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Friday, November 26, 2010

日本の四つの季節その3:秋 (にほんのよつのきせつそのさん:あき) - The Four Seasons of Japan 3: Autumn

秋 (あき - aki - Autumn) is widely considered the best season of the year in Japan, sharing a very comfortable temperature range with 春 (はる - haru - Spring). While is associated with the excitement of new beginnings, in some ways is much more subdued; it's a time to relax, reflect and enjoy the weather as it cools the scorching highs of 夏 (なつ - natsu - Summer). Having said that, 紅葉狩り (もみじがり - momijigari - Autumn leaf viewing, literally "maple hunting") is as big a deal as 花見 (はなみ - hanami - cherry blossom viewing) and when you start seeing whole hillsides turning blazing red, I'm sure you'll understand why.

Friday, November 19, 2010

七五三 (しちごさん - shichi go san) - 7-5-3

七五三 is a coming-of-age festival that takes place on or around the 15th of November every year. Children aged three, five and seven are taken to 神社 (じんじゃ - jinja - shrines) nationwide and offered blessings by the priests to ensure good fortune and longevity. What makes this most interesting to watch is that all the kids are dressed to the nines in 着物 (きもの - kimono) or Western-style suits for the occasion; they totter along beside their parents like little stunt doubles. On an otherwise fairly gloomy day at 生田神社 (いくたじんじゃ - ikuta jinja - Ikuta Shrine) in 三宮 (さんのみや - Sannomiya), all the bright colours were a very welcome addition.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Places to visit in Hyogo 4: 明石 (あかし - Akashi)

明石 is a waterfront city in 兵庫 (ひょうご - Hyogo) that sits between 神戸 (こうべ - Kobe) and 姫路 (ひめじ - Himeji). Like both of these cities, it's been considered a romantic place for a very long time and features extensively in old poems and literature. However, it's only a fraction of the size and population of 神戸 and its castle isn't nearly as impressive as the one in 姫路, so there's absolutely no reason to go there. If you believe that, I've got a bridge to sell you... and it's a big one.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Japaneats その7 - 鍋物 (なべもの - nabemono) - Hot pot

Japanese homes are generally not very nice places to be during the chilly nights of 秋 (あき - aki - Autumn) and 冬 (ふゆ - fuyu - Winter). Apartments in particular tend to have single-glazed windows and no roof space for insulation which means that most people rely on small heaters, air conditioners and 炬燵 (こたつ - kotatsu - tables with built in heaters) to ward off the cold. The last thing you want to do when you've got the room nice and warm is go and stand on the cold kitchen floor chopping vegetables, so why not just bring everything to the table? 鍋物 (literally "pot things") is the result - a one-pot meal that brings the whole family together (preferably where it's warm). It's branched out into a variety of different styles and is now enjoyed internationally throughout the year; I'll bet you've heard of some versions of it yourself.