Hello Everyone! I’m sorry that I haven’t updated in over a month, but the end of the break ended up being pretty busy and then the last weeks of school were a nightmare! I was going to do a separate post for New Years and my trip to Kamakura and Enoshima but I think that it is late enough in February that this kind of thing might get a little confusing so it is becoming one mass post about the two things that I did at the beginning of January!
New Years is probably the biggest holiday in Japan and I was lucky enough to spend it doing a drinking party at my friends house! A big group of us from a bunch of different countries all brought food and drinks and could have a lot of fun together welcoming in the New Year together! I think that one of the things that was really great about getting together at Masa’s house for New Years (boy holding the dog) is that we could sit together in two traditional Japanese rooms! If you look in the picture, the floor is actually made of a kind of straw mat. They are really great to walk on and look really cool. Sitting on the floor in this style room is how it is done. While this was really cool in the sense that it was interesting it was also really cool because of the temperature…I don’t know if I have mentioned this before but Japanese houses don’t have central heating and not really any insulation so it can get pretty cold. In Western style rooms there is a kind of air conditioner that also works as a heater but in traditional rooms like this you have to use a portable heater so it can get pretty cold when you aren’t moving around anymore. As well, you can’t see it, but to the left of the picture there is also a family alter. I must admit that it was kind of interesting to have a drinking party in front of where you are supposed to pay respects to the dead…
Something really awesome about Japanese New Years is that there is special food to go with bringing in the New Year! You can eat so many delicious types of food to welcome the New Year and we got to eat some because we went to a Japanese house. Masa’s mother prepared our whole group soba to eat and it was so delicious! Soba noodles are made of buckwheat flour and are really yummy all the time, but these noodles were especially good. We also could eat grilled mochi with soy sauce which I unfortunately don’t have a picture of because we ate everything so quickly…However it is really to look up. Crazily enough, quite a few people actually die eating mochi every New Year’s because it is very chewy so a lot of older people choke on it. So if you try mochi please be really careful!
We ended up staying up most of the night and after some people left to take the last train home the rest of us fell asleep on the floor. Like I said earlier, the room is only heating by a portable heater so it is really cold! I fell asleep near the heater so I was warmer but when I woke up I had somehow been pushed against the heater and I thought that my hair was going to catch on fire. As well, though tatami are great to sit on and walk on….tatami does not make a good or comfortable bed even when you are laying on cushions!!
On January 5th I went to Kamakura (鎌倉) and Enoshima (江ノ島)with my friend Azusa and two of her friends. I could travel there on the train really easily even though it is a bit far from Tokyo, but I actually got on the wrong train by mistake and was late for our meeting. When I finally arrived we went to the shrine that is near the station in Kamakura. The first shrine visit of the year is known as 初詣 (hatsumode) and Kamakura is where I did this! It was really early in the year so we were lucky enough to see that there was a traditional ceremony taking place there. There were people with bows and many shrine maidens as well. They told me that it was probably a ceremony for a prosperous year for a Japanese company. We also got our fortunes there and prayed. Offering 5円 when you pray is supposed to give you good luck and then you can buy a fortune afterwords. Azusa and I bought got good luck for this year but it said that I needed to be careful of doctors, which is fitting because of how many doctors visits I have been making recently.
From the shrine we walked for approximately 30 minutes to the 大仏 (Daibutsu – Big Buddha) that is in Kamakura; it was built over a thousand years ago. We decided to walk instead of taking the train so that we could see the scenery and some other temples while we were walking. It was really fun to walk through the residential neighbourhoods to get there – the area we passed through seemed to be quite wealthy based on the size of a lot of the homes as well as the cars they were driving…and of course because it’s Japan there were vending machines! It costs a few hundred yen to get into the area where the Daibutsu is and once you are in there is not much there besides the Daibutsu, but you can pay money to climb inside and see how it was built in pieces. It was less than a 100円 so if you go you really should go in. That being said, I found the Daibutsu a little underwhelming so I was really excited when after buying a snack we decided to extend our trip to go to Enoshima, which is an island that is attached to the “mainland” by a bridge that cars and people can use. It was definitely my favourite part of our trip so I am really happy that we decided to go there even though it was already late afternoon.
When we arrived at Enoshima, we were first greeted outside the station by small metal birds dressed in red knitted clothes. I though that they were extremely cute so I had to take a picture of them. I am pretty sure that this post is to keep bicycles from driving around too fast or just to control the flow of people but I love how the little birds were put on it and dressed so cutely. From the station, we had to walk for 20 minutes in order to actually get to the island because there is no train to get there. Even though we had to walk and it was really cold, the street on the way to Enoshima and the street at the base of the island (because it is basically a hill/mountain island thing) was so full of people. Enoshima is really pretty and there a lot of shrines on the island for love so I think that many couples must go there, especially in the New Year. They even have a bell that is up a stray path that you can ring with your boyfriend or girlfriend. Even though I went with a group of girls as friends it was still really fun…even though there were so many couples everywhere; they even went after it was really dark and kind of late at night!
Actually, going to Enoshima was the first time that I have been anywhere near the ocean since I can to Japan so when I saw the open sea for the first time while we were still on the train I almost started to cry because it was so nostalgic! I think that it is the most random situations that you can find yourself being really reminded of home and missing something that you haven’t been able to experience in a while. Unfortunately after this amazing day, I had to go back to school and become busy for many many days…However, I plan on blogging more consistently for the rest of my stay! I’ll also upload some more pictures to Flickr so that people not on my Facebook can see lots more pictures than what I am posting here.
Good night! (^-^)