From One Year to the Next

Towards the end of the afternoon, we head out to Seibu to get some food from the depa-chika (the basement level of most big department stores hosts mostly pre-cooked food counters, like a giant market – Seibu in Ikebukuro has one of the best ones). As always, we start with cheese and a baguette, and then get some chicken rolls and potato gratin from a charcuterie. The place is packed, which is to be expected on New Year’s Eve. People are making their last-minute food purchases for the evening. Waiting in one line, we overhear a guy saying to his girlfriend that he doesn’t want to miss the PRIDE tournament on TV (three of the networks are airing martial battles during the evening, lead in the hype wars by the Bob Sapp-Akebono confrontation). Walking back home, we stop at the combini for some plates of soba (we should prepare it at home, but we want to be lazy). We get back home and start to eat early, as we’ll still have to eat the soba later on. It’s time for KOHAKU, the infamous year end special on NHK that is presenting its 54th edition. The next few hours are mostly flipping through the different specials on TV. Your pick of 3 channels of ultimate fighting, Takeshi Kitano debunking UFOs, a magician competition, and KOHAKU. The Sapp-Akebono match ends up being a bust, with Akebono’s blubber getting in the way of any show of force (well, I’ll give him the first minute, when the blubber is put to good use pushing Sapp around). It’s now 11:15, which marks the start of comedy duo 99’s annual New Year’s Eve special. Okamura will again do some crazy feat with big explosions. It’s all done for laughs. We eat our soba. After midnight (and the end of the Nainai special), we walk to Gokokuji to pray for a good year. I love matsuri food, so get some butter potatoes, while Yuko gets okonimiyaki. Walking back home, I get a can of Calpis soda. I used to drink a lot of the stuff a few years ago, as there was a vending machine selling the stuff just outside my door. Natsukashi. The next day will bring lots of good TV specials (lots of good comedy: DISCOVER 99, ONE NIGHT ROCK’N’ROLL, UCHIMURA PRODUCE, BLACK WIDE SHOW). One of the shows I like the most is an annual tradition where singers, comedians, actors, etc. all get together and perform certain feats, for which they train 1-2 months. They then get voted on the performance. Most of the participants end up in tears. You have to show respect for what these people go through. I always end up shedding a few tears for some of the performances (this year during the Neptune-T.I.M. crazy climbers acrobatics show). Who says Japanese TV is all bad?