Saturday, January 01, 2011

Happy New Year from Japan

And here is how we celebrated our New Year's Eve and New Year's Day in Japan this year.

For dinner I made toshi koshi soba, Year-End Soba. We had our noodles in a cold dipping sauce (instead of hot) and a couple pieces of tempura on the side. As my mother-in-law will tell you these noodles symbolize living a long and "narrow" life. Narrow meaning not to any extremes. "Adventure" is not her middle name.

J's best friend came over to spend the night (with a giant plate of sashimi in hand!) and we all did nothing much until a little after 11:30 when we drove into the mountains to the local temple to ring in the New Year.

Here are J and his buddy by the drum can fire. Behind them is the little tower that houses the bell.

Everyone lines up to take their turn at ringing out the current year's sins, so they can start the next year afresh. Sinfree, if you will. Afterward, the head monk and his little helper monk (or maybe not a monk, dude had a beard) give out cups of hot sake (for adults) and amazake (for the kids).

Someone keeps an eye on their cell phone to catch when the year ends and in previous years J jumps in the air at the exact moment so he can say he wasn't actually on this earth when the new year came. I know, an old joke but... This year he played it cool and sipped his drink.

A few "Happy New Years" and awkward hugs, then we go home to sleep for a couple hours before I'm waking everyone up at five thirty saying, Get your coats on! We're going to be late!

We drive the ten minutes to the beach. It's dark, but the horizon is just starting to light up. Here you can see the moon and (I think) Venus up there. You'll have to click on the photo to see a bigger version.

There are about fifty people to a hundred people gathered. A lot of them are dressed up and dancing and singing. Some have giant flags they're waving about. Others with cameras in hand or small dogs tucked under their arms.

Over here you can see Mount Fuji. All those people you see there are crowded around a fire. People make fires all up and down the beach. They warm sake over them or cook sticky rice cakes or even large pots of pork and vegetable soup which they share with anyone who walks by or stops to warm their hands by the fire.

Here the sun is just behind those clouds. Oh, and a wave!

Getting closer. Everyone's holding there breath.

And here we have it. The first sunrise of 2011! About this time everyone is banzai-ing and making little wishes with their hands clasped in front of them. Dogs bark, children cheer, and boy do those dancers go wild. (I tried to upload a video of them, but it was too huge. Need to work on that.)

And here's another because I took dozens of photos and really hate for them to sit in my camera. This is probably taken a nanosecond after the first. The camera is tilted. Otherwise, same shot.

After the sunrise we drove to the docks to look at the boats all decorated with New Year garb.
Some garb.

Some more garb and a Mount Fuji again, way back there.

Here's a lovely Mount Fuji if you can just ignore that light pole. I don't know how many cameramen have cursed that darned light pole. I'm surprised someone hasn't hacked it down by now. I could probably erase it with Photoshop but am a bit snob about not retouching anything on a picture. So Mr. light pole stays. As does the seagull.

It wasn't until we had walked the length of the port to take the above photo that we realized J and his friend hadn't followed us. We figured they were cold and hiding out in a patch of sunlight. But instead when we found them they were breathing heavy and saying they'd just had an interesting experience.

It seems two girls ran their car off the edge of the dock and ran screaming over to J and Y begging for help. The boys had to lift the car while they slowly backed up. I said what a lovely thing to do on New Year's Day. They said their arms hurt.

I'll leave you with one more. Here is Mount Fuji, seagull and old ships. This pretty much sums up where I live. If you can only imagine the smell of salt and fish, you'd practically be here!

Happy New Year, everyone!

Monday, December 27, 2010

My Lucky Cement Ball

It's the end of 2010 and as I see it The Year of the Tiger really didn't do me any favors. I'm ready for some 2011, Year of the Bunny.


I wasn't able to get a single short story published this past year despite being short-listed a few times and waiting almost a year on two other queries. My mid grade book -- that I'm still dearly in love with -- hasn't been picked up yet and my agent says we should move on to the next book and resubmit this one later when the timing is better. And worst of all, I still don't have that "next" book written. Why? Because 2010 kicked. My. Butt.

2011, I'm counting on you.

I do have some ideas, plans, and super secret projects in the works already, so I'm hoping it all pans out in the end. May the mighty rabbit of the animal zodiac bring some good news.

Next year I'm also planning on blogging more here. I sorely miss my bloggy friends. I'm sorry. I apologize. I've been cheating on you with Twitter and Facebook. I haven't blogged and I haven't even checked up on you all. But I've learned and grown and I think I can balance the three evils of Twitter/FB/Blogger without anyone's feelings being hurt. Time management--I'm getting better, but I still have so much more to learn. Which brings me to...

My dog. (Not a segue at all.)

Recently when Cha and I go for walks he brings home little souvenirs. Sometimes I see him pick them up. Sometimes not. His souvenirs of choice are mittens. Single mittens that he finds in ditches or in the middle of the road. If I see him snag one I "convince" him to drop it and I place it on a fence or somewhere easy to see. It's what they do here for the owner to find later.

But the other day he found one way down by the school and would not release it for anything. After he got it home I discovered a name on it. It turned out it belonged to the kid who lives across the street. So now I'm thinking maybe my dog can READ! Well, anyway, we returned the glove to the child and Cha Cha was given a vigorous head scratch as thanks.

Yesterday he brought home a small bag of rice crackers.

Here is Cha posing nobly with a glove that he somehow snuck into the house without me knowing.

Today we went for a walk and he brought home the most surreal souvenir of all. I don't know where he found it, but he brought home this:

It's a ball. A small cement ball. How cool is that? Since I can think of no reason anyone would make a perfectly round small cement ball, I'm calling this lucky. Cha decided after carrying it all the way home that he had no interest in something that wasn't soft or tasty so I claimed it. It's my lucky cement ball. And I'm going to set it by my computer. It will remind me to get my butt off Twitter and back to writing. It's also going to remind me that I have to be tough (like cement), yet I have to keep moving (like a ball). (Oh, stop groaning, you.) It's not a very creative analogy, but remember it's still 2010. That and I can't think of any motivational images for a mitten or a package of rice crackers.

Look at that cement ball. It just oozes good luck.

And if it works I can sell it on Ebay at the end of next year and make a fortune. Hell, I can do that even if it *doesn't* work.

Oh! Before I forget there is a new post (well, kind of old by now) on the HNN site. This one is Frightful Japan: The Devil's Gate. One of the stories in A Robe of Feathers is called "My Devil's Gate". That would be a fictional piece based on this superstition. All these superstitions calling doom and gloom. I think what everyone needs a cement ball. Hey, maybe I can start MAKING them! *idea*

I do hope everyone had a much better 2010s than I did and I do hope that next year is even better than that (with or without a cement ball).