Tag Archives: さくら

Sakura 2014

2 Apr

Here are some of the photos my wife, kids and I took at 花見 (cherry blossom viewing) we went to yesterday.

We went to a small park, 靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine), and 千鳥ヶ淵 (Chidorigafuchi) near the 日本武道館 (Nippon Budokan).

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The world-famous 日本武道館 (Nippon Budokan).

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The torii entrance to the 靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine). We ate “okonomiyaki” for lunch from one of these ‘yatai’ (traditional Japanese food booths).

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The 靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine).

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This old sakura tree in Yasukuni Shrine is the official tree that determines the start of “Sakura season” for Tokyo. When five flowers bloom on this tree, it’s announced that the season has begun.

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千鳥ヶ淵 (Chidorigafuchi) near the Budokan.

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100 year old Japanese trees in America

25 Mar

Did you know that there are 3,000 Japanese さくら (Sakura (Cherry Blossom)) trees in Washington DC, America?

Japanese Sakura in Washington, DC (photo from Yahoo! News)

Did you know that those trees were a gift of friendship to America from Japan? And that the first two trees were planted near the White House by the then American “First Lady” and wife of the Japanese Ambassador to America?

I knew all of that already and I also knew that there are Japanese-style 花見 (“Cherry Blossom Viewing” parties) in Washington DC every spring when the flowers are in bloom.

But I didn’t know that Japan gave the trees to America in March 1912. One hundred years ago this month.
And I also didn’t know that the first two trees (the ones planted by the wives of the then U.S. President and Japanese Ambassador) are still standing in the same spot the were planted in Washington DC in 1912.

So, this year’s 花見 (Cherry Blossom Viewing) in Washington DC is special because it’s the one-hundredth anniversary of the gift of the trees from Japan.

The さくら (Cherry Blossoms) are already in bloom in Washington DC because of unusually warm weather in America now.

Another event to help mark the occasion took place in New York City earlier this month.
2012 March 1-6 was called “Japan Week” in NYC.

I don’t know much about this event but from looking at their website, it appears that visitors could experience a lot of Japanese culture that week in New York.

A woman playing the "Koto" (Japanese harp-like instrument) at "Japan Week" in NYC.

Mother Nature wants to be sure we haven’t forgotten who’s boss

11 Apr

花見 (“Cherry Blossom Viewing“) is a centuries-old Japanese tradition. Every spring, Japanese people have a picnic with friends and family under the 桜 (Cherry Blossom) trees.

Japanese people have always loved the pink Sakura (Cherry Blossoms), as can be seen in many things in Japan such as haiku poems, ukiyoe (woodblock prints), paintings, Sakura-flavored snacks, tea and 日本酒 (Japanese sake rice-wine).

I wrote a post last year explaining a bit about Japan’s love of 桜 (Sakura flowers) and 花見 (“Cherry-Blossom Viewing”).

Basically, the Sakura are beautiful and fragile and they are in bloom for only a short time before they fall to the ground in a way that looks like beautiful, gentle pink snowfall…it’s called 「桜吹雪」 (“Sakura-fubuki” (Sakura snowfall)).
They symbolize the beauty, fragility and brevity of life itself.

But this year, due to the disaster last month, the Japanese government has asked people to use 自粛 (self-restraint) this “Cherry Blossom Viewing” season.

Does it seem odd to you that the government would ask that of people in Japan?
I have heard that many people from other countries were surprised to learn that the Japanese government would request people to refrain from Cherry Blossom Viewing or at least to do it quietly and reverently this year.

But in Japan we have no problem with such a request. In fact, even if the government hadn’t asked, most people in Japan probably would have done so anyways.
In many cases 花見 (Cherry Blossom Viewing) leads people to drink excessively and sometimes become a bit loud. But this year, so soon after the huge disaster in the 東北地方 (Tohoku Region) and with so many up there still trying to recover from it, no one is in the mood to celebrate.
Many people are electing to skip Cherry Blossom Viewing this year, and those who are doing it this year are doing so quietly and with more reflection.

Today my wife and I went to a temple with a small lunch to enjoy a quiet 花見 (Cherry Blossom Viewing).
Here are some photos that I took:

Some junior high school students walking to school. The school year has just begun in Japan.

Can you see the Sakura petals falling in 桜吹雪 ("Sakura snowfall")?

Many Sakura petals on the ground.

Back of 大仏 (Buddah)

Not long after we returned home, our house shook pretty hard from a big aftershock that was a 振動 5 (Level 5 of the Japanese earthquake scale (with goes to “7”))! It was a 振動 6 (level 6 (out of 7)) at it’s epi-center in the Sendai area! It was then that I realized today is the one-month anniversary of the 2011 March 11 Sendai Earthquake!

桜まつり

5 Apr

Yesterday we went to a park for 花見 (Cherry Blossom Viewing), which has been a springtime tradition in Japan for centuries.

Just as most people in Japan do, we had a picnic under the trees.

There was a traditional Japanese dance performance.

It was a bit cold and overcast in Tokyo today…but the five of us were together, the sakura trees looked beautiful, and my wife made a delicious lunch for us. So we had a good time!

At festivals in Japan, there are almost always booths like this selling snacks and food...like these バナナチョコレート (chocolate-covered bananas).

What types of festivals are popular in your country?  Do sakura (cherry-blossoms) bloom were you live? Have you ever been to a 花見 (Cherry-blossom viewing picnic)?

April Fools

1 Apr

Today is April Fools Day.

On this day it has been a common practice for centuries for people to play a practical joke on others.
And if someone believes that joke or prank is true, then they are the “April Fool”.

Many major newspapers, magazines, TV shows, and websites often join this holiday and print a false news article that is usually quite preposterous and unbelievable…but many people “fall for the joke”.
They sometimes give hints in the article that it’s an “April Fools” joke, such as listing a false person’s name such as “Lirpa Sloof” (“April Fools” spelled backwards) as a news source, or listing a false product serial number such as “20100401” (2010/04/01…today’s date).

And then either the next day or somewhere in the same day’s publication, they’ll announce that it was only an “April Fools joke”.

On the “Museum Of Hoaxes” website, they a list of “The Top 100 April Fool’s Day Hoaxes Of All Time“.

Here are some of the best hoaxes that I’ve paraphrased from their list:

#59: Daylight Savings Contest
1984 April 1: the Eldorado Daily Journal newspaper of Illinois, USA announced a contest to see who could save the most daylight for daylight savings time….whoever succeeded in saving the most daylight would win. Only pure daylight would be allowed—no dawn or twilight light, though light from cloudy days would be allowed. Moonlight was strictly forbidden. Light could be stored in any container. The contest received a huge, nationwide response. The paper’s editor was interviewed by correspondents from CBS and NBC and was featured in papers throughout the country.

#47: Internet Spring Cleaning
1997 April 1: An email message spread throughout the world announcing that the internet would be shut down for cleaning for twenty-four hours from March 31 until April 2.
The cleaning would be done by “five very powerful Japanese-built multi-lingual Internet-crawling robots (Toshiba ML-2274) situated around the world.” During this period, users were warned to disconnect all devices from the internet.

This joke was an updated version of an old joke that used to be told about the phone system. For many years, gullible phone customers had been warned that the phone systems would be cleaned on April Fool’s Day. They were cautioned to place plastic bags over the ends of the phone to catch the dust that might be blown out of the phone lines during this period.

#20: The Twenty-Six-Day Marathon
1981 April 1: The Daily Mail in London, England ran a story about an unfortunate Japanese long-distance runner, Kimo Nakajimi, who had entered the London Marathon but, on account of a translation error, thought that he had to run for 26 days, not 26 miles.

#15: Metric Time
1975 April 1: Australia’s This Day Tonight news program revealed that the country would soon be converting to “metric time.” Under the new system there would be 100 seconds to the minute, 100 minutes to the hour, and 20-hour days. Furthermore, seconds would become millidays, minutes become centidays, and hours become decidays. They received numerous calls from viewers who fell for the hoax. One frustrated viewer wanted to know how he could convert his newly purchased digital clock to metric time.

#12: Flying Penguins
2008 April 1: The BBC of England announced that camera crews filming near the Antarctic had captured footage of penguins taking to the air. It even offered a video clip of these flying penguins, which became one of the most viewed videos on the internet.
Presenter Terry Jones explained that…(these penguins) flew thousands of miles to the rainforests of South America where they “spend the winter basking in the tropical sun.”

#8: The Left-Handed Whopper
1998 April 1: Burger King published a full page advertisement in the USA Today newspaper announcing the introduction of a new item to their menu: a “Left-Handed Whopper” specially designed for the 32 million left-handed Americans.
Thousands of customers had gone into restaurants to request the new sandwich. Also “many others requested their own ‘right handed’ version.”

#4: The Taco Liberty Bell
1996 April 1: The Taco Bell Corporation announced it had bought the “Liberty Bell” monument in America and was renaming it the “Taco Liberty Bell”. Hundreds of outraged citizens called the National Historic Park in Philadelphia where the bell was housed to express their anger.

Taco Bell's April Fool ad about the "Taco Liberty Bell"

#1: The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest
1957 April 1: The BBC in England announced that thanks to a very mild winter…Swiss farmers were enjoying a bumper spaghetti crop.
Huge numbers of viewers were taken in. Many called the BBC wanting to know how they could grow their own spaghetti tree. To this the BBC diplomatically replied, “place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.”

Have you ever been fooled by an “April Fools” joke? Have you ever fooled anyone with one?

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On a different note, yesterday I noticed a few Sakura trees blooming here in Tokyo.
Next weekend we plan to go 「花見」 (“Cherry Blossom Viewing”).

Here are a few photos I took yesterday:

Almost spring

21 Feb

Today we went to 柴又 (Shibamata, Tokyo).
It’s a 下町 (traditional, downtown) area of Tokyo that I like alot. (Click here to see my post in which I explain a little about this area and have more photos.)

We also went to a nearby park and saw the 梅の花 (Plum flowers) and 寒桜 (Winter Cherry Blossoms) were in bloom.

梅の花 (Plum flowers)

寒桜 (Winter Cherry Blossoms)

It’s still cold in Tokyo…but spring’s not too far off now.

What kinds of flowers are in bloom where you live in the world?
What are the signs of winter ending and spring coming in your country?

Japanese Festivals in America

12 May

It seems that there are a number of Japanese festivals in America at various times of the year and in various cities around America.

I’d like to attend a Japanese festival in America and see how similar or different it is from a real Japanese festival!

Have you ever been to a Japanese festival in America (or another country)? How was it?

I found information online about a few Japanese festivals in different U.S. cities:

  • Japan Fest, Atlanta (Georgia, USA)

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    2009年9月19日(土曜日)から9月20日(日曜日)まで。 (Saturday, 19 September 2009 – Sunday. 20 September).

    All of the Japanese festivals in America that I found online have already finished this year…except this one.
    If you’re in Atlanta, Georgia USA this September 19 -20, you should consider checking out this festival.

    They have scheduled martial arts shows, 盆栽 (bonsai), 生花 (ikebana), アニメ (anime), Japanese food, etc.

  • The Japan-America Society Of Houston (Texas, USA)

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    This festival was held in Texas, USA on 2009年4月25日から4月26日まで。 (2009 April 25-26).

    Do you go to it?

  • National Cherry Blossom Festival, Washington D.C. (USA)

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    This year’s festival in Washington D.C. was held on 2009年3月28日から4月12日まで。 (2009 March 28 – April 12).

    Next year’s will be 2010年3月27日から4月11日まで。 (2010 March 27 – April 11).

    Did you go to this festival? Are you planning to go next year?

    I heard about this festival on the TV news here in Japan because Jero performed at it this year (I wrote a post about it last March. Click here to read it).

  • Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival of Greater Philadelphia (USA)

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    This year’s festival was on 2009年4月5日。 (2009 April 5).

There are many international festivals in Tokyo…

But I never knew there were so many Japanese festivals in America before. When I lived in America, I never heard about any Japan festivals. Are they a fairly recent* occurence? (* by recent, I mean since 1990.)
Is it because there’s currently a “Japan boom” in America?
Have you been to a Japan festival?