Six years ago I lived in Fujieda city in Shizuoka prefecture. I was an exchange student (for the 2nd time) and I was living with my host family. On New Year’s Eve we stayed up late and watched 紅白歌合戦, Kohaku Uta Gassen (Red and White Song Battle) an annual music program which is always broadcast before midnight. Many popular artists come together and are divided up by female and male participants into the red team and the white team, respectively. I remember Kobukuro sang “Sakura,” AIKO sang, “Star,” and Ishikawa Sayuri sang “Amagiegoe.” There were many others, but those are the songs that I remember. I could have sworn Ketsumeishi was also there singing “Sakura,” but I believe they appeared on television at a later point.
We woke up before sunrise the next morning, I don’t remember what time–maybe about 4 AM. My host parents, my two host brothers, and myself all piled into our white van and we headed to Shizunami Beach to view the “Hatsu hi” or the “First day’s sunrise.” We stopped at a convenient store to pick up some snacks and I remember seeing a group of young “yankii” guys hanging out (“Yankii” are usually young, Yakuza-hopefuls). They all had the trademark blonde hair, mopeds, and piercings. Moving on, we made our way down to the beach. It was still dark when we arrived, and still quite cold. Many others had come as well, some people had started their own fires to keep wam. A martial arts instructor led the way for his young class, singing cadences. They commenced their morning exercises clad only in the thin, white gis; it must have been only 35 degrees outside.
It was cloudy but the sky was starting to lighten, and in between the clouds you could see the hues beginning to change. Twilight beginning to turn into the warm orange of the approaching sun, and then suddenly it came over the horizon, and it was day.
At shrines people often purchase little mementoes to write down the wishes they ask of the gods. In Kamakura, at Tsurugaoka Hachiman-guu shrine, I saw one that read, “Maybe the past has not been so memorable, but life from here on out is abundant.” I try to carry this with me for 2012.