Where were you at midnight last night? More specifically, that insane moment of excitement between the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018?
I remember exactly a year ago, I was busy watching a Japanese comedy show called Waratte wa Ikenai (Laughing is Forbidden) which is a special New Year show that’s played from around six in the evening until twelve. Naturally, I expected it to end a couple of minutes before midnight and then for someone on TV to be like, “All right, it’s nearly time, let’s countdown!”
That didn’t happen, though. It ended, I looked at the clock and exclaimed that we’d missed it – it was twenty past twelve! Embarrassed and annoyed, I entered 2017 in a bad mood.
NAWT THIS TIME.
As residents of west Tokyo, we usually hang out in, well… west Tokyo. Asakusa, famous for being one of the most visited spots in the city ever because of the lovely Senso-ji Temple and the like, was the last place I expected us to go.
But he looked at me and he said, “Let’s go. We’ll have a great time.”
Asakusa is almost an hour away, so we chilled on the Ginza line, me thinking about how much work I had to get done and how comparably hot the train is after the biting ice of outside. Upon getting out, it was a lot less crowded than I expected, and we walked up to Senso-ji without the usual difficulty.
Apparently, they’ve hiked up the prices for the stalls so a lot of the shops on Nakamise Street have closed down. There were still a lot open selling the usual touristy stuff, though, as well as a healthy amount of food stalls selling yakisoba, skewered meat, chocolate bananas, and all kinds of stuff.
It was still only 9pm so I was excited to see what the evening had in store. After a quick look at the temple, we went just a street or two away, where the flow of people just seemed to end. He grew up in Asakusa, see, so he was having a nice stroll down memory lane; near the horse racing was a street where he used to go to eat and chat with local people.
We entered this super shabby and super charming establishment with plates of food everywhere and the jolliest owner I’ve ever seen. She and the two drunk guys there were so happy it was infectious.
He knows I love maguro katsu, so he asked them to make it so they did. It was sooooo good!
We also tried sake the traditional way and umeshuu, plum wine. I asked for it and they got this massive bucket of it out!
It was still only ten o’clock so he took me to Hanayashiki, one of the oldest theme parks in Tokyo. It’s full of kids’ rides and because it was New Year, there were illumination lights all over the place. Everyone had this happy glow about them.
We only rode two rides, but it was fun chatting and looking around and drinking in the excited atmosphere. One of the best things about Japan is that it’s nearly always safe. There were local Yakuza actually patrolling the streets – subtly, of course – just in case there was trouble. Their presence, inexplicably, is reassuring rather than intimidating.
We made it down near the stage where a comedian was performing just a few minutes before midnight. We counted down and “Yayyyy Happy New Year!” Then we got some food from the food stalls; a chocolate banana, a box of yakisoba, skewered beef, and some weird okonomiyaki on a stick later, we headed back to the station.
The train back felt like it took forever. Trains in Tokyo usually stop at around midnight, but on New Year’s Eve, they run all night. A friend of mine who was staying over didn’t know this and he said he spent 8000 yen on a taxi getting back to my place. He wasn’t happy when I told him he could have got a train for literally a tenth of the price.
Now it’s New Year’s Day, and after a sausage and egg sandwich, a cup of tea, and a shower, this year is already looking good.
I’m writing one post a day as 2018’s new year’s resolution, which was inspired by the success of my friend Cindy Smith, who managed to write one poem a day in 2017. Congratulations, Cindy, and thank you for the inspiration!
I hope your New Year’s Eve was as grand as mine, and I wish you a wonderful new year.