Friday, July 31, 2009

土用の二の丑(doyo no ni no ushi): Second Day of Ox of Dog Days

Today was doyo no ni no ushi(土用の二の丑), the second day of ox of dog days. Doyo (土用) is 18 days before the first day of each season, but we usually means before autumn. There are twelve zodiac signs: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Hare, Dragon, Serpent, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Cock, Dog, Wild boar. Therefore depends on the year there are two days of ox (丑:ushi) during doyo. This year is the case. The second one is called ni no ushi(二の丑). Ni (二) means 2.
This year is the Year of Ox (丑年). Men who were born in the years of ox are called toshi otoko (年男), and women who were born in the years of ox are called toshi onna (年女). Toshi (年) means year, otoko (男) means man, onna (女) means woman. They become either 12 or 24 or 36 or 48 or 60 or 72 or 84 or 96 or 108, or 120 years old this year.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

明治最後の日(meiji saigo no hi): Last day of Meiji

In Japan, we use not only the western dating system but also the Japanese dating system. This year is 2009 in the western dating system, but it is also the 21st year of Heisei(平成) in Japanese calendar. We call this dating system nengo (年号).
Before Heisei, it was Showa (昭和), before Showa, it was Taisho(大正), and before Taisho, it was Meiji (明治).
Meiji period started on Jan. 25, 1868 and finished on July 30, 1912 when the Emperor Meiji passed away at the age of 61. He was the 122nd Emperor.
Between 1913 to 1926, July 30 became a holiday to commemorate the Emperor Meiji. But it has moved to Nov. 3 which is his birthday in Gregorian calendar since 1927. Now the day is a holiday called bunka no hi(文化の日), Culture Day.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

金メダル(kin medaru): Gold medal

Speaking of summer, sports is swimming. Now there is a big swimming event, the 13th FINA World Championships, in Rome.
Today a good news arrived. Koga Junya(古賀 淳也), 22 years old Waseda(早稲田) University student got the gold medal for Men's 100m Backstroke with the new Japan record of 52'26". Congratulations!!
This became the first gold medal for Japanese in this World Championships. He became the second gold medalist after Kitajima Kosuke(北島 康介) who became the champions in 2003 and 2007 for 3 times for the breaststroke. As for the backstroke, Suzuki Daichi(鈴木 大地) became the champion at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

暑中見舞い(shochu mimai): Summer greeting

It has been very hot and humid these days. In Japan people tend to send greeting cards twice a year. One is a new year's card called nengajyo (年賀状), and the other is a summer greeting card called shochu mimai (暑中見舞い).
The set phrase of the new year's card is shinnen akemashite omedeto gozaimasu(新年明けましておめでとうございます), A Happy New Year. And the fixed expression of the summer greeting card is shochu omimai moushi agemasu (暑中お見舞い申し上げます).
The special issued postcard for summer greeting is called kamomeru (かもめ~る). It has numbers at the bottom of the front, and they have a drawing in September. Shochu mimai is sent during doyo (土用), 18 days before the first day of autumn, risshu (立秋). After risshu, people send zansho mimai (残暑見舞い) instead of shochu mimai. Zansho (残暑) means the late summer heat. The stereotype of zansho mimai is zansho omimai moushi agemasu(残暑お見舞い申し上げます).

Monday, July 27, 2009

初優勝(hatsu yusho): First victory

Miyazato Ai (宮里 藍), 24 year old Japanese professional golfer won her first LPGA (Ladies Professional Golf Association) Tour at the 2009 Evian Masters (France Evian Masters GC 6,373 yard, par 72), shooting 14-under to tie Sophie Gustafson then beat on the first playoff hole. She became the 6th and the youngest Japanese woman to win the US tour. It's been 1256 days since her debut in the US tour on Feb. 16, 2006. Congratulations!!
She became the first high school professional golfer in October, 2003 in Japan. In Nov. 2004 her prize money reached yen 100,000,000.
Her brothers are also professional golfers. She started playing golf at the age of 4.

In Japan playing golf is very expensive. I miss Florida where I could play golf about $10!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

名古屋場所千秋楽(Nagoya basho senshuraku)

Today was the last day for the grand sumo tournament at Nagoya(名古屋). Yokozuna Hakuho(横綱 白鵬) became a champion by 14 to 1. This was his 11th victory. Since he became a yokozuna, grand champion on May 30, 2007 at the age of 22, this was his 8th victory in 13 grand sumo tournaments. This is the 9th record in the sumo history which is the same record as Akebono (曙) who retired in January 2001 had.
Hakuho is 192 cm tall, 151 kg, 24 years old, and from Mongolia. He respects the yokozuna Futabayama(横綱 双葉山) of Showa (昭和) era who won 12 times.
There are 6 grand sumo tournaments in a year, and four of them have finished. Hakuho only lost 3 matches among these four tournaments.

There are three prizes called sansho (三賞).
Kanto sho(敢闘賞), the fighting spirit prize was given to Shotenro (翔天狼), who is 189 cm tall, 154 kg, 27 years old from Mongolia. Gino sho(技能賞), the technique prize was awarded to Aminishiki (安美錦), who is 185cm tall, 144kg, 30 years old from Aomori (青森) prefecture. However nobody got shukunsho (殊勲賞), the outstanding performance award this time.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

隅田川花火大会(sumida gawa hanabi taikai): Fireworks festival at the Sumida River

There was the 32nd Sumida gawa hanabi taikai(隅田川花火大会), the fireworks festival at the Sumida River, which is one of the three biggest fireworks festivals in Tokyo. Hanabi (花火), literally means flower fire. This festival is held on the last Saturday of July every year from 19:00 to 20:30.
There are two sites where the fireworks were shot off and the contests which 10 companies attended. The first prize was awarded to Beniya Aoki enkaten(紅屋青木煙火店) for Hanabi Big Bang. They got yen1,000,000.
Usually 20,000 fireworks were shot off at this occasion, but this year there were 21,500 fireworks to promote the invitation for the Tokyo Olympics in 2016. There were 948,000 spectators. I watched the festival on TV.
Japanese fireworks festivals are so nice. Many people go to see them wearing summer casual kimono called yukata (浴衣). Many men wear jinbei (甚平) too.

Friday, July 24, 2009

河童忌(kappa ki)

Do you like Japanese literature? Do you know any Japanese writers?
July 24 is Kappa ki (河童忌), the death anniversary of Akutagawa Ryunosuke (芥川龍之介:1892-1927) who is one of the most famous short story writers of Taisho era (大正時代) in Japan.
He was named Ryunosuke (龍之介, literally Dragon son) because allegedly he was born in the Year of Dragon, in the Month of Dragon, on the Day of Dragon, at the Hour of Dragon.
He wrote about 150 short stories, and there is a book titled "Kappa (河童)" in his later works. Therefore his death anniversary is called Kappa ki (河童忌).
He committed suicide by overdosing the medicine at the age of 35. The reason was "vague uneasiness" according to his suicide note.
In 1935, his life long friend Kikuchi Kan (菊池寛) established the Japan's most prestigious literally award, the Akutagawa Prize (芥川賞:akutagawa sho) in his honor. The prize is awarded to the promising new writers semi-annually.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

ふみの日(Fumi no hi): Day of letter

July 23 is known as fumi tsuki fumi no hi(文月 ふみの日), Day of letter of month of letter. Old name of July is fumi tsuki(文月). 23 is read as fu (2) mi (3). Fumi(文) means letter. This day was established by old Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (now Japan Post Holdings) in 1979. Every 23rd of the month is also called fumi no hi(ふみの日), Day of letter. However on July 23, the memorial stamps are issued every year.
In Japan the postage for a post card is yen50 and envelop up to 25g is yen80. The Postage for international post card for airmail is yen70 and for seamail is yen60 for all over the world. I feel this is quite cheap.
The postage for envelops are different according to the region. For the first area (Asian countries) up to 25g it is yen90, for the second area (Oceania, Middle East, North and Central America, Europe) it is yen110, and the third area (Africa and Latin America) it is yen130.
I like to use the memorial stamps when I send cards and letters.

Today is also taisho (大暑:literally big heat), one of nijyushisekki (二十四節気). Last one was shosho (小暑) on July 7, and the next one is risshu (立秋) on August 7.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

皆既日食(kaiki nisshoku): The total eclipse of the sun

So many Japanese people were looking forward to July 22, 2009 because the total eclipse of the sun would happen after 46 years since July 21, 1963.
They say the total eclipse happens once in a year or two somewhere in the world. However it is very rare like once in a hundred years that happens in the same place.
In the southern islands they could see the total eclipse of the sun today for more than 6 minutes. But in the Akuseki island (悪石島) where it was expected to happen for 6 minutes 25 seconds which was supposed to be the longest time in the manned islands of Japan, it rained heavily, and they could not watch.
In the Kanto area 75% of the partial eclipse was expected, however, unfortunately it was also raining or cloudy.
In Japan the next time will be on September 2, 2035 in the Hokuriku (北陸) and Kita Kanto(北関東) area. So there won't happen for the next 26 years in Japan.
I hear there will be in Easter Islands on July 11, next year.

I hope I will witness the total eclipse of the sun, see the black sun and take a picture of the Diamond Ring by myself someday.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

神前結婚記念日(shinzen kekkon kinenbi)

They say July 21 is Shinzen kekkon kinenbi(神前結婚記念日), the anniversary of wedding according to Shinto rites. The first wedding according to Shinto rites was held on July 21, 1900 at Hibiya dai jingu(日比谷大神宮), now Tokyo dai jingu(東京大神宮). There were two couples got married there on that day. Before that Japanese people got married at their homes.
There are mainly four ways of wedding ceremony in Japan: Shinzen shiki(神前式:Shinto way)at the Shinto shrines, Butsuzen shiki(仏前式: Buddhist way) at the Buddhist temples, Kirisuto kyo shiki(キリスト教式: Christian way) at the churches, and Jinzen shiki(人前式: in public way) in front of people.
According to the statistics of 2008, 64% were Christian way, 18% was Shinto way, and 16% was in front of people. 35% conducted the ceremony and reception at the hotels and 28% did at the wedding ceremony halls.
Many couples choose a lucky day for wedding called taitan (大安) when they get married. I think there will be many weddings on August 8 this year, because it is taian, Saturday and the number eight is very auspicious.

Monday, July 20, 2009

海の日(umi no hi): Marine Day

Today is one of the national holidays called umi no hi(海の日), Marine Day. It was declared a national holiday in 1995 and first observed on July 20, 1996. However in 2003 the Happy Monday System was introduced and the holiday was moved to the third Monday of July. Therefore we have a three day weekend in July.
This is the day to thank for the blessings of the oceans and to hope for the economic prosperity of maritime Japan.
Before 1996, it was known as umi no kinenbi(海の記念日), Marine Memorial Day, but not a holiday. It was established in 1941 to commemorate the Meiji Emperor's (明治天皇) coming back to Yokohama from Tohoku not by the warship but by the lighthouse patrol steamboat Meiji maru(明治丸).

Sunday, July 19, 2009

土用の丑(doyo no ushi)

Today is doyo no ushi no hi(土用の丑の日), Day of Ox of Dog Days. Doyo (土用) means 18 days before the first day of each season by the old calendar. Therefore there are 4 doyo in a year, but usually it means the 18 days before the first day of autumn called risshu (立秋) by the old calendar.
In Japan the calendar is composed of a combination of jikkan (十干) or ten calendar signs and junishi(十二支) or twelve zodiac signs. Jikkan are Kinoe (甲), Kinoto (乙), Hinoe (丙), Hinoto (丁), Tsuchinoe (戊), Tsuchinoto (己), Kanoe (庚), Kanoto (辛), Mizunoe (壬), Mizunoto (癸). Junishi are Ne (子:rat), Ushi (丑:ox), Tora (寅:tiger), U (卯:hare), Tatsu (辰:dragon), Mi (巳:serpent), Uma (午:horse), Hitsuji (未:sheep), Saru (申:monkey), Tori (酉:cock), Inu (戌:dog), I (亥:wild boar).
At sixty years of age, the sexagenarian cycle is completed and we return to the zodiac sign of the birth year, therefore we celebrate the 60th birthday wearing a red vest meaning returned to the baby. Red is aka (赤) in Japanese, and we call babies aka chan(赤ちゃん). 60th birthday is very special and called kanreki (還暦), literally return calendar.
Today is day of ushi (丑) in the period of doyo(土用). We call this day doyo no ushi no hi(土用の丑の日).
On this day we have a custom to eat unagi (うなぎ), eel, which started in the Edo (江戸) period .

Saturday, July 18, 2009

三連休 その3(san ren kyu sono san) 

Next Monday is a national holiday, therefore we have three day weekend. I think this is the third time in this year. First was from Jan. 10 to 12 for Coming of Age day weekend. Second was from March 20 to 22 for Vernal Equinox Day weekend.
In October there will be another one from Oct. 10 to 12 for Physical Education Day weekend. In November there will be another from Nov. 21 to 23 for Labor Thanksgiving Day weekend.
Besides this in September there will be five days weekend from Sep. 19 to 23 for the combination of Respect-for-the-Aged Day and the Autumn Equinox Day weekend. In May we had also five days weekend called "Golden Week."
We have not had this long weekend before 2000. In 2000 the Coming of Age Day was changed from Jan. 15 to the second Monday of January, and Physical Education day from Oct. 10 to the second Monday of October. In 2003 Marine Day was changed from July 20 to the third Monday of July, and Respect-for-the-Aged Day from Sep. 15 to the third Monday of September. We call this "Happy Monday System."
There are pros and cons regarding this system. But generally speaking we like a long weekend.

Friday, July 17, 2009

長寿更新(choju koshin): Renewal of longevity

The average life expectancy of Japanese people are 86.05 years for women and 79.29 years old for men in 2008 statistics. Both are the highest records for 3 years straight. Women became the No. 1 in the world for 24 years straight. Men became 4th from 3rd of last year.
Internationally, for women No. 2 was Hong Kong at 85.5 years, No. 3 was France at 84.3 years. For men No. 1 was Iceland at 79.6 years, No. 2 was Hong Kong and Switzerland at 79.4 years. In any case women seem to live longer than men.
The most possible cause of death is cancer for both men and women, men for 29.98% and women for 20.49%. The probability of death by three biggest causes (cancer, heart disease, stroke) are 55.14% for men and 52.36% for women. If the three biggest causes of death will be overcome, men will live 8.10 years longer, and women 7.00 years longer.
I don't think the length of life is so important as the quality of life. But I hope those whom I love will live well as long as possible.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

駅弁記念日(ekiben kinenbi)

Do you like traveling?
I like traveling. When I travel in Japan, one of the pleasures is meal. If you take a train, many station have their own special lunch box. They are called ekiben (駅弁), literally station lunch.
They say today is the anniversary of ekiben. On July 16, 1885 when the Japan Railway Tohoku main line was opened, the first ekiben was sold at the Utsunomiya (宇都宮) station, in Tochigi (栃木) prefecture. There were two rice balls called nigirimeshi (握り飯) and pickles called takuan (たくあん) wrapped by the peel of bamboo. They cost 5 sen (五銭).
Even today, rice balls are very popular lunch items when we go hiking. Rice balls are usually called onigiri (おにぎり). Inside the rice you can put various ingredients such as pickled plum, roasted cod roe, salted salmon, salted kelp and so on as you like. They are usually wrapped with nori (海苔), laver.
You can eat them with your hands.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

芥川賞(akutagawa sho)・直木賞(naoki sho) : Akutagawa Award, Naoki Award

There are very famous awards in literature world in Japan. One is Akutagawa sho (芥川賞), the Akutagawa Award which is in honor of the famous writer Akutagawa Ryunosuke (芥川龍之介:1892-1927) and the other is Naoki sho (直木賞), the Naoki Award which is in honor of Naoki Sanjyugo(直木三十五:1891-1934). They are chosen twice a year. There was the announcement of 141st awards' winners tonight.
The Akutagawa award will be given to Mr. Isozaki Kenichiro(磯崎憲一郎), 44 years old businessman at the famous trading company, Mitsui Bussan(三井物産). The title is Tsui no sumika(終の住処), The last place to live.  This was the second nomination for him.
The Naoki award will be given to Mr. Kitamura Kaoru(北村薫), 59 years old expert writer. He used to be a high school teacher and debuted in 1989. The book title is Sagi to yuki(鷺と雪), Heron and Snow. This was the 6th nomination for him.
There will be the award ceremony on August 21. Both of them will receive yen 1,000,000 for prize. Congratulations!!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

梅雨明け(tsuyu ake): The rainy season is over

The rainy season of Kanto koshin(関東甲信) area is over today July 14. It was 6 days earlier than usual and 5 days earlier than last year. The beginning of the rainy season in Kanto area was around June 10 when was 2 days later than usual. In Shinshu (信州) the rainy season period was 34 days, which is 8 days shorter than usual and 17 days shorter than last year.
Besides Kanto koshinarea, the rainy season has already finished in Okinawa (沖縄), Amami (奄美), and Southern Kyushu (九州南部). Usually the rainy season is over from the south and west area. But this year Kanto area was earlier than western Japan and Tokai (東海) area. So Kanto was the first area in Honshu (本州), main islands this year.
Tokyo has already experienced three sweltering nights when the temperature does not go down below 25 degrees centigrade. In the daytime it went up to nearly 30 degrees centigrade today.
Summer has come!

Monday, July 13, 2009

日本標準時制定記念日(Nihon hyojunji seitei kinenbi): Anniversary of Japan Standard Time

They say July 13 is the anniversary of Japan Standard Time. In 1886 on this day, the No. 51 order that set 135 degree East longitude is Japan Standard Time and that would be enforced from January 1, 1888 was issued. The name of the city of standard time is Akashi (明石), Hyogo (兵庫) prefecture.
There is only one time zone in Japan. We do not practice summer time. We used to practice daylight saving time from 1948 to 1952 though.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

名古屋場所(Nagoya basho)

Ozumo Nagoya basho (大相撲名古屋場所), or July Grand Sumo Tournament has just begun. There are 6 Grand Sumo Tournaments in a year: January, March, May, July, September, and November.
July Tournament is held in Nagoya, Aichi(愛知). Therefore this tournament is also called Nagoya basho, literally Nagoya place.
I have lived in Nagoya from March to September in 2005 when there was Expo 2005. I have worked at the Andean Amazonian Pavilion of Expo 2005. This was the second Expo for me after Expo '92 in Seville, Spain.
Expo is like a miniature world. There are so many people from so many different culture and places. I have made many friends there and I still have contacts with some of them. Experiences and friends I had there are my treasure forever.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

世界人口デー(sekai jinko de): World Population Day

They say July 11 is World Population Day, one of the international anniversaries. It was established by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)in 1989 to commemorate that the world population reached 5,000,000,000 on July 11, 1987.
As of July 11, 2009 the Earth's population is estimated by the United States Census Bureau to be 6.77 billion. Milestones are 1 billion in 1802,2 billion in 1927, 3 billion in 1961, 4 billion in 1971, 5 billion on July 11, 1987, 6 billion on October 12, 1999, 6.66 billion on May 1, 2008.
In 2025 it is estimated to reach 8.5 billion and 9 billion by the year 2040.
Asia accounts for over 60% of the world population with almost 3.8 billion people.
Life expectancy is about 80 years. During this 80 years, how many people can you imagine you could meet? Thinking of this, if you meet somebody and relate somehow, this is a kind of miracle of one 6.77 billionth. I would like to express the appreciation for every meeting in my life.

Friday, July 10, 2009

納豆の日(natto no hi): Day of Natto

They say July 10 is natto no hi(納豆の日), Day of Natto. July 10 is written as 7.10 which is read as na (7) to (10), therefore it is the day of natto. This day was established by Kansai natto kogyo kyodo kumiai (関西納豆工業協同組合), Kansai nattoindustry cooperation in 1981 to increase the consumption of natto in Kansai area because natto is not so popular in Kansai area as in Kanto (関東) area. Later in 1992 Zenkoku natto kyodo kumiai rengokai(全国納豆組合連合会), Japan natto cooperative society federation made it as a national anniversary.
Do you know natto? Nattois made from fermented soy beans with natto fungus. It has a unique smell and is very sticky. The more you stir natto, the more sticky it becomes. We usually add chopped green onions, soy sauce, mustard and mix them, and eat with steamed rice. I like to add chopped tuna and ground yam. They are very healthy and delicious.
However because of the strong smell, most of foreigners find it difficult to eat.
Mito (水戸) is the most famous natto production place.
I hope you have a chance to try natto.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

ほおずき市(hozuki ichi): Chinese Lantern Plant Market

There is a very famous temple in Asakusa (浅草), Tokyo. It is called Senso ji(浅草寺). There are annual events there. One of them is called hozuki ichi(ほおずき市), Chinese Lantern Plant Market which is held on July 9 and 10. The Market opens at 8 am and closes around 9 pm.
Especially July 10 is called shiman rokusen nichi(4万6千日), 46,000 days. If you visit the temple on July 10, it corresponds that you have visited the temple 46,000 days which is about 126 years. Therefore many people try to visit the temple on this day. This tradition has nearly 300 years history.
There are more than 200 street stalls selling Chinese lantern plants (see the picture). One pot plant costs yen2,500. About 400,000 or 600,000 visitors are expected to come to this festival every year.
This is one of Japanese summer event.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

那覇の日(Naha no hi): Day of Naha

They say today is Day of Naha. Why? Because July 8 is written as 7.8 and they are read as na (7) ha (8). Naha is the name of the seat of the Okinawa (沖縄) prefectural government. Okinawa is the southwest and the westernmost prefecture in Japan.
The land area is 2,275.94 square kilometer. Population is 1,381,116 people as of May 1, 2009. The rate of the population under 14 years old is the highest in Japan. This is the only prefecture that younger (under 14 years old) people are more than older (over 65 years old) people.
There are many islands and they belong to the tropical zone. This is the only prefecture that does not have a first-rate river.
Okinawa is very popular for sightseeing places and beautiful beaches. There were 5,153,200 visitors in 2004.
I hope you will have a chance to visit there someday.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

七夕(tanabata): The Star Festival

July 7 is known as tanabata (七夕: literally seven evening), the star festival. According to the Chinese legend, Altair (彦星 Hikoboshi: the star of the herdsman) and Vega (織姫 Orihime: the star of the weaver-princess) that are the separated couple by the Milky Way are allowed to meet once a year on this day.
In Japan people generally celebrate this day by writing the wishes on tanzaku (短冊), small pieces of paper and hanging them on bamboo trees with other decorations. The bamboo trees with decorations are often set afloat on a river after the festival.
The most famous tanabata festival in Japan must be in Sendai (仙台). They celebrate the day in the old luner calender from August 6th to 8th.

Today is shosho (小暑 literally means small hot), one of nijyushisekki (二十四節気), the 24 solar terms. This is the beginning of summer heat. The last one was geshi (夏至) on June 21 and the next one is taisho (大暑) on July 23.

Monday, July 6, 2009

ウィンブルドン:Wimbledon 2009

I watched the Men's final of Wimbledon 2009 on TV last night. The match between the Swiss Roger Federer (27) and American Andy Roddick (26) lasted for 4 hours and 16 minutes. After four sets of 5-7, 7-6, 7-6, 3-6, the final set was 16-14. There were 30 games in a set, and 77 games in total! Only 5th set alone lasted for more than 1 hour and a half. This is the historical game.
It was the 6th victory for Federer after 2 years in Wimbledon, and 15th victory for the Grand Slam title which was the new record beating Pete Sampras' 14 victories. He got 50 aces in this game.

Ladies games were also impressive. I am glad that Kimiko Date Krumm (クルム伊達公子) who has the same kanji character in the name with me participated in the game after 13 years. Singles final was a sister match of the Williams.

Last summer when I visited Wimbledon, the center court was under construction. In the 123 years of the history, this season was the first time to have the roof on the center court. I hope to visit there someday again to see the game.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

二十三回忌(nijyusan kaiki)

In Japan if you are a Buddhist, after somebody's death there are memorial services in one year later (isshuki:一周忌), two years later (san kaiki:三回忌), seven years later (nana kaiki:七回忌), thirteen years later (jyusan kaiki:十三回忌), seventeen years later (jyunana kaiki:十七回忌), twenty-three years later (nijyusan kaiki:二十三回忌), twenty-seven years later (nijyunana kaiki:二十七回忌), thirty-three years later (sanjyusan kaiki:三十三回忌), thirty-seven years later (sanjyunana kaiki:三十七回忌), fifty years later (gojyu kaiki:五十回忌), and one hundred years later (hyakkai ki:百回忌).
Today there was the biggest nijyusan kaiki (二十三回忌), twenty-third death anniversary in the Yoyogi National Stadium in Tokyo. The deceased is the most popular actor of Showa(昭和) era, Ishihara Yujiro (石原裕次郎), who is the younger brother of the Governor of Tokyo, Ishihara Shintaro (石原慎太郎). He died of liver cancer on July 17, 1987 at the age of 52. In his thirteenth death anniversary, there gathered more than 250,000 fans to the nearest station of his grave temple. To prevent the inconvenience of the neigborhood, his company Ishihara Pro decided to hold the ceremony at the National Stadium which capacity is more than 60,000 people. Inside the stadium they built the temple of 17 meters high by 50 meters long with 78 meters table of offering flowers. There attended 160 priests. From 6:40 AM to 10:00 PM there came more than 116,862 fans.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

独立記念日(dokuritsu kinen bi): Independence Day

Fourth of July is a federal holiday in the USA commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, declaring independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain. Happy 233 years old birthday to the USA!
They say it was July 4, 1584 that an English explorer Walter Raleigh landed on Virginia to pioneer the North America.

Last year I was in Delray Beach, Florida, and went to see the fireworks at the beach. Since it was raining, the duration was rather shorter than usual.
The year before last I was in Hagerstown, Maryland to spend the July 4th weekend and went to see the fireworks festival which started around 9:30 PM. In Japan fireworks festivals usually start around 7:00 PM, so I was surprised about the time.
How do you spend July 4th weekend?

Friday, July 3, 2009

国民栄誉賞(kokumin eiyo sho): People's Honour Award

In the afternoon of July 1 there was an awarding ceremony of kokumin eiyo sho(国民栄誉賞), People's Honour Award at the prime minister's official residence. The recipient of the prize is an actress Mori Mitsuko(森光子), 89 years old. She is the 17th winner of the prize and the first incumbent actress and the oldest to get the prize.
On her 89th birthday, May 9, this year she made a record of 2000 performances of her life work stage Horoki (放浪記), Record of Wanderer. Her first appearance on this stage was October 1961. For more than 47 years she has been a leading actress of that show. On the last day of performances this year on May 29, her People's Honour Award winning was decided. Next year on her 90th birthday she will play the drama too. And she hope to keep acting for the 50th year anniversary in the year after next.
This award does not include the prize money, instead, she received the certificate, the shield, and the memorial goods. She chose the Omega constellation watch (yen577,500) as the gift from the list.
This award has started since September 1977 and the first winner was the professional baseball player Oh Sadaharu(王貞治) for the world record for home runs (868 home runs).

Thursday, July 2, 2009

半夏生(han ge sho)

Han ge sho (半夏生:literally half summer live) is one of zassetsu (雑節) the miscellaneous solar terms in Japan. It is the term around when the medicinal herb named hange (半夏) or karasu bishaku (烏柄杓), crowdipper grow. This day was used be on the 11th day after geshi (夏至), the summer solstice, but nowadays it is the day the sun passes on the 100 degrees of the ecliptic longitude and it falls around July 2.
For farmers this is an important turning point. Depends on the regions farmers finish the farmwork by this day and take 5 days off. On this day it was said to fall the Mephitis from the sky, and people used to cover the wells to avoid them.
In Kansai (関西) area they have a custom to eat octopus, in Sanuki (讃岐) they eat udon (饂飩) noodle, and in Fukui (福井) they eat grilled mackerel on this day.
The rain falls around this time is called han ge ame(半夏雨), and it tends to rain heavily.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

七月 (shichi gatsu): July

A new month has just started. July is shichi gatsu(七月) in Japanese. Its old name is Fuduki or Fumiduki (文月), literally letter month.
July 1 is known as Fujisan yamabiraki (富士山山開き), the opening of the Mt. Fuji (See the picture) to climbers. The most popular period for people to hike up Mt. Fuji is from July 1 to August 27 while huts and other facilities are operating. Mt. Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan. Its height is 3,776 m or 12,388 ft. Some people climb the mountain at night in order to be in a position at or near the summit when the sun rises. We call this sunrise goraiko (御来光).
I have climbed Mt. Fuji once in the summer of 1984. For me once is enough but some people climb there every year.
Mt. Fuji is surrounded by five lakes: Lake Kawaguchi (河口湖), Lake Yamanaka (山中湖), Lake Sai (西湖), Lake Motosu (本栖湖), and Lake Shoji (精進湖). We call these lakes Fuji go ko (富士五湖).
The area is a national park called Fuji Hakone Izu Kokuritsu koen (富士箱根伊豆国立公園). I hope you will have a chance to visit there someday.