Building up to the celebration of the new year, the biggest celebration in the Japanese year, most important Holiday. And just as it should be in an important Japanese activity, the center of it is emptiness, nothing happens. It is still and quiet.
“What did you do this New Years?”... “Nothing,” is still the best answer.
The center of Tokyo is the royal palace, which is basically an empty space, a large green hole in Tokyo. The city is built in a spiral around it. And no one looks inside. Ask any American what color is Obama's house, they know, what does it look like, they know. Ask any Japanese what color is the emperor's house, they not only don't know, but have never thought to think about it. It is an empty space.
Of course times change. When I first arrived the whole country closed down for days. If you didn't have food or beer, then you wouldn't. Now the local grocery store is open, and the department stores all have special promotions and sales New Years day.