Nothing new in the Japanese New Year

At the end of the year, the number of confirmed new crowns in Japan every day is between 3,000 and 4,000, and the daily death toll is around 50. Yuichiro Haneda, who was Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism during the Democratic Party’s administration, died suddenly on December 28 at the age of 53. The misfortune of active-duty politicians has covered Japan at the end of the year with a deep dark cloud.

After the Meiji Restoration, Japan has abolished the Spring Festival and started to celebrate the New Year like Westerners. December 30 is New Year’s Eve in Japan. People will gather in groups, put on new clothes, and pray for a year of peace and prosperity in temples, shrines, and churches at midnight. Children will put 5 yen (five yuan → Wuyuan) into the box of a wide variety of fertile fields, not to mention adults, especially those who have been free from illnesses and disasters in the past year and have been doing prosperous business at this time. Repay the vows to the temples, etc., and dedicate cash, dividend-distributable stocks, and lottery tickets to the gods they believe in.

In many cases, people need to announce their prayers to God through voice. After the child puts a coin into the wooden box in front of the shrine, he gently shakes the large copper bell with a long rope hanging from the beam in the front of the box. It seems that the god’s reply can be heard from the shaking. More people will put their hands together, give a high-five, pay attention or bow to the invisible god behind the box.

However, in the New Year of 2021, almost all the shrines have stored the copper bells, and 10,000 people will not be allowed to tell the gods through the bells-because everyone shakes a rope with their hands, the risk of infectious bacteria is too great.

Of course, before entering the temple, people need to rinse their mouths and wash their hands. A wooden spoon or aluminum spoon will be reused by tens of thousands of people a day around New Year’s Eve. At the end of 2020, too many monasteries will change the water purification pool for washing mouth and hands to a method of running water down from a few water pipes. People can take the running water with their hands, wash their hands, or put them in the mouth. Some monasteries posted notices saying: Encourage the use of disinfectant tissues to clean their hands.

Visitors are usually not allowed to wear masks, gloves, or overcoats, but God is also particularly tolerant in 2020. Masks have long been allowed, and white gloves seem to be within the permitted scope.

The new coronavirus particularly likes dense spaces. The banquet at the end of the year and the beginning of the year is called a year-end party or a new year party in Japan. In Japan, meals are usually divided into tables according to the ancient Chinese system, but there is still a great risk of infection if dozens of people share meals in the same room. Now everyone tries not to hold year-end parties as much as possible. If they are held, it is also an online banquet. Through the computer screen, you can drink and chat with friends who are far away.

On New Year’s Day each year, the Japanese post office will guarantee that New Year’s cards posted before December 24 will be delivered to each household’s home in the morning. The author has worked as a teacher in Japan and has taught many students. Every year, I receive hundreds of cards written on postcards. Most of those greeting cards wrote about their main activities and family changes during the year. Some people also printed recent photos, the latest mailbox, and the new address after the transfer of work on the postcard. For decades, students have used this method to keep in touch with teachers.

However, this habit in Japan will gradually disappear in 2021. The latest survey shows that one of the three people in Japan already does not send greeting cards. Japan has a population of 100 million. In the past, 5 billion postcards and New Year cards were sold every year, but in these years there have been fewer than 2 billion. By the end of 2020, it is estimated that there will be 1 billion copies.

You can’t shake the big copper bell of the shrine on New Year’s Eve. There is no year-end party or New Year’s party around the New Year’s Eve. On New Year’s Day, you can’t hear the sound of heavy New Year cards from the mailbox… There is too much missing, and there is no new atmosphere in the New Year. , People feel very boring.

Of course we can pin our hopes on the future, but in fact the epidemic has changed the world, and past habits have been difficult to recover.