Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Sakura  桜

The Japan Meteorological Agency announced a declaration of Sakura's blooming (Kaika Sengen) in Tokyo. It is announced every year.
We, Japanese have special feeling about Sakura. Almost Sakura flower are bloomed in every spring. New season begins in the period of blooming of Sakura. Children enroll in school and freshmen enter the company. We wait for spring for long cold winder and Sakura is a sign for spring. And we have a lot of festival or party (Hanami) under the full bloomed Sakura trees.
Moreover, we might feel that Sakura symbolizes one of Japanese spirit. Sakura flowers are very beautiful but the life is short-lived. (We call short-lived life "Hakanai Inochi". ) The flowers are falling in a flash and they are also beautiful like a shower.
There is a word "Isagiyoi" in Japanese. Falling Sakura flowers are "Isagiyoi " (without hesitating) It is as if Sakura receives own life without struggling. Human beings sometimes cling to something. It is obsession, own present situation, desire, pride, money, status, etc. We think that leaving or giving up readily (Isagiyoku) is better when we finish something. Sakura's whole life is just our taste. Sakura will express our beautiful and limited life for us.
Japanese love "Isagiyoi" Sakura.

These are some customs in Sakura season. I will explain them and show you the pictures of Sakura before long.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Curry Rice - Japanese Original Curry

What is most popular menu in Japan ? I think it is curry and rice. Adults and children love it so much. If Indians eat Japanese original curry, they will say it is not real curry. Certainly we can eat curry in Indian restaurant in Japan. However, it is different with curry that is made in our house. Real Indian curry is smoother and they eat it with Indian food, "Naan" like a baked pie sheet. The taste is spicier than Japanese curry. I love Indian curry, too.
We, Japanese eat with rice. Japanese curry sauce is more thickened and is put on rice. And Japanese pickles, "Rakkyo" or "Fukujin zuke" is essential item. And we distinguish the taste, sweet (Amakuchi), middle of hot (Chu kara), and very hot (karakuchi).
It is easy to cook it in our house. We can buy the solid cubic curry sauce in shopping store. We fry and boil a lot of vegetables. Main vegetables are carrot, potato and onion. Almost Japanese people put in meats or marine products in the curry. After all ingredients are boiled , we just put some solid cubic curry sauce into the pot. After waiting for 30 - 60 minutes sometimes stirring the curry sauce. It is ready to eat .
Curry Rice is so convenient and helpful menu for mothers. We can cook big volume of curry and eat for a few days. Curry rice is best food for family.
Moreover, there is more convenient way to eat it. It is an instant food like dry noodles. Curry sauce for one person is put in a tinfoil bag. It is OK to put the bag in hot water for 5 minutes. We are only ready for one cup of the rice and can eat delicious curry anytime. (The attached picture is instant curry of Nakamura-ya, that is long-standing and famous curry restaurant in Shinjuku.) But homemade curry is best.
I recommend you try to eat Japanese curry one time. You will definitely like it.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Soredemo Boku Wa Yattenai- Even so, I didn't do it

I love watching films. Film is one of tools that everyone can know the culture or system of each countries.
I want to mention a Japanese film. It is "Soredemo Boku wa Yattenai" , directed by Masayuki Suo. He is a director of "Shall we dance?". "Soredemo" has been released last year in Japan. I saw it in TV again.
The film's theme is about judicial problem "Enzai", false accusation. A young man who doesn't have regular job, we call these people Freeter, is arrested for molester in train. The victim is a junior high school student. The commuter train in the morning is so clammed with a lot of businessmen or women and students. No witness and no real evidence. Only her testimony and circumstantial evidence are keys to resolve the case.
Everyone, station attendants, police and prosecutors believe that he is guilty. And they inquire him as if he is a criminal. However, he continues to say to the last, "I didn't do it." His family, friends and defenses are his supporters.
The case like this film was reported recently in Japan. The businessman was arrested for a molester, but he was innocent. He was flamed by a university student and his girl friend.
There are some causes for "Enzai" They are investigation in police, judge's personality or invisible pressure of national authorities for the verdict. Various problems are described in this film.
In case of being prosecuted that someone is guilty once, it is very difficult to prove he (she) is innocent in Japanese court. The possibility of changing to be innocent is only 0.1 % in Japan. It is harsh fact. The situation like this film is possible to happen for everyone.
I haven't known these facts or Japanese court system. I think almost Japanese would not have known until we saw it. The director has investigated judicial system about for ten years. "Soredemo" is serious and great film. You will be enjoy the story as a trial movie and know present situation in Japan.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Quiet Japanese

I recently read a book about India. An interesting thing is mentioned in the book. It is that when an international session or conference would be held, it would be difficult to let Indian stop speaking and let Japanese speak.
Moreover, I have heard an interview of a Japanese junior high school principal. He said, “The students are relatively good at learning words and memorizing a lot of things as knowledge. These are the questions that have an answer obviously. For example, the name of an era, equation of math, name of historical person, etc. However, they are not good at saying their opinion and discussing about problems that solution is not one.
In fact we don’t have enough lessons about speech, discussion, or debating with some issues at school. This does not mean that we don’t have our opinions. We did not get used to insist our opinion to other people.
We have thought it was good thing that everyone has same sense of value. Since Wa (harmony) was important in our society, we haven’t accepted and agreed with the their unique and different opinion with everyone easily. We shut out unique sense or remarkable behavior from our society. The remarkable behavior got even an aim of discrimination in community. In result, we have hesitated about saying our opinion to other people.
Now our situation is changed. Harmony or cooperation is still important, however, we can say our own opinion that is different with the opinion of almost people in front of people freely. Because we knew that it was a personality and unique personality is precious in every field.
Our communication ability in English might be one of obstacles in international society. But we should insist our opinion about various issues to the world.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Graduation - Sotugyo

March is a season for graduation in Japan. New term of school and university begins in April at the same time with spring coming. Our compulsory education is for 9 years, from 6 years old to 15 years old. Elementary school is for 6 years and junior high school is for 3 years. The boys and girls can decide if they enroll high school or not. (High school is for 3 years.)
We have graduation ceremony each school in March. The students feel sad of saying good-by with friends and school life.
There is a interesting custom in Japanese junior and high schools. The students normally wear the special uniform each schools. Male students often wear unique Japanese uniform, "Gakuran "or jacket. When female students have an adoring senior who graduates, she asks the second button (Daini botan in Japanese) of his uniform to give her after the ceremony. This means a confession of her adoring feeling for him. If he gives her the button, this is a sign to accept her feeling. It is an indicator of his popularity that how many girls come to ask him. Who does he give the bottom? It is a topic among the students.
It is very important topic for young people, however, this custom is not serious after graduation. It is just a precious and sweet memory of school days.

Friday, March 14, 2008

White Day

St.Valentine day is famous in Japan and other countries. White day is only Japanese event. March 14 is a special day for men. The men who were given chocolates should send candies for thanks of Valentine day. White day is not big event comparing to St.Valentine day. It is clearly commercial event for Candy makers. The men who were given Giri choco often say " I don't want to get chocolates on Valentine day because it is a little troublesome to think what candies I should give."
And women don't expect the candies on white day all that.
Japanese like to set special day for business profit. Anyway, I think that white day isn't necessary.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Hay Fever Is Coming

A lot of Japanese people are annoyed with hay fever, "Kafun-sho" , in spring.
Kafun-sho rages all over Japan while the pollen is scattering. The primary source of pollen is the Japanese ceder. Kafun (pollen) reports like the weather are forecasted for Kafun season on the news.
I have allergies, too. Symptoms depend on each person. Non-stop runny nose, continuous sneezes, headache, itchy eyes and congestion,etc. The patients cannot help taking medicine. However, the allergy medicine is very strong, so we become sleepy or feel tired. Other tools for protecting ourselves from the pollen are medical masks and glasses. There are the glasses like goggles for skies. Since Japanese like to refine products, there are many types of masks, not just the flat type. They are necessary when we go out.
Other countries people might feel strange about the people that put on masks and glasses as if a robber.
Kafun season is a serious and social problem and fear for patients of allergy every spring.
If you see these people in Japan, please don't mind them. It is very common situation in our country.

Saturday, March 8, 2008


Enka is one of music genres in only Japan. It is like country song in America or chanson in France. It is old type of songs in Japan and opposite side of J-pop.
Especially old people like Enka. Almost melody of Enka is very similar and old style. How to sing is very unique. Enka singers sometimes use special voice, “Kobushi” in the tune. Female singers wear Kimono and lyrics are very old style. In case love song, woman always waits for the man without saying anything until he notices her mind for him. It was a typical negative Japanese woman in the past. Other type is about a song for memory of hometown, especially cold northern area.
I feel almost of Enka songs are same. The number of the Enka’s fun is decreasing now. The market is decreasing, too. There are certainly some good Enka songs until now. However, Enka is clearly out of date.
Now an Enka song becomes popular and is in the hit charts. The singer is young black American, Jero. His look is just a American Hip Hop singer. He had Japanese grandmother who lived in America and used to hear Enka songs with her on TV and sing in front of her. In his interview, he said he used to sing to satisfy her when he was a child. And he became a fun of Enka. He can speak Japanese fluently and sing Japanese lyrics. Everyone is surprised at the gap of his look and Enka song, Japanese taste. The title of the song is “Umi Yuki” (The Ocean Snow). Certainly, he is just a Japanese singer when we hear closing my eyes. Japanese media praises his song for appealing Japanese soul.
Can he change the image of Enka and does Enka become popular for sake of him in the future ?

Friday, March 7, 2008

Natto - fermented soybeans

I love Natto. Natto is very special Japanese food. There are some fermented foods in Japan. It has intense smell and it seems not to be able to eat it, when you smell it. It’s like going off. However, it is very healthy food in Japan. After stirring, natto becomes stringy. It was basically fermented by natto germ that is called as “Natto kin" covering with a sheet of straw.
I will show you how to cook natto.
1) The seasonings are soy sauce and Japanese mastered (Wa Karashi).
2) Add leek, seaweed (Nori) in strips and wa karashi in natto and stir all ingredients with soy sauce more than 50 times. It is better to stir many times.
It is basic how to cook Natto. These ingredients are essential to eat it better. It is OK to add boiled Okra in strips. Okra has stringiness, too.
We eat the stirred Natto on the rice. The smell and stringiness divide our favor, like or not. After knowing the special natto taste, everyone is attracted to it. I can eat it everyday. Otherwise, I sometimes put Kimchi, Korean food, in the basic natto. I call it Kimchi Natto. It is more delicious and becomes nutritious food. Lactic acid bacteria of Kimuchi make it more nutritious. You will think that both of foods, natto and Kimchi are very unique. However, please try to eat.You are surely addicted to it, too.
If you can eat Natto, you will be real Japanese. (The picture above is Kimuchi natto on the rice.)

Monday, March 3, 2008

Hinamatsuri - Doll Festival for girls

Today is dool festival for girls, "Hinamatsuri" in Japan. Parents display Japanese traditional dolls, Hina Ningyo (doll) at home for their daughter until March 3. This festival's meaning is the parent's wish to grow up healthyly. Main dolls are the Emperor (Odairi-sama ) and empress (Ohina-sama). Other members are 3 female servants , (San nin kanjo), 5 musicians (Go nin bayashi) and two old servants (Udaijin and Sadaijin). There are some traditional days like Hinamatsuri. Setsubun (February 3) , Tango no sekku (May 5) for boys and Shichi go san (November 15).
Mother cooks "Chirashi zushi" on March 3. It is food for celebration. We often cook it at other celebrations.
Also Hinamatsuri is called "Momo no sekku ". Momo is peach tree in Japanese. Momo bloomes in spring. Momo is very feminine flower. The flower is very tiny and cute. Color is pink. Momo is very important item for display. As other items, "Hishi mochi" is for offering. Hishi mochi is lozenge rice cake.
My mother used to say "After you sleep, the dolls have festival during the night. If you try to see it. we couldn't see it." when I was a child. This was my mother's joke. However, I have believed it and I have wanted to see the festival, if possible. Always I can't wake up midnight and see it.
It is just my memory of Hinamatsuri.
We, Japanese feel each season through these traditional ceremonies or events.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Onsen - Hot spring

Since a lot of volcanoes are distributed, hot springs well up in each area in Japan.
Japanese like onsen and enjoy the onsen ryokan (Japanese style hotel ). Winter is good season for onsen trip. Ryokan suplies a lof of services and fun to tourists. Bath, dinner and breakfast , relaxation , etc.
We almost take a bath before taking a bath (onsen). Depending on guests , they take a bath second time. In case guests who love onsen, they will take a bath in the morning before breakfast. This is called "Asa Buro". Three times in one stay.
I write more information about onsen.
1) Big bath (Dai-Yokujo) is settled in each ryokan. All guests can take a bath in Dai-Yokujo together. Dai-Yokujo become a popularity for rhokan. Depending on the ryokan, there is a small bath (Uchi buro) in the room. We feel supreme relax and happiness in taking a onsen.
And we think that we are Japanese heartily. ( It is just a trivia. We often say "Gokuraku, Gokuraku" in hot water. This word is an expression for feeling happiest time. "Gokuraku " means paradise or heaven in Japanese based on Buddhist.)
2) Gorgeous dinner and breakfast : For dinner, not only onsen but food of rhokan is very important for the tourists. Almost ryokan serve full course Japanese style dinner and breakfast. For example, a lot of raw fishes (Sashimi) , tempura, other dishes of marine or mountain products, Nabe ryori for a each person, miso soup, rice and fruits or deserts. Almost of dishes are in season. For breakfast, basic foods are grilled fish (Yaki-Zakana), onsen egg, natto, rice with grilled seaweed, other season plates, miso soup and fruits.
3) Souvenir: Japanese like to buy souvenir for memory of trip. It is for both of ourselves and friends. There is a souvenir shop (Omiyagemono-ya) in rhokan. It is a fun for tourists. In general onsen manju or other sweets are sold there. Onsen manju is boiled Japanese sweet cakes stuffed with azuki-bean paste. Since manju was boiled by steam of hot spring before, it will be called "Onsen manju. "
4) What sports do guests play in onsen ryokan ? It is ping-pong. (Takkyu ) Tables for ping-pong are decreasing now. However, ping-pong is one of the items for Onsen trip.