Feb 21, 2014

New Years in Osaka

Happy New Year!
It's the Year of the Horse.

After a harrowing escape from the Chinese Guangzhou airport - in which we were made to enter the country against our wishes, had our passports taken from us, and driven an hour away in a van before reaching a hotel - we made it back to Japan on New Years Eve. (Imagine what Chinese transit authorities would have done if they had seen me when I was eating a rice ball and shouted "FREEDOM RICE!")

After a week walking out in the sun, we donned our winter coats and walked through Osaka's streets to meet up with more friends from Ishikawa who had come down for the holiday.

Downtown Osaka on New Years Eve.

The dragon ramen chain restaurant.


2014 was nearly here. We had a choice: celebrate the midnight countdown at a high-rise observatory, or a traditional Japanese temple. The group split up, and Olivia, Mr. C, and I went to the high-rise. When we got there, the place was so packed that they weren't letting anyone into building until after midnight. So we turned on our heels and made our way back to the subway to get to the temple in time.

When we arrived, the area was also full of people to the point that they had stopped admitting visitors passed the bridge just before the temple grounds. We waited in line to see if they would let us through, but no dice. Mr. C disappeared into the food stands around the crowd, and reappeared with three single-serving cups of warm sake.

"Let's have our own countdown!" We got out our phones and watched the second hand slip closer and closer to 2014. We shouted the final countdown, in English, and the whole crowd of Japanese people counted down with us! "3...2...1... Happy New Year!!" People cheered, we hugged and drank sake, and the police let us through over the bridge.

Climbing over the temple bridge into the new year.

People lining up to throw coins and pray.

After paying our respects at the temple, we reunited with our friends (dodging a few policeman who were trying to enforce an orderly path by sneaking around the trees behind them to get where we wanted to go). Together we wandered the surrounding food and game stalls until our tired legs couldn't go a step further.


A morning visit to a new temple for hatsumode (the first temple visit of the new year).

Lining up to ring the bells.

You throw coins with a hole in them, which symbolize a holy deity, into the temple's donation box before you pray. You can buy your new year's omikuji (fortune) and burn the one you received the year before.

Korean Town was closed for the holidays.

More New Years "illuminations."


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