Category Archives: CULTURE

Junihitoe (special kimono) experience around Tokyo

I wrote about junihitoe (special kimono) experience on my another website. Send me a message if you are interested in trying this.

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Last week, I experienced wearing special kimonos. One is called junihitoe (十二単), multi-layered kimono for court ladies – this is still worn by imperial families on special occasions like their wedding ceremonies. Another one is Kariginu (狩衣), informal clothes worn by nobles when they went hunting in the old time.

Unlike normal kimonos, it is not really easy to have an opportunity to wear these clothes. This time, I had the luck to know a lady who mastered “emon-do (衣紋道)”, special dressing skills and manners to help someone wear this kimono, and she kindly invited me to experience this.

Not only just wearing these kimonos, I could learn how the nobles in the old  time behaved. For example, court ladies in junihitoe could not show their faces, ears and hands in front of people. They used a big fan to cover the face.

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Men could show their faces, but instead they had to cover…

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Nanakusa-gayu (rice porridge with 7 herbs) 2017 ver.

Happy New Year!

I would like to start this year’s blogging with the topic of nanakusa-gayu we eat on January 7. This is to pray for good health as well as to sooth our stomach by eating warm porridge after we eat a lot during the new year’s vacation.

As I introduced two years ago, the seven herbs are: water dropwort, shepherd’s purse, cudweed, chickweed, nipplewort, turnip and radish. They are called “haru-no-nanakusa (7 spring herbs)”.

This year, I got the assortment including red turnip and radish, which made the porridge look more colorful and fun.

Cook rice with five times the amount of water to rice. Boil and cut the herbs to add into the porridge. Serve with salt or soy sauce.

International Women’s Day and Japan

Although Google is running a nice campagin, almost no one on the street here is talking about International Women’s Day!! They seemed to be more interested in so-called “White Day” – Men receive chocolates from women on the Valentine’s Day and will give candies to women in return on March 14 (Yes, I know. It’s quite strange!) .

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Unfortunately, Japan is so much behind in gender equality.

The glass-ceiling index (2015): next to last among OECD countries

Gender Gap Index (2015): 101th place among 145 countries.

I love Japan, but I can’t deny these results. Actually, they reflect the realty. I really hope this situation will change!

 

 

Music of Okinoerabu Island, one of the Amami Islands in Japan

Globally speaking, most people will think of “tsugaru-jamisen” when they hear the word shamisen. However, tsugaru-jamisen is one of the styles born in the Tsugaru District in Aomori prefecture. There are many shamisen styles and schools in Japan.

Okinawan sanshin is also shamisen, it’s actually the ancestor of the shamisen of Mainland Japan. Although both Okinawan sanshin and Mainland shamisen have the same structure, they are very different in materials, playing methods, sound and tunes. The original sanshin was brought from the south part of China during the Ryukyu dynasty.

Sanshin is spread not only in Okinawa but also in Amami islands. Each community on each island has a different style of playing. My husband from Okinoerabu Island plays sanshin – acually it’s called “sanshiru” there – and just opened his website “Sanshiruko“. If you’re interested in it, please check it out!

Below, click and enjoy some of the sanshiru music! 😉

 

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To learn more, visit https://sanshiruko.wordpress.com/

Folk remedies for colds

In Japan, we say “Baka ha kaze o hikanai” which means a fool never catches a cold. I got a cold this Monday… So it’s proved I’m not a fool… but I prefer being a fool rather than being sick !

Let me introduce some folk remedies for colds in Japan on this occasion. Traditional examples are eating rice porridge, drinking sake-nog, wrapping a grilled green onion covered with cotton cloth around one’s neck etc… Today, many people like to take a sports drink or energy drink as well.

In the past, we were told not to take a bath when we catch a cold, but now it’s said it’s better to do so.

My favorite ones are: wearing lots of cloths, wrapping a towel around my neck, putting a instant hot pad between shoulder blades – there is an acupressure point effective for colds… and above all, eating “pucchin purin (popular pudding among kids)”. Usually I prefer more natural pudding. I don’t know why I feel like eating this only when I have a cold, but it seems it’s not only me. 

Do you have any special remedies for colds?

 

Setsubun – “Demons, go out. Lucks, come in!”

Today, Feburuary 3rd is Setsubun in Japan, which is considered to be the day before the start of spring. On this day, people throw / eat roasted soy beans to get demons out of the house and invite lucks inside the house. It is said that eating the same amount of beans as your age will bring you health and luck. Another traditional custom is to decorate holly leaves with grilled head of sardines – the edgy holly leaves and strong smell of the grilled sardines were believed to get the devils away.

So we (just) ate the soybeans and enjoyed simple “fuku-cha (lucky tea)”, hoping lots of lucks come in!

Recently, special rolled sushi for Setsubun called “Eho-maki” has become popular, yet actually it’s not an old tradition in most areas – it’s rather a new custom promoted by the food industry. I’d like to exlain this in more details on another occasion…

Happy Setsubun day!

Isobe-yaki (Baked mochi wrapped in Nori seaweed)

Mochi is one of the typical foods served during new year’s holidays. Still in many areas, they make mochi at the end of the previous year and use it as offerings to gods, eat it as zoni (special soup for the new year) etc. After new year’s holidays, lots of mochi tend to be left, and there are many mochi recipes. Among them, my favorite way to enjoy mochi is “isobe-yaki (or isobe-maki)” which is one of the most traditonal and popular recipes.

It’s quite simple. Just bake mochi in the oven till it gets soft and swollen, dip it in soy sauce and wrap it with nori seaweed.

Hatsumode: New year’s visit to a shrine

We went to Akasaka Hikawa shrine last weekend as hatsumode (new year’s visit to a shrine). This shrine is where we held our wedding ceremony.  Though located in the busy area of Tokyo, it’s very calm and we love it.

Torii, shrine gate.

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Temizuya (or chozuya) to wash hands and mouth for purification.

  

The gate of the shrine was decorated with two big pine branches.

Although it was already January 10th, the shrine was crowded.

After praying and getting ofuda (amulets) and omamori (good luck charms), we drew omikuji (randome fortunes). My luck this year was “Chukichi (middle blessing)”. Well, it’s not bad! I liked the advice written there.

Some people whose omikuji’s result was not good tie it to a branch of trees in the shrine precinct. We kept ours with us.

Amazingly, ume blossoms, a herald of spring were blooming already.

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New year’s soup in the Amami Islands

My husband and I were spending new year’s holidays at his parent’s home in Okinoerabu island, one of the Amami islands located between Kagoshima and Okinawa. These islands have unique cultures. When I was married, I was shocked to know how it was different from where I had grown, and he must have felt the same way too. It’s one of such differences that they don’t eat osechi in new year’s holidays. Instead, they have their own style of new year’s dishes called sangon-ryori (三献料理). According to some books and websites, it consists of three dishes. The first one is soup. Next sashimi follows (at his parent’s home, after this soup, grilled chicken and macaloni salad were served instead of sashimi). At last, different soup from the first dish (it depends on the areas and homes – at his place, miso soup with chicken and a wax gourda white gourd) is served.

This picture is the first soup my mother-in-law made. In clear soup, five or seven (considered to be lucky numbers) different ingredients are to be added.

Ingredients: broth (water, dried kelp, dried shiitake, dried bonito, salt and light colored soy sauce), round shaped mochi, boiled shrimps, cooked chicken (flavored with soy sauce and sugar), kamaboko (fish cake), boiled eggs and mitsuba.

Method:

  1. Make broth. Add dried kelp and dried shiitake in cold water and cook, take out the kelp and shiitake before the water is fully boiled. At the same time add dried bonito, turn off the heat and leave it for about 10 minutes. Strain the stock. *If you make one litter broth, use 10cm dried kelp, 5 pieces of dried shiitake, 50g dried bonito. Adjust the amount of salt and light colored soy sauce as you like.)
  2. Cook shiitake and chicken. Boil them in water flavored with soy sauce and sugar.
  3. Peel, clean shrimps and boil.
  4. Make boiled eggs and cut them in halves.
  5. Slice kamaboko.
  6. Prepare mitsuba. Cut and make a knot in the middle.
  7. Boil mochi.
  8. Put mochi in the bottom of the bowl and place the ingredients prepared in the processes (2)-(6). Then gently pour the broth.