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!

The Festival of Tanabata

Author: Theo F.

Editor: Aika Matsui

Translator: Kotoko

The lovers Orihime and Hikoboshi are only allowed to meet every year on the seventh day of the seventh month, but what have they done to deserve this?

Tanabata, celebrated on July 7 (Gregorian calendar) or during August (based on the traditional lunar calendar), follows the folktale behind the couple’s melancholic situation. It is said that the festival originated from an ancient Chinese ceremony shichiseki (七夕) where participants pleaded for skills and ability. Amongst the innumerable versions of Orihime and Hikoboshi’s story, one prominent depiction of the folktale describes Orihime as the princess of cloth-weaving.

The diligent Orihime was talented in her craft and her father – God – often enjoyed her masterpieces. Due to her work, Orihime felt dejected as she lacked both the opportunity and time for romantic encounters. In order to cheer his daughter up, God arranged for Orihime to meet Hikoboshi, a cowherd who lived across the Milky Way. The meeting was a success as the two fell head over heels for each other. Soon after, Hikoboshi took Orihime as his wife.

However, the galaxy went haywire once the couple married. Hikoboshi ceased to exert control over his herd of rampaging cows, and Orihime no longer weaved for her customers nor for her father. Furious, God inserted the Milky Way in between and broke the two lovers apart. So that she can see her husband again, Orihime repented and promised to work hard in exchange for yearly meetings with Hikoboshi. God granted her wish and permitted them to meet on the seventh day of the seventh month, where magpies would build a bridge with their wings upon the Milky Way, enabling Orihime to cross.

※If it rains on the fated day, Orihime and Hikoboshi will not be able to meet because the magpies cannot make a bridge over high tide.

Orihime and Hikoboshi’s story is intriguing, but what do we actually do during the festival of Tanabata?

Inspired by some elements of the Chinese practice, Tanabata is a festival where we plead for our wishes to come true. During the festive days of Tanabata, you can see bamboo stalks around Japan with pieces of paper hung on them.

These pieces of paper are called tanzaku (短冊), and festival-goers write their wishes on them. Since bamboos grow straight and tall, it is said that Gods and spirits descend to drive away the impure and grant wishes. Other than hanging tanzaku, participants also often wear yukatas (traditional Japanese clothing) to enjoy the festive ambiance.

For those interested in going to Tanabata celebrations, there are a few major ones around Saitama, Tokyo, and Kanagawa; but due to the pandemic there is a high probability that they will be postponed or cancelled this year. So making your own DIY tanzaku and having a Zoom Tanabata party might be fun too!

White Day

Author: Mika Arimoto
Editor: Saki Arimoto

On Valentine’s Day, in most countries, men and even women give chocolates or flowers to important women in their lives to show their appreciation of love. In Japan, mainly women give men chocolate on Valentine’s Day. Uniquely in Japan, all men who receive chocolates on Valentine’s Day have to return the favor on White Day which is celebrated on March 14, a month after Valentine’s Day. 

Recently, these gender-specific holidays are declining and fewer people are participating in this gift-giving-back culture (Lufkin, 2019). Not only has the progress of gender roles in Japan caused the decline but also fewer women are giving out chocolates due to practicality and fewer men are giving them back (Lufkin, 2019). 

Although there is a decline in popularity, many people are still celebrating it. I asked some of the students in TIU whether they have celebrated White Day and if they did, how they celebrated it.

Andreas from Sweden (3rd year IR student in TIU) and Kaho from Japan

Did you celebrate White Day with your girlfriend this year?

Andreas: We didn’t celebrate it much, but I got her some flowers and ate left-over chocolates from Valentine’s Day together a few days prior to the actual White Day.

Andri from Indonesia (1st year BE student in TIU) and Faris from Indonesia

Did you celebrate White Day with your boyfriend this year?

Andri: No, we didn’t even remember. We also rarely celebrate Valentine’s Day in Indonesia.

From my personal experience, since I made chocolates during Valentine’s day, my partner bought me chocolates and candies on White Day. During the day itself, I gave some hints to indicate that “today is White Day” because I knew he forgot it. He ended up buying me random chocolates and candies from a convenience store.

Based on the interviews, not everybody celebrates White day or even Valentine’s Day in Japan. These holidays became less and less customary and do not solely define the romance of couples. It is said that these holidays are being rebranded by younger generations — less pressure and expectations from society.