Ringing in 2019

The only New Year's Eve party I can remember experiencing in the US was for 2000. It was, naturally, the height of the 'Y2K panic' that seized the nation (and possibly much of the world) with dire predictions of all electronic systems and the entire infrastructure ceasing to function, along with airplanes dropping out of the sky (because, apparently, the laws of physics would cease to apply if infrastructure systems went haywire). We spent the evening at a friend's house, and I recall him filling the bathtub with drinking water just in case there was a mass shutoff of the urban water supply. (Of course, that never happened.) Aside from that, all I remember was playing board games and probably making some noise when the clock turned over. I think every American neighbourhood contains at least some individuals who do that sort of thing.

My personal tradition, since some years back, is to go to bed early so that I can watch the first sunrise. (I can report in this connection that last year's first sunrise was more spectacular than this year's. 1 January 2019 was cloudy in Tottori, and the colours were dull and drab, even if not entirely grey.)

Aside from these things, everything else we did in my house was, I think, pretty typical for Japan. My wife made soba with chopped spring onions and kamaboko, followed by round blobs of mochi in bean paste, the local ozoni.

Now this particular variety of ozoni is supposed to be peculiar to a swath of land that includes Tottori and Shimane. Most of the other regions in the country are supposed to favour miso and other more tangy substances. There is also a division between the roughly half of the country that uses square mochi and the roughly half that uses round mochi, and the dividing line is (for reasons I fail to grasp) is approximately the border decided by the Battle of Sekigahara. This is an utter enigma to me because the village of Kitaaiki-mura in Nagano Prefecture, where I resided for nearly a year when I first came to Japan, enjoys exactly the same type of ozoni--round mochi in sweet bean paste--as Tottori, despite being located firmly in the land of square mochi and miso.

That particular village also hosted a nagashi-bina festival where the children floated their paper hina dolls down the icy river. At the time I lived there, everyone was saying that event occured only in Kitaaiki, and for this reason every year the press flocked to the site of the event, with more camera crew and reporters stepping through the river and obscuring the view than there were actual participants.

Now, a reference book on my shelf at home says that this festival is known to occur only in Tottori.

I would very much like to know what the connection between Tottori and Nagano's Kitaaiki-mura is, but I never heard anyone in that village mention Tottori when I was there. They might not even know it. It might be a coincidence. It seems like something more. (But of course, since no one reads this, simply posting it here won't bring us any closer to solving that mystery.)

Besides that, there was only the obligatory visit to the shrine on New Year's Day, and a stroll around the grounds to see if anything changed since last year. Some things always do a little. But then, the more things change the more they stay the same. I guess.

Happy New Year.