Japan: Merry Bonenkoi

Before they can celebrate the New Year, the Japanese must eradicate all memory of the old. Last week they were eradicating it with kamikaze-like abandon in a venerable tradition called bonenkai (forget the year past), and nowhere more suicidally than on Tokyo's gleaming Ginza.

There is quite a ritual to the occasion. First to come to the Ginza each after noon are the icemen, their saws slashing through great frozen blocks destined for dilution in tumblers of whisky. Next are the fragrant wagons of the noodle vendors, trailing plumes of steam in...

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