It’s hard to believe that 2011 has come and gone. Where did this last year go? It feels like one minute we were loving life in Southern California and the next we were at our first overseas duty station, searching for a house off base and learning how to muddle through saying a few Japanese greetings. Now it’s well into January 2012, we have been in Okinawa almost 5 months and have successfully wrapped up our first holiday season abroad. We always enjoy the holidays and this year was no exception. Thanksgiving was spent with my husband’s Marines and included a lot of beer pong games, couch diving and the added flair of them picking up my tiny island-mobile (aka Mr. Bean) and moving him sideways in my driveway. Considering we have spent a lot of years away from “home”, this was a pretty typical Thanksgiving in our house.
Christmas was exceptionally low-key compared to Thanksgiving, but included many of the same guys and we were excited to add one of the Marine’s family that was visiting from the States and one guys Japanese fiance to the mix. The day consisted of a lot of present unwrapping, cleaning a living room that looked like it barfed wrapping paper, cooking and Face-timing family back in the U.S. The only thing missing from Christmas was a visit from my mom (hopefully we can rectify this next year!).
After Christmas, we rolled into the New Year. New Years in Japan is big deal and there are a lot of deep rooted traditions and celebrating going on. One tradition includes Hatsumode which is the first shrine (or Buddhist temple) visit of the New Year. We were happy to partake in this tradition, so we hopped into the car and headed to Naritasan Temple to see what it was all about.
Upon arrival, we noticed the atmosphere was very festival-like with food vendors, a few games and paper lanterns strung everywhere.
We waited in a long line to go into the temple, where you give your offerings and make your “wishes” for the New Year.
Once we exited the temple we purchased our oracles (called Omikuji). These are written predictions for the next year.
If your omikuji predicts bad luck, you can choose to tie it one of the temple’s trees or fences.
We all decided we liked our fortunes enough to keep them so we posed for a few pictures, bought an enormous bag of cotton candy and left the wistful views from the temple stairs to head back home.