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New Year’s Celebration

January 16th, 2004

It’s a little bit late, but distractions kept me from this project for a while.

Every year at New Year’s Eve, I go to a local shrine–somewhat of a private tradition since I first came to Japan. I really enjoy the people, the music, the local atmosphere, the free sake. One year (on the millennium, in fact) I spent New Year’s back home in the U.S., but everyone went to bed at 11 pm, and I just sat there watching Dick Clark on TV and thought, hey! I could be at a shrine right now!

When I moved to this town, I thought I had found the perfect shrine, a place atop a hill near the train station, with a view of Tokyo and a beautiful temple just below in a pocket valley (I’m a bit out in the boonies, though still close to Tokyo proper). But when I went there one New Year’s Eve, I found the place deserted–I guess they went out of business some time ago, though the shrine still stood. The temple was in business, but it was just people ringing the bell. I was about to go home, disappointed, when I saw fireworks a bit of a ways off. Well, I followed the fireworks and found the shrine I go to now.

It’s a great place. They shoot off the fireworks–real sky-reaching stuff, not the kind you buy at the store–and they have pretty much everything else, too. The sake (including kids’ sake, non-alcoholic and, to me, really bad-tasting), a traditional band, the shishi-mai dance, a nice bonfire, with nice trinkets, charms and arrows (for luck) on sale. The works.

This year, Hiromi made her way over to join me, and we brought a video camera along. What kept me from doing this until now, a few weeks after the fact, was that I knew that editing together the video would take several hours–but tonight I finally had enough free time, and got the darn thing done. The movie, a little over two and a half minutes long, is available on this page, for anyone who has QuickTime software installed. Be warned, the movie is a touch over 5MB in size; if you have a dial-up connection it will take forever. Broadband (DSL or cable) is recommended.

I hope you enjoy. Until next year….

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