Spring has come!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
Have you ever seen winter peony flowers (寒牡丹 kanbotan) in Japan?
There is a place to see the flowers in Ueno park and it’s called Botan-en(牡丹苑).
Botan（牡丹） is peony flowers and En（苑） is a garden in English, so Botan-en（牡丹苑） means a peony garden.
It is open in spring and winter, but if you want to see the winter peony flowers please visit there from January to the end of February. This place was opened in 1980 to memorialize Japan-China friendship and now there are many kinds of the flowers from China, America, France and so on.
The flowers have straw umbrellas in order to avoid snow covering flowers. It looks beautiful and brave. Also it teaches us patience by standing straight on the ground and keep the beauty freezing cold outside.
There are some wooden boards beside flowers and poems related with the flowers were written on the boards. We can enjoy seeing both the flowers and the poems at the same time.
This is the Japanese apricot trees blooming flowers and a bird is visiting the flowers for nectar. The place has some other flowers for winter like the Japanese apricot or daffodils.
Flowers are beautiful and give us feelings of the seasons. These flowers and birds tell us the coming of winter.
If you have a chance to visit Ueno, please try to see these flowers!
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?
The 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.
This is called shijimoji which means the words to instruct. Shijimoji originally expressed abstruct meanings by illustrarions.
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!
Do you know omikuji?
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
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.
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!
Happy new year!
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.
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.
This 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.
This 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!
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.
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.
This is a typical Japanese nabe dish in winter that has napa cabbage, cibolspork, garland chrysanthemum leaves and shiitakes in it.
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?