Dondo Yaki (どんど焼き)

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I experienced my first Dondo Yaki (どんど焼き). It’s a Japanese event associated with the New Year when families get together at the shrine to send off the Toshigami (歳神) by burning off new year decorations.

Long ago, Japan used the lunar calendar and this event was held on the 15th day. Pretty similar to the chinese lantern festival which is held on that particular day. However, Japan has since switched to using the Georgian calendar and rest is recent history. Like Seijin no hi (成人の日) which is held on the second Monday in January, dondo Yaki (どんど焼き) is held on either the second Sunday or Monday in January. I guess when depends on your local shrine.

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This was my only new year decoration. A wreath on my front door with the characters “first spring” (初春). I didn’t know what to do with it after the new year until I read a notice pinned on some nearby noticeboard saying that there’s a dondo yaki event.

Never noticed it before. I guess I should have paid more attention. ^^.

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From what I’ve read (and been told), we hang new year decorations to welcome the toshigami. The Shinto deity that brings the new year (along with luck, prosperity and everything good). Some Japanese houses have a little Shinto altar (kamidana, 神棚) where the toshigami stays until dondo yaki day.

I don’t have a kamidana… I hope the toshigami was comfortable on my sofa.

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Lots of new year decorations being stacked up.

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Colored mochi on a stick for roasting later when we have a big fire going.

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I spy with my eye, a cute tiger. These photos were taken in 2010 when it was the year of the tiger.

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Well, here’s our first and last 2010 new year wreath. Looks all set to go. Front door looks lonely without it hanging on.

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Lots of families have made their way here. The shrine provides amazake, a sweet kind of Japanese sake. There’s a non-alcoholic version for the kids too.

Do I see a Michael Jackson wannabe with his smooth criminal move in the background?!?

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Almost set to go.

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He’s going to get a light.

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The ritual burning of new year decorations also has some religious significance. As the ashes rise with the smoke, it is believed that the toshigami is making his way back up. This particular event is also a way of giving thanks for the new year.

Some sprinkling of salt.

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Some pouring of sake.

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And here we go!

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A small fire is starting.

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The stack of new year decorations started to crumble as the flames got stronger. I wonder if instead of starting the fire from the bottom, it might have been better to light from the top.

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I see kagami mochi (鏡餅)! The bun like thing right in the middle of the photo.

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The fire provided additional warmth on this cold winter’s day.

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Stairway to heaven.

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That’s about that. Nothing recognizable left of my new year wreath.

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When everything is black, the colorful mochi-s (rice cake) on a long stick are handed out. Everyone loves a nicely roasted mochi.

On chinese new year, a lot of sweets are given out. The main idea behind eating all those sweets is to “sweeten your mouth”. So you only speak sweet things in the new year.

I wonder what’s the explanation to eating mochi today… A way of giving thanks I guess.

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The way they bend, looks a lot like fishing rods to me. ^^.

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Everyone from 2 – 98 is happily roasting their mochi from 4 arm length’s away.

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There’s a healthy stash of second/third/fourth helpings.

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Here’s my pink mochi. Time for me to stop taking photos and join in the roasting!

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How did you spend your day?

Another event that happens during the new year is Seijin no hi (成人の日). A coming of age day in Japan. Have to the kids to thank for a public holiday!

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  • Morten

    Looks really nice and cozy. Love these kind of public get togethers:)
    .-= Morten´s last blog ..Hidamari Sketch x365 =-.

  • bk201

    Well I’ve been cleaning the house for friends to come over tomorrow night. Will be cooking alot of things for dinner so I’ll be sure to take photos of everything we make.

    I wish there was these types of things down here
    .-= bk201´s last blog ..Sunnies 😀 =-.

  • k

    You have BBQs don’t you? ^^.

  • Kam

    hummm, yummy mochi…. did you try to make mochi cream, too?
    .-= Kam´s last blog ..Olympus OM1 – My First SLR =-.

  • k

    how do you make mochi cream?