Sunday, May 2, 2010

New Year's Eve 2004 - Families Together

New Years Eve, 2004 - This was going to be a slightly different New Years, and my first one in Japan. T-chan's family had put together a wonderful dinner -including the hokkaido kegani or hairy crab (bottom), sashimi (middle), the vegetable stew known as umani and a special dish of osechi (top) which is a traditional New Year dish that is designed to keep long enough to last through the New Year - and is meant to give the overworked mother a break. The four blue-ish cups are for chawanmushi, a steamed egg custard dish that T-chan's mother calls her "treasure pot". Towards the end of the night, T-chan,s family will then have toshikoshi (year passing) soba noodles which are meant to be good luck for life into the new year. New year is also the time for the long, long variety shows on tv. It's an interesting night.

Before we got to eat the wonderful dinner however, we had to thoroughly clean the house. From top to bottom. It's also an old tradition (called ōsōji) to welcome the new year in with a clean house. It's a bit old-school, and I have to say, hard work... but then again, it adds to the sense of a family day as everyone gets involved.

This New Years was going to be especially meaningful for a number of reasons. One of the main reasons why we were back in Japan again was because T-chan's grandfather (ojiichan) had become very sick. T-chan's family had renovated their garage into a small apartment for him (rather than living in an old-age facility). He was really not well - and whilst we didn't talk about it, we knew this was likely to be his last New Years. He had been in hospital for a while before I had arrived, and had been given permission to be discharged for the weekend to be with family. I had met ojiichan first on my previous trip, and he had come to our pre-wedding party at the Grand Hotel. He was one of these indomitable characters that still had a great deal of life even in the direst of circumstances.

Ojiichan enjoyed the New Years Eve dinner with his family, and it was a special moment. Unfortunately however, ojiichan became sick again shortly after and was re-admitted to hospital. A few months after we had come back from Japan, we heard the sad news that ojiichan had passed away. This had been T-chan's last chance to be with her grandfather. It was both a sad and happy time for us - certainly, it can be hard on families when you immigrate to another country. We were very glad to have come back when we did - and were able to share the time with ojiichan. It was a special New Years Eve.

Rest in peace, and thankyou for everything ojiichan.
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  1. I like Japanese New Years, it's more family-oriented than how North Americans celebrate. Glad you had some quality family time and carried on the traditions. Did you watch Kouhaku as well? That feast looks yummy.

  2. Yeah - it's nice to have a lower-key Christmas/New Years. Australia is pretty low-key when it comes to Christmas/New Years as well...

    And yes - we did watch the Kouhaku. I didn't understand a lot of the connections/history to it, and knew few of the acts... however, you don't really need to be able to enjoy the fun of it. It's definitely a nice Japanese tradition.