Monday, January 4, 2010

First of the year

One of the characters in the Japanese language which you hear quite a lot during the first few days of the year is 初 - pronounced 'hatsu' and meaning in this context 'first', as in the first time you do something in the new year. So our boys today went for 初スキー - their first skiing of 2010, on a beautiful day and perfect snow in Otaru. Dad went for his first visit to the hot springs, going to his favourite place from Otaru days. A first (and much needed) visit to the gym for the new year is looming for Mum and Dad. Meanwhile many Japanese have been heading to a local shrine over the first few days of the new year to offer prayers for the coming year, perhaps for good health or success at work or in exams. Many millions observe this 'custom' and there is a special word for it which incorporates the character mentioned earlier. Sometimes good-luck charms are bought and tied to trees in the shrine grounds. Japanese people are not unused to 'praying' - indeed the word is used not infrequently even in everyday conversation, but often in a way that is more like making a hopeful wish or for a happy outcome. May this be a year of another first for many in this land as they find their way to the living God where they can truly find hope and blessing.

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