Eat Don-Do Yaki and have a healthy year.
The Christmas has finished and the New Year comes. The streets are now full of Christmas trees. I have never bought one but these perfect house-sized trees were the most wanted plants before Christmas and now no one wants to have it at home. Seeing a mount of these trees makes me a little sad. Anyone knows what happens to them? Do they get planted again in any chance?
The New Year decorations in Japan are also as big and important as Christmas trees. What the people do with it? It´s supposed to be a lucky charm, which protects you from bad spirits so you shouldn´t just put it in the bin.
Japanese people make a festival out of it. It´s Don-do Yaki (どんど焼き). Today, my special reporter, Tomomi Kuramoto went to one at Yamada Fuji Park in Yokohama.
First people make a pile with shimekazari, kadomatsu or even kakizome (the first calligraphy work of the year). You can also bring old daruma (達磨).
Then fire it. It´s a bonfire and I´m sure people do this in many countries such as Guy Fawkes or San Juan in Spain.
This is also a farewell for the New Year God who came down during oshogatsu through kadomatsu. Now he goes back to the heaven with the smoke of Don-do Yaki.
The big fire gives us warmth but at the same time a fear grows in me. Burnt Daruma started exploding and the sparks flies around with the cracking sound. This is the real "playing with the fire". This is a special experience that we don´t see inside the big cities.
There are different stories behinds. One says that´s because the name of the New Year God is Tonto gami (年徳神) and the sound tonto changed to Dondo during the time.
This Tonto gami is a God of rice fields and believed to stay in the rice or the straws.
Another story is the way the tower burns. The fire starts slow and then it goes faster. The onomatopoeia of getting faster is don don. So people call this Don-do yaki.
After the tower falls and the fire is put out, it´s a time for baking mochi.
There were so many people queuing to have their mochi baked. When I looked around, a bamboo spear troop was ready to go, all sticking up their mochi spear in the air.
Eating mochi that is baked with Don-do yaki fire gives you a stronger body. Also people wish for a good harvest for the year.
Usually this event is held around the 15th of January. If you are around, check the local event (maybe not in the middle of the big cities) and join. This will be a fun experience for you.
After the event, of course the local firemen take care of the fire. Japan in winter can be quite windy and dry so it´s very important the fire is put out well.
Now you have a warm face from the Don-do yaki and a warm tummy from a mochi and warm heart by sharing this event with many people. Wish you all a healthy year.
Photo by Tomomi Kuramoto
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More about New Year events in Japan