Amami Superman Photography

A Place to Share My Photos

Jan 5, 2010

New Year's Day 2010

Posted by Amami Superman

Every year, on the 1st of January, my wife's mother's family all get together to celebrate the New Year. The celebration is held every year at my wife's uncle's house near Tebiro Beach in Tatsugo.

This year is a special year because my wife's grandmother turns 97. So why is 97 a special age? Because it's the year of the tiger this year and that's the year she was born in. Now, some of you maybe thinking, "The Chinese calendar only has a 12 year cycle so shouldn't the special year have been 96?" This is very true and let me get around to that. I was thinking the same thing and I was trying to figure out if she was 96 now and turned 97 this year or if she was 95 now and turned 96 this year. It turns out that she is only 95 at the moment and turns 96 this year. So why did they say they were celebrating her 97th birthday? They have a thing here in Japan called "kazoedoshi".

What is "kazoedoshi"? Kazoedoshi is a traditional way of counting someone's age. For the most part, no one in Japan uses this method of counting age besides the elderly and in some special cases such as traditional ceremonies. The whole idea behind this method is a person's age starts at conception. You would also call a baby 1 (not 1 year old mind you), even though they are only weeks old. As soon as the New Year rolls around, that baby at the age of 1 turns 2 at the beginning of the New Year. So you could actually say, if a baby was born on the 31st of December, they would be 1 and on the next day (New Year's Day), they would turn 2 (even though they are only 2 days old). So you can see that using this traditional method of counting age would make a difference of 1 to 2 years if compared to the western age counting system we use. I could not get my head around this talking to my mother-in-law and I finally just did a wikipedia search and found this if your interested. It explained pretty well I think.

Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 18mm, 1/150 sec, f/8.0, ISO 100 -- EXIF
Group Photo
(The Izumi Clan)

There are a handful of my wife's cousins that couldn't make it back home this New Years. Most likely the ones that didn't come back for New Years will be back to visit sometime in the summer.

Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 18mm, 1/200 sec, f/7.1, ISO 100 -- EXIF
Otoshidama From Great Grandma

There's a custom here in Japan where you give children money during New Years. This money is called "otoshidama". The money is usually put into small decorated envelopes by the adults and handed to all the children in the family. The amount of money usually depends on how old the children are, but for the most part, we give them all the same amount (1,000 yen). Our daughter Jade racked up over 20,000 yen this year (most of which is going into the bank).

Nikon D60, Nikkor 55-200mm f/4.0-5.6 @ 200mm, 1/400 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200 -- EXIF
Harue Izumi

Great Grandma has been around the block. It wasn't until recently that she has started to lose her memory. She couldn't remember most of the family visiting her this day. She's pretty healthy and goes to daycare a few times a week so other than her memory, she still gets around.

She used to come stay with us when my wife and I were first married. She would tell me stories about World War II when the Americans occupied Amami. She would talk about what it was like when there were no cars on the island and a trip to the next village would take 2 days. When I think about it, I'm amazed at how much change she has experience over the decades. On one hand, I think I would like to live to be that old. On the other hand, I don't know if I'b be comfortable with someone changing my diaper...

Nikon D60, Nikkor 55-200mm f/4.0-5.6 @ 55mm, 1/400 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200 -- EXIF
Great Grandma Gets Otoshidama Too!

She didn't actually get otoshidama. Instead, the money given to her in the envelopes is for he 97th birthday celebration.

Nikon D60, Nikkor 55-200mm f/4.0-5.6 @ 86mm, 1/400 sec, f/5.0, ISO 200 -- EXIF
Jade on the Piano

Jade played a few songs on the piano for Great Grandma to hear. Great Grandma is Catholic and she enjoyed hearing Jade play Silent Night.

Nikon D60, Nikkor 55-200mm f/4.0-5.6 @ 65mm, 1/500 sec, f/5.6, ISO 100 -- EXIF

Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 18mm, 1/400 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200 -- EXIF

Nikon D60, Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 18mm, 1/200 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200 -- EXIF
Monkeys in the Trees

As the older family members sat around talking, the younger ones were out and about getting into mischief.

Those were some of the photos I took on New Year's Day. It actually took me longer to figure out the whole "kazoedoshi" thing than it did to edit the photos and write this post. I had it stuck in my head that they were all wrong but I wanted to make sure so I tried to ask my mother-in-law about it. She couldn't explain it that well why they counted that way and the more I talked to her about it, the more it sounded like they made a mistake until I looked it up on the interwebs. Now I know.


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Keep the language clean please. I have family that see this. Tell us what part of the world you're in.