Out with the old

As I wrote in 2020, Japan is more about the New Year than Christmas when it comes to major holidays. Christmas is for going out on dates, though I have some friends who are putting up trees and giving their kids gifts.

The days surrounding January 1st are for hunkering down at home, going on vacation, or visiting relatives. Most shops and restaurants are closed until about January 4th, and even trash pickup is delayed until around then.

It all means careful planning in the countdown to January 1st. That means a lot of people do major house cleaning right up until trash is no longer picked up so their house can be nice and clean for the new year, and hopefully there will be fewer things that need to be thrown out while the workers doing the vital job of collecting trash can take a break.

It also means stocking up on food. I just visited a grocery store I normally frequent, and it was packed far more than usual with people trying to stock up before the grocery store closes tomorrow afternoon until January 3rd.

I think I should mention that not all stores follow the tradition of being closed for days on end. Convenience stores, for example, usually stay open, and a lot of shopping centers have insane sales that start sometimes on January 1st. For the smaller stores, however, expect shuttered storefronts for a while.

I loved grabbing a box of wagashi called nerikiri and a box of mikan on my way to the checkout at the grocery store, full of hope that I can sit on my couch with a nice warm blanket and nibble my way through both boxes over the next few days.

I hope we can all have a better year.