New Year’s Eve in Japan is pretty different from in other places. Here, it’s a quiet, spiritual, family-oriented holiday, and time is spent gathered at home or going to local temples and shrines to pay one’s respects.
Although New Year’s Eve 2019 marked my fourth New Year’s Eve while living in Japan, I’d never actually participated in a traditional new year. NYE 2016 found me crammed into a karaoke booth in Osaka; NYE 2017 was possibly one of my worst as I was in the absolute clusterfuck that is Khao San Road in Bangkok; and NYE 2018 was one of my strangest as I partied with Cambodian royalty and the 1% at a club in Phomn Penh. I figured this year would be no different, at another party in another epic city.
This assumption, as it turned out, was blissfully, totally wrong.
Through a dear friend, I met Chieno Ishimaru, a jizoku, the wife of a Buddhist monk at Ryuenji Temple in Kanazawa, the place that I consider my hometown in Japan. As she showed me around the temple and we chatted over tea, she remarked, offhandedly, that the best time to see the temple was definitely for the new year.
Which is how I found myself back in Kanazawa on December 31st, ready to find out what I’d been missing.
To hear more about Chieno’s life as a jizoku and ringing in the new year at a Buddhist temple, head over to Japan Forward to read the article I’ve published over there. It was a very different experience for me, but also quite divine.