New Year, 2012

For the first time in several years, all of the children and grandchildren of the Onuki family got together at Granpa and Granma Onuki's home in Hitachi. This year, we brought Mariko and Mia's kimonos. Mariko bought Mia's kimono in 2011 from a friend. It used to be quite common to see kimono during the new year holiday but we noticed this year that there weren't as many women wearing kimono this year as we had seen in the past. They are expensive to buy and difficult to put on properly. Mariko and Mia went to a local beauty salon to get help from a pro in putting their kimonos on.

At any rate, we had a pleasant new year's day here in Hitachi, despite our proximity to the troubled Fukushima reactor. I hope 2012 turns out to be a great year for everyone!


I took this one as a "practice shot" while I was waiting for everyone to get together for the group photo on the right. No one else was ready but I though Mia's smile was "a keeper." Mia is attending Luther High School and is enrolled in an intensive English program. She is also interested in Korea. She visited Korea in the fall of 2011 and continues for correspond with some of the friends she made there.


Here's the whole group. Shotaro, in back of Mrs. Onuki, will be a senior in college this year. He is planning on becoming an English teacher. His English is excellent! Shinsuke (between Shotaro and Mr. Onuki) participated in a highly selective "Biology Olympics" in which students from all over Japan who are extremely knowledgable about biology convene to test their knowledge and skills against one another and to further their study of biology. Shinsuke is still in high school but is also interested in becoming a teacher. Leon just completed a PADI Assistant Instructor course in Okinawa. He is now the youngest certified assistant diving instructor in Japan. He is interested in becoming certified as a full diving instructor in Hawaii and then going to Mexico to learn Spanish and work as a diving instructor there.


Cheese is an important member of our family. She has traveled with us in the past but found air travel -- particularly being put in a cage and separated from us -- rather stressful. This year we are traveling by train. The Shinkansen (bullet train) was extended to Kumamoto in 2011 and so it is now quite comfortable, convenient, and fast to travel by train. We leave at about 8 AM and arrive at the other end or our journey at about nightfall. The Shinkansen seats are much more spacious and comfortable than airline seats and the prices are better so, all in all, we don't miss air travel at all.


After we celebrated the new year and Junko's birthday (January 1) at the Onuki home, we went to a nearby shrine. It's customary in Japan to visit a shrine on New Year's Day.


The arrow Mr. Onuki is holding is called a hamaya. Here's an explanation I found on the web: Hamaya, Literally, “demon-breaking arrow,” a decorative arrow sold at Shinto shrines during at New Year’s to ward off misfortune and to attract good luck.


Mia bought an ema (a small wooden plaque on which Shinto worshippers write their prayers or wishes) and, now that she has written her wishes on it, is pinning it to a board in the shrine put up for the purpose.


Mia was in a good mood after our visit to the shrine.


After our visit to the shrine, we went to a museum commemorating the life and work of a local man who was well known for composing Japanese popular songs. Mia enjoyed composing her on song using a computer program.


This is a postcard the composer received from Mifune Toshiro, a very famous Japanese actor who appeared in most or all of Kurosawa Akira's films. Mariko was very impressed with the beauty of his handwriting.