January 02, 2006

O-Inari-San

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

No fireworks this year, the pyromaniac inside was not pleased. I had to settle for sunrise by the ocean - which I suppose was worth it.

With the onset of holidays, and facing the fact that almost every English speaking person I know in town has returned to their respective countries, or gone parading to another, means that I'm likely to be barricading myself inside - if only to be safe from the icy cold - and busying myself with PSP and movies.

So on New Year's I went to a party with the few gaijin I know left in Hitachi, and K, and went to a party at a married couple's apartment with a lot of friends from the Japanese half's school days. With a combination of Guiness, beer, shochu, sake and a very delicious taco salad brewing inside my belly by 11pm, things were not boding well for continued sobriety.

However this was a mature party - and no dancing, or disco lights in sight (though I did score a glow stick... stay tuned) - so things did not break in too much excess. I did participate in the force feeding of Inari, but that was probably as wild as it got.

At midnight we had to contemplate whether or not to walk, in the not-quite-but-sure-as-hell-feels-like-sub-zero temperatures, about 20 minutes to a temple to participate in the New Year gong beating tradition. We eventually reached on a yes decision at about 11:45 (You do the math).

After beating a gong, and scoring position second-to-last in the line of 108, the small group of stragglers left who opted to eke it out on foot (after myself and my friend also eking it out on foot all the way there) stopped at a shrine. We reached the conclusion that Temples are Buddhist, while Shrines are local, and generally Shinto. At the Shrine, with a small donation, you ring a bell, clap, and wish. Then I scored hot smoke from a nice warm burning fire - my companions were only a little worried about my proximity to flames - but while my Japanese is improving, especially with all my drunk conversation practice - I still couldn't understand "Watch out, you're going to get burnt". The Shrine staff were much more bountiful in New Years Gift giving than the Templars. All I got there was an envelope to prove and lord over my friends at home that I beat a gong. At the Shrine, I got cold shochu, warm sake-soup, and a glow stick. Thats right, there was a guy at some isolated Japanese shrine at about 1 am on New Years Day handing out glow sticks - beautiful!

It being winter here in the Northern Hemisphere, sunrise would only be 7 and a half freakin long hours away, rather than the more reasonable 4 and half I could expect back at home. So the long stretch of not falling asleep, and demolishing the remains of food began. The beach, thankfully was a lot closer than the shrine, but the temerature was even worse. I'm really freaking out about the strange colour my toes have decided to turn lately. I can stil feel them, and its not black, but I have no experience with frost induced maladies, so hopefully I can keep all my toes when Spring finally arrives again.

But its obviously not that cold, not only did the masses come out in the morning to observe the tradition of watching the first sunrise of the New Year, but there was an insane mob of surfers who decided that the middle of winter, on a relatively calm day, was a great day to catch some waves. Also represented were those mad-fuckers with souped up vans that appear to very popular, at least in Ibaraki, if not Japan. Its a van. No matter what colour, how many strobes, or even sub-woofer capacity - it will still be a van and horribly destined to be NOT COOL.

Now, I have to get back to writing postcards, I'm on a roll, and only ahve about 50 unwritten cards left.

So enjoy the New Year, or else ...
you won't.

*********

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