Tag Archives: kimono

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.

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Even after over twenty years

7 Jan

I have been living in Japan for most of my life.
I came here when I was twenty years old…and that was over twenty years ago now.

I think Japan is the most beautiful country in the world and Tokyo is the best city.

I wanted to show some scenes that I see regularly in Japan and I may have started taking for granted but they are a part of what makes Japan so special.

Rather than go through the photos in my camera’s memory cards, I decided to be a bit lazy and see what I could find online.
I found a website called Getty Images that has many stock photos…some of them of Japan.
The people who take these photos must have cameras that are much nicer than mine because they took some really nice photos.

I use photos that I took myself in most of my blog posts, but the following photos are from Getty Images.

Every January, when the "Tokyo Stock Exchange" reopens after the New Years holidays, the female staff wear kimono.

A"bird's eye view" of Tokyo

A traditional Japanese breakfast.

A Japanese garden.

The symbol of Japan: 富士山 (Mount Fuji).

Tokyo's "Rainbow Bridge".

Japanese "Green Tea".

The Shibuya area of Tokyo

The Shinjuku area of Tokyo.

新幹線 (Bullet trains)

Tokyo Tower

By the way, today is the seventh day of the New Year.
On this day it is Japanese custom to eat 「七草粥」 (“Seven Herbs Porridge“) for breakfast.
I will have it for breakfast today as I usually do on January 7th.

Click here to see my post that explains this tradition in more detail.

Japanese words in English

2 Aug

Often words or expressions from one language become part of another language. And sometimes the meaning of the word gets changed.

In Japan, alot of words of foreign origin are used in the Japanese language. Many are used quite differently in Japanese than they are in their country of origin.
For example, パン (pan) is Japanese for bread. It came from the Portuguese word “pão“, which means “bread”. And 「カステラ」 (Kasutera) is the Japanese word for a type of cake that was introduced from Portugal called “Castella“.

There are many others. From English, Japan uses words like 「アイスクリーム」 (ice cream) and バスケットボール (basketball)*.
*(Foreign sports usually keep their original name in Japanese. An exception is 「野球」 (“Yakyuu“) for “baseball”. (lit. “field globe (ball)), which isn’t called by it’s English name because it was introduced to Japan during WW2 when America was considered an enemy.)

Some words are shortened. Such as テレビ (Terebi) for “television”. And some words have morphed into something unrecognizable to English-speakers, such as 「スキンシップ」 (skinship) for “bonding”.

But it works the other way too.
America (and other countries as well, I’m sure) have adopted Japanese words into the English language. Some have retained their original meaning. But others are used with totally different meanings than the “real” Japanese meaning.
And many “Japanese words” in English are pronounced so differently that a Japanese person wouldn’t recognize it.
For example,
★ 「アニメ」 (anime: Japanese animation)
★ 「マンガ」 (manga: Japanese comics)
★ 「オタク」 (otaku: is used as “fanatic” overseas, but “a Trekkie” is closer to the Japanese meaning)
★ 「カラオケ」 (karaoke)
★ 「さようなら」 (sayonara: farewell (not used in Japan in cases when you’ll be seeing the person again before long))
★ 「台風」 (taifuu: in English, the pronunciation morphed to “typhoon”)
★ 「きもの」 (kimono)
★ 「寿司」 (sushi: isn’t “raw fish” (that’s sashimi). Sushi is vinegared-rice with a topping (such as sashimi))
★ 「(お)酒」 ((O)-saké)
★ 「すき焼き」 (sukiyaki)
★ 「相撲」 (sumo: Japan’s national sport)
★ 「芸者」 (Geisha: aren’t prostitutes)
★ 「歌舞伎」 (Kabuki)

A promo poster for a Kabuki show

A promo poster for a Kabuki show


★ 「班長」 (hanchou: morphed into the English “(Head) honcho“)
★ 「津波」 (tsunami)
★ 「人力車」 (jin-riki-sha: morphed into the English “Rick-shaw“)

I’m sure there are more. This is all that I could think of off the top of my head.
Do you know some other instances of Japanese words being popularly used in English (or another language)?

2009年夏の「みたままつり」

14 Jul

Yesterday (2009 July 13), we went to the first day of the 2009 「みたま祭」 (Mitama Festival).

This year this festival is from Monday, July 13 until Thursday, July 16. So, if you’re currently in the Tokyo area you can go to this festival. It’s at the 靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine).

靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine) is where Japan enshrines all who have died in battle defending Japan. I wrote a bit about it in another post…click here.

We have been to 靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine) many times, and we go to the 「みたま祭」 (Mitama Festival) nearly every year.
I wrote a post about this festival last year…click here to see it. That post has videos and a slideshow of photos.

In the summertime in Japan, there are many Obon festivals…which are festivals to honor the deceased. And, as I wrote above, 靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine) is Japan’s shrine for the war-dead. So the 「みたま祭」 (Mitama Festival) is a festival to honor the war-dead.

They were heading to the festival.

They were heading to the festival.

They say: "Mitama Festival, July 13-16. Yasukuni Shrine"

They say: "Mitama Festival, July 13-16. Yasukuni Shrine"

At the festival many people wear ゆかた and じんべい (Japanese traditional summer outfits).

At the festival many people wear ゆかた and じんべい (Japanese traditional summer outfits).

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At many summer festivals in Japan, there are haunted house attractions. These have been popular at summer festivals since long ago in Japan because it’s said that the chills from the fright help cool you off in the summer heat. (Horror movies are also popular in the summertime in Japan for the same reason).

Here’s the outside of the Haunted House attraction at 「みたま祭」 (Mitama Festival):

「ろくろ首」 ("Long neck Geisha Ghost") is a old traditional ghost story.

「ろくろ首」 ("Long neck Geisha Ghost") is a old traditional ghost story.

As usual, we had a good time at the 「みたま祭」 (Mitama Festival) even though it was a hot day. We had 焼きそば (Grilled Noodles) and beer, watched the ねぶた (Nebuta) float parade, and our kids played festival stall games.

成人の日

12 Jan

今日は成人の日 (Today is Adult’s Day).

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Some girls dressed in kimono for their 成人式 (Adults Day ceremony).

I wrote about this holiday here and here.

All around Japan on this day, there are many twenty year old young people dressed up (girls in 振袖 (formal kimono for single women) and young men in suits usually (some men wear (kimono for men))).

After their 成人式 (Adults Day ceremony), many of them will go to a photo studio with their family to have their portrait taken…and then they usually go somewhere to celebrate with friends.
In Tokyo*, you can see many young people in their kimono at 東京ディズニーランド (Tokyo Disneyland).

(*Well, actually near Tokyo. Tokyo Disneyland is actually in 千葉県 (Chiba Prefecture, near Tokyo). 成田空港 (Tokyo Int’l Airport) is, too.)

Alot of the twenty-year-olds will go drinking with their friends, too. Twenty is the legal drinking age in Japan.

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Today, my wife and two youngest daughters went shopping. My oldest daughter and I are staying home…she needs to study for her upcoming high-school entrance exam.

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Yesterday was 鏡開き (Kagami-biraki).

Click here to read a post I wrote about it.

So for breakfast yesterday, my wife made 汁粉 (Shiruko).

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My wife made this 汁粉. It was very good.

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Yesterday was also my second daughter’s fourteenth birthday.
She got an I-pod® and some clothes for her birthday presents. We also went to a restaurant for her birthday dinner yesterday evening.

I can’t hardly believe that she’s already 14!

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As I mentioned above, my oldest daughter has two high-school entrance exams coming up.
She studies hard…and, as many Japanese kids her age do, she attends 学習塾 (Special cram school) after school twice a week for extra study.

All three of my kids do quite well in school. Much better than their father did when he was a student (more like their mother). 🙂

After breakfast yesterday, we went to 亀戸天神 (Kameido Tenjin Shrine) for wish for my daughter’s good luck in her upcoming entrance exams.

亀戸天神 (Kameido Tenjin Shrine) is one of the shrines in Japan dedicated to a deity of knowledge and study.
Most Japanese people don’t actually believe in deities…it’s just a tradition.

The 亀戸天神 (Kameido Tenjin Shrine) is fairly famous. The well-known 浮世絵 (ukiyoe) artist 広重 (Hiroshige) painted it (as did a few other artists):

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Hiroshige's ukiyoe of Kameido-Tenjin

Here’s a recent photo of the same scene (still looks the same centuries later):

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Another thing that this temple is famous for is a festival in January called 「鷽替え」 (Uso-kae).
Uso is the Japanese name for the “Bullfinch” bird. And 替え kae means “change”.
But it’s a play on words because 嘘 (uso (written with a different kanji character)) means “a lie”.

At this festival, people bring in the wooden Bullfinch statue that they bought last year and have it burned…and then they buy a new one. It represents a clean slate for any lies you’ve told the previous years and a eagerness to do better this year. (Actually, in Japan all New Years ornaments from the previous year are meant to be burnt at a shrine before new ones are bought for a new year.)

Near the 亀戸天神 (Kameido Tenjin Shrine), I saw this large Bullfinch as a post on the road-railing that looks like the smaller wooden ones that people can buy:

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On the way to the temple, we passed a store that was selling the American potato-chips “Pringles” in different flavors.
I didn’t buy any, but I wonder: Do they sell these flavors in others countries?

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マスタード・マヨネーズ・ポテト (Mustard Mayo Potato)

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フェタ・チーズ (Feta Cheese)

As with all shrines in Japan, 亀戸天神 (Kameido Tenjin Shrine) sells 絵馬 (wooden plates) on which you write a wish and hang near the shrine.

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Here’s the 絵馬 (wooden plate) that I bought for my daughter:

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She wrote:

高校合格できますように。

Which means “I hope to pass into high school.”

Then she hung it here:

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As we were leaving the shrine, we passed by this フグ (blowfish) restaurant.
They serve フグ刺 (blowfish sashimi (raw blowfish)).

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フグ (blowfish)

Chefs that prepare フグ刺 (blowfish sashimi) need a special license because フグ (blowfish) has a deadly poison gland and if it’s pierced, it poisons the food.

Anyways, after that we went to a shopping mall (because girls love shopping) and then to a restaurant for my second daughter’s birthday dinner.

Sunday afternoon

9 Nov

Today my wife met a couple friends that she hadn’t seen in a long time.
My oldest daughter had to go to school for a test, and my second daughter went out with one of her friends.

So, it was just me and the “baby” at home together today (alright, she’s twelve years old…but she’s my youngest and therefore the “baby” to me!).

She told me that her friend’s birthday coming up and she wanted to go to the mall to get her a gift.
So, we went to the mall together and had a “father-daughter” day. 🙂
It’s not often that I get to spend quality time with just one of my kids alone…so when the chance arises, I enjoy it!

After she bought her friend’s birthday present we went to the game center (arcade) and played the “UFO Catcher ” (crane game) a few times. One machine had a “Play Station Portable” that we tried to get and another had tickets to 東京ディズニーランド (Tokyo Disneyland) that we tried four times to get…we didn’t manage to get either! Oh well.

Do they have “crane games” in arcades in your country? What types of prizes do they have?
Japan has all kinds of crane games. Most offer small toys or candy…but there are also machines with Ipods®, watches, radios, Nintendo DS®, amusement park tickets, ice cream (in refrigerated crane games)…and I’ve even seen one with live lobsters!

Here’s one with ice cream:

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And another had パン (bread):

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I guess only shopping malls in Japan have 着物屋 (kimono stores).

This kimono costs ¥98,000 (about US$970):

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Winter’s almost here. The weather’s getting colder, and on the way to the mall we saw a 焼きいも (Grilled potato) truck (a sure sign of winter in Japan 🙂 )…and many stores have their x-mas decorations up—and the 文具店 (stationery stores) have the 年賀状 (Japanese New Years postcards) on sale.

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We had a good time together. We got home at about 5:00 and my wife and two oldest daughters got home at about 5:30.

Then the four of them made an excellent burrito dinner for my birthday! 🙂 [明日誕生日 (Tomorrow is my birthday)…]

雷!

28 Jul

Yesterday I took my two youngest daughters to a shopping mall that’s a short train ride from our home because they wanted to buy some things that they “really needed“.

I agreed to take them…but only for a short time because it looked like it would rain. And when we left the mall, that’s what it did. Really hard!

First there was thunder and lightning, then the rain came pouring down. But it was a summer shower…so it ended soon after it started.

Actually, we got lucky. It started raining soon after we boarded our train home, and stopped just before we got off the train. So we didn’t have to walk in the rain at all. Perfect timing!

Anyways, there are many summer festivals and fireworks shows in Japan this time of year. And many people wear 浴衣 (Japanese summer kimono) and 甚平 (Japanese traditional summer outfit) to these events.

At the mall, we saw a couple of girls who were probably going to a festival or fireworks show after the mall (it might have gotten rained out, though). I saw them browsing in a CD store.

It seemed like it’d make a good photo. So here’s the photo I took of them:

Here are some videos I took of the train ride while looking out the conductor’s window (a couple of them are from the ride home, so it’s raining hard):