I Love Japanese New Year’s Decorations!
In Japan, the frenzy of weird Santas and blue poinsettias are whisked away the day after Christmas, and replaced with something far better…new year’s decorations! I never saw them before I lived in Tokyo, but it was totally love at first sight.
This is called a shimenawa, and although it comes in many shapes, it always includes rice straw, to ensure there will be plenty of rice and snacks with eyes in the year to come.
The white things stacked on this lacquer stand are kagami mochi – “mirror” rice cakes that give a tip o’ the beanie to the sun goddess who shut herself in a cave to pout, plunging the earth into darkness until she was lured out by catching a glimpse of herself in a mirror held up by a fellow goddess. (This is just a little fake one, but last year I posted a picture of the biggest real one I’ve ever seen!)
This is a little version of a kadomatsu, with bamboo, plum blossoms & pine all bundled up together with rice straw bring a triple whammy of long life, piles of wealth, and everlasting faithfulness to the house.
Every twelve years, each zodiac animal gets its turn in the spotlight. This time, it’s the happy sheep year. These plaster animals are really popular, and I’m always amazed at how they can make ANY animal cute, even when it’s the year of the snake!
This isn’t exactly a decoration, but I can’t resist a shot of my favorite kind of sake, because you can only get at New Year’s! Taruzake is stored in barrels made of Japanese cedar, and it takes on a slight flavor of the wood. If you are with me on January 1st in Japan, I’m very sorry, but I will make you drink some! ^_^
New year’s decorations are sold in November & December at small shops in Asakusa-bashi, and shimenawa are sold at many shrines & temples in the last half of December. Directions & maps are on my website, The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had.
Jonelle Patrick is the author of the Only In Tokyo mystery series. And guess what? The first book is finally out in PAPERBACK!
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