New Years: A Time for Reflection in Japan
Even though Christmas is not special, New Years is very important here. In fact, it is one of the most significant days of the year. People believe in starting the year with a very pure heart and mind. So they spend a lot of time cleaning their homes, as they reflect on what inner and outer cleanliness means. They go to shrines with a pure heart and in that state they pray for a year of blessings.
However, if a family member has died during the previous year, the family cannot celebrate the New Year. That is because death is considered an impurity. In that case the family will stay at home and quietly reflect on the great mysteries of life and death and their ongoing eternal cycles.
This year in particular many people in the Tohoku area will not be able to go to a shrine on New Years Day or to eat the special food of this season. In fact, I have already received many cards announcing a death in the family, which is sent in place of a New Years greeting. Most of those who died were killed in the tsunami of last March.
Recently I sent an end-of-the-year donation to Imai Sensei’s Yomawari Group, which works with homeless in this area. Imai Sensei thanked me and said that with the money he could provide a more nutritious meal at the New Year and also get more clothes and blankets to offer to the men he serves.
We all hope that 2012 will be kinder to us. They say that the danger of another earthquake lasts for a full year. So, we are still alert as we go about our daily lives. In another arena we also know that next year brings the end of government financial assistance to those devastated by the earthquake and tsunami. We also realize that jobs are very scarce here now. So, we are quietly watching, wondering, hoping for a year that allows us opportunities to work together and do all we can to make life better for everyone we in need.
To help those still in need in Japan, please consider buying Letters to the Ground from the Heart or donating to the cause. 100% of the proceeds will be distributed to survivors of The Great East Japan / Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami, most notably the Sendai Yomawari Group that serves the homeless—a population which is now exploding.