New Year to the Japanese is more like Christmas to Christians. It’s a time for family members to all come home from wherever with airline tickets, bought at inflated prices, in order to eat too much, watch television argue with family members and, for young students, get your laundry done.
Completely not heeding this fact, I gathered a crew of two other non Japanese and even two Japanese to join me in ringing in the Millenium in Hiroshima, a bustling port city in South Western Japan. We figured that this was THE PLACE where anything would happen in this area.
The Millenium seemed to be catching little attention in this part. Reservations were not necessary, but a fat wallet was. The going rate was four to five thousand yen to get into the same mediocre clubs that usually have free admission. They were boasting nothing special in the way of party favours or even games. One club had such exorbitant entry fee that we expected, at least a game of naked twister, or a Doors concert.
We looked at our wallets, looked at each other and headed for Pacela Square where we’d seen a large video screen and preparations for something earlier.
When we arrived, true to Japanese fashion, the revellers were all orderly sitting down around the screen watching a ‘live by satellite concert’ from Tokyo. Those of us not driving decided it best to ward of the chill with some spirits from a nearby convenience store.
Some rebels were wearing costumes of various animals. The rabbit was a popular one with 1999 being the year of the rabbit, but mice, raccoons and all sorts of critters seemed to be leaping in front of cameras, particularly mine.
10- 9-(they were getting excited and, by now, were standing)… 3- 2- 1- Akemashite Omedeto Gozaimasu!!! We shouted, screamed and my friends and I hugged each other and sang Aulde Aung Syne (could someone out there spell that for me?) then we noticed that the others seemed a little more introspect. Perhaps it’s a Japanese custom to bow your head, we thought. But, NO, they were looking at something. They were all pulling out their cell phones (70% of young Japanese have one) to ensure that the Millennium Bug was not playing any tricks. That confirmed, they all started to head home, and by 00:15 the square was almost empty.
We lingered on in a coffee shop, went to the shrine to line up and wait for our new year’s fortune, which we ended up having to tie to a tree anyway. It’s supposed to be a guarantee that your good fortune will come true, although it seems more of a guarantee that you’ll forget what it was, and just assume it came true.
As if that wasn’t enough rabble rousing and celebrating we had to be back to Masuda before sunup. Not because our Nissan would turn into a pumpkin but because we had agreed to watch the first sunrise of the millenium at the top of Odoyama with friends. This is a custom to climb a mountain, watch the sunrise and make a wish to the gods for more good fortune (in case the gods have also forgotten what you’ve tied to the tree). It was shaping up to be a … OH NO… cloudy morning!!! Some of the hikers had already begun the descent, when OUT IT CAME in all it’s glory. The sunrise over Shimane was beautiful this year (lucky for me!)
So after all night out, a long drive home and a hike, you may well imagine where the rest of Jan 1 was spent?! I had a lovely “neshogatsu” (meaning ‘I slept through the New Year’ …well, sort of.)