food believed to contain the spirit of the gods. It is believed to be a homage to the god Amaterasu, or the god of the sun. So this represents light and renewal into the New Year. And the mikan or orange on top of it represents health and longevity.

So on New Years eve my friend and I went out drinking at a bar! We found a place called Jenny’s Bar near Parco Mall and they had all you can drink for $25! So we stayed for a while and watched the TV they had and played Jenga! The waiter here was also actually really cute, I regret not getting his name at least. He asked us a lot, like where were we from and such, the basics. We were actually like one of the only people in the bar. And when it was almost midnight they made is soba! And soba is eaten on New Years Eve to represent long life in the next years! It was vert nice of them.

So after this my friend and I headed to the castle, we wanted to catch people doing the first of the 5 Hatsu’s of the new Year.

5 発 of the New Year

初詣 (Hatsumode)ーFirst shrine visit
初日の出(Hatsuhinode)- First sunrise of the new year
初夢(Hatsuyume)- First dream of new year
初売り(Hatsuuri)- First sale bargain of new year
書き初め(Kazizome) – First calligraphy of new year

15740788_10207949325279503_3712627075926696433_n

Its hard to tell but there was a LOOOOOOOONG line at the shrine of the castle. It was all the way out the gates of the castle . People start to get up from dinner, from the bars, from the restaurants and go to the shrine to say their first prayer of the New Year. I came for the food stands!

We only had time to got to one stand since it was almost midnight and the last tram home was at 12:11 so we had to like run to catch it. But we went back the next morning!

And the line was still SOOOOOOOOOOO long, people were even further out of the gates.

15740857_10207955902003917_2870227039725003495_n

I wonder did people like camp out all night?! They probably didn’t wanna lose their spot in line. Even dogs wait in line to do the first prayer of the year.

 

And its the year of the rooster! So you could pick a rooster and get your fortune. My friend and I actually both got excellent fortunes and impressed a Japanese family beside us. They came up to us and talked to us about their fortunes and what they got. It was a very cool experience to have such a spiritual experience with not just my friend but with other Japanese people.

And again….I visited the food stalls! I finally got the oysters! I was so sad I couldn’t get them before, but I was happy they still had more. These are the famous Hiroshima Oysters from Miyajima island, they are so goooood. They taste better than any other oyster I’ve had before. And then I got some classic Yakitori!

 

It was such a cool thing to experience and be a part of. I really enjoyed my time in Hiroshima!

Ja~~~~~~~

 

 

 

 

Christmas In Hiroshima!

Firstly, I’d like to apologize for my absence. The end of the school year tumbled on us with testing, closing ceremonies and my end of the year enkai ( a drinking party with coworkers).

But I am back home now so I am ready to write! For Christmas I actually went back to Hiroshima, one of my friends still lives in the neighborhood I lived in so I stayed with her for the whole winter break! It was really nice for many reasons. One was that we both were not lonely for the holidays and the other was Hiroshima is a bigger city and in that its easier to get around. If I wanted to see something cool for the holidays in Matsue I would need a car, but Hiroshima has the tram and busses and its all over easier to travel.

So Christmas in Japan is way different from how we celebrate it in the States. Here Christmas is for friends, so every one is out drinking and eating dinner out and going on dates and eating KFC for dinner! The stores and restaurants are still open and everything which is strange to see. So my friend and I ate at Okonomi-mura! We usually avoid tourist traps like this but we went early enough to avoid the tourist dinner rush! Okonomi-mura is a famous okonomiyaki shop in the center of the city it has 26 shops inside this building!!! As I explained in a previous blog post okonomiyaki is the soul food of Hiroshima, so many people come and check it out.

The guy who was working for the shop we chose was very nice! He was really funny and taught us some Hiroshima slang and how to eat Okonomiyaki Hiroshima style! Apparently in Hiroshima you don’t eat with chopsticks you eat with the metal spatula you’re given. He was very happy and surprised we spoke Japanese! I wanna go back just to eat at his stand again!

After dinner we went and saw the Hiroshima Illuminations! This is basically just streets covered in Christmas lights! It was so beautiful! I just took a few photos of my favorites, but these stretched for miles down the street!

It was really nice to be surrounded by Christmas even if it was only for a night. That’s one of the things I miss about the States. We don’t just celebrate Christmas on the 25 but the whole month is Christmas, like as soon as Halloween is over it’s Christmas. And while I was in America I made fun of it, but now I really miss Christmas being thrown in my face at all times.

Jaaa~~~~