Fruits Basket, my favourite Shojo

Fruits basket is a manga created by Natsuki Takaya and published in the magazine Hana to Yume. This manga was published for the first time in 1998 and ended in 2006. The series has 23 volumes. Fruits basket became so popular that they made an Anime series of 26 episodes in 2001 and in 2015 they released a sequel: Fruits basket another. Undoubtedly, it is one of the best known manga in Japan and in the rest of the world. The Fruits Basket franchise became a great success due its charisma and attractive plot.

Fruits Basket is part of the Shōjo Manga. But what is a Shōjo manga? Shōjo literally means “Young Woman”. This type of Manga can speak both of historical and fanciful facts. However one of the most important elements of the Shōjo is that the stories focuses on the love relationships of the characters and their feelings. Shōjo is usually full of drama and love triangles. This type of stories is directed for a young female generation.

In this case, Fruits Basket is based on the story of a poor orphan girl. After the death of his mother, Tohru Honda moves with his grandfather, however it is not so pleasant. The girl decides to leave her home and live in the forest. One day, in the woods, she stumbles upon a very particular house. In it lives his classmate Yuki Sohma and his relatives Shigure and Kyo Sohma. What she does not know is that the Sohma family hides a secret. Each of the members has been cursed and, when in contact with a person of the opposite sex, becomes animals of the Chinese zodiac. Tohru Honda promises to help the Sohma family in exchange for being allowed to stay in the house. Upon learning of the peculiar situation of the family, Tohru is surprised but does not change at all the relationship she has with her friends.

Tohru is a girl who has been through very bad times. She is a sensitive girl who can not resist keeping her feelings. Tohru finds refuge in his new home and his new mission. However, this calm does not last long as she is trapped in a love triangle.

Throughout the series, she is confronted to choose between Yuki and Kyo Sohma. Both have mixed feelings towards our protagonist.

Yuki and Kyo are two completely opposite characters. That they are always fighting. Both have many disagreements, however there is one aspect in which they always coincide: protect Tohru. Yuki and Kyo feel the duty and the need to keep her close to them. However, each one has a different idea of ​​how they should provide protection. Yuki is more open with her feelings and feels that he protects her by being honest with her. Kyo, on the contrary, is more mysterious and avoids talking about what he can feel.

Given this dilemma, Tohru has to choose who is the most suitable person for her.

Definitely Fruit Baskets is a manga that you should not be missed!

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Japanese Arts & Crafts (Part 2)

We continue with the description of the main japanese Arts & Craft that we started in the previous post.

The folding fan was invented in Japan. Japanese fans are considered a cultural item that are used in ritual, dance and festivals. They were also historically used as a weapon of war by the samurai. Japanese folding fans, known as Sensu, vary widely in quality and often feature original art.
Kirigami, literally cut paper, is like origami except that the paper can be cut to create more elaborate designs. Kirigami are made from a single piece of paper without gluing.
Maki-e are a type of Japanese lacquerware decorated with powdered metal such as gold or silver. An artist uses a fine brush to shape the powder into decorative patterns. It has an old fashioned and elegant feel and is used in Japanese interior design. Maki-e is the type of thing you’d find at a Japanese-style luxury hotel. It’s also used to decorate small items such as jewelry boxes and pens.
Amigurumi is the Japanese craft of knitting or crocheting small stuffed animals and creatures. Designs typically adhere to the kawaii aesthetic.
Chochin are collapsible bamboo lanterns covered in paper or silk that emerged in Japan around the year 1085. They are usually adorned with shodo or a painting. Chochin are hung at temples and as decorations for matsuri. They are also traditionally used to mark shops and restaurants such as izakaya.
Temari, literally “hand ball”, are a Japanese folk craft that were historically created with old silk kimono as a toy for children. The outside of the ball are covered in a detailed embroidery. It was once common for parents to put a small paper at center of a temari with a goodwill wish for a child.
Japan has a rich tradition of tattooing known as Irezumi that was historically influence by Ukiyo-e art. Tattoos were once used to punish criminals in Japan and are still considered incredibly taboo.
Source: Japan Talk
Photos: East West Center and Jeff Laitila
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Japanese Arts & Crafts (Part 1)

Japanese art evolved unique techniques, traditions and aesthetics as the country’s artists were isolated from the rest of the art world for centuries at a time. When Japanese art finally exploded onto the world stage in the 1860s, it changed everything. For example, Japanese art was one of the inspirations for the Impressionist movement in Europe and America.

The following are a few major Japanese arts and crafts:

1. Shodo

Shodo is the Japanese art of calligraphy that’s created with a brush. It’s highly stylized and often almost illegible. The art mostly evolved at temples and has been greatly influenced by Japanese Buddhism. Works of shodo often look vaguely like a landscape painting. Most Japanese people have studied it and have an appreciation for the art.
Ukiyo-e is a genre of Japanese art that thrived from the 1600s to 1880s. They were printed in great numbers using wood block printing methods. In most cases, they depicted popular topics such as kabuki, geisha, travel, history, myth and politics. Ukiyo-e greatly influenced European artists such as Vincent Gogh.
Most historical structures in Japan such as temples, shrines, castles and palaces are made of wood. The Japanese had unique techniques with wood and were able to create remarkably large wooden structures. For example, the great wooden stage of Kiyomizu-dera was constructed without a single nail. Modern Japanese architecture is equally interesting with hundreds of buildings and mega-projects such as bridges that have been recognized for their design.
Manga are Japanese comic books. Japan began producing dark, irreverent, sensual, violent graphic novels as early as the 1760s that were essentially comic books. These books were largely banned in 1787 but the art continued nonetheless. Modern Japanese manga represent an vibrant and popular form of art and writing.
Origami is the Japanese art of folding paper to create decorative art. The classic origami that every school child in Japan learns is the crane. According to myth, anyone who strings together 1000 origami cranes is granted a wish. The Japanese traditionally believed that cranes live 1000 years.
Japanese sculpture is traditionally associated with religion. Wooden sculptures of protectors of Buddha such as Nio and Shitenno guard the gates to many temples. Shinto gods known as kami are often depicted in sculpture at shrines. Several of these are priceless cultural artifacts including sculptures that rank amongst the largest in the world such as the Buddha of Todaiji.
Bonseki are miniature landscapes on black lacquer trays that make use of white sand, pebbles, and small rocks. The art dates back to the 7th century and was historically used to plan real gardens. Bonseki faded with time but interest in it has recently resumed and a number of bonseki classes are now available in Japan. It’s rare for bonseki to be preserved and they are viewed as temporary works of art that are more attractive because they are impermanent according the Japanese aesthetic of mono no aware.
Source: Japan Talk
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Rosario to Vampire: a supernatural school comedy.

Rosario to Vampire is probably the manga that put Monster Girls in the mainstream but the manga was a lot more than just cute girls doing cute things. It had actual depth, stakes and action that the anime adaptation decided to completely gloss over.  Rosario to Vampire is a perfect example of the source material being better than the anime. Rather than following the manga, the anime decided to make the show a generic harem series but the manga had so much more going for it.

At heart, Rosario to Vampire is a supernatural school comedy that does take a turn to becoming an action comedy manga down the line but the sense of the school never seems to go away which is definitely a strong pint of the series. The story follows Tsukune Aono that ends up enrolling into a school for monsters because he didn’t manage to get grades good enough for any other school – maybe there’s a life lesson there somewhere. All monsters attend school in human form but if an actual human is found on the school grounds they will be executed immediately leaving our protagonist in a tight spot.

As Tsukune tries to keep his head down and get out his situation alive, he ends up running in with the most attractive girl on campus, Moka Akashiya that is a vampire with a split personality and falls headfirst in love. In order to deepen his relationship with Moka, Tsukune decides to give his new life at a monster school a shot without knowing about Moka’s bloodthirsty nature.

Throughout the saga, we get to meet fun characters which include the multiple other heroines of the series Kurono Kurumu, Shirayuki Mizore and Sendou Yukari each with their own unique personalities and motive to monopolize Tsukune. Each heroine is either a Western Apparition or a Japanese Youkai with traits of their lore etched into their characters which adds a bit of depth. Considering Rosario to Vampire is a series targeted towards the male demographic, there’s an abundance of fan service which coupled with the manga’s art really makes for an enjoyable read.

Overall, Rosario to Vampire is a great manga series with great art along with characters that grow throughout the series and is definitely worth a read for anyone who enjoyed the anime or just wants to read a fun comedy romance manga with a healthy dose of action.

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Izakaya: Japan’s Pub Culture

Izakaya are Japanese pubs. They vary greatly in style, price, menu and atmosphere. Approximately 1 out of every 5 restaurants in Japan can be considered an izakaya.

People don’t commonly have house parties, dinner parties or backyard barbeques in Japan. Coworkers, friends and social clubs use izakaya as a venue for get-togethers. Izakaya are also popular spots for a date.

A wide range of special occasions are celebrated at izakaya from birthdays to retirement parties.

Food

Izakaya menus vary greatly and often include original items. Izakaya food can be generally classified as drinking food — popular foods for a social or party situation.

Common izakaya foods include: Edamame (boiled young soybeans), Sushi, Sashimi, Yakitori, Karaage (Japanese fried chicken), Deep fried dishes (e.g. Tako Karaage ~ deep fried octopus), Tofu dishes (e.g. Agedashi Tofu ~ deep fried tofu in broth), Western style junk food (e.g. pizza, french fries) and Japanese fish dishes (e.g. grilled squid).
There are hundreds of common izakaya foods. The focus is on salty, oily foods that can be shared with a group of people. Starches such as rice and noodles are often missing from izakaya menus. These are not considered drinking foods because popular izakaya beverages (such as beer and sake) are already high in carbohydrates.
When rice or noodles are consumed they are customarily ordered at the end of the night — to make sure no one goes home hungry.
As with other restaurants in Japan, Izakaya sometimes have a button at the table that can be used to summon staff. Otherwise, customers can shout “sumimasen”.

Layout

As with western pubs, izakaya often have bars or tables where you sit alongside other customers.

Izakaya can be very small (with just a few seats) or massive multi-floor restaurants. Large izakaya are social places for groups of friends. It’s common to visit small izakaya and standing izakaya (tachinomiya) alone or with a few friends.
Many excellent izakaya have outdoor seating on the street. Others (tachinomiya) are standing room only — customers purchase drinks and snacks and essentially stand on the street. It often seems as if the less facilities a restaurant has the more popular it becomes.

Music and Entertainment

Some izakaya go to great lengths to pull in customers. Themed interiors, costumed staff and performances may be used to pull in customers. For example, several ninja themed izakaya in Tokyo feature ninja performances.

Izakaya don’t usually play popular music or have music performances (as western pubs do). Background music (when there is any) is usually traditional Japanese music. The focus of most evenings at izakaya is lively conversation (although parties can also be rowdy).

Visiting a Izakaya

Visiting an izakaya is a recommended Japan experience. The main challenge you’ll face at izakaya is ordering. Some izakaya have English menus, others don’t. Many traditional izakaya don’t have a menu at all. Or rather, the menu is posted on the wall (in Japanese) with paper strips. When the restaurant runs out of an item the corresponding paper strip is pulled from the wall.

The language barrier is present at any restaurant in Japan. It shouldn’t hold you back. Worst case — you’ll just order randomly.
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Fairy Tail: the relationship between Grey and Juvia

I can say this without a doubt that the relationship between Gray and Juvia holds a special place in the hearts of many including my own. From the moment they met each other, they impacted each other’s life in a big way. After their encounter both the relationships and characters have gone through major changes.

Both the characters have suffered quite a bit over their lives. Juvia was orphaned for unknown reasons and then bullied on by the other kids at her orphanage due to her rain, which led her to becoming a more depressing character. On the other hand, Gray had lost his family and master to Deliora; haunted by the thought of not being able to protect his family and master caused him to become distant and cold. After their first meeting Gray made the rain that was the cause of Juvia’s loneliness go away and keeps it at bay, while Juvia has slowly but surely softened Gray’s heart.

In the beginning of the series, Juvia was shown to have “stalker like tendencies” like keeping an eye on him in the darkness of the night and making anyone female that approached Gray with even friendliness her rival in love. It was speculated that Juvia’s love for gray stemmed from her lonely childhood, but during the Tenroujima arc all such suspicions were decimated when her love for Gray was shown to be pure and strong enough to even leave her opponent aghast. Whereas, gray has continued his trend of casually ignoring or comically responding to all of Juvia’s approaches. Even in the more recent chapters Gray still gets annoyed and can be oddly cold to her. But Juvias love has only grown stronger for gray over the years, but thankfully the “stalker like tendencies” haven’t. But unfortunately, they have gained some personality tendencies of each other, like Juvia striping in battle and Gray making not so adorable faces at cute things.

The fact that the mangaka has the two fight alongside each other, side by side, holding hands and going as far as to perform Unison Raid’s is the very testament of the trust they place in one another. The moment they perform a Unison Raid is quite a big deal, as Its magic that brings together two hearts! This is a major feat not out done by any other unconfirmed pair in the series. This was referred as a “synchronized attack of love” by Mashima the mangaka himself. Another example would be the “Gray & Juvia Special Chapter” which did not have any relevance to the manga, but has Gray shown  to positively respond to Juvia’s affection, even though it was a day of mourning for him.

In conclusion Gray took Juvia’s rain away, and now Juvia is slowly but definitely melting the walls of ice around his heart. Through their differences, they help each other move forward together and that’s why Gruvia is one of the best pairings out there.

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The Art of Japanese Kanji

Kanјі was adopted from the Сhіnеse chаraсtеrs and has been used in Japаn as a wrіtіng sуstem for hundreds of уеars. Lеаrnіng Kаnјі isn’t really diffіcult, but it is very timе cоnsuming. To get to a lеvеl where you can rеad Kanјі in сontеxt rеquires daily praсtiсe for at least 6 mоnths to a уeаr. Therе are many wаys to leаrn Јараnesе Κаnjі. Lets take a look at somе.

Learnіng Jaраnesе kаnjі involves a lоt of rеаding and writіng рrаctiсе. А greаt way to leаrn how to rеаd kаnjі is with the helр of the intеrnеt. Тhеrе are a lot of tutоrial vіdеоs that teасh the reading, meanіng and strоkе оrdеr of Κаnjі. Іn fact, there are many frеe vіdеos tutоrіаls that you can find on YоuТube. Аlthоugh most of them are сreаted by аmаteurs the qualіty of these vіdeо lеssons are quite good.

Аnothеr way to leаrn Japаnese kanjі is with the helр of hоw-to books. Thesе books help you lеarn Κаnјі сharаcters by leаrnіng strоkе оrdеr through lоts of wrіtіng рrасticе. Ѕome рeоple can lеarn kаnјi quite fast using these kind of bооks as they fіnd that the writіng рrасtice helрs them mеmоrizе the reаdings and mеanіngs of kаnјі.

It takes a lot of patіеncе, dеtеrminatіon, as wеll as conсentratіon in order to lеarn, undеrstand and rеаd Јараnese kanјі at a рrоfісіent level. Аlsо, kаnјі is only part of the рісturе. Ѕtudеnts must first lеаrn Japаnеsе hiragana and kаtakanа before taking on kanјі. Alsо you should reаlіze your gоаl is not to mеmorіze hundreds of kаnјi, but to learn to read kanji.

Goоd luсk with your kanji studiеs!

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Harajuku: Fashion stуle rebellіоn in Jаpan

Јаpan is not only fаmоus for its аutоmotivе and elеctronіс that has already sрread all over the world markеt, but it is also fаmоus for its lіfеstyle which is eхtrеme and sеduсe the уoungsters’ dеsire. This сulture is called Hаrајuku.

Наrајuku refers to the аrea in the mіddle of Тоkyо, ехаctly around Нarајuku Stаtіon, in Sibuуa Dіstrіct, Tokyo. In the beginning of 1990s, it is an important аreа that сonnects Тоkyo to other surrоunding dіstrісts. 1n 1906, Thе stаtіоn was opened as an еxраnsіоn of Yamаnote rаilway. Ѕeverаl уеаrs later there were various kіnd of dераrtment stores around the рlасe that lеd to the existеncе of fаshiоn сеntеrs. Тhіs аrea became fаmous all over Јарan after having been brоadсаst through some fashіon mаgаzіne like Аnаn and non-nо. That time, some gіrls grouрs were reсognіzеd wаndеring around Наrajuku arеа. Тheir fаshion іmіtаtеd the stуle of fаshiоn models in the Аnаn and Νon-nо magazine. Until now, grоuр of yоungsters wеаring eхtrеmе stуles can be seen in this аrеа. Harајuku becomes iсоn of fashion stуle rebellіоn in Jаpan.

Іn Tоkyo, most offісеrs gеnеrаllу wеаr dark cоats, dark trоusers, whіtе shirts, dark ties, dаrk suіtсаses, their hаir was well соmbеd, and they walk fаst because they do not want to wаstе timе. Ѕtudеnts weаr unіfоrm dеtеrmined by schооl authоrity. Вut in Haraјuku, there is a rebеllіоn of fashіоn. Thе уoungstеrs refuse to weаr neаt and tіdy сlоthеs. Тhеіr dеsirе to be сrеаtіve is ехрrеssеd through extremе, glаmorous fashiоn and hair stylе. Nоt only extreme hаіr stylе they рerfоrm, but also extrеmе hаir соlor like grееn, purplе, rеd, blue, golden blоnd, sіlver, ріnk, and ash.

Thе соntrast рerfоrmanсe between cоlоr, dеsign, motif, size, and the kіnd of clоthеs is the speсіalty of this fashiоn style. Haraјuku stуle is divided into several tyреs. Somеtіmеs the stуle is аdaptеd to the beautiful dоll from Jaраn with whіtе palе skіn and nісе dressing like the doll displayed in the windоw. This stylе is cаlled Lolіta.  Therе is also a style сallеd Cоsрlаy (соstumе рlaу). Thіs stylе іmіtаtes the chаrасter of a hеrо or bаndit in Jаpanesе anime. One of the most widely spread style is the kawaii style. Those stуles are mostly adopted and prоmoted by Ј-Rock (Jаpanеsе Rock bаnds). Thе asymmetrісal hаir with lоud colоr is one of their hаіr stylе. Тhе asуmmеtricаl hаir is the haіr that is сut unеvеnlу. Fоr ехample, one part is lоng but other part is shоrt. Or the lеngth on the left and right sidе are dіfferеnt.

Іn Аmеrіca, the Наrajuku fashіon stуlе is getting more fаmous after an amеrіcan singer, Gwеn Stеfаnі, crеated a sоng that саrriеd the thеme of Hаrајuku fаshion еntitlеd ‘Hаraјuku Girls’. In рrоmoting her song, Gwen seemed employіng some dancеrs wearing Нaraјuku fashіon in some of his сoncert all over the wоrld. Thе fashiоn style becomes more fаmоus in many cоuntrіеs. And it may sprеad to your соuntrу.

Photo by Cathy Cat

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