Today Satoshi went back to work. (Actually, he had to work on the 2nd of January! This year, he didn't really have much time off.
Most of his company was off from December 30 until January 4. But, on December 29, a flight got cancelled (it was quite a mess), so he went into work for half-a-day on the 30th. He was off on the 31st and 1st. Then he had his shift on the 2nd. Was off on the 3rd and went back to work today...)
One thing you realize when living in Japan is that when there is a big holiday like New Years, the whole place shuts down, in this case, for about a week. This can be a bit frustrating.
Recently though, a lot of stores have changed their schedules and have started opening up within 2 or 3 days of the New Year. Many large department stores have sales called "bargain". Some things are truly a bargain but you have to deal with wall-to-wall people trying to get this "bargain" of an item...for me, most of these items aren't really that cheap, so I try to stay as far away as possible.
Many stores have "fukubukuro" or lucky bags, what's in them can sometimes be like "grab bags". This can be both exciting and disappointing. For example, some stores put a standard size and color of clothing items into these bags: the downside is that if you aren't that size, or the color you receive isn't to your liking, you can't exchange it.
(I've never bought one, so maybe you can exchange it for your size?? My understanding was that you couldn't.) Some department stores have started to pre-order their fukubukuros--you can pre-order the size and color of the items that will be in the bag. The con: you already know what's in them.
On the 3rd, we were able to spend time with Satoshi's parents and his brother's family. His brother's children are almost in high school. It was a nice gathering and we spent most of the day...EATING!!
We received these rolled sponge cakes we received from Satoshi's brother's family. It is made by Le Brun, a part of Ogawa Coffee. The brown rolled cake was a sponge cake with tea in it. In the center of the cake was a really soft mochi (rice cake) the cream used to roll the cake had adzuki (red) bean in it. It was really good. The green cake was a sponge cake with matcha (green tea) in it. It had the same adzuki cream. Both were very light and not so sweet.
We received these senbei or arare or okaki(as it is called in Kansai)(rice crackers) from Satoshi's parents. It is made by Shunjuan.
It is an assortment called Sagananauta (seven songs/poems of Saga). Each one represents either a season or a quality of Sagano (an area in Kyoto). From the top: the square one with nori (seaweed) on it is called "norimaki" or wrapped in nori. It represents the beautiful nights. The one next to it, is in the shape of a leaf, it represents the leaves that fall during autumn in Sagano.
The pink one is in the shape of the cherry blossom and represents spring. To the left of it, the flower shaped one next to it has aonori or (green seaweed) on it and represent summer in Sagano. The square one under that is a golden sesame cracker represents the autumn rains. The round one with a black daizu (soy bean) in it represents the clouds that cover the moon. And the round one with a white sugary glaze on it represents winter as if snow has just fallen.