Friday, January 1, 2016

HAPPY NEW YEAR! 明けましておめでとう! Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu!

It is a new fresh day and a new fresh year.  We always like a new beginning.  Life is not always easy, and not always fair.  We can take each new day and look for the good in our lives.  We will find it.  Take each new week and count up our blessings.  We will see that there will be more blessings than trails.  If we smile and try to be happy, our whole attitude will be happy.  “Positive” people are a lot nicer to be around than “negative” people.  What are some of the things that can help us be happy?  Get enough sleep, eat healthy, exercise, daily scriptures, and prayer. 

Each day, each month, each year we try to improve ourselves.  We are each good people, but we can all try to be better people.  By learning more, we can do more to be our best.  That’s what we want. 

We love you all and hope you will join us this year as we strive to go from Good, to Better, to Best. 

Here is a link to a 5 minute video from a talk by Elder Dallin H. Oaks on Good, Better, Best:
Overnight, these booths go up along the walkway to the Shrine. They weren't there yesterday.  They sell fun food and souvenirs for New Years visitors.

Some streets were almost empty.  The streets closest to the shrine were very busy with cars and pedestrians.  It's fun to watch all the people, and greet them with "Akemashite Omedeto Gozaimasu".  They usually smiled and replied.  Some even stopped to talk.

Notice Glenn in the beige overcoat.  Off to the left is the long line of people going up to the shrine.

Some parents let us take pictures of their cute children in their New Year's kimonos.

These two darling girls were standing behind the kimono children, and also let us take their picture.  The older girl even practiced her English, while talking with us.

Glenn is on the right edge of the photo, near the big Torii.

When we entered the downtown parking plaza, the first floor was full.  We drove down to the second lower level (where we usually prefer parking) and it was almost completely empty.  An hour later, at 12:30pm, it was 2/3 full.  The crowds get larger with each passing hour.   

These nice grandmas let us take their pictures, one in a beautiful kimono.  She said she is ninety years old.  It was fun to visit with them, while Glenn translated for me.

Next to all the food booths was a little grandma (you know how I like grandmas), selling snacks and juice.  She had her items on a box, next to her bike.  She was thrilled when we bought these.  They were Y100 ($1.00).  We will probably give them to the neighbor children.

Some of the New Years decorations.

A close up of the previous picture.

Such beautiful variations of the bamboo decorations.

This one has the evergreen boughs.  Notice the rice string over the door, behind.

Beautiful rice string (shimekazari) over the entrance of the parking plaza.

Even though it is cold, it is fun to see these flowers along with the New Years decorations.

On New Years Eve the shrine entrance was almost empty, with no food booths.  This sculpted tree looked like a bird about to fly away. 

More of the decorations on buildings on the shrine property.

Chozuya, used for washing before entering the shrine.

Can you tell we like these seasonal decorations?

These are "fortune" papers, at the entrance of the shrine.  A person can take one, and leave a donation of 5yen.  If you don't like the fortune, you can tie it onto an evergreen tree, and the fortune will attach itself to the tree and not you.

Some of the stairs and the long sidewalk leading up to the shrine, News Year's Eve.  Much quieter than the crowd on New Year's Day.

Standing on some of the shrine's stairs, we realized we could see our beloved Sakurajima volcano.  This was also the quiet time on New Year's Eve.

We were intrigued by a couple of gas lanterns near the shrine.

 These were some of the bigger decorations, almost as tall as a man.
More crowds on January 1st. 

It is so fun to see all the booths and the crowds of people. 

Two beautiful women in their kimonos.  There weren't a lot of people or children in kimonos, so we really enjoyed these.  It takes a lot of time and effort to dress in a kimono, se we really enjoyed this. 

Most of the stores were closed January 1st, so the shopping street was almost empty. 

More empty shopping streets. 

 Many of the food shops were open. This donut store was promoting the new year "Year of the Monkey".  Get a "monkey" bag with some donuts.

 The decoration on the left was adopted from the closed Kumamoto senior couple apartment. Maybe Elder and Sister Koberstein will recognize it.  The beautiful decoration on the right was handmade by our neighbor and friend, Mrs. Iwamoto.  We shop at their little store on our neighborhood street.  They are amazingly kind to us. 
 It was awesome getting together on New Year's Eve with some special people, the Ikehata sisters, Sister Yutaka, Sister Iwashita (who are also sisters).  I showed them how to make tortilla salad and chicken enchiladas.  They brought yummy Christmas cakes, fruit, mochi, and chocolate.  We played a short church video, then played "Don't Eat Pete".  Love these people. 

Had to take a picture of our January 1st lunch.  Leftovers!  Yum. 
Yet another view of the volcano.  First sunrise of the new year, 2016.  Thanks to Glenn, for getting up early and going out on a cold day.  So beautiful!

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