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Thursday, December 16, 2010

クリスマス (kurisumasu) - Christmas

Suddenly, it seems to be well and truly that time of year again; with an abrupt cold snap announcing the start of 冬 (ふゆ - fuyu - Winter), everyone seems to be following Rudolph's lead. Despite Japan not celebrating クリスマス to any great extent, decorations are up in the shops and a lot of people seem to be getting into the spirit with wreaths hung on their doors and twinkling lights strung up across their balconies. At first glance things seem much the same here as at home, but let's park the sleigh and have a proper look at exactly what the silly season is like in Japan; I bet my fake beard there'll be a few surprises in store.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Places to visit in Hyogo 5: 淡路島 (あわじしま - Awajishima - Awaji Island)

Today we cross the bridge from 明石 (あかし - Akashi) to the small island on the other side of the strait. 淡路島, usually just known as 淡路 (あわじ - Awaji), is the southernmost part of 兵庫 (ひょうご - Hyogo), forming part of the long road over the bridges and down to 四国 (しこく - Shikoku). Many people only see it whipping past during their travels, but if you get off the highway and take the time to explore a little, I'm sure you'll find something to like. Let's hop off at the next exit and have a look around - there's more to it than just the expressway. In fact, if you believe the stories, it may well be the first part of Japan that was created.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

お中元とお歳暮 (おちゅうげんとおせいぼ - ochuugen to oseibo) - Mid-year and end of year gifts

Japan has always had a strong gift-giving culture that predates recent imports like バレンタインデー (barentain de-) Valentine's Day and クリスマス (kurisumasu - Christmas); お中元 (おちゅうげん - ochuugen - mid-year gifts) and the corresponding お歳暮 (おせいぼ - oseibo - end of year gifts) have been traditions since feudal times. They're sometimes known as Summer and Winter gifts, due to the arrival of お中元 just before 夏休み (なつやすみ - natsu yasumi - Summer holidays) and お歳暮 just as 冬 (ふゆ - fuyu - Winter) starts to bite. Wondering why that big box has arrived at your door days after you'd be expecting any クリスマス presents? Wonder no more - 'tis the season for giving, in more ways than one!