Blog Archives

Seasonal Food – Autumn

Seasonality is an important aspect of Japanese culture, and in no area does it play a greater role than in the world of food and drink. The concept of “shun” (旬) refers to ingredients that are at their seasonal best,

5 things to do for Setsubun

The 3rd of February is Setsubun, a special day marking the transition of winter into spring. While in reality the cold weather will probably continue well into March, it’s fun to get into the spirit of things by doing some

Lost in Translation – Wasei Eigo

The mass importation of foreign words into the Japanese language can make communicating in Japan that little bit easier. English words are used for many foods and drinks, household wares, and a host of other items and concepts. However, some

Seasonal Food – Winter

To chase away the cold, warming dishes like nabe and oden are particularly popular in winter in Japan. Both can be made with a wide range of ingredients, with some of the most popular being in season (or “shun” in

Hatsumōde

Despite the ubiquity of temples and shrines all over the country, the Japanese people tend to hold rather casual spiritual beliefs. However, there is one spiritual event that virtually everyone takes part in at the start of the year, and

The Dance of Fools – Awa Odori

If you visit one of the many festivals held across Japan this summer, chances are you will hear the distinctive Awa Yoshikono, played on shamisen, taiko drums and flute, and heralded by the striking of a kane bell. This is

Retro Japanese Junk Food, DAGASHI

You may know wa-gashi (和菓子, Japanese sweets) but do you know da-gashi (駄菓子)? Though best known for its traditional, refined confectioneries, Japan has its own unique selection of cheap and novelty candy that is as terrible, weird, wonderful, and cavity-inducing

Tanabata Matsuri

Perhaps the most evocative of Japan’s annual matsuri (祭り, festivals) , tanabata (七夕) marks the beginning of the summer festival season. Closely linked with the stars, tanabata is celebrated by the writing of wishes on strips of paper, which are

Hinamatsuri

Celebration Hinamatsuri is celebrated each year on the 3rd of March, and is traditionally a day dedicated to girls, in the way “Kodomo no hi” (5th of May) was originally dedicated to boys. The celebration is marked in homes with

“Made in Japan: 400 Years of Nambu Tekki Ironware”

Japanese handmade crafts have always received international acclaim for their fine quality and simple beauty. Japan’s long tradition of crafting everything from swords, cutting knives, and ceramics to fabrics and woodwork has had a tremendous influence on the world in

Sumo

Sumo – an iconic sport that epitomizes Japan’s image internationally just as much as sushi; what other sport is as linked to just a single country, but known so widely throughout the world? And “known” may be just the right

Mochi cooking – Easy ways to enjoy rice cakes

After Christmas, you can’t pass through a Japanese supermarket without seeing a pile of bags of rice cakes aka Mochi in Japanese. It plays a significant role in Japanese New Year, and appears almost daily on the dining tables at

Japanese Summer Customs

Summer in Japan is a season full of festivals and events, and is when many people get a chance to have a weeklong break for overseas traveling or family trips. It is also the time of year, along with the

If you’re asked to a Japanese wedding

June in Japan is a month with a lot of weddings. Though the image of a sunny wedding may be at odds with a season of perpetual rain and clouds due to the ‘plum rains’, as you might expect many

The Japanese, the rain, and umbrellas

When you live in Japan you see that for half of the year in most places, it’s a rainy country — beginning with the fall of the cherry blossoms, then the thunderstorms in May, the monsoons in June, and the

Singing in the Plum Rain

This year’s ‘plum rains’ (tsuyu) are upon us, and across the length and the whole country will be plunged into the long rainy season. This may be a yearly occurrence, but people still get depressed about the days of endless

Preparing for the New Year

Christmas decorations come down quickly in Japan to make way for the most important Japanese holiday – New Year’s. Preparations for the end of the year are many and require time. Offices and homes are cleaned, accounts are settled, and

Satokagura: Folk Stage Performance Comes Alive at Saitama Kaikan

If represents Buddhism and high art, and the secular theatre, , and specifically , is the theatre of Shinto and of the countryside. Because of this, it seems fitting that tonight’s performance, while although not held at a shrine, is

Cool Food – A Guide to Japan’s Culinary Summer

You may not have witnessed the subtle change at one of your visits to the conbini or the local supermarket yet, but Japan’s culinary summer has already begun. With food always being an indicator of seasons in Japan, it shouldn’t

Drunk on Cherries

(original photo by Reginald Pentinio; CC BY 2.0)

While you may have heard Japanese friends or acquaintances tell you about Japan’s “unique” four seasons, and while this may come as a surprise to some foreign visitors from countries that count the exact same number, the undeniable beauty of

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