Happy 2015 everyone!
The last two weeks were very hectic. We celebrated Christmas at our house, followed by my daughter’s 8th birthday (yay), and then Japanese New Year or oshōgates. This post is a summary of the last two weeks. :)
First, we enjoyed Christmas. We had family over in the morning, and in the afternoon friends came over. Many of our friends are from Japan or Korea, and they don’t have family in the US. So we are like a family to each other. Princess and Little Guy both received many gifts. Here’s Little Guy enjoying his new toy, a plane from the movie Planes that plays music and lights up:
He also got two plush-animals (nuigurumi ぬいぐるみ). He’s obsessed with dogs, so we got him a dog and a fox, which you can see below. When he sees a dog on TV, or in real life, he starts barking like a dog. :)
My daughter made a note for Santa on Christmas Eve, and left cookies by the Christmas tree:
However, she is starting to ask a lot of questions about Santa, so I think she will figure out the truth by next year. :-/ I was around 8 years old when I figured out that Santa wasn’t real too, so it’s normal.
After Christmas, we were invited by a friend of a friend to their house for a kochi-pounding party or mochitsuki (餅つき). Mochi is Japanese rice-cakes made from a special type of rice (not typical white rice). Traditionally, you had to pound mochi using a mallet (kine 杵) and mortar (usu 臼). Another person has to constantly wet the rice and rotate it. It’s important to keep a steady rhythm so you don’t hit the other person’s hand. The mallet is heavy, but once you get into rhythm, the process is pretty easy. You can even pound mochi as a group: people go around in a circle, taking turns pounding mochi.
Here’s me doing it:
We got to take home lots of mochi. Some of it was stuffed with ankō (餡子), which is red-bean paste. Other mochi had yomogi mixed it to make it more green.
After this, we celebrated Princess’s 8th birthday!
My wife and I can’t believe it’s been 8 years! Here’s the earliest post about her (1 year after she was born, the picture in the blog post is lost). This year, she wanted to buy some Legos (more about that soon), and go ice-skating. Mommy and Little Guy couldn’t go ice-skating because Little Guy is too young. So I took my daughter. I haven’t skated in 20 years! Both of us just went around the ice rink very slowly.
Finally, I started to get better at skating, but then I slipped twice and fell on my back. Each time, I hit my head on the ice, which hurt. It was just like this scene from the movie Home Alone:
After this, my daughter and I gave up and went home. We got a cake at a nearby Korean bakery,1 and had a fun evening at home eating, dancing to Michael Jackson, and such. :)
Finally came New Year’s. I was stuck working New Year’s Eve until about 8pm. We watched the famous Japanese TV special, Kōhaku, which we can get through cable-TV. Kohaku is about 5 hours, and I never watch the whole thing though. Usually all the good acts are near the beginning, and then things start to get boring toward the second-half. A lot of it is things that only Japanese-people would know or enjoy, so I start to lose interest. Also, I had to do dishes, and clean the house before everyone went to bed.
New Year’s Day was quiet and relaxing. My wife made a small New Year’s dish (osechi-ryōri おせち料理) with a baked tai (鯛) fish, and ozōni soup:
In the past, when we eat osechi-ryori, we make too much, so it goes to waste. Some things are eaten very quickly, some things just sit in the refrigerator for a week. So, this year, we only made a small amount. It was very good, and was eaten all up.
I had to work (again) in the morning, but in the afternoon, we went to the same Shingon Buddhist temple in the city of Redmond we go every year for Hatsumōde: the first temple visit of the year. Homepage here. I know one of the priests there from the days of E-Sangha, an old Buddhist forum that no longer exists. He is a good guy, and we enjoy catching up every year.
We participated in a Shingon ritual to help purify us of negative karma, and to bless us for the new year. We exchanged our old ofuda and omamori for new ones. My wife is no longer under Yakudoshi, so we didn’t have to worry about purification. I returned my old ofuda of Tenjin I got from Yushima Tenmangu, but haven’t got a new one yet. I’ll do that next time I’m in Japan (more on why in an upcoming post).
Finally, we drove home. This was a beautiful sunset I photographed from the car while driving across the 520-bridge:
Speaking of nice views, friends in Japan sent me another photo, this time of Mount Fuji as seen from Enoshima on New Year’s morning (gantan 元旦):
The last two weeks were very fun, but we are exhausted. It will be nice to return to our normal routine on Monday when Princess goes back to school, and I go back to work on a normal schedule.
As for New Year’s, I have a couple resolutions I hope to share soon. Stay tuned!
P.S. For the first dream of the year, I dreamt about work. :-/
P.P.P.S. The lego birthday set above is sold by Lego. It’s very cute. We bought another set for Little Guy for his 2nd birthday later this year. :)
1 American cakes are sickly-sweet, and not very good quality. So, we like to buy cakes from Asian bakeries (Chinese, Korean, etc). They taste much better for about the same price. The difference is the ingredients and quality.