Last night my mother and I ventured in to Kyoto to find out what the Japanese people do to ring in the new year.
Naturally we went to a Starbucks, there we found a Japanese barista who told us New Years Eve in Japan is boring compared to the U.S. - solid start.
From here we went in search of more dessert and found an Irish Pub where I asked for the best beer on tap, the bartender said Guinness- because duh. So I asked for second best and received *Yebisu All Malt Beer.
Then we had fried octopus, and ice cream and ventured in to the cold. I hailed my first cab ever and successfully got the nice, silent man to take us to a temple with the largest Bonsho (Bell) in Japan.
So, to fast-forward this story Mamasan and I stood in a line of possibly over a thousand people to see 17 chanting men ring this bell with a giant swinging log. The best part is that until we saw the bell we were only partially certain of what we were in line for, and when we got to the bell we were immediately squished right up against hundreds of strangers trying to get a picture or video of the affair.
After sufficiently documenting the experience on our phones we then got lost in what we can only assume was the temple park. Luckily we found a lot of weird carnival foods and I ate half of what I think was the greasiest hot dog on a stick I've ever seen/ingested.
Eventually we made it out, and while my mother searched for a bathroom, I rung in the new year watching a bunch of strangers cheer and kiss and take pictures of other strangers cheering and kissing. It was magical.
Then the rain came. As we tried to find a main street with strategically placed taxis we saw thousands of people rushing in to shrines to do shrine things. Then as it rained we found our way back to our hotel where I put on my complimentary robe and fell in to a dreamless sleep void of rain, and bells, and people cheering.
I Don't know how to end this post, so here is a picture of me trying too hard to have a cultural experience:
A video will be coming soon to summarise my last few weeks here in Japan and then off to New Zealand!
*Fun Facts for you: Beer in Japan has a much more significant water content than beer in the U.S. The Japanese don't love bold flavours like they love awkward textures. So, getting a beer made in Japan with a lot of flavour is rare.
Those of you who know more about beer should school me on this immediately, but from what I understand an "All Malt Beer" means there are no adjuncts, sugars, or additional fermentables. (Is it obvious I'm getting this all off the internet?)
"In the case of Japan, alcoholic beverages are taxed depending on their malt content which has resulted in a slew of beer-like beverages with varying degrees of less malt, or even no malt. These are known here as "happoushu" rather than "beer". One result of this is that all malt beers are now a premium product so they proudly declare their maltiness in their packaging."
So there you have it.