Why I Began to Dislike the American New Year Celebration

New York, N.Y. This year, for the first time in fifty years, I stayed in New York for New Year’s Eve. I want to explain to my readers why I dislike the American New Year’s.

In 1961, when I first came to America, it was a shiny, beautiful land of hope and opportunity. I remember for the first time I ate something called “yogurt” in a drug store. Then, I ate ate a giant pink grapefruit which does not exist in Japan. We ate it with a spoon!

I was studying in in Massachusetts. I remember lying down in a room, pulling brightly colored kleenexes out of a box, one after another. I was delighted with their many colors! At that time tissues in Japan were gray and dull.

The night before the New Year’s Eve, my Boston University friends were going to drive to New York City. They invited me to join. I could not sleep at all! My first American New Year – and in New York! It was an old car and we stopped frequently before arriving in the city.

When we arrived in New York it was pitch dark. We headed downtown for the party. The apartment was dark, smoke-filled. Everyone was drinking and dancing, shaking their hips. Doing the twist. Tobacco and marijuana smoke hung heavy in the air.

The annual countdown began and they turned off the lights until zero, then the lights came back up and everyone blew horns and shouted “Happy New Year!” Then, everyone hugged and kissed.

The lights soon went off again and it became Anything Goes. It was the era of free sex. Everyone seemed on the floor or in corner. Boys and girls, boy and boys, even girls and girls. Much sex. Maybe this was the beginning of AIDS?

It was too much for me and I fled. I couldn’t stand it anymore and ran outside. The street was still pitch black and now snow was falling. I ran uptown until I thought I would pass out, crying. My tears were cold on my cheek.

I was so upset, I thought to myself, I don’t care if I die here. But then I realized how angry my mother and father would be. Thanks to thinking of my parents, I continued on – and survived.

I ran one direction for a long time until I came to a large street – 57th Street? The sun was finally rising over the East River and I faced the sun — the first sun of the New Year. I faced the sun, clapped my hands and bowed, realizing how truly Japanese I was.

I cried and cried, remembering New Year’s in Japan. I had never been so homesick in my life. Even 57 years later, when I think about this moment I am in tears again. In America, you just party. Drinking, smoking and having sex.

Since then, I have spent every New Year back in Japan where it is so spiritual. There is no sense of spirituality in the world like New Year’s in Japan. Everything we do there, each moment Japanese adhere to the beautiful and spiritual passing of the year.

Originally published as Vol. 12 in Weekly Biz, January 13, 2018; translated by Jim Luce.

See: Dr. Kazuko Hillyer Tatsumura Column in Japan’s Weekly Biz

(ニューヨークビズ!)

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About Dr. Kazuko Hillyer Tatsumura

View all posts by Dr. Kazuko Hillyer Tatsumura
Dr. Kazuko Hillyer Tatsumura
Dr. Kazuko was born into a distinguished old family in Kyoto, Japan, and graduated from Toho conservatory of Music in Tokyo. In 1961 she came to U.S. as a pianist sponsored by the Boston Symphony. She studied at Boston University, New York University, and received her Ph.D. in Oriental Medicine from New York State University and the International Academy of Education in Tokyo. From 1968 to 1992, she promoted cultural exchanges from East to West and vice versa, and became a world famous impresario, producing 2,000 events each year all over the world encompassing over 140 countries. In this connection, in 1972, she went to Dharamsala to find the lost Tibetan Folk Opera, and met His Holiness the Dalai Lama, with whom she remains a lifelong friend. In 1973 and 1991 she arranged and funded personally the tours of the Folk Opera of Tibet to the West. She has received many medals and honors from different countries. Her tireless life long work in Philanthropic field is vast and well known ranging from Save the Beacon Theater, Save the Boat People, Help the Homeless, natural disasters of earthquakes and tsunamis, as well as relief to AIDS and HIV positive children in Africa. She has been a dedicated Board Member to both the J. Luce Foundation and Orphans International for years. Her work focuses on the Tibetan people; Tibetan children remain especially strong in her heart. She raised fund for the new academic building for Manjushree Orphanage in Tawang, India and supported many aspects of the school. See HuffPo pieces entitled Japanese Holistic Healer in NYC to Build School for Tibetan Orphans in India, A Japanese Dinner with Raul Castro’s Daughter, and NYC Gala in Support of Tibetan Orphans Set for January.

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