It’s already 2010 over here so for starters Happy New Year and あけましておめでとうございます！
During the first three days of the new year, many Japanese spend their time between friends and family touring round the many temples scattered around wishing for good luck during the new year and ‘purify’ their sins by banging a gong with a thick rope for 108 times (apparently each person commits 108 sins every year).
Other than that, it’s like most religious holidays, where families gather and eat and drink like there’s no tomorrow!
The Japanese also have a tradition of writing a single Kanji to express their feelings for the new year.
But before I go into that, most Japanese would agree if they were to sum up 2009 in one word it would be:
read (kibishii) which means strict, hard, tough and severe.
With the economic crisis battering the Japanese economy and leaving many Japanese and foreign workers jobless and eventually homeless, not forgetting an extremely strong yen (great for traveling abroad but not for anything else). The word ‘tough’ wouldn’t be enough.
As for 2010, Japan has opted an optimistic view for the coming year making the year’s Kanji
read (shin) which means ‘new’ , symbolizing the change that already happened in 2009 mainly the election of Yukio Hatoyama leader of the Democratic Party of Japan ousting the long reigning Liberal Democrats out of office, and the optimism of building a new economy and a new Japan of the future.
Another Kanji growing popular these days is:
read (yume) which means ‘dream’ as it is playing a part in the lead up into the upcoming World Cup in South Africa. Apparently they are aiming for a place in the semi final this time around.
Finally, my Kanji for 2010 is:
read (aka) which means ‘red’. Other than a sign of undying patriotism towards Bahrain, it is also a hope that I stay out of the red. Red is also the color of dawn and dusk, hopefully a beautiful peaceful end of a chapter and a beginning of a great new day.
But most importantly, we’re hopefully expecting our first born child somewhere around March and in Japanese, babies are called 赤ちゃん (aka-chan) which literally means ‘red kid’.
Recently, a very good friend of mine had her second art exhibition in Japan exploring her new found love of the colour red in Japan and I’m gonna finish off this post with one of the “私の赤” (watashi no aka) or ‘My Red’ series…
Today is Japan’s National Foundation Day which is celebrated every year and is a one day holiday..
Which I realized only when I went to university to polish off my presentation for my entrance exam, only to find the whole university closed!
Also as part of my entrance exam, I have to sit a English exam (in Japanese!) which I need to bring an English/Japanese dictionary and since i only have a handy dandy electronic dictionary which I’m not allowed to use, I had to shed some cash and help the Japanese economy.
So in doing so, I went to one of the bookshops downtown in search of a dictionary..
The first thing I noticed were hundreds of photos of President Barack Obama, and hundreds more in the form of CD and DVD books!
Each book is basically a compilation of President Obama’s speeches from his Democratic Nomination till his inauguration all translated word-by-word into Japanese all as a way to help improve Japanese people’s English (especially advanced learners). It is a far cry from George W. Bush’s butchering of the English language through his memorable Bushisms.
But President Obama isn’t the only political figure helping books fly off the shelves!
Japanese Prime Minister, Taro Aso, is renowned for two things: His love for Manga comics (whenever I mention that Aso has a typical Manga villian mouth and grin, my Japanese friends burst out laughing) and his many misreadings of Kanji.
After quite a few public blotchings of Kanji by PM Aso during speeches, many Japanese have turned to bookstores to buy books on how to read complex Kanjis to avoid such embaressing situations. Two women who were standing in front of me in line were buying such books, at the same time making me feel better than I’m not the only one struggling with reading Kanjis with each one at least two or three readings, some even reaching 12 and 13!
As for our politicians, the only time we see them reading is when the Book Fair is in town and all they do is collect books to fill their shelves (mostly religious books) to make them look ‘smart’ and ‘knowledgable’ whilst on the other hand, we have ministers whose job is to encourage people to read and learn about the world around them and write and express themselves, goes and attempts to block the internet…tsk tsk!
Once again please sign the petition against Internet censorship in Bahrain
Kakikome is done at the beginning of the new year, where Japanese people traditionally draw Kanji (Chinese characters) of their dreams and wishes for the new year on thin paper with brushes and ink, later hanging them around the house.
Now being in Japan for three months, I’ve become quite skillful writing Kanji (but not in reading nor understanding them!) so I really had a blast writing these characters!
Other than mucking around and writing in Arabic (Arabic Calligraphy just mesmerizes the Japanese!), I learnt a new Kanji….平和 ‘Heiwa’ which means peace..
We all know about the atrocities being commited by the Israelis in Occupied Palestine and my wish for this year is that this conflict comes to an end with the Palestinians getting back what is rightfully theirs..
Wishing you all a peaceful new year..