Posts Tagged ‘ Chion-in ’

“Happy New Year” = Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu

2013 UPDATE:  The YEAR of the SNAKE!

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Click Here for 2012 YEAR of the DRAGON info, background & trivia!

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Coming up:  2011.  The year of The Rabbit!

 

The Resolute Rabbit

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Happy New Year . . .

あけましておめでとうございます

Ah*ke*ma*shi*te    Oh*meh*de*toh    Goh*za*i*mas

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2 0 1 0 :     Y e a r   o f   t h e   T i g e r

Tiger. Kamine Zoo. Hitachi, Japan. April 2008.

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2010 is the Year of the Tiger, according to the ancient Chinese calendar (which runs in 12-year cycles).  2009 has been the year of the Bull, or Water Buffalo (plodding along, never giving up, persevering).  2011 will be the Year of the Rabbit (my year, thankyouverymuch).  But 2010 is for the Tiger:  active, self-assured and ready to strike at opportunities.  More on the Chinese/Japanese calendar below.  Here’s a nice, 2 min 10 sec video from Japan (titled): Year of the Tiger.  New Year’s Card.  How to Paint a Simple Tiger.”

Here’s a Happy New Year 2010 vid from Alien Eye, a Tokyo-based boutique marketing firm.  What I like about this 1 min 47 sec vid is that it pretty much captures “a day in the life” of anyone strolling the streets of Japan … ;o).

Stay tuned for updates on this page over the next several days and week.  Please consider joining others in signing-up (right-hand side of this page) so you’ll be notified by email of updates here on Japanese New Year Traditions, the Chinese/East Asian Zodiac, and other end-of-the-year/beginning-of-2010 information and esoterica.

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Japan has used the Gregorian Calendar since 1873,  5 years into the Meiji Restoration, but being a nation with close cultural, geographic and historical ties to and influences from China, the 12-year cycle Chinese calendar continues to hold great sway and influence in most Japanese hearts, at least from a standpoint of tradition and sentimentality.  Most Japanese New Year’s Cards  — Nengajo — (having gone into the mail by the millions and millions over the past few days in order that they be delivered on January 1st!) will feature a tiger motif.  Here’s an example:

Found at this website

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Otoshidama ( お年玉 )  is the Japanese custom (also in China and elsewhere in East Asia) where adults give children New Year’s envelopes containing money (bills only).  Japanese bills come in ¥1,000 (somewhat rare) ¥2,000, ¥5,000 and ¥10,000 increments, so children (depending on their age and relationship to the adult giver) can expect anywhere from ¥1,000-¥10,000 (around $11.00 to $110.00 given today’s exchange rate).  Envelopes are colorful and cartoony and cute.

Here’s how Kit-Kat (yes, that Kit-Kat) has gotten in on the otoshidama trade, combining a box of chocolate with an otoshidama envelope, suitable and intended for mailing from grandma to grandson/granddaughter  —  with, of course, a Year of the Tiger motif:

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お正月 O-Shogatsu

Shogatsu (or O-Shogatsu) are the amalgam of customs and celebrations that mark and are intertwined with celebrating the New Year in Japan.  Special foods eaten, temples visited, decorations made and gifts given all begin at 12:00 midnight on January 1, and continue for the next three (3) days.

Houses are cleaned and decorated in the days preceding O-Shogatsu.  Families walk or ride together (many at midnight, January 1) to their neighborhood Buddhist Temples and Shinto Shrines, businesses shut down, and Shonenkai (New Year’s Parties/Feasts) flourish.  Among the decorations are the front doors of homes and businesses, often sporting with pine (松 matsu, symbolizing deep-rooted strength), bamboo (竹  chiku, symbolizing the ability to bend with but overcome the winds of adversity) and plum fronds (梅  bai, symbolizing hope – plum being the first tree to blossom in the spring, with buds often bursting forth even through the late February snows).

Chion-in

In about three (3) hours (I write at about 8:30 a.m. U.S. Central Time), no less than 17 monks will take up the ropes attached to the log that strikes and rings great bell at Chion-in Temple in Kyoto and will swing that log into the 74 ton bell  108 times to ring-out the negative passions (greed, hate, envy…) of those who hear it and cleanse all for a fresh start for 2010.   It’s a tradition that’s gone on year after year for hundreds of years at Chion-in, which was established in the early 12th Century by a disciple of Hōnen, priest and founder of the Jodo (“Pure Land”) sect of Buddhism.  “The colossal main gate, the Sanmon, was built in 1619 and is the largest surviving structure of its kind in Japan.”  Here’s a rough vid I made of an, uh, event I ran into as I walked by the Chion-in Main Gate (Sanmon) about 45 days ago (also featured in another Front Page piece just below):

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“Live Japan!” (that’s a quote)

I’m not quite sure if that’s “Lĭve Japan”  or  “Līve Japan”.  Whatever it is it’s the name of the just-launched Japanese government’s 2 month travel campaign with a goal of getting 10 million foreign tourists to Japan in 2010.  Good for them.  I hope it works out.

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From the Campaign Website. Note: more hugging going on here (between foreigners, of course) than in 10,000 airport meetings between Japanese.

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And you, you are invited by the Japan Tourist Agency to go for a chance to win any number of travel prizes to Japan, simply by filling out this survey (actually, I did.  Just took a couple of minutes).

The heart of the campaign, though, is the JTA’s urging expats in Japan to send “Greeting Cards” to their friends and families back in their home countries, inviting them to visit them (the expat “correspondents”) in Japan.  I like the “Meet. . .  In Japan” thing.  I can see it now:  “So, where do you want to meet tonight?  Starbucks?  That new Mexican restaurant?”  Response – “Hey!  How about Japan!”  “Cool.  Say, around 6-ish?”

Japan is, by the way, a great place to visit . . .

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Kurodani dera Garden. Nov 2009.

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Neighborhood restaurant. Tokyo. Nov 2009.

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Just behind Shoren-in. Kyoto. Nov 09.

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Vending Machine (自動販売機). Tokyo. Nov 09.

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Where sweet surprises and surreal ironies abound (vid captured on cheap camera) . . .

Chionin temple in Kyoto, by the way, is one of the most famous throughout Japan.  Every New Year’s Eve Chionin’s massive bell, forged in 1678, is rung 108 times (an auspicious number in both Buddhism and Hinduism), can be heard throughout Kyoto’s Eastern Mountains, and is broadcast on national television.

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