Jan 17, 2019

Start as you mean to go on: Looking ahead to life in Japan in 2019

Start as you mean to go on is an age old adage. The new trend on the blogosphere these past few years is to pick a guiding word for your year ahead. It is supposed to help you reach the goals you set; if you start to falter from your goals or new year resolutions, the guiding word reels you back in.

But no one word can really do that for me. I prefer to choose an idiom, saying or phrase. I am still mulling over potential quotes for 2019, but in the meantime for the month of January "start as you mean to go on" is the mantra I am moving to. In the spirit of this mood of starting off the New Year on the right foot, we followed the New Year traditions of Japan a little more earnestly this year. 

I (mainly) love New Years in Japan. I am particularly enthralled by the various religious customs. We have practiced hatsumode for the last few years. Initially we frequented Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine for hatsumode, but it was a blessing in disguise, pun intended!, that the crowds of 2017 drove us away. Now we are trying somewhere new each New Year. 

Start as you mean to go on: Looking ahead to life in Japan in 2019 photo

Every year I research the powers of the shrines and temples to pick one that suits our goals for that year. Last year (2018) there were a lot of freak accidents in my family, so I wanted our 2019 hatsumode to be at a shrine that was known for preventing and protecting from such type of random occurrences. My research indicated that Hodosan Shrine in Nagatoro was one such place and moreover it is a also renowned for its protection of hikers. (For the record, many people also believe that this shrine has miracle-giving powers).

Start as you mean to go on: Looking ahead to life in Japan in 2019 photo

One of my main goals for 2019 is to continue going on camping trips as often as possible. I find camping to be completely refreshing and therapeutic. And it has many advantages for kids. With this in mind, we started as we mean to go on: a camping trip to Nagatoro to visit Hodosan to pray for the year ahead. I didn't pray for this particular endeavour at the shrine, as the only bequest that is important enough for me to pray for is the protection, health and happiness of my family. But I am optimistic that taking a camping trip for the purpose of our first official homage of the year, has set us off on the right foot for 2019.

Start as you mean to go on: Looking ahead to life in Japan in 2019 photo

It was serendipity that Hodosan shrine is also famous place for hikers to worship. Because one of my own personal goals for 2019 is to take up hiking again. The main shrine is at the foot of Mt Hodo, but they have an extension at the peak of Mt Hodo. A fun fact about the shrine at the peak: its komainu (shrine guardians) are wolves, not lion dogs like you usually find. Hikers often pray at the main shrine and then hike up to the summit shrine to add kudos to their devotion.  And this is what we did on our trip, although in reverse! Hiking is a past time I enjoyed in my youth and occasionally since moving to Japan, but now I want to get serious about it. Thankfully I have a huge incentive in this regard, because in May I have a trip booked with other Irish expats to conquer Oze National Park. 

Japan is a great place for both hiking and camping. Thanks to the abundance of nature and mountains, there is some really great hiking trails around the country. And as camping is a popular and affordable way to travel in Japan, there hundreds if not thousands of excellent campsites. If you've never been camping in Japan, I highly recommend it, especially if you aren't great in the wild. The locations are often "wild", but there are campsites that offer as much comfort as a one star hotel. Some, particularly cabins and glamping sites, are even more luxurious than a three star hotel!

I feel that the camping goal for my family and my personal goal for hiking should be easy enough to fulfil here in Japan. For extra good measure I have already booked some other camping and hiking trips. I've even booked a camping trip for the first weekend of December. If intentions are anything to go by, I may actually complete my goals for 2019. If nothing else, at least I have started as I mean to go on!



Level 8 LocalGuide with Google. Blogging about life in Japan as an Irish WAHM to 4 kids on insaitama.com.


  • helloalissa

    on Jan 17

    I like your phrase. If it suits you better, why not choose a new word or phrase for each month? Mine is kansha (gratitude) for now - possibly changing each month or season.

  • TonetoEdo

    on Jan 18

    What an awesome way to start and stay on track! Recently, when I get apprehensive about this year, I hum the Shamen song, “I can move any Mountain”.

  • Saitama

    on Jan 24

    @helloalissa that is a really great idea. And I never thought of it, but once you said it, it was like "now why didn't I think of that!" Thank you so much for sharing. I think that really will work best for me. I like your word for this month. I am trying to work on gratitude too.

  • Saitama

    on Jan 24

    @TonetoEdo natsukashii~ !! I remember that song. Good theme song for getting into gear :-)