Osaka - Kyoto - Kobe
29.12.2012 - 04.01.2013
New Years is probably my favorite holiday because it is the only time I am expected to hang out with friends all night long.
This is the first time I'm celebrating New Years in another land, far away from my friends and the mandatory оливье . Still, I had fun learning the Japanese customs and traditions during New Years.
Japanese people usually head to their hometowns to celebrate New Years with their extended families, causing train stations and airports to be crazy crowded. My host family and I traveled to Osaka, my host mom's hometown, to celebrate New Years with her parents.
Most of our five days in Osaka were spent sitting around the kotatsu, reading, sleeping, or watching TV. We greeted the New Year by watching a live-broadcast of Japan's most popular artists and celebrities performing famous songs. Four hours and fifteen minutes of J-Pop O.o
Though I was far away from my оливье, I enjoyed having an authentic experience eating traditional Japanese food. On the first day of the New Year, Japanese people eat osechi - a big bento box full of food symbolizing long life or prosperity. I thought that most of the food was tasteless, but that's probably because my American taste buds are too n00b for real Japanese food.
On the first days of January, Japanese people go to a shrine to throw coins into a wooden box, ring bells, and pray for blessings in the New Year. Japan is congested as it is, so when everyone decides to go to the shrine at once, the result is tons of people waiting in long snake-like lines. Popular shines in Tokyo and Osaka have as many as 3 million visitors during the first three days of January.
With my host parents and grandparents at the Shine.
What I enjoyed most about my New Years vacation was a day trip we took to the nearby city of Kyoto. Kyoto used to be Japan's capitol before Tokyo and is distinguished by many old traditional buildings and beautiful nature.
The buildings in Kyoto are old and the streets are narrow, and some areas make you feel like you just transported into medieval Japan.
The government has worked hard to preserve the cultural significance of the city, even placing a height limit on buildings and a ban on blinking advertisements in order to keep the traditional atmosphere. It isn't uncommon to find people walking around in kimonos and hakamas or even see a geisha here and there. Another thing that makes this city so interesting is the abundance of ancient shrines and temples.