New Year Celebration II
On January 1, I was invited to a small party starting at 3:00. Most people in Japan don't mind starting their drinking early in the day, if it is a special occasion. I went to the Asakusa area early, so see if I could also pray at the famous temple of Kannon, Sensoji. Last year, I waited in line about two hours, shuffling slowly down the wide path to the temple. I didn't have that much time, so I tried an alternative. First of all, it was very hard to get around, because it was so crowded. The main streets were blocked to cars--very nice. However, for the main path to the temple, the police blocked off the cross streets and just allowed people to cross at intervals, like a traffic signal. This was to prevent people from jumping the line. But it resulted in some delays and crowding. I couldn't believe that in the midst of all these people, most of whom were visiting the temple, some Christian group had set up big loudspeakers with audio of stuff from the Bible and like that. I saw the same group in front of Shibuya station earlier. I thought it was fine there, especially around Christmas, maybe they could attract some interest. But I felt a bit annoyed that they were adding a dissonant note to the scene at a large and famous Buddhist temple. Anyway. Whatever.
My tactic was to skirt around the far side of the temple, aiming for an area to the left of the main hall. This area was recently rebuilt, with some new temples, and some very old ones restored. The Yogodo has maybe eight Buddhas, with each one corresponding to one (or two) of the years of the Chinese zodiac. I was born in the year of the tiger, so my Buddha is Bodhisattva Koukuuzou. On my way to the Yogodo, I went through a street of down-home pubs, most with open fronts, making it fun to look inside. Many people were already celebrating with sake. Some shops had a barrel of sake right on the street, selling individual cups to passersby. I resisted. I also passed through some retro shopping streets, and two old-fashioned theaters where a kind of traditional vaudeville is performed. I could hear the amplified music playing inside the famous Mokubakan theater. There is also a small retro amusement park in the area, which added screams of roller coaster riders to the sonic environment. When I got to the Yogodo, I was able to walk right in and offer a candle to Koukuuzou. Then, I retraced my steps to get to my friend's place. He is not a sake drinker, so we had beer, wine and awamori. His wife had home-made traditional New Year food, including mochi with soy sauce and nori. We spent nearly seven hours eating and drinking, also watching some videos. I got home a bit before midnight.