chapter  2
19 Pages

The New Year

The Japanese will adopt and adapt just about anything. One late nineteenth century observer mentions earnest top-level discussions going on in his day on the suitability of April Fool's Day for incorporation into the Japanese year-round festival calendar; the decision finally went against the proposal-a rare instance of discrimination-but whatever official circles decreed, there must have been a certain

degree of private initiative, for nowadays mention of the phrase 'shiaatsu baka', fourth-month fool, draws more than a blank stare of incomprehension from many a face, and there are not a few households-some of them with a fine regard for tradition-where blocks of wood replace rice balls or sandwiches in lunch tins, or where salt goes into the coffee on April I st.