I started the year by getting a bit retrospective (‘when do you ever do anything differently?’ I hear you all ask…) by putting together a poor-man’s version of toshikoshi soba. Eating toshikoshi soba is one of the more popular rituals for seeing in the new year in Japan – along with watching the first sunrise of the new year and going to a shrine. I was always told that the tradition of eating toshikoshi (literally ‘passing the year’) soba related to the long noodles representing having a long life, but apparently there are a few other meanings including the noodles being easy to chew (cut) when eating, representing ‘letting go of difficulties’ and that the buckwheat is a tough plant so it represents strength and resiliency.
Whatever the meaning, I hashed together some soba from my current meagre store of Japanese ingredients (I discovered I had no wasabi, no mirin and my seaweed had gone soft!) and came up with an approximation to satisfy requirements. Most people eat toshikoshi soba warm in soup (or have some instant noodles bought from 7-11 or the supermarket) because obviously it’s winter in Japan and that makes more sense, but it’s the middle of summer here so cold soba is the way to go.
M and I saw in the New Year watching fireworks from his balcony. I was in my room getting reflective about my last blog and trying to post it before midnight when he came in and said that he could see the fireworks so I joined him out in the windy Perth night.
It’s all a bit subjective, isn’t it? How an arbitrary point in time is supposed to be the beginning and end of a year and, for many people, the time to start or finish something. For me, a person who likes schedules, plans and programmes, I find new year to be a particularly meaningful point. I start thinking about my ‘attack plan’ for the next 365 days and get angsty about another impending birthday. Words from John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas”, in particular the line,’So this is Christmas, and what have you done?’ generally go through my mind from the time the Christmas music starts playing in December until the pain of my birthday fades in late January.
One of the main things I miss from my time is Japan is the rituals and all the festivals and things that you celebrate/do throughout the year to mark the passage of time and the change of the seasons. At the end of the day, eating toshikoshi soba at new year’s or throwing soya beans around your house to get rid of the demons at setsubun or any of the other myriad things you can choose to do in Japan to celebrate certain times of the year don’t mean anything, but because I like a ‘plan’ to live by, that kind of lifestyle just works for me.
You’ll have noticed that for the last few weeks I’ve been trying to blog more regularly and I’m just pretty much writing about whatever comes into my mind just to get words down on the page. I’m trying to get away from the thing that was dragging me down before,‘Is xxx really blogworthy material?’ and just rolling with it, so apologies if my entries have been a bit eclectic. Maybe I’ll settle into a weekly thing of Mondays are for kinky shit, Tuesdays are for weird shit I find on the internet, Wednesdays are for ranting, Thursdays are for ranting, Fridays are for ranting…and so on and so forth *snickers*.
By the way, 2016 is the year of the Monkey and if you were born in 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004 or 2016, it’s your lucky year! Enjoy.