Celebrating New Year's part II
One holiday food enjoyed by the Japanese is mochi, a dense, sweet rice treat which they also decorate as you can see in my photo. I've heard it mentioned that you should be careful giving mochi to the elderly as it is possible for them to choke on it, and some number of deaths are recorded each year. As you go through shopping areas and people's homes, you may see larger pieces of mochi decorated with oranges and other items as well as large pieces of art designed to look like them.
New Year's is also the Japanese gift-giving season, but adults are generally excluded. In their generous but quiet way, they pass small gifts of money to children (usually younger than 18) in small colored envelopes, no big shiny presents with bright ribbons and big cards. They also present the gift in the most humble of terms, apologizing that it isn't more. (OK I didn't know and dropped them in laps, "There ya go Shoko, party hardy!") The children for their part express profound thanks, receiving the gifts respectfully with both hands (the same way I was supposed to present them), bowing and accepting with gratitude.
Both New Year's Eve and New Year's Day are feast days for the Japanese, and they serve up huge portions of sushi, sashimi, cooked fish and meat, scallops, shrimp, pickled vegetables and fish cakes.... The list goes on and is no doubt tailored from family to family.
Obviously a full and insightful description of Japanese New Year's customs are not only beyond the scope of my knowledge, but they are beyond the scope of a simple VT tip as well. I just hope that in or out of Japan, this tip might explain some of what you might see or encounter.