Hieroglyphics of Chinese characters

Are you interested in the history of Japanese language?

In the 7th-8th century Japan had only Kanji and at that time sentences were lined as Chinese. What is the roots of Kanji?

t02200234_0370039412138537248The roots of Kanji is these pictorial symbols to represent objects or meanings. Kanji is based on shape of objects like hieroglyphs of Egypt. This is called shoukei moji in Japanese.

Also Kanji has some kind of roots in addition to above.

t02200174_0356028212138537249This is called shijimoji which means the words to instruct. Shijimoji originally expressed abstruct meanings by illustrarions.

t02200145_0321021212138537247 This is called kaiimoji which puts two words together to produce another meaning.

Though Kanji is daily used in China, Japan, Singapore and Korea (Korea abolished the use of Kanji in 1970’s but still some people can read ), but pronunciation is different in each area. That’s why even if Japanese people can understand what Chinese are written about by reading Kanji we can’t speak Chinese at all and vise versa.

If you want to know more about Kanji, please try to read books on Kanji!

Omikuji(おみくじ)

Do you know omikuji?

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In shrines in Japan we can find omikuji like this. Omikuji is a fortune about a person’s near future written on a strip of paper. On new year’s day we visit a shrine to make New Year’s wishes for health and happiness and draw an omikuji that tells us a fortune of the new year.

Fortunes are divided into different levels of luck.

大吉 (daikichi) Very good luck

中吉 (chyukichi) Good luck

小吉 (syoukichi) A little luck

末吉 (suekichi) Uncertain luck

凶 (kyou) Bad luck

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大吉 is very good luck, but if you draw it this year your next fortune couldn’t be better than this year’s, so some people say that 中吉 is the best.

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After you read your omikuji you can tie it to a tree or wood in the shrine if you want. It means to form a connection with God. Otherwise you can keep it, because omikuji is a message from God.  Either is fine. When I drew 大吉 I kept it to read it sometimes to make myself happy.

You can find Omikuji whenever you visit shrines, so if  you are interested in it please try!

Ozouni and Osechi

Happy new year!

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What do you eat on New Year’s Day?

In  Japan, we have rice cake-soup called ‘Ozouni’ and New Year’s dishes called ‘Osechi’ on New Year’s Day.

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Rice cake-soup has a lot of types. In Kanto area people have a square shaped rice cake and clear soup.While, in Kansai area people have a round shaped rice cake and miso-soup in it. Ingredients vary from one locality to another. For example, some prefectures that face the Japan Sea are famous for seafood so they have fish or shellfish and others that have mountains use food from mountain as ingredients for Ozoni.

Osechi’s ingredients have a variety of meanings to suggest good fortune for the New year.

2009osechihamaphoto5yThis is herring eggs called ‘Kazunoko’ in Japanese. Herring lays number of eggs at one time, so Kazunoko has traditionally been eaten to pray for the prosperity of descendants on Japanese New Year’s Day.

2005120200141This is smashed sweet potatoes with sweetened chestnuts called ‘Kurikinton’. People eat it wishing a rice and wealthy year because it looks like gold treasure.

If you are interested in Osechi or Ozouni, please try to cook or taste it!

We wish you a wonderful happy new year!

Nabe(鍋)

Have you ever heard “nabe”(鍋) or “donabe”(土鍋)?

Nabe or donabe is  a pot in Japanese but Donabe doesn’t mean a stainless pot but a clay pot like this.

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We often use this and the dishes cooked with this is also called “nabe”, and is popular in winter. I’d like to show you examples of nabe dishes that I made.

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This is a typical Japanese nabe dish in winter that has napa cabbage, cibolspork, garland chrysanthemum leaves and shiitakes in it.

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This is called “Nabeyakiudon”. “Yaki” is grilled and “Udon” is thick noodles made from rice. It has Japanese radishes, carrots, spinach, udon noodles, eggs and kamaboko which is fish minced and steamed. How to cook nabeyakiudon is quite simple. Boil soup and put root vegetables in first. Add other stuffs in the nabe and once it steams up again, then it’s ready.

I cooked and ate it with my friends and had a great time, because it warmed our bodies and hearts! Nabe is not a dish to eat alone but a dish to gather friends or family to eat together.

Why don’t you hold a nabe party to enjoy the hot and delicious nabe dishes with everyone in this winter?

 

 

One soup and three dishes(ichiju sansai一汁三菜)

Have you ever heard of one soup and three dishes(一汁三菜)?

%e3%81%84It’s an idea that Japanese people have traditionally tried to eat healthy every day and literally consisted of one soup and three kinds of dishes that are one main dish and two side dishes, and pickles are added to it to refresh the mouth during the meal.

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Staple food: cooked rice

Soup: miso soup, clear soup

Main dish: raw fish, grilled dishes, fried dishes, simmered dishes, steamed dishes (meat or fish)

Side dish 1: simmered dishes, steamed dishes, tossed dishes (vegetables, potatoes, mushrooms, tofu, beans, etc.)

Side dish 2: tossed dishes (raw fish and vegetables seasoned in vinegar, vegetables, seaweed, fruits, etc.)

 

 

The reason why this concept is healthy is that you can have a well-balanced diet if you embrace it, drinking fluids from soup, eating carbohydrates from staple food, which is rice, protein from main dish and other nutrition like vitamin or mineral from two side dishes. Also, using a lot of foods to make this one soup and three dishes meal, you will create a nutritious and balanced diet naturally.

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Listed as a UNESCO intangible world heritage site, Japanese food (washoku) is drawing global attention for its nutritional balance and its role in Japanese custom, history and culture.

If you’re intrigued by this style of cuisine, please try and enjoy it!

 

Junkissa(純喫茶)

Have you ever been to a Junkissa?

%ef%bd%8aIt’s a classic café with the atmosphere of the Meiji-Showa era. In the Meiji era opening the country to the world, Japan began to accept cultures from overseas and be rapidly civilized and westernized. We didn’t have any café before the era but it came to be a place for the intellectuals to gather and communicate. Now this word “Junkissa” is used not as a western style café but as a western Japanese style café.

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Let me introduce my favorite place that has Junkissasas. It’s Jinboucho. This town has so many book stores on the streets that people call here a book town and we can buy books, go to a café and read what we got here. There are a lot of café and Junkissa in Jinbocho and it going to be easy to find a place to read books or have some breaks or chitchat with your friends, but if you visit here alone and have books you mean to read or want to enjoy the peace of silence I highly recommend you to knock on the door of Junkissa, because it’s a place for you. Here people are unwinding over a coffee, reading books alone in nine cases out of ten. You can hear music like classic, chanson or old Japanese songs that make you feel relaxed to spend time at a Junkissa. Also, the atmosphere is not like in crowded Tokyo but somewhere I know well, because I feel like I am always welcomed by the place, lovely sweets and tea or coffee and people belonging here. If you are interested in this town or Junkissa, search on the web and visit!

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koyou(紅葉)

Do you know koyou(紅葉)?

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This is koyou. Green leaves gradually turn into red in autumn. It looks so beautiful that people trip somewhere to get and see the leaves changing colors.

 

In Japan Kyoto is one of the famous koyou spots.

koyou1This picture is a window at a temple maned genkoan(源光庵)in Kyoto. The window cut a beautiful part from scenery and how it looks changes depending on where you sit. Actually, there is a window shaped square next to it and both are great and photogenic.

 

 

koyou2I took this picture at eikanji(永観寺) in Kyoto. Here is especially beautiful at night because they light up the vivid colorful leaves and it makes this place amazing in darkness of the night sky. We can also have a matcha(抹茶) or oshiruko(お汁粉) which is sweet red bean soup at the temple, enjoying stunning koyou.

 

The season of koyou is colder than I expect, so if you visit Kyoto or other koyou spots in Japan, don’t forget your coat and scarf for extra warmth!