Saturday, January 02, 2010

New Year start

Look at what got pulled out of the closet now that Christmas is over and my knitting is done. Yes, I'm going to quilt again. If Toi would move. He is very happy that he can sit in the quilting circle again!

New Year's day saw us at a church service yesterday morning.

Usually Japanese will spend the first two or three days of the new year making the trek to a shrine in order to pray to the gods and buy good luck charms. This is called Hatsumode, the first shine visit. Japanese don't "attend" shrines and temples for weekly services but will go on certain festival days and at the new years to buy trinkets to keep year round in the family altar or hang in their car etc. It is maybe more of a custom than a belief but a few coins are thrown to the gods, and families will visit a nearby shrine and enjoy sweet osake, grilled squid and warmed-over oranges from the booths along the way.

There were a couple of times before Tetsu and I were married that we joined the throng of people doing Hatsumode but somewhere along the line as Christians, we desisted in the custom and instead attend an informal church service. It lacks the noisy, rambunctiousness of Hatsumode but is a pleasant way to greet church family members on the first day of the year... This is an average turnout for a church service in Japan. Christians still make up less than 1% of the Japanese population.

After church Tetsu and I took over a block of omochi to Tetsu's mother. Omochi is pounded rice and is a necessity for welcoming in the new year. It has no taste in itself but after toasting can be served with sweet bean paste, butter and sea weed, sweet soy bean powder, grated radish etc.

My pear orchard friends make about 40 kilos of pounded rice (like 100 pounds!) and then form it into balls and blocks and shapes to give away and display around their farm.

I'm afraid I don't understand it all but for each farm building they own they need to decorate it with a few balls of pounded rice. And they always give Tetsu and me a huge slab of omochi which we split with Tetsu's mother.

This is my long time pear farmer friend, Kyoko-san with one of the MANY slabs of omochi that she was giving away to poor people like Tetsu and me who usually have to resign to supermarket bought chunks of omochi. Tetsu's mother swears that Kyoko-san's omochi is the best she's ever tasted!

Happy New Year!

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