Tag Archive for new year

A poem of the first hope for 2011

My New Year’s routine is to go to a local Buddhist Temple to see in the New Year and take my turn to toll the bell, and then to a Shrine to eat warm oudon and drink my first (and usually only) sake for the year, and in the morning to see the first sunrise. I went out really early in the morning on the 1st January 2011 to get sunrise pictures. It’s not my preferred subject, but it’s special to Japanese people, to send New Years cards that feature a sunrise, especially the first one of the year. We send Christmas cards, they send New Year cards to their friends. That day I took a friend out with me to take him to see one of my favourite sunrise pictures ever, which I happen to have taken. Unfortunately, we were about 500m too far to the left, and so we missed getting the sun rising through a local amusement park (see link for that picture). As a consequence and with some irony, I just photographed on anyway, shooting the rising sun with a smoke stack / cooling tower in view.

Every time I’m out there alone I wonder what the year will bring, what will happen in the coming year. Will it be exciting or uneventful? On the 1st January 2011, the first day of the new year there was hope, optimism, potential for everyone in Japan. Below is a video of the photographs I took to commemorate the day of a new and potentially exciting year, a year that many would rather forget, but will always be remembered. There was too much irony for me to ignore these photographs.

My best new year photos are on my agent’s website, Asian Photo Connection by Henry Westheim, and here is a search for “Japanese New Year“, and many of those photos (including the boats, dog, etc) were taken on 1st January, 2011.

Sunrise over the popular Nagashima Spa Land, 2009

Sunrises are often used on New Year cards in Japan

Seasons Greetings

I’ve been insanely busy and now just catching up (Merry Christmas, by the way). I hope everyone has a relaxing holidays, and a happy New Year. Below is a picture of a door decoration that is typical of Japan for the New Year. This image (without the writing) is available at my agent’s website, Asian Photo Connection.

Also, it’s been about a year of the Japanese Photos blog. I wasn’t sure if I should do this, but a year later it seems like it was naturally the right decision. Thanks to you, the readers, for coming to look and read, I hope you’ve enjoyed this. 2010 has been great for me, and I hope that 2011 will be even better for all of us.

A Japanese New Year decoration

A Japanese New Year decoration

New Year

Welcome to 2010. I hope your hangover isn’t too bad.

Last night I had the great honour of being able to go to both a Buddhist temple and a Shinto Shrine to see in the new year. Japanese people do not have a problem with going to both a temple and shrine to pray for happiness and health in the coming year. As I went to meet my friend, the weather really reminded me of England: the cold, the light snow, the wind, and the darkness.

The remains of Tokugawa

Left, Ieyasu Tokugawa's remains; right, his mother's remains.

First, we made a stop at Kougaku-ji Temple. It’s a small temple, just a two minute walk from where I live. I’d seen it before, and the Tokugawa Emblems that adorn it. Previously, I thought it was just a small insignificant place. However, it is the place where the remains (or some of) of the very first Tokugawa Shogunate are kept. Following the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, Ieyasu Tokugawa ended the Japanese Warring States Period and established a military dictatorship which ran from 1600 to 1868 (Wikipedia). In modern Japanese pop culture, this is a very important time. Many television dramas, comics, and books are written about the establishment and end of the Tokugawa Era. Considering the immense impact that the Tokugawa Clan has had on Japan, it is amazing to think that I live just around the corner from a small, unknown temple where Ieyasu Tokugawa’s (some of the) remains are now kept. This is a real local ‘best-kept secret’.

A monk chanting sutras to welcome in the New Year

In Kougaku-ji Temple, where Ieyasu Tokugawa's remains are kept

It was here, at this very small and intimate temple where I saw in the New Year. The Buddhist monks (pictured) chanted sutras from books from about ten minutes to midnight, and ended just after midnight. Afterwards, we were taken outside (in the freezing cold, where snow was still settled on the ground) where we would, in turn, strike the temple bell. The bell was struck 108 times, as it is said that we have 108 sins that need to be cleansed. Fortunately for me, I only had to strike it once, the crowd and the monks would do the rest.

Unfortunately for me, I didn’t know what to expect, so the camera that I took was only just enough to capture the events for this blog. I hope to go back to this temple with a tripod and other gear and take my time to photograph it properly, and do it justice.

A Shinto priest in front of a shrine on New Years eve.

A Shinto priest in front of a shrine on New Years eve.

After having the New Year chanted and tolled in, we went to Heaven Shrine, known locally as Hachiman Jinja. Here we had offered to us invitingly hot noodles to eat, and refreshing sake to drink. After refuelling and getting warmed up again by the huge fire (where last year’s prayer / wish boards are burnt) we went up and got new prayer / wish boards. On these, you would write your wishes for the New Year. Unfortunately, the lighting here was absolutely terrible, and so this is the best image I could manage under the conditions. Afterwards I went out for one more small cup of sake (I swear, it was only a small amount that I had), was introduced to some of my friend’s friends. Warmed by the fire a little more, then went home at about 1.30am.

Thanks for the invitation and your help, Mr Kato. Update from Mr Kato, the Buddhist ceremony is for New Year’s Eve, whilst the Shinto ceremony is for New Year’s Day. Arigatougozaimasu, Kato-san.

Some men standing by a fire at a Shinto Shrine at New Year's eve

Some men standing by a fire at a Shinto Shrine at New Year's eve

New Year

Happy New Year, and best of wishes for 2010.  Below are some Japanese New Year related images.

Among other themes, sunrises are used to symbolise the New Year and a new start. So, many Japanese use the sunrise theme as well as Chinese Zodiac animals for New Year’s cards that they send to friends and family. Increasingly, young families are sending cards that include pictures of themselves on it. This sunrise image unfortunately also includes industrial emissions from factories in Nagoya Port. The foreground is of the roller-coaster and ferris wheel of Nagashima Spa Land.

Sunrises are often used on New Year cards in Japan

Sunrises are often used on New Year cards in Japan

Link to another sunrise image with Nagashima Spa Land, Japanese fishing boats with Shinto New Year mementos for the luck and safety of fisherman for the coming year.

The second image is a door decoration that is usually hung over the front door of a residence. Both of these images will soon be available at my agent’s website, Asian Photo Connection.

A Japanese New Year decoration

A Japanese New Year decoration

Naked Man Festival

The Naked Man Festival (Hadaka Matsuri) is an annual even held at Kounomiya, just outside of Nagoya City in central Japan. It’s held in the depths of winter and is a weekend-long event. The part that the public sees (and is shown in my portfolios) is held in the afternoon. The event date varies from year to year, according to the Chinese lunar calendar, but is held during the lunar New Year.

It began over 1,200 years ago, in the year 767, when Nara was the capital of Japan. At that time, there were plagues affecting the Japanese people, so Emperor Shotoku ordered special prayers to be said nation wide. The governor of Owari Province (now Aichi Prefecture) asked the shrine at Kounomiya to do something about this, and to remove the bad luck. So, the Naked Man Festival, held in the coldest time in winter was formulated (first published by me at Winjeel.Com, Feb 2009).

See these portfolios:

PhotoShelter, Asian Photo Connection, and Gekko Images.

Naked Man Festival – Images by Andrew Blyth

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