Tuesday, January 1


To my surprise, there really are malls in Japan!

Lucky me, I got to have a Japanese New Year! My Aya-sensei invited me to her home in Gifu City to spend New Year's with her and her family. Of course, I jumped at the chance!

I arrived in sunny Gifu Monday afternoon, and after eating udon at Chez Aya, prepared by her ever-so-amable mother, we headed to the mall for some New Year's Eve Shopping.

In case your dachshund wants to dress up too.

The price was right, but I decided against it.

After shopping for clothes and New Year's dinner/breakfast items, Aya and I headed home for an Omisoka (New Year's Eve) dinner. On the menu, toshikoshi soba (special, dark buckwheat noodles for a long life... or something) and temaki-sushi (make-your-own sushi rolls).

I should be in videos.

After dinner we enjoyed several hours of Fuji TV's New Year's programming, something akin to Dick Clark's "Rockin' New Year's Eve." But without Dick Clark or Times Square. It featured a long list of musical and comic talent, the former's lineup being printed in the newspaper TV section. We got our fill of enka, "Oppappi!" (Kojima Yoshio), and sexually ambiguous performers.

Men's Fukubukuro

A tradition at the larger stores here in Japan is to offer "fukubukuro," a box or bag of clothing or other items, usually already arranged in an outfit. In the past it was a gamble as to what you might get inside, but nowadays the contents are displayed above.

Ladies' Fukubukuro

$1500 Kitty

Aya's mom spent the evening going through her kimonos, and fixing and adjusting the "second layer" so that Aya and I could wear them.

Lending a helping paw.
Aya's cat, Maiko, helps her mom wrap up the kimonos.

Just before midnight, the four of us headed over to a local shrine to give thanks for the past year: deposit a coin or coins, ring the bell with the long, thick rope, bow twice, clap twice and bow again. Then receive your small cup of sake, two oranges and some dried squid.

We drank the sake right then and there - well, those of us who weren't going to drive - but the oranges and squid waited for home. Que el squid mio me espere sentado, porque ni loca me lo como...

Back at home we toasted the New Year with the sparkling wine I'd brought. A little more TV, and then it was off to beddy-bye.

Eight oranges and some squid


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