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Journals from Kanto Gakuin University, Japan

2014-01-27 New Year's in Japan

I started out my last day of 2013 most pleasantly— sleeping in until 10am, and chatting with my host family over breakfast before we each set out for the day, and, as it was the last time I'd see them in 2013, wished them both a blessed new year.

I spent most of the day out and about with one of my buddies before going back to their friend's house to spend time, relax, and wait for the 2014 countdown to start. We played video games, read manga and newspapers, and walked to and from the convenience store for snacks and some fresh air. As 2013's final hour dwindled, we decided to go see the fireworks display in person rather than on the TV, so threw on our shoes and jackets and hurried out the door. The display was just outside the grounds of the local aquarium— a good 20-30 minute jog away. Good thing I had tennis shoes on for the day!!

We made it in time to see the entire display that lasted almost 10 minutes— and it was spectacular!  (What was rarer for me was to be able to greet complete strangers, wishing them a blessed New Year's—in Japan, no one greets strangers casually!) Afterwards, I explored the aquarium and found building after building lit up— entire staircases, buildings, pavilions, boardwalks, and boats! It was as lively tonight as it was the first time I came here four months ago... I intended to stay up all night and well into the morning to see the first sunrise of the year, but I ended up falling asleep (everyone did...) and overslept by a few hours.. yikes....

Six hours later, bright and early at 12:30pm, I went out again with my buddy to Kamakura to fulfill the single activity I had set out to do from the start: pray at the temple on New Year's.  And pray, I did! In all my experiences with crowds, bustling throngs of people, masses of people pressing in around me— this afternoon perhaps tops the list as most crowded and most tiring. From where I was when I took the picture below, it took just about two hours to make it to just the foot of the staircase to the temple. Another half hour later— climbing the great staircase, pressing to reach the altar and place of homage, acquiring my last temple fortune— mission accomplished!

(I slept on the train home.)

Caitlyn

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