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    Ooh, Tokyo is getting its yearly day of schnee. Of course, it’s just fluffy, wet stuff that disappears on contact with the (non-frozen) ground. The nice thing about a third-floor apartment, though, is that if you stand back a bit from the window, you just see the snow falling, not meeting its premature end. Atsushi comes in tomorrow. Unlike me, he hasn’t just gotten back from 2.5 weeks of lolling at the homes of parents and various friends; and banks are, of course, the sorts of environments in which the end-of-year crunch is especially intense. He apparently hasn’t even had time to write his New Year’s cards.

    The New Year is a big deal in Japan, in a way that sort of combines the meanings of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s celebrations at home. You’re supposed to pay your debts (a dark joke in this economy of massive household debt, but charming as a traditional ideal nonetheless), right wrongs you’ve committed and seek forgiveness, and reflect on your good fortune. To my very American palate, the festival foods–a select group of crustaceans, mollusks, and piles of fish eggs–are somewhat less yummy than Thanksgiving dinner; but the symbolism of good fortune and longevity is nice. And I like the oranges and glutinous rice.

    Ornate expressions of gratitude are woven through all Japanese social forms; but around this time of year, things get positively orgiastic, with gifts of beer and tea and cakes and other goodies to be sent to and received from clients and suppliers. The Japanese have not forgotten that their country’s staggering riches are of recent vintage, and the last 15 years of economic shake-up have reminded them that prosperity is fragile; the formal expressions of goodwill that can feel merely dutiful at other times of the year have extra power now.

    This is a good time to thank everyone once again for visiting here. When I asked Dean to set this site up in the spring, I was primarily looking for something to play with as a distraction from self-pity over Atsushi’s being transferred to Kyushu. I’d enjoyed commenting on other people’s blogs–yes, I’m aware that this is getting to be an old story–but frankly, I wasn’t eager to set up my own because of trolls. The decline in American civility gets me down enough so as it is. 200 visitors a day is a very modest amount of traffic, but it’s certainly enough to be trolled. The courtesy people have shown in their comments here and e-mails to me has reassured me a lot. I mean it. Thank you. And once again, Happy New Year.

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