Tag Archives: Daruma

Narita

16 Feb

The city of Narita in Chiba Prefecture, Japan is usually associated with the international airport that is there.

People not so familiar with Japan may think that Japan’s “Narita International Airport is in Tokyo…but Narita is a part of Chiba, which is near Tokyo.

(There is an international airport in Tokyo…it’s “Haneda International Airport“.)

The airport isn’t the only reason to go to Narita City though.
成田山新勝寺 (Narita-san-Shinsho-ji) is a beautiful famous temple that has many wonderful festivals and events.
The area near the temple has many traditional Japanese shops and restaurants.

Narita is known for ウナギ (freshwater eel). There are a number of restaurants there that serve it…it’s delicious! If you visit Narita, you should try it!

Anyways, it had been awhile since we’ve visited Narita…so we went there yesterday. Here are some photos I took:

Japanese children’s cartoon character “Baikin-man”.

It says that Narita is “a traditional Japanese hospitality town”.

These are “Daruma”…a traditional Japanese ornament most commonly seen at New Year’s time.

 

A 「たこやき」 (Grilled octopus dumplings) stand.

 

The entrance to 「成田山新勝寺」 (“Narita-san-Shinsho-ji”) temple.

 

A lion guard at the entrance to 「成田山新勝寺」 (“Narita-san-Shinsho-ji”) .

 

A 「招き猫」 (Maneki-Neko lucky cat).

 

The 7-Eleven store there has a brown sign to keep with the style of the area.

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湯島天神

2 Feb

Yesterday we went to 湯島天神 (Yushima-Tenjin Shrine) in 上野 (Ueno, Tokyo).

The 梅の花 (Plum blossoms) were beginning to bloom. (They had posters up advertising their annual 梅の祭 (Plum Festival) that they will hold beginning next week.)

It’s a beautiful shrine…especially when the plum blossoms are in bloom.

At the shrine, my wife and I each bought a cup of 甘酒 (a hot, sweet fermented rice drink. (lit. sweet sake)). It’s often sold at Japanese shrines in the winter.
It was good.

Here are a few photos I took yesterday:

Booth selling "Daruma".

Booth selling "Daruma".

千羽鶴 ("1000 Paper Cranes") for luck.

千羽鶴 ("1000 Paper Cranes") for luck.

Plum blossom

Plum blossom

From the shrine, we went to a nearby department store (I have a wife and three teenage daughters. Of course, they love to shop!).

The floor selling make-up and women’s clothes also had a display of Valentine’s chocolates (I mentioned in a previous post that women give hand-made chocolate to men on Valentine’s Day in Japan. Click here to read it.)

「ハートチョコ」 (♥-shaped chocolate) and 「ハートせんべい」 (♥-shaped rice crackers)

「ハートチョコ」 (♥-shaped chocolate) and 「ハートせんべい」 (♥-shaped rice crackers)

「ハートせんべい」 ( ♥-shaped rice crackers)

「ハートせんべい」 ( ♥-shaped rice crackers)

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By the way, those visitors to my site who are in Japan…did you feel that 地震 (earthquake) at about 6:30AM yesterday?

Japanese New Years

27 Dec

In Japan, お正月 (New Years) is the biggest holiday.
It can be compared to クリスマス is Western countries because stores and houses are decorated, families get together for a large traditional dinner, kids get gifts, cards are sent, and many shops are closed for the holiday (although nowadays most stores stay open).

There’s alot to お正月 (Japanese New Years), so I hope I can explain it clearly.

Until about two-hundred years ago, Japan followed the Chinese year with New Years in early Spring, but now follows the Western calendar with New Years Day on January 1. But the Chinese zodiac is still used with each year being represented by an animal. There are twelve animals (well, actually eleven animals and a dragon 😉 )…2008 is the “Year Of The Mouse” and 2009 will be the “Year Of The Cow”.

In late-December, many people go out drinking with friends or co-workers for a 忘年会 (End-Of The-Year Party), (or they may go out with them in January for a 新年会 (New Year Party) instead).

In December, people clean their houses from top to bottom (similar to “Spring Cleaning” in the West) and they may decorate their house with traditional Japanese New Years decorations such as 鏡餅 (kagami-mochi), 門松 (kado-matsu), おかざり (okazari), and ダルマ (daruma).

ダルマ (Daruma)

Also in December, people write and send out 年賀状 (New Years Postcards), which are kinda similar to Xmas cards in Western countries.
年賀状 (New Years Postcards) are written by hand on special New Years postcards that can be purchased from the post office or some other stores.
Many people buy blank postcards and draw their own picture on it that usually incorporates the new years Chinese zodiac animal and some New Years greeting, or they buy postcards with New Years pictures and greetings on them, or nowadays it’s become popular to print them on the computer (Japanese Microsoft Office Word® software on Windows® comes with a function to design 年賀状 (New Years Postcards)), or another option many people use is to have a photo studio make their 年賀状 (New Years Postcards) with a family photo (usually if there was a major event that year in their family, such as their kid’s 7-5-3 Festival).
Regardless of how they make their 年賀状 (New Years Postcards), a personal message to the addressee is handwritten on each one.

If 年賀状 (New Years Postcards) are put in the mailbox during dates specified by the post office, they are guaranteed to be delivered on January 1 exactly.

Also, each 年賀状 (New Years Postcard) has it’s own serial number printed on the back. In January, the post office announces a series randomly drawn numbers for a New Years Postal Lottery…whoever has a postcard with a winning number can receive a prize which is often something like a paid vacation in Hawaii, a television, a stationary set or stamps.
(I have never won anything yet, except stamps).

Then on New Years Eve, people might watch one of the popular music theme shows on television or they may pay a visit to a temple for the temple priest’s ringing of the temple bell 108 times…which is a Buddhist tradition.

On New Years Day, firsts are important. The first meal of the New Year should be 年越そば (New Year’s noodles), many people watch the year’s first sunrise, the first dream of the year is important, as well as the first calligraphy, first tea ceremony, etc.

Just like Xmas in the West, families get together on New Years Day for have a traditional Japanese お正月 (New Years) dinner called お節料理 (O-sechi-ryouri). Children are given お年玉 (gifts of money in special envelopes). These envelopes are usually decorated with popular cartoon characters…so, often, when the kids are little, the envelopes are more appealing to them than the money inside!
And playing お正月 (New Years) games like かるた (Karuta) or 福笑い (Fukuwarai) is popular.

Finally, on New Years Day and for a few days following, stores often have big sales…so shopping is popular (especially with young women). Many stores also have 福袋…which is often translated as “Happy Bag” or “Lucky Bag“. These are bags of various items from the store put inside a sealed bag and sold at a discount. The only catch is…you can’t look inside the bag until you pay for it (the stores tell if whether the items are for men, women or children and what the sizes are (if there are clothes inside)).

お正月 (New Years) is also one of the two times a year that the public is allowed inside the Imperial Palace grounds to hear the Japanese Emperor’s New Year’s greeting.

So, お正月 (New Years) is a busy time…but it’s also fun.

冬至

22 Dec

Yesterday was 冬至 (Winter Solstice). This is the day (in the Earth’s Northern Hemisphere) that daytime is the shortest and nighttime is the longest in the year.

夏至 (Summer Solstice), when daytime is the longest, is around June 21; and the two days that daytime and nighttime are an equal twelve hours each are 春分の日 (Spring Equinox), on about March 21, and 秋分の日 (Autumn Equinox), on about September 21.

There’s a Japanese tradition to eat かぼちゃ (pumpkin) and take a ユズ湯 (a bath with yuzu* floating in the water).
*(yuzu is an Asian citrus fruit).

It is an old Japanese belief that eating かぼちゃ (pumpkin) and taking a ユズ湯 (yuzu bath) on the 冬至 (Winter Solstice) will help prevent colds.

We ate かぼちゃ (pumpkin) with our dinner and took ユズ湯 (yuzu bath) yesterday. I have a bit of a cold…I can use the help. 😉

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Yesterday afternoon, we went to 柴又 (Shibamata, Tokyo).
We’ve been there a number of times before…and once before I wrote a blog post about it.
(Click here to read that post.)

It’s a nice 下町 (traditional area).

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Here’s a store that was selling ダルマ (Daruma*):
(*Daruma are bought at New Years with no eyes. You make a New Years wish and color in one eye. When (if) the wish comes true, you paint in the other eye. Then at the end of the year, whether the came true or not, you bring the Daruma to a temple to be burnt down. The you buy a new one for the following year).

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The old-fashioned Japanese candy shop there had this sign out front that said 「本場アメリカのピンボール・ゲームありマス。」 (“We have pin-ball machines from America.”)

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Some of the candy (including powdered fake-beer drinks!)

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The famous and ever-popular 寅さん (Tora-san):

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A sign warning children not to play too close to the river’s edge:

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This is a boat service that has been taking people across the river for many, many years (there are bridges now, so people ride this ferry only for fun now).
(I wrote about this boat before…click here to read that post):

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This cat was very friendly:

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I took a couple vidos today, too.

This one’s of a おせんべ (Japanese rice cracker) shop:

And this one is of a shop that makes hand-made candies: