Iris Ayame (菖蒲)

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The end of the Spring, flowers have changed from cherry blossoms and then azalea to iris. This flower has several types as Ayame(あやめ), Kakitsubata(かきつばた), and Hana-shobu(はなしょうぶ). All of them are very similar but the flowering time and the shape of leaf are subtly different.

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  • Ayame : the beginning of May / the leaf is thin
  • Kakitsubata : the middle of May / the leaf is thick
  • Hana-shobu : from the middle of May to the end of June/the veins of the leaf is clear

Incidentally, Shobu which we put in the bath in May 5th (端午の節句Tango-no-sekku) is not the same plant as Hana-shobu.

Even we write Ayame or Shobu, the Chinese charactors are same like 菖蒲. However, for Kakitsubata, there are two types like “燕子花” and “杜若”. On the one hand, the famous painting made by Ogata Korin (尾形光琳), is titled “燕子花”, on the other hand for the No-play is titled “杜若”.

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A long time ago, people used to dye cloth with the flower’s liquid so that it has been called Kakitsuke-hana(掻き付け花), and little by little the flower itself became called Kakitsubata. Both of the works, Korin’s painting and the No-play have the same origin in Tales of Ise (伊勢物語). In the chapter 9, the main character named Ariwara-no-Narihira (在原業平) leads for the East (東Azuma) from Kyoto, then when he arrives at Toyohashi, he stops off a place where is splendid view of iris being in bloom all over the field. Someone asks him to compose a poem with using five letters, “Ka-Ki-Tsu-Ba-Ta”. Narihira, who was famous poet in the capital made it:

Kakitsubata / Kitsutsunarenishi / Tsumashiareba / Harubarukinuru / Tabiwoshizoomou (きつばた/つつなれにし/ましあれば/るばるきぬる/びをしぞおもふ)

The meaning of this poem is

I have a beloved wife / familiar as the skirt / of a well-worn robe / and so this distant journeying/ fills my heart with grief

(wikipedia)

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Thus, Japanese people are accustomed to expressing with unifying a changing of season with human feelings.

SOBA (蕎麦)

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Japanese people love very much noodles like ramen, udon and soba. This time, I would like to tell you about soba. In the soba restaurant, it is normal to make noise when we eat it. Perhaps it makes you disagreeable. Even the most of Japanese people don’t know well why they slurp the noodles.

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According to a Japanese chef of the famous soba restaurant, they started to slurp in order to taste more the soba’s flavor in their mouth. Soba noodles became popular since Edo period (in 17th century). Edo (the former name of Tokyo) had a population of about 1 million, so it was rather a big city at that time. There were many workers like carpenters or merchants, and they used to have meals in outside. Eating soba spread easily because they could eat fast, and also they had known soba was very nutritious food. It seems that there were about 700 soba restaurants in the late Edo period. Naturally, soba (buckwheat) is a kind of cereals so that it had been taken by most of ordinary people. The reason why they ate soba making noise that they didn’t care so much about manners. To enjoy tasting soba’s good flavor, you don’t have to care about making noise !

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Reference : http://www.nippon.com/ja/views/b07501/

Golden Week (ゴールデン・ウィーク)

“Golden Week” is a series of 4 holidays from the end of April to the beginning of May. Originally, it was a series of holidays with some intervening workdays, so we had called it Tobi-Ishi Renkyu (飛び石連休).

April 29 – Showa Emperor’s Birthday (Showa no hi昭和の日)

May 3 – Constitution Memorial Day(Kenpo kinen bi憲法記念日)

May 4 –  Greenery Day(Midori no hiみどりの日)

May 5 – Children’s Day(Kodomo no hiこどもの日)

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In general, Japanese people spend this vacation traveling abroad or going shopping. But in this year, it seems that most of people stay at home doing nothing. According to the questionnaire of a travel agency (Biglobe),

40 % take a rest at home

30 % travel

24 % go shopping

and only 10 % take the longest holidays about for 9 days.

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In fact, Japanese people don’t want to take a very long vacation. Furthermore, some of them say they don’t need holidays. The average of Golden week in this year, it will be 4.6 days.

On the other hand, people who take Golden week, become mental sick, called “Gogatsu-byo (五月病)”, which is a kind of depression. Most of them start new life style in April, so that they cannot get used this change, then they feel tired mentally. Generally speaking, Japanese people are responsible, serious and they often try to do something perfectly. However, this type’s people cannot control themselves well so that after Golden Week, they won’t go to work. It’s better to be stress-free and be flexible to enjoy holidays.

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SUMO-JOSHI (相撲女子)

Have you ever heard this word ? It means young women who love watching grand Sumo tournament. Why do we call them like that ? Because in generally we think Sumo is dislike by them; the wrestlers are so fat and they fight almost naked. The game rule is very simple, but it is complicated about ranks : Yokozuna ( 横綱 ), Ozeki ( 大関 ), Sekiwake ( 関脇 ), Komusubi ( 小結 ) and Maegashira ( 前頭  )…

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However, this sport has a very long history, and the games are so powerful ! Once you watch a live game, you can not help being interested in the Sumo world.

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Now, I tell you some about its history.

We can find a description of Sumo for the first time in Nihonshoki ( 日本書紀 ) in 8th century. Until 16th century, the games had been showed for successive emperors. And then, in the Edo period ( 17th century ), this sport was held to ordinary people. When Ryogkoku stadium ( 両国国技館 ) was opened in 1909, each tournament was held for 10 days, but since 1939 it became for 15 days, also tournaments are performed 6 times a year since 1958.

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Do you know any expressions about Sumo used also in our daily life ?

For example, “Jo-no-kuchi ( 序の口 ) ” which means the lowest division on the official listing of rank. In our daly life, we say this word as meaning “ the beginning of things ”. So you can say, “ This is the just begging ” in Japanese, “こんなの序の口だよ ( Konnano-jonokuchi-dayo ).”

In 2011, the Sumo society gave involved in a gambling scandal and it hanged low for several years. So that now, all of wrestlers and the association work very hard. That is why Sumo became very popular in these days with all of people. Please enjoy watching the sumo games !

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Hanami(花見)

Spring has come!

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Japan is famous for Sakura(cherry blossom) and Mt. Fuji. As you know the best season for Sakura is spring!

I would like introduce some good spots for Sakura!

 

The first place I would like to introduce is Chidori-ga-fuchi. It takes about 3 minutes by foot from Kudansita station and has about 700m’s roads around Kokyo that is the Imperial palace to see Sakura. About 260 Someiyoshino and other kinds of sakura bloom along along the river, and the view is absolutely fantastic! You can see the view in many ways like on a bridge, on a boat, on a pedestrain overpass and so on. You will be overwhelmed!

 

Next, this is my favorite place Yanaka cemetery. It takes 6 minutes from Nippori station. There are about 150 sakura’s tree in the main street and it looks like a tunnel! Would you like to go for a walk here on a clear day? I’m sure you are going to feel so good!

Many famouse people like the last Shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu, Ichiro Hatoyama who was a former prime minister, Eiichi Shibusawa who was an industrialist known as the “father of Japanese capitalism”  and others were laid to rest in Yanaka cemetery. If you are intrigued in Japanese history, I highly recommed you visit here!

Next place I’d like to introduce is Ueno park. Ueno park is so close to Ueno station and it is a huge park in Tokyo. It has been known as a sanctuary of seeing Sakura since Edo period and about 800 Sakura trees are lit by 800 paper lamps in the evening. There are a lot of art museums and science museums in Ueno so if you want to see these things Ueno is the best spot in Tokyo.

Tokyo has many other places to see Sakura besides these three spots, so if you are intrersted in it please try to find your favorite one!

Hanami(花見)

Spring has come!

Japan is famous for Sakura(cherry blossom) and Mt. Fuji. As you know the best season for Sakura is spring!

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I would like introduce some good spots for Sakura!

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The first place I would like to introduce is Chidori-ga-fuchi. It takes about 3 minutes by foot from Kudansita station and has about 700m’s roads around Kokyo that is the Imperial palace to see Sakura. About 260 Someiyoshino and other kinds of sakura bloom along along the river, and the view is absolutely fantastic! You can see the view in many ways like on a bridge, on a boat, on a pedestrain overpass and so on. You will be overwhelmed!

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Next, this is my favorite place Yanaka cemetery. It takes 6 minutes from Nippori station. There are about 150 sakura’s tree in the main street and it looks like a tunnel! Would you like to go for a walk here on a clear day? I’m sure you are going to feel so good!

Many famouse people like the last Shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu, Ichiro Hatoyama who was a former prime minister, Eiichi Shibusawa who was an industrialist known as the “father of Japanese capitalism”  and others were laid to rest in Yanaka cemetery. If you are intrigued in Japanese history, I highly recommed you visit here!

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Next place I’d like to introduce is Ueno park. Ueno park is so close to Ueno station and it is a huge park in Tokyo. It has been known as a sanctuary of seeing Sakura since Edo period and about 800 Sakura trees are lit by 800 paper lamps in the evening. There are a lot of art museums and science museums in Ueno so if you want to see these things Ueno is the best spot in Tokyo.

Tokyo has many other places to see Sakura besides these three spots, so if you are intrersted in it please try to find your favorite one!

Hinamatsuri(雛祭り)

Do you know Hinamatsuri(雛祭り)?

It is Japanese traditional festival to celebrate young girls growth and happiness which is held on March 3rd.

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If our family has girls we display some dolls called  Hina-ningyo(雛人形) and peach branches for this festival. This festival also called Momo-no-sekku(桃の節句) because Momo means peach in Japanese.

Hina-ningyo is consisted with many characters.

A male doll and a female doll sit on the top of the others. He is the empire called Odairi-sama(お内裏様)and she is the empress called Ohina-sama (お雛様).On the step below of them there are three women called Sannin-jyokan(三人女官). Their jobs are to support the empress to live daily life.On the next step five boys called Gonin-bayasi(五人囃子) sit. They play instrument and sing songs.On the next step two men standing at opposite ends of the step are called Sadaijin(左大臣) and Udaijin(右大臣) , who are bodyguards of the empire and the empress and the other three men called Sichyou(仕丁) are from countryside to work chores at court.

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On the left side there is a tree that has green leaves, white flowers and yellow berries. This is a mandarin orange tree Japan has had since ancient times. On the right side there is a cherry blossom tree. Shityou(仕丁) might have waited for spring to come and seen the flowers bloom while clean up the garden.

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This is the dish for Hinamatsuri. We have some kinds of sushi which are Chirashi-zushi(scattered sushi), Temaki-zushi(hand-rolled sushi) and normal type sushi, and have Hisimochi which is a diamond-shaped rice cake, Hanaguri-no-osiuimono which is clam soup, rice cake cubes called Hina-arare and so on.

This festival has a long history. It was started about 1000 years ago in Japan. People believed that the dolls protected them from illness and diseases and threw paper dolls into rivers to drive off the ill luck. In the Edo period they began displaying the dolls for celebrating this festival.

If you are interested in this Japanese traditional festival, please try to display the dolls and cook something special for it!