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Sea of Tea Plantations: Ringing in the New Year in 2014
I have rang in the new year in Japan in many different settings.  The first new year celebration was in the snowy coastlands of Hokkaido in a cozy cottage in a warm dining room next to a kotatsu ( a low table that warms your feet) snowy hot natural hot spas with huge snow clad pines surrounding it.   I rang in 2014 in a green tea plantation in Shizuoka, the tea capital of Japan and one of the most premium tea regions in the world.  Unlike my Hokkaido experience, it doesn’t snow in Shizuoka instead the view is replaced with majestic views of Mount Fujii and the beautiful coastline.      

I think it’s worth noting that in order to really experience Japan you need to experience a new year celebration in the countryside.    Sure, Tokyo has always been the go-to destination for new year celebration, but this is a strictly “Tokyo” experience, and I mean that.  You could experience the same wild excitement in any major city in the world.    New Year celebration in Japan is about being with “family!”   It’s not about shaking your ass in a night club and kissing some random stranger after countdown.   

Fields of green tea lined neatly along rows of rolling hills dot the Numazu city landscape.   That’s what it looked like from the BMW’s window as my girl steered her car seemlessly through a labyrinth  of green tea plantations.   Up a hill and down a hill; passed by  several tea factories along the way.  The weather was beautiful.    It was nice being back up this way again, but this time with a new squeeze if you know what I mean.  I was going to meet her parents for the first time and spend a wonderful New Years with all of them.  

You simply must take in the views high atop the Numaza Service area too, which is located five minutes down hill from her parent’s house just off the brand new super modern Shin-Tomei Expressway.   The sea and the Shizuoka peninsula all blend in so well with the town just below where we were positioned.   A five minute walk from her parent’s house there is the family grave plot dating as far back as Yayoi Period.    Very old family family lineage she came through, which was impressive for me.   And just a few yards from the family plot was the very powerful and wealthy Tsuruga Bank family plot which was gorgeously arranged with huge stone slabs.     Architecturally it was beautiful.  

I was particularly impressed with the stretch of Shinkansen railway next to the cemetery.   Many of the residence received enormous payouts for the construction of it.  

After taking our walk we returned home for a feast of kings!   After taking our walk we returned home for a feast of kings!   This time of year Japanese housewives can take a break for four days and just order food and relax with the family.  In the picture you can see crabs and all sorts of seasonal pickled dishes.  

We ate and played together and had a wonderful time getting to know each other.  Me and dad drank lots of beer and sake together.  It was wonderful.  Then we all went to sleep until 11pm then headed over to the main shrine to offer up prayers and ring this huge bell.

At around a quarter to 12 we headed out towards the temple.   Walking in the pitch black starry night sky, I was pleasantly reminded of how wonderful it is to be in the countryside again.  I used to live in King’s County in Central California, so it was nice seeing stars again.   Five minutes to midnight the temple monk ring this huge bell and then everybody gets their turn to ring the bell once.   It is one of the most beautiful

It is a tradition in Japan  to drink a hot sweet  non-alcoholic beverage called amazake.  It’s an acquired taste so if you don’t mind something with a pulpy velvety consistency then you won’t mind drinking it.  It is also served 50/50 with Japanese sake if you prefer something with a kick.  

New Years in Japan  is about family, eating good food, and prayer time.   It is this continuity in Japanese tradition that lured me to this country.    I loved it.    Japan has 8 million Gods!  

Naorai-no-sake. Sake once offered to gods is then drunk by believers. It is believed that by sharing foods and drinks with god, people can receive gods' power. BTW, Happy New Year to you, Tony. Let's have nice sake together also this year.

Otoshidama is a gift money for children up to the age of around 15.   Well, I have always been a kid, so Japanese feel compelled to give me pocket money.  I got $50.00!   I was so happy.  My trip, yet again, was another epic journey into the old Japan and with more stories to come in 2014

The tea I had and recommend is called sencha from Nogazaki-en   The tea I had and recommend is called sencha from Nogazaki-en.   For further reading on more of my tea posts click here, here, and here. . 

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