Part of the Usa Shrine compound

New Year, New Year’s Resolutions

ひさしぶり! (Long time no see!)

I realise I haven’t posted in a while, and I’ll explain that at the end, but first, a little explanation of New Year in Japan (although it’s mid-January now)

New Year in Japan is known as shogatsu (正月)and is celebrated, much like many places in the world, on 31st December and 1st January. Similar to Christmas back home (the UK) it’s a time for spending with family, and eating a lot of tasty food.

There’re many traditional foods eaten at New Year which are thought to bring you luck in numerous things for the coming year. Among these are kamaboko (fish cakes, traditionally red and white to represent the first sunrise of the year), kuromame (black soybeans, to bring you good health), and kazunoko (herring roe, for fertility) among other things. All of these often make up part of osechi ryori, a traditional and very intricate-looking series of dishes served in boxes.

As well as the food, people often see the New Year in by visiting shrines, or even by getting up early to go and watch the first sunrise of the new year. The first shrine visit of the year is called hatsumode, and is where people go, often with family or friends, to make their wishes for the coming year and replace any o-mamori (lucky charms).

Fortunately, even I got to spend New Year with my family despite being in Japan, and I took them to visit Usa Shrine in Oita prefecture, though we went a few days into the new year so as to try to miss the crowds. I’ll explain it in more detail in another post, but Usa Shrine was the first ever shrine dedicated to Hachiman, the god of war and archery. So I felt it was only fitting that I got a traditional arrow charm, normally used to protect one’s home from evil spirits, although mine apparently is also for helping you achieve your dreams.

I’ve also been doing the more Western tradition of setting New Year’s Resolutions. It may come as no surprise that posting more regularly on here is one of those resolutions. A major problem I ended up with last year was part unpreparedness for how busy I’d be and how little free time I would feel like I had sometimes, but due to this partly also lacking the motivation to write a long post like this. But it also made it more difficult to start the longer I was like this, as I would get more and more behind with the things I wanted to post about. So I decided that my way of remedying this and catching up with all those posts, while trying to still post about current things, will be to do ‘Throwback Thursday’ posts from now covering past things I did or went to, until I’ve caught up.

I hope you’ll continue to read my posts this year too, and hopefully there’ll be more of them!

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