Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy year of the dog

Are you ready to greet the new year?

Though varying from region to region, in the types of trees used and arrangement, the "Kadomatsu" is the most common arrangement seen in the Tokyo area.

The kadomatsu literally means "gate pine", and when displayed outside the house, are arranged in pairs to the left and right side of the entryway.

Inside the house they are arranged singly.

This very fancy one is part of a pair outside a hotel.

This one seen in a shop window is a fancy version of what might be found in the entrance of a private home.

The origin of this custom lies in the fact that kadomatsu are
believed to serve as a dwelling place for the God who brings good luck at the beginning of the year.

This version is at the door of a private home.

And here is a smaller version decorating a mail box.

Even a tea shop gets in the holiday mood.

The holiday decorations at our house were always handled by my husband.

I was not thinking of adding anything this year but when my daughter and granddaughter visited earlier in the month, they festooned the outside garden with colored lights and this pine was added to the gate.

The timing is rather fussy and all need to come down by the 7th of January (usually depending on region as well)

The night before New Years, many people visit Buddhist temples to hear the temple bells rung 108 times at midnight to dispel the evils of the past year.

It is also customary to eat "toshikoshi soba" ... year-crossing noodles ...
in the hope that one's family fortunes will extend like the long noodles.

The time is usually spent with family. Maybe the holiday will include a trip to a shrine to draw a fortune written on a piece of paper or to the imperial palace to wave to the emperor and his family.
New Years cards are sent ahead of time and delivered in a mass on New Years day.

2018 will be the year of the dog according to the Oriental calendar. All the fine traits of human nature are in the possession of those born in the year of the dog. They have a deep sense of duty and loyalty, are extremely honest, and always do their best in their relationships with people.

They can also be somewhat selfish and terribly stubborn and exceedingly eccentric.

Since the 12 animals and 5 elements, wood,fire, earth, metal and water, rotate in 60 year cycles, 2018 is the year of the Earth Dog. Earth is a stabilizing and conserving force, marking a shift from the fire element of the last two years which brought disharmony and impulsiveness.

Highly perceptive, the Earth Dog is kind, efficient, and skilled in communication. The year is expected to bring prosperity, particularly to those who, like the dog, are proactive, work hard, and communicate well. It is predicted that those who show generosity to others will reap the greatest benefits throughout the year.

Interestingly, it has been noted that the dog population in Japan has declined dramatically in the past year. The ageing population may find care of dogs more troublesome and they are also required to vaccinate their dog and have it registered. Cats, on the other hand are allowed to roam and howl and multiply in the city parks. Dogs also cost much more as there has been a crack-down on puppy mills.

My dog year will begin with a walk with Nikko ... like every other day. Then I will be off to church where we will serve a traditional New Years meal to the homeless. (a tradition begun by my husband, Paul, and where he spent the last day on his feet two years ago)

Quilting has now reached the border ... being quilted with a simple cable. I expect to add the binding later in the week. I have two hurry-up baby quilts to make but with days home, I really need to give my mola some attention before the end of January creeps up on me.

Here's hoping your dog year will be off to a good start.


  1. I so enjoy reading your blog when you talk about the customs and area of the world you live in. Its all so interesting. My son-in-law's mother is Japanese, but has been in this country since she marriage to his father - I wonder if she has shared these customs with her children.

  2. good wishes to you for the New Year x

  3. We have eaten out Toshikoshi-soba and tetsu is settled in front of the tv watching boxing of all things! I'm ready for bed! My last blog of the year is years and I hope ou welcome in a very good year tomorrow. I'll be out walking our year of the dog too tomorrow morning.

  4. Your "dog" year is off to a great start with taking Nikko for a walk. Take some time for yourself and I hope this year is a happy and healthy one for you Julie.

  5. Those are beautiful and unique decorations and love the traditions you have and how you bring that and your christian faith together.
    May your new year be filled with blessings and good health.


  6. Thank you for telling us all about the decorations and traditions.
    I like that you are starting the year of the dog by walking yours. Sounds just right!

  7. Happy New Year. I hope 2018 will give you and Nikko many happy walks!

  8. Happy New Year Julie :) I so love reading your blog when you talk about the customs of Japan. It is so interesting.
    I also love your quilts and I think you are now waiting for the Tokyo Dome Great Festival where you use to go with Carin.
    Enjoy your new year, dear Julie ,