Posts Tagged ‘Japanese culture’

May 23, 2012

Festivals take place year-round in Japan. If Tokyo is too fast-paced for your tastes, try visiting the surrounding prefectures.

life to reset

If there is one thing that best represent  Japan’s natural beauty, it has to be the highest mountain- Mt. Fuji.   The 3,766m symmetrical cone shaped mountain has inspired poet and artist for decades, where it was often depicted with the top- half covered in snow.

My first visit to the mountain was last year, during the hiking season where the  picturesque snow-capped was gone.  I was a bit sad to see the mountain on its “ordinary” state, so I promised to myself that on one fine day, I shall return to Yamanashi prefecture, to see the mountain on all its glory.

To view the mountain requires exceptional timing and preferably “sunny, clear” weather condition. So, I was checking out the weather forecast almost everyday, as I don’t want to waste a 3 hours commute to the unpredictable spring season.

Last Sunday was just the right day that I was waiting…

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Japanese Culture: Japanese Cuisine

March 23, 2011

Japanese cuisine (日本料理) has come a long way, spanning several periods in Japanese history.  In the Ancient Era, also known as the Heian Period (平安時代) (794-1185), the main meal choices were derived from Chinese cuisine.  Boiled, plain rice, also known as gohan or meshi, was and still remains the main staple of Japanese cuisine.  During this period, Japanese society went from a semi-sedentary, hunter-gatherer lifestyle to an agricultural society.  Meals began to include fish, jellyfish, octopus, and meat.

Japanese cuisine has come a long way, spanning several periods in Japanese history.  Changes in the lifestyle of the Japanese people, political change, and even Western influence have played a role in shaping Japanese cuisine.The start of the Kamakura period (鎌倉時代) in the 12th century also marked political change in Japan.  Military government became nobility which, in turn, changed the etiquette of dining, rather than the meal itself.  The menu of this era consisted of dried abalone, jellyfish aemono, pickled ume called umeboshi, salt and vinegar for seasoning, and rice.

The period after the Kamakura period marked the beginning of the modern era in Japanese cuisine.  Centuries of changes have boiled down to this finalized list of staple foods that makes up their cuisine.  Since many Japanese people are Buddhists, they do not eat meat, resulting in a cuisine that consists primarily of seafood although, in recent years, meat and chicken have made their way into Japanese cuisine.  Noodles, rice, and vegetables are essential components to every Japanese meal.  If you would like to try Japanese food in your own home, here is a recipe for Chicken Teriyaki, a common dish served in many Japanese households.


1/4 c. teriyaki sauce
1/4 c. water
1/4 c. white vinegar
1/8 to 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. ground ginger
2 chicken breast halves, skin and fat removed

Stir all ingredients, except chicken, together in a baking dish or pan.  Add chicken pieces and turn a few minutes to coat well.  With flesh side down in sauce, cover and bake at 375 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes.  Makes 2 servings containing 160 calories and 6 grams of fat per serving.

The video, below, shows you how to make sushi in eight easy steps.

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Joie Montoya

Japanese Culture: Japanese Festivals

March 18, 2011

Matsuri (祭) is the Japanese word for “festival” or “holiday”.  In Japan, it is often said that you will always find a festival going on somewhere.  Most Japanese festivals are derived from Chinese festivals.  However, some are so different from the Chinese festivals, you can hardly tell where they came from.  Festivals are usually sponsored by a local Shrine or Temple, though they can be held by other people, as well.  There are no specific days for festivals and holidays for all of Japan, as they vary throughout each region.  Japanese people do not celebrate the Chinese New Year, but instead celebrate the Western New Year, although Chinese residents in Japan still celebrate the Chinese New Year.

Japanese festivals take place throughout the year, ranging from shrine or temple-sponsored Buddhist festivals to more secular festivals that honor cherry blossoms or children.

Tōdai-ji Temple (東大寺) - Nara, Japan

The Sapporo Snow Festival (さっぽろ雪まつり) is a famous festival in Japan.  It is one of the largest festivals and is held in Sapporo (札幌市).  It occurs in the month of February for one week.  During this festival, around a dozen huge ice sculptures are made along with hundreds of other, smaller sculptures.  There are also some concerts held during this event.  Omizutori (or Shuni-e修二会) is a series of events held annually from March 1-14 at Tōdai-ji Temple (東大寺).   It is a Buddhist repentance ritual and has been held every year for over 1250 years.   It is one of the oldest Buddhist events in Japan.  Otaimatsu is the most famous and spectacular event that goes on during Omizutori.  There are many festivals and holidays that go on in Japan throughout the year.  Many involve traditional clothing, traditional food, fireworks, and floats.  These great festivals and holidays continue to be celebrated today.

Vlogger Ken Tanaka has made a great introductory video to what goes on at Matsuri on his YouTube channel.

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Taylor P.

Japanese Culture: The Art of Japanese Theater

March 15, 2011

Japanese theater has been around for centuries.  There are four main forms of Japanese theater; Noh (), Kyogen (狂言), Kabuki (歌舞伎), and Bunraku (文楽).  Kyogen was mainly used during intermission between Noh acts.  Noh was performed for the upper class.  Performers who had roles in Noh plays did not wear masks.  The most well-known form of theater is Kabuki, which, unlike Noh, combined music, drama, and dance.  The extravagance came in dressing up in crazy costumes and real-life sword fighting.  Bunraku is the Japanese term for “Puppet Theater”.  Puppet dolls were 3 to 4 feet tall and were handled by puppeteers.  The puppeteers who controlled the movement of the puppets had to wear all black while the main puppeteer who controlled speech wore colorful clothing.  Music played a large role in all types of Japanese theater.

Japanese theater has evolved over hundreds of years, from the formal, symbolic, and solemn 14th century Noh theater to the extravagant 16th century Kabuki theater.In modern theater, the Japanese adopted naturalistic acting and contemporary themes.  In the postwar period following World War II, many plays focused more on the developing history of Japan.  Western themes also made it to Japanese theater which was called, “Shingeki (新劇)”.  Some plays performed in this theme included the works of William Shakespeare such as “Hamlet” and “King Lear”.  Over the years, you can see how Japanese theater has changed and developed but one thing that has stayed the same is the Japanese peoples’ love for theater.

UNESCO has a video clip about Kabuki Theatre on their YouTube channel.

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Joie Montoya