First Post of 2012: What a day

2012 came to Japan today (many readers are still celebrating New Year’s even now due to time-zone difference), but it was a crazy day.

We spent the morning at home, eating osechi-ryōri (おせち料理), a staple of Japanese New Year:

Japanese Osechi-ryori

If you ask me, osechi-ryori is like getting those boxes of mixed chocolates: you eat your favorite ones right away, and slowly eat the leftovers one by one.

Since I went to bed early last night, I didn’t get to see the annual Kohaku Uta Gassen TV special. However, my sister-in-law wisely recorded it, and so we watched it this morning. I think the red team (girls) won this year. For me, I was just happy (and a little surprised) to see that SNSD on stage for Kohaku:

Seeing them stand next to Arashi was kind of surreal for me.1 🙂 The fact that SNSD played my favorite song “Genie” was even better, especially when Taeyeon sings her solo part at the end.

From there, we decided to do hatsumōde (初詣) today, which is the first temple visit of the year. Originally we thought about going to Meiji Shrine, but we got off to a late start, and decided not to spend 4 hours in line there. Instead, we opted for Kawasaki Daishi, which is a huge Shingon Buddhist temple not too far from where we live. We went there last year as well or maybe the year before. I can’t remember.

Anyhow, my daughter put on her little kimono we bought yesterday:

Daughter's kimono

…and off we went.

We took the local Nambu Line train to Kawasaki Station, which feeds into a huge indoor shopping area. It was then that we noticed the overhead signs were swaying back and forth, and a lot rattling sound. Everyone around us stopped and looked up and we realized that we just had an earthquake. In fact, I got an email notice from the USGS service about it, and it turns out to have been a 6.8 earthquake! Because the Izu Islands are somewhat removed from the Tokyo area (including Kawasaki City), we felt more of a rattling and swaying, but that was about it.

Kawasaki Daishi temple was extremely busy as expected, it is one of the most popular destinations in eastern Japan for Hatsumode. Because we came later in the afternoon, rather than in the morning, the line was somewhat smaller, but still took us about an hour to get through it. At certain points along the route, we had to listen to Christians proselytizing on loudspeakers reminding us that we were all going to hell in Japanese. While, I don’t want to criticize one’s religious beliefs, it seemed a pretty insensitive way to get one’s message across, and made me kind of embarrassed to be a foreigner.2

Anyhow, the human wave continued all the way to the hondō (本堂), or central hall:

Kawasaki Daishi Hatsumode

It was a huge surge that would stop, move, stop, move, etc. You can see the police holding signs helping to control the flow of traffic. I carried my daughter all the way up to the central hall where we both made offerings to the large donation box, while I recited the mantra for Kūkai 3 times (namu daishi henjō kongō). Trying to get back outside was really hard though. We were all stuck, and being a big foreigner it was even harder to move my way through. Finally we got through the crowd and back outside. We didn’t stay too much longer. We offered our old omamori and ofuda, per Japanese tradition, to be ritually burned in gratitude, then I bought a new omamori and new wrist rosary (o-nenju お念珠).

We left the house around 2pm, and probably got home around 8pm. By then we were exhausted, but we had successfully completed another yearly hatsumode after an exciting and sometimes nerve-wracking day.

Happy 2012 Everyone!

1 As many commenters on YouTube have noted, SNSD stood taller than Arashi, though in fairness they were wearing high-heels. Still, kind of funny. 🙂

2 Just imagine a bunch of Buddhists evangelicals standing outside your church on Christmas morning reminding that you that by slandering the Lotus Sutra, you’re doomed to the Avici Hell and countless unfortunate rebirths. Yeah, that’s what it feels like.

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Author: Doug

A fellow who dwells upon the Pale Blue Dot who spends his days obsessing over things like Buddhism, KPop music, foreign languages, BSD UNIX and science fiction.

6 thoughts on “First Post of 2012: What a day”

  1. “… we had to listen to Christians proselytizing on loudspeakers reminding us that we were all going to hell in Japanese. While, I don’t want to criticize one’s religious beliefs, it seemed a pretty insensitive way to get one’s message across, and made me kind of embarrassed to be a foreigner.”

    Were the Christians foriegn or Japanese? If they were Japanese why would you be embarrased to be a foriegner? If they were foriegn, I’m impressed by their Japanese skills! LOL!

    Anyway, by your simply not being with them people could see that not ever foriegner is a loudspeaker-carrying Christian! In any case I don’t think people see what one person is doing and then think every member of the same ethnic group does the same! So no need for emarrasment!

    The fact is, some crazy Christians like to do this stuff. In Korea it happens on almost every street corner (by Korean Christians, not foriegners), so no need for anyone to feel embarrassed by the actions of total strangers!

    Loving the trip reports and hopefully meet up soon!

    Marcus

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    1. Hi Marcus,

      It was both Japanese and foreigners actually but the pre-recorded message on the loud speaker was in Japanese as were the signs. I stood there for minutes at a time as the line stalled so it was not hard to discern their message. I’ve seen the same group in Shibuya too.

      Again, I am not against Christian people or the religion. I just this is a pretty crass way to get the message across. My grandmother, who’s a very nice devout Lutheran, would no doubt disapprove.

      My limited observation is that Christianity is still a largely foreign religion, possibly due to actions of foreign missionaries in centuries past. Japanese are often surprised that I am Buddhist not Christian. This seems to happen to other Western Buddhists based on my limited experience. And judging from Japanese media, it is still perceived as something exotic (read: foreign), the same way Buddhism is perceived in American media. Still there are ‘native’ Christian movements which I am working to blog about. 🙂

      The actions of these particular guys doesn’t help their image any though or more mainstream Christians who respect the differences of others.

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  2. Hi Doug,

    I quite agree! Anyone who needs to stand on a street corner with a megaphone has a problem if you ask me! My only point is that if there is someone standing on a corner with a megaphone, someone I don’t even know, there is no reason at all for me to feel embarrased!

    As for Christianity being a “foriegn” religion in Japan – I’m afraid the facts disagree. Christianity has been here hundreds of years and you can find Japanese Christians and Japanese Christian churches all over Japan. Christianity is as much Japanese as it is “western”.

    Yes, Japanese people are always surprised that I am Buddhist (the assumption is that I am Christian) , but in no way do Japanese people think that all Christians are foriegn! LOL!

    Anyway, enough of this – looking forward to meting you soon!

    Marcus

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    1. No, that’s a good point. As you said earlier, the fact that I am in line rather than standing there with the megaphone guys probably says enough. 🙂

      Yeah, true, Christianity is not a “foreign” religion if we go by the dates and such, but it hasn’t reached the level of integration it has in Korea, based on my limited experience. Even in Japanese media, Christians are usually portrayed as foreign characters/missionaries, or if Japanese, then usually as being somehow unstable, criminals or whatever. I guess Christianity in Japan has a bit of a PR issue or something. :p

      But anyway, yeah, we’ll see each other soon! 🙂

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  3. LOL! Me and the missus went to the Anglican Church here a few times over Christmas this year. St.Albans, the English-language church in Kamiyacho (near Tokyo Tower), was packed to the brim with both Japanese and non-Japanese, and when we looked into the Japanese Anglican Cathedral next door, it was standing room only! Who knew there were so many unstable/criminal Japanese people here! LOL!
    But yes, my whole point is just that – by standing in line as you were, everyone can see that there are two sides to the foriegner story. Just as there is to every story. Which will come as as a surprise to no one. As the Buddha said, or something like it, you take care of yourself, act rightly, and everything else is taken care of.
    All the best mate and see you soon,
    Marcus

    Like

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