I have a little extra time during the holidays so I thought I would show a few Japanese New Year's traditions and give some context for those of you who are interested.
It is a tradition to do the biggest household cleaning of the year (大掃除) at New Year's. This year I did the best I could and was rather proud of myself for all the little forgotten areas and unseen places I had reached. But just as my pride had reached its zenith a meal I was cooking boiled over and I noticed that underneath where the gas range sits it was quite dirty from many other meals that fell, burned, boiled over, slipped off the pan and so on. So there is always more to do and it is hard to pretend that you have not seen the dirty places and to return to the time when you never noticed them. They jump out at you every time you pass by. Perhaps this is why there is the tradition of New Year's cleaning.
I took this photo in the Gion district of downtown Kyoto, famous as the geisha district and where there are many fine restaurants like this one. The little slats of curved bamboo coming half-way up the wall are a traditional feature of old Kyoto homes, and is called an inuyarai (犬矢来) or "dog fence." The idea is to keep dogs (as well as drunk folks coming home from a long night out) from using the wall as a bathroom. But as with so many things in traditional Japanese architecture, they have a beauty independent of their function.