The purpose of having them stay awake was to participant in a Japanese New Year tradition.
At midnight on December 31, Buddhist temples all over Japan ring their bells a total of 108 times (除夜の鐘 joyanokane to symbolize the 108 human sins in Buddhist belief, and to get rid of the 108 worldly desires regarding sense and feeling in every Japanese citizen. Japanese believe that the ringing of bells can rid off their sins during the previous year. New Years Eve is the only night of the year that the trains run 24 hours (they usually stop around midnight). We decided to go to the shrine close to our church in Senzokuike, 2 train stops from our house. We bundled up since it was frigid and we were on our way.
We had to wait in in line for our turn, but the kids got to toss in their coin and ring a bell. (More pictures/info to come from Kurt's camera)
Our friends the Clarks live less than a block from this particular shrine, so we decided to wish them a Happy New Year while Kurt took some more pictures. They welcomed us in with rice crispy treats and hot cocoa. They probably thought we were crazy bringing our kids ages 7 months, 4, and 6 over at 12:30am, but we had a fun visit. lol The kids were way hyper jumping off the walls. I think we ended up staying there past 1am and Richard offered to drive us home. The kids were still wide awake, but did crash pretty fast once there heads hit their pillows.