when and where to see fall foliage (Japanese version only):

Sunday, January 2, 2011

first things of the year

Return rush has started. Expressways, bullet trains and flights were crowded.

About 77,000 people went to the Imperial Palace and offer their congratulations to the Emperor. The Emperor and the imperial family wave to the people standing on a balcony five times. People are allowed to enter the palace only on January 2nd and the Emperor's birthday.

People do the various first things of the year on January 2nd.

Hatsuyume(初夢) means the first dream of the new year.  It refers to the dream seen on the night of January 1st or 2nd.

People have believed their fortunes are told in the dream, so they slept after placing a picture of a ship full of treasures called takarabune(宝船) under their pillows to have a good dream.

Kakizome(書き初め) is the first calligraphy writing of the New Year held on January 2nd of each year.

The day is also the first day of work for fishermen, farmers, woodcutters and merchants.

Most department stores around Japan reopened for business and began selling lucky bags called fukubukuro(福袋) on January 2nd.
Most major supermarkets came to be open on January 1st since the mid-1990s, but some of them are closed on the day recently.

A lucky bag used to be a set of various mystery articles, but now many shops announce a bag's contents in advance.  Queues of people formed in front of department stores.

Lucky bags include clothes, edible goods and various other items. There are also lucky bags containing a 500-thousand-yen wedding package, a 18-million-yen vacation package, a 10-million-yen set of a piano and a cameo accessory, a 10-million-yen kimono and a 200-million-yen diamond accessories.

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