Flowers in Japan

Ceremonies of The New Year

kadomatsuThe New Year is the most special event of the year for Japanese. During the New Year’s Days, most of Japanese people believe that God of the Year (Toshigami-sama) is descending on each home. People wished to welcome the god with pure mind and to receive power.

The main of ceremonies in a New Year are :

Hatsumode : New Year’s first visit to a shrine to pray.

Kakizome : The first calligraphy of New Year. People write auspicious words or poems with a brush, wishing the improvement in their writing skill.

Hatsuyume : The first dream on New Year’s Day. People tell their fortunate omen for the year, judging from what they dream.

Nanakusa : on the 7th day, people remove all the new years ornaments and decorative pine branches which have been put up at the gate.

Kagamimochi/osonaemochi : Mochi (rice cake) which is offered to teh god of the year.

Ko-shougatsu : on the 15th day. New year according to lunar calendar. Pople put up events such as dondo-yaki and sagicho, which are the fire festivies to burn New Year’s ornaments.

Source : Japan, How We Breathe & How our Hearts Beat; New Millenium Network Corporation.

(Unique) Transportation in Japan

Here are some unique transportations in Japan. Most people don’t rely on private cars.

A bike for the elder child, connected to the baby car. One push for two passengers.

A bike for the elder child, connected to the baby car. One push for two passengers.

ichirinsha

Ichirinsha, one wheele bike. First - third grade of Japanese elementary students love to ride this.

Old people on a bike, white collar worker, students, without cars. There is only one car, usually used by housewives to deliver her family to the train stations nearby.

white haired man, white collar worker, students, without cars.

A train? Or a bus? usually available in a very wide park. Location : Kodomo no Kuni, Yokohama City (near Nagatsuta Station, Den En Toshi Line).

A train? Or a bus? usually available in a very wide park. Location : Kodomo no Kuni, Yokohama City.

Exercise Naturally Everyday

spedapayungNaomi Moriyama wrote on Japanese Women Don’t Get Old or Fat:

Talking about living so long and so healthy for most Japanese, food is not the only answer. Another factor is the automatic workout they get in their everyday lives. ‘The Japanese are in good health and in excellent shape’, announce Time Magazine in 2004 cover story, ‘How to LIve to be 100′. The reason is that they are in active people who incorporate plenty of incindental exercise into their days.

The older people of Japan are escpecially active. Makoto Suzuki, a professor at Okinawa International University, said, ‘As apposed to America, seniors in Japan do not have to purposedly go out and seek exercise –everyday life makes them more slim and heathy’. Along with nutritious eating habits, he noted, ‘It’s a winning combination’.

Take my family, for instance. Not only does my mother, Chizuko, crisscross the streets of Tokyo on foot all day, often dashing up and down flights of stairs, but at weekends she goes hiking in the mountains with her friends. Last summer, my parents took Billy and me on a hike up Mt. Takao, a 600-meter hill in a national park west of Tokyo. When we got 600-metre hill in nantional park west of Tokyo. When we got to the summit after a ninety-minute climb, my mother announced matter-of-factly, ‘I’m not tired at all!’

Like tens of millions of Japanese, my father, Shigeo, who is in his early seventies, gets around the neighbourhood on a basic old-fashioned bicycle. It’s not exactly a Lance Armstrong high-tech bike : in fact it’s a one-speed. He regularly bikes over to my sister’s house twenty blocks away to babysit his grandchildren. In turn, my sister, Miki, rides her bicycle all around town, sometimes with groceries in the front basket and one of my nieces, four-year-old Kasumi, or two-year-old Ayaka, riding in the child seat behind her. She often picks up my six-year-old nephew, Kazuma, from school in the same way – on the bike. Miki’s husband, Shiko, is even more active, because he’s in an exercise-intense line of work: he’s a leading instructor of classical Japanese dance and conducts dance classes around the country.

On narrow streets and pavements all over Tokyo, you’ll see businessmen doing their rounds on bicycles and women on bikes running errands and going grocery shopping. And what happens in Tokyo holds true thorughout the nation.

Lined up outside every train station in Japan, you’ll notice row upon row of parked bicycles that belong to commuters. One of them belongs to my uncle Kazuo, who is in his early seventies and commutes to Tokyo from a suburb. Rain or shine, every weekday you’ll see him leaving home and pedalling over to the station to park his bike and board the train, a dapper figure in his suit and tie. ‘What happens when it rains?’ I asked him. He gives me a broad grin : ‘Why, then I just hold the umbrella in one hand and the bike with the other!’

His wife, Yoshiko, swims everyday and is a scuba-diving buff. The simple act of taking the tube in Tokyo is itself a workout. The stations are sprawling, maze-like affairs, requiring lots of stair-climbing and walking between the different tube lines for transfer. In addition to ‘incidental’ everyday exercise, lots of Japanese are getting out there and deliberately working up a sweat.

Every morning in Tokyo at the crack of dawn, you’ll see a lean hundred-year-old man named Keizo Miura pounding the pavement for a power walk, before a breakfast of eggs and seaweed. At age ninty nine, he skied down Mont Blanc in the Italian Alps. “Older Japanese are remarkably healthy, doing things at their age that most youngsters couldn’t do,” the younger Mr. Miura told a visiting reporter doing a story on Japanese longevity. “People over sixty five here are climbing mountains, going to China to plant trees, travelling abroad to teach Japanese. It’s about diet, it’s about exercise, it’s about making the most out of long life.” ###

3 Proverbs that Describe Japanese Mentality

work3 Proverbs that Describe Japanese Concepts :

1. 以心伝心 ishin-denshin = shared communication that need no words.

2. 温故知新 onko-chishin = preserving and respecting doctrines and manners handed down from old times helps one understands the new.

3. 石の上にも三年 ishi no ue ni mo san nen = a cold stone becomes warm if one sits on it for three years. Difficult work or probleatic matters will eventually be settled if one perseveres.

:: 日本まるごと辞典。Kodansha International.

Hanko : No Signs but Stamps

hankoUnlike in Western countries, a signature is not legally binding in Japan. Withdrawal slips at banks, appications to government offices and all kinds of formal documents are stamped with a hanko (also called inkan) or seal, after the person’s name.

Hanko are made of wood, ivory, bone, crystal, stone or other material and are carved with the owner’s family name. They are usually with a red inked pad. Provided a document is correctly stamped, it is still legal even if someone else has written the name of the owner of the hanko.

People with common names can buy their hanko ready-made at a stationer’s, but when buying property or dealing with large amounts of money, it is necessary to use a hanko called jitsuin which has been officially registered at a government office. Also, it is only possible to withdraw money from a bank account by using the hanko stamped in the passbook when the account was opened.

For most minor transactions, however, people use an ordinary unregistered hanko called mitome-in. Among other things, this is used to stamp receipts for the delivery of express mail, registered mail and parcels, and to stamp documents at work to show that they have been circulated and seen. The hanko is used so often that life would be almost impossible without one.

Nowadays fixed hanko is available at 1 dollar shop, and usually the cheapest coasts about Y2.000 to make one as needed. In Japan, even an elementary school, should have their own hanko. 

:: Gen Itasaka, Gates to Japan : Its People and Society and Closer to Japan