Sunday was an incredible day. A friend of mine invited me to celebrate the Japanese New Year with her and her Japanese friend’s family in DC. As a resident of northern Virginia, I don’t normally go into DC too much, and while I had heard about this event, I originally had no one to go with, so I jumped at the opportunity. And it was a blast. In fact, I would probably say that the only other time in my life that I have ever seen so many Japanese in one place before would have been the one time I was actually in Japan.
From the moment I got out of the car, I remembered distinctly seeing a few little girls, probably sisters, dragging their suitcases, passing me by. One of them had red lips, almost as red as the sun on a brand new Japanese flag. But when she started speaking to the others in Japanese, it made sense. When my friends and I went inside, I was shocked to see that just about everyone there was Japanese, too. I honestly didn’t know what to do with myself in that moment. I got to speak Japanese, meet Japanese people, eat Japanese food, do Japanese activities, and win Japanese toys. Everything was Japanese.
And there were lots of Japanese. It was a little bit crowded, wandering through a sea of people. You could tell the staff and volunteers apart by the jackets they wore which were as blue as the flag was red. And each jacket bore the same Japanese character, though one I didn’t understand. I stopped one of the volunteers to ask what it was, and they simply responded, “Matsuri,” and I immediately had a face palm moment. (Matsuri is the Japanese word for festival, and being at a new year’s celebration, I should’ve guessed as much.) During my time there, I made a little bit of calligraphy, as well as origami. Perhaps my favorite part of the day, however, was just being with the Japanese. I don’t know if that even makes sense, but, really. I just like to spend time with them, to get to know them, and to do it in their own language. It was a joyful time, and I’m sure that it is just a small taste of what is soon to come.