With bellies full of tasty treats, soba tea, and a lesson in Japanese culture, we headed off to Nagano city for the 9th annual Tomyo Festival. This incredibly beautiful festival of lights is held every year at Zenkoji Temple to commemorate the Nagano Olympics “and to pass on to the future generations the Olympic spirit of praying for peace. In this event, the message for peace is conveyed through lights with the aim of reaching out to the world”. The main buildings of the temple are lit up in different colored spot lights, while smaller temples (Zenkoji is made up of 41 temples and shrines) put on their own more intimate candle lit displays. There were also streets filled with lanterns crafted by various artists, while another cobble stone road was filled with boisterous vendors selling hot sake and local festival food. I’m already looking forward to the 10th annual Tomyo Festival. See you there next year, and peace be with you until then…
O-shogatsu means New Years in Japan, and although this is one of Japan’s biggest annual celebrations, there isn’t a whole lot of Champagne popping going on. Last night 10 tabi-tabi-ians said goodbye to the new year by eating some toshikoshi soba at The Tonegawa Soba Shop. Toshikoshi means end of the old year and start of the new year. Soba is a bowl of buckwheat noodles served in a hot soy based soup. The long noodles symbolize a long and hopefully healthy life.
After our steamy bowl of noodles, we walked through the old Iimori village to Chogokuji Temple for Hatsumode (New Year’s temple visit). Inside we listened to the Buddhist priest chant and pray for the new year that lay ahead, we then went to a large tatami room where we shared amazake (a sweet non-refined sake) and ate mochi, rice crakers, and tsukemono (pickled veggies).
Once we had our fill, we went outside again to ring the temple bell. Everyone got to have a go at swinging the large pendulum. According to tradition, the bell must be rung 108 times. Each ring represents one of 108 earthly temptations a person must overcome to achieve nirvana. I’m sure, 2012 is going to be a good year!
Akemashite Omedeto! (Happy New year!)