|Happy New Year! PC Troy Stade|
Happy 2018, everybody! It feels weird to me that I've already been in Japan for over seven months: time really does fly. I was fortunate to spend a week at home for New Year's where I did a lot of eating, sleeping, and general relaxing. But now I'm back in Japan where the weather is a lot warmer (mid-40s most days) than it is in Chicago (-15 degrees for the entire week I was there). And since Christmas is technically a full 12 days, I was still home for the holidays.
Speaking of Christmas, I had a lovely time. I went to church at Saint Alban's for the first time in several months and enjoyed singing (and harmonizing!) to hymns. Most of the Christmas music I'd been exposed to thus far had been the overly peppy songs played in-store like "Jingle Bell Rock" (gag), "Santa Baby" (more gag), "Let it Snow," and other non-denominational songs.
Then, after a delightful sushi lunch in Akasaka--
--I stopped at the nearby Hie Shrine.
The shrine is, despite its current prime location and pristine white torii gate, quite an old one--established in either 1478 or 1362. It has been moved around several times and burned down (once during the Great Fire of Meireki in 1657) several more but has always been an important shrine for first the Tokugawa shogunate and later the Japanese government as a whole.
The main shrine building was flanked by these two monkey statues, and for the life of me I can't figure out why monkeys. But I love that someone had gifted them bananas.
One of the nicest things about the Hie Shrine is its tunnel of red torii, much like the Fushimi Inari shrine in Kyoto. They certainly make for a good photo-op:
I also stumbled across a massive "illumination" (what we would call a light show) in Roppongi.
I cannot emphasize enough how crowded the area around this was. There was, quite literally, a 20-minute guided queue just to GET to the park area where the lights were set up, and even then I had to ask my much taller companion to take these pictures because the crowd was at least 5 people deep. It apparently had some sort of global theme, though the accompanying music gave it a distinctly underwater vibe. Go figure--at least it was festive.
Once again, best wishes from me to all you readers for 2018. I'm hoping (crosses fingers) to do some fiddling with the blog in terms of new content (featuring coffee!) and some updated and more specific tags for my posts in the near future, so keep an eye out for that.