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Happy New Year!

It’s now 2020, and I’m celebrating New Years in a completely different country. Do you know what that means? That means I have to celebrate the arrival of a new year in a way that I have never celebrated it before. At first, I tried to celebrate it in the way I knew how, but it didn’t work out. My plan was to go out on New Year’s Eve and spend the first day of 2020 with my friends out since my family wasn’t here to spend it with me. Unfortunately, as simple as my plans sounded, none of them went the way I wanted it to go.

I went out on New Year’s Eve, hoping to grab a good lunch and tasty street food before my dinner party, but everywhere I went, it was closed.

That ramen place across the street?


That pasta place a station away?


That soba place near school?


Everything was closed.

All of the running around for a nice lunch place with my friends gave me a headache. In the end, I opted to eat at a ramen stand for lunch, just to fill my stomach. It was from that experience that I re-learned the very important rule of: “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

With that exhausting experience, I scrapped my plans of going out on January 1st with my friends and decided to invite them to do what most Japanese people did instead: go to a shrine.

I didn’t know anything about this. However, with some research, I learned that most Japanese people don’t visit shrines during the New Year for religious purposes, but rather for cultural purposes. The first shrine visit is called Hatsumode. Its purpose is for people to make new wishes for the upcoming year, as well as receive their New Years fortune.

Knowing that, on New Year’s day, I went to Meiji shrine with a couple of friends. We went later in the day, so the crowd wasn’t too bad. Nonetheless, it was still crowded. There, we threw in some coins and prayed for a good luck for the upcoming year. We also got our fortunes (called okimuji) for 100 yen, but was unable to read it because it was all in Japanese, and had some street food from the stalls outside of the shrine.

Look at all those people!
It’s the year of the rat!
No idea what it said because of all the kanji, but it was pleasing to look at!

Overall, it was a very fun experience. I’m glad I chose to do that rather than what I had originally planned.

From this, I think it’s appropriate to restate (for both myself and the reader to remember) that, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”


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