Well, 2009 has slipped into some present better known as the past.
Time to grab 2010 by the tail and start making stuff happen right here, right now.
But first, let’s ease into the year ahead with a celebration of life, love and joviality.
Are you ready?
Here’s yours truly filling in as a secret agent at the local temple.
Dig that ear piece 😉
On Jan 1st the whole area is packed as people queue to walk a lucky figure of 8 around this humongous rope circle before lining up for a prayer or a blessing at the temple (which is about 20m in front of me. See next shot.)
I like to imagine this as the ring of opportunity.
Behind me are last year’s triumphs and tribulations, while up ahead are the experiences to come.
Past and present are connected via my lifeline, ably watched over by a strong and loving power betwixt and between.
But hey, wouldn’t you know. Our gods are off duty! There’s no rope and bell to wake up their divine majesties on 2nd Jan; they must’ve worked a double shift the day before?
Still, not to worry. The power of meaningful intention works wonders (says he) as we each throw 100 Yen into the collecting box and I make my wish.
And with the spiritual taken care of we arrive at the house of corporeal nourishment where my In-laws (Mother, Father & Sister) have been doing the culinary work of the just since yesterday afternoon.
I take up residence at a corner pew (gaijin-safe) and begin the feast. That Asahi Kuroi (Black) Beer is pretty good and washes down the various dishes like no other. (The wine came later.)
Interleaved with all this taste bud happiness runs a slice of sadness. In the fifteen or so years I’ve been in Japan they’ve gone to great trouble to prepare some amazing New Year feasts.
But they’re getting older and the effort and time required to also cook and serve for our hungry (but appreciative) mouths is very tiring. So I suspect this may be the last New Year’s meal of its kind with folks I’ve gotten to know well.
And that thought made the special hot pot main dish even more enjoyable as I watched the freshly made ingredients brought in and the gas burner ignited.
This minced meat dumpling mixture contains a host of ingredients (sorry, I forgot the exact list) and about 500 g of meat. Took my Mother-In-Law almost two hours to get it ready the night before.
Translation: If you want a thing done well sometimes you gotta do it yourself.
And here’s the dish coming together just fine in its own special stock.
Chinese cabbage, mushrooms and tofu are also playing a delicious supporting role.
While this was going on I found myself sampling some Chinese sake, made in Shanghai. Served warm, it slipped into a stomach already seduced by sampled tastes and sensing the treat to come.
And what a joy that was!
Having sometimes wondered what I’d choose if life is a banquet, today’s gourmet experiences are right up there with the best of them.
Success: can you taste it?