Tag Archive: Japanese
Japan is one of the most beautiful island nations in the world. About 73% of the country is mountainous. Its mountain ranges run through Japan’s main islands and there is very little flatland. It’s no wonder that many of Japan’s mountains and hills are cultivated, sometimes even all the way to the tops of steep inclines. Because of the numerous mountains, the country is rich with natural hot springs (onsen) that multitudes of people enjoy. Do you know who also enjoys a good soak? The Japanese macaque!
Japanese Macaque| Jeff’s Canon
Getting to Know the Japanese Macaque
The Japanese macaque is known as saru (monkey) in Japanese but to distinguish it from other primates of the world, it is called Nihonsaru (Nihon means Japan in Japanese). The Nihonsaru are Old World monkeys, a group of primates that fall under the superfamily Cercopithecoidea and are indigenous to Japan. They are also known as “snow monkeys” because they live in areas where snow is prevalent throughout the year. No other type of primate, except for humans, can live in such climate conditions. The Japanese macaques have a distinct red face, short tail, and, brown-grey fur. They usually weigh about 33 pounds and stand about 2 feet tall. Their thick fur makes them look a lot bigger, though. They populate the mountainous areas of Japan and are considered an endangered species.
Closeup of a macaque | Jeff’s Canon
Hell’s Valley (Jigokudani) is one of the places best known for its bathing monkeys. About 250 Japanese macaques bathe in the steaming waters; the hot springs even have their own live camera site. These unique monkeys have been featured on Japanese stamps and are a popular sight among visitors wanting to share a hot dip with the main patrons of the hot springs.
Soaking in an onsen with a macaque | spDuchamp
Hot springs are especially inviting during the cold winter months. They are naturally clear, hot, and rich with minerals that have several health benefits. Wouldn’t it be an added bonus to share a nice warm soak with these Japanese macaques to complete the experience?!
The Seven Gods of Fortune (七福神 / Shichi Fukujin) are a staple of Japanese mythology and folklore and are popular subjects for figurines or carvings. These Japanese divinities are derived from native religious beliefs and traditions derived from Shintoism, Taoism, or Buddhism. Many of the deities in Japanese folklore and all of the Seven Lucky Gods, except for Ebisu, originated from China (some with Indian influence).
Shichi Fukujin | Steve-kun
The Seven Lucky Gods are mostly depicted on their ship, the Takarabune (宝船), or “Treasure Ship.” Tradition dictates that these gods will arrive on New Year’s Day to give out gifts to deserving people. Children receive envelopes of money with the Takarabune printed on it. Images of the Seven Lucky Gods are also present during festivals and other celebrations.
Benzaiten (弁才天 or 弁財天)—the Goddess of Everything that Flows is also known as “Benten.” She is said to be the third daughter of the dragon-king of Munetsuchi, and she was derived from the Hindu goddess Saraswati. She bestows eloquence and music.
Bishamonten (毘沙門天)—the God of Fortunate Warriors and Guards is also known as “Bishamon” or “Tamonten.” He carries a small pagoda that stands for the divine treasure house that he guards; he gives away itse treasures to deserving people. He is said to live by the side of Mount Sumeru.
Daikokuten (大黒天)—the God of Wealth is also known as “Daikoku.” He bestows bountiful harvests and a rich household. He carries a golden mallet and is depicted sitting on top of plentiful bales of rice.
Fukurokuju (福禄寿)—the God of Wisdom and Longevity, also believed to be the reincarnation of the Southern Polestar. He is depicted with a turtle and a crane (which symbolize longevity), and sometimes a black deer. He is said to be carrying the sacred book tied to his staff. The book contains exactly how long each person lives on Earth.
Fukurokuju carving | Marshall Astor – Food Fetishist
Ebisu (恵比須, 恵比寿, 夷 or 戎))—the Laughing God, also known as “Yebisu” or “Hiruko (蛭子),” is known as the god of luck, fishermen, and workers. He is the only god that originated in Japan. Legend says that he was born without bones but eventually grew them at 3 years old. He is usually carrying a rod and a red bream (European species of freshwater fish) or a sea bass.
Hotei (布袋))—he is mostly known as the Laughing Buddha and is the most popular among all the Seven Lucky Gods. Hotei is a deity who bestows abundance and contentment.
Hotei wood carving | jacobian
Jurōjin (寿老人))—he is also known as “Gama,” and he represents longevity. He is depicted oftentimes carrying a fan and staff. The Goddess of Happiness, Fertility, and Beauty, Kichijōten (吉祥天), sometimes replaces Jurōjin because Jurōjin and Fukurokuju are considered manifestations of the same Taoist deity, Southern Star.
In Japan, the hobby of kite flying has risen to an art form. Kites, or “tako,” were originally brought to Japan from China by Buddhist missionaries in 649-794 AD. Kites were mainly used for religious events and celebrations, but the innovative Japanese also found a way to use them in the construction of shrines and temples. Large kites were used to lift building material such as tiles to workers on scaffolds and roof tops.
During the Edo Period (1603-1867) when Japan distanced itself from the outside world, kite making flourished. New styles and designs were created, usually depicting characters of Japanese folk lore or artwork with religious meaning.
Kites at the Himeji Kite Festival. | cotaro70s
The Giant Kites of Sagami
One of Japan’s spectacular kite festivals, the Sagami Giant Kite Festival, is held annually on May 4 and 5 at various regions in Sagamihara City, Kanagawa Prefecture. Large kites of Sagami, called “Sagami-no-Oodako,” are flown with the help of a team of skilled kite flyers. Just to get the kites up in the air takes much effort. These giant kites can measure up to 14.5 meters in length and width, weigh 950 kilos, and are made of bamboo and Japanese paper. It is a breathtaking sight to see these enormous artistic creations flying about the sky.
Sagami Giant Kite Flying Festival. | chaojikasu
Interesting tidbit: The longest flight of a traditional large kite was in 2001 when it stayed in the air for 6 hours, 7 minutes, and 55 seconds.
Taimeiken Kite Museum
During your KCP stay in Japan, learn more about the history of Japanese kites by visiting the Taimeiken Kite Museum (Tako-no-Hakubutsukan) in Tokyo. This fascinating museum is a spectacle of vivid colors and gorgeous designs, with about 3000 kites on display from floor to ceiling in the showroom. The collection varies from regular bamboo flyers to the more exotic dragon-head kites.
Location: 5th floor of the Taimeiken Restaurant, 1-12-10 Nihonbashi, Chuoh-ku, Tokyo 103-0027. Hours open 11am-5pm, Mondays to Saturdays, with 200 Yen admission fee.
236 kites in flight, at 300 meters long. | tjsander
Lonely Planet Japan, 12th Edition
Spring is here, and with it unfurls new life. Young leaves wave in the cool breeze and flowers bloom in colorful profusion. You can bring the essence of spring into your home, or give it to a loved one, by creating lovely origami flowers that will never wither.
Like most origami designs, the difficulty of making origami flowers depends on your paper folding skills and patience. Here are three how-to videos on making origami flowers. Some may be more difficult than others, but all are equally gorgeous.
Origami roses | fdave
A classic favorite. You can use regular red paper for your origami rose, or combine different hues and shades to create a colorful bouquet.
click image or: http://youtu.be/NjEVM0UNrdw
Origami Lotus Flower
In Buddhism, the lotus flower symbolizes purity of mind, body, and speech. In Asian culture, it represents perfection and grace. Lotus flowers are also just plain beautiful, even as origami.
click image or: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pfMGjjW4avc&feature=fvst
Tulips are elegant and immediately bring cheer to any home. This video shows you how to make origami tulips, easily.
click image or: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3564V8laRzo&feature=relmfu
See KCP’s other origami posts here, here, and here.
Growing up, I never used to like mixing sweet with savory tastes. I have always associated sweetness with desserts and savory dishes with a meal. A cardinal rule I always had was that the different types of food on my plate should not touch each other because some minute part might end up mixing with another. If they did, I would vehemently refuse to eat anything at all! Times have changed, and so have my eating habits. Nowadays, I don’t care if my whole plate looks like a jumble of an unimaginable mess just as long as it tastes good.
Teriyaki chicken with rice | La Melodie
A good example of a sweet and savory dish that is one of my favorites, and is probably one of the reasons why I suddenly became a convert, is teriyaki chicken. Teriyaki is commonly associated with many types of international cuisine nowadays, but it actually is a type of Japanese cooking. “Teri” in Japanese, means luster, while “yaki “means to boil or grill.
Teriyaki chicken stall | avlxyz
The ingredients of a Japanese teriyaki dish are usually marinated then roasted or broiled while being basted occasionally in the teriyaki sauce. It’s also the teriyaki sauce that makes the food shine and look more appetizing.
Teriyaki Stir Fry Sauce: Blue Dragon Brand| MiranRijavec
Teriyaki sauce makes almost everything taste good. It makes bland food taste delicious. Teriyaki sauce is widely available as a bottled condiment in most oriental groceries, but authentic teriyaki sauce is very easy to make. When I used to work in a Japanese restaurant, I remember preparing chicken teriyaki like there was no end to it. Every Monday, I remember signing for the delivery of chicken breasts. I would laboriously trim the fat off each piece of chicken. I’d then marinate them in the teriyaki sauce, and the customer had the option of adding some onions to make the chicken tastier. I would then prepare the teriyaki sauce, an old family recipe of my Japanese boss. Below is the teriyaki sauce recipe that makes everything it touches taste great.
Teriyaki Sauce (just mix all the ingredients):
1½ cups Sake
1 ½ cups Mirin
1 cup Soy Sauce
1 ¼ cups Sugar
1 ½ water from dried shiitake mushrooms
Ginger Juice to taste
Potato starch to thicken sauce
Mapping out an agenda can be a challenge if you want to drink in all the sights and sounds of Japan’s metropolis. Tokyo is a vast web of museums, from the ancient and traditional to the ultra-modern. The Marunouchi area alone, near Tokyo Station, is home to four popular private museums where you can catch a glimpse of Japan’s rich history and culture.
Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum
This museum is a replica of the original structure of Maranouchi’s first office building in 1894, designed by British architect Josiah Conder. It was destroyed in 1968 but was rebuilt and opened to the public in 2010. Mitsubishi Ichigokan offers 20 rooms of exhibition space and concentrates on Western art from the 1800s. The museum’s strategic location makes it easy for people to visit during their lunch break. It takes only 45 minutes to explore each gallery. International exhibits are often displayed throughout the year.
The museum is located at 2-6-2 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku. Admission fees vary per exhibit. Hours are 10am-8pm, from Tuesday to Saturday, and up to 6pm on Sundays.
Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum | kubotake
Bridgestone Museum of Art
Impressionist art has had a large influence on Tokyo. The Bridgestone Corporation private art collection of Shojiro Ishibashi, the founder of Bridgestone Tires, was opened in 1952. It houses mostly contemporary and Impressionist paintings, as well as Japanese art from the Meiji Period. Special exhibits are displayed three or four times in the year.
The museum is located at Bridgestone Building 1F & 2F, 1-10-1 Kyobashi, Chuo-ku. Admission is 800 Yen for adults. Hours are 10am-8pm, from Tuesday to Saturday, and up to 6pm on Sundays.
Bridgestone Museum of Art | david.orban
Mitsui Memorial Museum
The Mitsui Memorial Museum houses an assortment of Japanese traditional art gathered by the Mitsui family over 300 years. Some artifacts even date as far back as the Edo Period. Collections include national treasures, tea utensils, and an international stamp collection of over 130,000 stamps.
You can visit this museum at Mitsui Main Building, 2-1-1 Nihonbashi Muromachi, Chuo-ku. Admission is 1000 Yen. Hours are 10am-5pm, Tuesdays to Sundays.
Mitsui Memorial Museum| kawanet
Idemitsu Museum of Arts
This museum houses the private collection of Sazo Idemitsu, the founder of Idemitsu Kosan Co., Ltd. It focuses on East Asian antique ceramic art and Japanese paintings. Temporary exhibits are mounted six or seven times per year. Idemitsu Museum of Arts is situated right next to the Imperial Theatre.
The museum is located at the Teigeki Building 9F, 3-1-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku. Hours are 10am–5pm, Tuesdays to Sundays. It closes at 7pm on Fridays.
Idemitsu Museum of Arts | CLF
Lonely Planet Japan, 12th Edition
Kamakura (鎌倉市) is a city about 50 kilometers south of Tokyo. It was the seat of the Shogunate and the Regency during the Kamakura Period (1185–1333). It is surrounded by Sagami Bay on the south, and hills on all other sides, which provided Kamakura with natural fortification and made it a formidable stronghold. Before modern civilization brought about roads and tunnels connecting it to other cities, Kamakura could only be reached by land through artificial passes. The seven main passes were called Kamakura’s Seven Entrances.
KCP students often visit Kamakura during culture classes. It has several ancient historic sites that illuminate Japanese culture and beliefs as seen in Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. One example is the Sugimoto-dera, founded in the year 734 according to temple records. Another is the Kōtoku-in temple with its enormous outdoor bronze statue of Amida Buddha, one of Japan’s most famous icons. The city is also home to the Five Great Zen Temples, the “Kamakura Gozan.”
Students Pose with the Great Buddha statue at Kamakura| KCP Flickr
Kamakura has several festivals and events throughout the year to celebrate the heritage of the city and its people. A visit to Kamakura is truly an eye opening experience!
At the Kamakura bamboo forest | KCP Flickr
Last weekend, Tanaka-san and Kato-sensei, English support class teachers at KCP, led the winter term students to experience Kamakura for the U.S. culture class trip. It was surely an unforgettable visit for everyone.
Getting ready for the Kamakura Trip | KCP Flickr
KCP Winter Term students take a break with some snacks | KCP Flickr
KCP International is offering a summer course on Intensive Japanese Language and Anime and Manga. A highlight of the course is a tour of Toei Animation Studios!
Toei Animation Co., Ltd. (東映アニメーション株式会社 / Tōei Animēshon Kabushiki-gaisha), in operation since 1956, is one of the oldest and largest animation studios in Japan. It is responsible for the creation of numerous television series and movies adapted from various Japanese comic books from well-known manga artists such as Masami Kurumada, Akira Toriyama, Go Nagai, Shotaro Ishinomori, and Naoko Takeuchi.
Toei Animation building | t-miki
Some of the popular TV series Toei Animation has produced are Go Nagai’s Mazinger Z, Mahoutsukai Sally (the animated manga adaptation of Mitsyteru Yokoyama’s creation, and the first magical-girl anime series), Dragon Ball Z, and Sailor Moon. The contributions of Toei Animation are widely recognized worldwide. Its works have been recipients of the Animage Anime Grand Prix award for Galaxy Express 999 in 1981, Saint Seiya in 1987, and Sailor Moon in 1992.The many anime series created in Toie Animation Studios have set the standards for Super Robot anime for many years.
The Panda and the Magic Serpent, Toei vintage video (1958) | Z-Grade
Toei Animation Studios is situated in Higashi-Oizumi while the company’s headquarters is in Shinjuku, right in the center of Tokyo (and handy to KCP). The production process of Toei Animation takes pride in practices from its mother company’s traditional beliefswhere the director is responsible for the whole episode, from drawing the story boardsto overseeing the sound effects and voice-over.
The studio boasts of having state-of-the-art digitized technology that you have to see to fully appreciate. The tour will give you valuable insights in the world of anime, where the characters of a story are given just as much emphasis as the storyline. It’s a great way to learn more about the inner workings of Japanese anime!
Sailor Moon Trading Cards | Chris Fritz
Application for the KCP summer language and anime/manga course closes March 27. So don’t delay—apply now.
This August, KCP students had a blast at a seminar on how to draw a popular Gintama manga character. Manga (Japanese comics or printed cartoons) which is almost as widely popular in the United States as in Japan, incorporates drawing techniques that make the characters easily recognizable. They usually have overly big eyes, small mouths and chins, and messy hair.
Oni Lukos | wikimedia
You can teach yourself to draw manga with the use of tutorials and manga sketch books. Below are three fantastic video tutorials by Mark Crilley on how to draw those distinctive manga facial features, female eyes, and hair.
Stay tuned for future posts on how to draw manga!
Onsen refers to hot springs in Japan, although it usually describes the bathing facilities of hot spring resorts. After a rigorous and hectic week (day? hour?), there is no better way to kick back and relax than a soak in a natural hot spring. It is a must-try aspect of Japanese culture if you visit Japan.
Kurokawa Onsen, Kyushu | David McKelvey
Japan consists of almost 7,000 islands. Over 70% of the country is made up of mountains and there are over 200 volcanoes in the Japanese jurisdiction. As a volcanically active nation, Japan has literally thousands of hot spring resorts scattered all over.
An onsen can be either an outdoor onsen (roten-buro or noten-buro) or an indoor bath. These can be a public municipal facility or a private onsen (uchiyu) run as a ryokan, hotel, or a B&B (minshuku). Bathing in an onsen is a unique Japanese bonding experience that breaks down barriers while getting to know people in a relaxed atmosphere. This is known as hadaka no tsukiai, or naked communion. After all, every single human being is naked under those clothes, right?
Kawaguchiko Onsen | Melanie-m
Onsen were traditionally built outdoors, though as of late, more indoor onsen are being built at newer establishments. The naturally, geothermally heated spring water is said to have healing powers because of its mineral content. Most onsen state what type of mineral content the water in their establishment is rich in, such as sulphur onsen (iō-sen) , sodium chloride onsen (natoriumu-sen), hydrogen carbonate onsen (tansan-sen), or iron onsen (tetsu-sen). Many Japanese believe that hot spring waters heal body aches and pains as well as some health disorders including diabetes, menstrual cramps, and constipation.
Private onsen. | charles chan
Another tradition involved men and women bathing together, but since Japan opened its doors to the West during the Meiji era, men and women have had separate baths. There are some onsen (konyoku) that provide designated hours for mixed baths or women-only, and children of either sex can bathe in women-only or men-only onsen.