2013 has officially arrived, and we wish everyone a peaceful and happy year. We hope that J-List will be able to bring you a little closer to Japan all year long. Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu! We had a pretty normal start to the new year, which included sleeping late then lazing around in the family kotatsu, watching the New Year’s marathon on TV while checking to see what New Year’s cards had arrived. (If you want to see the New Year’s card we sent out this year, here it is.) We then went to our local Shinto shrine to pray for good luck and business success in the new year, both for J-List and for the liquor shop my wife’s parents run, which involves buying abura-age (fried tofu) from a stand and laying it at the feet of statues of fox deities, since everyone knows that foxes love fried tofu. We then visited various relatives, catching up with what they’d been doing over the past year. You might imagine that my son and daughter, aged 17 and 16, would rather stay home and surf the Internet rather than be dragged to relatives’ houses, but they were more than happy to come along. The reason was the Japanese tradition of otoshi-dama or money children receive from relatives on New Year’s Day. They each pulled in about $200 from various relatives, which meant they were more than happy to sit and talk politely for one evening. (If you want to know what New Year’s is like in Japan, watch episode 20 of Hyouka, which accurately captures the solemn spirit of greeting your friends for the first time in the new year then praying for happiness at the Shinto shrine…it’s a great episode.)
New Year’s Day is the most festive in Japan.