The people of Japan are preparing to celebrate their biggest annual festival, New Year. It?
The people of Japan are preparing to celebrate their biggest annual festival, New Year. It will mark the beginning of the Year of the Monkey. Feelings are mixed about the prospects for Japan in the new year, as the spirit of the monkey is not only aspiring and adventurous but also mischievous.
SYNOPSIS: Despite these mixed feelings, Tokyo people have been busy stocking up on the items they need to properly celebrated the New Year holiday. At the city's Sensoji temple, the traditional Shimenawa went on sale. The Shimenawa are New Year decorations made from twisted rice-straw, and they proved popular among shoppers.
Also on sale were Hogoita, originally bats for a game played by Japanese girls, and decorated with portraits of beautiful women and actors. Many of busiest markets at this time of year are in the downtown areas of Asakusa and Ueno, where the Edokko, the equivalent of London's cockney traders, live and work.
Ameyoko Street is the part of the Ueno markets named after the United States servicemen who used to frequent the area after World War Two. Here, toys and sculptures of monkeys are on display. The monkeys, symbolising the new year, crowd the shelves of many shops.
They come in all shapes and sizes, from various children's cuddly toys and home-made carvings, to expensive and delicate sculptures. But all the objects reflect the adventurous and mischievous spirit of the animal.
The shoppers are also buying special foodstuffs for the New year. Tradition has it that holiday foods should not have to be cooked, so housewives can enjoy the festival as much as everyone else. The most popular items are salted salmon, salted herring roe and preserved octopus.