A great start of the New Year: welcome 2017!

Well before starting to explain what I did here in Japan during New Year’s Eve and in the beginning of the new year, I want to wish everyone a Happy New Year! Make the most of your 2017, stay healthy and safe and I hope you’ll have a great year!

This New Year’s Eve was a little bit different than usual. For the past years I spent the last night of the year either in the Netherlands or somewhere abroad, but there were always fireworks involved. Sometimes very big and impressive (Dubai and London) and sometimes small, but still very nice (Amsterdam and Delft). This evening though, I spent New Year’s Eve at the University and I had a lovely meal with my international and Japanese friends. The meal took us about 2-3 hours, because we had a grill and grilled and ate lots of delicious meat. When it was 12 o’clock we wished each other a Happy New Year and shortly after that we just went to bed.

The next morning though I woke up early to skype with my family in the Netherlands. This was around 7:45 here in Japan, so that means that I ‘spent’ the Dutch New Year skyping with my family and that also meant that I could see some real Dutch fireworks! The rest of the day was about relaxing and already starting with some schoolwork.

The real start of the new year was today, the 2nd of January. We got up early again to take the 8am bus into Tokyo. When we got out of the train station, we could already see the mass of people in front of us. They were going towards the same place where we wanted to go: the Imperial Palace! Since today is one of the days that the Imperial Palace opens up so you can actually get inside the inner gardens(normally it’s closed for almost the entire year).

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Outside of the gate

Opening the palace was not the only thing special about today, because today, the emperor would also show himself to the public! The other day that the emperor will come out to greet the public, is the Emperor’s birthday on the 23rd of December, but we missed this day because we went to Mount Fuji. Today there were 5 rounds where he would show himself to the people. We tried to make it to the first round (around 10am), but because of all the people that also wanted to see the emperor, it was impossible to see the emperor and the palace during the first round. Luckily we were able to get into the second round!

There were lots of policemen and women around the palace to guide the crowd into the palace in an organized way. It was very impressive to see this amount of people and then to see that is was not an entire chaos. It was the opposite actually. It was a very smooth and well-organized process.

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Police woman shouting to the crowd

When we finally arrived at the main square of the palace, there were already lots and lots of people before us. Outside of the palace, while waiting in the lines, you could already get a Japanese flag. And everyone started using them when we were inside of the Imperial Palace. The second that the emperor got out of his home, everyone just started waving the flag (making it almost impossible for smaller people like me, who were standing at the back of the crowd, to even see a glimpse of the emperor).

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Waving flags

Luckily, when he started speaking to the crowd, people lowered their flags and we could see the emperor! He only said a few words and maybe spoke for 1-2 minutes in Japanese, so we were not able to understand what he said. Probably some New Year’s wishes, but who knows ..?

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The emperor!

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The emperor

Even though the ‘show’ only lasted for a couple of minutes, it was still impressive to be able to see the insides of the Imperial Palace, so it was definitely worth it to wait in line and get inside of the palace. After the short speech we walked around some more to see more of the palace and the gardens.

Since it was already lunch time by then, we decided to go to Hamasushi. This was my first time going to a sushi restaurant and it was a very special experience. I really don’t like fish, but luckily they also had meat!

This sushi restaurant serves all kinds of sushi, nigiri and other dishes like noodles with soup. You order the dish that you want on a small screen and then you’ll only have to wait for a couple of minutes until your dish is ready. It is not a waiter that is bringing the dishes to you, but there is a conveyer belt that will bring you your food. Very interesting, but especially very fast! And really tasty as well!

What a different way to start the New Year comparing to what I’m used to, but it was definitely very special way to jump into 2017!

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Ordering food at Hamasushi

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Duck nigiri

Visited on the 2nd of January, 2017
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