Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year 2011! Joya no Kane and other things...

Last night we celebrated New Years Eve by staying up late (yes, even Alek!) to walk to a temple called Shokokuji, about 25 minutes (north of Doshisha University).

On NYE in Japan, the Buddhist temples ring their bell (if they have one) at least 108 times (for 108 sins) right before's called joya no kane. Some temples let the public take turns ringing it; others (like Chionin) have the monks do the ringing.

Anyway, I could tell from the Shokokuji website that they had a bell, and we took a chance that they would ring it. We got there at 11:15pm, but it was veerrrry quiet. We were about to leave, thinking we were wrong. But then I decided to ask a small group of people standing around if there would be joya no kane. Yes, it was right here! It would start at 11:45. We were only about 15th in line. We are so lucky...

The bell was up in a tower, at the top of these stairs. The five of us took off our shoes, climbed up, and rang the bell together as a "family ring."
Then we walked out, and took a taxi home. It was the perfect, quiet new years eve temple scene. This was the latest that Alek had ever been awake without a meltdown. (I guess he will be ready for college someday.)

Here is the tower with the bell, and the boys. Photos in the dark are rather difficult--sorry....

This morning was New Year's day, of course. We slept in until 10am (another first!) and had Ozoni Soup for breakfast. This is a simple miso/chicken based soup with mizuna greens in it, that is poured over a broiled mochi cake (a kind of squishy rice ball).

Here's the soup:
And here's the komochi before you cook it.

Here's what happened when I broiled big mochi mass!

Max and I loved the grilled mochi, just plain, or maybe with a little butter and cinnamon....

So we ate that, and then played around at home, relaxing.

Later we took a walk. We visited our of them had keeled over.
and we admired the new year decorations on people's homes.
and on the Pachinko Parlors:
Eventually, we got to Shimogamo Jinja, one of the more popular shrines to visit on New Years' Day. This is a World Heritage Site (one of 17 in Kyoto), with artifacts dating from 10.000 b.c.!

It was a surprisingly festive scene....lots of street food for sale!

Here is a main gate.

It is the year of the rabbit!
We warmed up by this fire...
Here is a traditional mochi arrangement.
And some snow bunnies!
New years' donations to the jinja, of giant mochi, beer, sake:

The boys rang the bell, and we bought a lucky charm, and on the way out, we purchased the best street food ever--fried sweet potatoes with sugar sprinkled on. So healthy and delicious.....

Everybody, Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu!


  1. i am now living vicariously through your adventures.....

  2. To invite a prosperous new year, Koreans eat rice cake soup (with small round rice cakes representing coins). Wonder if the Japanese eat mochi so that the good luck sticks with them all year? I loved that you got to ring the family bell. How beautiful (and memorable for the boys)! BTW, the sweet potato fries look SOOO good.

    Mira stayed up until midnight with her grandma which took much effort...wished grandma a quick "Happy New Year" and crashed. :P

  3. That is the absolute coolest NYE I've ever heard of.

  4. You guys are going to have so many great memories! During my stay in Japan I came back home at Christmas to be with my family so I missed New Year's Eve and (just as important I
    was told) New Year's Day. I only heard stories from my Japanese friends about these events; your blog has made it all the more real. Thanks!

    Mochi: Almost forgot about mochi. I remember two things about it: (1) I hate it and (2) A freind of mine got a glob of it caught in his throat on a drive up to an on-sen. It stayed with him all day long, even through our very fancy and formal tatame dinner at the on-sen. Half way through the meal, a member of our dinner party started hitting the mochi victim very hard on the back until the mochi came most suddenly and
    loudly dislodged. Everyone in the restaurant stopped eating/talking, became extremely quiet and started at our table for about 10 seconds. Then, the meal resumed as if nothing had happened. Mochi memories.

  5. Bueautiful photos and a great cultural guide. Looks like you are having big fun. So you'll cook somehting cool for us when you get back?