After a friendly complaint about the paltry kadomatsu (literally, gate pine) on yesterdays’ post, I took my camera with me today. Pairs of kadomatsu, flanking the entrance to homes or businesses, have been ensuring a fresh start to the New Year with their auspicious symbolism for over 400 years. Matsu (pine) is the most important component, signifying longevity as the pine tree is long-lived. Take (bamboo) represents strength and prosperity, as it grows straight and strong. Ume (plum blossom) is sometimes added, symbolizing endurance, hope and constancy, as it is the first flower to bloom after winter. Chrysanthemum (signifying perfection, wealth and truth) and other flowers are sometimes added too. The arrangement is bound in rice straw and sometimes zig-zag heisoku (Shinto sacred papers) are tied on too. Officially, there should be 3 pieces of bamboo, cut on an angle to allow the spirits to enter, and all facing different directions to ward off evil spirits, but as you can see, florists take quite a bit of artistic license. I am not sure what the oranges signify (perhaps a sweet year?), but please let me know if you do.