New Year’s in Japan is an important but low-key affair, more focused on family than partying. I wasn’t really sure how to spend it here, so I was happy when my friend Yuki invited John and me to join her celebration. The evening consisted of 11pm soba noodles with her family (soba is a New Year’s good luck tradition), then joining up with a few others to visit a local shrine.
It was my first time at Nakatsu’s Komo Shrine. There was a bonfire, and people were everywhere. A big booth housed women who were selling o-mikuji, or fortunes. My fortune read “small luck,” which doesn’t mean “bad luck,” as I feared, but that this year will be a just little lucky for me. My friends encouraged me to tie the slip of paper to the wire of a nearby fence to improve its effectiveness (oddly enough, it’s the same protocol to rid yourself of a crappy fortune). Later, we were given some kind of really sweet, hot ginger water and bags of mochi.
We also waited in line to pray, choosing between “health” and “study” areas of the complex. I chose “study,” and wished for my Japanese to improve this year. But I guess study skills don’t matter much if my health falls apart—should’ve thought that through. We’ll see what happens! Happy 2016!