【英語も学べる日本文化エッセイ】The First Sunrise of the Year at Miura Beach/三浦海岸で初日の出(和訳付き)

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(by Brittney Curtis)

The First Sunrise of the Year at Miura Beach

One of the best days of the year in my opinion is Ganjitsu or New Year’s Day which is filled with exciting celebrations, traditions, and resolutions for the year ahead.  When it comes to celebrating specifically the New Year First’s there are many haikus associated with this special day, such as hatsuhi which is the first sunrise, waraizome the first laughter; which helps start the New Year off with positive vibes and of course a smile, the first temple visit or hatsumōde and the first prayer for good health, fortune and luck – just to name a few! These traditions date back to the Meiji Era and can be celebrated at a temple or shrine, mountaintop or beach.

I decided to choose the beach for celebrating my ganjitsu and took part in the tradition of seeing the first sunrise at Miura Beach. This is the largest beach on the Miura Peninsula surrounded by Sagami Bay and Kaneda Bay, which both lead to the Pacific Ocean. The beach views are incredible. The atmosphere is a very dreamy scene with sounds of the waves crashing along the shore, the cool refreshing salt water breeze, the smell of scattered bonfires, and of course feeling the powerful beats of the taiko drum vibrations which fill your soul with happiness as you anxiously await amongst the crowd for the first sunrise. It’s a true sensory overload. For this particular celebration the Miura Edomae Club provides free Jinya soup with local ingredients that will help keep you nice and warm. They also have a few events happening, but my favorite is the main attraction; the Kaibo Jinya drum performance. If you are a morning person this is an excellent way to start any morning especially on New Year’s, I highly recommend experiencing this at least once!

The taiko drums have been in Japan since the Jōmon period and has played a major role in ancient times. Some interesting things the taiko drum was used for was keeping the farmer crops free of pests by scaring them away, used in rainmaking rituals, for boosting the soldier’s morale during battle, of course for festivals and bon odori and surprisingly even as a tool to help communicate with allies. Now that you have some knowledge on the history of the drums, let’s get into the drum performance which my favorite part/experience. I was blown away at the sight of the drummers, witnessing the skills of these performers is truly a spectacular experience. The entire group is so perfectly synchronized on every complex movement, powerful rhythm, and the use of the whole-body expression creates this unbelievable artsy dance drumming combo that moves you physically and spiritually. I must say I am very jealous of the stamina, endurance and coordination these talented drummers possess! Like my mom used to tell me; practice makes perfect! And these drummers have had lots of practice.

The legends associated with this day is quite a family affair. It starts with Toshigami the Year God who is the son of Susanoo a Shinto deity known as the powerful Storm and Sea God who is the brother to the Sun Goddess; Amaterasu, I won’t get into the entire family although it’s quite interesting, but for the New Year’s first sunrise these three will do. It is said that Toshigami the God of the incoming year arrives on the first sunrise of the new year bringing good luck, granting the ancestors’ blessing and if you are a farmer a bountiful harvest. Some say that Toshigami is an actual visiting deity quite similar to Santa Claus in the sense that he goes from house to house, but instead of expecting cookies and milk the Toshigami expects the place to have been cleansed as he doesn’t like impurities so in order to do this a purification and harai housecleaning should be done by the head of household as well as hanging shimekazari above the door and placing kadomatsu decorations at either side of the entrance. The decorations are said to act as a guide for the gods not to get lost and draw them into those places as well as prove the area has been cleansed.

Legend has it when it comes to the Sun Goddess; Amaterasu worshipping her on the first sunrise of the New Year will bring you good health and fortune. The most famous legend about Amaterasu is when she blocked herself in a cave after an argument with her brother Susanoo. Long story short without her ruling the world it became a place of evil, chaos, and complete darkness. Many gods tried to lure her out with various techniques like putting roosters outside the cave to trick her into thinking it was dawn when she heard the rooster crows or putting a large sakaki tree beautifully decorated with shiny jewels, fancy clothes, and a mirror in the middle, but she wouldn’t budge until another goddess Amenouzume began a crazy striptease that made all the other gods burst into laughter. That’s when Amaterasu’s curiosity got the best of her. She opened the cave enough to peek out see what’s happening, but got distracted by her own reflection in the mirror and was yanked out of the cave by the strong god.

Now that she was out of the cave, years of many councils and debates had pasted in order to decide who will rule. It was decided that her grandson; Ninigi-no-Mikoto would rule after her own son rejected the offer twice.  To help him out she gave him three gifts Yasakani – the jewels, Yata – the cave mirror, and Kusanagi – the sword Susanoo took from the tail of a monster. These are known as the three power emblems that make up the imperial regalia. Legend has it that Jimmu (r.660-585 BCE) the first emperor that founded the state was a direct descendant of Amaterasu.

To wrap things up because I can go on and on about legends for hours! Whatever you decide to do for your New Year’s celebration whether it’s visiting a temple or celebrating on a beach, I am sure it will be filled with great experiences and happy memories. I hope all your prayers are answered and all your New Year’s resolutions are achieved. Have a safe New Years! 

三浦海岸で初日の出 by ブリトニー・カーティス








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World-traveling writer, loves trains and Goshuin.

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