Sunday, May 31, 2009

IH (Induction Heating)

My house has been using the IH (Induction Heating) cooking heater since 2004. When I was going to start cooking dinner tonight, suddenly it seemed broken. So I called the customer center by toll free call. Japanese toll free number starts from 0120. Their customer service is 24/7 but since it was Sunday, they only accept the appointment of repair. Tomorrow the service engineer will come to check.
Without having a gas oven, I could not cook a lot. Fortunately I bought salmon today, we could eat sashimi (刺身), raw fish, and leftovers from last night's dishes.
When there was blackout before, we could not use IH cooking heater once. This was the second time I felt inconvenience using electrical appliances.
I hope I can use them from tomorrow again!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

日帰り旅行(higaeri ryoko): One Day Trip

I went to one day trip to Koshuji(甲州路) today. Koshu(甲州) is the old name of Yamanashi (山梨) prefecture where is very famous for Mt. Fuji, fruits such as grape and peach, and wine. This was the all-expenses-paid trip by the supermarket where I go shopping every week. When I bought groceries the other day, they gave me an application blank, and I filled it out and put it into the application box. Several weeks later, I got a postcard that said "Congratulations! You won the trip to Koshuji." Therefore I decided to attend the trip.
The weather in the morning was not so good, but in the afternoon there came the sun. There are about 28 people in that trip, fewer than they expected because they changed the main schedule from visiting the grass cherry blossom festival (富士芝桜まつり) to the music box museum recently due to the bad influence of the weather. We visited 5 places such as the wine cellar, the pearl factory, Lake Kawaguchi (河口湖), Kawaguchiko Music Forest, and the herb garden after all.
We left around 6:30 am and came back around 7:00 pm.
The tour conductor was very young but his talk was very humorous and interesting, so were other attendants everywhere. So I enjoyed the trip.

Friday, May 29, 2009

こんにゃくの日(konnyaku no hi)

May 29 is konnyaku no ni (こんにゃくの日), Day of Devil's tongue, because of pun of 5.29 which is read 5 (kon) 2(nya) 9 (ku). It was established in 1989 by Zenkoku konnyaku kyodo kumiai rengokai(全国こんにゃく協同組合連合会, National Konjac Cooperative Association) because the planting of seed potato of Devil's tongue is done in May.
They say they are produced in Japan, China, Myanmar, and South Korea but they are circulated only in Japanese markets. In Japan 90% are produced in Gunma (群馬) prefecture, followed by Tochigi (栃木) prefecture and Ibaraki (茨城) prefecture. About 97% are produced in Northern Kanto (北関東) Area.
They are low calorie foods with full of dietary fiber, therefore they are very popular as diet food or healthy foods.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

花火の日(hanabi no hi): Day of fireworks

They say May 28 is hanabi no hi(花火の日), Day of fireworks. Hanabi (花火) literally means flower fire. In 1733 on this day, the first rocket was shot at the opening of the Ryogoku Big River (両国大川). This festival was held by the 8th Shogun Tokugawa Yoshimune(八代将軍徳川吉宗) for the first time to comfort the souls of victims of the famine and cholera the year before and to wish the evil spirit split.
During the summer time there are many fireworks festivals (花火大会: hanabi taikai) here and there in Japan. Many people wear summer casual kimono called yukata (浴衣) and go to see the festivals.
I have seen fireworks in foreign countries, but I really love Japanese fireworks festivals. I hope you have a chance to see them in the near future.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

百人一首の日(hyakunin isshu no hi)

They say today is hyakunin isshu no hi (百人一首の日), Day of one hundred poets, one poem each. On May 27, 1235, Fujiwara no Teika(藤原定家:1162-1241) who is a very famous poet in Japanese history chose 100 poems from 100 poets and made an anthology called Ogura Hyakunin Isshu(小倉百人一首). It also refers to the card game called karuta(かるた) which uses a deck composed of poems from the anthology. Karuta has been popular since the Edo period. There are many ways to play karuta. There are also karuta contests in many places throughout Japan.
The Hyakunin Isshu has been translated into many languages and into English many times since 1907.
Japanese people study these poems at schools and enjoy karuta in the new years. Even if they get older, they still remember some of 100 poems from the Hyakunin isshu.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

東名高速全線開通記念日(Tomei kosoku zensen kaitsuu kinenbi)

Today is the anniversary of opening the entire route of the Tomei Expressway (東名高速道路). In 1969 between Oimatsuda (大井松田) and Gotemba (御殿場) opened, consequently all the line from Tokyo (東京) to Nagoya (名古屋) opened. The name Tomei (東名) is an acronym consisting of two kanji characters. The first character to (東) refers to Tokyo (東京) and the second mei (名) refers to Nagoya (名古屋), which are the two major urban areas linked by the expressway.
The total length is 346.8 km. The Tomei Expressway is an important roadway. The average traffic density is 151,416,468 vehicles per year, and 414,840 vehicles per day. The toll fee revenue is yen 258,859,816,000 per year, and yen 709,205,000 per day.
There are 18 tunnels from Nagoya to Tokyo, and 11 tunnels from Tokyo to Nagoya.
The speed limit of the express way is usually 100km/h and partially 80km/h.
I am not sure the exact tolls, but they are considerably expensive compared to the highways in the USA.

Monday, May 25, 2009

食堂車の日(shokudo sha no hi):Day of Dining Car

They say May 25 is shokudo sha no hi(食堂車の日), Day of Dining Car. On May 25, 1899 the first dining car in Japan ran from Kyoto (京都) to Mitajiri (三田尻), now Hofu(防府) in Yamaguchi (山口). At that time the customers were supposed to be upper-class people, therefore they provided the western foods.
There used to be many dining cars, but the running time became shorter and shorter because of the high technology, there are fewer dining cars in Japan now.
The first dining car in the world ran in 1868 by the Chicago North Western Railway in the United States.
When traveling, the meals are one of the most important factors which make the travel good or bad. If you travel in Japan by railways, I would like to recommend you to try ekiben(駅弁), literally station lunch box. Each region has its unique ekiben. Some are very famous, others are not so famous. I hope you will find your favorites.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

初優勝(hatsu yusho): The First Victory

Today was the senshuraku (千秋楽) of ozumo natsu basho(大相撲夏場所), the last day of Summer Grand Sumo Tournament, which was held at the Ryogoku kokugi kan(両国国技館) from May 10th to 24th. Ozeki Harumafuji(大関 日馬富士) became the champion. This was the first victory for him. He is from Mongolia. The victory of Mongolian is the third after Yokozuna Asashoryu(横綱 朝青龍) and Yokozuna Hakuho(横綱 白鵬). As a foreign sumo wrestler, he became the 8th champion.
After 14 days, there were four possibilities of becoming a champion. Both Harumafuji and Hakuho became 14-1 today, and they had a championship match, and Harumafuji won. He is 185 cm tall, 126 kg, and 25 years old. He is said to be the lightest wrestler in makuuchi (幕内), the top division of professional sumo.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

キスの日(kisu no hi): Kiss Day

On May 23, 1946 the first Japanese movie that included a kiss scene was released. At that time it became a topic of "Kissing movie" and the movie theaters were full every day. The movies at that time were controled by the GHQ (General Headquarters), and they tried to democratize Japanese society through movies. Therefore they advised the director to include the kiss scene as a symbol of democratization.

Today is also day of Love Letter because May 23 is written as 5.23 and read as koi(5) bu(2) mi(3). Koibumi means love letter. The other reason was the movie "Love Letter" was released on May 23, 1998.

Friday, May 22, 2009

ガールスカウトの日(garu sukauto no hi):Day of Girl Scouts

They say May 22 is Day of Girl Scouts in Japan. In 1909, Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of Scouting, decided that girls should not be in the same organization as the boys, and the Girl Guides were founded in the UK in 1910. Internationally it is governed by the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts with member organizations in 144 countries.
In Japan the first Girl Scout was founded in 1919 and had the starting ceremony on January 30, 1920 with 12 members. However it was dissolved in 1942 at the war time once. It resumed the activity in 1947, and on May 22, 1949 the Girl Scouts of Japan was set up. There are about 1,500 groups and 53,000 members. They will celebrate 90 years of Girl Scouting in Japan next year in 2010.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

小満(sho man)

Today is sho man(小満), one of nijyushisekki(二十四節気), the 24 solar terms. Last one was rikka (立夏) on May 5, and the next one is boshu(芒種)on June 5.
Sho man(小満)literally means small full, acutually means the term when everything grows gradually and reaches at the certain size, or the term when the wheat which were seeded in the fall bear the ears and people feel relieved a little bit. The time when people earned the foods by cultivating fields, the amount of harvests was a matter of life or death. Therefore if the wheat bore the ears, people felt relieved a little bit to know that for the time being it seemed OK.

Sho(小) means small. Chu(中) means middle. Dai(大) means large. Tokudai (特大) means extra large.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

開港記念日(kaiko kinenbi): Anniversary of Opening Ports

They say May 20 is Anniversary of Opening Ports. One is Tokyo Bay. In 1941 both Shibaura (芝浦) and Takeshiba (竹芝) Piers were completed and designated to open as trading ports with foreign countries. Before that the trading of Tokyo depended on the Yokohama Port.

On May 20, 1978, Shin Tokyo Kokusai Kuko(新東京国際空港), the Narita International Airport was opened. It took 12 years to build the airport since the council decision of constructing the port in Sanriduka, Chiba(千葉県三里塚) in 1966, because there were strong objections from the local people.

The two Japanese big ports in Tokyo area were opened in the same day. What a coincidence!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

ボクシング記念日(bokushingu kinenbi): Boxing Anniversary

They say May 19 is Boxing Anniversary. On May 19, 1952 the boxer Yoshio Shirai (白井義男) fought flyweight world champion Dado Marino for the world flyweight title. It was the third time for them to fight. He won by 15 round decision, becoming the new world champion, and the first ever Japanese boxer to win a world title.
Along with the Nobel Prize winner in 1949, Dr. Hideki Yukawa(湯川秀樹), the world record swimmer in 1949 Hironoshin Furuhashi(古橋広之進), who was called "The Flying Fish of Fujiyama" in the American newspaper, he made the depressed Japanese people's mind lighten up.

Monday, May 18, 2009

国際親善デー(kokusai shinzen dei): International Goodwill Day

They say May 18 is kokusai shinzen dei(国際親善デー), International Goodwill Day. On May 18, 1899 the First Peace Conference (Hague Conference) was held in Den Haag, in the Netherlands by the suggestion of Nikolas II of Russia. 26 countries including Japan attended to the conference. In Japan it has been practiced since 1931.

Speaking of goodwill, I got a thank you letter today because I gave my Japanese used stamps to the person who likes collecting in the United States the other day. For me they were used stamps, but for others they are valuable. I am glad to have done so.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

世界電気通信の日(sekai denki tushin no hi): World Telecommunication Day

They say May 17 is the World Telecommunication Day, one of the international days. This was established by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in 1968 and has been celebrated annually since 1969, marking the founding of ITU and the signing of the first International Telegraph Convention in 1865.
ITU is the leading United Nations agency for information and communication technology issues. It is based in Geneva, Switzerland, and its membership includes 191 Member States and more than 700 Sector Members and Associates.

Thanks to internet I can communicate with friends who live in the other side of the world every day.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

旅の日(tabi no hi): Day of Travel

They say May 16 is tabi no hi(旅の日), Day of Travel. This was established in 1988 by the Nihon tabi no pen curabu(日本旅のペンクラブ), Japan Travel Pen Club.
320 years ago on this day, that is May 16, 1689 the most famous Japanese poet in the Edo era, Matsuo Bosho(松尾芭蕉) started off from Edo to the Tohoku (東北) and Hokuriku (北陸), northern part of Japan and reached Ogaki(大垣), in Gifu (岐阜). After 5 months travel of 2,500 km he completed the log of his journey and edited it for three years, writing the final version in 1694 as Oku no hosomichi(奥の細道), The Narrow Road to the Interior. They say the first edition was published posthumously in 1702 and it was an immediate commercial success and many other itinerant poets followed the path of his journey.

I like traveling and writing. I hope I can publish my travel journals someday too.

Friday, May 15, 2009

お祭り(o matsuri): Festivals

There are many festivals in Japan. Some are world-wide famous, others are only known to the local people.
In Kyoto there are three big festivals called Kyoto sandai matsuri(京都三大祭). They are Aoi Matsuri(葵祭), Aoi Festival on May 15, Gion Matsuri(祇園祭), Gion Festival through July, and Jidai Matsuri(時代祭), Jidai Festival in middle to late October.
In Tokyo there are also three great Shinto festivals. They are called Edo sandai matsuri(江戸三大祭). They are Kanda Matsuri(神田祭), Kanda Festival around May 15, Sanno Matsuri(山王祭), Sanno Festival on June 15, Fukagawa Matsuri(深川祭), Fukagawa Festival around August 15.
Today there was another famous festival called Sanja Matsuri(三社祭), literally Three Shrine Festival at Asakusa Jinja(浅草神社), Asakusa Shrine in Tokyo. This is held on the third weekend of every May. This attracts 1.5 to 2 million locals and tourists every year.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

温度計の日(ondokei no hi): Day of Thermometer

They say May 14 is ondokei no hi (温度計の日), Day of Thermometer, because it is the birthday of the German physicist Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit who invented the mercury thermometer and left the name of the scale of the thermometer. He was born on May 14, 1686.

According to Fahrenheit, water freezes at 32 degrees, and water boils at 212 degrees. He published this in 1724 and this scale is used in the USA, Canada, and England.
In Japan we use Celsius. According to Celsius, water freezes at zero degree and water boils at 100 degrees.

How about in your country?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

カクテルの日(kakuteru no hi):Day of Cocktail

They say May 13 is the Day of Cocktail because the word "cocktail" was born on May 13, 1806 for the first time on the American magazine Balance and Columbian Repository.

According to Wikipedia, "It stated that: Cocktail is a stimulating liquor composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters - it is vulgarly called a bittered sling and is supposed to be an excellent electioneering potion, inasmuch as it renders the heart stout and bold, at the same time that it fuddles the head. It is said, also to be of great use to a Democratic candidate: because a person, having swallowed a glass of it, is ready to swallow anything else."

What kind of alcoholic drinks do you like? I like cocktails.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

看護の日(kango no hi): Day of Nursing

The most famous nurse in the world history must be Nightingale. She was born in Florence Italy on May 12, 1820, so her given name is Florence.
To commemorate her today is World Nursing Day, Nightingale Day, and International Nurses Day in the world and kango no hi (看護の日), Day of Nursing in Japan.
Day of Nursing was established in 1991 by Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (now) and Nihon kango kyokai (日本看護協会), Japan Nursing Association.
International Nurses Day was established in 1965 by International Council of Nurses. Nightingale Day was established by the Red Cross.

Today I happened to find the memorial stamps of the 150th anniversary of the birth of the idea of the Red Cross issued on May 8, this year. One sheet of 10 stamps (2 designs) costs yen 800, but one sheet with a hard stamp book costs yen 1,500.

Monday, May 11, 2009

長良川鵜飼開き(Nagaragawa ukai biraki)

Ukai (鵜飼), the cormorant fishing at the Nagara River (長良川) in Gifu (岐阜) opens on May 11 every year. Ukai (鵜飼) is the traditional fishing way to catch ayu (鮎) using the trained u (鵜), cormorant. It has about 1300 years history.
The fishermen train the cormorants of younger than 2 years old and keep them for 15 to 20 years. To control the birds, the fishermen tie a snare near the base of the bird's throat to prevent the birds from swallowing larger fish, which are held in their throat. Fishermen put the bonfire at the bow of the boat, and ayu are attracted to the light. When a cormorant caught a fish in its throat, the fisherman brings the bird back to the boat and has the bird spit the fish. They catch about 40 ayu or carps in a day.
In Japan there 13 cities where the cormorant fishing are taken places. The most famous location is Gifu on the Nagara River. It will last every night from May 11 to October 15 except the full moon nights.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

命日(mei nichi)

Today is my mother's mei nichi (命日). Mei nichi (命日), literally means "life day" but actually means the anniversary of somebody's death. It's been 7 years since my mother passed away. I was in Europe when I heard that saddest news.

In Japan we have many memorial services after the death such as the first 7th day called shonanuka (初七日), the 49th day called shijyuku nichi (四十九日), the first year called isshuki (一周忌), the second year called sankaiki (三回忌), the seventh year, the thirteenth year, the seventeenth year, the twenty-third year, the twenty-seventh year, the thirty-third year, the thirty-seventh year, the fiftieth year, and the 100th year.

Today my father and I visited my mother's grave, we call this activity ohaka mairi (お墓参り).

Today is Mother's Day, in Japanese it is haha no hi(母の日). How I wish she is still alive!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

アイスクリームの日(aisu kurimu no hi):Day of Ice Cream

They say May 9 is the Day of Ice Cream in Japan. It was established in 1965 by Tokyo aisukurimu kyokai (東京アイスクリーム協会) now Nihon aisukurimu kyokai (日本アイスクリーム協会), Japan Ice Cream Association.
They had a memorial event on May 9, 1964 after the golden week and the beginning of ice cream season. Since that time May 9 became the day of ice cream.
In Japan the first ice cream was called aisukurin (あいすくりん) and said to be sold in Yokohama on May 9, 1869. It cost about yen 8,000 ($80) for one person. The production of ice cream at the factory started around World War I and when it became popular among the people was after World War II.
The first Japanese that ate the ice cream are said to be the delegation who went to the USA in 1860 such as Katsu Kaishu (勝海舟) and Fukuzawa Yukichi (福沢諭吉).

Friday, May 8, 2009

誕生日(tanjo bi):Birthday

May 8 is my birthday. I have some friends and acquaintances whose birthday is the same as mine. So let me say "Happy birthday!" In Japanese it is "otanjobi omedeto (お誕生日おめでとう)." If you want to say it politely, it is "otanjobi omedeto gozaimasu(お誕生日おめでとうございます)."

There are three times in a year when I feel the beginnings. One is New Year's Day, Jan. 1, the other is April 1 the start of the new fiscal or academic year, and another is May 8, my birthday. This is the start of another year for me.

Last year I was in the hospital... The year before my colleagues had a birthday dinner, and my host mother had a surprise birthday party, which I was moved a lot.

I have already received some birthday cards, e-greeting cards, presents and so on, which are very nice because I feel somebody in the world are thinking of me. Thank you very much!

The most famous person who was born this day may be Jean Henri Dunant in 1828. He is the founder of the Red Cross, therefore today is the World Red Cross and Crescent Day.
Coca Cola was also born on this day in 1886.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

コナモンの日(konamon no hi)

They say May 7 is konamon no hi (コナモンの日). What is konamon? It means something made of powder or flour. Kona (粉) is powder or flour, mon is the same as mono (物) which means things.
May 7 is written as 5.7, and read as 5 (ko) 7 (na). Therefore May 7 is the day of powder. It was establish in 2003 by Nippon konamon kyokai (日本コナモン協会),Nippon Konamon Association.  
The representative foods made of flour in Japan are udon(うどん), noodles, takoyaki(たこ焼き), octopus fritters, okonomiyaki (お好み焼き), a kind of pancake.
How about in your country?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

振替休日(furikae kyujitsu)

Today was a holiday because one of the national holidays fell on Sunday, the following day was supposed to be an extra holiday, but Monday and Tuesday were also holidays, therefore today became the extra holiday for Sunday. We call this furikae kyujitsu(振替休日), literally means transferred holiday.
Since this is the last day of the Golden Week, many people came back from foreign countries. In Narita Airport about 46,000 people returned only today. There the number of people on quarantine duty was increased to 280 about three times as usual to carry out checking the health of passengers of 38 flights from North America while they are still on board their planes because of the recent epidemic of the new H1N1 flu known as swine flu.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

こどもの日(kodomo no hi): Children's Day

May 5 is one of the national holidays in Japan. It is kodomo no hi (こどもの日), Children's Day. It was established in 1948.
It was used to be a boy's festival. It is also called tango no sekku(端午の節句). Families with boys display a helmet replica called kabuto (兜) inside the house and fly koinobori (鯉幟), carp streamers outside. The carp (鯉:koi) is thought to be a lucky fish symbolizing success in life. Special treats on this day are chimaki (粽), a rice dumpling wrapped in bamboo leaves and kashiwamochi (柏餅), a rice cake wrapped in a oak leaf with sweet adzuki bean paste inside(see the picture). Kashiwa (柏), oak leaves do not fall until the new buds come out, therefore this symbolizes the prosperity of the offspring.

In Japan the number of children has been decreasing since 1982 for 28 years straight. This year renewed the least number in the past. There are 17,140,000 children under 15 years old which is 110,000 less than last year. Boys are 8,780,000 and girls are 8,350,000. The percentage of children of all the population in Japan is 13.4% which is one of the worst rates in the world.

Today is rikka (立夏), the first day of summer. It is one of nijyushisekki (二十四節気), the 24 solar terms. The last one was kokuu (穀雨) on April 20 and the next one is shoman (小満) on May 21.

Monday, May 4, 2009

みどりの日(midori no hi)

May 4 is one of national holidays called midori no hi (みどりの日), Greenery Day since 2007. Between 1989 and 2006 midori no hi was on April 29 and May 4 was called kokumin no kyujitsu (国民の休日), National Holiday.
April 29 became Showa no hi (昭和の日), Day of Showa, since 2007 therefore May 4 became midori no hi instead.
Today we asked the gardeners to come to trim the trees and clean the garden. Three gardeners came. They were supposed to come around 8:30 am, but they came around 7 am. I was so surprised. What early birds they are! They finished working around 3:30 pm. We are not sure how much it would cost until the end of this month, but I am glad to see trees are good taken care of.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

憲法記念日(kenpo kinen bi): Constitution Memorial Day

May 3 is one of the national holidays in Japan. It is kenpo kinen bi (憲法記念日), Constitution Memorial Day. It became a holiday in 1948 in memory of the enforcement of the constitution on May 3, 1947.
The constitution consists of a preamble and 103 articles grouped into 11 chapters, and it is known as Peace Constitution.

Poland also has a constitution memorial day on May 3. Their constitution was made in 1791. It was the first modern codified constitution in Europe and the second in the world following the 1788 ratification of the United States Constitution.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

八十八夜(hachijyuhachi ya)

May 2 is hachijyuhachi ya (八十八夜), which literally means the 88th nights. Since when? It's been 88 days since risshun (立春), the first day of spring on Feb. 4.
It is the peak of tea picking. The new tea picked this day is said to be the best tea in the year.
Tea is one of the most popular beverages in Japan. There are many different tea such as sencha (煎茶), green tea, genmaicha (玄米茶),green tea with roasted brown rice, hojicha (ほうじ茶), roasted tea, maccha (抹茶), powdered green tea, gyokuro (玉露), best green tea and so on. Cha (茶) means tea. Green tea contains vitamin C and catechin which are good for your health. Green tea is drunk straight.
I hope you will try Japanese tea.

五月(go gatsu):May

The new month started. May is go gatsu (五月) in Japanese. We also call May as satsuki (皐月). The catch phrase of May is kaze kaoru go gatsu (風薫る五月), an early summer breeze in May. The birth stone is emerald (エメラルド).
May 1 is May Day (メーデー). It is not a national holiday in Japan. How about in your country?