Over the years my husband, son and I have developed two steadfast New Year's traditions: One is to visit our local temple at midnight on New Year's Eve to ring out all the sins of the past year (joya no kane).
Last year the head monk passed away. So sad. That man was the epitome of Zen. He had a great laugh, easy smile and I remember more than once a hormone-raging, very pregnant me drove up into the mountain to talk to him about my mother-in-law and her various psychological tortures. No matter what he was doing he'd sit and talk to me and make me feel better. I'll miss him. On the other hand, his super-hot son is now in charge.
Here is the bell tower lit from beneath by one of those fires-in-a-drum-can you often see on movies. They use bamboo so it's not only fragrant but extremely snappy, occasionally explode-y.
There was quite a line this year to ring the bell. Most normal people ring it once per family member. For some reason I haven't quite figured out, the three of us crouch down and all grab the rope and give one giant gong instead. I guess we're aiming for quality not quantity. Here is a picture I took where my husband is saying, "Aren't you going to help?" And my son is saying, "Mom, hurry up everyone is waiting!" The non-photographers in the family, everyone has them.
Afterwards, we drank hot sake (husband), and sweet amazake (J and I), threw our coins into the box, watched some taiko drumming and then headed home. In bed by two thirty. Up again at five thirty for our second family tradition.
Namely, the watching of the first sunrise of the New Year (hatsu hinode). Still sleepy and looking like crap we all loaded into the car and drove out to the beach. Just last year we discovered a great new place.
Look at all those zombiesque-looking creatures building bonfires to keep warm and marching around searching for warm brains. Mount Fuji, too.
Below is a shot of the sky just before the first sunrise. We're all getting excited about now.
And here it is! The first sunrise of 2009, all shiny and hopeful. And warm, too. Look at that.
Everyone saluting the sun.
"Oh, sun so mighty and hot. Let us win the End-of-the-Year Lottery."
Over the holidays I received some heavenly care packages/presents from family back home (Thank you!). My mom happened to include a bag of Christmasy-colored M & Ms. I'll admit I haven't lived in the States for nearly twenty years and I'm sure a lot has changed, but I have one thing to say, what the hell happened to quality control and the M & Ms factory!?
When I was a kid M & Ms were all the same size, shape and color. M & Ms were magical. They melted in your mouth and not in your hand. Stuff like this makes me feel way old, makes me want to whine and moan and tell stories of back 'when I was a youngin'...' It also makes me want to call the corporate office and give them a piece of my mind. No, really. WTF?
Okay. I'm better now. The CEO at Mars may feel free to e-mail me. We can talk. Humph. Now, if this was some crappy candy like those Peeps or those pukey Valentine's Day hearts I wouldn't care so much. But M & Ms!
Back to New Year's stuff.
Finally, 2009 is the Year of the Cow. I took a bunch of pictures for my Christmas cards and New Year's postcards cards and these are a couple that didn't get chosen, but I liked them none the less and thought I'd post them here.
The dog and the child very obviously NOT looking at the camera and smiling as directed by mom.
And finally, J thinking this will be the shot to be used but not realizing the poor dog can't see.
And to end with a bit of stinging humor. When I showed my mother-in-law the pictures she said... (drum roll, please) ...."The dog looks like he's dressed as a goat." Gotta love her.