New Year’s in Japan

Today is New Year’s Day, and we are quickly approaching the end of our second year in Japan. The time has gone by amazingly fast, and we have enjoyed our time here immensely. IMG_5484

New Year’s Day is a family holiday in Japan. Many people travel to their family home to visit with relatives and spend the holiday together. It’s also a time to visit the shrines and receive blessings for a prosperous new year.

We spent the day today out and about, walking nearly 8 miles in the crisp cool air. Our first stop was to visit Zojoji Temple, near Tokyo Tower.

This temple also includes an area where street vendors provide all kinds of food and drinks, in a festive atmosphere. Zojoji is near our apartment, and is a place we visit often.

From Zojoji, we made a quick stop at a local convenience store – a conbini – to buy some water and soda. The convenience stores are open 24/7, 365 days in Tokyo, and are always a handy place to visit (and, importantly, can also be counted on to have clean and convenient restroom facilities).

Our walk then took us to Atago Shrine, a Shinto shrine established in 1603. Located 26 meters above sea level, you enter the shrine via a steep set of stairs.

Today, the grounds were crowded with people visiting the shrine. Atago is another of our favorite spots to visit within a walkable distance from our apartment.

Our day concluded with a visit to Hibiya Park, one of our favorite parks in Tokyo. Today it was surprisingly empty – with so many Tokyo residents visiting family and the shrines, this beautiful park was nearly vacant. But on a nice winter day, it was a pleasure to visit.

New Year’s Day is different here in Tokyo, and sometimes we miss our traditional celebration that we would normally have in the US. But today was a good day, and we’ll often look back with fond memories of New Year’s Day in Japan.