Celebrating New Years in Saga, Kyūshū - Vikingess Voyages

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Celebrating New Years in Saga, Kyūshū

With Christmas came the winter break, and another opportunity for me to check out new areas of Japan. My friend Hisami had invited me to spend the holiday with her family in Saga, which is situated south-east on the island Kyūshū. So after a couple of lazy days in Kyoto we went to Fukuoka by night bus and arrived on the morning of the 29th of December.

Fukuoka (福岡) is the largest city on the island Kyūshū, and it is also believed to be the oldest city in Japan.

In Fukuoka we went to the outlet mall Evergreen Marinoa, where we could take a glance at (the remainings of) Japans biggest Ferris wheel: Sky Dream Fukuoka. It has been out of operation since September 2009, and rumors has it that it has been bought up by some Chinese people and that the whole thing are going to be moved to China. They were actually having people working on taking it down when we visited too..

Heading for year 2011, which according to the Japanese calendar is the year of the rabbit. Due to this, as you can see, the shops were filled with cute bunnies..!

A picture of Fukuoka Tower

Fukuoka actually has quite nice beaches! Though December might not be the ideal time for this beach, the temperature wasn´t exactly that high..

On the 29th it was also time for my birthday (another year gone by so fast..), and Hisami´s family surprised me with this nice birthday cake after dinner! Not to mention home made Japanese plum wine; 梅酒, which is うめぇ!Oh yeah.. Anyway..

On the 30th of December we went to Hisami´s grandmothers house. Here we made Omochi, お餅, which is a sort of Japanese rice cake. It is common for Japanese people to make Omochi together during the days before New Year, and this event is called Omochitsuki (お餅つき).

Hisami´s grandmothers house, and typical Saga landscape:)

On the morning of December 31st we went to see the tidal landscape of Ariake Sea. Ariake Sea is the largest bay in Kyūshū, and is said to be not more than 50 meters deep at its deepest. Because of the drastic tidal changes in this bay during the day, there are a lot of creatures living here that that you probably can´t find anywhere else in Japan, like mudskippers for instance. Besides this Ariake is beeing used for cultivating Nori (edible seaweed).
Another picture of Ariake. It looks really peacefull with the snow (though it was quite windy and cold in reality:P)!

In the evening I celebrated Japanese Oomisoka (大晦日) with Hisami´s family (Unfortunately I don´t have a photo of all of us while Hisami had to do the picture-taking).
Before a new year begins, it is a tradition to eat a plate of so-called Toshikoshi-soba (年越しそば). The meaning behind this tradition is that in the same way as the soba is long and thin, one´s life will be long and peaceful.

The first day of the new year 2011, and in Japan these days are usually spent together with the family eating and relaxing. It kinda felt like the days after Christmas Eve back in Norway, when you meet up with all the family members you haven´t seen in a long time.

Me, Hisami, her mother and cousin.

A so-called Shimekazari, which is hanged by/on the door to bring good omen.

On the second of January we went to a hotspring with the funny name Pokapoka Onsen..! This was my second time visiting a Japanese hotspring so I didn´t have that much to compare with, but it was really great. Besides the usual Onsen-style they had some different types of saunas as well. Absolutely worth a visit!

The entrance to the Onsen.

The last gathering with Hisami´s family. Once again, a lot of good traditional Japanese food, and a lot of fun as well.

Another Japanese New Years tradition is the giving of Otoshidama お年玉, or envelopes with money in it. Though Otoshidama usually is given to kids, I was lucky to receive some envelopes myself!!

On the 3rd of January we went to the Yutoku Inari Jinja (祐徳稲荷神社) - shrine for Hatsumode, or the New Years first temple visit. Though it wasn´t that far from Hisami´s place it sure took longer time than expected to get there; As you can see we weren´t exactly the only ones planning to visit the temple, and most of them got there by car like us. The temple was really interesting though, I found the style and the atmosphere quite different from the temples I´ve visited so far in Kyoto.

People.. Everywhere.. My friends who spent their holiday in Tokyo said that it wasn´t that many people there, probably because a lot of Japanese people travel back to their villages to celebrate the New Year with their family (which includes going to the temple..).

Notice the nice colors of the temple! :)

People waiting for their turn to pray.

And lastely a picture of a so-called Fukubukuro (福袋), literary "lucky bag", which simply is a bag you buy without knowing its content, and if you are lucky you get something nice (the fukubukuro on the picture is just a random one I came over by the entrance to the shrine). I´ve heard that when this trend started the shopkeepers usually only included things they wanted to be rid of. But recently though, it has become more common to see part of what the bag contains (like pictures of the different style, but with the colors being unknown) so that you can make certain you won´t get disappointed, and the quality of the stuff is usually really good too (if you avoid shady places of course:p).
I actually bought a fukubukuro myself; I payed 5000 yen and got a jacket, a scarf, tights and three sweaters. Only the jacket alone used to be 10 000 yen, so I feel that I indeed was lucky!

On the evening of the forth of January we traveled back to Kyoto by night-bus again from Fukuoka. I had a great time, but now it´s time to get back to everyday life again, which means studies. From now on all the final exams are coming up, so I just might be a bit busy the upcoming weeks.. Ohh well, at least it´s not that long till our next holiday here, since the spiring break starts in February..!
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About Anette
Anette came to Japan as an exchange student in 2010, met the love of her life and got stuck. From her base in Tokyo she writes about her experiences as a full-time worker in Tokyo and about her travels in Japan and abroad. She's a free-spirited adventurer who enjoys both the great outdoors and her urban lifestyle.

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  1. いいね~! Looks like you both had a great time!


  2. Yeah, it was really great :D Hope you had a nice holiday as well;)! Happy new year!


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A modern day shield-maiden who loves to explore the unbeaten paths of the world. From her base in Tokyo, Anette takes on both rural and urban challenges, and goes by the motto "No challenge too big, no adventure too small"!
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