It happened to be the very day with record cold temperature. We even considered it may have to be cancelled at some point if it gets too dangerously low. But surprisingly enough, everyone’s car started without any problem (Thanks to the automobile industry which technology definitely had improved…), and people seemed to have high energy for the New Year. So, our show had started as planned, for the First Writing of the Year - “Kakizome”!
This year, more new faces were seen among the participants than the last year. Some Chinese people came and enjoyed sharing their knowledge of the Kanji characters most of which are similar to Japanese. After all, theirs were the original, and it is indeed quite fascinating to think how the language was carried on across ocean from China to Japan and made its form to be adapted by Japanese more than a thousand years ago. (Then, I just wonder what kind of communication the ancient and true original Japanese used before they had imported Chinese…?)
Every year, we learn something new at Kakizome from participants who ask for translation of English vocabulary that they want to write in Japanese – mostly in Kanji form. So today, we have learned Humility is “Kenson” in Japanese while we know another vocabulary, Humbleness, has the same translation. A TV channel newsman came to film our event and asked for explanation about a kind of traditional ritual where people would burn Kakizome-written paper. I knew he was asking about “Tondo-matsuri”, the campfire festival a small community where I grew up had held on January 15th when we burned all the New Year’s day decorations and Kakizome paper to get rid of evil and bring a good luck. I wanted to make sure the definition of Tondo-matsui was correct so asked 2 other volunteers who usually know a lot about Japanese culture and history. It turned out to be that they had never heard of it. That means, as we were reminded, it doesn’t matter how small Japan is, the “Japanese culture” we think as our standard knowledge and believe they are common in everywhere in Japan are not always true. They are all different between regions, and some case may not even be known by the other. Nevertheless, the Kakizome is indeed one of the commonly known Japanese traditions for cerebrating a New Year.
Our renewed appreciation to Elinor Levy, Ph.D. the director and Arts Mid-Hudson for their continuous support on our culture programs and having made this Kakizome day our mutual special event. And of course, to our volunteer staff, some of who drove from quite distance in this cold weather to accomplish today’s task. Especially to Onuma-san, who had tied our logo flag outside door “without gloves, without crying”! That guts and determination are something to be highly respected.
Best wishes to all for the New Year!
Chair and Kakizome project leader