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Archive for the ‘Japanese culture & customs’ Category

This morning atmosphere is clear blue all the way to the sky and it was clear autumn sky.(However, it is getting hot around noon…phew!) Japanese often say this phrase “Autumn is the best season for reading, sports, the arts, harvest, and good appetite.” How do you say in your place about Autumn? Is the best season for reading Autumn? No? When it comes to talking about the reading, I will introduce some Japanese reading here. If you are interested in them, please check them out

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1, “The Pillow Book” (“Makura-no-Soshi” in Japanese):

It is called as the oldest blog in the world. “The Pillow book” is a book of observations and musings recorded by Sei Shōnagon during her time as court lady to Empress Consort Teishi during the 990s and early 11th century in Heian Japan. The book was completed in the year 1002.

Sei Shōnagon

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2, “The Tale of Genji” (“Genji-Monogatari” in Japanese):

The Tale of Genji is a classic work of Japanese literature written by the Japanese noblewoman and lady-in-waiting Murasaki Shikibu in the early years of the 11th century, around the peak of the Heian period. It is sometimes called the world’s first full-length novel, the first modern novel, the first psychological novel or the first novel still to be considered a classic in the world. Notably, the novel also illustrates a unique depiction of the livelihoods of high courtiers during the Heian period. While universally considered a masterpiece, its precise classification and influence in both Western and Eastern canon has been a matter of debate. The work recounts the life of a son of the Japanese emperor, known to readers as “Hikaru Genji,” or “Shining Genji”. For political reasons, Genji is relegated to commoner status (by being given the surname Minamoto) and begins a career as an imperial officer. The tale concentrates on Genji‘s romantic life and describes the customs of the aristocratic society of the time. Much is made of Genji‘s good looks.

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Murasaki Shikib1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As an digression, this two women writer were rivals each other in their own intelligences and in their master positions in their Court because they were political opponent…

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 “Tsukimi” in Japanese is the custom event of viewing the moon in Japan. Especially, Tshukimi” at the Harvest Moon in mid-autumn night is a traditional seasonal event. This is held on August 15 according to the lunar calendar, which is on September 19th this year 2013. Many Japanese appreciate the full moon, and traditionally, offer rice dumplings and Japanese pampas grass, seasonal fruits and vegetables to the moon.

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The harvest moon is the moon at and about the period of fullness that is nearest to the autumnal equinox, and one of the most beautiful of the year with its perfectly round shape. Thus there is no long period of darkness between sunset and moonrise around the time following these full moons. In times past this feature of these autumn moons was said to help farmers working to bring in their crops. They could continue being productive by moonlight even after the sun had set. Hence the name is “Harvest Moon”.

Japanese imagine that the shadow of moon shapes like as a rabbit pounding boiled rice into rice cake. We are taught by our parents or teachers about the story “ a rabbit in the moon” since we were children. Unfortunately, I do not know the correct origin of the imagination, but there is a few Japanese folklores the moon and a rabbit, so I will introduce one of them now. I will write the rest later if I have a chance…

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Anyway, we can see the rabbit motif in many traditional Japanese objects and scenes still now…Kimonos, Japanese dinnerware, Japanese tea things…if you have a chance to see them, please remember that motif is Japanese traditional style!

Below 1st photo; the very old rabbit motif cloth

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“The Moon and a Rabbit”

Long, long ago there lived an old man and his wife in a village. Being honest and hard workers, they were always so poor and lived from hand to mouth.

One day he went to a mountain as usual to get woods, when he found a rabbit caught in a trap. He freed her from it.

A few days later, a lady in white Kimono visited their house.

“Excuse me. I’m so sorry to disturb you. I lost my parents and my house because of the fire. I have no place to go. Please help me. Please let me stay here with you. I’ll do whatever I can do for you. please”

“I see. You can stay here in this house if you want to. But as you see, we are so poor that we don’t have much rice.” said the old man.

As the old couple had no child, they took care of her as if she were their own daughter.

She worked and worked, helping her father with the rice-field and getting woods, helping her mother with cooking, washing, sewing and so on. Having worked day after day, their life never changed for the better.

One night under the full moon, she said to her parents,

“My dear parents. I’m a rabbit helped by you in a mountain. To tell the truth, I came from the moon to meet my friends on the earth. It was careless of me to be caught in a trap. I wanted to help you in return for your kindness. But I can’t change your life. You are always hungry and poor. The last thing I can do for you is ….Please eat me.”

On saying so, she changed into a white rabbit and jumped into a big pot, in which stew was being cooked, on the hearth.

They tried to help her but it was too late. The steam out of the stew went up and up to the moon.

To their surprise, they saw the rabbit smiling and making rice cake in the full moon. They never felt hungry.

Gokigenyo!

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Have you heard the riverside terrace during summer in Kyoto? Even for many japanese people who do not live in Kyoto, this riverside terrace is a fascinating place and event. The riverside terrace put is place from May 1st to September 30th, so, it will soon be held in the end of this month. It has still been a little humid in japan, but I feel several signs of autumn recently, so this event season reached its final phase…If you have a chance, please visit and enjoy it!

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“Kawadoko” at Kifune area in kyoto

“Noryo-yuka” are the platforms that restaurants along the Kamogawa (the Kamo River) put up in the summer, extending themselves out to the river’s edge.  Noryou means, “Enjoying the cool evening” (amazing that Japanese has a word for that) and Yuka means “Platform” or “Flooring,” or more specifically in this case, a temporary wooden terrace, a deck. People in Kyoto call them “Noryo-yuka” or simply “yuka”.

The Kamogawa separates city Kyoto from the sublime, quiet Higashiyama (East Mountains) area. Their wooden floors, connected with restaurants, are built over the Kamo River from Nijo-dori St. to Gojo-dori St. in summer (from May 1 to September 30). The custom goes back to the Edo period (1603-1867).

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above photos are “Noryo-yuka”

“Kawadoko” are similar platforms along the Kifune area and Takao area, and this Kawadoko has a relatively short history compared with “Noryo-yuka”.

Formerly, Most of the restaurants in Kyoto specialized in the country dishes. However, recently, they have diversified and internationalized; Chinese, Thai and Korean cooking. Now, a lot of first-class restaurants are open, and there are restaurants that we can enter in light-heartedly, too. Incidentally, please take notice Noryo Yuka not open in the daytime except May and September.

below 4photos are “Kawadoko”

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History of Noryo-yuka

The riverside of the Kamo River had been an entertainment area for people of Kyoto since Nanboku-cho period (1336-1392). Enjoying the cool breezes of the evening flourished, especially in summer, and many performances were held in the riverbed of the Kamo River where the folding benches called “Shogi” were set up from Sanjo-dori St. to Matsubara-dori St. In the 27th year of Meiji period (1894), the wooden terraces, which some east riverside restaurants had owned, were pulled down due to completing the works of a canal. And Noryo-Yuka was quite abolished for some time due to opening a municipal streetcar because the Sijo-ohashi Bridge was rebuilt across the Kamo River in the last Meiji period.

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As I mentioned about the Chrysanthemum festival, people who celebrate it pray their health and longevity. 

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Before, people who lived at the Imperil Court used to put raw cottons on the chrysanthemum in this festival eve( Sep. 8th night) to expose them to the night-dew for absorbing the dew. We called the event “kisewata” in Japanese. It means a flower wears a cotton.

 

 

 

Next morning, people patted their faces with the wet raw cottons. It is because they believed in the paranormal power of the dew like as the elixir of like which was possessed by the chrysanthemum power…

 

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Of course, I think most of people in Japan don’t believe in the power, but a few things still linger in the Japanese tea ceremony or the Japanese art of flower arrangement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These are Japanese confectioneries shaped the chrysanthemum with the raw cotton, confectioneries just shaped the chrysanthemum, and the modern flower arrangement.

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People might pray their health through them in the present tme…could be.

I wish your health may continue “forever!!!”

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The ninth day of the ninth month was known as the “Choyo” Festival or the Chrysanthemum Festival.

It is influenced by the Chinese idea of regarding number 9 ( Sep.9th  is two 9s. the same lucky odd numbers is “Choyo“) as lucky day, so people who celebrate the festival drink sake with chrysanthemum petals on, eat rice mixed with Japanese chestnuts, and pray their health and longevity.

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In Japan, there are many traditional and historical events through year, some of them are“ The five seasonal festivals”. These festivals were originally celebrated for driving away evil spirits at the change of seasons, then they were considered as Tokugawa Shogunate’s official events around 17th century.

The five seasonal festivals: January 7th-“Rice Porridge with Seven Herbs of Spring”, March 3th-“Girls’ Festival”, May5th-“Boys’ festival”, July7th-“Star Festival”, September9th-“Chrysanthemum Festival”.

 

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Chrysanthemums originally came from China, but chrysanthemums and cherry blossoms are both considered typical Japanese flowers. The chrysanthemums were believed to be auspicious flowers denoting longevity and eternal youth, and they were used as medicinal herbs in China.

 

Painters in China and Japan preferred to paint the chrysanthemum, orchid, bamboo, and ume (Japanese plum) flower, which were regarded as the four noble flowers, drawing in India ink. The chrysanthemum is also closely related to the Imperial Family. A chrysanthemum crest is used as the Imperial crest. It is an open chrysanthemum with sixteen complete radiated petals. The Imperial Court used to hold a banquet for chrysanthemum viewing on the day of the Chrysanthemum (Choyo) Festival. Today, chrysanthemum doll exhibitions and chrysanthemum flower shows take place in many places throughout Japan around September 9th.

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It has been a while, how are you?

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Early morning in Shinjuku Imperial Garden in Tokyo summer;

September has just started. It is still muggy in Japan, but children in their compulsory education start the new semester in their school from today.

 

 

Anyway, have you experienced Japanese summer? I will show you the mean monthly temperature in July and August in Tokyo 2013, so please try comparison it with your living conditions.

 

July

Daily maximum temperature 31.8(Celsius:C)=89(Fahrenheit:F)

Daily minimum temperature 23.2 C=74 F

Monthly maximum temperature 36.1 C=97 F

Mean monthly humidity 73%5

 

 

August

Daily maximum temperature 24.3 C=76 F

Daily minimum temperature 33.7 C=93 F

Monthly maximum temperature 38.6 C=102 F

5Mean monthly humidity 70%

 

 

I think that every year, Japan gets more humid than the year before. I wish the Japanese summer was not so humid!

Please take good care of yourself!

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Gokigenyo!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Around the Imperial Palace in Tokyo summer

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Hama-rikyu Gardens in Tokyo summer

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How  are you? It has been boiling hot recently in Japan, but it is right in the middle of obon festival .

4Obon, observed around the fifteenth of August, is the home coming time for the souls of ancestors, according to the teaching of Buddhists.

Families get together to receive their honored guests, prepare special offerings and food, get the priest recite Buddha’s teachings, and visit tombs.

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On the eve( around on Aug. 13 th), families build small fire outside the door to help the ancestors find their home, and the same would be done on the day after to light their way back to the other world ( around on Aug. 16th morning). It said, the ancestors come back home riding the hoses, and go back to their world riding cattle. Do you know why? They drive horses because they want to go home as soon as possible, but they drive not horses but cattle because they do not back their world, and they want to stay home as long as possible…

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2traditional cucumber horse and eggplant cattle which each family make them by hand and modern ones which are sold in stores…

 

 

 

In Kyoto, they build gigantic bonfire on the hillside of five mountains surrounding the city.Each of the five mountains arrange the fire to form its special sign.

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The mountains on east and west do it in the shape of Dai in Japanese ( therefore, it is usually called ” Dai-mon-ji-yaki“; means the fire shaped “Dai”), which means “big” while the three others are designed in their traditional form.

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In the evenings, many local communities invite people to join dance “Bon-Odori” , for which people dance making a big circle, with Japanese flute, dram, or other instrument and singers chanting local tones.

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gokigenyo!

 

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