This Week in Tokyo – 1 January 2019
あけおめ ことよろ! Welcome to a special New Year’s edition of This Week in Tokyo. Check out photos from our tours and read insights into our explorations as we get under the skin of the World’s Greatest Metropolis, and beyond. This week’s edition is hosted by Mac, Founder and Lead Guide of Maction Planet, who has been guiding across the country as part of a fully-booked holiday period for Maction Planet. This week: Kohaku Hachiko; Hatsumode 2019; NYE Ameyoko; Shimekazari stalls and Front and Centre Gai!
Featured image – Kohaku Hachiko: One of the biggest New Year traditions for many families in Japan is staying at home and watching the Kohaku Uta Gassen. Broadcast on NHK from 7:15 pm until 11:45 pm, this 4.5-hour-long program involves a musical battle (in fact, the title literally means “Red-and-White Song Battle”) between two teams consisting of the year’s most popular musicians. The audience and judges then vote for the best team. Hosting and appearing on the show is considered a true honor. The White (boys) team won last night, but really music was the winner. Even loyal dog Hachiko was excited by the 69th edition, the last of the Heisei Era. Here he is on the 27 December promoting the (then) upcoming show with an appropriate Red and White bow tie!
Maction Planet Resident DJ Royce Leong and I discussed watching Kohaku and other new year traditions in an episode of Tokyo ON, Maction Planet Radio’s flagship show, which you can listen to here.
Hatsumode 2019: Hatsumode is the first shrine or temple visit of the year. Prayers and wishes for the new year are offered. Many religious sites in Japan will be packed during the first three days of the year. Despite the flexibility of timing in when the visit is done, many choose to go immediately after midnight. This was the scene at 00:30 today at Ebisu Jinja in Ebisu. A 40 minute line had already formed. It was as always a great atmosphere – a combination of revellers leaving bars and families who had just finished watching Kohaku (see above) – all coming together for Hatsumode 2019!
NYE Ameyoko: Visiting Ameyoko on New Year’s Eve is another of the city’s traditions. Locals head there to shop for ingredients for traditional new year foods. I took my guests Ross and Jordan there to experience the vibrant, once-a-year atmosphere. They were kind enough to spend part of their NYE evening writing a review of our time together, which you can read here. Waking up and reading this on the first day of the year was all the motivation I need to make 2019 even bigger and better for Maction Planet’s guests.
Shimekazari stalls: You see many types of decorations during Japanese New Year’s. The most common are the wreaths hanging from doorways and awnings. These shimekazari talismen are displayed on doors to ward off evil spirits and welcome good fortune. Traditional shimekazari are made of straw rope called shimenawa and are decorated with auspicious objects such as pine and orange. Walking around Tokyo, you see shimekazari adorning homes, shops, hotels, and other establishments, among others. In the run up to New Year’s Day there are stalls lining the streets of the city selling these and other traditional New Year objects, such as this one outside Ningyocho station.
Front and Centre Gai: Since New Year’s Eve is typically spent at home with family countdown events are not all that common in Japan. However, in recent years, crowds have been gathering at Shibuya Crossing on New Year’s Eve. Centre Gai, a central youth culture hub in Shibuya, has a beautiful light wreath marking the entrance
We would like to wish all our guests, apparel customers, readers of our blog, listeners to Maction Planet Radio and supporters all over the world a very prosperous 2019. Thank you all for your support. We continue…