31 December 2014, Wednesday
Partyyyy at Shimoda Student Village, which is the dorm where most of my friends live.
At night, we had a New Year’s Eve Party, in which we consumed sushi, dumplings (handmade!), choux pastries, nabe, and watched Kohaku Uta Gassen!
Back in high school Japanese class, my teacher would show us clips of Kohaku for fun, and I aspired to be able to watch it live someday. So it was nice that Shimoda had a TV and I was able to. However, I barely knew anyone who showed up! BoA and Ayumi Hamasaki just aren’t that popular anymore…But I was super surprised to see Idina Menzel! Frozen’s popularity is just way to high in Japan. I also ended up missing Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, but I saw a ton of AKB and the spin-off editions. Sadly, I am not a fan. The only person I was really okay with was Nana Mizuki and TM Revolution. And alongside Kohaku, Juu put on Taiwan’s version of the show, since they were also celebrating new year’s there. Every year, Taipei 101 is lit up with fireworks. There was a ton of food and it was all delicious, but the most interesting part of the “day” came after everything….
1 January 2015, Thursday
On the 1st! Hatsumoude! The first shrine visit. Trains ran throughout the night for the first shrine visit of the year. It was really weird to see trains at 2am, but Ching, Kyuu, George, and I made the trip to Meiji Jinguu. Though it was so early in the morning, the trains were full of people. Before we went out of Meiji Jinguu Mae Station, though, we made a stop of Starbucks (which was already selling fukubukuro – lucky bags of the new year) and bought drinks. I got to try the special limited edition Orange Mocha Latte that way. It had a really nice orange-chocolate flavor that I liked.
Meiji Jinguu, which is a super popular place for Hatsumoude, also had a lot of traffic. But properly handled traffic. There were police that sectioned off crowds and told you when to move and stop, so it was quite organized. We still had to wait a while before we got to the area where you throw your ¥5 and make a wish, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Afterwards, we went to the area with mamori and kuji for sale. As it was the first shrine of the new year, I decided to purchase an omamori. The kuji at Meiji Jinguu, however, seem to be unique, as they don’t tell you what level of luck you receive – they basically give you a motto for the new year. I guess it’s up to interpretation, because most people ended up tying up their fortunes (not us – we were the foreigners who wanted to keep them).
There was also a section of Meiji Jinguu by the souvenirs that sold a bunch of food. It was really like a festival.
Since we still “had time” and were out anyways, we decided to find a place to see Hatsuhinode, which is the tradition of seeing the first sunrise. Kyuu searched up places to go to, and we settled on Haneda Airport’s roof. So we made the rather expensive trip there on the train. There was already a line and the place didn’t open up until like 6am. The roof itself was SUPER cold. I did not wear enough for that. Bring a hat, gloves, mask, anything to cover up everything – it was that cold. And the roof got crowded the more time that passed. You can also see a nice view of Mount Fuji from the roof – which was basically all we got to see, since we stayed there ’til sunrise and never actually got to see the sun. There were too many clouds that day.
So we went back to Hiyoshi tired and disappointed. Got a quick breakfast at McDonald’s, then went home. I ended up sleeping until 4pm that day, but considering I came back at 10am, I guess that’s to be expected. The unfortunate thing was that it actually snowed that day, but I was fast asleep, so when I woke up, it had stopped already. It would’ve been nice to see a snowy January 1st…