As I sip beer and await the coming of 2011, if I can indeed make it that long, I figured a blog post is a good way to ignore the horror emanating from the television. If you aren’t out on the town celebrating, New Year’s in Japan seems to inevitably boil down to watching one of several mediocre television shows.
My preference is the one where a bunch of comedians are held in captivity for 24 hours, subjected to a litany of humorous performances, and beaten every time they laugh. But even that one gets a bit tedious after a while.
The worst, by a long shot, is the infamous Kohaku. I pride myself to an extent on my musical taste. Japanese music completely sucks across pretty much every genre. Kohaku is five hours of live Japanese music. Unfortunately, the Iguchi family has chosen to watch Kohaku (again) this year.
Aside from watching Kohaku, the other tradition here is to trek to the local shrine just after midnight. It’s about a 15 minute walk, and the shrine is tiny. There are always a few men inside huddled around a kerosene heater, pouring sake and handing out snacks to the townsfolk. I usually go along for what reason I’m not quite sure, since I don’t light a candle or say a prayer or ring the bell. And while the sake is a nice treat, it isn’t worth the walk in and of itself. I like going because it’s a tiny little shrine in the middle of a pretty tiny town, and it’s something I wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to do, so I do it. Tonight, however, it is absolutely dumping snow and 15 minutes seems like a longer walk than it otherwise might. So my pilgrimage is in jeopardy, but there are still a few hours before I have to make up my mind.
Shifting gears a bit, it’s always interesting to come here in the middle of winter when Chieko’s parents don’t work. It’s odd to see them at rest, since they work so hard when we come in the summer to help pick watermelons, or at other times of year when there are farm-related tasks to do. Even their own gardens keep them busy. As they’ve gotten older and no longer have children to support, and thus don’t need to find other work during the winter, her parents have more time to pursue hobbies. Chieko’s dad does a lot of painting, and her mom does…I’m not quite sure.
This time they were eager to challenge us a game of ping-pong. They’ve got a table set up out in the barn, with a kerosene heater and plastic draped on either side of the table to conserve heat and keep errant balls from rolling too far away. Quite a different scene compared to the summer, when the floor is filled with watermelons and there are swallows nesting in the rafters.
Here area few more pictures from inside the barn. For me it’s interesting to see all of the clutter — tools, fertilizer, vegetables, various other random things. They are very different from the clutter I have seen in America barns and sheds, so it’s interesting to me. It’s also interesting to things that I’m used to seeing/using during the summer stored away for the winter. What’s another word for interesting???
So there’s what stands to be the final post of 2010 — not particularly New Year’s oriented but perhaps somewhat interesting? Hope everyone has a happy and safe New Year’s eve, and a prosperous 2011. And heres to a New Year’s eve 2011 that doesn’t include the atrocity known as Kohaku!!!