Decorating New Year…

Finally, my body clock is tuned in to the UK time!
I am no longer waking up at odd hours and feeling like a zombie in the afternoon. But how do cabin crews on international flight cope with this jet lag business, I have no idea. It must be tough on their system…

Prior to New Year’s Day, I was walking around Zenkō-ji almost on a daily basis. Last time I was here was in the early spring of 2012. Anyone who observes contemporary Japan closely will agree with me that during two years, a lot can happen in this island, even in a relatively quiet place like Nagano. Some old shops go out of business while new enterprises take roots or new buildings emerge while old ones get demolished and make way for parking lots, etc…
Still fresh from the excitement of arriving at Nagano, I armed myself with layers of thermals & a brand new iPod Touch, and set out to investigate what change the past two years had brought to around Zenkō-ji…

Contrary to my expectation – I thought the town must be buzzing with preparation for New Year celebration, most of the shops were on holiday already…

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Each shop front with a polite holiday notice was adorned with a colourful New Year’s decoration.

The most prominent decoration of the Japanese New Year has to be a kadomatsu (門松) – gate pine…

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This “face” of the Japanese New Year is made from three large bamboo shoots in different length and they are bound with a straw mat a woven straw rope. My photo shows only one but it is to be placed in pairs, representing male and female, in front of houses or business premises. Their are invitation to ancestral spirits or toshigami (deity), who will bring a bountiful harvest for farmers, prosperity to business and bestow the ancestors’ blessing on everyone. As soon as highly commercial Japanese Christmas season is over, Santas, trees, cherubs, and poinsettia are replaced by traditional New Year’s decorations. They are on display until around the 15th January. Once the period is over, spent decorations are donated to local shrines or temples and burnt in huge bonfires called Dondo-yaki (どんど焼き), for the purpose of releasing gods to heaven.

The east meets the west. A sign for a cream cake stands next to a kadomatsu…

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Similar to a typical tradition of ikebana (Japanese flower arrangement), the different height of each bamboo shoot represents heaven, humanity, and earth. And bamboo is renowned for its fast growth – the shoot grows more than 5 ft high in a few days, symbolises vitality and vigour.

Pine is also a typical material to be used for New Year decorations…

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Evergreen plant pine is believed to house deity.

Another popular plant around the New Year period is Nanten (南天) – Nandina domestica aka. Heavenly Bamboo…

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Old-fashioned postbox in Nanten-red…

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Men were busy preparing roadside pines for a heavy snowfall…

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Nagano’s short afternoon sun was setting and I decided to head home for a hot cup of tea with mum…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

4 thoughts on “Decorating New Year…

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