Another year has come to a close in Ikata and the people are all ready to take a few well-earned days off for vacation. It is customary for all workers in public offices to take the three days prior to the new year as well as the first three days of the new year (for a total of six days) off for vacation and a chance to recharge and it is during this time that the people take a moment to connect with loved ones and friends and reminisce about the year gone by.
The end of the year in Ikata in many ways is similar to the end of the year in all other parts of Japan. Here too you will find nearly every citizen using the precious free-time they have sitting down to write Christmas cards and New Year’s letters to family and friends. Here too you will find the end of the year parties known as the Bonenkai 忘年会 (lit. Forget the Year Meeting) where coworkers gather to share a few laughs and a few drinks together. And here too you will find the cool air of winter wrapping the people in a chill deep enough to leave any one searching for a sweater and scarf.
Yet counteracting that chill are the many warm faces of the school children you see passing on the street (now free for a couple weeks of vacation) and the many many varieties of Nabe 鍋 that friends and neighbors share. For someone who has never traveled to Japan, one may find the nabe to have a unique charm and taste that sets its value above that of a mere meal. It is a kind of ritual for the people of Ikata and the people of Japan as a whole to enjoy the bounty by placing the massive pot in the center of the table, filled with vegetables, meats, and (especially here in Ikata) all variations of seafood, from which everyone freely draws their servings, mindful of the others.
The homes in Ikata are very different from the homes of her sister city of Red Wing where rough winters have brought about a keen knowledge of insulation. No, here the homes are made of paper-thin walls and single-pane windows the likes of which leave your room as cold as the outdoors within an hour after you have turned off the heat. So, while there may be no snow yet, a weather-worn, Minnesota-raised, northern Indiana-experienced man like myself can tell you it is no picnic. However the Japanese have plenty of ways to beat the heat. Food, like nabe, hot sake, and ramen, warm a soul up from the inside out. Heaters, like the Kotatsu, and the recommended daily bath お風呂(O-furo) warm you from the outside in. Finally, and especially unique in this area, the annual illumination of the town with thousands of holiday lights–many of which span the steam that winds through the town–warm a heart in ways that it never expected. Celebrate the season with a friend you have made and behold、you are as toasty and jolly as a summer day.
All-in-all the cool season is a time for seasonal food (the mikan sorting plant is in FULL operation nearly twenty-four hours a day), staying warm, and letting others know that you are thinking of them and thankful for all they have done for you this year. From all of us here in Ikata, we wish you the merriest of New Years and remind you once again that you are always welcome any time you like!
New Year Calligraphy Meeting January 6th 9:30am Misaki Branch Office, 2nd Floor Multipurpose Room
(please bring your own brush and calligraphy mat)
Misaki Health Marathon and Walking Meet January 3rd Noon Misaki Town Hall
(1.5, 3, 5,and 10km marathons as well as a 5km walk-a-thon)
Ikata and Seto Health and Long-Distance Marathons January 8th 9:30 Shihama Sports Center (Seto), 9:00 Machimi Sports Center (Ikata)
Coming of Age Day (National Holiday) January 9th
44th Annual Misaki Long-Distance Marathon January 15th 9:30am Sadamisaki Elementary School (Start)
Ikata Women’s Meeting January 15th 1pm ~ 4:10 Ikata Town Hall Lifelong Learning Center, 5th Floor Multipurpose Hall
(Topics include disaster prevention and relaxation techniques)
The Natural Beauty of the Sadamisaki Peninsula (Slideshow presentation) January 25th 7pm, Machimi Budoukan
Machimi Town Hall Festival January 29th 8:30am
Computer Training Courses
Courses will be offered for those looking for training in Word, Excel, and/or Powerpoint. If you are interested please contact Drago Flores at firstname.lastname@example.org. Courses will be offered beginning the end of January and run 2 hours each.