January 1, 2011

::: Ake Ome! ::: (Happy New Year!)

Hey everyone! It's finally that time of the year!

(Note: I could go on and on about Japan's New Year, but I'll try to shorten it up! =P)

Well let's begin the post! ^^

New Year (or Shogatsu), is the most important holiday in Japan! They celebrate it on January 1st and all businesses usually close from Jan 1 - 3 to spend time together with family! Everyone joins together to celebrate a fresh start--leaving all the worries and troubles of the previous year. They truly take it seriously and even throw bonenkai parties (or "year forgetting parties").

It's also very typical in Japan to eat Soba (buckwheat noodles) which symbolizes longevity. (I've tried Soba in Japan--from a relative with a soba license and it's without a doubt my favorite noodle dish... ever!)

And other traditions include watching a music show called "Kohaku Uta Gassen" which features many popular Japanese J-pop and enka singers in spectacular performances.

On New years day many Japanese people pay attention the "firsts" of everything--such as the first shrine visit of the new year (hatsumoude), the first sunrise of the new year (hatsuhinode), etc.

Let's talk a little bit about Hatsumoude:

On January 1st, 2nd, or 3rd thousands of people visit their local shrine or go to popular ones which tend to be VERY crowded with long lines.

In anime we can see how teenagers typically visit shrines more for fortune-telling than anything else. You pay the amount requested and then you receive a folded Fortune Paper (Omikuji). When you open it up it has a wide range of fortunes, separated by luck and misfortune which ranges from Excellent Luck (Daikichi) to Certain Disaster (Daikyou).

For a full list of the commonly used levels click here:
* 大吉 - Daikichi - Excellent luck
* 吉 - Kichi - Good luck
* 中吉 - Cyukichi - Fair luck
* 小吉 - Syokichi - A little luck
* 半吉 - Hankichi - Semi-good luck
* 末吉 - Suekichi - Uncertain luck
* 末小吉 - Suekokichi - Uncertain but a little luck
* 凶 - Kyou - Bad luck (Misfortune)
* 小凶 - Syokyou - A little misfortune
* 半凶 - Hankyou - semi-misfortunate
* 末凶 - Suekyou - Uncertain misfortune
* 大凶 - Daikyou - Certain disaster


Once they've seen their fortune they usually have places to tie them up--but sometimes they tie all the terrible luck ones in a separate place like on a tree. (I wouldn't want to get one of those o.O)

And just to give you an idea of how seriously these people take their fortunes: If they got Daikichi they would probably immediately go gambling or something--and if they got Daikyou they would probably either go sulk and rot in a corner somewhere around their house or go to a karaoke box. Others might even double check their life insurance or purchase another one! So if you ever go to Hatsumoude--pray you don't get a Daikyou!

Something interesting about the whole Omikuji tradition is they leave the fortunes in plain sight with a price and a money container--unattended--and they expect everyone to pay the given amount or suffer the guilt and/or wrath of Kami (God). This is due to the incredible honesty in Japan: they say that if you lose your wallet and someone returned it to you--you wouldn't be missing a single yen. I find this attitude quite admirable and trusting =P.

Anyway, anime shows that visiting the shrines can comprise of a wide array of moments... anywhere from romantic ones:

(i.e. a couple goes out all day and walk together to get their fortune--spending the first moments of the New Year together with the one they love ^^ and/or one person in the couple gets excellent luck and trys to cheer up the other person who usually gets terrible luck by saying things along the lines of "I'm lucky to know you" or something :D (You can tell romance is my thing =P))...

(Note: The picture to the right is Daikichi (Excellent Luck).)

to comical ones:
*Note: I'm sorry, I couldn't think of a picture that would do this one justice :(*

(i.e. the Boke usually extremely bad luck whereas the Tsukkomi gets like medium fortune and then the Tsukkomi says "atleast mine is better than yours" or something like that =P (If you want to know what the Boke-Tsukkomi/Manzai routine is, click here))....

But anime definitely does a better job of getting you in the mood for the New Years than seeing adults pour champagne, kids playing with balloons and clappers, and then watching a big ball drop on T.V. =P (Even though all the lights in Time Square are pretty exciting--watching it on t.v. isn't as fun)... So don't forget to watch your fair share of anime so that when December comes you'll have plenty of happy memories to remember which will hopefully get you in a better mood for Christmas and New Years! Or better yet--go to Japan for the holidays! =P

That's all for today,
The Otaku Reviewers wishes you all a Happy New Year! =P

Quick! It's time for a KRE (Kana - Romaji - English).

K: あけまして おめでとう!
R: Akemashite Omedetou!
E: Happy New Year!

Or for short: Ake-Ome!

Thanks for reading! ^^,


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Don't forget that "follow" button--that tells us you're happy with our blog... and smiles, of course, keep us going =P.

If you'd like to read more on Japan's customs, feel free to Google it or click this handy wikipedia article that pretty much sums it up: here.

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