Another festival season and summer is coming to an end. The dragonflies are out and the days are getting shorter, which means fall will soon be upon us.
But before the fireworks fizzle away and the festival food stalls have packed up for good this year, one area in Japan decided to go out with a bang and surprise festival-goers with superb portable shrine, or mikoshi, recreations of some of Japan’s most popular characters, including one famous red mobile suit from the anime classic Gundam.
Bonsai and sushi are two of Japan’s most well-known cultural exports with fans all over the world. But while Japan may cling to the traditional presentation of these two icons, globalization has taken these Japanese icons and turned them into something new. Not just happy with tiny trees and raw fish on top of vinegar rice, these cultural hybrids have evolved into something far beyond their origins in the Japanese archipelago. Click below to see some very creative bonsai as well as some food that really stretches the definition of “sushi.”
No matter what country you call home, there are always moments when you feel like a true citizen. For me, it’s when I’m sitting on the couch watching football (the American version) and eating chips (of the thinly sliced, wavy fried potato variety) and dip.
What about Japan? What makes Japanese citizens feel distinctly Japanese? My Navi News asked 1,000 of their members to tell them about a moment when they felt Japanese. Here are the results of their survey:
Japan’s premier naked festival, Sominsai (Somin Festival), was held this year on January 29 at Kokuseki Temple in Iwate Prefecture.
The name “naked” is somewhat misleading though, as participants are required to wear a fundoshi, a piece of white cloth which can best be descried as a traditional Japanese G-string. This scant clothing offers little protection from the blistering, below-freezing cold participants are expected to endure. Nevertheless, the toughest of men from across Japan come to test their mettle by trekking through grueling icy course from the temple to the river that’s cold enough to make you feel like you’re dying.
I know this because I took part.
That’s right, your fearless reporter put his life at risk to bring the experience of Kokuseki’s Sominsai to you, our beloved readers.
Christmas is less than two weeks away and I’m sure many of you in the Americas and Europe are looking forward to a (hopefully) relaxing day spent with family, good food and, of course, presents.
Here in Japan, Christmas seems to be getting bigger and bigger every year, but the flavor of the holiday is probably much different than it is abroad.
For example, Christmas was originally popularized here as a holiday for couples to have a special night out in the city: have dinner at a fancy restaurant, exchange gifts and then spend the night together ‘celebrating’ at a hotel.
While still viewed as ‘lover’s holiday’, Christmas has since spread to the household, with many families feasting on the now-traditional Japanese Christmas foods of cake and—thanks to an incredibly successful marketing campaign by KFC—fried chicken.
But for most Japanese families, the real holiday spirit is felt during the time around New Years. In fact, New Years is probably to Japan what Christmas is to America and other Western countries.
Need a little luck? You might be able to get it by using a Darumouse. A Darumouse is a combination of a computer mouse and a traditional Japanese round doll modeled after the founder of the Zen sect of Buddhism, Bodhidharma. Legend says that Bodhidharma sat on a rock for nine years in a quest to reach enlightenment. Because of sitting in one place for so long, his arms and legs became paralyzed and useless. Thus the doll, or “daruma” has no arms or legs. The daruma is considered to be a symbol of good luck in Japan. Read More