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january ~ ichigatsu

January 1 (national holiday)
New Year (shogatsu or oshogatsu)

This is the most important holiday in Japan. While only January 1 is designated as a national holiday, many businesses remain closed through January 3. Families typically gather to spend the days together.

The preceding days are quite busy, particularly the day before, known as Ōmisoka.

Ōmisoka, New Year's Eve, is the second-most important day in Japanese tradition because it is the final day of the old year and the eve of New Year's Day, which is the most important day of the year.

Around 11:00 pm on Ōmisoka at home, people often gather for one last time in the old year to have a bowl of toshikoshi-soba or toshikoshi-udon together, symbolizing longevity—a tradition based on people's association of eating the long noodles with “crossing over from one year to the next,” which is the meaning of toshi-koshi. While the noodles are often eaten plain, or with chopped scallions, in some localities people top them with tempura. Traditionally, families make Osechi for New Year Day because cooking during the first 3 days of the new year is considered unlucky. Nowadays, most families buy Osechi or cook ordinary dishes.

Toshikoshi-soba ~ toshikoshi-udon



Various kinds of special dishes are served during shogatsu. They include osechi ryori, otoso (sweetened rice wine) and ozoni (a soup with mochi).

Osechi food is packed in colorful lacquer boxes called jūbako, which resemble bentō boxes. Like bentō boxes, jūbako are often kept stacked before and after use. Each dish and ingredient in osechi has a meaning, such as good health, fertility, good harvest, happiness, long life, and so on.


Toso, or o-toso, is spiced medicinal sake traditionally drunk during New Year celebrations in Japan.


Zōni, often with the honorific "o-" as o-zōni, is a Japanese soup containing mochi rice cakes. The dish is strongly associated with the Japanese New Year and its tradition of osechi ceremonial foods. Zōni is considered the most auspicious of the dishes eaten on New Year's Day. The preparation of zōni varies both by household and region.


At midnight, many visit a shrine or temple for Hatsumōde.

Ema are small wooden plaques on which Shinto worshippers write their prayers or wishes.


Another regular feature of Ōmisoka starts at 7:30 pm when public broadcaster NHK airs Kōhaku Uta Gassen ("Red vs. White singing contest"), one of the country's most-watched television programs. Popular J-pop singers/groups and enka singers split into two teams, women in the red team and men in the white, which then alternate while competing for the audience's heart throughout the evening. At around 11:30 pm, the final singer (or group) sings, and the audience and a panel of judges are asked to cast their votes to decide which team sang better. The winning team gets a trophy and "the winners' flag." The program ends at about 11:45 pm. Programming then switches to coverage of midnight celebrations around the country.

Throughout Japan, Shinto shrines prepare amazake (a traditional sweet, low- or non-alcohol [depending on recipes] Japanese drink made from fermented rice) to pass out to crowds that gather as midnight approaches. At midnight on December 31, Buddhist temples all over Japan ring their bells a total of 108 times (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. A major attraction is The Watched Night bell, in Tokyo. Japanese believe that the ringing of bells can rid off their sins during the previous year. After they are done ringing the bells, they celebrate and feast on soba noodles.

Greetings ~ When seeing someone for the last time before the new year, it is conventionally to say "yoi o-toshi wo" ("Have a good New Year"); once the new year has started and one sees someone again for the first time, one instead says a greeting such as "akemashite o-medetō" ("Happiness on the opening [of a new year]").

Homes and entrance gates are decorated with ornaments made of pine, bamboo and plum trees, and clothes and houses are cleaned.

A kadomatsu (literally "gate pine") is a traditional Japanese decoration of the New Year placed in pairs in front of homes to welcome ancestral spirits or kami of the harvest.


January 1 is a very auspicious day, best started by viewing the new year's first sunrise (hatsu-hinode), and traditionally believed to be representative for the whole year that has just commenced. Therefore, the day is supposed be full of joy and free of stress and anger, while everything should be clean and no work should be done.

There are also a few games traditionally played on New Year, however, their popularity has decreased in recent times. Hanetsuki (Japanese badminton), takoage (kite flying), fukuwarai (whereby a blindfolded person places paper parts of a face, such as eyes, eyebrows, a nose and a mouth, on a paper face), and karuta (a card game) are some of them.

Hanetsuki is a Japanese traditional game, similar to badminton without a net, played with a rectangular wooden paddle called a hagoita and a brightly coloured shuttlecock called hane.


Karuta (from Portuguese carta ["card"]) is a Japanese card game.


A very popular custom is the sending of New Year's cards, which are specially marked to be delivered on January 1. It is not uncommon for one person to send out several dozens of cards to friends, relatives and co-workers.

On New Year's Day, Japanese people have a custom of giving money to children. This is known as otoshidama. It is handed out in small decorated envelopes called 'pochibukuro'.



Second Monday of January (national holiday)
Coming of Age (seijin no hi):
The coming of age of 20 year old men and women is celebrated on this national holiday.

The Coming of Age festival is celebrated on the second Monday of January (it used to be celebrated always on January 15 until the year 1999). Its Japanese name is Seijin no hi. All young people who turn twenty years old in that year are celebrated on Seijin no hi. Twenty is the age considered as the beginning of adulthood. It is also the minimum legal age for voting, drinking, and smoking.

Coming of Age Day (Seijin no Hi) is a Japanese holiday held annually on the second Monday of January. It is held in order to congratulate and encourage all those who have reached the age of majority (20 years old [hatachi]) over the past year, and to help them realize that they have become adults. Festivities include coming of age ceremonies (seijin-shiki) held at local and prefectural offices, as well as after-parties amongst family and friends.

Celebrations are held nationwide in every town with most of the people turning 20 participating in formal dresses.

Many women celebrate this day by wearing furisode, a style of kimono with long sleeves that hang down, and zōri sandals. Since most are unable to put on a kimono by themselves due to the intricacies involved, many choose to visit a beauty salon to dress and to set their hair. A full set of formal clothing is expensive, so it is usually either borrowed from a relative or rented rather than bought especially for the occasion. Men sometimes also wear traditional dress (e.g. dark kimono with hakama), but nowadays many men wear formal Western clothes such as a suit and tie more often than the traditional hakama. After the ceremony, the young adults often celebrate in groups by going to parties or going out drinking.

A furisode (lit. swinging sleeves) is a style of kimono distinguishable by its long sleeves, which range in length from 85 centimeters for a kofurisode to 114 centimeters for an ōfurisode.

Furisode ~ Hakama

Drinking Manners




february ~ nigatsu



~LVE~ HTEL~



march ~ sangatsu

~ HINA MATSURI ~ JAPANESE GIRL'S DAY ~


~ MANEKI NEKO ~



~ KOKESHI DOLL ~


~ DARUMA DOLL ~





~ SAKURA ~ CHERRY BLOSSOM ~



may ~ gogatsu

May 5 (national holiday)
Children's Day (kodomo no hi):
Also called boy's festival.

The Boy's Festival (Tango no Sekku) is celebrated on this day. Families pray for the health and future success of their sons by hanging up carp streamers and displaying samurai dolls, both symbolizing strength, power and success in life.

Until recently, Tango no Sekku was known as Boys' Day (also known as Feast of Banners) while Girls' Day (Hinamatsuri) was celebrated on March 3. In 1948, the government decreed this day to be a national holiday to celebrate the happiness of all children and to express gratitude toward mothers. It was renamed Kodomo no Hi.

Kodomo no Hi is best symbolized by the strings of koi carp you will see hanging from house windows, outside shops, and in the countryside, strung out over rivers.
Before this day, families raise the carp-shaped koinobori flags (carp because of the Chinese legend that a carp that swims upstream against the flow of the river current becomes a dragon, and the way the flags blow in the wind looks like they are swimming), one for each boy (or child).

Samurai warrior figurines (Kintarō doll) and samurai kabuto helmets are also displayed in homes to inspire strength and bravery.


Kintarō is the childhood name of Sakata no Kintoki who was a hero in the Heian period, having been famous for his strength when he was a child. It is said that Kintarō rode a bear, instead of a horse, and played with animals in the mountains when he was a young boy.


Kashiwamochi is a customary food that is eaten on Boys' Day. Mochi rice cakes wrapped in kashiwa (oak) leaves—kashiwa-mochi (just like regular mochi, but is also filled with red beans jam) and chimaki (a kind of "sweet rice paste", wrapped in an iris or bamboo leaf)—are traditionally served on this day.


Around the country there are many events for children and families. Children take center stage in traditional Japanese plays. Thousands of children compete in the "Kids' Olympics" held at the National Kasumigaoka Stadium in Tokyo. Children also use the day to thank and show respect for the teachers, parents, and relatives who care for them.

Koinobori Song

Mochitsuki
Mochi is a Japanese rice cake made of rice pounded into paste and molded into shapes.

Mochitsuki is the traditional mochi-pounding ceremony in Japan. First, polished glutinous rice is soaked overnight and cooked. Next, the cooked rice is pounded with wooden mallets (kine) in a traditional mortar (usu). Two people will alternate the work, one pounding and the other turning and wetting the mochi. They must keep a steady rhythm or they may accidentally injure one another with the heavy kine. Finally, the sticky mass is then formed into various shapes (usually a sphere or cube).



~Teru teru bozu~~

Teru teru bōzu (literally "shine shine monk") is a little traditional handmade doll made of white paper or cloth that Japanese farmers began hanging outside of their window by a string. In shape and construction they are essentially identical to ghost dolls, such as those made at Halloween. This amulet is supposed to have magical powers to bring good weather and to stop or prevent a rainy day. "Teru" is a Japanese verb which describes sunshine, and a "bōzu" is a Buddhist monk (compare the word bonze), or in modern slang, "bald-headed"; it is also a term of endearment for addressing little boys.



verbiage courtesy japan-guide.com, wikipedia. pics flickr.
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july ~ shichigatsu


Tanabata (七夕, tanabata, meaning "Evening of the seventh") is a Japanese tradition wherein people write their wishes on tanzaku papers (colorful, small strips of papers) sometimes in the form of poetry, and hang them on bamboo branches sometimes with other decorations. The bamboo and decorations are often set afloat on a river or burned after the festival, around midnight or on the next day. This resembles the custom of floating paper ships and candles on rivers during Obon. Many areas in Japan have their own Tanabata customs, which are mostly related to local Obon traditions. There is also a traditional Tanabata song:

Sasa no ha sara-sara (笹の葉 さらさら)
Nokiba ni yureru (軒端にゆれる)
Ohoshi-sama kira-kira (お星様 キラキラ)
Kingin sunago (金銀砂子)

Translation:

The bamboo leaves rustle,
shaking away in the eaves.
The stars twinkle;
Gold and silver grains of sand.

Large-scale Tanabata festivals are held in many places in Japan, mainly along shopping malls and streets, which are decorated with large, colorful streamers. Streamers are said to symbolize the weaving of threads. Other tanabata decorations are toami (casting net), which means good luck for fishing and farming and kinchaku (hand bag), which means wealth. Although Tanabata festivals vary by region, most festivals involve Tanabata decoration competitions. Other events may include parades and Miss Tanabata contests. Like other Japanese matsuri, many outdoor stalls sell food, provide carnival games, etc., and add to the festive atmosphere.


Tanabata originated more than 2,000 years ago with an old Chinese tale called Kikkoden. Once there was a weaver princess named Orihime and a cow herder prince named Hikoboshi living in space. After they got together, they were playing all the time and forgot about their jobs. The king was angry at them and separated them on opposite sides of the Amanogawa River (Milky Way). The king allowed them to meet only once a year on the seventh day of the seventh month in the lunar calendar. Tanabata literally means the night of the seventh, and it's also known as the star festival. It's believed that Orihime and Hikoboshi can't see each other if the day is rainy, so people pray for good weather and also make wishes for themselves.


Depending on regions, Tanabata is celebrated on July 7th or August 7th (which is around the seventh day of the seventh month in the lunar calendar) in Japan. Many cities and towns hold Tanabata festivals and set Tanabata displays along the main streets. It's fun to walk through the long streamers on the street. In some regions, people light lanterns and float them on the river, or float bamboo leaves on the river.



august ~ hachigatsu

bon festival An important Japanese tradition to honor ancestors. Most Japanese people take summer vacation during this time.



bon odori Bon Odori (盆踊り, meaning simply Bon dance) is an event held during Obon. It is celebrated as a reminder of the gratefulness one should feel toward one's ancestors.





bonsai Bonsai is the art of aesthetic miniaturization of trees, or of developing woody or semi-woody plants shaped as trees, by growing them in containers. Cultivation includes techniques for shaping, watering, and repotting in various styles of containers.




butsudan (this is my obachans)


garden Garden design has been an important Japanese art for many centuries. Traditional Japanese landscape gardens can be broadly categorized into three types, Tsukiyama Gardens (hill gardens), Karesansui Gardens (dry gardens) and Chaniwa Gardens (tea gardens).


ikebana Ikebana (生花, "arranged flower") is the Japanese art of flower arrangement, also known as kadō (華道, the "way of flowers").



kakejiku A kakemono (掛物, "hanging"), more commonly referred to as a kakejiku (掛軸, "hung scroll"), is a Japanese scroll painting or calligraphy mounted usually with silk fabric edges on a flexible backing, so that it can be rolled for storage.



shamisen The shamisen or samisen (Japanese: 三味線, literally "three flavor strings"), also called sangen (literally "three strings") is a three-stringed musical instrument played with a plectrum called a bachi.


shoji In traditional Japanese architecture, a shōji (障子) is a door, window or room divider consisting of translucent paper over a frame of wood which holds together a sort of grid of wood or bamboo. While washi is the traditional paper, shōji may be made of paper made by modern manufacturing processes; plastic is also in use.


taiko Taiko (太鼓) means "drum" in Japanese (etymologically "great" or "wide drum"). Outside Japan, the word is often used to refer to any of the various Japanese drums (和太鼓, 'wa-daiko', "Japanese drum", in Japanese) and to the relatively recent art-form of ensemble taiko drumming (sometimes called more specifically, "kumi-daiko" (組太鼓)).

Try to imagine the power of 20 giant hardwood drums being struck at the exact same time... you can feel it deep down in your gut! You could easily march into battle to the sound of these things.


tatami Tatami (畳) (originally meaning "folded and piled") mats are a traditional type of Japanese flooring. Traditionally made of rice straw to form the core (though nowadays sometimes the core is composed of compressed wood chip boards or styrofoam), with a covering of woven soft rush straw, tatami are made in uniform sizes. Standard tatami are rectangular, and are exactly twice as long as they are wide. Usually, on the long sides, they have edging (heri) of brocade or plain cloth, although some tatami have no edging.


futon Futon (布団) is a Japanese term generally referring to the traditional style of Japanese bedding consisting of padded mattresses and quilts pliable enough to be folded and stored away during the day, allowing the room to serve for purposes other than as a bedroom. The bedding set referred to as futon in Japan fundamentally consists of a shikibuton (bottom mattress) and a kakebuton (thick quilted bedcover).

tea ceremony What is commonly known in English as the Japanese tea ceremony is called sadō or chadō (茶道, "the way of tea"), or chanoyu (茶の湯, literally "hot water for tea") in Japanese. It is simply a choreographic ritual of preparing and serving green tea, called Macha, together with some traditional Japanese sweets to balance with the bitter taste of the tea. Preparing tea means pouring all one's attention into the predefined movements. The whole process is not about drinking tea, but is about aesthetics, preparing a bowl of tea from one's heart.

Tea gatherings are known as chakai (literally "tea meeting") or chaji (literally "tea function"). Usually the term chakai is used to refer to a relatively simple course of hospitality that includes the service of confections, usucha (thin tea), and perhaps tenshin (a light snack), while chaji refers to a more formal gathering usually including a full-course meal called kaiseki (懐石) or more specifically cha-kaiseki (茶懐石), followed by confections, koicha (thick tea), and usucha (thin tea). A chaji may last for more than four hours.




tea philosophy

Wa, Kei, Sei, Jaku - “harmony, respect, purity, tranquility.”

Wa” stands for harmony. As there is harmony in nature, the Teishu will try to bring this quality into the tea room and the garden around the tea house. The utensils used during the tea ceremony are in harmony with each other, so the theme is the same as well as the colors. The tea garden should be an extension of the natural flora surrounding it.

Kei” stands for respect. The guests must respect all things, all matters without involving their status or position in life. They must crawl trough a small entrance called Nijiriguchi to get into the room. In the room they will all kneel down and bow to the hanging scroll, they will sit next to each other in Seiza position on the Tatami. Respect is also shown by carefully handling and observing the tea bowl and other objects during Haiken.

Sei” stands for purity. Crawling into the tea room, one is to leave behind all thoughts and worries of daily life. The tea room or Chashitsu is a different world where one can re-vitalize, slow down, and enjoy the presence of friends. The gesture of purity is enhanced by the ritual cleaning of the Chawan, Natsume, Chashaku, and Kensui lit by the host. The real grand master of tea does not perform the Japanese tea ceremony from memory but from a pure heart.

Jaku” stands for tranquility. Only after the first three concepts (harmony, respect, and purity) are discovered, experienced and embraced, can people finally embody tranquility.

Wabi - “Appreciating the beauty of things that are simple and natural,” the old meaning is “the loneliness of living in nature, remote from society.”

The tea room’s interior will seem imperfect and rustic. The wall might be unpainted and visible wooden pillars and beams are untreated, just as it would look like in nature.

Contrary to western houses, the tea house is not a small museum with lots of collectables, there is only the essential needed for a unique meeting with the Teishu or host. There is only one hanging scroll in the alcove of the Chashitsu, there is no furniture or maybe a simple Tana to display tea equipment. The only sound is that of boiling water in the Kama, only the smell of incense from the fire, one flower or branch in the Hana-ire. Conversation is kept to that of the utensils in the tea room, and other equipment used.

Kokoroire – “Pouring one’s heart totally into (devotion of) the tea ceremony.” The Teishu or host, is someone who devotes his life to the ritual preparation of a bowl of tea. They live “the way of tea.”




november ~ juichigatsu

November 15
Seven-Five-Three (shichigosan):
A festival for children, Shichigosan is not a national holiday.

"Shichi Go San" means "Seven Five Three". Girls of age three and seven and boys of age three and five are celebrated on Shichigosan, and it is prayed for their good health and growth. On November 15 or the closest weekend, the young people visit a Shinto Shrine dressed up in kimono.


Most girls wear kimonos. Three-year-old girls usually wear hifu (a type of padded vest for warmth ~ soft and light) over their kimono.

Boys don haori jackets and hakama trousers. In recent years, though, an increasing number of children are wearing Western-style dresses and suits. A more modern practice is photography, and this day is well known as a day to take pictures of children.


Odd numbers are considered lucky numbers.

Chitose Ame, literally "thousand year candy", is given to children on Shichi-Go-San. Chitose Ame is long, thin, red and white candy, which symbolizes healthy growth and longevity. It is given in a bag decorated with a crane and a turtle, which represent long life in Japan. Chitose Ame is wrapped in a thin, clear, and edible rice paper film that resembles plastic.



~Origami~~

Origami (from ori meaning "folding", and kami meaning "paper" (kami changes to gami due to rendaku) is the traditional Japanese art of paper folding. The goal of this art is to transform a flat sheet of paper into a finished sculpture through folding and sculpting techniques, and as such the use of cuts or glue are not considered to be origami. Paper cutting and gluing is usually considered kirigami.

The number of basic origami folds is small, but they can be combined in a variety of ways to make intricate designs. The best known origami model is probably the Japanese paper crane. In general, these designs begin with a square sheet of paper whose sides may be different colors or prints.

~Senbazuru - Thousand origami cranes~~


december ~ junigatsu

December 24-25
Christmas

Christmas is not a national holiday, but more and more Japanese people are taking up traditions such as decorating their home, giving presents to friends and celebrating the event with a special meal.

Christmas was initially introduced to Japan with the arrival of the first Europeans in the 16th century. But only in recent decades has the event become widely popular in Japan, and this despite the fact that Christians make up only about two percent of the population.

Christmas lights decorate cities, and Christmas trees adorn living areas, retail stores, and shopping malls several weeks in advance. Some public places also feature seasonal illuminations.


The traditional Japanese Christmas food is the Christmas cake, usually made of sponge cake, strawberries and whipped cream.


A successful advertising campaign in the 1970s made eating at KFC around Christmas a national custom. Its chicken meals are so popular during the season that stores take reservations months in advance.



Christmas Eve has become a holiday for couples to spend time together and exchange gifts. at a 'rabu rabu hoteru!!'


The Christmas season comes during the month of the year-end parties. Company groups, hobby groups, sports groups, etc. often book a section of a restaurant to have drinking parties, known as 'bonenkai'.

Bonenkai ~ Izakaya



verbiage courtesy japan-guide.com, wikipedia. pics flickr.
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Bunraku

Bunraku (文楽), also known as Ningyō jōruri (人形浄瑠璃), is a form of traditional Japanese puppet theater, founded in Osaka in 1684.











HISTORY









Originally, the term "Bunraku" referred only to the particular theater established in 1872 in Osaka, which was named the Bunrakuza after the puppeteering ensemble of Uemura Bunrakuken(植村文楽軒), an early 19th century puppeteer on Awaji, whose efforts revived the flagging fortunes of the traditional puppet theater in the 19th century.
The later prominence of the National Bunraku Theater of Japan, which is a descendant of the theater founded by Bunrakken, popularized the name "Bunraku" in the 20th century to the point that many Japanese now use the term to refer generically to any traditional puppet theater in Japan.
However, almost all of the traditional puppet troupes currently in existence outside Osaka were founded and named long before the appearance of Uemura Bunrakukken and his theater, so they generally do not use the word to describe themselves. Exceptions are the few troupes that were organized by puppeteers from the Bunraku-za or its successors who left Osaka to found theaters in the provinces




ELEMENTS OF FORM













Bunraku puppets



Bunraku puppets range in size from two-and-a-half to four feet tall or more, depending on the age and gender of the character and the conventions of the specific puppet troupe. The puppets of the Osaka tradition tend to be somewhat smaller overall, while the puppets in the Awaji tradition are some of the largest as productions in that region tend to be held outdoors.
The heads and hands of traditional puppets are carved by specialists, while the bodies and costumes are often constructed by puppeteers. The heads can be quite sophisticated mechanically. In plays with supernatural themes, a puppet may be constructed so that its face can quickly transform into that of a demon. Less complex heads may have eyes that move up and down, side to side or close, and noses, mouths, and eyebrows that move.
Controls for all movements of parts of the head are located on a handle that extends down from the neck of the puppet and are reached by the main puppeteer inserting his or her left hand into the chest of the puppet through a hole in the back of the torso.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=caBfryYWaM0&feature=related translated in English












TYPES OF HEADS

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C1119A2RZXA

Male heads







Female heads






Special roles heads







Puppeteers














The chanter







The shamisen & themes










My first time seeing Bunraku



Given that this year my country celebrates the “50 years of Friendship” Anniversary between Romania and Japan (more precisely the retake of diplomatic relations), a lot of events took place in Bucharest. So I decided to go to the last one – bunraku or puppet theatre. And I also took one of my friends whom I have already “poisoned” with my niponnmania

I love Japanese, being second only to English, so imagine my astonishment hearing and seeing a Japanese speaking Japanese. I know that isn’t much and not that important, but hearing the language being spoken by a native… I couldn’t stop smiling.

As soon as we entered the theatre, the staff (both Romanian and Japanese) was waiting for us, kindly welcoming us. I had tickets at the balcony for 2 reasons – money and because it was supertitled. I have to mention one important thing – although it’s rising, the interest in Japan’s culture is still rather small in my country. So, another shock was that all seats were occupied. I mean, this is odd, given that it wasn’t advertised much – actually I put some posters in my faculty and only after that I saw the official one at the Japanese Department. But well, it didn’t hurt – I actually saw some familiar faces at the theatre.


Here’s what happened at the theatre:





SHINNAI JORURI & HACHIOJI KURUMA NINGYO




We had a speech from a Japanese official, something like “We welcome you and so on…”.

Then the SANBASO started. (15 minutes)




After this Nishikawa Koryu V- sensei came and held a speech about the structure of a ningyo (puppet), and about the puppeteers as writen above in History and Elements of Form.
He even made a small joke when he was presenting the onna ningyo, a puppet that can transform into a witch-like character (I can't put it well in words, something like when pulled a string its hair will stay up like a witch's.). So, he said never cross a woman, 'cause look what happens, that he fears women . He was nice - not about the comment, but trying to connect with the audience.

The second play was RAN'CHO or WAKAGI NO ADANAGUSA.




The third play was YAJI KITA (although I think it has to be YAJI TO KITA)





In the end of the show there was a dancing lion with some butterflies (which I like how they're called in Japanese - cho )


And because it was an anniversary, they had to relate it to Romania.
They inserted Romanian lines in their plays. It was funny and nice to hear them speak Romanian.
And after the plays were over, they added a Romanian-like bunraku dance.
It is called The "Ciuleandra" ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0W395ryBuqg) It felt very good to see a bunraku ningyo dressed up in a traditional Romanian attire, and dancing to a traditional song. The whole room burst in applause and they had to come back on the stage for like 5 times.... I mean we coldn't stop apllauding, that's how much we liked it.

verbage courtesy Wikipedia
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Posted 6/30/10
Tanabata is soon right?~~ ^^
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agentmanga wrote:
Tanabata is soon right?~~ ^^


lina-chan!! i had 2 look this up!! arigatou 4 bringin 2 our attention!!
i went on and added 2 this topic!! arigatou ne!!


and hai!! looks like july 7!! although some places celebrate on august 7!!

now let's go walk through some streamers!! hahah
& write our wish on tanzaku paper!! kee kees!!

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~~ JAPANESE HOME ~~~



Housing in Japan includes modern and traditional styles. Two patterns of residences are predominant in contemporary Japan: the single-family detached house and the multiple-unit building, either owned by an individual or corporation and rented as apartments to tenants, or owned by occupants. Additional kinds of housing, especially for unmarried people, include boarding houses (which are popular among college students), dormitories (common in companies), and barracks (for members of the Self-Defense Forces, police and some other public employees).



Interior Design

Traditional Homes
Traditional Japanese housing does not have a designated utility for each room aside from the entrance area (genkan, 玄関), kitchen, bathroom, and toilet. Any room can be a living room, dining room, study, or bedroom. This is possible because all the necessary furniture is portable, being stored in oshiire, a small section of the house used for storage. It is important to note that in Japan, living room is expressed as i-ma, living "space". This is because the size of a room can be changed by altering the partitioning. Large traditional houses often have only one ima (living room/space) under the roof, while kitchen, bathroom, and toilet are attached on the side of the house as extensions.

Somewhat similar to modern offices, partitions within the house are created by fusuma, sliding doors made from wood and paper, which are portable and easily removed. Fusuma seal each partition from top to bottom so it can create a mini room within the house. On the edge of a house are rōka, wooden floored passages, that are similar to hallways. Rōka and ima are partitioned by shōji, sliding and portable doors that are also made from paper and wood. Unlike fusuma, paper used for shōji is very thin so outside light can pass through into the house. This was before glass was used for sliding doors. Rōka and outside of the house are either partitioned by walls or portable wooden boards that are used to seal the house at night. Extended roofs protect the rōka from getting wet when it rains, except during typhoon season where the house gets sealed completely. Roofs of traditional houses in Japan are made of wood and clay, with tiles or thatched areas on top.


For large gatherings, these partitions are removed to create one large meeting room. During a normal day, partitions can create much smaller and more manageable living spaces. Therefore, kitchen, bathroom, toilet, and genkan with one multipurpose living space create one complete Japanese housing unit. However, the bathroom, toilet, and even kitchen can be communal. Therefore, the minimum Japanese housing arrangement, which is still possible to find if one is looking for the cheapest room to rent, consists of just genkan and one living room/space.

Modern Homes
Housing is typically listed in Real estate advertisements in the format of a number of rooms plus letter designators indicating the presence of common room areas, for example: 1R or 2LDK. R designating room, L for living room, D for dining room, and K for kitchen. In this format, the bathroom and toilet are not mentioned but are included with the exception of some very small 1R or 1K's. L, D and K are not really separate and are part of or next to the kitchen. An LDK is bigger than a DK. The number before the letters indicates the number of additional multipurpose rooms. Often the rooms are separated by a removable sliding doors, fusuma, so large single rooms can be created.

Additionally, advertisements quote the sizes of the rooms – most importantly, the living room – with measurements in tatami mats (jō in Japanese, traditional mats woven from rice straw that are of a standard size: 180 cm by 90 cm in the Tokyo region, and 191 cm by 95.5 cm in western Japan): "2DK; one six-tatami Japanese-style room, one six-tatami Western-style room" is an example.

In Japan, multiple-unit blocks are referred to as one of two types: 1) Apaato (アパート)often older buildings, which are usually only a few stories in height, without a central secure entrance 2) Manshon (マンション) more modern expensive buildings with multiple floors, elevators, and a communal secure gate, with centralised postboxes; they are usually more sturdily built than apaato, normally of reinforced concrete (RC) construction.

Though commonly accepted standards for description exist, this is not a legal requirement, therefore descriptions may not be entirely accurate.

Genkan

One characteristic of a Japanese home is the genkan (玄関), or entryway. It includes a small area, at the same level as the outside, where arriving people remove their shoes. As they take off their shoes, people step up onto a raised floor. They point the tips of their shoes to the outside. The rest of the residence is at the raised level of this floor. Adjacent to the lower floor is a shelf or cabinet called a getabako in which people may place their shoes. Slippers for wear in the home are also stored there.


Toilet
The toilet in Japanese housing is located away from the bathroom and separate from it. It usually is in a small stall-like room with only the toilet in it. When entering the bathroom, one traditionally replaces their house slippers with plastic "toilet" slippers, swapping back when exiting the bathroom.

There are two styles of toilets commonly found in Japan. The oldest type is a simple squat toilet, which is still somewhat common in public conveniences. After World War II, modern Western-type flush toilets and urinals became common. The current state of the art for Western-style toilets is the bidet toilet, which, as of March 2010, is installed in 72% of Japanese households. In Japan, these bidets are commonly called washlets, and include many advanced features rarely seen outside of Asia. The feature set commonly found on washlets are butt washing, bidet washing, seat warming, and deodorization.

Kitchen

Daidokoro (台所;lit. "kitchen") is the place where food is prepared in a Japanese house. The modern Japanese kitchen features appliances such as a stove, a narrow fish grill (broiler), and an electric refrigerator. The stovetop may be built-in or may be a self-contained unit on a counter-top, and it is usually gas-burning, although recently induction heating (IH) stovetops have become popular. Common units of all types of stoves include two or three burners. Broilers designed for cooking fish are usually part of the stove and are located below, and unlike many Western-style grills, are not full width. Built-in ovens large enough to bake or roast are uncommon; in their place, work-top multifunction microwave ovens are used. Many kitchens have electric exhaust fans. Furnishings commonly include microwave ovens, hot water boilers, and electric toaster ovens. Built-in dishwashers are rare, although some kitchens may have small dishwashers or dishdryers. The kitchen includes running water, typically with hot and cold faucets.


Bathroom
Japanese housing typically has multiple rooms for what in Western housing is the bathroom. Separate rooms for the toilet, sink, and ofuro (bathing room) are common. Small apartments, however, frequently contain a tiny single bathroom called a unit bath that contains all three fixtures. The room with the sink, which is called a "clothes changing room", usually includes a space for a clothes-washing machine. The room containing the bathtub is waterproof with a space for washing, and often for showering, adjacent to (rather than in) the tub. As a result, bathwater is neither soapy nor dirty, and can be reused. Many washing machines in Japan come with an extension pipe to draw water from the tub for the wash.

Hot water usually comes from a gas or kerosene heater. The heater is usually located outdoors (at least in warm climates). Its gas supply may be from a municipal utility or from tanks on site. The typical Japanese water heater is tankless and heats water on demand. One heater may supply both bath and kitchen however many homes have two or more heaters.

Furo
Furo (風呂), also known in the polite form as ofuro (お風呂), is Japanese for bath. Specifically it is used to refer to a type of bath which originated as a short, steep-sided wooden bathtub. Baths of this type are found all over Japan in houses, apartments and traditional Japanese inns (Ryokans) but are now usually made out of a plastic or stainless steel.

A furo differs from a conventional western bathtub by being of a deeper construction, typically in the region of 0.6 m (25 inches). The sides are generally square rather than being sloped. They generally have no overflow drainage. Traditional pot shaped cast iron furo were heated by a wood-burning stove built-in below them.

Furo are usually left filled with water overnight, the water reused or recycled for washing clothes the next day. As in the West, it was the custom for more than one member of the family to use the same bath water and therefore, for the Japanese, it was important to be completely clean before entering the bath. This type of ofuro was the precursor of the modern western-style hot tub.

Furo are part of the Japanese ritual of bathing, not meant for washing but rather for relaxing and warming oneself. Washing is carried out separately outside the ofuro, and only when completely clean does the bather enter the water. Generally Japanese bathrooms are quite small compared to western standards, so the bathroom is set up much like a walk-in shower area but containing the 'ofuro.' Since the bathroom is a complete wet-area, heating is usually provided by air conditioners overhead. The water is hot, usually approximately 100 to 108 degrees F (38 to 42 degrees Celsius).

A Modern furo may be made of acrylic, and the top of the range models fitted with a re-circulation system which filters and re-heats the water. This system is connected with the hot water heater, either for gas/propane fired or electric/heat-pump types. Luxury models are still made out of traditional or expensive woods like hinoki, and can be retrofitted with Western style fittings and used as signature pieces by architects and interior designers internationally.



Bathing
Bathing is an important part of the daily routine in Japan. Baths are for relaxing; the body and hair must be thoroughly scrubbed and all soap removed before entering the bathtub or furo (風呂). This is normally done at a small faucet or shower located in the same room as the tub, while seated on a small stool. Traditionally, the tub water would be used to wash the body by scooping it up with the provided scoop. The traditional shape of the tub is smaller and deeper than is common in Western homes. A traditional Japanese bathtub is square, and deep enough that the water will cover the shoulders, but requires the bather to sit with the knees drawn up to the chest. Newer bathtubs are more like the western shape. Rather than being drained at the end of each bath, the water is kept warm by means of special heaters, and the same water is used by all the family members. After use, some homes take the hot bath water from the tub and use it to wash clothes in a washing machine. A lid is placed on the tub to maintain the water temperature when not in use, and to prevent evaporation. Any hair or debris is scooped from the water after the bath.

In homes with small tubs, each family member bathes one by one, in order of seniority, traditionally starting with the oldest male. However, many young Japanese women now refuse to bathe after their fathers.[citation needed] If there are guests in the home, they will be given priority. In homes with larger tubs, it is not uncommon for family members to bathe together. Typically one or both parents will bathe with babies and toddlers, and even as children grow older they may still bathe with one of their parents.

Bathtubs are increasingly common in modern Japanese homes, but there are still many homes, particularly in older or rural areas, that don't have bathtubs, so public bathhouses called sentō (銭湯) are common. A regular bathhouse will have tap water heated in a boiler. In all but the most rural areas baths are segregated by sex, and customers bathe nude, many using a small washcloth to cover the genitals. Hotels, pachinko parlours and other venues may have on-site sentō for customer use.

Sento
Sentō (銭湯) is a type of Japanese communal bath house where customers pay for entrance. Traditionally these bath houses have been quite utilitarian, with one large room separating the sexes by a tall barrier, and on both sides, usually a minimum of lined up faucets and a single large bath for the already washed bathers to sit in among others. Since the second half of the 20th century, these communal bath houses have been decreasing in numbers as more and more Japanese residences now have baths. Some Japanese find social importance in going to public baths, out of the theory that physical proximity/intimacy brings emotional intimacy, which is termed skinship in Japanese. Others go to a sentō because they live in a small housing facility without a private bath or to enjoy bathing in a spacious room and to relax in saunas or jet baths that often accompany new or renovated sentōs.

There are many different looks for a Japanese sentō, or public bath. Most traditional sentō, however, are very similar to the layout shown.

While the Japanese are usually very understanding if foreigners make cultural mistakes, the public bath is one area where the uninitiated can seriously offend the regular customers.

Taking a bath at a public sentō requires at a bare minimum a small towel and some soap/shampoo. Attendants usually sell these items for 100-200 yen. Many people bring two towels; a handtowel for drying and a handtowel or washcloth for washing. A nylon scrubbing cloth or scrub brush with liquid soap is normally used for washing. Other body hygiene products may include a pumice stone, toothbrush, toothpaste, shaving equipment, combs, shower caps, pomade, make up products, powder, creams, etc. Some regular customers store their bucket of bathing equipment on open shelves in the dressing room.

In Japan it is customary to remove one's shoes when entering a private home. Similarly shoes are removed before entering the bathing area in a sentō. They are kept in a shoe locker. The locker is usually available free of charge. Afterwards bathers go through one of the two doors depending on their gender. The men's door usually has a bluish color and the kanji for men (男, otoko), and the women's door usually has a reddish color and the kanji for woman (女, onna). The fee is set at 450 yen for all sento in Tokyo. The attendant usually provides at extra cost a variety of bath products including towel, soap, shampoo, razor, and comb. Ice cream or juice from the freezer can also be paid for here. There are usually free lockers with keys (that may be worn on the wrist into the baths) or large baskets provided to put personal effects.

A public bathing facility in Japan typically has one of two kinds of entrances. One is the front desk variety, where a person in charge sits at a front desk, abbreviated as "front." The other entrance variety is the bandai style.

Many bath houses have an attendant sitting on top of the bandai, with a good view of both the men's and the women's side. Most of the time the attendant is female, as few male customers have a problem with a female attendant while female customers may be embarrassed by having a male attendant able to see them. True cases of voyeurism are rare. Reported cases usually have a male voyeur and a female victim.

Children may be allowed to join a parent of the opposite sex in the bath house, such as a little boy accompanying his mother into the women's bath. In Tokyo, the age limit for this is 10.
As mentioned above, the Japanese public bath is one area where the uninitiated can upset regular customers by not following correct bathing etiquette designed to respect others. In particular; not washing before bathing, introducing soap into the bath water and horseplay. Sentō commonly display a poster describing bathing etiquette and procedures in Japanese or occasionally in other languages for international customers.
A very small minority of public baths have signs refusing entry for people with tattoos. However one may be allowed in if the tattoos are not terribly obvious. If one ventures to a public bathing place that is publicly owned, this should not present a problem as they have a duty to let all tax-paying citizens in. The original reason for this ban was to keep out ヤクザ yakuza, or members of other 暴力団体 (violence groups)."

Washitsu

Many homes include at least one traditional Japanese styled room, or washitsu (和室), meaning "Japanese-style room(s)". It features tatami flooring, shoji rather than draperies covering the window, fusuma (opaque sliding vertical partitions) separating it from the other rooms, an oshiire (closet) with two levels (for storing futon), and a wooden ceiling. It might be unfurnished, and function as a family room during the day and a bedroom at night. Many washitsu have sliding glass doors opening onto a deck or balcony. If the particular room is meant to serve as a reception room for guests, it may have a tokonoma (alcove for decorative items).



In the past, all Japanese rooms were washitsu, and Japanese people slept on futons laid on the tatami and sat directly on the tatami or on zabutons set on the tatami. Nowadays, many Japanese houses have only one washitsu, which is sometimes used for entertaining guests, and most rooms are Western-style. Many new construction Japanese apartments do not have washitsu at all, instead using linoleum or hardwood floors.



The furniture in a washitsu may include a chabudai at which a family may eat dinner or entertain guests, while sitting on zabuton or a low chair intended for use on tatami. A kotatsu is a particular type of low table that contains a heating element used in the wintertime. It is particularly important as most Japanese homes do not have central heating.

Other bedrooms, as well as living rooms, dining rooms, and kitchens, are in a Western style. They usually have modern synthetic floor coverings. Ceilings are typically also synthetic, and might be white or beige. Windows usually open by sliding laterally, although many kitchen windows open by tilting, with the bottom slanting outwards.

One Room Mansion
A one room mansion is a Japanese apartment style in which there is only one small room (10 m2/3.0 tsubo; 110 sq ft in many cases) and usually a compact bathroom. These styles of units are most often rented by single individuals due to their extremely small size which make it hard for more than one person to reside in them. Most of Japan's city apartments have rooms such as these although family units (around 60 to 90 m2/18 to 27 tsubo; 650 to 970 sq ft in size) are more common, especially in Japan's suburbs.


Utilities

Heating
Space heating, rather than central heating, is normal in Japanese homes. Kerosene, gas, and electric units are common. Dwellings are commonly sold and rented without heating or cooling equipment. Occupants purchase appliances and take them when they move.

The simplest kerosene burner has a tank for fuel, a mantle, and a control dial. Battery-operated electric ignition is a popular step up. The next rank has an electric fan to circulate hot air through the room. Many such units feature computer control of temperature. The computer can also turn them on and off on schedule. Gas heaters are also popular, and many homes have gas outlets in various rooms to accommodate portable units. Windows in many homes have vents to open to protect the occupants from excessive exhaust gas. Kerosene and gas units have safety features to turn off the fire and cut off the fuel supply when the heater receives a shake, whether from an accident or due to earthquake. These units also usually shut off automatically after two or three hours to prevent carbon monoxide fumes from building up while the resident is sleeping.

Another type of kerosene heater functions similar to a radiator, and consists of two parts. Kerosene fuel is stored in a tank and burned outside the home, and the flame is used to heat a fluid which is circulated into the second unit inside the house. In this unit, fans blow across the tubes carrying the heated fluid, and the room is warmed as a result. This type of heater is popular since it reduces the fumes significantly, and also virtually eliminates the chance of a small child or pet accidentally injuring themselves.

Electric heat is typically delivered through units mounted on the walls, such as above the doors to the deck or balcony, rather than through baseboards. These heaters often do double duty as air-conditioners. Thermostatic control and timers are available in most lines. The manufacturers of electric and electronic appliances produce these heaters.

In northern Japan, yukadanbō (床暖房) (literally, floor heater) is a type of radiating heater beneath the floor in some rooms of newer houses, where heated fluids are circulated to provide warmth. The cost is expensive, so sometimes this type of heater is only installed in small rooms like the "clothes changing room". Electric carpets have become popular in recent years.

Finally, a traditional type of heater known as a kotatsu is also still widely used today. The kotatsu can come in multiple forms, but the more common is as an electric heating element attached to the underside of a short table: the table is typically surrounded by a light duvet-like cloth to keep the heat in. This type of table is common in the washitsu.

Living Patterns
Many young Japanese adults choose to live with their parents, rather than seeking a separate residence, a phenomenon known as parasite singles (パラサイトシングル). A 1998 survey by the Ministry of Health and Welfare indicated that about 60% of single Japanese men and 80% of single women between the ages of 20 and 34 lived with their parents.

After marriage, the young couple often live in the same house as their parents. A desire for some separation between the generations has led to the phenomenon of nisedaijūtaku (二世代住宅), literally "two generation housing", a single house which contains two complete separate living areas, one for the parents and one for the younger generation.

Conversely, in large metropolitan areas of Japan, it is no longer uncommon for young couples to co-habit in an apartment before they marry.

Traditionally, the elderly also continue to live with their children rather than being put into homes for the elderly. The responsibility for the parent usually falls onto the oldest male child or atotsugi (跡継ぎ?). The number of elderly people living at home has led to a great demand for care products for home use, and also the so-called "barrier-free" housing, which contains fewer steps and obstacles for the elderly.

Apartment sharing between strangers is rare in Japan, most single people preferring to live in small sized individual apartments. However, in recent years, as Japan is undergoing demographic and socioeconomic change, it is becoming more common for young people to share apartments. Apartment designs are many and varied. An older pattern for single occupancy is a long thin, shoe-box shaped apartment, with a kitchen area and bathroom located often near the genkan and a living space/bedroom at the opposite end where a small balcony may be located.

Japanese companies and organizations often send their male employees to various locations throughout Japan. It is not always possible or desirable for the entire family unit to move near to the employees new job site. In this case, small apartments are rented by married men who then travel to the family home on the weekends.

Home and Apartment Rental
To rent an apartment in Japan, would-be tenants visit real estate agents located in every neighborhood and browse through copies of apartments for rent. These usually have the layout of the apartment for rent and the costs to rent this apartment. If a would be tenant is interested in a particular apartment, the agent contacts the landlord to see if the apartment is still available and whether a visit could be arranged. Typically, a renter cannot rent an apartment on her or his own, but is required to have a guarantor who promises to pay the rent if problems arise.

Traditionally, Japanese landlords collect both a damage deposit and "key money" before the renter takes occupancy, and the real estate agent is also paid a month's rent for services provided. Key money is a non-refundable payment to the landlord. In major cities like Tokyo and Osaka, key money is often a major investment in itself: up to six months' rent in many cases. In recent years many landlords have begun demanding smaller amounts of key money, equal to two or three months' rent or none at all. An industry of no-deposit apartments, called monthly mansion and weekly mansion, has also sprouted up in major cities: these generally charge higher rents than traditional leases, and may offer some hotel-style amenities such as linen service.

In Tokyo, a typical rental agreement is for one year. Each year, this agreement is re-negotiated, and the renter pays an additional month's rent as a fee. In many other cities, however, the one-year agreement is regarded simply as a minimum length of stay, and the rent does not change over the years.

Guest Houses
Foreigners in Japan renting apartments on their own often face discrimination from real estate agents or landlords who refuse to rent to foreigners. Some agents will explain to foreigners directly that it is difficult to rent to them. Finding a guarantor is also difficult for many foreigners. Living in a Guest Houses is one way to circumvent these problems. Sometimes referred to as "Gaijin Houses" (meaning foreign persons' house), Guest Houses come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They are designed to provide short-term accommodation at reasonable prices with a minimum of hassle. Usually aimed at foreign visitors, they are becoming increasingly popular with young Japanese seeking to break with the tradition of living with parents until, and sometimes after, marriage. While deposits are payable in most cases they tend to be low and the famous Japanese key money is not charged for these properties. A guest house will provide one room for sleeping, a shared kitchen and shared bathroom. Facilities like washing machines are usually coin operated but due to intense competition many landlords are seeking to provide as many free utilities as they can; free internet is almost a given in Tokyo these days. Typically, foreigners and Japanese are finding it harder to find guest houses and have been opting for small apartments called Aparto.

Capsule Hotel

Capsule hotels are unique accommodations developed in Japan. It usually costs about $25 to $40 per night. Since it's cheap, mainly business men who couldn't go home stay at capsule hotels. Also, capsule hotels are popular among foreign travelers.

In capsule hotels, each guest stays in a small sleeping space (capsule) which is about 3 feet by 4 feet by 6 feet. In a capsule, there are a TV, an alarm clock, a light, and so on. The open side of a capsule is shut by a curtain or a screen, and it is unlocked. To sleep well in capsule hotels, earplugs might be helpful.






verbage courtesy Wikipedia and About.com / pics flickr
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Posted 3/20/11
i wanna go inside a capsule hotel ~ it looks fun!
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well..that was thorough
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