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The zoo is free today

4 May

In Japan, April 29th, May 3rd, May 4th and May 5th are public holidays.  Collectively they are known as 「(ゴールデンウィーク」 (“Golden Week“).  Technically only those days are public holidays and therefore only the May 3-5 period is “Golden Week”, but many companies allow their employees to have a Golden Week holiday from 「昭和の日」 (“Showa Day”) on April 29th until 「子供の日」 (“Children’s Day”) on May 5th.

(Click here to read my FAQ that explains a bit about the Golden Week holidays.)

Today is May 4th…「みどりの日」 (“Greenery Day“) in Japan.

This is the day to appreciate nature.  Every year May 4th is one of three days that all of the public 動物園 (zoos) and 水族館 (aquariums) are open with no admission charge.

So you can go to the zoo or aquarium in Tokyo for free today…if you don’t mind the crowd.

Of the three days that Japan’s zoos are open for free, May 4th is the most crowded because it’s the day that is a national holiday.
Tokyo’s 「上野動物園」 (Ueno Zoo) will be particularly crowded because in addition to the zoo being open for free on a national holiday today…Ueno Zoo recently got new pandas.

The three days of the year that Japan’s public zoos and aquariums are open for free are May 4th (“Greenery Day”), 都/道/府/県民の日 (Prefecture Residents’ Day) (each prefecture’s “Residents Day” is a separate day), and the anniversary of the day that the zoo / aquarium first opened.

So, for Tokyo’s public zoos, the days that they’re open for free are as follows:
-May 4th 「みどりの日」 (Greenery Day)…which is today.
-October 1st 「都民の日」 (Tokyo Residents’ Day)…as for the Tokyo’s neighboring prefectures, 千葉県民の日 (Chiba Prefecture Residents’ Day) is on June 15th, 埼玉県民の日 (Saitama Prefecture Residents’ Day) is on November 14th, and 神奈川県民の日 (Kanagawa Prefecture Residents’ Day) is on March 19th—so Chiba Zoo, Tobu Zoo, Yokohama Zoo, etc. will be open for free on their respective prefecture’s Residents Day.
-And the other free day is the anniversary of the zoo’s grand opening…so, for each of Tokyo’s public zoos and aquariums, that day is:

Ueno Zoo...open for free every March 20th (first opened on 1882 March 20).

Tama Zoo is open for free on both (May 4) today and (May 5) tomorrow (both are national holidays). Tama Zoo first opened on 1958 May 5th.

Kasai Seaside Aquarium...open for free every October 10th (first opened on 1989 October 10).

Inokashira Zoo...open for free every May 17th (first opened on 1918 May 17).

Ooshima Zoo is always opened to the public for free.

Do you like zoos and aquariums? Which is your favorite zoo? Have you seen any of Japan’s zoo?

If you want any information about these zoos and aquariums in Tokyo (or the ones in the neighboring prefectures), feel free to ask in this post’s comments or e-mail me…I’ve been to them all.

(Images in this post are from the Tokyo Zoological Park Society website).

Chocolate for “adults”

18 Nov

I was going to write a post about U.S. President Barack Obama’s recent visit to Japan for the APEC Summit that was held in Yokohama, Japan last week.
This summit was for world leaders to discuss free-trade in the Asia / Pacific region.

President Obama made a speech when he visited Japan shortly after his election in which he mentioned that he had visited 鎌倉 (Kamakura, Japan) near Tokyo on a trip with his mother when he was six years old.
On that trip, he remembered, he visited the 大仏 (Great Buddah) and enjoyed “Green Tea Ice Cream”.

In that speech, President Obama said that he hoped to visit Kamakura again one day soon and eat Green Tea Ice Cream again.

His wish came true on his last day in Japan of this recent trip (well, he actually ate a “Green Tea Popsicle” rather than ice cream this time).

U.S. President Obama eating a Green Tea Popsicle in Kamakura, Japan on 2010 Nov 14.

U.S. President Obama in front of the 大仏 (Great Buddah) statue in Kamakura, Japan on 2010 Nov 14.

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I also wanted to write about the 2010 Asian Games which are currently being played in Guangzhou, China.
Forty-five countries are participating in these games which began on 2010 November 12 and will end with the closing ceremony on November 27th.
Japan is doing pretty good in these games…but China, the host country, has the highest number of gold medals so far.

Japan is upset though by the results of the women’s Judo matches. Judo is a Japanese martial art and Japanese athletes consistently excel in international Judo competitions…but in the women’s Judo match Tomoko Fukumi of Japan lost in her match against Wu Shegen of China.
Although it appeared to most people watching that Japan was winning, the judges awarded the victory to China.

Hopefully this doesn’t add more tension to the relationship between Japan and China.
In both Japan and China recently there have been protests against the other country due to Japan’s arrest (and eventual release) of a Chinese fisherman who entered disputed waters that are claimed as territory by both China and Japan.
And in the same waters, on two separate occasions a Chinese boat intentionally rammed a Japanese Coast Guard vessel that was patrolling the area.

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But I titled this blog post 「Chocolate for “adults”」 because I saw the Kit-Kat 「オトナの甘さ」 (“(Level of) Sweetness for Adults”).

I don’t eat junk-food often but two types of chocolate that I like are whiskey chocolate and dark / bitter chocolate.
This Kit-Kat is a bitter / semi-sweet chocolate so I decided to try it. It was pretty good.

The Japanese actress / singer 「黒木めいさ」 (Meisa Kuroki) is the promotion model for both the “regular” Kit-Kat (dressed in red) and the Kit-Kat 「オトナの甘さ」 “Sweetness for Adults” (dressed in black).

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Have you heard any of these news stories before?

Earnest Mercer interview

11 Apr

Earnest Mercer has seen Japan from the 1950′s to 2006.

I have seen Japan change a lot in the twenty years I’ve lived here…so I can only imagine how many changes he’s seen.

Mr. Mercer was kind enough to do an interview with me.

…the economic recovery of Japan after WWII is one of the greatest achievements in modern history…

(Earnest Mercer)

"Kirin Beer" delivery truck, 1950s Japan (photo by Earnest Mercer).

Click here to read the interview.

Walking With Dinosaurs

25 Mar

Have you ever heard of the “Walking With Dinosaurs” show from England?

It was originally a BBC documentary about dinosaurs…but now they have traveling exhibition / arena show with life-sized, very realistic looking dinosaur robot / costumes.

They’re bringing their show to Japan this summer for a seven-city Japan tour.
They brought one of their dinosaurs to Tokyo today to promote their show on morning talk shows on Japan’s “Fuji TV” channel.

The “baby dinosaur” and one of the show’s staff were in the TV studio in Tokyo this morning. The show’s Japanese cast were all impressed by how realistic looking, acting and sounding the dinosaur was.

I have three daughters. They’re not really interested in dinosaurs…so we won’t be seeing it.

But if you’re in Japan this summer, you can buy a ticket for ¥4,200 – ¥10,500 for adults (¥3.150 – ¥7,350 for kids).

The dates of the Japan show are:
2010 July 8 – 11: Yokohama
July 16 – 19: Hiroshima
July 22 – 25: Osaka
July 29 – August 1: Shizuoka
August 5 – 8: Saitama
August 12 – 15: Aichi
August 19 – 22: Fukuoka

"Walking With Dinosaurs" Japan Tour summer 2010

Click here for the “Walking With Dinosaurs” English site.
Click here for the 「ウォーキング・ウィズ・ダイナソー」 (“Walking With Dinosaurs”) 日本語 (Japanese) site.

The 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th

12 Feb

Have you seen the photos of the “2001 September 11th attacks” on the World Trade Center towers in New York City that were recently made public?

These photos were taken by New York Police Officers who were on the scene in a police helicopter.

Here are some of the photos they took:

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The 2010 Winter Olympics will take place in Vancouver, Canada.
The opening ceremony is scheduled to begin on Friday, 2010 February 12th in the evening…Canada time. So, it’ll be Saturday, 2010 February 13th here in Japan when the ceremony begins.

The official 2010 Olympics logo.

The games will go from 2010 February 12-28 (Canada time).
Do you watch the Olympics?
I watch them…but the games go for over two weeks—I don’t watch everyday of the games. I like to watch some of the opening ceremony and some of the closing ceremony and a few games in between.

This year, Japan is sending 95 athletes to compete in the Olympics, America is sending 216, and Canada (the host country) will have 206 athletes play.
How many athletes from your country will be at the 2010 Olympics?

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Sunday, February 14th will be Valentine’s Day.
How is Valentine’s Day celebrated in your country?

In Japan, it’s done the opposite of how America celebrates it. And Japan has another holiday (called “White Day“) in March that is more similar to Western-style Valentine’s.

Click here to read my FAQ about Valentine’s Day in Japan…
and click here to read my post that explains Japanese Valentine’s (and other holidays in February) in more detail.

Also, this year on February 14 will be the Chinese New Years.
I mentioned it on my site’s “Festivals In Tokyo” page….click here to read it.

Have you ever experienced a Chinese New Years ceremony?
If you’re in the Tokyo area this weekend, you can go to 「横浜中華街」 (“Yokohama China Town“) and see a Chinese New Years ceremony.

Yokoso Japan!

14 Jun

「ようこそジャパン」 (Yokoso Japan!) means “Welcome to Japan!“, and is the Japan National Tourism Organization‘s official slogan of their campaign to attract foreign visitors to Japan.

「Yokoso Japan!」 logo

「Yokoso Japan!」 logo

Here are some of their Yokoso Japan! campaign ads.

Most of the scenes in this first one are of Tokyo (there are a few shots of Osaka, etc…but most of it is Tokyo):

These show many parts of Japan:

Do they make you want to visit this beautiful country?

ラーメン・ガール

24 May

First of all, today is my mother’s birthday. So…Happy birthday, Mom.

Yesterday, I watched the movie 「ラーメン・ガール」 (“The Ramen Girl“).

theramengirl

Have you ever seen this movie?

It’s not bad. It’s much better than that other Tokyo-related but over-rated 「ロスト・イン・トランスレーション」 (“Lost In Translation“)!

A boring movie....

A boring movie....

The movie “Lost In Translation” is about an American woman who follows her boyfriend to Tokyo when his work sends him here and he is too busy to spend time with her so meets another American who is working in Tokyo and just as lonely as she is.

If you haven’t seen it…don’t bother. It’s painfully boring.

The movie “The Ramen Girl“, though not great, is a much better movie than “Lost In Translation“.
Ironically, it has some similarities in the story.
An American woman follows her boyfriend to Tokyo when his work sends him here in this story, too. He decides she’s cramping his style and he moves to Osaka without her.
She becomes depressed and lonely and one night has a bowl of ラーメン (Ramen*) at a nearby Ramen shop that are all over Japan.
(* Real ramen. Not the instant type that is cheaply sold in supermarkets. It’s quite different.)

She falls in love with Ramen and decides she wants the Ramen chef to allow her to become his apprentice. Which is grudgingly agrees to…even though she can’t speak any Japanese and he can’t speak English.

It takes her awhile to understand that, in Japan, that a student is expected to take his role seriously and follow everything his teacher says…without question.
(Much the same lesson that “Daniel” learned in the movie 「ベスト・キッド」 (“The Karate Kid“).)

Karate Kid Japanese movie flyer

Karate Kid Japanese movie flyer

The movie 「ラーメン・ガール」 (“The Ramen Girl“) definitely wasn’t the best movie I’ve ever seen. But it was fun. It had parts that over-simplified or stereotyped Japan…but it also showed Tokyo better than alot of other overseas movies do. They even showed the Yokohama Ramen Museum briefly.

(You can also click here to read a review of this movie by “Manmanchi“).

節分

4 Feb

Yesterday was 節分 (Setsubun).

Click here to read a post I wrote last week about it.

On this holiday (the first day of Spring in the old Lunar calendar), people (usually children) throw soy beans at someone dressed as the (demon) (usually the father) while shouting 「鬼は外!福は内!」 (“Bad luck out! Fortune in!”).

Setsubun demon masks.

Setsubun demon masks.

Also, many temples and shrines have festivals on 節分 (Setsubun) that often include sumo wrestlers and other celebrities throwing beans at the crowd.

Tokyo’s 増上寺 (Zoujyouji Temple) is one of the most popular places at 節分 (Setsubun).

Setsubun 2009 at Zoujyouji

Setsubun 2009 at Zoujyouji

This year’s celebrities at 増上寺 (Zoujyouji Temple) included Chadha, the Indian singer of Japanese Enka music and Tamao Nakamura, an actress.

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Tomorrow, the world famous annual 札幌雪祭 (Sapporo Snow Festival) begins and goes for one week.

2009 �幌雪まつり

2009 札幌雪まつり

I went to this festival in 1992. It was great! I’d like to go again one day.

A highlight of the festival are the big, elaborate snow sculptures.

snowcastle

Click here to visit the 札幌雪祭 (Sapporo Snow Festival) website in 日本語…or click here to visit the English version.

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横浜中華街 (Yokohama Chinatown) is having various 春節 (Chinese New Year) events until February 28.

You should check it out if you have a chance…even though the best parts (lion dance, dragon dance, etc) were on January 26, the date of Chinese New Year this year…there are still parades are other things scheduled various days this month.
Click here to visit the official 横浜中華街 (Yokohama Chinatown) website’s 春節 (Chinese New Year) page. (Japanese only).

I wrote a post about Chinese New Year (click here to see it) and I mention in that post about the difference between the Chinese dragon dance and the Japanese one.

At New Years time, both China and Japan also have lion dances…but, just like the Chinese and Japanese dragons are quite different, so are the Chinese and Japanese lions.

The Chinese one:

Chinese Lion dance

Chinese Lion dance

The Japanese one looks and moves quite different. In Japan, it’s called 「獅子舞」 (Shishimai):

Japanese "Shishimai" Lion Dance

Japanese "Shishimai" Lion Dance

Chinese New Year

25 Jan

Today is New Years Eve in China. The last day of the 子年 (“Year Of The Mouse”).

If you’re in the area, and you have a chance, I recommend going to 横浜中華街 (Yokohama Chinatown) in 横浜 (Yokohama, Japan) tomorrow.

If you went there tonight, they are having New Years Eve celebrations as I write this.
But if you can go there tomorrow (Monday, January 26, 2009), that’s when the bigger celebrations will happen.

The most famous is the parade with the Chinese dragon dance.

Chinese Dragon Dance

(The Japanese version of this is the 金竜の舞い (“Golden Dragon Festival”) in Tokyo every March (Click here to read a bit about this festival on my “Festivals In Tokyo” page)):

As in Japan, New Years is China’s biggest holiday.
Actually there are a number of similarities between Chinese and Japanese New Years…although in Japan, the details are Japanese style and in China, they’re uniquely Chinese, of course.
For example, just like New Years in Japan, in China New Years is a time for getting together with family for a big traditional dinner and first visit of the year to a temple and family grave.
Also, in both countries, children receive お年玉 (gift money) in a special envelope. In Japan, the envelope is usually white with cartoon characters on it…in China, it’s almost always red (red is a lucky color in China).

Japan uses the Chinese horoscope with twelve creatures. So, January 1, 2009 began the 丑年 (“Year Of The Cow”) in Japan…and in China, the “Year Of The Cow” begins tomorrow.

Also, both countries have their own unique calendar. So, the official year in Japan is currently 平成二十一年 (Heisei 21). In China, tomorrow will begin the year 4706!

Click here to read the short bit I wrote about Chinese New Year in Yokohama Chinatown on my “Festivals In Tokyo” page.

Also, I’ve been living in Japan since 1990, so I know about Japan’s culture, holidays, etc…but I don’t know much about China. So, the parts I wrote in this post regarding China are based on what I’ve read and heard over the years.

(I also wrote about Japanese New Years, of course. Click here and here to read about it.)

Miscellaneous…

10 Jan

WordPress has added a new function to the blog comments. It’s an E-mail notification.
If you check the box titled: “Notify me of followup comments via email.” below the Submit Comment button when you write a comment on my blog, then whenever I or anyone else responds to your comment you’ll get an email notifying you.

submit1

(Click the box like this one to receive email notifications.)

Also, if you see pop-up windows when you hover your mouse over an image on this blog, you can turn that irritating function off (Click here to read my post about how to do that.)

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Last Thursday, a TV show that I enjoy alot was on. It only airs twice a year. I try to watch it every time.
It’s called 「欽ちゃん&香取慎吾の全日本仮装大賞」 (Kinchan & Shingo Katori’s All-Japan Costume Talent Contest).

Do you live in Japan? Have you ever watched this show? Did you watch it last Thursday?
It’s a great show. People make their own costumes and props and put on a short show and a panel of five judges can award between 0 – 4 points each. If the contestant gets at least twelve points, then they move forward and stand a chance to win one of the cash prizes.

Click here to see the official 「欽ちゃん&香取慎吾の全日本仮装大賞」 (Kinchan & Shingo Katori’s All-Japan Costume Talent Contest) website.

Here are a couple of the contestants from past shows on YouTube:

This one’s was one the show last Thursday. It’s called 「ミイラの新体操」 (The Mummy’s Rhythmic Gymnastics):

I enjoyed this one alot.

This one’s called 「ピンポン」 (Ping-Pong). I saw it when it aired on the show a couple years ago:

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Tomorrow is my second daughter’s fourteenth birthday.

(“S”, お誕生日おめでとう! (Happy birthday!) Don’t be in such a hurry to grow-up. You and your sisters are still my babies! )

She’s getting an I-pod® and some clothes for her birthday present.

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Also, tomorrow is 鏡開き (Kagami-biraki).

At お正月 (New Years), one of the many Japanese decorations is 鏡餅 (Kagami-mochi), which is two mochi (pulverized rice) stacked with a みかん (tangerine) on top.

kagami-mochi1

On January 11, the 鏡餅 (Kagami-mochi), which is brittle by now, is broken and prepared in a hot soup with An beans as a traditional Japanese dish called 「汁粉」 (Shiruko)

shiruko

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Monday, January 12, is a 祝日 (legal holiday) in Japan.

It’s called 「成人の日 (Adults Day).

Click here to read my short FAQ about this holiday. And click here to read about it on my “Festivals In Tokyo” page.

If you’re in Japan on the second Monday in January, you’ll see many twenty-year-old Japanese people in suits or 着物 (Japanese kimono).

(In just five years, my oldest daughter will being doing the 成人式 (Adults Day ceremony). :(
Time flies!

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Also if you’re in the area on January 25 and 26, you might want to go to 横浜中華街 (Yokohama Chinatown) for the 中国新年 (Chinese New Year) celebrations.

It’s not on a convenient date if you have to work, like I do…because Chinese New Years Eve is on Sunday, January 25 in the evening…and the real event (including the famous Chinese lion parade) is on Monday, January 26.

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