shogatsu and pretending to be japanese

December 17th, 2011 / by / in: travel / 1 Response

Like I mentioned in the last post, it’s less than two weeks til my mini round-the-world trip. I’m super excited for Seoul and Hong Kong, but I’m MOST excited for Tokyo because I love Tokyo. As much as I love travelling to new places, there’s something fun about going to places you’ve been to before and there’s no pressure to do anything touristy or specific.

It’s kind of cool to visit Tokyo over the new year. New Year’s (shogatsu in Japanese) is the most important holiday in Japan. Most Japanese people spend the time with family, so things are closed (any Japanese families out there want to take me in and share their osechi?), but there’s still a lot of New Year-specific things I want to do. Namely:

  • KOHAKU! Known in English as the “Japanese Red and White Show,” Kohaku (“red and white”) is an annual music extravaganza and one of the most-watched shows of the year in Japan. Broadcast on New Year’s Eve, it’s a battle of red (female) and white (male) teams that are made up of some of the most famous people and groups in Japanese music. I’ve actually watched the show on and off since I was a kid — it was the one Japanese show that was broadcast on tv where I live. I would have killed babies and kittens to get tickets to the show, but you have to live in Japan to enter the ticket lottery. The show is broadcast from NHK Hall, which is in Shibuya and close to my hotel so I’ll probably head down there and try to stalk AKB48.
  • Emperor time at the Imperial Palace! January 2nd is one of only two times in the entire year that the Emperor makes an appearance and the inner grounds of the Imperial Palace are open to the public. (The other time is the Emperor’s birthday.) I’m planning to show up and wave a Japanese flag and pretend I’m a real Japanese person.
  • Temple-visiting! New Year’s is a time when most Japanese people visit their local shrine. Hatsumode is the first shrine visit of the new year and people flock to shrines with their wishes for the upcoming year. Since Meiji Shrine is near where I’ll be staying, I plan to head over there with the masses after I watch Kohaku. It’s kind of a omisoka (New Year’s Eve) tradition. Once again, I’ll pretend to be Japanese.
  • Fukubukuro! Also known as lucky bags, fukubukuro are a New Year’s custom where stores cram a bunch of merchandise into a surprise grab bag of stuff for cheap. You can get an idea of fukubukuro awesomeness here. And here, although I’m mostly too old for Shibuya 109. But department stores and all kinds of retailers do these bags.

If you have any other suggestions for things to do over the new year in Tokyo, let me know! Otherwise, I’ll be spending the rest of my time playing UFO catchers.


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