Happy New Year, family!
If you want to impress someone in Japanese, you can say, "Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu! Ko toshi mo, yoroshiku onegaishimasu!" Or if that's a mouthful, you can just bow and it will have the same effect. I definitely have picked up the bowing tic---it's gotten bad enough where I even bow at passing cars and when talking to people on the phone. You are allowed to start singing "Turning Japanese" at any time.
Christmas week was great! We didn't find anyone new, but we got to spend a lot of quality time with our favourite investigators and missionaries. And then, surprise, Sister Facer got transferred out of Kichijoji two days ago, so I have a new companion! She is from Nagasaki (yes THAT Nagasaki) and her name is Tsujigou Shimai. It's taking me a lot of practice to get her name right. I was nervous to have another Japanese companion, but so far (okay, after about a day and a half) things are going really well. She only has one transfer left so it will be interesting dendo-ing with a dying missionary, but we'll see.
Thank you for all the Christmas photos! I didn't recognize the house at first because of all the wood floor! Looks good. What is all that crazy-hair boy band stuff Bridgie got? And what expensive toy did Lacey undoubtedly get this year? You are probably all up at the cabin right now and won't get my email for a while, but everybody needs to write me! (Lookin' at YOU, Bridgette and Lacey and Benjamin!)
I got some emails about Japanese New Years, and here's the deal: Japanese O-Shogatsu is like American Christmas: huge. Everybody gets the week off and there are firmly established traditions---what food to eat, where to go, how to decorate your house, etc. I'll write about it in my journal later, but here's how it goes. From Christmas to New Years, everyone is super busy getting ready. People decorate their homes and door posts with pine branches and bamboo wreaths (for good luck in the new year). Then on New Years Eve at midnight, everyone goes to a nearby shrine (or travels to a famous one), sometimes wearing a kimono, to pray. It goes like this: you clap two times, bow 45 degrees, and say a prayer for good fortune in the New Year. (This was all told to me by an Eikaiwa student last week). Then it's tradition for everyone to eat soba (buckwheat noodles in broth with tempura shrimp and veggies) as close to midnight as possible. The long noodles are supposed to symbolize longevity in the new year or something. Then most people will stay up to watch the first sunrise of the new year, even traveling to distant mountains to get better views. Then the next three days are full of resting and partying and visiting family.There are the equivalents of Black Friday sales going on. Everyone either makes or buys traditional New Years food, but I don't know what it is yet since no one has been able to explain it to me. Probably lots of beans, rice, and fermented things because traditionally it was all made in advance so even the housewives could rest on New Years.
As missionaries, we just had dinner at our Bishop's house (we ate soba at 8:30, curfew you know) and went to bed like normal. January first was P-day, and we tried to do some street contacting without success. When we visited some members, they told us we should just take the next few days off because the rest of the country is. Hah.
Anyway, Happy New Year! Here are some silly photos to enjoy while I work more on my journal.
Love you all! Stay safe and have fun!