I’m sat on the opposite side of the glass this morning, as the coffee shop’s closed for New Year’s Day. Japan closes down for the first 3 days of January; pretty much the only time of year you’ll witness such a universal shut down of business.

Last night was busy! Taiga wanted to stay up to see the fireworks here in Minatomirai at midnight, and come 5am I was headed down to Tokyo bay to greet the first sunrise of the year with the sun worshippers.

Apart from a few dedicated runners, we are usually the only people there. But this morning the bay was packed with folks of all ages, flocking here to celebrate the new year.

I arrived at 6:00 and my iPhone predicted sunrise for 06:51. The crowd grew in size throughout the hour, the atmosphere was electric and the anticipation and sense of hope in the air was tangible.

Joggers bounced around revellers still dressed in their evening clothes of mini skirts and skin tight ripped jeans. Kids accompanied parents in padded bench coats and woolly hats.

Our group of singers was the usual size to start with, but had doubled come the second repeat of the Insen scale. By the time we did the ‘Radio Taiso’ exercise routine the park was flooded with people – all of us waving our arms and legs in unison following the instructions from the tinny transistor radio.

Following this I was taken aback by the generosity of spirit and warm welcome that followed. An array of picnicware, food and drinks began to sprout from seemingly bottomless Mary Poppins style backpacks!

The sun worshippers were throwing a pop-up feast of traditional snacks and delights from Plum Wine and Sake to Green Tea and Daikon (Japanese radish) and Mochi (rice cakes).

Once everyone had raised a toast to the new year ???? “Kan pai!” song sheets were distributed and the group began singing a traditional Japanese song. One of the ladies conducted the others with passion, her right arm rising and falling with the landscape of the piece. It resonated beautifully across the bay and created something other-worldly.

The performance attracted the interest of others and provoked a round of applause, followed by requests for me to reciprocate. I’d brought my guitar with me, as I had a feeling today was going to be an extended, special session with the sun worshippers and in recent days they’d been asking me about what I do. I was keen to share “Ingrid’s Stare” the title track from the album I’ll release in 2024. It felt important to make this the first song I play this year. One of my new friends kindly took a little video on her phone which I’ll share with you.

By about 8am I noticed the crowds had significantly thinned out and I was struck by how peacefully the whole event had passed. I spotted a few people who were wobbling about, having clearly enjoyed a few drinks, but there was no tone of violence or even mildly threatening behaviour. Young couples leant into one another, elderly ones on park benches, all staring out to sea, children ran circles around their parents, a dedicated jogger glanced sideways at the sunrise before checking his smart watch, a photographer with shoulder height tripod paused to change the lens on his camera. A rich tapestry of people of all ages joined together to enjoy this first sunrise of the year and wish one another a Happy New Year.

Later today I’ll visit a shrine to pray for the year ahead. I’ll pray for peace and an end to violence. I’ll pray for peace within my own mind so I can serve my loved ones in the best possible way.

I’ll pray for everyone – wishing you the very best for a healthy and prosperous year ahead and thank you for your continued support.

Love Dan x