Monday, 23 January 2012

Lunar Tokyo

I'm so often wrong about things in Tokyo that I might as well be on the Moon! Take New Year for example. I thought I'd 'done' it already: I went to a special 'old year exorcism' ceremony...

...ate traditional Toshi-Koshi 'Crossing of the Year' soba noodles for long life and good luck

and visited a whole lot of shrines and temples, including this

Shoin Jinja, Setagaya, Toko
...and this

Daishoin Temple, Miyajima
I thought I was done. But I was mistaken. New Year festivities are a long way from being over. Now, everyone is getting ready for the new year welcome fesival, Setsubun on 3rd February - you eat soup, wear masks and throw soy beans for good luck. But, before that, lots of people also celebrate Chinese Lunar new year. As the moon waxes over the two-week festival, people worship it like a goddess, made it into cakes (!) and use it as an excuse to spend more money in the shops than they do at all the other festivals combined (well that's what they told me on the telly yesterday, anyway). 

I love thinking about the moon. One of the first stories I read in proper Japanese was the famous Chinese moon story, Hou Yi and Chang-e

Hou Yi - an archer, a god - shoots down nine suns and saves the Earth from becoming an inferno. The sun god, furious, banishes Hou Yi and his wife Chang Er from heaven and turns them into mortals. Their only hope of regaining their immortality is if they each eat a Peach of eternal life - but they are only given one. Chang-Er, who hates earthly life more than Hou Yi, eats it and flies away to the moon, 'seeing' Hou Yi every night by shining down on him each night for the rest of his (mortal) life.

Well, almost every night. A few days later, from a flamenco bar in Golden Gai, Shinjuku

the moon started to disappear.

Then, just before the sky went totally black, the moon turned dark red, like the gruesome hopes of Lorca's lonely trickster moon in Blood Wedding

New year, new moon, old stories. Wonderful!

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