Sunday, February 23, 2014

Nisenjuyon-nen! - 2014 - 平成 26 -

Sabishii no Tabi part 7
-  平成 26 - 
- Heisei 26  -

Heisei 26 is the japanese calendar equivalent of 2014. Heisei refers to the reigning emperor, reflecting 26 years he has been in the emperor of Japan.

Its a bit late to talk about 2014 celebration since its already close to March haha... but it can't be helped I guess...  So, I decided to spend new year in Kansai area instead of Tokyo. Before that, I asked my japanese friend... 
Q: what's the best place to celebrate new year's eve?
A: Err... at home?

Q: Anywhere with awesome fireworks, maybe tokyo tower?
A: There's no fireworks...

Q: Do people go anywhere then?
A: Some go to temple, mostly stayed at home...

Jejeje!! Boring nye!!!!!!!
I thought I could see some awesome fireworks or crazy celebration or something... I mean cmon! Its Japan!! Apparently Japanese new year celebration is really modest or rather family-oriented rather then having a big party like the rest of the world... But for someone who came to Japan ALONE... It was a huge disappointment for me...

So I decided to visit Kansai from the 28th December until 2nd January since there isn't any big celebration in Tokyo worth staying over.

Because.... majority of  places are closed!!! So make sure you research before hand whether the places you wanted to visit is open during new years holiday!

Anyway, as bad as it sound, I did get to visit many places in Kansai like Osaka, Nara, Koyasan, Takihata, Kyoto etc during those days. 

On the 30th, I rode a boat and managed to watch a beautiful sunset. Its not the last, rather the 2nd last sunset of 2013 but I guess that's special enough...

The 2nd last sunset of 2013
It was really beautiful, unfortunately it was quite cloudy

Then on the 31st I went to Koyasan - which I will talk about it another post. 

Koyasan - one the best place I've visited in Japan

Then, I went to Nara in the evening to see some cute deer!

When it got dark... I returned to my hotel... whilst thinking, am I really just spending new year eve's in Japan watching television alone in my hotel!?! So I Googled and Googled and found this temple holding a "small" celebration in Osaka close to my hotel. 

But it was still quite early so I opened the TV and saw two show I recognized; Kouhaku and Gaki no Tsukai 24 Hour Batsu Game. 

Kouhaku is a singing "competition" - not really actual competition with prize, more just for fun and pride I guess between famous japanese artists. This year it was hosted by Arashi and Ayase Haruka. 

Arashi and Ayase Haruka

Well, I knew Kouhaku existed even before this but I never took any interest in it. This time, I decided to watch (since there's nothing to do..) and because this year there's something special. Its the year of the Asadora (morning drama) Amachan! So Amachan's cast was invited to participate!  I will talk about Amachan in another post but just know that I'm a huge fan! 

Special appearance - Amano Aki aka Amachan
 The whole cast performed a special medley - ending with a "Jeh" pose

I also realized that day that Kouhaku is not just about singing. Its about relieving the year 2013 where they tell many inspirational stories from Japanese ranging from sportsperson, austronauts, children, teachers etc etc. Something I really applaud them for doing so every year.

In one particular segment, Ayase Haruka was brought to tears as she remember the children in Fukushima she interviewed 

Kouhaku was surprisingly entertaining that I almost forgot about the celebration at the temple I planned to go. Around 11.30pm, I rushed out to the eki and DASH! to the temple MAX SPEED!

Luckily I was in time, I arrived there around 11.50pm with this gorgeous sight awaits me...

They have lined up candles in a cup on the steps. 

The cups were written with new year message by the temple visitors

Inside the temple the head monk is giving a speech which I walked out after 1 minute because I could not understand a thing and I decided to savour the nice atmosphere outside while looking at the candles. I'm not good at describing, but it's really a nice feeling. While waiting, they played music by Joe Hisaishi, one particular music I remember was Kikujiro (Summer) which gives off this romantic and nice atmosphere. 

As the clock gets closer to 12, more people started to gradually arrive and gather in front of the candle... and finally the countdown...

After the countdown, some visitors que up to get a chance to ring the giant bell for new year, some lights up their candle cup with their personal wish for new year and some have a refreshing new year "hot soup".

Lighting up the candle in the cup for visitors wishing to put them on the stairs 
 The main lantern I supposed... not really sure what this is for
 Some enjoying the new year hot soup

What I've felt throughout the celebration was...
 Surprisingly simple, yet inspiring...

Without any high-budget gimmick like fireworks or light shows or concerts... 
Just with candles and some nice feeling music..
And turning off the temple light then turning it on again...

I never knew such simple celebration could be so satisfying...

My hats off to the organizers...
Just as a note, this is a not the norm of new year celebration in Japan. When I posted about this to my japanese friend, none of them knew this kind of celebration existed. Thats why I really respect the organizers for coming up with this idea~

This year several celebrations like Merdeka and New Year in Malaysia I heard was not held as big as previously because of being criticized as wasting people's money with fireworks and all... Even I once had the same opinion that celebrations like those are a waste of money.

Upon seeing how they celebrate new year at this temple... I realize now that it is possible to celebrate without excessive wasting of money, but still has a very satisfactory effect! Kenapa tidak masjid2 di Malaysia buat sambutan sebegini? Kalau tidak suka duit dibazirkan atau tak suka budaya berparty sakan... this is a very good alternative! Simple & inspiring!

And Kouhaku as well...
For being not just a singing competition, but also used as a  platform to inspire people. This is something special about Japanese new year celebration that I think we should learn from. Setahu saya, rancangan tahun baru atau concert2 tahun baru di Malaysia hanyalah nyanyian semata2.... kalau ada pon berkongsi kisah2 for inspiration, tak pernah perasan~

Anyway this year 2014 will be a hectic year for me! My final year in Australia! InsyaAllah I pray that everything will go well!

Next part will be Hatsumode~ 

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