Friday, 29 January 2010

Ayafuya - vagueness in Japanese

Reading through a Japanese textbook today I came across a word with the suffix -naranai.  It's very familiar,  elementary level Japanese, but the context puzzled me.   I referred to my trusty Canon wordtank electronic dictionary.


1. must do, have (got) to do, need to do; ought to do; should do
2. must not do
3. cannot help doing

No wonder I struggle....

Monday, 25 January 2010


I am shaking my head.
Tonight's NHK news has spent a good 5 minutes, going on 10, discussing why mikan (mandarins) are declining in popularity. One of the main reasons given was that people think mandarins are 'troublesome' to peel, especially for women who get manicures, and that the white bits get under fingernails and create an unpleasant sensation....

NHK demonstrated how to peel a mandarin with a tissue so as not to have pith go under the fingernails....

Mandarins difficult to peel?????????????
Perhaps if you have no hands..

They are now selling mikan ready peeled in a plastic bag... which you obviously still have to take off....

I don't follow the logic....

Re-engaging with the world

Over the past 2 weeks I have started doing occassional substitute work at an international school.  For the most part very straight forward, though last week I was thrown in the deep end with an afternoon of primary one....
 The primary school use first names for teachers - when I told them my name was Cecilia - there were perplexed faces 'but what's your short name?'  'Can we call you Ms CC?'   Though Sr Zita's budgerigar came to mind, I told them sure.

So Ms CC it was.

The plan was to take them to a fundraising bazaar and then to the library. I got there to find they had already been to the bazaar and the library was unavailable for all but 20 minutes - necessitating quick adaption....

After show and tell of the various tacky rings, pokemon cards, lollies and comics that they had bought at the bazaar, we talked about the earthquake in Haiti, the reason for the bazaar -  where Haiti is, what happened and how the money might be used.  Most knew there had been an earthquake - and that people in Haiti needed help,  buildings had collapsed and  people  had died, and that this was a sad thing. One of the girls enlightened me...
'But when we die the spirit leaves our body and we shouldn't be sad'

Ah yes, Moving right along

I read them a book with a distinct message to be ecologically minded (the first one I picked up).   The protaganist, a little boy, becomes a convert to eco and starts turning off lights and picking up rubbish and appreciating the world.  The students were emphatic that they do turn off lights but when I asked if they had ever picked up rubbish, one very sweet Indian girl said - very logically 'In India there is too much rubbish to pick up'.  Well yes....  and I can just imagine the horror of her upper middle class Indian parents if their 6 year old walked along the streets of Delhi or Calcutta picking up discarded scraps.....
A Japanese girl informed me 'My Mum says I can't pick up rubbish cause it's dirty'. 
'Yes.... and it's very important to do just as your Mum says...and if we don't drop our own rubbish that's a very good start.'....

Arghhh... what a minefield for potential conflict with parents..

They were sweet, and it was fun.
But give me high school anyday...

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Dai kan - the coldest day - or not?

Today is Daikan, literally 'big cold', historically the coldest day of the Japanese calendar, when the sun is at a celestial longitude of 300 degrees. (I may need to have a chat to a friendly science teacher to understand exactly what this means.) The daikan period goes from the 20th Jan, for two weeks, until the equinox. (There 24 mini seasons in the traditional Chinese /Japanese calendar. This website shows them well. )

Today was anything but a daikan. Across Japan the weather was a historical aberation; in the northern city of Sapporo, where ice skating rinks were melting, according to, today was a record hot at +5. The average daikan temperature in Sapporo on 20 Jan. is -2.

Throughout the country it was much the same - record high temperatures everywhere.

Akita average 1 today 10 - a record (Japan seaside - north)
Niigata average 5 today 11 - a record (Japan seaside - middle)
Morioka average 2 today 7 - a record (Pacific side north)
Tokyo average 9 today 18 - a record (Pacific side middle)
Osaka average 9 today 15 - a record (inland sea side)
Fukuoka average 10 today 19 - a record (coastal Kyushu,facing Korea)

As much as I dislike winter, there is a secure feeling when weather acts in accordance with recent historic averages.
This page of wikipedia uses the Chinese names, which in many cases are very similar.

Democracy Japanese style

Usually I refrain from writing on topics where I feel knowledge gaps may give an inaccurate picture of a situation. Watching news about political scandals unfolding here is perplexing me to the extent that I am putting usual caution to the side.

As you no doubt know, last year the DPJ - Democratic Party of Japan - took power, removing the LDP - Liberal Democratic Party - from power for what was essentially the first change of government since the Americans left after WWII.

It has often been said that post war Japan is not a true democracy. One party remained in power, in a large part because complex financial arrangements meant pork barrel projects bought votes and loyalty. Sons inherited seats from their fathers resulting in fiefdomlike electorates. Gerrymander and electorate distortion up until 1994, when electorallaws were changed, apparently meant that the LDP could hold power with 20 percent of the vote. 1. Japan also lacks something akin to royal commissions and flagrant abuses by politicians seem to be common place, politicians being above the law.

The election last year was meant to be a break with the past. Putting decision making back to politicians, rather than with bureaucracies (that have in the past had questionable relationships with business), more independence from the US, better relations with Asian neighbors, cutting waste, in part by severing improper connections between government and business (esp. the construction industry), bringing in new politicians who are more in touch with average people (many politicians are 3rd or 4th generation).

In the first days of the new govt. many public works deemed to be of questionable value were cut, including construction of the Yamba dam in Gunma north east of Tokyo. Government agenencies were asked to account for all their spending. Change was on the way.
The past few weeks have been very disappointing for anyone who believed a change of govt. would lead to greater political accountability.

PM Hatoyama is embroiled in scandal after receiving large sums of suspiciously channelled money from his mother. With little doubt it was an attempt to evade gift tax / inheritence tax, which is Japan goes up to a whopping 70%. He has repaid 600 million yen (more than 7million AUD). Two of his aides have been charged but Hatoyama is denying any responsibility, blaming the aides for 'irregularities'.

The second in charge of the DPJ, the secratary general, Ichiro Ozawa (who wields so much power his is variously known as 'the king maker', 'the shadow shogun' and 'the puppet master' has also been at the centre of scandals with three of his aides arrested for corrupt land deals made on his behalf. Ozawa, a dogged and determined politician, seasoned in political battles is naturally defiant, caustically critising prosecutors for targetting him.

Beyond this it is hard to make sense of what is happening. A DPJ Diet Member, whose name I didn't catch, was interviewed the other day. Her reaction was that the unelected bureaucrats are being undemocratic in pursuing a criminal against a democratically elected politician. (Which effectively means laws don't apply to politicians.) There is a Japanese acadmic quoted in the NY Times today saying that the Ozawa scandal should be seen as bureucrats striking back to protect themselves from the challenge of elected leaders. The Prime Minister has publicly urged Ozawa to "fight" the prosecutors. As far as I can see, there is no discussion of legislative and judicial separation being basic tenents of democracy.

It seems quite simple. Either money used for land purchase was corruptly obtained, or it wasn't. Investigation should establish the facts and if it was corrupt, due process should apply.... Rather than urging a thorough investigation to establish the truth, (and innocence), the DPJ seem bent on obstruction.

But even if Ozawa is forced to resign, the fact that Muneo Suzuki a former LDP politican was convicted on corruption charges a couple of years ago, and is now back as a serving MP, doesn't give me much hope that accountablity and transparency have improved.


Saturday, 16 January 2010

Imperial poetry: a quaint tradition

In a tradition dating back to the mid Kamakura era, 1267 to be precise, the Japanese imperial family this week convened their annual New Year poetry reading - in Japanese the utakai hajime. The theme for this years poetry reading was 'light'. The Emperor, Empress, Crown Prince and Princess each write a waka - Japanese style poem - about something related to the set theme that impressed them during the year and read it out in what has become a televised New Year event.

The utakai hajime also includes the winners of a national poetry competition. Of 23,346 entries from the public, (it was noted that of these 172 came from overseas) ten were selected for inclusion.

Poetry is close to the heart of traditional Japanese culture. Most waka follow a prescribed form - tanka 5-7-5-7-7, haiku 5-7-5 and frequently use nature as an agent of description. Particularly at New Year time, there are national televised karuta competitions that require extremely detailed knowledge of Japanese poetry. The first lines of a waka are read aloud and the competitors need to identify from the cards laid in front of them, which card completes the poem. Sets of the cards are available at most 100Y shops at New Year, so it is presumably entertainment enjoyed by the masses and not just the province of cultural elite.

It's not uncommon for people to send personal correspondence in waka form; putting poetry into daily life feels like a very refined custom. When I worked for in the Sydney office of a Japanese company, it took some time before I realised that some of the Christmas cards I received were actually tanka...

Courteosy of the Imperial Household website, I have pasted translations of this years poems from the Imperial Family below.
I couldn't find translations of the public competition winners.

Next years topic is 'leaf'.

The Emperor.
The Emperors poem was a reflection on walking in the Imperial Palace grounds.

Where rays of sunlight
Filter through the trees I see
In the middle of the path
Carpeted with fallen leaves
A clump of green grass growing

The Empress
The Empress' poem was a reflection on walking in the Imperial Palace grounds with the Emperor around the time of the their 50th wedding anniversary.

As I walk by your side
The path stretches far ahead
Though 'tis now evening
Yonder in the distance
A glow of a lingering light

The Crown Prince
The Crown Prince reflected on climbing Mt Fuji.

The rays of the sun
appear above the clouds.
Fuji's surface glows in red.

The Crown Princess
The Crown Princess reflected on walking in the Akasaka Palace grounds.

The wavelets rising
on the pond
catch the light of the winter sun
and glitter brightly.

As a P.S.
It's interesting to note three of the four poems talk of light inside the palace grounds. They get regretably little opportunity to have an independent life.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Rajio Taisou - radio exercises

I think I pulled a muscle in my rib the other day carrying the folding bike. It's not serious, I am sure. But perhaps I should have been doing the radio exercises that all Japapanese above about 4 years old can (and do) do.  Each morning NHK broadcasts it and  at 8.20 each the self defence force near here plays the tune for the self defence force 'soldiers' do the routine. During the summer holidays children can assemble at 7 or so in the morning to do it together at school.   Apparently it was introduced from Bismarkian Germany in Meiji time. It could be the alternative national anthem...

Monday, 11 January 2010

Kita no Maru Park

At the National Museum of Modern Art we opted for tickets to the permanent exhibition, inclusive of a ticket ot the National Craft Gallery up the road, within the grounds of Kita no Maru park.  It's an impressive old red brick building (1910), that was originally built as a barracks for the Imperial guard (symbolically by a Japanese architect) and in 1977 was transformed into the National Craft Gallery.

It housed an assortment of industrial art, perhaps there is a better word for it;  vases, bento boxes, plates and platters, clothing, columns, and a variety of of objects that I couldn't quite grasp the practical use for, though in many cases I could appreciate the aesthetic.  It was a relatively small collection of 6 small rooms and was interesting for a quick look but I would have felt short changed had I paid the 500Y entry fee (for an extra 80Y it was included as a bonus extra in the MoMAT's ticket).

We took a wander through Kita no Maru park before we headed for home.  I have a soft spot for the park, in part for the collection of instituions  - Craft Gallery, Budokan, Science Museum - that it houses, but mostly because most cherry trees here are different variety to most of Tokyo, blooming when cherry trees across Tokyo are covered in green leaves.  Here are some pictures.

A sitting spot

Winter in Kitanomaru Park

Winter in Kitanomaru Park

The Science Museum (the windows are star shaped)

A statute of Shigeru Yoshida, the pro-western, post-war Prime Minister who was the grandfather of the recent PM Taro Aso.

The Budokan (picture taken from Wikepedia). It was built as a martial arts hall and holds many judo, kendo, aikido and other martial arts competitions but  many concerts are held here as well.   (A glance through Wikipedia and I have learned The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Pearl Jam, Guns and Roses, Depeche Mode among innumerable others have held concerts here - pop culture isn't my forte....)  Anyway, yesterday Dir en Gray, a Japanese Rock group
were performing.  I have no idea if they are famous. Judging by the queues to get in at least some people have heard of them...

The Budokan


The gates to Kitanomaru Park on the Yasukuni Dori (road) side

The Museum of Modern Art Tokyo

Tokyo Modern Art Museum at Takebashi in Central Tokyo, has been on my to do list for a long time; I finally got there yesterday.  It was definitely worth the visit.  The Museum is essentially a record of Japanese art through the 20th century.   The blending and synthesising of western and Japanese aspects, often western painting styles with Japanese subjects and perspective, is an interesting entry point into modern Japanese history.   Assuming that there would be  vast selection of postcards in the museum shop, unfortnately I didn't make notes of artists names. 
I have included some below that I liked.   I have taken the following pictures from other websites.

Ryoka Kawakami
Railroad (1912)

As in the west, themes related to industrialisation preoccupied artists in Japan.

Hachiro Nakagawa
Village and Apricot Blossoms (1914)
Western influenced drawing techniques, Japanese subject matter.

Hiromitsu Nakazawa
Midday (1910)
This is one of my favourite paintings in the museum - so peaceful.  Western impressionist techniques, clearly showing Japanese way of life and nature.

Shunsho Hishida
Landscape of the Four Seasons 1910

Despite the introduction of Western ideas and techniques, traditional artistic styles, which were heavily reliant on Chinese influence, remained and periodically had a renaissance.  This is one of a series of panels, the rest can be seen if you click on the link below.

Noboru Kitawaki
Quo Vadis (1949)
Kitawaki was conscripted to the Japanese Imperial Army as an artist.  This picture was painted, or at least exhibited for the first time after the war.  It's a painfully lonely portrait of a man who doesn't know where his country is going, but doesn't see much option for an alternative route.

The Museum of Modern Art has a substatial collection of Japanese war time art.  The American General Headquarters (occupying troops) requisitioned the war time art that they could. Much of this has subsequently been returned to Japan, principally to the MoMA.   It would still carry strong political overtones here.  It is a pity that there were not more works of war artists on display.

Wasaku Kobayashi
Sea (1959)

Kobayashi has a series of vivid landscapte oil paintings exhibited in the MoMAT.  There seems to be almost nothing on him in English search engines on the internet, though he is in one place described as a Japanese Fauve, which is probably fitting - they Japanese Fauves started a decade or so after the emergence of Fauvism (Matisse among others) in France.    This painting, while very similar to some in the MoMAT, is actually exhibited in the Kure Municipal Museum, near Hiroshima.  (The picture Small Bay from the MoMAT site similar but  is too small to put here). 

Michiko Kon is a contemporary Japanese photographer whom I hadn't heard of.  I am surprised.  Her work is ... unique.  She is a photographer, but her work is reminiscent of Salvador Dali.  She uses similar imagery, clocks, hats - every day items; however she creates her images using fish - fish eyes, fins, whole fish, and sea creatures - shell fish, octopus.   It is ghastly in its ghoulishness, but at the same time fascinatingly constructed and begs deeper inspection.  I am not sure if it is from the mind of a genius or from someone profoundly disturbed. Again I could find  little information about Kon on the internet, either in English or Japanese.

I am not sure of the titles of either of these pieces.

Perhaps it's my preoccupation with History, but almost always I walk out of an art gallery with appreciation for the art I have seen, but having learned little in terms of why things were painted or how they have influenced.  The MoMAT, despite an impressive collection, didn't really help me understand the dynamics of artistic movements in through the 20th century.  Quite possibly many artists, seeing themselves as creators rather than people reacting against an era, would prefer it that way.  Perhaps the text is more important than the subtext, though I wish I had a deeper understanding.

MoMAT's website

A couple more signs

A couple more signs... nothing like stating the obvious.

Because of the smell, the stain and the dirtiness, please don't wee here.
(at Asakusa temple)

Take care not to wobble.  If you see  danger, press the emergency button immediately.
Don't jump down onto the tracks.

I have been looking at this sign with a degree of consternation... um.. yes.. don't wobble onto the tracks ... a very good suggestion.  According to Hiro though there was an incident recently where someone, reluctant to vomit on the platform, vomitted onto the trainline overbalanced and was hit by a train, I am not sure if there were people who tried to rescue him that were also hit....

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Is that any way to speak to your dear nephew?

Sometimes I lament being the main English language influence on people.... Occasionally when Hiro speaks I hear myself speaking back at me. In Thailand students picked up my quirks much more quickly than they picked up useful expressions. 
Hearing students telling me that they 'appreciate that they need to develop internal motivation',  that various things were 'shocking', that they need to 'facilitate their language acquistion'...

I wasn't expecting it with my sophisticatedly eloquent nieces and nephews.... This morning when I told Rory, 7 years old,  to hurry up and stop complaining on the way to the station (there was a plane to catch)  he looked at me and said 'is that anyway to speak to your dear nephew'....

No doubt I deserved it...

Yamanote challenge

The Yamanote line is, as Dad calls it, the 'limey green line' - not to be confused with the forest green Chiyoda line, the blue green Nanboku line or the dark green Saikyo line - is the central loop line of JR in Tokyo. There are 29 stops on the Yamanote line and it goes around and around,  one in each direction, 34.5km long, typically taking about an hour.  More than once I have done a loop and a half in the summer time when it just seemed too hot and my feet seemed too tired to get off. 
Since we were in Tokyo anyway, we decided to follow up the Arakawa challenge on the Sat,  with a Yamanote challenge on the Sun.  It was a spur of the moment decision made a bit before 10.  The aim was to see how many stops of the Yamanote line we could pass before it got dark.  (Dark = cold and and also I still haven"t bought lights for the folding bikes.)  We also had some shopping to be done in Nippori and Ginza.  
The JR and subway stations in Tokyo each have a stamp.  We bought a little book as we set out and stamped each station as we passed it. (which also means locating the stamp within the station).   Hiro dutifully noted the time at each station.
We got the first stamp at Tabata at 10.10, and went around clockwise.  At 4.40 we got the last stamp at Shinjuku. A respectable effort.  Once the days are longer, and before the weather gets too hot, we might try it again and do the lot.

I will stick a photo of the stamping area in here later.  I forgot to put my memory card back into the camera...

Arakawa to the sea

Something I have been meaning to do for years is to follow the Arakawa river - which flows near here - to the mouth, where it enters Tokyo Bay.    Many times we have cycled part of the distance, but never the whole way to the mouth - even though it's only 20 km or so, down hill and basically flat.  The New Year holdiay seemed like a good time to get on our oritatami (folding) bicycles and see what there was to see at the sea.
I have been thinking about the Arakawa recently since Lily asked me about characteristics of various parts of Tokyo.  The Arakawa is historically prone to flooding.  The map below shows major flooding that took place in 1910, which prompted dramatic government action to build sluice gates and diversion channels.  This has some interesting pictures and explanation, and is where I took the map from.

Largely because of the flooding, and but also due to issues of the city limits, land along the Arakawa has historically been cheap. The lower reaches of the river also contain a large community of Dowa,  the Japanese "untouchable" class of outcasts who traditionally work in death industries including meat, funerals, flowers, leather works and remain discriminated against. (I may expand on this some other time.)

These days the Arakawa is lined with sporting fields which act as a buffer zone to the floodwaters, light industry,  large scale apartment buildings, and on the North /East side major expressways.  There is also a conspicuous presence of homeless people living in blue tarpaulin constructions along the river bank.  (The local governments have pulled down the homeless villages in Ueno and Hibiya Parks, and no doubt others as well. )

We cycled, and cycled, and cycled, each kilometre a marker announced how many more kms to the river mouth.   After a couple of hours of leisurely cycling we reached the 0km.  What a let down!  I was expecting to see something impressive... something like... the sea.... as far as I could determine, the river continued, and the cycle track continued.  I am not sure how a geographer measures the end of a river.... We continued on and we did see Tokyo Bay.. and it was... well.. Tokyo Bay... nothing more, nothing less. Water....

Having reached the end of the cycle path / river, we opted to cross the bridge across the bay to have lunch in Nishi Kasai, a machi  that is worth a quick note. It's built on reclaimed land, and has a reputation as one of Tokyo"s suburban multicultural hubs.  The reputation, seems deserved.  There was a conspicious South Asian presence on the streets, a branch of our much loved local Indian restaurant -  Abiskar, a Filipino restaurant - the first I can remember seeing in Tokyo, a general store with an impressive herb and spice collection, and a Mexican restaurant all within 200m.

We had some rather average Mexican before folding up the bikes and taking the subway home.

Thailand in Japan

I got an email the other day from a former student in Thailand.  She was a stunningly good student: super motivated, extremely focused and consistently topped my Geography class.  Her brother is at high school in Japan and because his school was shut down over the winter break and he and several of his Thai classmates would be be staying at Wat Paknam Thai temple in Chiba, she wanted to know if we would mind being an emergency contact for him.
That was fine by us, it requires Hiro"s co-operation, because I am not likely to be all that much help in an emergency esp. if the communication was over the phone.    In the shoes of a year 10 boy, probably the thought of contacting his sister"s former teacher who doesn"t speak Thai, doesn"t speak such flash Japanese is probably a bit daunting, so we took a trip out to Narita to meet him and check on how he was getting on.

Conventional Thai Buddhism is very different from conventional Japanese Buddhism.
In Thailand monks are celibate, live in communities.  It is of the Theravada school which believes that most people don"t attain enlightment in this lifetime and the good done in this life time is to achieve 'merit' (essentially brownie points)  for the next life.  The monastries take in poor boys for education, and old women that have no where to go. There are also some monastry hospices. The monks have few possessions, eat two meals a day, and don't eat after midday. In Thailand the monks go into the streets each morning and people give them food.

Japan has Buddhist priests rather than monks in the main.  Priests marry and have families and the temple is passed to the oldest son much like a family business. Rather than the Theravada school of Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Burma and Sri Lanka, Japanese Buddhism is of the Mahayana school which sees the Buddha in everyone and strives for enlightenment in this lifetime, rather than doing good to build "merit" for the next life..  Japanese Buddhism seems not to be as active in social welfare for the old or the poor, but they also don't go to the community each morning to ask for food.

Thai temples also tend to be very gold, many in Japan are also gold, but the simple aesthetic of Zenlike temples is not found in Thailand, except perhaps for the Shanti Asok who shun all materialism.

The boys seemed happy and well looked after.  They were getting up at 5.30 each morning to chant with the monks.  They cooked and cleaned in the temple too.  We had lunch there with them (I"d expected we could take them to lunch but it was so far from anywhere it was completely impractical - I was greatly relieved we had gone by motor bike and not public transport).  The lunch was a real feast.  A taste of Thailand in Japan.
It was

Akemashite Omedetou - Happy New Year

The dazzle of Christmas lights has faded, and they were dazzling, replaced by  New Year festivities.  Welcome to the Year of the Tiger.  The traditional machis  (towns or more aptly suburbs) of tokyo skipped the Christmas trimmings in the hubub of  New Year preparations. Asakusa's  main shopping street - Nakamise- was decked out with Tigers and new year trims,   not a Christmas tree to be seen.

In it's Meiji era quest for "Civilization and Englightenment"  Japan ditched the Chinese lunar New Year as the marker of the New Year, in favour of the Western 1st of January.  I have puzzled about how that affects the horoscope of people born in January, but haven't found the right person to ask abou it yet.  The animal years remain the same, as do the traditions, only the date changed.  (These days, there is a definite commercial advantage for Japan in having it earlier as excess stock of New Year paraphenalia can no doubt be sold in Taiwan, HK, Singapore or China...)

Typically Japanese people go to the temple or shrine on New Years Eve, or early in the New Year for Hatsumode - the first visit to the shrine for the year.   Shrines are Shinto, temples are Buddhist, Shrines are probably more popular for New Year  but for most people it doesn"t really matter which, and going to both is OK too. 
On  the afternoon of NYE we took our visitors to Meiji Jingu, one of the most popular shrines in Tokyo, where there were signs fluttering announcing the 'yakudoshi'  or unlucky years.   In Japanese custom men and women at particular ages have an unlucky year; according to Meiji Jingu the men born in 1950 (the 25th year of the reign of emperor Showa  otherwise known as Hirohito), 1969 (Showa 44)  and 1986 (Showa 61) will have an unlucky year.  Women born in Showa 49 (1974),   Showa 53 (1978) or Heisei 4 (1992) will have unlucky years.  The year before and after the yakudoshi are also yakudoshi.   To escape the unluckiness of the yakudoshi, people will sometimes go to the shrine for a ceremony.  Exorcism would be too strong, blessing may be more apt.  While we were at Meiji we saw what I presume was such a ceremony - robed people at the front undergoing ceremonial purification.  There were people in ordinary clothes also involved in the ceremony, who either were family / friends of the robed participants, or participants who had paid a lesser fee, I am not sure which.  Next time I stumble across something similar I will ask.

We walked passed our local shrine on New Years day on our way back from Tokyo station.  Though it was after lunch on NYD the queue was more than 300 m. long so Hiro was happy to pass on Hatsumode.  In Odate, Hiro"s hometown, on the one occasion we braved the snow to go to the shrine at midnight   even at midnight there was a queue of less than 10 people....

Roppongi lights

Korakuen lights

Korakuen lights

Yurakucho lights

Marunouchi lights

Marunouchi lights

Marunouchi Building Christmas Tree

Asakusa welcomes the Year of the Tiger
This is a giant ema  a board found at a shrine /temple where wishes are written.
The arrow is a NY symbol - shooting at the bad spirits (much like Chinese NY dragon dances)

The lead up to NY at Asakusa

The lead up to NY at Asakusa

Yakudoshi at Meiji Shrine

Purification Ceremony at Meiji Shrine