New Year in Central Tokyo

I know this is a little belated, but I found these photos on the camera the other day and thought I would do a quick blog on them. The tradition for New Year back home – for young people at least – is pretty simple: go somewhere and get more intoxicated than at any point during the past year. Town will be overflowing with lecherous and occasionally violent drunks, and you’ll pay to get into dingy places with sticky floors that you would normally pass up for an early night.

I imagine that culture probably exists here as well but, given the prices for a normal night out of drinking, we would have been bankrupt within a few hours. We decided to go for the traditional temple trip just before midnight. There was still a fair share of people spilling beer on themselves and cheering for the smallest of things, but they seemed to be in the minority.

I did a post a while ago on Zojoji temple, which is here. It’s a pretty attractive temple, and is unique in the view you can get of Tokyo Tower, which acted as the centrepiece for the night.

At midnight balloons were let into the air and Tokyo tower was illuminated with ‘2012’. The roar at this moment was pretty deafening. I get as excited as the next guy by multi-coloured bulbs, but I was still a little surprised by the reaction.

Afterwards, we were allowed into the temple for prayers and such. A wave of human mass surged forward intermittently as the guards tried to control numbers. Inside was attractive, if a little hectic. Those wanting to take pictures jostled for position with those just wishing to donate money and pray. We were then encouraged outwards and escaped the crowds.

On the way back to Roppongi, we happened to pass a modest little temple which was accommodating only a handful of people. The air was still and silent, except for the sonorous ringing of the temple bell, which is rung 108 times to dispel the 108 human sins known to Buddhism. In this temple we were given a cup of warm rice wine, which we drank as we watched some of the locals coming to pray.

When we finally reached our apartment, the ringing of the bell resembled a low hum.


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