New Years Eve, Illustrated

#### Here's how the Koyama family does things:
#### #### Sukiyaki on New Year's Eve With dad, sister, and Kyoshi, a past exchange student. Sukiyaki involves cooking meat, tofu, and veggies in a sweet, tangy broth, then dipping the cooked ingredients in raw egg before eating them. #### Sukiyaki in the bowl For some reason, I'm really not into namatamago (raw egg). I think they think it's weird that I eat sukiyaki without it, but I find it perfectly tasty plain. The broth has plenty of flavor. #### Preparing to go to the shrine. ![]( It was chilly! We first went to the Buddhist temple where the family's ancestors are interned (a fast, quiet deal), and then it was off to to the Sumida-ku (Tokyo is divided into 23 ku's, or wards) shrine. Shrines are Shinto, temples are Buddhist. The Japanese don't really have a problem with multiple faiths. #### Nighttime snacks A vendor on the way to the shrine, serving hot soup, snacks, and sake for tired 販売者 (*hanpaisha*, or people going to pray). #### Tending the flames ![](![]( Outside the Sumida-ku Shinto shrine #### Tokyo 2016 Not sure why the banners were up on New Year's Eve, but Tokyo is a candidate city for the 2016 Olympics.
#### 墨田区無形民族文化? ![]( Don't know the last character, but it translates to "The Sumida Shapeless Ethnic Group Cultural Performance Troupe," which actually means something along the lines of "We play folk music, and live in Sumida." #### Praying at the shrine 1) Toss a 5-yen coin in the well. 2) Shakea da bell. 3) Bow twice, clap twice. 4) Bow your head one more time, for real, thinking of wishes for the new year. #### Amazaki for Unicef Amazaki is thick, sweet, spiced, and very lightly alcoholic. It was tasty in the beginning, but I couldn't make it to the bottom of the cup- it got too thick and starchy. The shrine was freezing! Despite the Amazaki and several layers, we were all chilled to the bone, and hurried back home for *oyu-wari* sake (about 2-3 parts hot water to 1 part shochu), baths and sleep. I forwent the downtown activities; As fun as New Years' can be drinking and dancing with friends, I feel like I've probably got another 10 or 15 years for that, whereas this may be my only chance for a long time to experience this sort of Japanese family celebration. As the Japanese say, *Akemashite Omedeto Gozaimasu!* P.S. My friends were absolutely right- at about 11:55, cell phones ceased to work entirely. When I tried to send my happy new year messages, my phone politely told me that it couldn't do it right now, but that it would automatically send them all once there was service. It wasn't lying- over the next hour, my mails trickled out, friends' trickled in, and phone service gradually came back. For the first little while, though, absolutely nothing worked- no web, calls, or cell communication of any type. Guess that's what happens when a few hundred million people toss a bunch of data packets into a network over the span of a few minutes. #####