Happy Year of the Rabbit!

Happy New Year! あけましておめでとうございます!The Year of the Rabbit is off to a great start here in Japan. I actually got my act together in time to send out nengajo, or New Year’s postcards, which was great fun. The image above is actually from the cards I sent out. I purchased them at my local Daiei, but the manufacturer (Sanrio) actually provided a whole website where you could print on additional text and images to personalize them. Many people just buy them pre-stamped from the post office. What I really love is that the post office holds all of the nengajo until New Year’s Day and delivers them all at once, which makes the day seem really special—and kind of Christmas-like, really.

As I mentioned, it’s the Year of the Rabbit, which has produced all kinds of cuteness around the holiday. Rabbit-themed decorations and products abound. And apparently, the popularity of actual bunnies has soared, resulting in the opening of several rabbit cafes and an increase in rabbit ownership. I just hope that the bunnies sold in this craze don’t end up like those poor little baby chicks that get gifted to people on Easter in the US—but then again, I suppose rabbits are much easier to keep as pets than chickens. Much of the imagery involves rabbits making mochi (a glutinous rice cake)—instead of the “man in the moon,” Japanese people talk about the “rabbit making mochi on the moon”:

Photo courtesy of Mmboogiedown: Japan

Anyway, I’ve seen tons of mochi-making rabbits this winter. Here are a couple of examples from the Japan Information and Culture Center’s Nengajo New Year’s Card Contest:

Image by Melody Poland from Maryland (Runner-Up, Adult Division)

Image by Lasha Tamae from Virginia (Winner, Adult Division)

Cute, huh?

Anyway, I’ve been having a quiet holiday at home, chipping away at my many academic projects and cooking up a storm. I recently bought a Nesco roaster oven, which can be used as either a real oven or as a slow cooker, and the acquisition has prompted a burst of cooking. In the past week or so, I’ve made homemade palak paneer, tri-meat pasta sauce (“the butcher sauce”), chicken noodle soup, bistro beef stew, and a bunch of other treats. I even baked some quick bread in the roaster oven, which worked pretty well. I’ll slowly start getting back to work at the year gets going, but it’s been nice to have a quiet respite from the busy-ness of normal life, especially after my hectic visit to the US. Here’s hoping that 2011 is a fabulous year for all of us!