Happy New Year to you all. There were several times this last year when I came very close to ending this blog. I never seemed to have enough time to take good photos or to visit your blogs. Your comments through the year -- even when I couldn't visit your blog -- truly kept Yakumo's World going, and for that I am truly grateful. Thank you.
We see here a beautiful Japanese New Year's tradition. Like many homes, ours has what is called a kamidana (神棚) or a place to worship the Shinto gods that protect our health and house. The tall wooden feature in the back holds the white ofuda (御札), which has written on it the name of the household god (in this case the goddess Amaterasu 天照大神 enshrined at Yasaka Shrine in Kyoto where my wife and I married). In front is a small cup for offering fresh water, and a small plate for salt -- a sacred substance in Shinto.
Finally, in honor of the New Year, we have placed a special kind of stacked rice cake called a kagamimochi (鏡餅) with a small fruit on top. There are thousands of explanations for the meaning of this ritual, which is to say that we don't really know except that it has become a tradition. But the fruit, called a daidai (橙), does have a special meaning: if you do not pick the fruit it will stay on the tree for several years, turning green in summer and then orange/yellow in winter and back to green again in summer. This means that you will have many generations of descendants.