Celebrating the New Year in Tokyo
For most Catawba College students, winter break is looked at as a time to relax and enjoy the holiday season with family and friends. Spending time with loved ones, reminiscing about past holidays, and bringing in the New Year is what most people think of when winter break rolls around.
This winter break, one group of Catawba students had a very different type of New Year’s Eve experience. Instead of watching the ball drop in New York City like the rest of us, these students celebrated the New Year in Japan.
Dr. Fish’s Japanese Theatre and Culture class traveled to Tokyo, Japan on December 26 and stayed to tour the city until January 9.
While they mostly stayed and toured Tokyo, some of the group did venture out to Hakone to see Fiji and to Kamakura to see temples and the large Daibutsu, which is the giant Buddha.
Sarah Matulis, one of the students that went on the trip described her visit to Kamakura saying, “It was in Kamakura where I ventured up 347 steps to the top of Kenchoji temple where we watched the sun set over Mt. Fiji. It was probably one of the most peaceful, serene, and breath-taking things I have ever witnessed.”
Students also participated in a tea ceremony demonstration, explored a fish market, toured the imperial palace, and went to an All Japan Hometown Festival.
Celebrating New Year’s Eve at the Zojoji temple was the biggest event of the entire trip. At 11:00pm, a monk came out and began preparing the blessings and calling the gods; almost everyone in Tokyo is a mix of Shinto and Buddhist. Not only were people waiting for the New Year, but they were also celebrating the 800th birthday of the temple.
Matulis described the scene perfectly.
“At midnight, everyone let go of their clear, environmentally friendly, balloons and a cheer arose from the crowd. Then, the great temple doors were opened and a golden light spilled out onto the crowd. We slowly proceeded up the steps and into the temple’s hall. There were the priests chanting and everyone bowed and prayed for a new year in the hall that was gilded in sparkling gold. from there we walked out the back doors and to our surprise, the giant Tokyo Tower was glittering and sparkling as it was all lit up for new years. It was the perfect description of Tokyo, so much historical past blended seamlessly into such a futuristic city.”
The trip was a success and the students who attended all came back with stories about their adventures.
They even got to see the emperor and the imperial family. They listened to the emperor give a speech. Translated it said. “I am happy to see the New Year. This year we can all work together for a better world and peace.”