Imported traditions

ozoni

Did I already mention that Kai can stand? Well, he can, among the many other things he seems to be picking up (literally and otherally) on a daily basis.

Before the New Year, we also received Naomi’s updated copy of her family register from Tokyo, which now includes Kai and myself (my name being recorded in Katakana because I’m the alien in the family). Kai also retains his mother’s surname in his birth records for Singapore and Japan.

Because we were officially 2/3rds Japanese, we decided on ozoni for the first meal of the year. It sounds simple enough to make, but we wanted to see if there were any variations on the dish, so we Youtubed it, and found this channel with an alarming title, called, “Cooking With Dog“, but our fears were unfounded because the dog just sits there doing nothing, and nothing gets done to it either.

We followed the instructions for ozoni, and I’m not allowed to make fun of Japanese-accented Engrish, so please, don’t laugh. (You can go an use the rubbertree if you need to pee).

But what’s really interesting was the fact that Japanese New Year follows the Gregorian calendar instead of the Oriental lunar calendar, and I found out, thanks to Wikipedia, that this was not always the case.

The Japanese celebrated their New Year’s the same time as the Chinese until the Meiji period, when Japan underwent a series of sweeping changes aimed at transforming her into a modern society (partly by abolishing the elite class).

So one of the things you eat at New Year’s is mochi – or sticky rice cakes, which are toasted before being boiled to a sticky mess in the ozoni. Wikipedia also has something to say about this:

Because of mochi’s extremely sticky texture, there is usually a small number of choking deaths around New Year in Japan, particularly amongst the elderly. The death toll is reported in newspapers in the days after New Year.

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With a bang (and a slight dent)

I wished a total stranger Happy New Year in Mandarin, even though he had just crashed into the front passenger door of my car right after he rode his bicycle on the pavement against the flow of traffic that was on the road outside the entrance to my apartment blocks.

In response, he said, 対不起対不起対不起対不起新年快乐対不起対不起対不起対不起対不起対不起対不起 in a Northern Chinese accent.

He looked very shaken but was otherwise unhurt, thank goodness.

At the petrol station where I let the pump attendant fill the tank to 48 point something litres and exactly $100, with him looking very proud at his New Year’s achievement, the cashier very sleepily said, “Pum One? Altogether $95 after discount”, after which, she attempted to foist some Delifrance products on me, but for a few long seconds, forgot how to perform her sales pitch in English, leaving her right hand outstretched and pointing silently at the sundry pastries. Only when her hand came down did she realise she could also try in Mandarin, but I cut her off with a “No thank you” before she finished saying “要不要买吃的东西?” in a Malaysian accent.

In the weeks leading to the New Year, Naomi and I had been hearing about how 2008 would bear not so good news regarding the economy. Prices would continue to rise, and things would be tight. Then we saw that the even the pound cakes at the neighbourhood cake shop had been lightened. They’re now maybe 3/4 pound or so:

...about 3/4 pound?