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Xuan Truong Trinh

My Foreign New Year

In the many years away from my country, I have never been so glad to be welcomed as a son in a family, greeting New Year just like a Japanese.  I was lucky enough to follow my friend to Osaka and stay in her house for the New Year celebration. Five days there taught me much more about Japanese culture than I could ever imagine.

Learning to do Calligraphy.

Learning to do Calligraphy.

This moment perhaps capture my induction into a Japanese’ New Year. In the Japanese Style house, I could feel the traditional atmosphere. Items around the house held on to the past, untouched by the rapid passage of time. In this family, customs were delicately kept from being melted in globalisation.

I was lucky to be sitting next to Kenji-sama, a lover of Calligraphy. By showing me how to write simple words, he started his New Year with a different experience. Same for me, I was witnessing a holder of Japanese culture, an opportunity not everyone has. “Seeing a person’s calligraphy, much of his personalities, stream of thoughts, and even life history is told.” – I have heard. There was something familiar.

Vietnamese Calligraphy for 忍

Vietnamese Calligraphy for 忍

In Vietnamese culture, we also have calligraphy. Nonetheless, through the course of changes in language, we now use Romaji for alphabet. Along with that, Vietnamese calligraphy adapted itself to Romaji as well. As I was telling this story, I realized how Japanese and Vietnamese share similarities in culture and lifestyle. It felt like we were distant families, parting off somewhere in the past to grow in different ways, but still bear the likeness to recognise each other.

What I liked the most was how people put aside the worries of daily life to enjoy New Year together. The so called ‘Public face’ that observed in people here were opened up to create a joyful atmosphere of a Hanafuda game. I learnt then that people had very clear line between their public profile and personal profile, allowing almost no interference.

Family playing Hanafuda game in New Year

Family playing Hanafuda game in New Year

What is more, family gatherings like this are what I have rarely seen in New Zealand. Family bond is what I like about the East, which gives each person a sense of belonging, of relation to others, of being under the same roof.

It was a delightful New Year that warmed up my winter in another country. It was not only being welcomed, but also finding the intimate relationship between Japanese culture and my culture that really left in me many memorable experiences. Thanks, Japan.

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