Sunday, April 27, 2008

Walking in Spring

I went to Kita (north) Kamakura today. Kamakura is one of the city that Kamakura Shogunate was established in the end of twelve century. It takes about one hour from Tokyo by train. It is one of the very old cities like Kyoto. There are many temples and nature there. A lot of tourists enjoy the nature, historical temples and quiet atmosphere.
Today was so nice day, not cold and not hot. Now was good season for walking around the city. Many flowers bloom in temples. There are a lot of trees around them. I felt fresh air and relaxed watching green leaves and magnificent temples. I took some pictures.

Shakuyaku (Peony)

Kodemari (Spiraea Cantoniensis)

Fuji (Wisteria)

Landscape of Kamakura down hillside

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Torch in Japan

A lot of people gathered at Nagano, one of prefectures in Japan, today. It was to see torch relay of Olympic. However, not to see. It was for their propaganda or appealing their claims for the situation of China.
Olympic is just a festival and sports event. Torch relay in each countries for Beijing Olympic bring some conflicts. Political situation and friction in that time have influenced in the past Olympic. Is the relay like that significant event ? I doubted whether it was important watching these troubles and conflicts in Nagano. The relays might be a chance for fulfillment of the phrase , "Sports has international appeal." in Olympic games.

My impression of this relay :
When I watched the scene of the relay through the TV camera of helicopter, Japanese policemen that guarded the runners was well-ordered. And this was like an event in a city of China.

Significant event in Japan : Priests of Buddhism temple, Zenko-ji, in Nagano and some Tibetans prayed for the victims of the conflicts in Tibet.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Golden Week

What is golden week? It is spring holiday season for Japan. It is generally holiday from May 3 to 5. Also April 29 is a holiday. If we take vacation in weekdays of the end of April and beginning of May, we can take our long vacation.
I think Japanese work well. A week as vacation is long for Japanese. A lot of people go abroad or go back their hometown to meet parents, grandparents or friends. The cost for travel is very expensive in the holidays. Facilities of travel, airplanes, trains, buses are crammed with a lot of people and freeways are traffic jam in every golden week.
We know these trips are very hard and expensive. However, it is difficult to take our long vacation for businessmen or women in normal weekdays. We can take holiday for wedding ceremony including of honeymoon or funerals of relatives without hesitating. Almost Japanese people want to take a trip even if the cost is expensive. Also they go to amusement parks and go to hometown. Everyone wait for this holiday and spend time for own leisure every year.
In my case, my hometown is Tokyo. I don’t want to pay additional travel cost for Golden week. My plan for Golden week this year is going to movie theaters.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Pocky and Kappaebisen

Many snacks and chocolate are sold in Japan. Pocky and Kappaebisen are the snacks name and they are very good seller about for 40 years.
Pocky is chocolate snake that is made by Japanese maker, Glico and Kappaebisen is fried snakes like potato chips that is made by Calbee (They are very big company.) Pocky and Kappaebisen are standard snacks in Japan and almost know them.
When I was child, these products were popular and two are very popular now, too.

Standard Pocky

Special version Pocky (Coconut and Brazilian Pydding) in season

Pocky has a lot of variations. Various special versions by each season or projects have been released.
I sometimes buy special versions and enjoy various tastes.

Standard Kappaebisen
Kappaebisen has a theme song and it has been standard. Almost Japanese have heard this melody in TV commercial. The phrase is “Yamerarenai Tomaranai, Kappaebisen” This means that we can’t stop eating Kappaebisen. Actually I can't stop eating it after I put a piece of Kappaebisen into my mouth once.
If you open this site, you can hear this melody without Japanese phrase.

Do you have these long selling snacks in your country ?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Mama Chari (Utility Cycling) - Bicycle for mother

Japanese have one or two bicycles in a family. Depending of the family, each members have own bicycle.
We often use it for commuting from house to station or shopping. There are some parking lots for bicycle near each stations or shopping centers. A plenty of bicycles are always there. These parking lots are not enough to park all of bicycles. Since many bicycles that we can’t park are parked on the sidewalk, pedestrians can’t walk normally. And there is no space for wheelchair because of these bicycle.The holders throw away illegally or leave their bicycles for a long time. It is sometimes a social problem in Japan.
Especially Japanese mothers usually ride on the bicycle for taking a child to and from kindergarten and going to buy some foods for dinner. Therefore, we named the bicycle as “Mama chari” in Japanese. Almost of Japanese including men use bicycles of Mama chari type.This is not for road racing.
Basic Mama chari is provided a basket in front of the bicycle for putting in shopping bags. We can add the optional components depending on the purpose. Another basket on the back for putting in shopping bags. A chair with handles for small child on the back. When the child rides on, he or she must put a helmet on. And in case of two children, another small chair can be provided in front of mother. (Now bicycle driver can't ride on with more than two people.)
These optional goods are very helpful for the mothers. Sometimes they ride on it at rainy day wearing raincoat with hood for their children. They ride on Mama chari almost everyday, windy days or rainy days. Japanese mothers have a lot of vitality. Today they are riding on Mama chari with a lot of shopping bags and their child. And Mama chari is necessary for Japanese life.

This site is catalog of Bridgestone, one of Japanese wheel maker.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

To Know Japan Life

When you want to know about Japan, it will be useful for you to read The Japan Times Online.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Green Young Leaves

Green young leaves (Wakaba) are sprouting in few days. It is so beautiful and I feel spring and I like seeing these trees.
April is the month to start new life in Japan. Freshmen enroll in school and recruits enter a company. When I see the green young leaves, I think they are like these young people. There is future and hope.

I heard an interview of a famous doctor who ninety-six years old, Shigeaki Hinohara. He examines his patients in hospital now and he looks very young. He writes a lot of books to live healthier. An interviewer asked him the secret of his longevity. He said that no matter how old we were, to start something new was very important and to meet and talk to young people is one of the secret. I remember that Giorgio Armani said like that.
People become older, we usually go around with friends of same ages. Also we are unwilling to start something new. We sometimes use excuse “ I’m old to start. So it is no use to learn something or start something.” I noticed that the curiosity for new thing is essential to spend our fruitful time.
I try to absorb new world like green young leaves. Recently I start to learn Yoga. It seems good for me. April is good season to start something new.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Ayu and Hicky - 2 Big Utahime (Diva)

What are these words?
If you are Japanese J-pop fan, you will know them. They are nickname of two Japanese female vocals and they are very popular among especially young ages.
Almost their songs were on hit charts. Two of them is called “Utahime” (We sometimes call female singer Utahime (Diva). Uta means song and Hime means princess in Japanese.) and are usually compared. Young popular female and male singers in the past could be idles if they were beautiful face or cute in Japan no matter they couldn't sing well. The talent as a singer was not important. The situation is changed. Almost J-pop singers are talented and these songs have originality.
New female singers debut now. However, Ayu and Hicky’s popularity is special .
Ayu, Ayumi Hamasaki is always a fashion leader among Japanese young girls. They are interested in her fashion and makeup. They want to be Ayu and copy her style. She is like a pretty doll has big eyes. Her performance on the stage is always gorgeous. She is like a princess. A lot of fans enthused her recent concert tour. She composed lyrics and her fans will sympathize her lyrics.
Hicky, Hikaru Utada debuted at 15 years old and her first album was million hit in Japan. She composes lyrics and music. Since she was born in New York, she is bilingual in Japanese and English. She have released an album in USA. Her mother was a famous Enka singer. Almost singles and albums became No.1. Some her songs are theme song for TV dramas or commercial songs. She releases new album now and sold well. One of songs in the album "Prisoner of love" is theme song of new TV drama in this spring. It will become No.1 hit.
Her songs are my taste personally. I have some her albums. I think her Japanese lyrics are very unique.

Which singers are your taste , Ayu or Hicky ?

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Tsubaki - 椿

Tsubaki (Camellia) is one of Japanese typical spring flower. We can see Tsubaki at suburb very well. It is very beautiful flower.
When the flower withers, the petals don't fall down. A whole flower falls down on the ground.
Tsubaki Abura (Oil) is very famous and it is like olive. The oil is extracted from the seeds. It is good for hair. I sometimes use Tsubaki Abura and my hair glosses.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Cleaning up Everest

Japanese alpinist Ken Noguchi tries to climb and clean up Everest, the highest mountain in the world, in April. He was the youngest alpinist who succeeded in climbing Everest in the world. He is well known as Japanese adventurer in Japan. He has climbed to pick up the rubbish of the Everest and Mt.Fuji several times after his achievement.
I have heard his speech about his experiences as an adventurer in a big hall. And I have read his books. He is so attractive guy. He knew big amount of the various nation’s rubbish that left, especially a lot of Japanese rubbish were thrown away after his climbing. He was shocked about decline of Japanese moral and felt shamed. And he decided to pick up. The quantity was several tons each climbing for cleaning. His activity is continuing now.
Since these activities are big projects, he needs other support to pick up. A lot of Nepalese assistants and other supporters help him. And it is perilous project every time.
To conquer high mountains is great challenge and an honor for adventurers. Only the achievement is always prominent in the news, but he unveils the fact of the other side. A lot of Japanese could know the situation of nature.
I hope he and his companies come back without any accidents.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Full of Sakura  

Sakura tree in front of Ginza subway station in Tokyo.

Pale pink Somei yoshino in Kyoto. Somei yoshino is a breed of typical Sakura.

Pink Sakura in Kyoto. (probably Somei yoshino)

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Yozakura in Kyoto

This type of Sakura is weeping cherry blossom (Shidare Zakura).

I went to Kyoto, one of an ancient and historical city (Koto) , last week. I like Kyoto and I have been to Kyoto several times until now. Many tourists, including foreigners, visit there. A lot of temples, shrines and tourists attractions are there. Also we can enjoy special foods of Kyoto, too. (Tofu, tsukemono like pickles, vegetables, Yatsuhashi, Uji green tea, etc.)
You will be surprised at the big and modern Kyoto station, when you go to Kyoto by train. I think it is mismatch for the historical place. However, I’m always excited when I arrive at the station.
Spring is the tourist season because of Sakura. About half of Sakura flowers bloomed in Kyoto. (Almost flowers bloomed in Tokyo now.) I took some photos for Kyoto and Sakura at Saturday night. Attached are the pictures of “Yozakura”. “Yozakura” means Sakura that we see at night. Famous places of Sakura are lit up. It is very fantastic scene. These photos were taken at Shirakawa and Shinbasi street near the Gion, is famous area as Maiko, Japanese Geisha. There is a little stream and so elegant place.

Please enjoy the pictures.