Setsubun

Writer: Karen W.
Editor: Karen W.
Translator: Trang D.

How is everyone spending this winter vacation? In my January article, I already introduced Japanese New Year’s celebration and I hope you enjoyed reading it. I really enjoy the Japanese New Year, which I expressed in that article. (This link’s Japanese New Year’s celebration article https://timesoftiu.com/2021/12/31/new-year-festivals/)
How about you? I hope that our articles on Japanese culture will help bring you closer and closer to the unique traditions of Japan. I am writing a series of articles on “Japanese culture” with the hopes that TIU students, especially our E-track students, can get to learn more about Japanese culture. So, for this month’s article, I would like to introduce the traditional Japanese, Setsubun.

  1. What is Setsubun?

Setsubun (literal translation: seasonal division) is said to have its origins in an event called “Tsuina,” which was held on New Year’s Eve in the Heian period (794-1192) in the Imperial Palace (where the Japanese emperor used to hold political affairs). It is said that this event was a ceremony to drive away the “Toneri”, who dressed up as plague demons, by the “O-shonincho”, who became the “Ho-sou-shi” (a demon-chaser), wearing a four-eyed mask. It is said that the chief priest who participated in this ceremony would use a peach bow and a reed arrow to protect the “O-shonincho”.

Do you know why Setsubun is held in February although it is considered to be a New Year’s Eve event? This is because the calendar used in the Heian period and the modern calendar are different. 

The calendar used today is the “Gregorian calendar (also known as solar calendar),” which is based on the movement of the sun. The lunar calendar used in the past was called the “lunisolar calendar,” and a month started when the new moon cycle began. Since the cycle of the new moon averaged a total of 29.5 days, it was about 11 days shorter than the “solar calendar” year. Today, the “solar calendar” is used but the same date in the “lunisolar calendar” is different from year to year. This New Year’s Eve in the lunisolar calendar was February 3, 2022.

https://www.izasa.co.jp/blog/setsubun-638/

https://www.kohfukuji.com/event/tsuinae/

https://www.nao.ac.jp/faq/a0304.html

  1. Things to do on Setsubun

 There are two main activities during Setsubun in Japan.

The first activity is “bean-throwing”, which is also done in the “Tsuina” ceremony introduced in the previous section. This year, Setsubun is held on February 3, right before Risshun (February 4), the day markingthe division of two seasons, winter and spring. It is easy to feel the change in temperature when the seasons part, and it is said that we are more prone to colds and other illnesses during this transition time. Therefore, in order to lead a healthy life, it is necessary to drive these “demons” away. The most common way is to throw beans. Since ancient times, “Setsubun” has been held in many parts of Japan as an occasion when people ward off bad luck and wish for happiness in the new year. Exorcising bad luck in Japan is one of the traditions done on New Year’s Eve. Another important thing to remember is when you are throwing beans, you should also shout this out loud: “Oni wa soto, Fuku wa uchi. (Devils out! Fortune in!”). It is believed that by doing this, we can get rid of “demons” (illness and disasters) and invite “good fortune” (health and happiness) into the house.

The second ritual of Setsubun is to eat the “ehomaki” in silence, facing the direction of the year’s – “eho” (the direction of the god Toshitokujin, which is considered to be the most favorable direction of the year). Ehomaki is a thick sushi roll wrapped in rice and seaweeds, with different types of ingredients from eels, eggs, mushrooms and so forth). It is said that by doing so, one can enjoy prosperity and good health. At the same time, it can be somewhat difficult to eat the ehomaki, you should not cut it into rounds and eat it together with other dishes. This is because “cutting the ehomaki” is said to bring bad luck, since it is associated with the word “karma, meaning that a person’s relationship with another person will be hampered. In my family, we were told that, “If you can eat ehomaki facing the direction of Eboshi without saying a word, your wish will come true. By the way, this year’s direction is “North North West”. As I only know the simple the direction such as east, west, north, south, and northwest, I use a compass every time before eating to confirm the direction. You can check the link below.

  1. How TIU students spend Setsubun

When I asked TIU students, most J-track students (students studying in Japanese track in TIU/ non-Etrack students) answered that they would usually throw beans on Setsubun. That shows how familiar Setsubun is to J-track students. Indeed, I have took part in Setsubun in kindergarten, schools, and in various places as a child. Here is how everyone has spent their “Setsubun“:

 

Student A

“We throw beans at people wearing demon masks, and the number of beans we eat equals our age.”

Student B

“We usually use soybeans for bean-throwing, but in my family, we want to eat beans without wasting them, so we prepare peanuts.”

Student C

“I buy ehomaki at the supermarket and eat them facing the direction of the year’s blessing.”

Student D

“I enjoy making ehomaki with my family and I always add my favorite ingredients.”

Student E

“I usually go to the Setsubun Festival at the shrine near my house.” 

I experienced my last “Setsubun” at my part-time job, as I finally reached the age when I can start working.”

Student F

I made ehomaki at the sushi restaurant where I work. The pay was higher than usual so we were quite happy, but it is undeniable that we were all exhausted after the busy shift.”

 Thank you very much for reading this article about Setsubun. I hope you learned something new about the culture of Setsubun in Japan! If you have just arrived in Japan and have never eaten ehomaki before, you can always buy them at convenient stores and supermarkets, so please give them a try. When you do, make sure you don’t cut the ehomaki, and try to eat the whole thing in silence. It’s harder than you think! Anyway, that’s all for today’s article. Please look forward to our next article on Japanese culture, which will be on a special cultural event in March called Hinamatsuri (Doll’s Day)!

New Year’s around the World

Writer: Honoka A.
Editor: Karen W.
Translator: Theo F.

It’s December and the fall semester will soon be over; there are only a few days left in 2022. In this article, we will introduce the differences between how New Year is celebrated in Japan and abroad. A previous ToT article, ‘New Year Festivities’, can be read at the link below.

・Celebrating New Year’s in Japan

In Japan, the period from 1 to 3 January is called ‘Sanganichi’, when many shops are closed and people spend time with their families and relatives, eating delicious food. Many Japanese people go to shrines and temples at the start of the year to pray to the gods for good health and good fortune for the year ahead.

Also, as in the English ‘Happy New Year’, when the new year arrives, we say “Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu” is a greeting that is used to welcome the new year. This greeting is meant to congratulate people on welcoming God and a safe new year.

In Japan, there is a kind of greeting card called ‘nengajo’, which is sent to relatives and friends, and New Year’s greetings are sent on postcards.

Osechi and ozoni are special dishes that are eaten only during the New Year. As the taste and ingredients of ozoni differ from region to region and from household to household, if you have the chance, please be sure to compare them.

Reference: https://sittaka.info/?p=633

Osechi

Ozouni

・New Year’s in other countries

As cultures differ, the way in which we celebrate the new year also differs.

In the USA, there is a countdown in Times Square in New York, while in the UK, the countdown fireworks at Big Ben are famous. However, it seems that these countries only celebrate the first day of the year; people who have to work will resume working from the 2nd.

On the other hand, many countries have unique ways of celebrating. In Ecuador, there is a custom of burning one’s portrait photos on New Year’s Eve. This is meant to dispose of the past, and people collect and burn photos that symbolize the year to go. Therefore, on New Year’s Eve in Ecuador, the whole country is filled with the colour of flames.

In Vietnam, the New Year is also celebrated during the Lunar New Year (called “Tet” in Vietnamese). For this occasion, Vietnamese people decorate their houses with flowers. The flowers decorated seem to vary according to region, with pink peach flowers for those living in the north and yellow plum flowers in the south.

A staple traditional Vietnamese New Year’s dish is steamed rice with mung beans and seasoned pork on top of glutinous rice, rolled up like a sushi roll and wrapped in banana leaves, called ‘banh chung’. This is usually homemade in every household.

Furthermore, in Denmark, people throw plates at the door of their neighbours on New Year’s Day. It is believed that the families with dishes thrown at them will be blessed with happiness, and the more plates, cups and other crockery thrown at it, the luckier the family will become. It is said that a family with many broken dishes at the door of their house at New Year’s is a sign that they have that many loyal friends.

Overall, we can see how different cultures celebrate the New Year differently. Before we dive into 2023, why not meet some new people at the English Plaza or Japanese Plaza to learn about their cultures?

References: https://www.fujingaho.jp/culture/a60607/unique-ways-to-celebrate-new-years-across-the-globe-181221-hns/

https://www.fujingaho.jp/culture/a60619/unique-ways-to-celebrate-new-years-across-the-globe-181221-hns2/

・New Year Greetings

In English, “Happy New Year” is said to have three different meanings. The first one roughly means “happy to see you this year”, the second one means “have a great year” and the third one means “hope you have a fun year”.

However, as mentioned at the beginning, in Japan, “Happy New Year!” has the meaning of “congratulations on welcoming God and a safe new year”. As much of Japanese culture is steeped in Buddhism, respect for the gods is embedded in the meaning of the phrase ‘Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu’. In English, “Happy New Year” has no religious meaning, so it differs from the Japanese greeting. This difference between Japanese and American New Year’s greetings suggests that the meaning may differ from culture to culture and country to country.

Reference: http://eitangotsukaiwake.suntomi.com/index.php?Happy%20New%20Year%E3%81%AB%E3%81%AF%E4%BA%8C%E3%81%A4%E3%81%AE%E6%84%8F%E5%91%B3%E3%81%8C

・”Happy New Year” in other languages

Chinese: 新年好 (Shin Nian Hao)

Korean: 새해 복 많이 받으세요

French: Bonne annee

Other countries will have different New Year’s greetings. Why not ask your friends and teachers how they say it in their countries and try to acquire a new language?

References: https://ej.alc.co.jp/entry/20190102-happy-new-year-languages

In this article, we introduced the different ways of spending New Year’s Day. How do you plan to spend New Year’s Day? I plan to spend it with my family and eat delicious food. And how about setting goals for the new year? Please let us know how you spend your New Year’s and your goals for 2023 in the comments below!

Halloween in Japan

Writer: Honoka A.

Editor: Karen W.

Translator: Ezekiel K.

Hello everyone. It’s already October, and the temperature is gradually becoming more comfortable.  What comes to your mind when you think of October? Many people think of Halloween, don’t they? In this article, I would like to introduce you to Halloween in Japan. Also, how do TIU students spend Halloween? I’ll show you the details (or how it looks) at the end of this article.

What is Halloween?

Halloween dates back more than 2,000 years. It is said to have originated from “Samhain,” a European Celtic festival. Samhain, which means “the end of summer,” was rooted in the lives of the ancient Celts as a religious event to celebrate the autumn harvest and drive away evil spirits. Because it was believed that the souls of the dead would return to their families, people began wearing costumes and masks, placing lanterns made of turnips called jack-o’-lanterns in their homes, and protecting themselves from the souls of the dead. Today, Halloween has spread to many countries and is celebrated in ways that are distinct from its origins. For example, instead of kabuto, Jack O’Lanterns are now made from pumpkins, which are relatively easy to make, and children say “Trick or Treat,” which means “give me candy or I will play tricks on you,” to adults to receive sweets.

(Reference: https://skywardplus.jal.co.jp/plus_one/calendar/halloween)

History of Halloween in Japan

Kiddy Land Harajuku is credited with being the first store in Japan to have taken part in Halloween in the 1970s. Later that year, in 1983, the same Kiddy Land Harajuku store hosted a Halloween parade to promote Halloween merchandise sales.

The “Disney Happy Halloween” costume event at Tokyo Disneyland in 1997 was the catalyst for the rapid rise in Halloween awareness. Halloween has since become an autumn tradition at the Tokyo Disney Resort. Since then, the word “Halloween” has been seen in a variety of places, with various stores selling Halloween-only packages of candy and Halloween costumes since late September. Because of the advancement of social networking services in recent years, it has also become a tradition for many people in Japan to dress up in costumes and gather in Shibuya. Every year, a large crowd gathers at the scramble crossing, and the event makes headlines. However, many people with bad manners have been seen in recent years, and this has become a problem.

(Reference: https://intojapanwaraku.com/culture/41323/)

How does Halloween differ in Ireland and Japan?

Tradition dictates how Halloween is observed. In families throughout Ireland, children prepare costumes and games in advance of Halloween.  On the day of the celebration, dinner is served with a traditional cake called a “barn black.” Various things are prepared inside and baked, and a person’s fortune is divined by what comes out when he or she cuts into and eats the cake. For example, if a ring comes out, it means that the person will get married within a year.

It also means “spending precious time with family,” a tradition that is kept alive by such events as the Halloween Parade. Halloween is a big event for Irish people. 

On the other hand, in Japan, it is not only in Shibuya, but many stores around the country sell various Halloween packaged sweets and goods. As a result, many people exchange sweets with their friends at school, dress up in costumes at Halloween parties, and children receive candy from adults. These are different from the original Halloween celebrations in Ireland, where many Japanese spend their time eating lots of candy.

(References: https://prtimes.jp/main/html/rd/p/000000037.000017681.html)

Halloween at TIU

This October, SLI has hosted two Halloween-related events. Come dressed in your favorite costume to party and make new friends.

PA : Halloween Party with Peer Assistant Team

The Peer assistant team will host a Halloween party on Wednesday, October 26th at Building No.2 class room 231. You are all invited. Please see the poster below for more information.

EP: English Plaza Halloween Night

The English Plaza team will host a Halloween night on Friday, October 28th at the English Plaza building. You are all invited. Please see the poster below for more information.

This time we introduced Halloween in Japan. How do you spend Halloween in Japan? In Japan, people often exchange sweets with their friends, so why don’t we all bring our own sweets on the day of the event?

Autumn of Sports

Writer: Saki N.
Editor: Karen W.
Translator: Ezekiel K

Hello everyone. How are you doing now that the summer heat wave is over and it’s getting cooler in the mornings and evenings? Now is the time of year when the sweet autumnal fragrance known as kinmokusei can be smelled near school gates and in the city streets. There is a tradition in Japan called “Autumn for Sports.” During this time of year, many sport meets and competitions take place in different parts of the country.

  1. Origin of “Autumn of Sports”

First, I would like to explain how the term “Autumn of Sports” came to be. This origin is closely related to the “Tokyo Olympics” and “Sports Day.”

On October 10, 1964, the Tokyo Olympics were held. This is because, according to historical data, there was a very high likelihood that the weather in Japan would be pleasant on this day. After the Olympics, Sports Day, a national holiday, was established on October 10 to celebrate this day. (Sports Day is now observed during the second week of October.) Since the Tokyo Olympics and the foundation of Sports Day, several sports-related activities have been organized in September and October in various places, and this time period is said to have become widely known as “Sports Autumn.”

(Reference: https://lab.life-socket.jp/blog/20)

  1. Three Advantages of Exercising in the Fall

Next, we will discuss three benefits of exercising during Fall.

The first is to raise the internal body temperature. To increase body temperature, it is essential to exercise, increase muscle strength, and boost metabolism. When the body’s metabolism improves, immune cells are activated, making it less susceptible to illness.

The second goal is to combat obesity. When a person develops an exercise routine and gains muscle mass, their metabolism increases. As the basal metabolic rate increases, the amount of energy required for daily activities rises, and the body should adapt to a state where fat is burned more efficiently.

Thirdly, It reduces stress. Not only does exercise alleviate stress, but it also helps build a body and mind that are resistant to stress. Continued exercise provides a steady supply of serotonin and endorphins, which help stabilize the mind and are believed to alleviate stress and fatigue.

Without you even realizing it, stress can build up in your daily life due to things like homework and classes. In order to maintain your mental health, you should engage in moderate exercise. In addition, autumn mornings are chilly, so you may be reluctant to leave your futon or room. However, once you step outside, the warm sunlight and the sweet scent of the golden osmanthus will be awaiting you, so please try to move your body after a delicious autumn meal! 

(Please note that the above information may vary from person to person.)

(References): 

  1. https://ogalife.com/20191102-1/.
  2. https.//heisei-ikai.or.jp/column/exercise-mental-health/

  1. Facilities and parks

Last, we’ll talk about the facilities at TIU and two parks close to the university where you can enjoy autumn.

First, the second campus of Tokyo International University features a weightlifting field, a training room, basketball and volleyball courts, as well as tennis courts. In the training room, students can engage in basic exercises as well as advanced and functional ones. Physical education and club activities are also conducted on the basketball and volleyball courts. Physical education classes and official garden tennis club activities utilize a total of eight tennis courts, complete with lighting equipment. It is possible that many students who use Campus 1 are unaware of these facilities. Students who are interested are encouraged to enroll in classes and clubs.

(Reference: https://www.tiu.ac.jp/campus/campus02)

Next, we will introduce parks within close proximity to the university

The first is Kawagoe Suijo Koen (Kawagoe Water Park). To get there, take a 15-minute walk from Nishi-Kawagoe Station on the JR Kawagoe Line, or take the Seibu Bus bound for Kasumino from Kawagoe Station or Hon-Kawagoe Station, and get off at “Suijo Koen Iriguchi” (10-minute walk to the park). The vast grounds of this park are its main draw. There are lawn areas, futsal and table tennis fields, walking trails, tennis courts, and other amenities. Visitors can also view the autumn leaves. Autumn leaves symbolize autumn in Japan, so after a picnic on the lawn, it would be nice to play sports or go for a walk while watching the leaves change color.

(Reference: https://www.parks.or.jp/kawagoesuijo/guide/000/000083.html)

Second is the Kawagoe Exercise Park (Kwagoe Undo Koen). To get there, take a bus from Kawagoe Station on the JR Tobu-Tojo Line or Hon-Kawagoe Station on the Seibu-Shinjuku Line headed for Kawagoe Undo Koen. Get off at Towamu Koedo Hospital and walk 10 minutes toward Ageo Station West Exit. This park has a grassy area, tennis courts, and an athletic field. So, it would be fun to play tennis, go jogging, play badminton, or catch a ball in the square while being aware of your surroundings.

(Reference: https://ambase.info/gym2/saitama/kawagoe.html)

Thank you for reading this far. In this article, I introduced “Autumn for Sports.” Autumn is a lovely season, with warm sunshine and a light breeze. Please enjoy a healthy fall, both physically and mentally, by engaging in moderate exercise..

Children’s Day

Writer: Karen W.
Translator: Ezekiel K.

Hello everyone. Did you read my last article on “Ohinasama” (Dolls’ Day)? This time, I would like to introduce “Children’s Day,” which falls on the last day of the Golden Week in May. What do you think of when you hear the word “Children’s Day”? Let’s take a look at what kind of event it is, focusing on its origin.

What is Children’s Day?

Children’s Day was originally called “Tango-no-Sekku,” an ancient event that has continued since the Nara period (710-794). The word “Tango” means the first horse day of the month and was not limited to the month of May. As mentioned in the article “Setsubun” on Japanese culture, it was believed in Japan that illness and misfortune were likely to occur at the change of seasons. Therefore, on “Tango-no-hi,” the day of the changing of the seasons, events were held to avoid illness and misfortune. On this day, there were customs of stacking yomogi herbs, bathing orchids, and drinking sake soaked in the iris, which was considered to ward off bad luck. In the Nara period (710-794), the imperial family and their subjects believed that these plants were thought to ward off illness and evil spirits. In addition to this, they used to perform yabusame (horseback archery, a ritual in which the archer shoots a bow while riding a horse) to exterminate bad demons that were believed to bring misfortune.

It is said that it was not until the Edo period (1603-1867) that people began to celebrate the coming of age of boys by decorating carp streamers and “Gogatsu Ningyo (warrior dolls),” as they do today. In the Heian period (794-1185), children played stone fighting with paper helmets decorated with irises. Later, during the Muromachi period (1336-1573), “blow torrents” were erected by attaching a cloth to bamboo poles in the samurai society. These things are considered to be the prototype of today’s “Tango-no Sekku,” but most of them are inherited from the Edo period when the development of doll art and “carp streamers” were started by the merchant class to wish for the healthy growth of their children. The ancient court customs of stacking yomogi herbs, bathing in orchids, and drinking sake soaked in irises to ward off bad luck gradually fell into disuse with the advent of the Kamakura period (samurai society), and thus the style of “Tango-no Sekku” has changed from that of today. Even though the custom changed with the arrival of the male-dominated samurai society, decorating iris leaves was still associated with “Shobu” (to take up arms), and it seems to have changed into an event to celebrate the growth of boys. During the Edo period (1603-1867), May 5 became an important holiday for the Tokugawa shogunate and was dedicated to celebrating the shogun. When a boy was born to the Shogun, a horse marker or banner was erected at the entrance of the Omote Palace of the castle to celebrate.

Reference: https://www.ningyo-kyokai.or.jp/sekku/tango.html

What do we do?

 Generally, two major things are done at Dragon Boat Festival. First, carp streamers and Gogatsu dolls are decorated. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, these have been done since the Edo period (1603-1868).

Reference:https://www.jalan.net/news/article/535583/

How Everyone Spends the Day

Do you know what to do on “Tango-no Sekku,” a part of “Japanese culture”? Here, we would like to introduce how TIU students spend Tango-no Sekku.

Student A: “We eat Kashiwa Mochi (rice cake with sweet red bean paste) and decorate the Kabuto (Japanese warrior’s helmet) at home.”

Student B: “We go to my grandmother’s house and have a family BBQ.

Student C: “I will play with my family at the park because children should play outside energetically”

Student D: “I will take an iris bath to warm myself.

Thank you for reading this far, it seems that TIU students spend more time together with their families than decorating Kabuto and Koinobori (carp streamers). What kind of Children’s Day or “Tango no Sekku” do you spend time on? Have a good time!

New Year Festivities

Writer:Karen W.
Editor:Aika M.
Translator: Theo F.

How is everyone spending the winter in Japan? Winter in Kawagoe is characterized by wind chills – not much snowfall but many sunny days. Although in mountainous regions next to the Sea of Japan and the plains on the Pacific side within Saitama, there are also some places where it snows incredibly. Today I would like to introduce the winter event, “Oshogatsu,” which is essential for the beginning of the year in this diverse country.

1.) What is “Oshogatsu”?

In Japan, Oshogatsu generally takes place from the 1st of January till the 7th of January, although depending on the region there are also places that celebrate Oshogatsu until the 25th of January. On New Year’s Day, it is said that the God of new year will visit and bless each and every family. This God is said to have connections with the God of ancestors, the God of rice paddies, the God of mountains, the God of childbirth, and the God of harvest. As a result, Japanese families do their big cleaning on New Year’s Eve as a symbol of cleansing and in order to welcome the god of new year. There are also other events on this day, but next I would like to share my new year experiences as a Japanese person.

Insert:お正月にすることは?正月とは?行事由来・過ごし方【決定版】 [暮らしの歳時記] All About

2.)  My experiences

Before New Year’s Eve, my family members gather and make “mochi” (rice cakes)  and “ozoni” (a soup that contains rice cakes and vegetables). We also make preparations for “osechi” – a dish with different staple ingredients like shrimp and rolled omelettes that is eaten on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

On New Year’s Eve, we clean the house and prepare to eat “year-ending soba” as the countdown begins. When the clock strikes 12, we visit temples to ring a bell that signifies the beginning of a new year. 

On New Year’s Day, we sit in the yard as the “first sunrise” takes place. I would also like to note that some people also prefer to climb Mt. Fuji to witness this spectacular moment. In the morning, we go to shrines with our family and friends to pay our respects to the gods for a safe and happy new year. This is also where we buy traditional protective charms.

On the following morning, we wake up and share our ambitions and wishes for the year as a family. Using ink brushes, we write our goals for the year on a piece of paper. Next, we visit relatives and receive pocket money.

Since we had a lot of different delicacies, on January 7, we rest our bodies by having soup that contains seven different types of healthy vegetables. On January 11, we eat “kagami mochi” – two mochi stacked on top of each other that is a symbol of safety and health. 

During these festivities, some families prepare a “Kadomatsu” (made of pine and bamboo) to be placed at the front door. Furthermore, new year letters used to be a huge tradition where we send and thank people who have been a part of our lives for the past year. However, since the evolution of technology has been allowing us to send messages through devices, hardly anyone writes these letters nowadays. 

For others having lived in Japan, what kind of new year traditions have you had? I’m sure there are many things that you have heard of and some that you might not have. If you are interested, don’t be afraid and try to feel the Japanese culture!

3.) Other New Year experiences

Before we end, I would like to share some findings from the interviews I have had with other Campus Globalization members!

From Japanese members:

“Family members gather and adults hand out New Year money to children.”

“We celebrate by pounding rice cakes and cooking Osechi.”

“We have fun by holding Karaoke and Bingo contests.”

“Family and friends go to temples to make wishes to the gods, we also buy charms.”

From a Macanese member:

“We celebrate by having a fireworks contest where the most creative show wins.”

From an Indonesian member:

“We have fun by travelling to different places with friends.”

From a Sri Lankian member:

“We go see fireworks with friends.”

From a Vietnamese member:

“We clean the house and see fireworks with the family. We also visit the neighbours to receive money.”

How did YOU spent your new years this year? I hope that this article was informative and gave you some inspiration for the next New Year’s! Happy New Year!

A Japanese Christmas

Author: Theo F.
Editor: Aika M.

 The winter holiday season is enjoyed worldwide. For instance, when “Christmas” comes up in a conversation, it is safe to say that most of us think of Santa Claus or the birth of Jesus Christ. However, through centuries of history, the holiday has absorbed aspects from different cultures and religions to the point that we cannot say there is only one true origin behind the festival.

A western influence
KFC set for Christmas

 I was a bit surprised when I learnt that most of my Japanese friends have Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) as their go-to food for Christmas, so I decided to do some research. In Japan, chicken was popularised as a staple food back in the 1970s. The thriving economy allowed Japanese citizens to live more extravagant lives and US companies saw increasing opportunities to expand overseas. Amongst which, KFC took their chance and advertised Christmas chicken as an American tradition. The marketing campaign was a success as it effectively imprinted the concept of “Kentucky for Christmas” in Japan’s culture.

(Source: https://www.cnn.co.jp/business/35147384-2.html)

Family, friends, or the significant other?

 In countries with Christian cultural influences, Christmas is generally celebrated within the family – exchanging presents or whatnot. However, in Japan, Christianity never really took off and no one really paid attention to Christmas until late in the 20th century. Nowadays Christmas in Japan is popularized as a holiday for spreading happiness, and an evening where couples spend time together.

holiday season in kawagoe
Crea Mall streets with hanging Christmas lights

 Although we are situated in the middle of Saitama, Kawagoe offers quite a few options for winter illumination lovers. I recommend doing some Christmas shopping in Crea Mall and witnessing its sparkling additions, or returning to the classic stroll through historic Koedo with illumination in a warmer palette.

Koedo at night

 For those who prefer a more modern atmosphere, U_PLACE and UNICUS are great choices. These are basically three-storey malls with built-in cafes and restaurants where you can do your shopping while appreciating the colourful Christmas lights from the inside.

Crea Park

 Kawagoe Farmer’s Market hosts a Christmas market in Crea Park. Make sure you don’t miss it if you are interested in some fresh Christmas delicacies!

(For more information: https://twitter.com/kawagoemarket/status/1472214231949144064/)

 Here at TIU, we saw our own quirky way of celebrating the holidays.

Illuminations on TIU’s Campus 1

 It was definitely interesting to learn that historical events find a way to influence our  holiday culture in such a manner. Feel free to try and spend Christmas in a Japanese fashion at a KFC if you are feeling for some chicken or go on a date surrounded by traditional Koedo lights!

Is Japanese cuisine healthy?

Author: Karen W.
Editor: Aika M.
Translator: Theo F.
Original Language: Japanese

Have you ever had Japanese food before? In 2013, Washoku, the traditional Japanese culinary culture, was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage. From this delegation, we can see that the traditional Washoku is up to a healthy standard, but what aspect of it is healthy? Furthermore, when you compare Japanese cuisine to foreign cuisines, it is apparent that Japanese cuisine revolves around fish and has lighter flavours, while foreign cuisines tend to use a higher variety of spices. This article aims to delve into the world of Washoku and explore the origins of its healthy nature.

To begin, let’s talk about the nutritious values Washoku offers. To have a healthy diet, we need to have a balance in nutrients. This balance mainly includes carbohydrates, protein, minerals, vitamins, and fat. This means that if we only have junk foods, we will not reach an ideal nutritious balance; the excess calories often lead to obesity and other health problems. On the contrary, even just one meal of Washoku contains an ideal balance of nutrients. This is due to the fact that the traditional Japanese menu contains Ichiju Sansai, one soup and three dishes. Although there are a total of four items, their portions are kept small, making it easy to eat. This allows us to taste different dishes and absorb different nutrients in one single meal.

To illustrate, let me give you an example of an actual Washoku meal I have had. Cooked with only water, the star of the meal is rice. It has a soft taste and usually goes well with all kinds of dishes. Since the weather is getting warmer, the main ingredients for the miso soup are the summer vegetables, eggplants and okra. The main dish of our meal is the staple goya chanpuru, an Okinawanian stir-fried dish with bitter melon, egg and tofu. Our side dish is a salad composed with summer vegetables and glass noodles. The second side dish contains chopped chicken breast and pickled plum for our daily intake of minerals. The ingredients used in this Washoku meal includes all forms of nutrients: rice for carbohydrates; egg, tofu, and chicken for protein; plums for minerals; summer vegetables for vitamins; and fat from glass noodles. As such, you can see how the traditional style of one soup and three dishes is healthy for us. Moreover, the incorporation of summer ingredients would really allow us to taste the season!

Actually, nutrition balance is not the only reason behind Washoku’s healthy nature. In Japan, chefs have developed cutting edge techniques to completely bring out the flavours of each ingredient. Although it differs from region to region, oil, sugar, and salt were not commonly used as condiments for cooking back in the days. Oil especially, was a luxurious item and was only used to light lamps. The latter half of the 19th century brought western cuisine influences to Japan where they started to implement the use of oil for cooking.
< https://japanese.hix05.com/Folklore/Food/food06.oil.html >

Let me introduce three traditional meals from the Chiba, Tokyo, and Saitama prefectures while highlighting the use of Japanese fish. In Chiba, we have “futomaki sushi” that is usually eaten during funerals and weddings. In Tokyo, we have Japan’s symbolic dish – sushi. Meanwhile in Saitama, we eat eels on the day of the ox. None of these traditional dishes incorporate the use of oil as they were not really available back in the days. Originally, sushi was actually called “box sushi” as it was preserved by fermenting fish with rice in a square wooden box. It was not until the Edo period that vinegar was added to the cooking process and sushi took on its present form.
< http://www.pref.chiba.lg.jp/annou/shokuiku/oishiichiba/dentou.html
https://www.gotokyo.org/jp/see-and-do/drinking-and-dining/tokyo-local-food/index.html
http://www.mizkan.co.jp/sushilab/manabu/4.ht >

In addition, the Japanese climate and environment provides a great influence that makes Japanese food healthy. The Japanese archipelago stretches from the North all the way to the South, and is exposed to all four natural seasons while surrounded by sea in all directions. As a result of this natural environment, we can harvest fresh seafood, vegetables, and fruits exclusive only to Japan. Different seasonal ingredients are also used in each region, which has given rise to unique local cuisine styles. 
< https://www.jice.or.jp/knowledge/japan/commentary01 >

The diversity of nature in turn influences the religious beliefs of Japanese people. The Japanese have a reverence for nature and a sense of “nature worship” – a belief in natural objects and phenomena which are then deified and worshipped. In connection to this, there are many annual events linked to the seasons and have a close relationship with food culture. For example, on New Year’s Day, we welcome the New Year’s God, who is believed to bring happiness, prosperity and a good harvest. The staple food for these celebrations is glutinous rice, due to the belief in rice cultivation. This glutinous rice is steamed, mashed and kneaded to make mochi, an offering to the New Year’s gods; it is decorated with two layers of round mochi, one large and one small, in the shape of a round mirror.

On New Year’s Day, we prepare “Osechi”, an offering to the New Year’s God. A five-tiered square container “jubako” contains dishes made from lucky charms to bring prosperity to the family. This dish is full of the characteristics of Japanese food, in that the quantity of each dish is not large, but the number of dishes is high. Some of the most important dishes in Osechi include the red and white kamaboko (fish cake), which is a symbol of good luck (with red to ward off evil and white for purity); date rolls that are shaped like the scrolls found in old Japanese books and a symbol of knowledge and culture; chestnut Kintoons that are golden in colour and symbolises good luck and wealth. There are also many other side dishes with the wishes of prosperity of descendants and longevity. As you can see, each of the dishes in Osechi has its own congratulatory meaning, but the wide variety of ingredients, including seafood and wild vegetables, makes it a nutritious and well-balanced dish.

I hope that having read this article you have learned some new things about Japanese cuisine. Feel free to try these healthy dishes if you are interested!

Autumn stimulates appetite

Author: Karen W.
Editor: Aika M.
Translator: Juri A.
Original Language: Japanese

Hello everyone. The hot summer is over and now it is more comfortable for some people since it gets cooler. Autumn indicates the period of three months between September and November. Also, this period of time are called “食欲の秋(Shokuyoku-no-aki)” in Japan, which means “Autumn stimulates appetite”. During this period, we consciously enjoy our daily life more than we usually do.

Thus, we are going to introduce this Japanese cultural belief in this article following the last article about “Otsukimi”.

1. Why does Autumn stimulate our appetite?

First off, here are two explanations for the reasons why we call it as  “食欲の秋”(Shokuyoku-no-aki).

Firstly, Autumn is usually the season that makes the temperature go down and the daylight hours get shorter in comparison to Summer. This makes the human body tend to promote fat-burning and require more energy. People eat food to absorb energy and this circulation makes us hungry.
Secondly, we have a wide variety of food in Japan. We are able to obtain more nourishing foods since Autumn is the best season to harvest. Such food contain necessary nourishments for the shattered body due to the change of the seasons, such as starchineness, vitamins and fiber.

These nourishments are also a necessity for us to go through the nippy winter. Plenty of nutritious foods are harvested in Autumn. This is how Autumn in Japan became to be called “食欲の秋(Shokuyoku-no-aki)”. In order to provide the valuable information for you to enjoy the blessing of nature in this season well, next chapter introduces “秋の味覚(Aki-no-mikaku)”, which means the taste of Autumn.

2.Taste of Autumn

Autumn is the best season to harvest these following foods: skipjack tuna, salmon and mackerel pike from the sea. Chestnut, persimmon, pear, purple, mushrooms and potatoes from the mountains are also delicious at this time of year. Moreover, the picking season for root crops comes in Autumn. In addition, rice, which is a pillar of Japanese food, is ripe for the taking as well and the new rice is getting lined up in the store shelves. 

炊き込みご飯(Takikomi-gohan)

I recommend “炊き込みご飯(Takikomi-gohan)”, which goes well with sea foods and mountain foods. 炊き込みご飯(Takikomi-Gohan) can be boiled with Japanese condiments that would not offset the taste of ingredients. Boiled rice with mushrooms fuel our appetite. Also, you can enjoy boiled rice with fish.

Some people might have concerns about gaining weight as we have ample tasty meals like this. If that describes you, I suggest having a lesser amount of food for one bite and to bite slowly. This should be the best way to taste the blessings of the Autumn.

Nowadays, we see Autumn food more in convenience stores. Now it might be easier to enjoy Autumn as we do in Japan, have a great time by enjoying the Autumn.

Sources:
食欲の秋に食欲が増す理由!その由来や秋に食べたい食べ物、食べすぎの対策もご紹介|コラム|鰹節・だし専門店 通販のことならにんべんネットショップ (ninben.co.jp)

Moon-viewing Festival

Author: Karen W.
Editor: Aika M.
Translator: Theo F.
Original Language: Japanese

At the advent of Autumn in Japan, several cultural themes emerge and affect different aspects of life – be it literature, sports, or even cuisine. Amongst which, today we would like to write about Tsukimi, or the Moon-viewing festival in English. Throughout history, the moon has always been involved with Japanese cultural practices. Let’s learn more about Tsukimi!

1. What is Moon-viewing?

Moon-viewing is an autumn tradition where friends and family gather and appreciate the beauty of the celestial body. On Tsukimi nights, it is said that the moon can be seen in its brightest and most elegant state. Although, based on the lunar calendar, the festival is also called “the fifteenth night,” Tsukimi usually falls on a different day each year. In 2021, it falls on the 21st of September, a Tuesday.

2. The origin of Tsukimi

Back in the Heian Period of Japan, nobles and aristocrats had the custom of holding banquets under the lunar light. The tradition even spread to peasants later in the Edo Period. Moreover, the Tsukimi tradition coincided with the harvest season and thus became a festival amongst peasants where they show gratitude towards nature and the moon. In combination, these traditions slowly developed into the modern moon-viewing festival.

3. Moon-viewing Offerings

In reality, Tsukimi is not just a festival where you stare at the moon. Special offerings are made to be thankful towards a successful harvest.

The three main offerings are silver grass, moon-viewing dumplings, and agricultural products. Silver grass is said to protect the harvest and be the symbol for good harvest. Round little Moon-viewing dumplings – modeled based on the moon – are the symbol for gratitude. Agricultural products, mainly sweet potatoes and chestnuts, are usually crops successfully obtained from the season.

Conforming to the festive atmosphere, let’s make some Tsukimi dumplings!

Ingredients for 15 pieces

Dumpling flour 100g *

Room-temperature Water 80ml

Boiling Water (amount as you see fit)

Cold Water (amount as you see fit)

*Dumpling flour : available in supermarkets or 100-yen shops

Instructions

  1. Slowly mix dumpling flour and room-temperature water in a bowl; knead them until they are as hard as earlobes
  2. Divide them into 15 equal pieces and roll them into sphere shapes
  3. Put them into boiling water for 2 minutes
  4. As they float up to the surface, wait for another 3 minutes and drain the hot water afterwards
  5. Dip them into cold water
  6. Drain all the water
  7. Done!

*Sprinkle some red beans or soybean flour for an even better taste!

As you can see, Tsukimi dumplings are pretty easy to make. We hope you’ll get creative and enjoy your once-a-year Moon-viewing festival!