Tag Archives: Japanese New Years

Lucky bag

2 Jan

Have you ever been in Japan in early January, just after New Years?
Did you notice many stores selling bags (usually red and white) that are sealed shut so no one can see inside them?

Do you know what those bags are?

They’re called 「福袋」 (“Fukubukuro“). The Japanese word 「福袋」 is normally written on the bags…but sometimes the English words “Lucky Bag” or “Happy Bag” is written on them.

「福袋」 (“Fukubukuro“) translates to “Good fortune bag” or “Lucky bag”.

These are a post-New Years tradition in Japan. Most stores offer them. They fill the bags with various items from the previous year’s merchandise that they need to get rid of to make room for new merchandise…and they sell the bags at a big discount—often 50% or more!

Many stores offer different price ranged bags…usually about ¥3,000, ¥5,000 and ¥10,000. But, of course, some stores 「福袋」 (“Fukubukuro“) could be priced higher or lower depending on the type of items the store sells.

This store has two types of "Fukubukuro", priced at ¥1050 and ¥2100.

The catch is…customers can’t look inside the bag before the purchase it. Clothing stores will label the bags “Men’s”, “Women’s” or “Children’s” wear and the size of the clothes in the bag. But other than that, the contents are a mystery.

Young women and teenage girls love to shop (as the father of three teenage girls…believe me, I know this!), so 「福袋」 (“Fukubukuro“) from stores that cater to them are especially popular.
Every January 2nd, young women line up outside the trendiest women’s fashions stores before they open…and as soon as the doors open, it’s a mad rush to buy the 「福袋」 (“Fukubukuro“)!

The 「福袋」 (“Fukubukuro“) from these stores in Tokyo are known to be all sold within two minutes!

Then, the young women all can be seen outside the stores looking at the things they’ve just purchased…and trading the items amongst each other.

A crowd of young women lining up to buy Fukubukuro at a popular store in downtown Tokyo.

Would you buy a 「福袋」 (“Fukubukuro“)? Have you ever bought one?
I never buy them…but my daughters like them. They usually buy one every year…including today.

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Happy New Year 2010

1 Jan

明けましておめでとうございます! (“Happy New Year!“)

It’s now 2010. The second decade of the 21st century!

2010 is the "Year Of The Tiger".

If you go to the Tokyo Tower by 2010 Jan 17 (8:00-10:00PM), you can see it lit up with "2010"

Every year on New Year’s Eve in Japan, many people watch 「紅白歌合戦」 (“Red And White Song Battle“) on TV.
It’s a music show with two teams of musicians (a “red” team and a “white” team…red and white are the colors or celebration) competing for points based on their live song performance.

Just before midnight, they countdown to the new year.

This show has been a New Year tradition in Japan for many years.

Last night we watched the show…as we usually do every year.
Here’s a clip of the show from yesterday.

And as I mentioned in an earlier post, Susan Boyle came to Japan to perform on this show last night. It was an excellent performance.
Here it is:

America also has a musical New Year countdown show that has been aired for many years. I used to watch it when I was a kid.
On this show, they show a illuminated ball descend a tower in New York City…the ball is timed to reach the bottom of the tower precisely at midnight on New Year’s Eve.

I haven’t seen this show since the mid-1980s…but I’m sure it’s still on the air every year.

As today is the start of a new decade, let’s look at Japan’s 「紅白歌合戦」 (“Red And White Song Battle“) from New Years Eve four decades ago (the year I was born)…

Here’s a clip from Japan’s 「紅白歌合戦」 (“Red And White Song Battle“) from New Year’s Eve 1969 → 1970:

I couldn’t find a clip from America’s “New Years Eve At Times Square” from the same time but here’s one from three decades ago (New Year’s Eve 1979 → 1980):

Time flies. TV and music (and life in general) is so different now!

How about ten years ago?
New Years Eve 1999 ushered in the year 2000 (the start of the 21st century). Remember the “Y2K scare” at that time?
Well here’s a clip that shows highlights of the New Years celebrations from that evening (1999 → 2000) from around the world:

Big America

27 Dec

McDonalds Japan will be offering four new versions of their “Quarter Pounder” burger starting next month.
Only one of the new burgers will be available at a time though.

All four of the new burgers are known as “Big America burgers. And individually they are: “Texas Burger“, “New York Burger“, “California Burger“, and “Hawaiian Burger“.

The first of the four that will be available is the “Texas Burger“. It will be available starting on 2010 January 15.
It has bacon and BBQ sauce.

Next will be the “New York Burger“. It will go on sale in early February 2010.
It’ll be like a BLT meets a Quarter Pounder“…bacon, lettuce and tomato on the burger.

Then in late February 2010, the “California Burger” will be the one available.
It’ll have Monterrey Jack cheese.

And finally, in March 2010, the “Hawaiian Burger” will be on the menu.
It’ll have a egg and is called a Hawaiian Loco-moco style burger.

On the McDonalds Japan website, visitors an click a button if they intend to try all four of the Big America burgers. When I checked the site, it said that “105,423 people will try all four burgers“.

To me, none of them sound all that special. I don’t think I’ll buy any of them.
How about you? Which of them sounds good to you? Would you try all four?

Are these burgers available at McDonalds in your country…or is it only in Japan?

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Anyways, the Xmas decorations went down yesterday in Japan and were replaced with the traditional Japanese New Years decorations.

New Years is Japan’s biggest holiday.

Here’s a New Years window display at a store that my family and I went to today.

And while we were out, we passed a little league baseball game near the river:

Emperor’s birthday

24 Dec

Today is Christmas Eve.

In many ways X-mas and New Years are exact opposites of each other in Japan and Western countries.

In Western countries, Xmas is the biggest holiday of the year with the post office busy delivering Xmas cards, many stores are closed and families gather to enjoy a big dinner together and give gifts to children.
And then New Years is celebrated on New Years Eve and quietly ends the next day.

In Japan, it’s the other way around.
Here, Christmas is often celebrated in Xmas Eve by couples going on a date and families having a dinner of chicken and Xmas cake for dessert (just as many people have this dinner on Xmas Day as do on Xmas Eve). But Xmas ends quietly and people get ready for New Years…Japan’s biggest holiday.
Just like Xmas in the West, in Japan New Years is the biggest holiday of the year with the post office busy delivering 年賀状 (New Years postcards), many stores are closed and families gather to enjoy a big dinner together and give gifts (お年玉) to children.

Click here to read the post I wrote about Japanese Xmas last year.

Also, yesterday was 天皇誕生日 (the Emperor of Japan’s birthday).
Christmas isn’t a legal holiday in Japan…it’s a regular work / school day, but the Emperor’s birthday is a legal holiday.
It’s also one of the only two times a year that the public is allowed inside the inner grounds of the Imperial Palace (the other time is just after the New Year).
People who go into the Palace grounds can see the Japanese Royal Family and hear the Emperor give his annual birthday speech.

Last year, I wrote a post about the Emperor’s birthday too. Click here to read it.

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Completely unrelated, but I heard about a website called 「美人時計」 (“Beautiful Girl Clock“).

It show a new photograph every minute of a pretty girl in the Tokyo holding a board with the current time (of course in Japanese Standard Time (JST)).

This site is extremely popular. So they decided to make another version…now there’s a 「ギャル時計」 (“Gal Clock“) too.
Gal” is a type of 渋谷 (Shibuya, Tokyo) girl fashion.

Click here for the 「美人時計」 (“Beautiful Girl Clock“).
And Click here for the 「ギャル時計」 (“Gal Clock“)

Japanese Kids Games

22 Aug

When my daughters were younger, there were a couple of Japanese games that I used to play with them that help improve my Japanese language ability.

「しりとり」 (“Shiritori“) and 「カルタ」 (“Karuta“).

Do you know these games? Have you ever played them?

▲ 「しりとり」 (Shiritori):

This is a word game that two or more people can play.
The first person says any Japanese noun. It can be any word as long as it doesn’t end with the 「ん」 (“n“) character.
– The next person says any Japanese word that begins with the same character that the previous word ended with.
– And the next player does likewise.
– The game ends when a player loses by either saying a word that has already been used or saying a word that ends with the 「ん」 (“n“) character (because no word in the Japanese language begins with 「ん」).
– When a word end with a character with 濁点 (「゛」) or 半濁点 (「゜」), the next player can use the character with or without it (ie: If a player’s word ends with 「ば」 or 「ぱ」, the next player’s word can start with either that character or simply 「は」).

An example of how the game would go:
「ネ」(“Neko“)→「」(“Koala)→「イオ」(Laion (lion)) (The  player who said 「ライオン」 (lion) would lose because you can’t choose a word that ends with 「ん」(「ン」).)

▲ 「カルタ」 (Karuta):

This is a Japanese card game that can be played by three or more players. It’s often played at New Years time in Japan (I still play this game every New Years with my daughters).

Karuta has two decks of cards. One deck is called 読み札 (Reading deck), and the other is 取り札 (Taking deck).

Each card in the 取り札 (Taking deck) has a picture illustrating a phrase and the first character from that phrase…the 読み札 (Reading deck) have the phrases.

– The 取り札 (Taking deck) is spread out on the floor and all players, except the one player who will be the “reader”, sit around the cards.
– The reader shuffles the 読み札 (Reading deck) and reads the top card.
– The other players have to find and hit the card on the floor that corresponds with the one just read before another player gets it.
– Whoever has the most cards at the end wins.

A couple of cards from a Karuta game

A couple of cards from a Karuta game

Wanna play 「しりとり」 (Shiritori) against me in the comments section?
I’ll write a word here and you can write the next one in the comments section of this post and we can go back and forth until someone loses.

My word is:
「ゴリラ」 (Gorira (gorilla))…(you have to write a word that starts with 「ら」 (“ra“).

New school year

8 Apr

Yesterday both my oldest and my youngest daughters had their 入学式 (School Entrance Ceremony).
My oldest daughter began 高等学校 (High School (10th grade)) and my youngest daughter began 中学校 (Junior High School (7th grade)).
(My second daughter is now a 中学校三年生 (Jr. High 9th grader)…her last year of 中学校 (Junior High School)).

Since two of my daughters had their 入学式 (School Entrance Ceremonies) on the same day, my wife went with our youngest daughter and I went with our oldest daughter.

I can’t believe how fast they’re growing up!

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On a different note, here are a few photos that I meant to add to my blog before but never got around to it. Taken from various places around Tokyo at various times this past year:

Tokyo Tower illuminated for New Years 2009.

Tokyo Tower illuminated for New Years 2009.

Tokyo Tower illuminated with "2009" for New Years.

Tokyo Tower illuminated with "2009" for New Years.

An extremely large doll display for ひな祭 (Doll Festival).

An extremely large doll display for ひな祭 (Doll Festival).

Over a hundred of Torii Gates at 根津神社 (Nezu Shrine).

Over a hundred of Torii Gates at 根津神社 (Nezu Shrine).

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About twelve days ago at 六本木ヒルズ (Roppongi Hills), an artist named Yanobe Kenji displayed his 7.2 meter (23.6 feet) tall robot called “Giant Torayan“.

He bills Giant Torayan as

…the ultimate child’s weapon, as it sings, dances, breathes fire, and follows only those orders given by children.

The fire-breathing "Giant Torayan".

The fire-breathing "Giant Torayan".

Click here to visit the “Giant Toryan” website.

大晦日

31 Dec

It’s now 11:50PM on December 31, 2008 (Japan Standard Time (JST)). Shortly, it’ll be 2009.

In late December, Japanese people say よいお年を (Yoi-otoshi-o) for “Happy New Year”…then January 1-3, it’s 明けましておめでとうございます (Akemashite-omedetou-gozaimasu).

As I’ve mentioned before (click here), お正月 (New Years) is the biggest holiday in Japan.

Today is 大晦日 (New Years Eve). On 大晦日 (New Years Eve) in Japan, many people eat 年越しそば (New Year’s noodles) and at midnight go to a temple for the Buddhist tradition of the temple priest’s ringing the temple bell 108 times.

(Click here to read my short FAQ entry about 大晦日 (New Years Eve) in Japan.)

Alot of people (including us this 大晦日 (New Years Eve)), watch one of the popular 大晦日 (New Years Eve) TV shows.
Most people watch 紅白歌合戦 (Red And White Team Music Battle)…but my kids wanted to watch ダウンタウンのガキの使いやあらへんで!! (Downtown’s No Job For Kids!!)…it’s a crazy comedy variety program.

Tomorrow we’ll go to my in-laws (many of my wife’s relatives will come too) and we’ll have a big, traditional Japanese New Years dinner. My kids will get お年玉 (New Years Gift Money)…and we’ll give my kids’ cousins お年玉 (New Years Gift Money) too.

It’s a good time.

Oh, look at the time…5…4…3…2…1…明けましておめでとうございます (Happy New Year)!