Chica Manga Japanese white day

White Day: Japanese reverse Valentine´s day

In Japan, it is customary that on Valentine’s Day only women give gifts (usually chocolate) to men, either as an expression of affection, courtesy or social obligation. On the other hand, at the White Day (March 14th), the men who received chocolates at Valentine’s Day thank them for offering a gift to the woman to return the favor.

Traditionally, the most popular gifts for this day are cookies, jewelry, white chocolate, or other objects of the same color.

The White Day was held for the first time in 1978 in Japan.

It was started by the National Confectionery Industries Association as a “day of response” for Valentine’s Day, under the argument that men should return them to women who gave them chocolate and other gifts. In 1977, a candy company in Fukuoka, Ishimuramanseido, marketed marshmallows for men on March 14, calling it Marshmallow Day (マ シ ュ マ ロ デ ー Mashumaro Dē).

Soon, the candy companies began marketing white chocolate. Currently, men give away black and white chocolate, as well as other edible and inedible gifts, such as jewelry or objects of sentimental value. Flowers and other gifts are also given on this day. Eventually, this practice spread to the neighboring countries of Japan: South Korea, China, Taiwan and Vietnam. In those cultures, White Day is celebrated in a similar way for the most part.

Chica Manga Japanese white day chocolate

Keep in mind some details:

Men are expected to return Valentine’s gifts with objects of greater value than the ones they received. And of course: the white color is the hero!

If the gift that is received is of the same value as the one that was given for Valentine’s Day it is common to think that something does not work in the relationship. It is also to be expected that the most expensive and personal gifts are made only to the couple or person you like. To your friends or co-workers the most usual thing is to give them sweets or chocolate.

The term sanbai gaeshi (三倍 返 し, return triple), tends to be used to represent the rule in which men must return a gift that is two or three times the value of the one they received on Valentine’s Day.

If you are a boy and you received gifts on Valentine’s Day, then you know what you have to do: give gifts back to all the girls from whom you received chocolate. You can give anything, but you have to make sure it’s nicer, better, or more expensive than the chocolates you received for Valentine’s Day.

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Kanji of the year: Wazawai, disasters marked 2018

On December 12, the Kanji of the Year 2018 was announced: 災, whose reading is wazawai or sai and means “disaster” or “misfortune”.

The Kanji Fitness Examination Foundation announces each year in December the “kanji of the year”, chosen through a popular vote to reflect what the last 12 months meant. The citizens voted through the postal mail, on the official website or in ballot boxes to choose a single character, in some cases adding an explanation with the reasons for their selection.

The kanji chosen this year, wazawai, refers to the multitude of natural disasters that affected Japan during 2018: severe earthquakes in the prefectures of Osaka, Hokkaidō and Shimane, a series of typhoons that hit the coast of the country, torrential rains that caused landslides and floods, and high historical temperatures during the summer. The press release from the Kanji Fitness Examination Foundation notes that “As the new year approaches, many expect the next imperial era to bring fewer disasters to bear.”

Wazawai clearly rose as leader with more than 10% of the 193,214 votes counted.

In second place was 平 (hei or taira), a kanji meaning “peaceful” or “flat”, chosen by many for its position in 平 成 (Heisei), the name of which will end when Emperor Akihito abdicates from the throne to end of April 2019. Relying on this “end of an era”, the character of 終 (shū / owaru), whose meaning is “final”, was in third position.

Voters looked at events that took place around the world when choosing a winning character. Some of them took into account the eruption of the Fire Volcano of Guatemala in June and the devastating forest fires that affected Greece and the western United States.

In second place was 平 (hei), chosen by many people for its presence in the name of the current era, but also for being the first character in the hanja script of Pyeongchang, the city of South Korea in which the Olympic Winter Games, and for appearing in the first name of Los Angeles baseball player Ōtani Shōhei.

The third place was for 終 (shū; “final”), which reflects the closure of the Tsukiji fish market, according to one of the comments offered by the voters, in addition to the end of the current imperial era.

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Chica Manga Japanese and hip-hop culture

Mix it up: Japanese and hip hop culture

“We felt the need to mix it up: Japanese and hip hop culture” The six dancers were invited to take part in a traditional Bon odori dance festival.

The six dancers in the video — Katie Sachiko Scott, Christine Tolentino, Marina Watanabe, Asuka Tazawa, Yuki Sugimura and Momoe Teruya — were invited by fellow dancer Koki Kawashima (stage name: Ko-ki) to take part in a traditional Bon odori dance festival held in Tokyo’s Monzen-Nakacho neighborhood. The organizers of the event were looking for street dancers, youth into hip-hop and such, to take part and the six young women, all dance enthusiasts, answered the call. As part of the festival, they performed more traditional dances — but the streets were calling.

“We felt the need to mix it up: Japanese and hip-hop culture,” says Scott, whose stage name is KTea. “They’d dressed us up in kimono and we knew we’d never get a chance like this again. So, when we had some free time during the event, we decided we should do something street.”

With social media exploding in popularity this past decade, viral dance challenges have become a major part of hip-hop culture. Some standouts this year include BlocBoy JB’s “Shoot Dance” and, of course, Drake’s “In My Feelings” challenge, both of which have resulted in videos that have gone viral worldwide. “Switch It Up,” produced by Cub$kout, came out in the summer.

A few hours and some rehearsal.

Most remarkable about the Monzen-Nakacho version, though, is that the six women whose video has been viewed thousands of times on Facebook and Instagram only met each other for the first time hours before creating the video. They learned the choreography in 30 minutes before shooting.

“We searched through the popular challenges on the net and found the ‘Switch It Up’ challenge, rehearsed it together a few times and did it,” says KTea. “We had to do two or three takes because kids kept passing through or we didn’t like the background.”

They landed on a small traditional-looking structure for the background, with a hint of glass skyscrapers in the near distance. The group thought it was a good mixture of old and new, an ideal accent to modern dance postures, traditional clothing and the ethnic mix of the women themselves — three of the dancers are Japanese, two are of mixed heritage and one is Filipino but grew up here.

When the festival finished, the six went their separate ways and didn’t think anymore about the video until later when they realized it had started being shared on social media.

“Right now, we’ve split up,” says KTea. “But we’re hoping to get together and dance again soon.”

Source: BAYE MCNEIL for The Japan Times
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Tenno Tanjobi, The Emperor’s Birthday

The Emperor’s Birthday honors the Emperor of Japan and the Chrysanthemum Throne, but it is also a time for Japanese citizens to have fun and express their patriotism. On the Emperor’s Birthday, people can enjoy many festivities. Currently, the Emperor’s Birthday is celebrated on December 23. The date of the holiday changes to correspond with the birthday of the current Emperor of Japan. In Japan, the Emperor’s Birthday is known as Tenno Tanjobi.

Birthday celebrations for Japanese emperors date back to Ancient Japan. These celebrations were held to honor the Emperor as a person and Imperial ruler. Prior to World War II, the Emperor’s Birthday was called Tenchosetsu. Tenchosetsu corresponded with Chikusetsu, or the Empress’ Birthday. In 1948, the Emperor’s Birthday became a public holiday in Japan. During the same year, Chikusetsu was eliminated and Tenchosetsu was changed to Tenno Tanjobi. Tennor Tanjobi is a literal translation of the Emperor’s Birthday and matches the current form of Japanese used in Japan. Tenno Tanjobi was a celebration of Emperor Showa’s birthday. During the Showa period, Tenno Tanjobi was celebrated on April 29 each year. When Emperor Showa passed away in 1989, April 29 became Greenery Day.

In 2007, April 29 became Showa Day. Today, the Emperor’s Birthday, Greenery Day, and Showa Day are all celebrated separately. After Showa’s death, Akihito ascended to the Chrysanthemum Throne. Today, Emperor Akihito continues to reign over Japan. Empero Akihito’s birthday is December 23. Because of this, the Diet changed Tenno Tanjobi to December 23 before Akihito came to power. Japanese law states that the Diet must change Tenno Tanjobi to the birthday of the current Japanese emperor, so the holiday will be celebrated on a different day in the future.

Tenno Tanjobi: life and accomplishments.

Tenno Tanjobi currently celebrates the life and accomplishments of Emperor Akihito. Akihito was born on December 23, 1933. His parents were Emperor Hirohito and Empress Nagako. Emperor Akihito was the first member of the Imperial family of Japan to marry a person from a lower social class. In 1959, Emperor Akihito married Michiko Shoda, a commoner from Tokyo. Throughout his life, Akihito continued to depart from the elitist ideals that the Imperial family had become known for throughout history. Emperor Akihito has also dedicated a large portion of his life to being a humanitarian. Akihito is credited for improving Japan’s reputation in East Asia. He visited many nations to apologize for Imperial Japan’s cruel actions. Emperor Akihito is also known to visit the sites of earthquakes, tsunamis, and other natural disasters. Emperor Akihito still continues to do what he can to promote peace and understanding throughout the world. Akihito is also a scholar with a genuine interest in science. Emperor Akihito has published a book on marine biology.

Celebrations

The Emperor’s Birthday is one of Japan’s most unique holidays, so Japanese people have many ways to celebrate.

  • Visiting the Imperial Palace

    Many people use the Emperor’s Birthday as an opportunity to visit the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. On December 23, the Imperial Palace opens to the public. Normally, most of the Imperial Palace is restricted to regular Japanese citizens. On the Emperor’s Birthday, people can take a tour of the Imperial Palace’s inner rooms and courtyards. This is a rare experience, so people from across Japan often travel to Tokyo to enjoy the holiday. There is also a large ceremony at the Imperial Palace. Prior to the beginning of the ceremony, huge crowds of people gather in front of the Imperial Palace to await the arrival of Japanese Emperor. When the ceremony begins, the Emperor will look at the crowds from his balcony. He will often say a few words of gratitude while the visitors shout out birthday salutations. During the ceremony, the Emperor is accompanied by the Empress and other members of the Imperial family.

  • Flags

    Since the Emperor’s Birthday is a patriotic holiday, many Japanese people hang the national flag of Japan on their homes. People also bring miniature flags to the celebration at the Imperial Palace.

  • Letters

    During the week before the birthday celebration, many Japanese citizens write letters to the Japanese Emperor. Most of these letters are generic, but some people write messages that are quite personal. These personal letters often come from individuals that have been directly impacted by the Emperor’s actions. Emperor Akihito often receives letters from people who are appreciative of his dedication to humanitarianism. Before the Emperor’s Birthday, many street vendors sell parchment and postage to people who want to write a letter to the Japanese Emperor.

Since all of the events for the Emperor’s Birthday occur at the Imperial Palace, Tokyo is the best to celebrate the holiday.

The Emperor’s Birthday is a patriotic holiday that honors the current Japanese Emperor and his life.

Source: Public Holidays
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Japanese Arts & Crafts (Part 3 and last)

This is the last part of Japanese Arts & Crafts

Byobu are Japanese folding screens that were historically used to partition rooms for privacy. They are typically adorned with shodo or landscape paintings.
Gyotaku is the Japanese art of fish printing that evolved as a way for fishermen to record their impressive catches.
Samurai Masks, known as Mempo, are a type of battle armor designed to protect the face and strike fear into the heart of an opponent. They were designed by special craftsmen to reflect the personality and preferences of each Samurai.
Japan has one of the world’s biggest and oldest film industries with a history of over 100 years. The country currently produces more than 400 films a year. In most years, Japanese films do slightly better at the box office in Japan than foreign films. Countless Japanese films have received international awards and recognition with several considered amongst the top films of all time.
Kimonos don’t have pockets. This historically posed a problem, particularly for men who tended to travel light. A solution evolved in the Edo-era whereby men hung decorative containers known as netsuke from the obi of their kimono. These containers, known as netsuke, were typically hand crafted sculptures that depicted historical scenes, myths, lucky symbols, women and other themes that Edo-era men found interesting. Many are comical with a double or hidden meaning.
Creative professions are extremely popular amongst young generations of Japanese students. Art programs at colleges and universities are thriving. Creative professions are extremely competitive in Japan but many graduates manage to find a niche and pursue a productive career as an artist. Any art that doesn’t follow an established tradition tends to be heaped together and categorized as contemporary art. This is an extremely broad category of art that’s ever expanding.
Washi Eggs are a somewhat rare craft in Japan that are produced by removing the contents of an egg and covering it in washi paper.
Rice paddy art is a picture made completely of different varieties of rice plant. It’s a relatively new tradition that began in the 1990s in Inakadate, a small northern town that was looking for a way to boost the local economy. The town of 8000 residents involves more than 1000 people in the rice art planting. Each year the art attracts more than 200,000 tourists. The success of the program has led to rice art in other northern communities.
Source: Japan Talk
Photos: Mask by S1L3N0Z / Street art by Bong Grit
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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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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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