It is slowly creeping up on me. It's almost my yakudoshi, aka bad luck year. Yakudoshi is an old Japanese belief that turning "33" will be a year filled with 'calamity and danger' (19 and 33 for girls, boys get their own crappy years, 25 and 42). Some people celebrate their yakudoshi when they turn 32, some (those in Japan) celebrate when they turn 33, and some celebrate again when they are 34 to mark the end of surviving the yakudoshi. By "celebrate" I mean, "pray" and go to the temples more often. And depending where you are, I also mean "eat" and "be happy".
So why is turning 33 such a bad thing? Well in the old days, before vitamins, internet, a sense of equality, and prescription drugs, people noticed that women around 33 weren't quite what they used to be. Turning "33" is a yakudoshi year for women because it symbolized the last year of appropriate childbearing. Grrrr--reat! A big yakudoshi is traditionally held for the woman turning 33 because it would protect any child born after (because those babies could possibly end up stupid, ugly, and unlucky). Another reason is that Japanese the word "33" itself when pronounced means basically, shit out of luck.
The discrepancy in what age to celebrate lies in two things. Japanese women in Japan tend to celebrate their yakudoshi when they are 33. Makes sense. However many people outside of Japan feel that when a Japanese person in Japan is 33 years old, she is really only 32 years old. This is because the counting birth years is different in Japan. Old style is that when you are born you are basically at "1" year, not "0". Hence the reasoning behind celebrating your yakudoshi at 32 in the West (by West, I mean Hawaii).
Another reason why some celebrate their yakudoshi at 32 instead of 33 is the belief that the year before the yakudoshi (the maeyaku year) also tends to be rather shitty. Actually the year after can also be bad too, so that year has a name of it's own, the "atoyaku". Neat, huh? So I'm thinking I'm pretty safe to prepare for two years (at least) of fairly poor luck. So what's a girl supposed to do in order to prepare for her yakudoshi?
If i was in Hawaii I'd go get myself purified by a Shinto priest (excellent folks to be purified by). Living in the East Bay, however has left me with some very few options. I don't even know if it's celebrated here...At most will definitely have to make my way over to the Buddha Gate Monastery and sit with the monks and Abbess there. I like to go there and not tell them anything about myself. I don't know what's wrong with me. Can't they let me sit there and meditate in peace? Actually everyone there is very nice and while it is Chinese Buddhist Monastery, I might find the guts to ask one of the nuns about a superstitious Japanese custom. I believe though, traditionally you would go to temple, surround yourself with your friends and be happy. Everyone in attendance kind of agrees (by being present) that they will carry some of your bad luck for you. Perhaps I can also wrangle up a motley crew of unsuspecting folks and make them drink with me all the while divvying up my potential ill fortune among them.
I think I'll wait until I turn 33 to "celebrate".
*Some information is from my childhood, some from "Japanese American history: an A-to-Z reference from 1868 to the present By Brian Niiya, Japanese American National Museum (Los Angeles, Calif.)"