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Saturday, January 02, 2010

Celebrating a real Japanese New Year (and then running into HK actor Roger Kwok)

New Year's Eve. After finishing the EXHALATION shoot the night before, I spent the entire night transferring the footage into a computer, and then doing backup on two different external hard disks.

When everything was done. It was 5. Maiko the Producer, me and Kurihara the Production Manager (he was also the web designer for the KINGYO website) hung out at Denny's before they were able to return the rented van at 7am. I finally slept at 8:30am.

Woke up 4 hours later.

Maiko's mom had invited me over to their place to celebrate New Year with them, so at 5pm in the evening, I returned to the place that was my shooting location for the past few days (EXHALATION was shot in Maiko's hometown).

We reached at around 7pm. Just in time for the KOHAKU UTA GASSEN (RED WHITE SONG BATTLE) to start on NHK.

Waiting for New Year Eve dinner at Maiko's house


Setting up the Sukiyaki (while watching Red-White competition)

When I first got into J-pop back in the late 90s, I actually used to watch the entire show too. I remember spending New Year's Eve 1998 in Tokyo, and watching my once-much beloved SPEED on TV for the first time, then I did that again in 1999 because no one in the family bothered to go out to welcome the new millennium so I was stranded at home.

Yah, I'm still bitter.

Anyway, I didn't seem to follow the Kohaku that much anymore, I think my parents stopped subscribing to NHK, and of course, since I listened to J-pop less these days because I've been busy (I didn't even watch TV much in 2009, I forgot I even had one in my room), I found myself a little out of touch with the current happenings at the J-music scene.

So, gone were the days when I recognized almost every single performer (well, not the Enka ones) in Kohaku. Even so, it was still great to watch it.

Meanwhile, Maiko's mom had prepared the sukiyaki.


I didn't know that it's so delicious when eat with raw egg.

Sukiyaki with raw egg is dangerous

It was a great meal!

(Click here if you can't see embedded video)

(Click here if you can't see embedded video)

After the meal I found myself feeling increasingly sleepy as the TV show went on. And I think I dozed off not long after the Michael Jackson tribute. It was a pity, since I really wanted to catch Ayaka, Nakashima Mika and Perfume's performances, but then, the lack of sleep in the past few weeks due to the filming had finally caught up with me, I guess.

I woke up briefly when Maiko and her younger sister Kanako were singing along with Arashi's performance. But I might have dreamt that.

When I woke up again. They had just announced that the White team (male team) had won again. It was few minutes before midnight. Only Kanako was awake.

But then we all woke up for the countdown.

And Maiko's mom came in with soba (it's Japanese tradition to eat soba for New Year)

New Year soba

New year soba is yummy

New Year soba is served

Eating soba with Maiko's family

Maiko's cat, Oliver

Maiko and soba

After that I went to sleep. It was 1:30am.

New Year's Day. First day of 2010. I woke up at 8:30am. I don't remember myself having been able to sleep that much in the past month. It was refreshing.

Kanako, unfortunately, had a fever, so she was bedridden.

We started a day with a traditional Japanese New Year's meal. Each dish symbolizing something.

Japanese New Year meal 2010

Japanese New Year meal 1

Japanese New Year meal 2

Mochi soup

Japanese New Year meal 3

Japanese New Year meal 4

Japanese New Year meal 5

Roast beef

Maiko and Japanese new year meal

After the meal, Maiko took me to the nearest temple for the Hatsumode (first shrine/ temple visit for the New Year).

It's a Kannon (Guan Yin) temple.

Kannon Temple at Tsukui Town

Little stone statues

Washing hands in the temple

Stairs to Tsukui Kannon Temple

(Click here if you can't see embedded video)

Tsukui Kannon Temple

I was surprised that there wasn't a single person at the temple. A huge contrast to the time when I was in Nara exactly a year ago, where thousands and thousands were flocking at the temples and shrines. Here in the town, everything was peaceful and quiet.

I rang the bell.

Ringing the bell to welcome 2010

When we were on the way home, we saw a Shishimai team. I'm ignorant, so I never knew that the Japanese had lion dance too.

Click here if you can't see embedded video)

With a Japanese lion

A lion

(Click here if you can't see embedded video)

After that the shishimai team gave me a gift.

A gift from the Shishimai team

After that we heard more sounds of flute and drums in the distance and followed their direction.

Walking through the Tsukui neighbourhood

It was another shishimai team.

(Click here if you can't see embedded video)

Following the shishimai team

They stopped by in front of Maiko's house to perform.

Lion in front of Maiko's house

Maiko's parents then drove me to catch the train back to Tokyo.

But before that we went to a Mount Fuji viewing spot.

Spot to view Fuji Mountain

I was able to see it from the distance.

Fuji Mountain from the distance

I went back to Shinjuku, joined my Hong Kong friend Jason and his friend for some Korean dinner.

... And then bumped into Hong Kong actor Roger Kwok. Someone was taking a photo with him, so I hurriedly approach him and asked a lady next to him (I thought she was a bystander) to help me take a photo with him.

HK actor Roger Kwok in Shinjuku

When she lowered the camera, I noticed that she was actress Cindy Au Sin Yee, Roger Kwok's wife.

Darn, would have taken a photo with her too.

But we never really had time to talk because everyone (Roger Kwok and his wife, my friend Jason and his friend) were seemingly in a hurry.

As fanboyish as it may have seemed, it's not everyday you bump into a Hong Kong actor at the streets, especially on New Year's Day.