Photo - Photographs: January 2005 Archives

Photo: Hyogo Evening Skyscapes


I took a series of photographs this evenings from a balcony in Itami City, Hyogo Prefecture. There was too much light pollution for astrophotography, but I have some nice skyscapes. These have been posted on my PAW gallery:

Equipment: Canon EOS 10D

I open the new year with some photographs from my visit to a Kyoto shrine on New Year's Day. Rather than visiting the larger shrines inside the city which were sure to be packed, my partner and I decided to go to a shrine on the western edge of Kyoto....

Full story and photographs here:

Update 2005.01.05: reports that over 93 million people in Japan visited shrines or temples in the New Year's period. Given that the population of Japan is 127 million, that's pretty impressive - about 73%. Does anyone have stats on church attendance in the U.S. on Christmas?

Happy New Year


The year 2004 ended on a very sad note. My hope is that this new year will open with humanity showing its better side. Please give to the rescue effort in any way that you can.

This is my new year's card (nengajo 年賀状) for this year. Nengajo are Japanese traditional season's greeting cards. Unlike American Christmas cards which are sent and arrive rather randomly from Thanksgiving to December, nengajo are collected by the Japanese post-office starting December 24th. You have to stamp your postcard with "nenga" otherwise it is delivered immediately. Properly marked nengajo are stored by the postoffice and delivered in one huge pile on the morning of January 1st (yes, the Japanese post office works on New Year's day, it's one of their busiest).

You're supposed to send cards to all of the people who you were indebted to in the year because they helped you in some way or another. This is a rather Japanese concept - that one is continually indebted by the help and assistance of others. In reality, this means that you might send out about 100-200 cards a year to all of your kin, co-workers, friends, company management, vendors, etc. etc.

Managing nengajo lists requires a major database. The ones on the market are quite sophisticated, such as Atena Shokunin to the right here. It will let you know if the person you are sending the nengajo sent one last year, or the year before (missing two years in a row frees you of the obligation to send one in return); if there was a death in that family (you send a bereavement card instead of a nengajo); fill in the address using the 3+4 digit zip-code; print the cards and so forth.

Receiving a big bundle of nengajo on new year's is exciting. Tradition has it that you should do your own nengajo so each one is unique. Also, each official nengajo postcard comes with a lottery number pre-printed on it. If you match digits, the post office will give you small presents. For folks that receive 300+ cards, this means that you can usually get several sheets of stamps, Hello Kitty post office items, etc.

p.s. You're also supposed to send greeting (and gifts) in the middle of the year as well (ochugen お中元) and department stores make a big fuss about this, but many people don't get around to that.

The end of the year


Many people in Japan spend New Years Eve at home watching TV. NHK, the embattled quasi-public TV network always broadcasts Kohaku Utagassen (紅白歌合戦; Red White Sing Off)*. Two teams of celebrities compete singing Japanese enka and pop songs. Sort of like a giant karaoke competition. This year we were supposed to have Korean soap drama star Bae Yonju but he couldn't come. Rumor was that he was asking for more than NHK was willing to pay. Instead, another Korean soap drama star came. I'll have to comment on the current Korean-boom (韓流; hanryu) some other time.

* Update: The popularity of Kohaku has been dropping in the past several years. Asahi News reports that this year, it fell below 40% for the first time (39.3% to be exact).

Instead of watching TV at home, my partner and I went to our local bathhouse (sento around ten pm. Although sento began to decline in popularity in the 1970s as the demographic shifted to nuclear families with their own bathtubs, they have staged somewhat of a comeback in the last decade. Renamed Super-Sento or Kenko-lands they now feature jacuzzis, hot/dry/mist saunas, salt rubs, herbal tea baths, and hot spring baths. You can arrange to get your hair cut or an oil massage too.

In Japan, cleanliness is literally a religion. A large part of Shinto is dedicated to physical and spiritual cleaning. My favorite documentary photograph is Tomoko being bathed by her mother taken by Eugene Smith. It reminds many people of the Pieta but its setting in the bath has Japanese spiritual connotations as well. The water is washing away not only the pollution that poisoned Tomoko, but also the sense of guilt of her mother towards her daughter. There's some controversy over the withdrawal of the print from circulation.

At the sento, I spent most of the time in the outdoor hot spring (露天風呂 rotenburo) soaking away the stress and spiritual and physical dirt of the old year while gazing up at the night sky. What could be better? We spent about three hours at the sento and walked back home around 1 am. In the distance we could hear the bell at the local Buddhist temple bell slowly toll 108 times (除夜の鐘; joya no kane) representing the 108 desires of humans.

This year is the 17th year of the Heisei era of Emperor Akihito. It is the Year of Cock (酉).

Monthly Archives

Sponsored Links

Powered by Movable Type 5.11

Sponsored by



Sponsored Links

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Photo - Photographs category from January 2005.

Photo - Photographs: December 2004 is the previous archive.

Photo - Photographs: March 2005 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

August 2014

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
          1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30