新春 The New Year

遅いですけど明けましておめでとうございます。

久しぶりの日本での新年は、肌に馴染んだものでありつつ新鮮でした。上五島の実家での年越しから始まって体験した三つの新春ごとの話です。

A late New Year’s greeting from Ojika! My first New Year’s holiday back home felt natural and fresh at the same time. Here are three things I experienced/encountered.

IMG_0444IMG_0447うちの餅つきは、外で火を焚いて米を蒸し、臼と杵でつく正統派。煙と湯気と冷たい空気が、子どものころの弾む心を呼び起こします。なんて感慨に浸ってる間に白餅と玄米餅がそれぞれ一升ずつ、あっという間につき上がりました。大晦日は大掃除とお節作りが並行して進みます。

The first is my family’s New Year traditions. I made it back home for mochitsuki (rice cake making). Glutinous rice is steamed over a fire and then pound in a big motor with a pestle. We made one batch of white rice cake and another of brown rice one, which will be eaten during the holiday and the rest of the winter.

お節は定番の黒豆や煮しめ、昆布巻きや酢の物と、うちは父が熊本出のため辛子蓮根を作ります。年に一度のことなので、母も姉も「去年はどうやって作ったっけ」「これ今年はうまくいくかなあ」なんて言いながら。「おばあちゃんも毎年こんな風に呟きながら作ってた」と皆で話しながら大晦日の夜は更けていくのです。元日の朝はお重に詰めたお節と刺身とお雑煮でお祝い。山の中の一軒家、除夜の鐘も紅白も初詣もありませんが、うるさい甥っ子と大量の酒で賑やかです。

IMG_0451On the 31st, we do a big cleaning of the house and make special New Year’s dishes. Those dishes include sweet black soy beans, simmered root vegetables, pickled lotus roots, kelp rolls and stuffed lotus roots with mustard-miso. On the New Year’s day, they are packed in special bento boxes. There are also New Year’s soup with mochi (yes we made it primarily for this soup), sashimi and a lot of sake, including a special herbed one. The New Year’s celebration takes a strong stomach and alcohol tolerance.

さて小値賀に帰還、大好きなあい菜市に行くと、小屋前の大鍋から湯気があがっています。入るとおばちゃんたちが口々に「ぜんざい食べんね」「くじ引きしてって。タダやけん」。寝起きの胃に餅入りのぜんざいを流し込み、くじ引きでキャベツを勝ち取り、更に「友達に持ってけ」とビニール袋に入れてくれたぜんざいと漬け物を抱えて、今年もあい菜市への忠誠を誓いました。市のほうも野菜盛りだくさん、実えんどうも出てたりして季節の移り変わりを感じます。

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Back in Ojika, Aisai market (the vegetable market) also celebrated its first day of 2013. In front of the shed there was a big steaming pot of zenzai (sweet red bean soup). I went in and an obachan (refers to middle-aged to old women) handed me a bowl of zenzai with mochi and another told me to draw a raffle.  I poured zenzai into my half-asleep stomach and won a cabbage. As I was leaving one of the obachans put a generous amount of zenzai into a plastic bag. “For later, or for a friend”.  Both my bag and stomach were full and I knew I’d be loyal to the market this year too.

浜津地区のお寺では、お餅に色をつけて飾るらしい。と聞いて、小値賀で唯一の浄土真宗のお寺、明覺寺に行きました。運良く本堂に関係者らしい女性たちがいて、特別に内陣にあがらせてもらって間近で見ることができました。磨き上げられた金が眩しい装飾のなかに、小さな丸餅を積みあげたお飾りが立っています。4斗ものお餅をついて、ひとつひとつ型を抜き、色を付けて積み上げていくそう。機械で作ったかのように見えるけれど、ぜんぶ手作業です。400年の伝統を持つこの新春行事は、集落の家々がそれぞれの役割を担って守ってきました。松飾りはこの家、お花はあっち、というふうに。高齢化が進んだ今は、できる人が引き継いでいるようです。「作ってるところを見てほしい。特に若い人には」とお寺の奥さん。この日も午前中はお餅に色をつけていたそうで、もうちょっと早く来ていれば、とお互いに残念がりました。来年は是非。

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A friend told me of an interesting offering made at a temple with coloured mochi. Off I went to Myokakuji in Hamazu community. Luckily there were some women cleaning the hall who let me in the alter where usually only priests of a high rank were allowed. Between candle holders and other ornaments stood towers made with numerous small mochi balls. Surprising 70 kilos of mochi are cut out into hundreds of tiny balls (about 3 cm in diameter), coloured, and piled neatly to form towers. They look so neat, like machine-made, but all work is done by hands. It is to celebrate the New Year and the founder of Jodo Shinshu (one of many schools of Buddhism in Japan), and has been practiced for 400 years. The women said they’d like it if people came to see the process, that it was a lot of work but fun and educative. I looked up the tower again to see the rows of powdery soft mochi balls. Ok, I’m coming back next year, I love handling mochi.

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