Can this be possible? I think I have been more or less inebriated every New Year’s Eve since 1968. Last night however not a drop of alcohol passed my lips. Why?
Well you do not drink and drive on Okinawa. We go for a meal of fish and shell-fish and more fish. No beer. On to visit old friends – we drink tea.
I had been told that the action on New Year’s Eve was at the temple at Shuri Castle in Naha. We get there and the place is totally deserted. I realize that Shuri Castle and Shuri Temple are probably different places. Not to worry as it is a lovely night and we wander around the castle gazing out onto the sprawl of Naha. Finally we see some other people who speak English and guide us to a temple nearby.
There is Shinto ceremony. Small crowd of people lining up to ring the big bell by propelling a log at it. Very restrained, very dignified.
The donging starts at 11:45. Families wait for their turn to pull back and let slip the log of dong. There is no change or obvious interruption to mark the passing of the year at 12:00.
Our turn comes. It is a little intimidating as we are like out of our element. We do not want to mess up and offend people. The log priest is very gentle with us and we dong like the rest. Great way to bring in the New Year. We walk back to the car listening to donging from several temples in the city. No other noise, no fireworks.