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.
Osechi-ryōri, typically shortened to osechi consists of boiled seaweed (konbu), fish cakes (kamaboko), mashed sweet potato with chestnut (kurikinton), simmered burdock root (kinpira gobō), and sweetened black soybeans (kuromame). Many of these dishes are sweet, sour, or dried, so they can keep without refrigeration—the culinary traditions date to a time before households had refrigerators, when most stores closed for the holidays.
Toso, or o-toso, is spiced medicinal sake traditionally drunk during New Year celebrations in Japan.
Toso is drunk to flush away the previous year's maladies and to aspire to lead a long life. For generations it has been said that "if one person drinks this his family will not fall ill; if the whole family does no-one in the village will fall ill", and has been a staple part of New Year's osechi cuisine in Japan.
Three sizes of cup, called sakazuki, are used starting with the smallest, and passed round with each family member or guest taking a sip. Drinking rituals differ by region, but in formal situations would proceed from youngest to eldest. This tradition originated in China whereby the young effectively test the drink for toxins. However, in Japan, around the beginning of the Meiji or Shōwa periods, custom changed and the head of the household usually takes the first drink.
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.
It is said that zōni finds its roots in samurai society cuisine. It is thought to be a meal that was cooked during field battles, boiled together with mochi, vegetables and dried foods, among other ingredients. It is also generally believed that this original meal, at first exclusive to samurai, eventually became a staple food of the common people. Zōni was first served as part of a full-course dinner (honzen ryōri), and thus is thought to have been a considerably important meal to samurai.
The tradition of eating zōni on New Year's Day dates to the end of the Muromachi period (1336–1573). The dish was offered to the gods in a ceremony on New Year's Eve.
At midnight, many visit a shrine or temple for Hatsumōde.
Hatsumōde is the first Shinto shrine visit of the Japanese New Year. Some people visit a Buddhist temple instead. Many visit on the first, second, or third day of the year as most are off work on those days. Generally, wishes for the new year are made, new omamori (charms or amulets) are bought, and the old ones are returned to the shrine so they can be burned. There are often long lines at major shrines throughout Japan.
Most people in Japan are off work from December 29 until January 3 of every year. It is during this time that the house is cleaned, debts are paid, friends and family are visited and gifts are exchanged. It would be customary to spend the early morning of New Year's Day in domestic worship, followed by sake—often containing edible gold flakes—and special celebration food. During the hatsumōde, it is common for men to wear a full kimono—one of the rare chances to see them doing so across a year.
A common custom during hatsumōde is to buy a written oracle called omikuji.
The o-mikuji includes a general blessing which can be any one of the following:
Great blessing (dai-kichi, 大吉)
Middle blessing (chū-kichi, 中吉)
Small blessing (shō-kichi, 小吉)
Blessing (kichi, 吉)
Half-blessing (han-kichi, 半吉)
Future blessing (sue-kichi, 末吉)
Future small blessing (sue-shō-kichi, 末小吉)
Curse (kyō, 凶)
Small curse (shō-kyō, 小凶)
Half-curse (han-kyō, 半凶)
Future curse (sue-kyō, 末凶)
Great curse (dai-kyō, 大凶)
It then lists fortunes regarding specific aspects of one's life, which may include any number of the following among other possible combinations:
方角 (hōgaku) - auspicious/inauspicious directions (see feng shui)
願事 (negaigoto) – one's wish or desire
待人 (machibito) – a person being waited for
失せ物 (usemono) – lost article(s)
旅立ち (tabidachi) – travel
商い (akinai) – business dealings
學問 (gakumon) – studies or learning
相場 (sōba) – market speculation
爭事 (arasoigoto) – disputes
戀愛 (renai) – romantic relationships
転居 (tenkyo) – moving or changing residence
出產 (shussan) – childbirth, delivery
病気 (byōki) – illness
縁談 (endan) – marriage proposal or engagement
The o-mikuji predicts the person's chances of his or her hopes coming true, of finding a good match, or generally matters of health, fortune, life, etc. When the prediction is bad, it is a custom to fold up the strip of paper and attach it to a pine tree or a wall of metal wires alongside other bad fortunes in the temple or shrine grounds. A purported reason for this custom is a pun on the word for pine tree (松 matsu) and the verb 'to wait' (待つ matsu), the idea being that the bad luck will wait by the tree rather than attach itself to the bearer. In the event of the fortune being good, the bearer has two options: he or she can also tie it to the tree or wires so that the fortune has a greater effect or he or she can keep it for luck.
Ema are small wooden plaques on which Shinto worshippers write their prayers or wishes.
The ema are then left hanging up at the shrine, where the kami (spirits or gods) receive them. They bear various pictures, often of animals or other Shinto imagery, and many have the word gan'i (願意), meaning "wish", written along the side. In ancient times people would donate horses to the shrines for good favor, over time this was transferred to a wooden plaque with a picture of a horse, and later still to the various wooden plaques sold today for the same purpose.
Ema are sold for various wishes. Common reasons for buying a plaque are for success in work or on exams, marital bliss, to have children, and health. Sales of ema help support the shrine financially.
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.
They are placed after Christmas until January 7 (or January 15 during the Edo period) and are considered temporary housing (shintai) for kami. Designs for kadomatsu vary depending on region but are typically made of pine, bamboo, and sometimes ume tree sprigs which represent longevity, prosperity and steadfastness, respectively. "The fundamental function of the New Year ceremonies is to honor and receive the toshigami (deity), who will then bring a bountiful harvest for farmers and bestow the ancestors' blessing on everyone." After January 15 (or in many instances the 19th) the kadomatsu is burned to appease the kami or toshigami and release them.
The central portion of the kadomatsu is formed from three large bamboo shoots, though plastic kadomatsu are available. Similar to several traditions of ikebana (Japanese flower arrangement), the shoots are set at different heights and represent heaven, humanity, and earth with heaven being the highest and earth being the lowest. Some kadomatsu place the humanity and earth shoots at the same height. After binding all the elements of the kadomatsu, it is bound with a straw mat and newly woven straw rope. Kadomatsu are placed in pairs on either side of the gate, representing male and female.
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.
Often played by girls at the New Year, the game can be played in two fashions: by one person attempting to keep the shuttlecock aloft as long as possible, or by two people batting it back and forth. Girls who fail to hit the shuttlecock get marked on the face with India Ink. Traditionally, the longer the shuttlecock remains in the air, the greater protection from mosquitoes the players will receive during the coming year. Although Hanetsuki is not as popular as it used to be, decorative hagoita are commonly sold throughout Japan.
The paddles come in different sizes, and most of them feature portraits of kabuki actors and beautiful Edo ladies.
Karuta (from Portuguese carta ["card"]) is a Japanese card game.
The basic idea of any karuta game is to be able to quickly determine which card out of an array of cards is required and then to grab the card before it is grabbed by an opponent. There are various types of cards which can be used to play karuta. It is also possible to play this game using two standard decks of playing cards.
There are two kinds of cards used in karuta. One kind is yomifuda or "reading cards", and the other is torifuda or "grabbing cards." As they were denoted, the words in the yomifuda are read and players will have to find its associated torifuda before anybody else does.
Karuta is often played by children at elementary school and junior high-school level during class, as an educational exercise. Any kind of information that can be represented in card form can be used including shapes, colours, words in English, small pictures and the like.
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
Furisode are the most formal style of kimono worn by unmarried women in Japan.
The furisode is made of very fine, brightly colored silk, and is commonly rented or bought by parents for their daughters to wear when celebrating Coming of Age Day the year they turn 20. By wearing a furisode, a young woman signifies that she is both single and a legal adult, and thus available for marriage. In this sense, a furisode might be likened to the formal gowns worn by debutantes in the West.
The furisode is generally worn for formal social functions such as the tea ceremony or wedding ceremonies of relatives. Since furisodes can be quite expensive, many women rent them as needed rather than purchasing them.
Historically, whenever a man wore a furisode, it was a sign that he was the warrior's lover.
Hakama are a type of traditional Japanese clothing. They were originally worn only by men, but today they are worn by both sexes. Hakama are tied at the waist and fall approximately to the ankles. Hakama are worn over a kimono (hakamashita).
There are two types of hakama, divided umanori (literally horse-riding hakama) and undivided andon bakama (lit., lantern hakama). The umanori type have divided legs, similar to trousers. Both these types appear similar. A "mountain" or "field" type of umanori hakama was traditionally worn by field or forest workers. They are looser in the waist and narrower in the leg.
Hakama can be worn with any type of kimono except yukata (light cotton summer kimono generally worn for relaxing, for sleeping, or at festivals or summer outings). Hakama are also regularly worn by practitioners of a variety of martial arts, such as kendo, iaido, taido, aikido, ryu-te, and kyūdō.
Women's hakama differ from men's in a variety of ways, most notably fabric design and method of tying.
While men's hakama can be worn on both formal and informal occasions, except as part of martial arts wear, women rarely wear hakama except at graduation ceremonies and for traditional Japanese sports such as kyudo, some branches of aikido and kendo. Only very rarely are hakama worn by women at tea ceremony. The image of women in kimono and hakama are culturally associated with school teachers. Just as university professors in Western countries don their academic caps and gowns when their students graduate, many female school teachers in Japan attend annual graduation ceremonies in traditional kimono with hakama.
The most iconic image of women in hakama is the miko or shrine maidens who assist in maintenance and ceremonies. A miko's uniform consists of a plain white kimono with a bright red hakama, sometimes a red naga-bakama during formal ceremonies
While formal men's hakama are made of striped fabric, women's formal hakama are either a solid color or dyed with gradating hues. Hakama for young women are sometimes sparsely decorated with embroidered flowers like sakura. Women typically wear hakama just below the bust line, while men wear them at the waist.
Zōri are flat and thonged Japanese sandals made of rice straw or other plant fibers, cloth, lacquered wood, leather, rubber, or—increasingly—synthetic materials. Zōri are quite similar to flip-flops, which first appeared in New Zealand and the United States sometime around World War II as rubber imitations of the wooden thong sandals long worn in Japan.
While geta are nowadays worn with the informal yukata, zōri are associated with the more formal kimono.
As formal wear, all plastic and fabric zōri for women require the use of white tabi socks. Men have more latitude, and can use the same imitation zōri with both informal (without tabi) and formal wear with tabi socks.
Tabi ~ Jika-tabi ~ toe socks
Tabi are traditional Japanese socks. Ankle-high and with a separation between the big toe and other toes, they are worn by both men and women with zori, geta, and other traditional thonged footwear. Tabi are also essential with traditional clothing—kimono and other wafuku as well as being worn by samurai in the feudal era. The most common colour is white, and white tabi are worn in formal situations such as at tea ceremonies. Men sometimes wear blue or black tabi for travelling. Patterned and coloured tabi are also available and are worn most often by women, though they are gaining popularity among men as well.
In contrast to socks that, when pulled on, fit the foot snugly because of their elastic weave, tabi are sewn from cloth cut to form. They are open at the back so they can be slipped on and have a row of fasteners along the opening so they can be closed.
Construction workers, farmers and gardeners, rickshaw-pullers, and other workmen often wear a type of tabi called jika-tabi (tabi that contact the ground). Made of heavier, tougher material and often having rubber soles, jika-tabi resemble boots and are outer footwear rather than socks. Like other tabi, jika-tabi are toe-divided so they can be worn with slip-on thonged footwear. Shōjirō Ishibashi, the founder of major tire company Bridgestone Corporation, is credited with their innovation.
Though slowly being replaced by steel-toed rigid-sole construction shoes in some industries, many workers prefer them for the softness of their soles. This gives wearers tactile contact with the ground and lets them use their feet more agilely than rigid-soled shoes allow: for instance, people who traverse girders on construction sites like to know what is under their feet, and craft practitioners such as carpenters and gardeners additionally use their feet as if they were an extra pair of hands, for example to hold objects in place.
Nowadays, tabi socks—socks with a separation between the big toe and its neighbor to allow wear with thonged footwear—are also available. This reflects the number of people who still prefer to wear zori and geta, especially during Japan's hot, humid summers.
A related item are toe socks , which have five separate compartments; these are called 'gohon yubi no kutsushita' (five-toe socks) in Japanese.
When drinking alcoholic beverages, it is customary to serve one another, rather than serving yourself. You should periodically check your friends' glasses, and replenish them before they are empty. Likewise, if someone wants to serve you, you should drink to make room in your glass if it is full, hold it up for the person while they pour, and then take at least one drink before putting the glass down. These customs apply to everyone in your party even if they are not drinking alcohol.
At the beginning of a meal or drinking party you should not start drinking until everybody at the table is served and the glasses are raised for a toast, which is usually "kampai". Other toasts are acceptable, but avoid using "chin chin" when making a toast, since in Japanese this expression refers to the male genitalia.
While it is considered bad manners to become obviously drunk in some formal restaurants, for example in restaurants that serve kaiseki ryori (Japanese haute cuisine), the same is not true for other types of restaurants such as izakaya, as long as you do not bother other guests.
february ~ nigatsu
On Valentine's Day, Japanese women give chocolate to men. Men give gifts to women on March 14th called White Day. This tradition started as a marketing tool for chocolate companies in Japan. Japanese women are encouraged to express love to men by giving chocolate and other gifts on February 14th.
Grocery stores, department stores, and convenience stores sell many different kinds of domestic and imported chocolate. More than half of the chocolate sold in a year is sold around Valentine's Day in Japan. Women buy chocolate for their co-workers, bosses, male friends, brothers, father, husband, boyfriends, and so on.
Chocolate given to men whom women don't feel special love are called "giri (obligation)-choco (chocolate)" in Japanese. Chocolate given to co-workers and bosses are usually considered as giri-choco. Many men feel embarrassed if they don't receive any chocolate on Valentine's Day. Women usually make sure to give giri-choco to men around them so that they don't feel left out. The average price range for a giri-choco is from 200 yen to 500 yen each.
Women tend to give special gifts, such as neckties and clothes with chocolate to those men whom they love. Chocolate given to a special man from a woman is called "honmei (prospective winner)-choco." Honmei-choco is more expensive than giri-choco and is sometimes homemade. It's lucky if a man could receive a honmei-choco. Green tea chocolate ball is a choice for Valentine gifts.
Popular Japanese chocolate brands are glico, Meiji, and Morinaga. They make many delicious chocolates and sell them in attractive packages.
A love hotel (ラブホテル, rabu hoteru) is a type of short-stay hotel found in Japan operated primarily for the purpose of allowing couples privacy to have "BEEP!" :p
Love hotels usually offer a room rate for a "rest" (休憩, kyūkei) as well as for an overnight stay. The period of a "rest" varies, typically ranging from one to three hours. Cheaper daytime off-peak rates are common. In general, reservations are not possible, leaving the hotel will forfeit access to the room, and overnight stay rates only become available after 10pm.
Entrances are discreet and interaction with staff is minimized, with rooms often selected from a panel of buttons and the bill settled by pneumatic tube, automatic cash machines, or a pair of hands behind a pane of frosted glass. While cheaper hotels are utilitarian, higher-end hotels may feature fanciful rooms decorated with anime characters, equipped with rotating beds, ceiling mirrors, or karaoke machines, strange lighting or styled similarly to dungeons.
These hotels are typically either concentrated in city districts close to stations, near highways on the city outskirts, or in industrial districts. Love hotel architecture is sometimes garish, with buildings shaped like castles, boats or UFOs and lit with neon lighting. However, many love hotels are very ordinary looking buildings, distinguished mainly by having small, covered, or even no windows.
march ~ sangatsu
~ HINA MATSURI ~ JAPANESE GIRL'S DAY ~
March 3rd is Japanese Girl's Day called Hina Matsuri (Japanese doll festival). People display a set of "hina-ningyo" (special dolls for Hina Matsuri) wishing girls' healthy growth, happiness and beauty.
A traditional set of dolls can be very expensive. There are various grades for the sets, and some full sets cost more than a million yen. Unless there is a set handed down from generation to generation, grandparents or parents buy them for a girl by her first Hinamatsuri (hatsu-zekku). However, since many Japanese live in small houses, royal couple version (with only the Emperor and the Empress dolls) is popular nowadays.
Hina dolls are dressed in Japanese ancient costumes displayed on the shelves of a stand covered with a red carpet. This display is usually arranged on a five or seven-tiered stand.
At the top is always the emperor and empress. The next step contains three court ladies (sannin-kanjo), followed by five musicians (gonin-bayashi), two ministers (udaijin and sadaijin), and three servants. There are also small pieces of furniture, small meal dishes, and other things.
Most families take out this display of dolls around mid-February and put it away immediately after Hina Matsuri is over. There is a superstition that if you don't put away the hina-ningyo soon after March 3rd, the daughter will get married late.
Hina-matsuri is also called momo-no-sekku, which means a festival of peach blossoms.
In Japan, the peach blossom is a symbol for happy marriage because of the way and the time the tree blooms. The time between the end of February and beginning of March is when winter turns to spring and is also the time when the peach tree blooms, changing people’s view from monotone to something colorful. Moreover, the blossoms represent the feminine traits of gentility, composure and tranquility.
There are some special dishes for the festival. “Hishimochi” are diamond-shaped rice cakes. They are colored red (or pink), white, and green. The red (pink) (implies peach flowers) is for chasing evil spirits away, the white (implies snow) for purity, and the green (implies new growth) is for health. “Chirashi-sushi” (colorful sushi), “sakura-mochi” (bean paste-filled rice cakes with cherry leaves), “hina-arare” (rice cake cubes), and clam soup. A sweet drink called “shirozake” is made from fermented rice. It is a kind of sake, but it doesn’t have alcohol, so it is ok for children to have.
Enjoying sweets, shirozake and sushi, the family sings the Hina Matsuri Song to celebrate the girls’ happiness.
"Ureshii Hinamatsuri (Happy Hinamatsuri)."
Akari o tsukemashou bonbori ni
Ohana o agemashou momo no hana
Go-nin bayashi no fue taiko
Kyo wa tanoshii Hinamatsuri
Let's light the lanterns
Let's set peach flowers
Five court musicians are playing flutes and drums
Today is a joyful Dolls' Festivalｌ
The origin of Hinamatsuri is an ancient Chinese practice in which the sin of the body and misfortune are transferred to a doll, and then removed by abandoning the doll on a river. A custom called "hina-okuri" or "nagashi-bina," in which people float paper dolls down rivers, late on the afternoon of March 3rd, still exists in various areas.
~ MANEKI NEKO ~
The Maneki Neko (招き猫), literally "Beckoning Cat"; also known as Welcoming Cat, Lucky Cat, Money cat or Fortune Cat is a common Japanese sculpture, often made of porcelain or ceramic, which is believed to bring good luck to the owner. The sculpture depicts a cat (traditionally a Japanese Bobtail) beckoning with an upright paw, and is usually displayed—many times at the entrance—in shops, restaurants, pachinko parlors, and other businesses. Some of the sculptures are electric or battery-powered and have a slow-moving paw beckoning. In the design of the sculptures, a raised right paw supposedly attracts money, while a raised left paw attracts customers.
Maneki Neko usually have some sort of decoration around their neck. This can be a neckerchief or a scarf but the most common attire is a collar, bell and decorative bib. These items are most likely in imitation of what was common attire for cats in wealthy households during the Edo period. Red collars made from a red flower, the hichirimen, were popular and small bells were attached for decoration and to keep track of the cat's whereabouts. Maneki Neko are sometimes depicted holding a coin; usually a gold coin called a koban. The coin ties into the cat's part in bringing good fortune and wealth. The most popular and common ornament is the tricolor figurine, which is similar to the coloring of calico cats and is considered to be especially lucky. This belief may be related to the rarity of this coloring in the Japanese bobtail cats, after which the Maneki Neko is modeled. Black wards off evil or protects from illness. White means prosperity and happiness. Of the more trendy colors the golden cat brings wealth, the pink cat brings love, and the green cat brings sucess in education.
Maneki Neko date back several centuries. The exact origins of Maneki Neko and the source of its power are explained with many tales. Here are the most popular, explaining the cat's origins:
The Temple Cat: There once was a poor monk at a poverty-stricken temple. He shared what little food he had with his pet cat. One day, Lord Ii Naotaka of the Hikone district near Kyoto was caught in the rain near the temple on his way home from hunting. Taking shelter under a nearby tree, he saw a cat beckoning him to enter the temple compound. As soon as he ventured forth to investigate this strange cat, the tree was struck down by lighting. The lord quickly became the temple's patron, and the temple soon became prosperous. It was renamed Goutokuji Temple in 1697 - even today, the walls of this temple in Tokyo's Setagaya ward are adorned with paintings of bobtail cats. When the cat died, it was buried in Goutokuji's cat cemetery, and the Maneki Neko was made in honor of this magical cat.
The Courtesan: During the Edo Period, in the eastern part of Tokyo called Yoshiwara, there lived a courtesan named Usugumo. She loved cats, and kept her feline pet at her side constantly. One night, on her way to the powder room, her cat began tugging at the hem of her kimono violently, refusing to let go. The owner of the amusement house came to her aid, and suspecting the cat to be bewitched, lopped off its head with his sword. The head flew to the ceiling, where it killed a snake poised to kill Usugumo. Usugumo mourned deeply the cat who had sacrificed its life for her, and in consolation, one of her guests presented her with an image of the hero cat made of aromatic wood. That image, of course, was the Maneki Neko, and its raised paw was trying to alert her to danger.
Another story a cat loses its head when its owner catches it stealing gold coins. However, we learn that the cat was taking the coins to an ill and destitute fishmonger who had befriended the cat and needed money until its recovery. He is saved by the cat's coins. Therefore, some believe, Maneki Neko should carry coins or have coins dangling from their bibs to ensure wealth.
The Old Woman: There once was a poor old woman who lived in Imado (now eastern Tokyo). She kept a pet cat until severe poverty forced her to abandon it. Not long thereafter, the cat appeared to her in a dream and instructed her to make its image in clay. She obliged, and to her delight, people were soon asking to buy the clay statue. The more she made, the more they bought, and her poverty was replaced with prosperity.
~ KOKESHI DOLL ~
Kokeshi (こけし) are Japanese dolls, first made in the Tohiku region of northern provinces of Japan about 150 years ago and it was orginally made as a toy for children of country farmers. They are handmade from wood, have a simple trunk and an enlarged head with a few thin, painted lines to define the face. Kokeshi dolls are usually painted in bright floral kimono designs, or in other simple traditional patterns and covered with a layer of wax. One characteristic of Kokeshi dolls is their lack of arms or legs. The bottom is marked with the signature of the artist. From a simple toy for children, Kokeshi doll is now recognized as one of the tradtional folk arts in Japan.
~ DARUMA DOLL ~
Daruma dolls (達磨, daruma), also known as dharma dolls, are hollow and round Japanese wish dolls with no arms or legs, modeled after Bodhidharma, the founder and first patriarch of Zen. It is made of paper mache, weighted on the bottom so when knocked on its side, the doll pops back to the upright position (hence "roly-poly"/"tumbler" doll, or "okiagari koboshi")- symbolic of Bodhidharma's persistence in meditation. This has the meaning of standing up positively even if failing, and has become symbolic for optimism, persistence, and strong determination. Typical colors are red (most common), yellow, green, and white. The doll has a face with a mustache and beard, but its eyes only contain the color white. Using black ink, one fills in a single circular eye while thinking of a wish. Should the wish later come true, the second eye is filled in. It is traditional to fill in the left eye first; the right eye is left blank until the wish is fulfilled. Many of the Daruma dolls are male but there is a female daruma doll. It is called "hime daruma" or "princess daruma."
Some dolls have written characters on the cheeks explaining the kind of wish or desire the owner has in mind, such as protection of loved ones. The surname of the owner may be written on the chin. Until the wish has been granted, the daruma is displayed in a high location in one's home, typically close to other significant belongings such as a Butsudan (a Buddhist house altar). It is normal to own only a single daruma at a time.
Daruma dolls are typically purchased in or near Japanese Buddhist temples and can range in price from 500 yen for small dolls (~5cm in height) to 10,000 yen or more for the largest dolls (~60cm in height). If the daruma doll was purchased within a temple, the owner can return it for burning. Dolls purchased at a temple are often marked; most temples will refuse to burn dolls not exhibiting the temple's mark. Burning usually occurs at the year's end. This is done as a purification ritual to let kami know that the wisher did not give up on the wish, but is on another path to make it come true.
White Day falls on March 14, one month exactly after Valentine’s Day. Tradition holds that women are supposed to give men romantic gifts on Valentine’s Day, while men are supposed to return the favor on White Day.
On Valentine's Day, besides giving gifts to spouses or boyfriends, some women feel duty-bound to present gifts of chocolate to all male co-workers. The tradition is called giri-choco, combining the Japanese word for obligation with the common word for chocolate. Girls may also give honmei-choco, candy to loved ones, or tomo-choco, candy for friends.
In 1978, the Japanese National Confection Industry recommended that men return the favor on March 14th, not coincidentally boosting confection sales. The day was originally called Marshmallow Day, as Ishimura Manseido, a candy company, created marshmallow treats specifically as gifts for this new holiday. Other companies soon followed, specializing in white chocolate treats. The day eventually became referred to as White Day, although gifts of regular dark chocolate are now common.
Gifts given on White Day often exceed the simple presents of Valentine’s Day. Presents to lovers and wives are supposed to be expensive, such as lingerie or jewelry. Men also conform to giri-choco, returning the favor to female co-workers out of oblgation.
~ SAKURA ~ CHERRY BLOSSOM ~
Sakura (Japanese kanji : 桜 or 櫻; katakana: サクラ; hiragana: さくら) is the Japanese name for cherry trees, and their blossoms. In English, the word "sakura" is equivalent to the Japanese flowering cherry, and their blossoms are commonly called cherry blossoms. Sakura is a symbol of Japan, and it's said that there are over four hundred varieties of sakura in Japan.
Every year the Japanese Meteorological Agency and the public track the sakura zensen (cherry-blossom front) as it moves northward up the archipelago with the approach of warmer weather via nightly forecasts following the weather segment of news programs. The blossoming begins in Okinawa in January and typically reaches Kyoto and Tokyo at the end of March or the beginning of April. It proceeds into areas at the higher altitudes and northward, arriving in Hokkaidō a few weeks later. Japanese pay close attention to these forecasts and turn out in large numbers at parks, shrines, and temples with family and friends to hold flower-viewing parties. Hanami ("flower viewing") festivals celebrate the beauty of the sakura and for many are a chance to relax and enjoy the beautiful view.
Sakura is an omen of good fortune and is also an emblem of love, affection and represents spring. Cherry blossoms are an enduring metaphor for the fleeting nature of life, and as such are frequently depicted in art.
The cherry blossom is the flower of flowers to the Japanese people. It is a native flower, and the blossoms have been loved more than 10 centuries. The people love to see not only the single petal cherry blossoms in their prime and freshness, they also relish the beauty of falling snowy petals in the spring breeze. Of all flowers, the cherry blossoms appeal most to the aesthetic taste of the Japanese people. The Japanese people would never have been essentially so jubilant, cheerful, optimistic and youthful were it not for the beauty of the cherry blossoms. Cherry blossoms have been the theme of songs and poems since time immemorial, and have played an important role in molding the Japanese character. So universal is their appeal to the moral and aesthetic taste of the race that they are constantly used as motifs on kimonos, lacquerware, pottery and other decorative items.
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).
Koinobori: The black carp (Magoi) at the top represents the father, the red carp (Higoi) represents the mother, and the last carp represents the son. If more boys are in the household, an additional blue, green and then, depending on the region, either purple or orange koinobori are added. The red koinobori's color can be varied as pink. These carp sets are flown above the roofs of houses with sons.
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.
Mochi is a Japanese rice cake. Mochitsuki is one of a traditional Japanese ceremony to make mochi. Tsuki means pounding in Japanese.
Nowadays, many people don't make mochi from scratch at home, they usually buy at stores. The reason is that it takes times and there should be at least several people. But, when you do Mochitsuki, you might enjoy the most delicious mochi ever! It might be fun!
To make mochi, it is necessary to take the cooked rice and pound it until it becomes a sticky pulp. This is no easy task and the job is often shared as it can take hours to reach the correct consistency. In this case, the mochi is used to form a rice cake which is stuffed with bean paste and wrapped in oak or bamboo leaves.
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.
Yane yori takai koinobori
Ookii magoi wa otousan
Chiisai higoi wa kodomotachi
The koinobori are higher than the rooftops
The big black carp is the father
The small golden-red carp is the child
How pleasing it is to swim!
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.
Teru teru bōzu became popular during the Edo period among urban dwellers, whose children would make them the day before the good weather was desired and chant "Fine-weather priest, please let the weather be good tomorrow."
Traditionally, if the weather does turn out well, eyes are drawn in, a libation of holy sake is poured over them, and they are washed away in the river. Today, children make teru-teru-bōzu out of tissue paper or cotton and string and hang them from a window when they wish for sunny weather, often before a school picnic day. Hanging it upside down - acts like a prayer for rain. They are a very common sight in Japan.
verbiage courtesy japan-guide.com, wikipedia. pics flickr.
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)
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.
Obon (お盆) or just Bon (盆) is one of the most important traditions for Japanese people. It is a Buddhist event and is the period of praying for the repose of the souls of one's ancestors. People believe that their ancestors' spirits come back to their homes to be reunited with their family during obon. Obon is an important family gathering time and many people return to their hometowns and visit and clean their ancestors' graves, and when the spirits of ancestors are supposed to revisit the household altars. Also called the Feast of Lanterns, it has been celebrated in Japan for more than 500 years and traditionally includes a dance, known as Bon-Odori.
Obon was originally celebrated around the 15th day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar. Obon periods are nowadays different in various regions of Japan. In most regions, obon is celebrated around August 15th on the solar calendar. It starts from August 13th and ends on 16th. In some areas in Tokyo, obon is celebrated around July 15th on the solar calendar, and it is still celebrated on the 15th day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar in many areas in Okinawa. These three days are not listed as public holidays but it is customary that people are given leave.
People clean their houses and offer a variety of food such as vegetables and fruits to the spirits of ancestors in front of butsudan (Buddhist families altar). Butsudan is decorated with flower and chouchin (paper lanterns). On the 13th, chouchin are lit inside houses, and people go to their family's graves to call their ancestors' spirits back home. It's called mukaebon. In some regions, fires called mukaebi are lit at the entrances to homes to guide the ancestor's spirits. On the 16th, people bring the ancestor's spirits back to graves, hanging chouchin painted with the family crest to guide the ancestors' spirits. It's called okuribon. In some regions, fires called okuribi are lit at entrances of homes to send the ancestors' spirits. During obon, the air in houses and cemeteries in Japan are filled with the smell of incense called senko.
Bon Odori originates from the story of Mokuren, a disciple of the Buddha, who used his supernatural powers to look upon his deceased mother. He discovered she had fallen into the Realm of Hungry Ghosts and was suffering. Greatly disturbed, he went to the Buddha and asked how he could release his mother from this realm. Buddha instructed him to make offerings to the many Buddhist monks who had just completed their summer retreat, on the fifteenth day of the seventh month. The disciple did this and, thus, saw his mother's release. He also began to see the true nature of her past unselfishness and the many sacrifices that she had made for him. The disciple, happy because of his mother's release and grateful for his mother's kindness, danced with joy. From this dance of joy comes Bon Odori or "Bon Dance", a time in which ancestors and their sacrifices are remembered and appreciated.
As Obon occurs in the heat of the summer, participants traditionally wear yukata, or light cotton kimonos. Many Obon celebrations include a huge carnival with rides, games, and summer festival food like watermelon.
The festival ends with Toro Nagashi , or the floating of lanterns. Paper lanterns are illuminated and then floated down rivers symbolically signaling the ancestral spirits' return to the world of the dead. This ceremony usually culminates in a fireworks display.
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.
Bon odori (folk dance) is the most common custum in obon. The kind of dance varies from area to area. People wearing yukata (summer kimono) go to the neighborhood bon odori and dance around a yagura stage (high wooden scaffold made especially for the festival). The yagura is usually also the bandstand for the musicians and singers of the Obon music. Anyone can participate in bon odori. Join the circle and imitate what others are doing. Usually, taiko drums keep the rhythms in bon odori.
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.
The formal upright style, or Chokkan, is characterized by a straight, upright, tapering trunk. Branches progress regularly from the thickest and broadest at the bottom to the finest and shortest at the top.
The trunk and branches of the informal upright style, or Moyogi incorporate visible curves, but the apex of the informal upright is always located directly above the trunk's entry into the soil line. Similar to the formal upright style, branches generally progress regularly from largest at the bottom to smallest at the top, although this progression may be broken where the irregular shape of the trunk would make a branch abnormally prominent or obscure.
Slant-style, or Shakan, bonsai possess straight trunks like those of bonsai grown in the formal upright style. However, the slant style trunk emerges from the soil at an angle, and the apex of the bonsai will be located to the left or right of the root base.
Cascade-style, or Kengai, bonsai are modeled after trees which grow over water or on the sides of mountains. The apex, or tip of the tree in the Semi-cascade-style, or Han Kengai, bonsai extend just at or beneath the lip of the bonsai pot; the apex of a (full) cascade style falls below the base of the pot.
Raft-style, or Netsuranari, bonsai mimic a natural phenomenon that occurs when a tree topples onto its side (typically due to erosion or another natural force). Branches along the top side of the trunk continue to grow as a group of new trunks. Sometimes, roots will develop from buried portions of the trunk. Raft-style bonsai can have sinuous, straight-line, or slanting trunks, all giving the illusion that they are a group of separate trees—while actually being the branches of a tree planted on its side.
The literati style, or Bunjin-gi, bonsai is characterized by a generally bare trunk line, with branches reduced to a minimum, and typically placed higher up on a long, often contorted trunk. This style derives its name from the Chinese literati, who were often artists. Some painted Chinese brush paintings, like those found in the ancient text, The Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting, depicting pine trees that grew in harsh climates, struggling to reach sunlight. In Japan, the literati style is known as bunjin-gi (文人木). (Bunjin is a translation of the Chinese phrase wenren meaning "scholars practiced in the arts" and gi is a derivative of the Japanese word, ki, for "tree").
The group or forest style, or Yose Ue, comprises a planting of more than one tree (typically an odd number if there are three or more trees, and essentially never 4 because of its significance in China) in a bonsai pot. The trees are usually the same species, with a variety of heights employed to add visual interest and to reflect the age differences encountered in mature forests.
The root-over-rock style, or Sekijoju, is a style in which the roots of a tree (typically a fig tree) are wrapped around a rock. The rock is at the base of the trunk, with the roots exposed to varying degrees.
The broom style, or Hokidachi is employed for trees with extensive, fine branching, often with species like elms. The trunk is straight and upright. It branches out in all directions about 1/3 of the way up the entire height of the tree. The branches and leaves form a ball-shaped crown which can also be very beautiful during the winter months.
The multi-trunk style, or Ikadabuki has all the trunks growing out of one root system, and it actually is one single tree. All the trunks form one crown of leaves, in which the thickest and most developed trunk forms the top.
The growing-in-a-rock, or Ishizuke style means the roots of the tree are growing in the cracks and holes of the rock. There is not much room for the roots to develop and take up nutrients. These trees are designed to visually represent that the tree has to struggle to survive.
The most common styles include: formal upright, slant, informal upright, cascade, semi-cascade, raft, literati, and group/forest.
butsudan (this is my obachans)
A butsudan (佛壇 or 仏壇) is a shrine found in religious temples and homes of Japanese and other Buddhist cultures. A butsudan is a wooden cabinet with doors that enclose and protect a religious icon, typically a statue or a mandala scroll. The doors are opened to display the icon during religious observances. A butsudan usually contains subsidiary religious items called "butsugu," such as candlesticks, incense burners, bells, and platforms for placing offerings. Some buddhist sects place "ihai", memorial tablets for deceased relatives, within or near the butsudan.
Butsudan is a Buddhist shrine ranging from many sizes usually found in temples and homes. "Butsudan" is a Japanese word that means "Buddha's (butsu) House (dan)." The shrine is placed in the temple or home as a place of worship to the Buddha, the Law of the Universe, etc. Scrolls (honzon) or statues are placed in the butsudan and prayed to morning and evening. Zen Buddhists also meditate before it. Butsudans were carried down the family line.
The arrangement and types of items on and around the Butsudan can vary depending on the sect. Frequently in the Butsudan is a statue of the Buddha or a Buddhist deity. Sometimes that is replaced with a scroll with text or an illustration of the Buddha. Other, auxiliary items associated with the Butsudan can include water and food (usually fruits or rice), an incense burner, candles and flowers or evergreens. Frequently a gong or bell is rung during recitation of prayers.
Some Buddhist sects have tablets with the names of deceased carved within or next to the Butsudan. Other Buddhist sects, such as Jodo Shinshu, usually do not have these. Other things can be found such as samurai swords, pictures of deceased, etc.
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).
Ponds, streams, hills, stones, trees, flowers, bridges and paths are used to create a miniature reproduction of a natural scenery which is often a famous landscape in China or Japan. The name Tsukiyama refers to the creation of artificial hills.
Tsukiyama gardens vary in size and in the way they are viewed. Smaller gardens are usually enjoyed from a single viewpoint, such as the veranda of a temple, while many larger gardens are best experienced by following a circular scrolling path.
Karesansui gardens reproduce natural landscapes in a more abstract way by using stones, gravel, sand and sometimes a few patches of moss for representing mountains, islands, boats, seas and rivers. Karesansui gardens are strongly influenced by Zen Buddhism and used for meditation.
Chaniwa gardens are built for the tea ceremony. They contain a tea house where the actual ceremony is held and are designed in aesthetic simplicity according to the concepts of sado (tea ceremony).
Chaniwa gardens typically feature stepping stones that lead towards the tea house, stone lanterns and a stone basin (tsukubai), where guests purify themselves before participating in the ceremony.
ikebana Ikebana (生花, "arranged flower") is the Japanese art of flower arrangement, also known as kadō (華道, the "way of flowers").
More than simply putting flowers in a container, ikebana is a disciplined art form in which nature and humanity are brought together. Contrary to the idea of floral arrangement as a collection of particolored or multicolored arrangement of blooms, ikebana often emphasizes other areas of the plant, such as its stems and leaves, and draws emphasis towards shape, line, form. Though ikebana is a creative expression, it has certain rules governing its form. The main rule is that all the elements used in construction MUST be organic, be they branches, leaves, grasses, or flowers. The artist's intention behind each arrangement is shown through a piece's color combinations, natural shapes, graceful lines, and the usually implied meaning of the arrangement.
Another aspect present in ikebana is its employment of minimalism. That is, an arrangement may consist of only a minimal number of blooms interspersed among stalks and leaves. The structure of a Japanese flower arrangement is based on a scalene triangle delineated by three main points, usually twigs, considered in some schools to symbolize heaven, earth, and man and in others sun, moon, love & earth. The container is also a key element of the composition, and various styles of pottery may be used in their construction.
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.
A kakemono is hung against a wall as part of the interior decoration of a room. It is traditionally displayed in the tokonoma alcove of a room especially designed for the display of prized objects. When displayed in a chashitsu, or teahouse for the traditional tea ceremony, the choice of the kakemono and its complementary flower arrangement help set the spiritual mood of the ceremony. Often the kakemono used for this will bear calligraphy of a Zen phrase in the hand of a distinguished Zen master.
Kakemono can be easily and quickly changed to match the season or occasion.
The kakemono was introduced to Japan during the Heian period, primarily for displaying Buddhist images for religious veneration, or as a vehicle to display calligraphy or poetry. From the Muromachi period, landscapes, flower and bird paintings, portraiture, and poetry became the favorite themes.
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.
The sanshin (三線, literally meaning "three strings") is an Okinawan musical instrument, and precursor of the Japanese shamisen. Often likened to a banjo, it consists of a snakeskin-covered body, neck and three strings.
Its close resemblance in both appearance and name to the Chinese sanxian indicates its Chinese origins, the old Ryūkyū Kingdom (pre-Japanese Okinawa) having very close ties with China. In the 16th century, the sanshin reached the Japanese trading port at Sakai in Osaka, Japan. In mainland Japan, it evolved into the larger shamisen.
The Okinawan names for the strings are (from thick to thin) uujiru ("man-string"), nakajiru ("middle string"), and miijiru ("female string"). The strings are white, except in Amami, where they are yellow.
Traditionally, players wore a plectrum, made of a material such as the horn of the water buffalo, on the index finger. Many still do, whereas others use a guitar pick or the nail of the index finger. In Amami, long, narrow plectra of bamboo are also in use.
In mainland Japan, many people refer to the sanshin as jabisen (蛇皮線, literally "snake-skin strings") because the body of the instrument has a snakeskin covering. A bamboo bridge raises the strings off the skin.
In the years following World War II, many Okinawans made sanshin from empty tin cans. These "kankara sanshin" were a sign of both the poverty of the postwar years, and the Okinawans' tenacious love of music.
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.
Shōji doors are often designed to slide open, and thus conserve space that would be required by a swinging door. They are used in traditional houses as well as Westrn-style housing, especially in the washitsu (Japanese-style room). In modern construction, the shōji does not form the exterior surface of the building; it sits inside a sliding glass door or window.
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.
Tatami mats also have health benefits. The tatami's straw inner-core is pressed tight and has lots of air pockets. This makes it very effective at absorbing heat. According to studies by Japanese scholars, a Tatami mat can also absorb approximately 500cc of water from the air. When the atmosphere is dry, the water will naturally evaporate. Tatami is made of soft reed which according to traditional Chinese medicine calms the spirit. The natural smell relaxes the body and soothes the mind.
Caring for Tatami properly is important. Tatami can mold or become damaged if not handled properly. As a general rule, Tatami mats should be taken out every three to six months so that they can be beaten, aired, rotated, and replaced if necessary. Tatami mats are not affixed to the undersurface in order to remove them easily.
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).
Futon is a flat, about 5 centimetres (2.0 in) thick mattress with a fabric exterior stuffed with cotton or synthetic batting that makes up a Japanese bed. They are sold in Japan at speciality stores called futon-ya as well as at department stores. They are often sold in sets which include the futon mattress (shikibuton), a comforter (kakebuton) or blanket (mōfu), a summer blanket resembling a large towel, and pillow (makura), generally filled with beans, buckwheat chaff or plastic beads. Futons are designed to be placed on tatami flooring, and are traditionally folded away and stored in a closet during the day to allow the tatami to breathe and to allow for flexibility in the use of the room. Futons must be aired in sunlight regularly, especially if not put away during the day. In addition, many Japanese people beat their futons regularly using a special tool, traditionally made from bamboo, resembling a Western carpet beater.
Futon are available in single, semi-double, and double sizes.
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.
Cha-ire Container to hold tea. Cha-ire are usually ceramic, and are stored in decorative bags called Shifuku.
Chasen Whisk, used to whisk the matcha tea, which is served rather foamy.
Chashaku Bamboo scoop for tea.
Chawan Bowl for actually making the tea. Chawans are available in a wide range of sizes and styles, and different styles are used for thick and thin tea. Shallow bowls, which allow the tea to cool rapidly, are used in summer; deep bowls are used in winter to keep the green-tea hot for longer time.
Futa-oki Bamboo rest for kettle lid.
Higashi Dry sweets, served at the end of the ceremony.
Hishaku Bamboo water ladle. It is used to transfer hot water from the iron pot (kama) to the Chawan when making tea.
Kama / Chanoyugama Iron pot or kettle for heating the water.
Kensui Waste water bowl, for any water leftover when making tea.
Koicha Thick tea, made with matcha and served first.
Matcha Powdered green tea.
Mizusashi Jar for holding fresh water for tea.
Shifuku Silk pouch to hold the chaire.
Tana Stand for utensils.
Usucha Thin tea, also made with matcha, but with more water. Served second.
Chakaiseki - the meal, or food portion of the ceremony
Hashiarai - first course:
Nimono - foods simmered in broth
Kosuimono- clear broth
Hassun - second course:
Uminomono - seafood
Yamanomono - mountain food (land)
Konomono - third course:
Omogashi - main sweet
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
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 (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.
Kirigami is a variation of origami that includes cutting of the paper (from Japanese "kiru" = to cut, "kami" = paper). It is also called "Kirie" (切り絵). From "Kiru"= to cut, "e"= picture.
Typically, kirigami starts with a folded base, which is then cut; cuts are then opened and flattened to make the finished kirigami. Kirigami are usually symmetrical, such as snowflakes, pentagrams, or orchid blossoms.
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~~
Thousand origami cranes (Senbazuru) is a group of one thousand origami paper cranes (tsuru) held together by strings. An ancient Japanese legend promises that anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish by a crane. Some stories believe you are granted eternal good luck, instead of just one wish, such as long life or recovery from illness or injury. This makes them popular gifts for special friends and family. The crane in Japan is one of the mystical or holy creatures (others include the dragon and the tortoise) and is said to live for a thousand years: That is why 1000 cranes are made, one for each year. In some stories it is believed that the 1000 cranes must be completed within one year and they must all be made by the person who is to make the wish at the end. Cranes that are made by that person and given away to another aren't included: All cranes must be kept by the person wishing at the end.
A thousand paper cranes are traditionally given as a wedding gift by the father, who is wishing a thousand years of happiness and prosperity upon the couple. They can also be given to a new baby for long life and good luck. Hanging them in one's home is thought to be a powerfully lucky and benevolent charm.
Several temples, including some in Tokyo and Hiroshima, have eternal flames for world peace. At these temples, school groups or individuals often donate senbazuru to add to the prayer for peace. The cranes are left exposed to the elements, slowly dissolving and becoming tattered as the wish is released.
In Western countries, the custom has been extended from giving a senbazuru to cancer patients to using them at funerals or on the grave.
The thousand origami cranes were popularized through the story of Sadako Sasaki, a Japanese girl who was two years old when she was exposed to radiation from the atomic bombing of Hiroshima during World War II. Sasaki soon developed leukemia and, at age 12, inspired by the senbazuru legend, began making origami cranes with the goal of making one thousand. In a popular version of the story as told in the book Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, she folded only 644 before her death; in her honor, her classmates felt sorry and agree to complete the rest for her. In an alternate version of the story, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum states that she did complete the 1,000 cranes and continued past that when her wish did not come true.
december ~ junigatsu
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
A bōnenkai (literally "forget the year gathering") is a Japanese drinking party that takes place at the end of the year, and is generally held among groups of co-workers or friends. The purpose of the party, as its name implies, is to forget the woes and troubles of the past year, and hopefully look to the new year, usually by consumption of large amounts of alcohol. A bōnenkai does not take place on any specific day, but they are usually held in December.
Bōnenka' are observed by parties of friends or co-workers or sponsored by a company or business office for their employees.
Although the Japanese have always been a people of great feeling and emotion as in the expression mono no aware, they are more reserved in expressing their feelings to others so the bōnenkai has been a way of showing public displays of gratitude. This is especially true for the company or business office bōnenkai where they can do bureiko or let their hair down and not worry about the boss/employee formal relationship or the rank and age divisions and have a good time.
When a business decides to have a bōnenkai, they take into account several things before planning a party. Some of their concerns are to ensure that enough of the employees and management will attend. They also try to set a generalized cost of no more than 5,000 yen per person; this is used to cover the cost of the party and to not discourage employees from attending a party that is too expensive. Some companies pay the entire cost of the party and will at times opt to not have the party at a traditional izakaya (restaurant and drinking places where the majority of bōnenkai are held) and instead have it on the business premises and save a lot of money in the process.
An izakaya is a type of Japanese drinking establishment which also serves food to accompany the drinks. They are casual places for after-work drinking.
Depending on the izakaya, customers sit on tatami mats and dine from low tables in the traditional Japanese style, or sit on chairs and drink/dine from tables. Many izakaya offer a choice of both, as well as seating by the bar.
Usually, you will be given an oshibori (wet towel) to clean your hands with; next an otōshi or tsukidashi (a tiny snack/an appetizer) will be served. This is local custom and usually charged onto the bill in lieu of an entry fee.
The menu may be on the table, or displayed on walls. Picture menus are common in larger izakaya. Food and drink are ordered throughout the course of the session as desired. They are brought to the table, and the bill is added up at the end of the session. Unlike other Japanese styles of eating, food items are usually shared by everyone at the table.
Common formats for izakaya dining in Japan are known as nomi-hōdai ("all you can drink") and tabe-hōdai ("all you can eat"). For a set price per person, customers can continue ordering as much food and / or drink as they wish, with a usual time limit of two or three hours.
Typical menu items
Sake (nihonshu) - is an alcoholic beverage of Japanese origin that is made from fermented rice. Sake is sometimes referred to in English-speaking countries as rice wine.
Shōchū - is a Japanese distilled beverage. It is typically distilled from barley, sweet potatoes, or rice, though it is sometimes produced from other ingredients such as brown sugar, buckwheat or chestnut. Typically shōchū contains 25% alcohol by volume, which is weaker than whisky or standard-strength vodka but stronger than wine and sake.
Sake & Shōchū
-Sour mix (sawaa) - (also known as sweet and sour mix) is a mixer used in many cocktails. It is made from approximately equal parts lemon and/or lime juice and simple syrup and shaken vigorously with ice. This produces a pearly-white liquid with a pronounced flavor.
Sour mix can be mixed with liquor(s) to make a sour drink; most common are vodka sour (vodka) and whiskey sour (whiskey).
-Chuhai - often sold as Chu-Hi as a canned drink, is an alcoholic drink originating from Japan. The name is derived from "shōchū highball". Traditional chūhai is made with shōchū and carbonated water flavored with lemon, though some modern commercial variants use vodka in place of shōchū. The flavors available have recently multiplied, including lime, grapefruit, apple, orange, pineapple, grape, kyoho grape, kiwi, ume, yuzu, lychee, and peach.
For the chūhai sold in bars and restaurants, the alcohol content can be quite low, allowing those with a low tolerance for alcohol to imbibe safely. Canned chūhai, however, can have alcohol levels as high as 9% (18 proof) and is often sold in convenience stores and vending machines. Chūhai is served in tall glasses or mugs as drinks for individuals, making it less social than other traditional Japanese bar drinks like sake, beer, or whisky, which can be shared by pouring portions from a large bottle. Fresh chūhai nama chūhai is also sometimes served, featuring fresh-squeezed juice; in some cases guests squeeze their own juice. Due to the high sugar content, the number of calories in each bottle can be quite high compared to other alcoholic beverages.
Many items are designed to be shared.
Yakitori - grilled chicken skewers. The term "yakitori" can also refer to skewered food in general.
Kushiyaki - grilled meat or vegetable skewers. is a formal term that encompasses both poultry and non-poultry items, skewered and grilled. Both yakitori and kushiyaki mean the same, so the terms are used interchangeably in Japanese society.
Sashimi - slices of raw fish
Karaage - bite-sized fried chicken
Edamame - boiled and salted soybean pods
-Hiyayakko - chilled silken tofu with toppings
-Agedashi tofu - deep fried tofu in broth
Tsukemono - pickles
Rice dishes such as ochazuke and noodle dishes such as yakisoba are sometimes eaten at the end to round off a drinking session.
Ochazuke - is a simple Japanese dish made by pouring green tea, dashi, or hot water over cooked rice roughly in the same proportion as milk over cereal, usually with savoury toppings. The dish is easy to make and provides a way to use leftover rice as a quick snack. It is also known as cha-cha gohan.
Yakisoba - literally "fried noodles in sauce". Yakisoba noodles are made from wheat flour similar to ramen. It is typically flavoured with a sweetened, thickened variant of Worcestershire sauce.
It is prepared by stir frying ramen-style noodles with bite-sized pork, vegetables (usually cabbage, onions or carrots) and flavored with yakisoba sauce, salt and pepper. It is served with a multitude of garnishes, such as aonori (seaweed powder), beni shoga (shredded pickled ginger), katsuobushi (fish flakes), and mayonnaise.
verbiage courtesy japan-guide.com, wikipedia. pics flickr.
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.
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 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
Special roles heads
The main puppeteer, the omozukai, uses his or her right hand to control the right hand of the puppet.
The left puppeteer, known as the hidarizukai or sashizukai, depending of the tradition of the troupe, manipulates the left hand of the puppet with his or her own right hand by means of a control rod that extends back from the elbow of the puppet.
A third puppeteer, the ashizukai, operates the feet and legs.
Puppeteers begin their training by operating the feet, then move onto the left hand, before being able to train as the main puppeteer. This process can take 30 years to progress.
All but the most minor characters require three puppeteers, who perform in full view of the audience, generally wearing black robes. In some traditions, all puppeteers also wear blacks hoods over their heads, while others, including the National Bunraku Theater, leave the main puppeteer unhooded, a style of performance known as dezukai. The shape of the puppeteers’ hoods also varies, depending on the school to which the puppeteer belongs.
Usually a single chanter recites all the characters' parts, altering his pitch in order to switch between various characters. However, sometimes multiple chanters are used. The chanters sit next to the shamisen player on a revolving platform, and from time to time, the platform turns, bringing replacement musicians for the next scene. Early in his career, a chanter forms a partnership with a single shamisen player. After that point, these performers will always perform, practice, and even live together. Such a partnership is for life: the death or retirement of one performers forces the retirement of his partner
The shamisen & themes
The shamisen used in bunraku has a sound which is different from other shamisen. It is lower in pitch, and has a fuller tone.
Bunraku shares many themes with kabuki. In fact, many plays were adapted for performance both by actors in kabuki and by puppet troupes in bunraku. Bunraku is particularly noted for lovers' suicide plays. The story of the forty-seven ronin is also famous in both bunraku and kabuki. Bunraku is an author's theater, as opposed to kabuki, which is a performer's theater. In bunraku, prior to the performance, the chanter holds up the text and bows before it, promising to follow it faithfully. In kabuki, actors insert puns on their names, ad-libs, references to contemporary happenings and other things which deviate from the script.
The most famous bunraku playwright was Chikamatsu Monzaemon. With more than 100 plays to his credit, he is sometimes called the Shakespeare of Japan.
Bunraku companies, performers, and puppet makers have been designated "Living National Treasures" under Japan's program for preserving its culture.
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
Shinnai is a style of narrative singing, or joruri that traces its origin to the early 1700s.
The first Tsuruga Wakasanojo began composing and performing narrative songs in the 1770s, and his style of music became widely popular through the exceptionally passionate performances of his apprentice Tsuruga Shinnai, whose name later became synonymous with the genre. The intensely emotional and often tragic stories of Shinnai repertoire captured the popular urban lifestyle of the capital city of Edo and the culture of the vibrant pleasure quarters.
Hachioji Kuruma Ningyo is a form of puppet theatre created by the first Koryu Nishikawa around the end of the Edo period. It is called Kuruma Ningyo because the puppeteer sits on a small seat with roller wheels (rokuro-kuruma) and operates the puppet (ningyo). This small seat, and the fact that only one person is needed to operate one puppet, distinguishes Kuruma Ningyo from Bunraku, in which three people are needed to operate each puppet. This one-to-one relationship allows great flexibility and realism as the puppet and the puppeteer move in unison. With such advantages of Kuruma Ningyo, the troupe of Nishikawa Koryu has been active in collaboration with other performance artists.
We had a speech from a Japanese official, something like “We welcome you and so on…”.
Then the SANBASO started. (15 minutes)
Kotobuki Shiki Sanbaso 寿式三番叟. A celebratory dance piece of divinely-inspired puppetry that originated in masked Noh drama, the Sanbaso is meant to who purify the theater and scatter good fortune on the audience with lively gestures that mimic the planting of rice and also suggest felicitous creatures like turtles and cranes. But the piece also includes comedy because even a puppet charged with the solemn task of blessing a venue sometimes gets tired and needs to cool off after a taxing turn on the stage. The Sanbaso opens every Bunraku performance.
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.
This is one of the 3 first masterpieces of the Shinnai. It's a typical Shinnai ballad. Ran'cho is the first play of Tsuruga Wakasanojo-san.
It's about a love triangle, with two main characters (you will understand this after reading the synopsis): Ran'cho, his wife - Omiya, and Ran'cho's lover - Konoito - a courtesan from the Yoshiwara district in Edo (Tokyo).
One day Omiya decides to go to Konoito to speak to her. She begs her to stop seeing her husband. Omiya starts a sad song about her marriage life, thus portraiting her feelings of love. She tells about how she wanted to marry for love and instead winded up in this love triangle.
Madly in love with Konoito, Ran'cho spends nights and days with her in Yoshiwara district, giving up both his wife and job. konoito being a courtesan, Ran'cho spends fortunes to attend to her. Once Ran'cho wastes all his fortune, Omiya finds herself obliged to work in a brothel so that she can pay daily expenses. To her dismay, Ran'cho keeps on spending the money on Konoito
Konoito is torn between her love and the duty to let him return to his family. Omiya feels that she must save her marriage, but at the same time watchs the two lovers with compassion.
In the last part of the play, Ran'cho surprinsigly finds out his wife's beliefs and feelings and starts to feel remorse. But he loves Konoito too much to give her up. In the end the two lovers commit suicide.
The third play was YAJI KITA (although I think it has to be YAJI TO KITA)
Two of the most beloved characters of the Edo period, Yajirobei and Kitahachi, are two good-for-nothing men who leave from the capital city Edo to Kyoto in an unforseen journey. Their amusing wandering are a series of books written by Jippensha Ikku between 1802-1809. The play starts with them on the road. And the naughty Yajirobei makes fun of scaredy-cat Kitahachi who is afraid of the haunted forest: he dresses up as the spirit of the sly fox and then he scares his friend.
In the end of the show there was a dancing lion with some butterflies (which I like how they're called in Japanese - cho )
The Lion Dance, a piece performed throughout East Asia in a variety of forms. The lively and engaging Lion Dance brings good fortune to the audience--a lion bite on the head will confer intelligence on children and good health for the coming year. But the lion himself is not always so fortunate. His slumber is often disturbed by delicate but pesky visitors.
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
on break...undetermined T_T
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!!
~~ 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).
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.
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.
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.
A getabako (下駄箱) is a Japanese shoe cupboard, usually situated in the genkan, an entryway or porch of the house. In Japan, it is considered uncouth to not remove one's shoes before entering the house. Near the getabako is a slipper rack, and most people in Japan wear slippers around the house, except for rooms which have tatami flooring as they are bad for the floor. The getabako is usually made of wood and bamboo, and there are many sold all over the world.
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.
The modern toilet in Japan, in English sometimes called Super Toilet, and commonly known in Japanese as Washlet (ウォシュレット, Woshuretto) or as warm-water cleaning toilet seat (温水洗浄便座, onsui senjō benza) is one of the most advanced types of toilet worldwide, showing a dazzling array of features. While the toilet looks like a Western-style toilet at first glance, there are numerous additional features—such as blow dryer, seat heating, massage options, water jet adjustments, automatic lid opening, automatic flushing, wireless control panel, room heating and air conditioning for the room—included either as part of the toilet or in the seat. These features can be accessed by an (often wireless) control panel attached to the seat or mounted on a nearby wall.
The most basic feature is the integrated bidet, a nozzle the size of a pencil that comes out from underneath the toilet seat and squirts water. It has two settings: one for washing the butt and one for the bidet. The former is called posterior wash, general use, or family cleaning, and the latter is known as feminine cleaning, feminine wash or simply bidet. At no point does the nozzle actually touch the body of the user. The nozzle is also self-cleaning and cleans itself before and after operation. The user can select to wash the anus or vulva by pressing the corresponding button on the control panel. Usually the same nozzle is used for both operations, but at a different position of the nozzle head, and using different openings in the nozzle to squirt water at a different angle to aim for the correct spot. Occasionally, two nozzles are used, each dedicated for one area. The control logic is also attached to a pressure switch in the toilet seat, and operates only if there is pressure on the seat, indicating that the seat is occupied. A number of curious users pressed the button while watching the toilet to see its mode of operation, and promptly received a jet of warm water in their face. :lol:
Most high-tech toilets allow water temperature and water pressure to be adjusted to match the preferences of the user. By default, the vulva receives less pressure than the anus. Researchers in Japan have found that most users prefer a water temperature slightly above body temperature, with 38 °C considered optimal. The nozzle position can also often be manually adjusted forward or aft. High-end washlets allow selection of vibrating and pulsating jets of water, claimed by manufacturers to be beneficial for constipation and hemorrhoids. The most advanced washlets can mix the water jet with soap for an improved cleaning process.
The washlet can replace toilet paper completely, but many users opt to use both wash and paper in combination—although use of paper may be omitted for cleaning of the vulva. Some wipe before washing, some wash before wiping, some wash only, and some wipe only—each according to his/her taste. Another frequent feature is a blow drier, often adjustable between 40 °C and 60 °C, used to dry the washed areas.
Other features may include a heated seat, which may be adjustable from 30 °C to 40 °C; an automatic lid equipped with a proximity sensor, which opens and closes based on the location of the user. Some play music to relax the user's sphincter. Other features are automatic flushing, automatic air deodorizing, and a germ-resistant surface. Some models specially designed for the elderly may include armrests and devices that help the user to stand back up after use. A soft close feature slows the toilet lid down while closing so the lid does not slam onto the seat, or in some models, the toilet lid will close automatically a certain time after flushing. The most recent introduction is the ozone deodorant system that can quickly eliminate smells. Also, the latest models store the times when the toilet is used and have a power-saving mode that warms the toilet seat only during times when the toilet is likely to be used based on historic usage patterns. Some toilets also glow in the dark or may even have air conditioning below the rim for hot summer days. Another recent innovation is intelligent sensors that detect someone standing in front of the toilet and initiate an automatic raising of the lid (if the person is facing away from the toilet) or the lid and seat together (if someone is facing the toilet).
Text explaining the controls of these toilets tends to be in Japanese only. Although many of the buttons often have pictograms, the flush button is often written only in Kanji, meaning that users who are not well versed in the Japanese writing system may be unable to flush the toilet except through random button pressing. Thus, despite the many advanced features, the toilet is unusable for some foreigners.
Recently, researchers have added medical sensors into these toilets, which can measure the blood sugar based on the urine, and also measure the pulse, blood pressure, and the body fat content of the user. Talking toilets that greet the user have also started being made. A voice-operated toilet that understands verbal commands is under development.
The seat-heating feature is very common, found even on toilets that lack the bidet features. Often this is stated as an example of unnecessary use of technology, but as most Japanese homes lack central heating, the bathroom may be only a few degrees above freezing in the winter, and a prewarmed seat may not seem so frivolous.
Toilet with seat that lowers and lifts for you, flushes automatically, and has a whole collection of different options to the side--several different typed of bidets, music to play to cover your bathroom noises, and a handful of other buttons.
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.
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 (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.
Japanese people look forward to a long leisurely soak in their deep bathtubs at the end of a hard day. When you sit in the tub, the water comes up to the shoulders.
To take a Japanese bath you first wash off with soap and hot water outside of the bathtub. Shampoo outside the bathtub too. The floor has a drain for the run-off water. Japanese sit while bathing or showering rather than standing so there is a little seat in the bathroom too. Once clean, remove the lid of the bathtub, and soak in the clean water as long as you like, you can reheat if it cools down. Everyone in the family uses the same bathwater so no soap goes into it.
The water in a Japanese bath can be re-heated too. Japan is a country were hi-tech and low-tech live side-by-side. The bathroom is equipted with the latest computer controlled heating unit so the bathwater can stay at a friendly 42 C and constantly re-heat to stay at that temp. Also, a push of a button and one can fill the tub to the desired depth and temperature. Also, the unit can control the water temperature for other faucets in the house too. The water is heated by gas instantly. There is no caution in Japan about "using all the hot water" as the gas unit located outside the bathroom constantly heats as much as needed.
When not in use, the bath is covered to keep the water warm. The entire bathroom is tiled as to be ok for splashing water.
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. 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.
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)."
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).
Tokonoma (床の間), also referred to simply as toko, is a Japanese term generally referring to a built-in recessed space in a Japanese style reception room, in which items for artistic appreciation are displayed. In English, tokonoma is usually called alcove. The items usually displayed in a tokonoma are calligraphic and/or pictorial scrolls and an arrangement of flowers. Bonsai and okimono are also often displayed there. The tokonoma and its contents are essential elements of traditional Japanese interior decoration. The word 'toko' literally means "floor" or "bed"; 'ma' means "space" or "room."
When seating guests in a Japanese-style room, the correct etiquette is to seat the most important guest with his or her back facing the tokonoma. This is because of modesty; the host should not be seen to show off the contents of the tokonoma to the guest, and thus it is necessary not to point the guest towards the tokonoma.
Stepping up inside it is strictly forbidden.
The pillar on one side of the tokonoma is usually made of a raw trunk of wood.
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.
A zabuton (座布団) is a Japanese cushion for sitting. The kanji characters 座布団 literally translated are "seat-cloth-sphere". The zabuton is generally used when sitting on the floor, and may also be used when sitting on a chair. Ordinarily any place in Japan where seating is on the floor will be provided with zabuton, for sitting comfort.
Zabuton (seat cushions) are thrown when a yokozuna (grand champion) loses.
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.
A chabudai (卓袱台) is a short-legged table used in traditional Japanese homes. People seated at a chabudai may sit on zabuton and/or tatami rather than on chairs. The four legs of a chabudai are collapsible so that the table may be moved and stored easily.
Chabudai are used for various purposes, such as a study table for children, a work bench for needlework, and most importantly, a dinner table for the entire family. In the winter, the chabudai is often replaced by a kotatsu, another type of short-legged equipped with a removable top and a heater underneath.
A kotatsu (炬燵) consists of a table with an electric heater attached to the underside of the table. The kotatsu is usually set on a thin futon, like a throw rug. A second, thicker futon is placed over the kotatsu table, above which the tabletop is placed. The electric heater attached to the underside of the table heats the space under the comforter.
Generally, a blanket is draped over the frame under the table-top. A person then sits on the floor with their legs (or most of their body if napping) under the table with the blanket draped over the lower body. In the summer, the blanket may be removed and the kotatsu can be used as a normal table.
Most Japanese housing is not insulated to the same degree as a western domicile, with no central heating; thus relying primarily on space heating. Heating is expensive because of the lack of insulation, and the draftiness of housing. A kotatsu is a relatively inexpensive way to stay warm in the winter, as the futons trap the warm air.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
A locker key is handed to each guest to keep baggage in a locker outside the capsules. The lockers aren't suitable for large bags. Shower rooms/bath rooms and rest rooms are shared by all guests, but many capsule hotels offer a large public bath or a sauna.
Women aren't often allowed in capsule hotels due to security reasons. Please contact hotels in advance. There are capsule hotels offer seperate floors or areas for men and women guests.
verbage courtesy Wikipedia and About.com / pics flickr
i wanna go inside a capsule hotel ~ it looks fun!
well..that was thorough