JapanCulture•NYC’s Kakizome, the First Writing of the New Year

To many of us the New Year means new beginnings, and the Japanese mark these beginnings with a series of “firsts.” Hatsumoude, the first visit to a shrine or temple; hatsuhinode, the first sunrise; and hatsuyume, the first dream, are a few observances of the new year that have deep meaning to the Japanese.

Another important first is called kakizome, which literally means “first writing.” Traditionally the Japanese perform kakizome using ink and wakamizu, the first water drawn from the well (another first!), to write an auspicious word or phrase that embodies their wishes or resolutions for the New Year.

Since I didn’t visit a shrine or temple at midnight to ring in the New Year, and I was fast asleep at sunrise on New Year’s Day, and I never remember my dreams, I decided I should do kakizome, especially since I’m a writer.

On January 2, the typical day set aside for kakizome, I wrote my first kanji of 2013:

kakizome, New Year, Oshogatsu, Japanese culture, NYC, 2013, first writing, kanji, determination

The kanji is “ketsui,” which means “determination.” After careful consideration I chose this word because it exemplifies how I feel about making JapanCultureNYC the number one English-language website dedicated to reporting about Japanese culture in New York City.

What kanji represents your wishes and resolutions for 2013?

As with many Japanese words, there are several different ways to write “determination,” so I must thank my friend Yumi Tanaka of the New York Peace Film Festival for helping me choose the appropriate kanji.