With the increased interest in Japanese cuisine and culture, the Japanese kitchen knife has received grown attention from not only professionals but also from informed enthusiasts around the world. Bringing out the best of the ingredients is one of the signature culinary methods of Japanese cuisine.
The Sharper the edge of a piece of Sashimi indicates the freshness of the fish and special knives for that exclusive purpose were made so chefs were able to slice in one stroke. You can say that the knife is what gives Sashimi its edge. This is why a good Japanese sushi chef is very particular about their knife of choice. Today, some of the finest chefs from not only Japan but all over the world come to Japan looking for their perfect knife. One of the popular blades that we carry is the edgy authentic Japanese knife called the “Wabocho”. As Japanese culture and cuisine have been spreading internationally, this knife in particular has been gathering attention among top notch chefs of Japanese cuisine from around the globe.
How sharp it is? You can check the video below and see how sharp the Japanese knife is.
Outstanding knives “Wabocho” with traditional blade shapes have been made in the traditional manner in small Japanese swordsmith’s shops for centuries, often with a high level of manual work or even completely handmade. They are valued by experts because of the best steels, carefully selected materials for the handles and ferrules, a high level of workmanship, original design – and last but not least, extreme sharpness and sharpness retention. The blades usually have a hard carbon steel core forge welded to one or more outer layers of iron – similar to multilayer Samurai swords. Traditional materials and forms are also used for the handles.
We would introduce one good example of “Wabocho” shops. Moritaka Hamono has been producing swords for over 700 years. To preserve this ancient tradition, its master swordsmiths continue to handcraft knives and swords that samurai would be proud of. The outstanding quality of its blades is established by using a combination of a steel core and iron cladding. The steel core gives the knives razor sharp edges, while the iron cladding ensures durability that surpasses any mass production knives. Their extensive knowledge and experience regarding the properties of these high quality materials allows them to exploit the full potential of these steels, resulting in the production of a superior knife.
How popular “Wabocho” is ? Don’t get surprise. If you order Moritaka Hamono’s knife today, the delivery of the product takes a 12 month. But don’t worry. There are many other good “Wabocho” shops in Japan and the best place to find one is Kappabashi Street in Tokyo. So visit Tokyo and get ones.
8/15 is a special day for many Japanese, called “Obon” (お盆). (For people in some areas, it is 7/15.)
Is is said that the souls of your ancestors come back to the living world on this day, so that we celebrate and welcome them. As a custom, many Japanese take their summer vacation on the week of 8/15.
“Okuribi” (送り火) is the event to see off the souls going back to the world of afterlife. There are 2 major kinds of “Okuribi”. One is done on the hill, called “Yama no Okuribi”, (山の送り火) and the other one is done in the water, called “Umi no Okuribi” (海の送り火). “Umi no Okuribi” is “Toro Nagashi” (灯籠流し) in another words.
“Gozan Okuribi” (五山送り火) in Kyoto is the most famous one of “Yamano Okuribi” and many tourists look forward to seeing it. “Gozan” means 5 hills, then, there are 5 places that fire at the same time on 8/16. http://www.kyokanko.or.jp/okuribi/
This represents the Kanji character, “大”. Why this character is not known clearly, but some say it depicts the shape of human.
There are characters that represent “Torii”(鳥居), a shrine gate and a boat.
“Okuribi” is one of representatives of Summer traditional events in Kyoto.
If you have a chance to visit Kyoto in summer, why don’t you try feeling Japanese “Obon” ?
It is a traditional Japanese style boat with wall and roof. As oldest, it used to be Shogun’s private boat in Heian Era and lasted through the Edo Era, which were very lavishly decorated.
There are some Ukiyoe that have Yakatabune pictured.
Yakatabune has tatami mats inside and Japanese low tables that are basically for entertaining guests in the old days. Today they plow the waterways of the rivers and bays of Tokyo among the skyscrapers and temples for sighteseeing and retain a traditional feel.
Now, many people enjoy Yakatabune especially in Spring when cherry blossoms are in bloom, Summer with fireworks, and Yearend when yearend paries are held.
In summer, it is very gracious to watch fireworks from Yakatabune in the river.
In yearend, some Japanese people like to have yearend parties, called “Bonenkai” (忘年会) in Yakatabune because it has a kitchen and dishes like “Tempura” (天ぷら) can be served with some drinks including alcohols !
When you have a chance to visit Japan, why don’t you put Yakatabune one of your “exotic” activities ?
Many of you may know Washi, that is Japanese traditional paper made using fibers from the bark of gampi tree, mitsumata shrub, or the paper mulberry. Washi-Choso is the kind of carving art using Washi, wires, wood, hemp strings, and clay. This art is not very popular and even not many Japanese know it.
The artist of Washi-Choso, Utsumi Kiyoharu (内海清美) is the great master.
He was born in Tokyo in 1937 and graduated from Tokyo University of Arts. His major concepts of the art is people in the Japanese traditional history. He has made the Pope a present of his art called “Susanoo”. In Japanese mythology, Susanoo, the powerful storm of Summer, is the brother of Amaterasu, the goddess of the Sun, and of Tsukuyomi, the god of the Moon.
There are a log of tasty dishes in Japan.
You can have almost all of food in the world. Not to mention about Italian, French, Chinese, Indian, Thai, Indian, but African as well, can’ t count the other countries and areas !
Looking back to Japanese food, now, many local new dishes are being developed and introduced every year. B-1 Grand Prix, that is Japanese local food competition, is very popular food event now.
Although Japan is developed civilized country, most of population is located in Tokyo and its suburb areas.
On the other hand, many local areas are suffering from decreasing young people and losing economic vitality.
Then, as one of the solutions to re-activate the local economy by attracting visitors for sight-seeing, new local dishes have been developed by the people of the food industry.
“Fujinomiya Yakisoba”(富士宮焼きそば) was the winner of the first prize in the first event held in 2006.
Fujinomiya city is in Shizuoka prefecture, that is famous for Mt. Fuji.
Although Yakisoba is not new food, it is characteristic of its own thick noodle and oil cakes.
“Hachinohe Senbeijiru” (八戸せんべい汁) was the winner in 2012 Grand Prix.
It is traditional soul food for the people in Hachinohe in Aomori prefecture. It is soup with chicken or pork, vegetables such as root, green onion, and mushrooms. The characteristic of this soup is it has Senbei (煎餅), rice cake, in it ! Before it got the first prize in 2012, it had been ranked in the higher positions many times, so it must be very delicious in spite of its plain looking.
Although they did not attend or the winners of the B1 Grand Prix competition, there are many other “Gotochi-Gourmet” and following are just a part of them.
“Aburafu-Don” (油麩丼) in Tome city in Miyagi prefecture Aburafu is a kind of fried flour cake.
“Komagane Source Katsudon”(駒ヶ根ソースカツ丼) in Komagane city in Nagano prefecture This is pork schnizel on the sliced cabbage with special source.
“Shiroebi Burger”(白エビバーガー) in Imizu city in Toyama prefecture
Shiroebi is precious white shrimp that can be fished only in Toyama area.
“Hunton Rice”(ハントンライス) in Kanazawa city in Ishikawa prefecture
This is with butter rice and white meet fish fries. It is said “Hun” came from Hungary and “Ton” means tuna in Hungarian.
Are you getting hungry ?
Try and discover the buried local attractions in Japan !
Kabuki-za Theater at Ginza, the original opened its doors in 1889, has just finished the three year’s renovation and reopened in April, 2013 as fifth generation’s Kabuki-za.
On fifth floor, there is a cafe and you can see on top of the theater. One of the unique characteristics of Japanese houses is their roof tiles “kawara”. It is believed that Japanese roof tiles prevent evil form coming into the house. There are a wide range of kawara designs with respective meaning. For example, the kawara of an imaginary killer whale design has a meaning of fire prevention as the killer whale is a symbol ofa powerful creature in the ocean. Another popular design of kawara in Buddhist temples is the lotus flower as lotuses are symbol of new life and reincarnation in Buddhism.
Do you know what design of kawara in Kabuki-za theater is ? It is phoenix. In front of the theater, you will find Yagura, a woodencubic frame, covered with blue cloth on which is dyed a large pattern of the theater’s crest phoenix as well.
Though you do not see Kabuki performance, you can go to the roof-top cafe without any ticket. There is also an Kabuki museum for free admission. If you have a chance to come to Tokyo, Kabuki-za theater is worth visiting.
These days, people writes less and less by hand. There are times when a text message just won’t do… but how can you convey your congratulations or condolences if you can only manage a scribble?
For the Namiki Collections of Pilot Pen, skilled Japanese artisans use the finest materials to create a line of writing instruments that perform flawlessly.
Check this video and see that you can write the variety of fonts by just one pen.
Pilot Pen Corporation has a pen museum in Tokyo to introduce the history of pen and also beautiful pens and these are some of its collection of finest fountain pens.
Maki-e lacquering, a centuries-old technique in which multi-layered patterns are drawn on the barrel and cap with urushi – sap from Japanese lacquer trees. The hand-painted designs richly interpret scenes of nature in precious metals and lavishly colored pigments.
① Maki-e Fountain Pen “Araiso” Mr. Naoji Terai*
② Maki-e Fountain Pen “Suzuran” Mr. Yoshikuni Taguchi*
③ Maki-e Fountain Pen “Bugaku” 1998
*Living National Treasure
To write is to express thought, and can be said to be an intelligent activity that is distinctively human. We should sometimes write a letter or card by hand instead of using PC.
Oiran was a kind of courtesan of highest rank in Edo period (1600-1868). Some people may express it a prostitute, however Oiran became celebrities of their times outside the pleasure districts. Their art and fashions were often set trends among the wealthy, and because of this, cultural aspects of Oiran traditions continue to be preserved until these days.
For men, in order to see Oiran, they had to frequent the red-light place until they were allowed to see by Oiran.
In that sense, they had to pay the fee several times without getting any services. When finally allowed to see, Oiran came to the meeting room accompanied by several young female attendants.
Once Oiran sit down in front of the man and started smoking. During this time, she made an intuitive decision whether she would like only to talk with him or give him “full” services.
If she did not like the men, he would never be allowed to see her again !
When Oiran went outside officially, they made a long gorgeous line like parade, called “Oiran-Dochu”(花魁道中).
This meant “Fashion Show” to the people in the town, as well.
Takao-Dayu was one of the most famous Oiran in Yoshiwara (吉原) which was in Taito-ku (台東区) in Tokyo. Takao-Dayu was not only one woman, but it was the prestigious name taken by several women who were beautiful and had special skills. It is not clear how many women succeeded the name, there are 4 views that say 4, 6, 9, or 11. The most interesting skill that one of the several Takao-Dayu had was capability to fix the clock !
Another interesting fact is that those who frequented to see Oiran were not only men, but young women also did.
It was not because they were gay, but they wanted to learn their fashion sense, like Kimono pattern, hair accessary, and coordination.
Many of you who like Japan or have visited Japan may know “Akihabara”(秋葉原), or called shortly “Akiba”, where a lot of stuff are sold relating electronic devices, animation, figures, or subcultures.
Very close to Akiba, there is a place called “2k540 AKI-OKA Artisan”. “2k540″ is pronounced “Ni Ke Yon Go Maru”, named from railway terminology meaning the place 2.5 km from Tokyo station.
This is the place under railway between “Akihabara” station and “Okachimachi” station, where a lot of small shops of artisans that sell hand-made crafts from traditional to modern. Okachimachi used to have a lot of artisans and craftworkers who developed Japanese traditional crafts in Edo era.
2k540 AKI-OKA Artisan was established aiming to provide the place to unrenowned or young artisans to show their activities and appeal their talents.
Ms. Uchiyama, who makes Kimono gown was coordinator of this event and played “Watering Girl” role !
There was a male Shitate-ya (仕立て屋), who is very rare nowadays.
His live sewing can be seen at YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/user/KimoKame
Male Kimono maker
The house was decorated with several Kimonos and fabrics.
Although, the events finished and there were no live exhibition of sewing now, the place is very nice to visit.
It is only 400 Yen to enter the Museum.
If you have a chance to visit the suburb of Tokyo, why don’ t you try ?
May 5 is a children’s day(‘kogomo no hi’), and the day was originally called ‘Tango no Sekku(端午の節句）’ in Japan. Sekku means a season’s festival (there are five sekku per year). Tango no Sekku marks the beginning of summer or the rainy season. Tan means “edge” or “first” and go means “noon”. Until recently, Tango no Sekku was known as Boy’s Day while Girls’ Day (Hinamatsuri) was celebrated on March 3.
During this season, you will see carp streamers fluttering in the wind and the ornaments such as armors and helmets decorated at the alcove of houses. At this point we would like to introduce you to the meaning and origins of Tango-no Sekku (端午の節句) and how it is celebrated in the present day.
Although it is not known precisely when this day started to be celebrated, it was probably during the reign of the Empress Suiko (593–628 A.D.). In Japan, Tango no Sekku was assigned to the fifth day of the fifth month after the Nara period.
During the Kamakura Period (1192-1333), Samurai family controlled Japan. The Japanese word “shobu” means to honor military power or bravery. And the “calamus” iris decorations that were used as talismans of good luck during the “Tango no Sekku” ceremony are also called “shobu”. So “Tango no Sekku” was changed to “Shobu no Sekku” ( a day for honoring power and bravery ) by the Samurai. Armors and helmets, which were used for protection in battle, began to be displayed as celebratory decorations.
In the Edo Period (1600-1868), the Tokugawa shogun settled May 5th as one of the important Sekku. Whenever a boy baby was born to the shogun, banners and flags were flown at the front entrance of the palace to celebrate the event. This custom soon spread among the general public. People were proud to act in the same way as the shogun and designed “koinobori”, carp streamers.
The price of the doll varies from several thousand to fifteen million yen, depending on the size, the number of items, and the name of an artist. In many cases, a family and relatives dine together for a boy’s festival. Many young parents live in apartments which have little space for a large gorgeous doll. It is often said they put the doll in the closet and never let it out. In spite of this, parents would prepare dishes to please children, or take their children out for a recreation on the holiday.
Do you have a children’s day in your country ? and how do you cerebrate it ?
Jusaburo Tsujimura is one of most authentic doll artists in Japan. Most of his dolls are traditional Japanese in Kimono, but he also makes some western style dolles. They are so sultry as if they are really alive.
There is “Jusaburo” museum shop in Nihonbashi, Tokyo.
You can learn doll making there as well. If you have any chances to visit Tokyo, it is one of the places worth to take a look at.
By the way, Jusaburo is 80 years old men still very active and energetic ! He was born in 1933. Today one of Japan’s finest doll-makers, he actively expands the scope of his art into areas such as costume design, direction, and script writing for stage and film. His performances have received high acclaim including those in America, Europe and Hong Kong.
Hanami is the Japanese traditional custom of enjoying the beauty of flowers, Cherry blossom is the most popular flowers for ‘Hanami’ and people around the world visit during April to May to join Cherry Blossom viewing.
You may not know that we also enjoy plum (‘ume’) blossom.
The practice of hanami is many centuries old. The custom is said to have started during the Nara Period (710–794) when it was Plum (ume) blossoms that people admired in the beginning. But by the Heian Period (794–1185), sakura came to attract more attention and hanami was synonymous with sakura. From then on, in both waka and haiku, “flowers” meant “sakura.”
Hanami was first used as a term analogous to cherry blossom viewing in the Heian era novelTale of Genji. Although a wisteria viewing party was also described, the terms “hanami” and “flower party” were subsequently used only in reference to cherry blossom viewing.
The Japanese people continue the tradition of hanami, gathering in great numbers wherever the flowering trees are found. Thousands of people fill the parks to hold feasts under the flowering trees, and sometimes these parties go on until late at night. In more than half of Japan, the cherry blossoming days come at the same time of the beginning of school and work after vacation, and so welcoming parties are often opened with hanami. Usually, people go to the parks to keep the best places to celebrate hanami with friends, family, and company coworkers many hours or even days before.
The cherry blossom front is forecast each year, previously by the Japan Meteorological Agency and now by private agencies, and is watched with attention by those who plan to celebrate hanami because the blossoms last for very little time, usually no more than two weeks. The first cherry blossoms happen in the subtropical southern islands of Okinawa, while on the northern island of Hokkaido, they bloom much later. In most large cities like Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, the cherry blossom season normally takes place around the end of March and the beginning of April. The television and newspapers closely follow this “cherry blossom front”, as it slowly moves from South to North.
This is Cherry blossom front forecast for this year. Tokyo is March 25 this year. The best time to view full of cherry blossom is about 2 weeks from March 25.
As we start to get into the swing of Cherry Blossom season here in Japan we are always treated with a nice showing of Plum Blossoms. The problem is that Plum Blossoms and Cherry Blossoms don’t flower across Japan at the same time so depending on where you are or where you are going you can sometimes be mistaken on what you are actually looking at, Plum or Cherry Blossoms.
Around Tokyo, cherry and plum do bloom at different times and plum blooms from February to March.
The most famous garden for plum around Tokyo area is Kairakuen, the picturesque garden just south of Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture, that was built in the 1840s by the seventh daimyo of the Mito clan, Tokugawa Nariaki.
For starters, the 3,000-plus plum trees that Nariaki ordered planted throughout the 13-hectare garden are in full bloom, flooding it in a sea of pink and purple hues. Then there’s the ease of access.
March 3rd is Hina Matsuri, Japan’s annual girls day festival. As part of the festivities, girls are given a set of ornamental dolls, representing the Emperor, Empress, attendants, and musicians in traditional court dress of the Heian period.
Th dolls are put on display from February through March 3 — a ritual believed to bring about good health for the girls. The dolls, which are sometimes made of materials as delicate as paper and clay, are believed to ward off evil and are usually kept within the family for generations.
There is a very good opportunity to see very best Hina Dolls at Mitsui Memorial Museum right now, Mitsui Memorial Museum is holding the exhition “Hina Matsuri Dolls from the Mitsui Family Collection” returns this year to showcase a number of Girls Day Festival ornamental dolls, from February 7 till April 7 this year.
The highlight of the show is a complete set of dolls, which is being displayed on a huge three-meter-wide, tiered platform. The dolls and accessories, such as miniature furniture, all belonged to women in the Mitsui family — including Motoko (1869-1946), Toshiko (1901-1976), and Okiko (1900-1980) — who have been passing them down for generations.
If you are in Tokyo around this period, it is nice to visit there.
Just like everybody enjoys coordinating daily cloths, it is fun and exiting to consider which Obi to choose for Kimono and how the Obi is tied.
There are a lot of ways of tying Obi depending on the situation you wear Kimono, how old you are, and what kind of Obi and Kimono are selected.
Most formal and standard Obi tying is called “Niju-Daiko”(二重太鼓).
“Niju-Daiko” is possible only when “Fukuro-Obi” and “Maru-Obi” are used because other kind of Obi are too short and too narrow for the tying.
“Niju-Daiko” is suitable for many kinds of Kimono, such as “Tomesode”, “Homongi”, and “Komon”.
When you wear “Furisode”, “Fukuro-Obi” or “Maru-Obi” is chosen as well, but the way of the tying Obi should be gorgeous like below.
This tying is called “Fukura-Suzume”(ふくら雀). “Fukura-Suzume” means Sparrow with its feathers puffed out in winter to warm itself. This leads to wish Wealth and Prosperity, a traditional lucky motif in Japan.
On the other hand, if you wear “Yukata” or “Komon”, a casual Kimono, “Hanhaba-Obi” is good for them.
One of the popular tying of “Hanhaba-Obi” for young girls is “Bunko-Musubi” (文庫結び).
It looks like ribbon or butterfly, but “Bunko” means “Book Box”.
Nowadays, there are few opportunities to wear Komono, even in Japan.
Then, think about how to utilized Obi in a different way.
How about for a table runner ?
Usually, 1/4 or Monday of the next week of 1/1 is first business day of the new year in Japan, where, many business people go to see and show new year greetings to their customers with some gifts.
This new year gift is called “Onenga” (お年賀) in Japanese.
It is said that this custom was born in “Edo” era (江戸時代, around mid 1600), when people obtained peaceful lives and merchants were flourished.
Local “Samurai” used to visit “Shogun” with their local products.
Traders and merchants brought sweets, sake or liquor on their first business day of the year.
Nowadays, most popular “Onega” is Towel.
Why Towel ?
It seems to be because Towel is cheep and good for daily use.
Sometimes, the towel has a company or merchants name printed, that is to be exposed every time used, and it works to go deeply into the customers memory.
Origami is the traditional Japanese art of paper holding, which started in the 17th century. ‘Ori’ means ‘holding’ and ‘gami’ means paper. The goal of this art is to transform a flat sheet of paper into a finished sculpture through folding and sculpting techniques, and as such the use of cuts or glue are not considered to be origami. Paper cutting and gluing is usually considered Kirigami.
The best known origami model is probably the Japanese paper crane. In general, these designs begin with a square sheet of paper whose sides may be different colors or prints.
Modern origami is a unique sculptural art. Each origami design must be individually folded; there is no mass-production process.
Satoshi Kamiya, 30 year old, is among the most advance origami master in the world. All his works are only single sheet of square paper, and it can’t be cut or glued.
There is a video showing how he make his amazing works. Simply, Amazing, and it worth watching. So check this video.
If you have only 2 humble Tsumugi Kimonos as your hand and need to wear either one of them at New Year Party, which do you prefer ?
The entire image of Kimono changes depending on the coordination with Obi.
In addition, accessories for Kimono, such as “Obijime” and “Obiage”, as well as “Haneri” play roles of “spice” that pluses a nuance.
“Obijime” is the strap that holds Obi.
“Obiage” is the scarf-like fabric that covers inner strings and decorates the edge of Obi in front.
“Haneri”, that is not shown in the pictures this time, though, is the fabric that covers and decorates the collar of “Juban”, Kimono underwear.
Now, there are 3 patterns of coordination for each !
A. This kimono fabric is called “Some-Oshima” (染め大島), a kind of “Oshima-Tsumugi” (大島紬) that is very famous fabric produced in Kagoshima prefecture.
Usually, the pattern of “Oshima-Tsumugi” is inwoven, however, the pattern of “Some-Oshima” is dyed after the fabric is woven.
A-1 Oshima with Tsumugi Obi
A-1 is coordination with “Tsumugi” “Nagoya-Obi”, “Tsumugi” “Obijime”, and yellow “Shibori” “Obiage”.
A-2 Oshima with Maple Obi
A-2 is coordination with Maple motif “Nagoya-Obi”, thin & round “Obijime” with color ball charm, and light-green “Chirimen” “Obiage”.
A-3 Oshima with Chrysanthemum Obi
A-3 coordination is with Chrysanthemum motif “Nagoya-Obi”, thin & round triple color “Obijime”, and yellow “Rinzu” “Obijime”.
B. This Kimono fabric is called “Yuki-Tsumugi” (結城紬), that is very famous “Tsumugi” produced in Ibaraki prefecture. Its inwoven pattern is “Sakura” petals.
B-1 Yuki Tsumugi with Fukuro Obi
B-1 coordination is with “Fukuro-Obi” of openwork, green flat “Obijime”, and light-green “Chirimen” “Obiage” (same one in A-2). ”Sakura” motif “Obidome”, a brooch like accessary for “Obijime”, is put as an additional accent.
“Fukuro-Obi” is usually for formal or semi formal Kimono, however this is called “Share-Bukuro” (洒落袋) that is for Komon Kimono.
B-2 Yuki Tsumugi with Hitta Nagoya Obi
B-2 coordination is with “Chirimen” “Nagoya-Obi” with dotted pattern called “Hitta” (疋田), thick & round “Obijime”, and “Obiage” with same fabric as “Obijime”
B-3 Yuki Tsumugi with Stripe Nagoya Obi
Finally, B-3 coordination is with “Nagoya-Obi” with Stripe “Tsumugi” fabric, black flat “Obijime with “Obidome” (same one as in B-1), and red “Shibori” “Obijime”. This “Nagoya-Obi” was remade from the fabric that was originally Kimono.
Christmas was initially introduced to Japan with the arrival of the first Europeans in the 16th century. But only in recent decades has the event become widely popular in Japan, and this despite the fact that Christians make up only about two percent of the population. Though Christianity is a minority religion but Japan is a freedom of religion. Yes, we do cerebrate Christmas. People are taking up traditions such as decorating their home, giving presents to friends and celebrating the event with a special meal.
During this holiday season, Japanese send New Year’s card rather than Christmas card. Design of New Year’s card is very traditional or formal but we have many unique designs that mix and match Japanese culture with traditional western Christmas imagery. When Santa Claus is involved, it is always cute !
Do you think this is just a Christmas imagery ? Not really. Actually Santa Claus coming from Finland sometimes stop by to meet Maiko in Kyoto before visiting children. I wonder what was his present for them!
Just like Christian people exchange Christmas cards, Japanese people start preparing to send New Year Greeting cards, called “Nenga-Jo” (年賀状) in Japanese, to their friends, families, relatives, and business affiliates in this season.
Usually, Oriental Zodiac or Earthly Branches in another words, called “Juni-shi” (十二支) or “Eto”(干支) in Japanese, of the year is used as pictures on “Nenga-jo”.
“Juni-shi” is ancient China originated system of reckoning time, that spread out and have been used in many Asian countries such as Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Mongolia and Japan.
This system was built from observations of the orbit of Jupiter and Chinese astronomers divided the celestial circle into 12 sections to follow the orbit. It developed to be used for counting year, month, time, and azimuth direction.
The Chinese characters that represent “Juni-shi” or “Eto” are, 子丑寅卯辰巳午未申酉戌亥, and each character has its own animal assigned.
子(Ne)=Mouse 丑(Ushi)=Cow 寅(Tora)=Tiger 卯(U)=Rabbit 辰(Tatsu)=Dragon 巳(Mi)=Snake 午(Uma)=Horse
未(Hitsuji)=Sheep 申(Saru)=Monkey 酉(Tori)=Chicken 戌(Inu)=Dog 亥(I)= Hog
In Vietnam, 丑=Buffalo, 卯=Cat, 未=Goat, and 亥(I)=Pig.
In Thailand, they also interpret 未=Goat, and 亥(I)=Pig.
In China, 亥(I)=Pig.
Sometimes, 寅=Leopard in Mongolia.
Sorry, it took long lines to explain about “Eto”….
Getting back to “Nenga-jo”, “Eto” animal for 2012 was Dragon.
The motif of the cards are not only pictures but also Kanji was arranged to look like the year animal.
And, the 2013 animal is Snake !
Although, sometimes it may be “pain” to prepare so many cards at one time, and less people follow this traditional custom every year, wouldn’t it be nice to know each other’s update by exchanging fancy greeting
Fortunately, compared to the past when we had to make the cards by hand writing and paintings, there are may tools of modern technology, such as computers, printers and application softwares that help to ease up the work, these days !
It is already in December. At the end of Year, there are many fairs in temples throughout Japan. My favorite one is Hagoita-ichi (Battledore Fair) in Asakusa and will be held in Sensou-ji Temple, Asakusa(Tokyo) from Dec. 17th to 19th this year.
The hagoita originated in China and was brought over to Japan during the Muromachi period(14 – 16th century). Hagoita were used as decorative battledores or presented as New Year gifts. Hagoita were believed to repel evil, and had connotations of healthy growth.
In the late Edo period(19th century), a Chinese technique called ‘oshi’ was first used for hagoita. A design is made, then cardboard is tacked against a board, which is covered with cloth to give a 3-d effect.
At that time, like ukiyo-e, hagoita featured similar designs with portraits of Kabuki actors being very popular. At the annual year-end fairs in Edo, many people bought hagoita with portraits of popular actors. Today, beautiful hagoita make a popular gift as a traditional Tokyo handicraft to bring luck at New Year.
Hagoita-ichi is a traditional fair dating back to the Edo Period, but it was apparently only after World War II that the name Hagoita-Ichi became popular. Many visitors come each year. The Hagoita-ichi is an annual fair held in its precincts at the end of the year. Near the Hondo or main hall of Senso-ji Temple, some 50 open-air stalls selling hagoita (battledores), shuttlecocks, kites and other New Year decorations stand huddled together, and numerous people gather here from all over the country. The market was full of “decorations” for new years that bring good luck for the coming year.
Additionally, at the Hagoitaichi, hagoita with pictures of the people who received the most attention during the year, are notable and are often taken up by the media. There are various hagoita, so find your favorite one!
Leaf peeping in autumn is one of popular seasonal events for Japanese people along with “O-Hanami”, Cherry blossom viewing, in spring.
Especially, maple leaves with their color changed in red are very beautiful, so that, they are one of the most popular leaves in autumn.
Japanese people have loved nature and incorporated it into their lives since ancient times.
As you know, Kimono is one of the representatives.
Traditionally in Japan, you will be regarded as “Iki” (粋), meaning snappy, if you take the seasonal fashion in advance just before the beginning. But, if you wear Kimono with Sakura motif in autumn, you will be regarded as “Busui”(無粋), meaning clunky.
Maple leaf is very popular motif for Kimono and Obi as much as Sakura.
Maple leaf motif Nagoya-Obi
In general, motif of colored maple leaf is loved very much as a symbol of autumn, however, do you know there is a green or non-colored maple leaf motif for Kimono ?
You can wear Kimono with motif of green or non-colored maple leaves in “non-autumn” seasons.
Of course, winter is not the season because all the leaves fall down from the trees.
In that sense, from spring to early summer will be the good timing.
Maple leaf motif Komon Fabric
As mentioned earlier, Japanese have valued the seasonal sense, and not liked to take one non-seasonal item in the different season for long time.
Recently, however, emerging modern Yukata fabric tends to be free from the old traditional sense of value.
Usually, colored maple leaves are not used for the pattern of Yukata, that is worn in summer, because it is the symbol of autumn, but as you can see in the below picture, it is actually used now !
Maple leaf motif Yukata Fabric
Although, this may be unacceptable for senior Japanese people who adhere to traditional seasonal sense, changes like this could be one of the keys for younger generation to carry on the torch of Japanese cultures with which enjoying and developing.
Tenugui is dyed cotton cloth. Japanese Tenugui possesses a very long history. Its origin is thought to go as far back as ancient Kofun era. In the Edo period (1592 – 1868) cotton began to be cultivated in various parts of Japan and TENUGUI became a necessary item for living. There are no rules in the way of using Tenugui. It can be used in a variety of ways as wiping cloth, headband, place mats or centerpieces, hand towel, wrapping cloth, interior decoration, or souvenir. Some are used exclusively for the traditional dancing.
For using as place mats or centerpieces
For using as room’s decorations
This motif of Todaya’s tenugui is 16 different usages of tenugui, especially in the kitchen and in play scenes.
In the Todaya shop, Tenugui makers in Nihonbashi, Tokyo, Tenugui is used as room’s decoration showing the feeling of the season.
Tenugui is very popular for long in Japan. You may have more useful ways of tenugui. First please check out below for our selections and get one and enjoy creating new idea of using Tenugui.