Tokyo – New Year, Old Traditions

c-yamada-meiji-shrine-sidebar-b-20151225It’s a tradition in Japan to go to a shrine on New Year’s Eve or sometime during the days that follow. In fact, ever year a large percentage of the Japanese population, along with many foreigners and tourists, travel to local shrines in order to make wishes for the New Year. There they can purchase lucky charms which are said to help your hopes and wishes whether they be; starting a family, passing an exam or (in my case) not to die from the horrific New Year’s Eve hangover.

Rather than spending the New Year’s countdown with my close family and friends at a shrine however, I was stumbling around a club in the centre of Tokyo, half unconscious due to the quantity of tequila slammers I had consumed throughout the night and wondering whether my new year’s kiss said she was 24 or 34 years old…

The way I see it, it’s not how you spend New Year ’s Eve which is important, it’s the resolution(s) you make. Like many others, every January I optimistically head into the New Year with high aspirations and a healthy list of life-improving resolutions. For not only me but all the other ambitious dreamers, setting ourselves goals in the New Year is a great way to give ourselves a kick in the behind and motivate ourselves to make more positive changes in our everyday lives. Whether it means less Jaeger bombs on a Wednesday night, the promise not to send a recording of yourself singing ‘hello’ by Adele to your ex at 4:00am on a Sunday morning (again) or whether it’s to stop spending so much time deciding on a filter for that perfect selfie for Instagram (they all look the same), resolutions exist as a promise to ourselves that we will do something slightly nice every once-in-a-while or at least as an attempt to just not embarrass ourselves as much!

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As for 2017, I made the courageous resolution to stop spending so much time lounging around the house and to make the most of each day. I’m living in Tokyo, Japan, so I should be getting out and doing something different whenever possible and making the most of my time spent living out here.

Therefore, inspired, on the 2nd of January I met my Japanese friend in Harajuku (yes the place in the Gwen Stefani song), as I decided to be a good foreigner and experience a real Japanese celebration for the New Year. We went to the Meiji-jingu shrine, where along with hundreds of other Japanese people, we waited to enter the shrine and make wishes for the New Year. Of course I understood less than 10% of what was actually happening, but it was a beautiful and eye opening experience nevertheless and I felt on top of the world for carrying out my new year’s resolution so quickly on the second day of the year.

I’m sure you can understand my self-loathing then, when on January 3rd I spent the whole day in bed watching Game of Thrones and eating anything deep-fried and smothered in chocolate doing nothing and complaining that nobody loves me.

When I ran downstairs at 9:00pm that night (only to collect the mail) I ended up bumping into a Japanese neighbour who I then had to give a detailed, yet unconvincing, description of my busy and tiring day at the gym. It was at this point that I realised, I had broken my resolution just three days into the New Year, and just the next day after going to the shrine, thus leading me to wonder why it is that we set ourselves inspirational achievements every 31st December only to break them and sink into self-pity within the following few days?

In fact, looking back on more of my new year’s resolutions across the past few years, I’m pretty sure I broke the majority of them far before February 1st.

Perhaps it’s just the tradition of setting ourselves these resolutions each year that makes going to the gym, losing weight or eating more healthily appear to be far easier tasks than they really are. On the other hand, maybe our resolutions are set because we feel like we always need to be improving ourselves and that the saying ‘new year, new me’ really is what many people tell themselves to have a good year.

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Maybe we should just take a page out of a Japanese book and start making wishes on New Year instead of resolutions. It sounds a lot less physically challenging and the lies to my neighbour would finally be allowed to stop.

-Jack

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Current Location: Tokyo, Japan

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