New Year 2001
This year I spent New Years Eve in Tokyo. Shibuya, to be specific. The reason why I wanted to be there for the change over into the new millennium (Because we all know that 2000 was the END of the last millennium. The years did not begin to be counted with year zero, but rather with year one. Hence 2001 is the first year of the new millennium) At least that’s the logic I use so I don’t feel so bad about not being in Japan for last new years eve (2000).
On the way to Tokyo, traffic was actually a little lighter than usual. Once I got into Tokyo though, traffic ground to a near halt. It was about that time that I wished I was one of those maniacs on motorcycles, weaving in and out of traffic, leap-frogging between lights. When traffic snarls to a halt, motorcycles are still able to make really good time. Great if you are the guy on the motorcycle. Sucks if you are the guy planted in your car as this guy zips by. My main complaint about these motorcycle riders is the fact that the all seem to think that it is their duty to keep car drivers as alert as possible. They accomplish this feat through many methods. One of their favorites is to drive 60 kph between two lanes of automobile traffic, just daring a car to bump into them. They ride literally inches from an unintentional (yeah right) bump that would turn them into instant road pizza.
Strangely enough I have yet to see this actually happen. I’ve not lost hope yet though, there is always tomorrow. 🙂
Another one of their tricks to help keep drivers on their toes is to not only drive between cars, but to add in some random swerves back into traffic when they notice a driver becoming complacent or has stopped paying strict attention to them. Actually it’s not that bad…in all fairness I would have to say it is really much worse than that. But I diverge…now back to the real story.
Like I was saying, I went to Shibuya for the new years eve countdown. On the way to the countdown at Shibuya crossing I noticed a lot of Japanese homes and businesses with decorations being displayed. A common new years decoration is a “mikan” or type of Japanese orange/tangerine tied up with rice straw and placed on a red and white paper background. Another type of decoration is bamboo and evergreen boughs, or just the evergreen boughs by themselves.
There is not a lot I can say to describe the scene at Shibuya in the time leading up to the stroke of midnight. All I can really say is that there were a lot of people there. I mean a lot. Picture a sea of moving bodies as far as you can see in every direction, spilling up side streets and out of sight. That’s the amount of people I am talking about.
Besides the electricity generated by a large group of people, I received another type of excitement while I was in Shibuya. I was almost killed. (That’ll wake you up like nothing else!) While crossing a street I was nearly run over by a passing taxi. I happened to get a picture of it because I was holding my camera as the car swiped by me and as I flinched and jumped back I hit the shutter release and just got lucky in getting a picture of the taxi as it slipped past me.
Come to think about it, the really odd thing about that taxi was that the diver really did not see me. What I mean to say is that it was an honest accident that he almost ran me over. I say this is odd because usually when a taxi zips by you that close in Japan, the driver does it intentionally.
The stroke of midnight brought a huge roar from the assembled crowd and people started milling around and heading off to late night parties. Some of the more inebriated revelers climbed on top of the Shibuya subway station entrance and began to do a striptease for the crowd. Entertaining yes, but since it was just a bunch of drunk American guys taking their cloths off while trying not to fall off the roof, I didn’t stick around to watch. Seeing what asses those guys were making of themselves I quickly slipped into my best Canadian accent, made a couple of comments on the crudeness of “those annoying Americans”, and moved on. (Just kidding. But I’ll bet those guys would have been embarrassed if they could have seen themselves up there, workin’ it like a bunch of over-the-hill Chippendales dancers)
Traditionally the Japanese celebrate new years eve and new years day by eating special foods with their family and going to a temple to usher in the new year. In recent years new years countdown parties have gained in popularity. I don’t expect that everyone will quit going to temples as a common new years practice, but it seems like the younger generation is migrating away from the more solemn new years activities in favor of western style parties. And as much as I enjoy the history and culture of Japan, I can’t say that I blame them because new years eve in Tokyo Rocks!!!.