Happy New Year or 'Akemashite omedetou'!! Its' hard to believe it's already 2011!

Japan was one of the first few places for New Years to occur. Hawaii is one of the last so it's a very big difference between both. I got to wish my mother a happy new year via Skype when it became New Years in Hawaii:)

Culturally speaking New Years is a much bigger deal than Christmas. Many stores and businesses are closed for a few days allowing for the many Japanese to travel to their hometowns and spend time with family.

New Years is a time of lots of food which is probably the most exciting part. To bring in the New Year it is tradition to eat 'toshikoshi soba' or moving into the new year /year end noodles. Soba are buckwheat noodels and is thought to symbolize longevity because the noodles are long. Families prepare in advance for the food they'll eat on New Years day with 'osechi ryouri'. This food is placed in stackable lacquered boxes. Each dish has a symbolic meaning such as health, longevity and good harvest for the year. It is thought that this tradition came about because stores were closed for the new years holiday and famlies needed to make lots of food.

Below is a picture of typical 'osechi ryouri'.

Another dish that's prepared is 'ozoni' which is either miso soup or a clear broth with some vegetables and 'mochi' or rice cake. If it is prepared with miso then it is either white or red miso and some areas of Japan includes azuki beans.

Japanese people visit shrines or temples for their 'hatsumode' or first shrine visit within the first couples days of the new year, sometimes even right after the new year has begun as shrines ring bells to ring in the new year and many food stalls are set up a long the road to the shrine.

Besides, these festivities many people relax at home with their families, write new years cards,watch special tv shows and wish those they know a happy new year.

Recent temperatures here in Kobe have been a little bitter. Due to the humidity the air feels much colder than the actual temperature. Therefore while New Years is a time of celebration there are little reasons to want to step out into the cold besides these traditional festivities.

Just wanted to wish you all a wonderful New Year. May this year be filled with health and happiness for you all.