Update – Website Refreshed

Hello everyone!

Cosmos Logo New

No new post about culture or history today, because we have been busy looking over the website and updating. Take a look around for the latest information, more pictures, and new features. A few highlights are:

  • Contact Page – Click the picture to send mail, or just fill out the form to get in touch.
  • Events Page – We have a board in the Cosmos class room with upcoming events in Tokyo. Now it is here on the site as well.
  • About Page – It now has pictures, and our new logo.

Click around, and take a look. And when you want to contact us, just go to the Contact page. (^_^)

Kind regards!
/Cosmos staff

Happi, Hachimaki, and Yatai – Festival-time in Japan

Summer is festival time in Japan, and if you are here, or have been here during the summer months, it is more than likely that you have seen, heard or experienced a festival or two. Last time we touched upon the subject of the Getas, a usual sight at festival, as it is usually worn with the Yukata. This time we are going to take a look at the things you might see and experience at the festival.

Happi – The Happy Jacket of the Festival Worker

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This jacket is usually used by those that are working at a festival. Traditionally it was the servants of a greater family that worked at the festivals, so on the back they wore the Mon (Emblem) of the family they served, but today it usually just say “matsuri”. Happis with the logo of a store or organisation can also be seen. Keep an eye out for these happy happis, if you have any questions.

Hachimaki – The Headband of Great Effort and Perseverance

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A hachimaki is a stylized headband (sometimes referred to as a bandana) in Japanese culture. They are usually made of red or white cloth, and worn as a symbol of perseverance, effort, and/or courage. Hachimakis are worn on many occasions, for example, by sports spectators, students in cram school, expert tradesmen taking pride in their work, bōsōzoku (teen biker gangs) and even rioters.

The origin of the Hachimaki isn’t entirely clear, but some theories state that they might have been worn by samurai under their helmets, to absorb sweat, keep hair out of their eyes, and to help keep the helmet in place.

Yatai – Food Stands of Delicious Foods

Yomise(Yatai)

Yatai is a mobile food stall in Japan typically selling ramen or other food. The name literally means “shop stand”. They are usually set up in the evenings, and then taken down again late at night. They usually sell a limited variety of food, with most stalls focusing on only one thing at big festivals: Takoyaki, Ramen, Yakisoba, etc. The Yatai is a must at any festival, so make sure you give them a visit.

Geta, the traditional Japanese footwear

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A normal pair of Getas, with a square base (台), two teeth (歯), and black hanao (鼻緒).

It’s summer time, and that means festival time in Japan. And also, it means it’s time to dust of the Getas and the yukatas, because no festival is complete without traditional clothes and footwear. I bet you have all heard it, at least once, when you’ve been to Japan. Maybe you have even heard it in your own home country at some Japanase Culture festival: the sound of wooden Getas. A sound so recognisable, and culturally ingrained in Japanese society, that it has its own word: karankoron (カランコロン)

Geta (下駄, lit “horse under (your feet)”) is a pair of wooden “clogs”/”sandals”. They are basically a wooden base (台, “dai”), with “teeth” (歯, “ha”) underneath, and cloth or rope or string on top called the “hanao” (鼻緒) to hold your foot in. The base can be shaped in different ways, with slender and oval being a very feminine design, and wide and square being very manly. And then you have all kinds of varieties in-between.

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One-toothed “Tengu Geta”

The reason for the design of the Geta is that historically, when you are wearing a kimono or yukata that you might have payed a lot of money for, you don’t want it to be dragged in the mud and dust. To get away from that, wooden sandals were made, with tall “teeth” underneath. Some merchants had even taller “teeth” on their Getas, to get their feet away from seafood scraps on the floor.

There are Getas with only one long tooth underneath, called “Tengu Geta”. Tengu are mythical creatures of Japanese folklore, and they were often pictured with this kind of single-toothed Getas.

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The Okubo that the Maikos use.

Another variation of the Getas, are the “okobo” (おこぼ). These don’t have the teeth underneath, but instead they are just one solid block of wood. The “okobo” are worn by Maiko’s, or apprentice Geishas, and the “hanao” is coloured to reflect the progress of the Maiko. Red symbolises  new Maikos, and yellow show that the Maiko is soon about to become a Geisha.

Study at Cosmos Tokyo!

Cosmos Ad - The Pic One

Welcome to study at Cosmos Tokyo!

No matter if you are new to the Japanese language, or if you are already studying. Everyone is welcome to study with us. Perhaps you have found that you need to learn Japanese as part of your work? Or you feel that conversation is still not your strong point, despite studying every day at school? At Cosmos Tokyo, you can tell us what you want to work more on, and we will help you with that. Our teacher having more that 25 years experience af teaching Japanese, in Japan and abroad, from beginners to business level. We can also help you prepare for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT).

Your first time at Cosmos is always a free trial-lesson. After that, it is only 1500 yen/lesson for group lessons. If you bring a friend or relative, however, you get a free lesson! And you can study with you friends or your family!

The school is located in Hanzomon, on the Tokyo Metro Hanzomon-line. With just a two minute walk from the station, the school is really close. Just take Exit 3A at Hanzomon, and when you get to street level, go down the street to the right of the petrol station. In the very next crossing, turn right, and you will soon see Glenpark Building on your right. You have arrived!

So why not come and study with us today?!
If you have any questions, or want to book a lesson, feel free to contact us at cosmos.jls@gmail.com.

We are looking forward to hearing from you!

Izakaya

1024px-Cyochin2Have you ever seen the red rice-paper lanterns with these characters on them? (Or if you are a little bit taller than the average, have you ever dodged this type of lanterns?) Ever wondered what lurks inside? Or you might actually already visited an Izakaya, perhaps more than once? Either way Izakaya, or Japanese “pubs”, are a very big part of the modern Japanese culture. They com in all shapes and sizes, from small local establishments, to large chains that you can find all over Japan. No matter what type you go to, you will always find a cosy and welcoming atmosphere.

Izakaya is a compound word consisting of “i” (to stay, 居) and “sakaya” (sake shop, 酒屋), indicating that Izakaya originated from sake shops that allowed customers to sit on the premises to drink. Once inside, depending onIzakaya-Seki the place you are either seated on tatami mats next to low tables, or on chairs with a normal table. You are then often given a wet towel, called “oshibori” (お絞り), and then you are given a light snack that is included in the final bill. You then order drinks and food during your stay as desired.

When it comes to drinks, you can usually find beer, chûhai, cocktails and whiskey. In the foods department, you can find everything from yakitori and sashimi (raw sliced fish) to grilled meat and vegetables.

izakaya_barIzakaya also come in different varieties, with big chains, cosplay places, yakitori-ya, and akachôchin (“red lantern”) referring to smaller places that doesn’t belong to a chain.

Next time you are out for a stroll, or heading out with friends, why not try out a local Izakaya, and get that Japanese feeling going?

Updates

We have done some smaller updates to the website today, hence this small post, and not your usual article that you might be used to.

So click around, and dive in on the latest information about us and the school. And if you find anything you like, or have any questions, feel free to contact us.

Onigiri! The popular rice ball of Japanese culture

onigiriIf you have ever been to a store in Japan, you are sure to at least have seen the おにぎり(“Onigiri”). Even if you never bought them, or tried them, you have some form of idea what it is: usually a triangle-shaped rice ball, with sometimes weird fillings in it. And if you don’t master the Japanese language fully, the kanji-heavy names can sometimes lead to Onigiri-roulette: you go “Oh, what the heck, how bad could it be?”, you buy one, take a bite, and then realise it’s 梅干し (“Umeboshi”, dried and pickled plum) in it, and not that awesome ツナマヨ (“Tsuna-mayo”, Tuna and Mayonnaise) that you had last time. O_O

おにぎり might be known to you under other names: おむすび (“o-musubi”), or にぎりめし (“nigirimeshi”), or just simply as rice balls. common shapes of the おにぎり is triangular or oval, and most often you will find it wrapped in のり (“nori”, seaweed), but you can also find them in shapes like cylindrical, flattened spheres, actual ball shapes, and rectangular.
Common fillings are, but not limited to:

  • 梅干し (“Umeboshi”), dried pickled plum.
  • サルモン (“Salmon”) or 鮭 (“Sake/Shake”),  salmon, either dried and salted, or fried, and sometimes with mayonnaise.
  • 昆布 (“Konbu”), edible kelp.
  • たらこ/鱈子 (“Tarako”), salted fish roe, most commonly from cod or Alaska pollock.
  • ツナ or ツナマヨ (“Tsuna” or “tsuna-mayo”), tuna with or without mayonnaise.

Onigiri Convenience StoreThe earliest mention of おにぎり is from the 11-century diaries of Lady Murasaki. But the idea of the rice ball predates that by a long way. Before the use of chopsticks became popular in the Nara period, rice used to be rolled into small balls so that they could be picked up more easily for eating. From the Kamakura period to Edo period (ca. 1100’s – 1600’s) おにぎり was used as a quick meal. This made sense as cooks simply had to think about making enough onigiri and did not have to concern themselves with serving. These おにぎり were simply balls of rice flavored with salt. のり did not become widely available until the mid-Edo period, when the farming of のり and fashioning it into sheets became widespread. It is also known that samurai used to store rise balls wrapped in bamboo, as a quick meal during wars.

So next time you decide to play the onigiri-roulette, because you don’t know what the label says or because you just want to try something new, enjoy your meal, preferably with some tea, and maybe in a public park or near a canal, and think back on the history echoing back to our day through this simple piece of traditional fast-food.