Thursday, December 31, 2009

大晦日(o misoka): New Year's Eve

New Year's Eve is omisoka (大晦日) in Japanese. There are some customs to do on New Year's Eve. We clean the whole house to welcome the new year.
At night we eat toshikoshi soba (年越しそば), New Year's Eve Buckwheat Noodles. Toshikoshi (年越し) means crossing over from one year to the next, soba (そば) is buckwheat noodles. People eat long thin toshikoshi soba, hoping for the long healthy life of the whole family in the coming year. This custom started in the middle of the Edo era.
Just before the new year the temples start ringing their bells for 108 times. This is called jyoya no kane (除夜の鐘). There are some theories why they ring 108 times, but the most popular one is 108 symbolizes the casting away of 108 earthly desires called bonno (煩悩).
There are many special TV programs. One of them is kohaku uta gassen(紅白歌合戦), Red vs White singing contest by NHK. Popular singers split into two teams, women in the red team and men in the white, and compete. This year was the 60th anniversary and the white team won.
After that there is a program titled yuku toshi kuru toshi(ゆく年来る年), going year and coming year. It covers the midnight celebrations of the country.
I hope you will have a chance to spend the new year in Japan someday.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

取引所大納会(torihikijo dainokai): The last session of the year

There was the last session of the year at the Tokyo Stock Exchange today. This is called dai nokai (大納会), literally means big closing meeting. On dai nokai only half session has been held until last year, but from this year the session lasted for all day long.
On this occasion, the key person of the year is invited as a guest and rings the bell of ending. This year's guest was the professional golfer, Ishikawa Ryo (石川遼) who became the youngest prize winner.
This year's closing price was yen 10,546 which was yen 91.62 cheaper than yesterday, but yen 1,686.88 higher than last year. It's been 3 years since the stock price ends by exceeding the one of the previous year. The upturn rate of the year was 19%.
The first session of the year is called dai hakkai (大発会) and held on January 4. On this day usually young ladies attend the meeting with beautiful kimono.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

帰省ラッシュ(kisei rasshu): Returning home rush

The year-end holiday has just begun for most people, and those who live apart from the family have started going home today. The peak of going back home will be tomorrow, and the returning rush is expected on January 3. Airports, trains, and the express high ways will be crowded here and there.
The things to be done at the end of the year are: writing new year's cards (年賀状:nengajo), cleaning the whole house, and cooking for the new year.
If you post new year's cards by December 25, they will be delivered on the New Year's Day (元日:ganjitsu).
Cleaning the whole house is called osoji (大掃除). After cleaning, we decorate the new year's decoration called oshogatsu kazari(お正月飾り) at the gate, the door, the alcove, the car, and so on.
New year's foods are called osechi ryori(お節料理). They are beautifully arranged in lacquer boxes called jyubako(重箱). Many of the delicacies inside have special meanings celebrating the New Year.

官公庁御用納め(kan ko cho goyo osame): The last work day of the year at government offices

In 1873 the holidays of the public offices of the end of the year and the beginning of the year were fixed from December 29 to January 3 by law. Therefore December 28 is the last work day of the year. It is called kankocho goyo osame(官公庁御用納め) or kancho shigoto osame(官庁仕事納め). Kan (官) means government, ko (公) means public, cho (庁) means office or agency. Goyo (御用) means business. Shigoto (仕事) means work. Osame (納め) means closing.
According to this custom for many companies today is the last work day of the year which is called shigoto osame(仕事納め). After work we usually have the last meeting of a year called nokai (納会). We express our thanks to each other for the work we shared, and wish everyone a happy new year.
The first work day of the year is called goyo hajime(御用始め) or shigoto hajime(仕事始め), which falls on January 4 next year. Hajime (始め) means beginning.
Therefore people usually have 6 days off this year.
Have a nice holiday season!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

有馬記念(arima kinen): The Arima Kinen

There was the 54th Arima Kinen(有馬記念) today. It is a Grade I flat horse race in Japan open to thoroughbreds which are three-years-old or above. It is a race of 2,500 meters and held at the Nakayama Racecourse (中山競馬場:nakayama keibajo).
The event was first run in 1956, and it was titled the Nakayama Grand Prix (中山グランプリ) first, but from the next year it has been renamed in memory of Yoriyasu Arima(有馬頼寧:1884-1957), the founder of the race.
Until 1999 it was open to Japanese trained horses only, but now it is open to the foreign trained horses too.
This year 5 years old Dream Journey won the race at 2 minutes 30 seconds. The jockey was Kenichi Ikezoe(池添謙一). The prize was yen 180,000,000.
Dream Journey won the GI Takarazuka Kinen(宝塚記念) in June too. Therefore he became the 9th horse which won the two big championships in a year since the Deep Impact did in 2006.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

出国ラッシュ (shukkoku rasshu): Rush of departure

Japanese people usually have about a week off at the end of the year to the beginning of the new year. This year most companies close on December 29 and start on January 4, 2010. So there will be 6 days off. However some people take a few extra days off on 24, 25, and 28 to have a long vacation. If you take days off on 21and 22 too, you will have 16 days off.
Today was the departure peak of people who left Japan to spend holidays abroad. From the Narita Airport (成田空港:narita kuko) only about 40,700 people went abroad, and from Kansai International Airport (関空:kanku) about 16,900 people left.
The popular destinations are Korea, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, South-East Asian countries, Guam, and Europe.
The returning peak is expected be on January 2 or 3.
During the winter vacation (from December 18 to January 4) it is estimated that about 1,280,000 passengers will come and go through the Narita Airport.
The peak of homecoming by train is estimated on December 30, and of returning is on January 3.
How will you spend your winter vacation?

メリー・クリスマス(meri kurisumasu): Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!
How do you spend this day? It is not a holiday here, so I worked as usual.
Dec. 25 is the birthday of Jesus Christ, but it is also the death anniversary of the Emperor Taisho (大正天皇: taisho tenno) in 1926 in Japan. The Taisho Era (大正時代: taisho jidai) ended by his decease, and the Showa Era (昭和時代: Showa jidai) started on Dec. 25, 1926. Therefore Dec. 25 is the first day of Showa. The Showa era lasted for 64 years until Jan. 7, 1989. The Showa era was the longest reign of any historical Japanese emperor. The Showa era ended by Emperor Showa's decease, and the Heisei era (平成時代: heisei jidai) started on Jan. 8, 1989.
Heisei (平成) literally means flat become, but this came from two old books and actually means peace will be attained both inside and outside, and heaven and earth.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

クリスマス・イブ(kurisumasu ibu): Christmas Eve

Merry Christmas!
It is Christmas Eve. In Japan Christians are only 1 % of the total population in 2004. Among them there are about 450,000 Catholic, and 650,000 Protestant.
Christmas in Japan is different from the one in Christian countries. For us it is an annual event for the couples or families to have dinner with Champagne, eat "Christmas cake" and exchange presents.
My friends from high school and I have the Christmas dinner at the French restaurant every year. Yesterday we had this annual delicious dinner.
My most impressive memory of Christmas Eve was the one in 1992 when I went to Florence, Italy. I was invited to the party and after that I visited the Duomo. I had never been to the Mass until that time.
I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

天皇誕生日(tenno tanjyobi): The Emperor's Birthday

December 23 is the current Emperor's birthday. He became 76 years old today. Happy birthday!!
It is a national holiday and the celebration takes place at the Imperial Palace which, usually off limits to the public, opens its gates to general public. This is called ippan sanga (一般参賀), which is also held in New Year. Only in the morning about 24,000 people visited there to celebrate. This was the most number in Heisei (平成) Era.
This year is the special year of the 20th anniversary of the succession to the throne and the 50th wedding anniversary for him.
The Showa Emperor's birthday was April 29. During his reign it was a national holiday of the Emperor's Birthday. After his decease it became a national holiday called Midori no hi (みどりの日), Green Day in 1989 and Showa no hi(昭和の日), Showa Day in 2007.

冬至(toji): Winter solstice

December 22 is toji (冬至), one of nijyushisekki (二十四節気), the 24 solar terms. The last one was taisetsu (大雪) on December 7, and the next one is shokan (小寒) on January 5.
Toji (冬至) literally means winter reach, and actually means winter solstice. It is the time when the day time is the shortest and the night time is the longest in the northern hemisphere.
In Japan we have a custom to take yuzuyu (柚子湯), a bath with yuzu (柚子), a kind of Japanese citrus and eat pumpkin on toji. If you do so, it is said you won't get a cold.
The thing Japanese I missed most whenever I was abroad was bath. In Japan we soak in the warm water (about 42 degrees centigrade) to relax. There are many kinds of bath powder to enjoy the fragrance or effect.
Do you have any customs on winter solstice?

Monday, December 21, 2009

ソユーズ:The Soyuz

Today's big morning news was the launch of the Soyuz. A Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi (野口聡一) is one of the crew members of the mission to the International Space Station (ISS) this time. He will stay at ISS for 5 months. This is the second time for Japanese to launch by the Soyuz after 19 years. He greeted in Russian that he was honored to launch from the same launching site as the Yuri Gagarin did.
He is from Chigasaki, Kanagawa (神奈川県茅ヶ崎市) prefecture. At the Civic Culture Center in Chigasaki there gathered 400 people to watch the live of the launch.
According to the newspaper he and the other crew use Twitter. It is very interesting to know that being far apart we can still contact. What a technology!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

日本有線大賞(nihon yusen taisho): Cable Broadcasting Grand Prix

What kind of music do you like? I like popular music.
Tonight there was the TV music program which decided the best hit song of the year, though I did not watch it. It was chosen by the amount of the requests to the cable broadcasting stations around Japan. This was the 42nd award ceremony.
Do you know enka (演歌), Japanese ballad? An enka singer, Hikawa Kiyoshi (氷川きよし) won the grand prix, the most requested singer award, and the most requested song award. He is 32 years old, and this is the 10th year for him to be a singer. It has been two years since he got the grand prix last time, this was the 5th time, and he renewed his record. The awarded song, Rokyokuichidai (浪曲一代) is his 18th single and released on February 4, 2009 and ranked in No. 1.
The best new artist award was given to BIGBANG, the 5 Korean dance vocal unit. They say this is the first time to be given the award to foreign group artists. They made a debut in June by "My Heaven."

忘年会その2(bonenkai sono ni): Year-end Party 2

I had another bonenkai (忘年会), the year-end party today at lunch time. It was the class reunion of the vocational school I attended for the half year from 2004 to 2005. Reunion is doso kai(同窓会) in Japanese. There were 30 classmates there. About one third attended. We learned about the techniques of the international business administration.
Time passes equally to everyone, but for some people these 5 years was the tempestuous period, and for other people it was the calm period. Three of them got married and became mothers or a mother-to-be. Two classmates got married and they brought their baby girl. What a difference!
Our homeroom teacher also joined from the post-party party. We call this party nijikai (二次会), literally means the second party. It lasted until evening. Some people left, and the rest had the post-post-party party and we ate dinner. We call this party sanjikai (三次会), literally means the third party.
I enjoyed meeting old friends, talking many things and came home by the last train, which is called shuden (終電) in Japanese.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

忘年会(bo nen kai): Year-end party

In December we have many year-end parties called bonenkai (忘年会), which literally means forget year meeting, and actually means the party to forget the troubles of the year.
Tonight I had the one at the Italian restaurant with colleagues. The restaurant was reserved and we could enjoy eating, drinking, talking and playing games. The foods were served. But there was a table with many different alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and we could drink whatever we like as much as we want to. We call this system nomi hodai(飲み放題), though usually we order drinks whatever we like, this time we could arrange by ourselves. The party lasted for more than three hours.
Since it is Friday today, there were so many people who had bonenkai on the street and the train. The train was full. We call this situation manin densha(満員電車).
I had one bonenkai last Saturday, and the other tomorrow, and some more next week.
In January we have many new year's party called shin nen kai(新年会), which literally means new year meeting.
December and January are party season in Japan. How about in your country?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

飛行機の日(hikoki no hi): Day of airplane

On December 17, 1903 the Wright Brothers, Orville and Wilbur succeeded in the world's first powered airplane flight in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. They tried four flights, and the longest record was 59 seconds and 256 meters. The airplane name was the Wright Flyer or Flyer 1.
After 2 years they succeeded in 45km flight and the splendid achievement became to be known to the world.
Thanks to them, now we can travel around the world by airplane easily.
Airplane is hikoki (飛行機) in Japanese, and airport is kuko (空港). Pilot is pairotto (パイロット), and flight attendants used to be called stewardess (スチュワーデス:suchuwadesu) but nowadays they are often called cabin attendant (キャビンアテンダント).
There were very popular TV dramas of stewardess when I was young, therefore my first dream was to be an international flight attendant to go abroad on business.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Men of the Year 2009

December is the month when many things are rated. At the end of the year many newspaper choose the top 10 news of the year.
Today there was the announcement of the GQ Men of the Year 2009, CF Queen and CF King of 2009.
Five men were awarded as the men of the year 2009 today. They are Sakurai Sho (櫻井翔) of the popular group Arashi (嵐), the comic storyteller & TV performer Shofukutei Tsurube (笑福亭鶴瓶), the playwright & stage director Mitani Koki (三谷幸喜), the pitcher of the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles (東北楽天ゴールデンイーグルス) Iwakuma Hisashi (岩隈久志), and the CEO of McDonald's Company (Japan), Ltd. Harada Eiko (原田泳幸).
The CF Queen is an actress Ueto Aya (上戸彩), 12 companies have used her for their commercial film. She was the queen in 2006 and this was the second time for her to be the queen.
The CF King is the professional golfer Ishikawa Ryo (石川遼) and the actor & singer of SMAP Kimura Takuya (木村拓哉), both of them were used by 13 companies this year.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

観光バス記念日(kanko basu kinenbi): Anniversary of sightseeing bus

They say December 15 is the anniversary of sightseeing bus. On December 15, 1925 the first sightseeing bus business started in Tokyo. There were one day tour, two days tour, and three days tour.
When you do not have enough time or proper transportation, the sightseeing bus is a good way to see around the city.
The most impressive sightseeing bus I had ever taken was in the Yellowstone National Park in the USA in the early summer of 1996, because there was only one passenger, that is me, in a big bus. I was worried if they really had the service. But I had a very good time there.

Monday, December 14, 2009

義士祭(gishi sai): Loyalist Festival

December 14 is known as gishi sai (義士祭) at the Sengakuji (泉岳寺) in Tokyo, Ako (赤穂) city in Hyogo (兵庫), and other places all over Japan.
Gishi means loyalist. They were from Ako, therefore they are often called Ako roshi (赤穂浪士). There were 47 loyalists therefore they are often called shijyushichishi (四十七士), 47 Ronin too. The story is also known as chushingura (忠臣蔵). It is a historical revenge story by forty-seven Ronin on the death of their master Asano Naganori (浅野長矩) or often called Asano Takuminokami (浅野内匠頭).
In the midnight of December 14, Genroku (元禄) 15, (Jan. 30, 1703 by the Western calendar) fourty-seven ronin went to their enemy Kira Kozunosuke's (吉良上野介) house and wreaked vengeance after 1 year and 10 months from their master's unfair treatment of hara-kiri. The head of them was Oishi Kuranosuke (大石内蔵助).
Asano and his loyal fourty seven ronin's graves are in Sengakuji, Tokyo.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

双子の日(futago no hi): Day of twins

They say December 13 is the day of twins. On December 13, 1874 the declaration of the order of twins was announced. Before that the first-born was the younger brother or sister, and the latter-born was the older brother or sister. But by the declaration the first-born became the older brother or sister, and the latter-born became the younger brother or sister.
In Japanese the older brother is ani (兄), and the younger brother is ototo (弟). The older sister is ane (姉), and the younger sister is imoto (妹). Brothers are kyodai (兄弟), and sisters are shimai (姉妹).
The identical twins are ichiransei soseiji (一卵性双生児), and the fraternal twins are niransei soseiji (二卵性双生児).
The birth rate of Japanese twins used to be one in 150 to 160, but these days it is increasing to about one in 100.
I am very interested in twins (futago:双子).

Saturday, December 12, 2009

今年の漢字 ”新” (kotoshi no kanji shin): Kanji of the Year ”New”

Every year Nihon Kanji Noryoku Kentei Kyokai (日本漢字能力検定協会), Japan Kanji Ability Examination Association appeal to the public for the one kanji character which reflects the social condition of the year.
This year 161,365 people voted and the word shin (新) pulled 14,093 votes (8.73%) and was chosen as the kanji of the year 2009. Shin (新) means new.
The new government started in Japan, the new president of the USA was inaugurated, Ichiro made the new records, Usain Bolt made the new record, many swimming new records were made, the epidemic of the new flu, the new judicial system was introduced in Japan, the new system for high way tolls was introduced in Japan, and so on.
For me something new happened this year were the new blog, the new job, the new car, the new PC, and the new business opportunity. How about you?

The kanji of the year 2008 was hen (変), change.

Friday, December 11, 2009

百円玉の日(hyaku en dama no hi): Day of yen 100 coin

They say December 11 is day of yen 100 coin. In 1975 the first yen 100 coin appeared in place of yen 100 bill. At that time they were made of silver, but later they became made of the alloy of 75% copper and 25% nickel.
There are 6 different coins in Japan. They are yen 1 made of aluminum, yen 5 of brass, yen 10 of bronze, yen 50 of cupronickel, yen 100 of cupronickel, and yen 500 of cupronickel. Yen 5 and yen 50 have a hole in the center. Yen 5 is regarded as a good luck coin, because it is pronounced as go en (五円) which is the same pronunciation of go en (御縁), that means chance or tie or relationship or link or knot.
As a memory of the 20th anniversary of the Emperor's accession, 10,000,000 commemorative coins of yen 500 were issued on November 12, 2009.
While I was in the USA from 2006 to 2008, I tried to collect all the 50 State's quarters, but I have not finished yet. Hope to finish soon.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

ノーベル賞授賞式(noberu sho jyusho shiki):Nobel Awards Ceremony

December 10 is known as the day of award ceremony of the Nobel Prize. There were no Japanese Nobel Prize winners this year. Therefore news were only focused on the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, that is, the US president Mr. Barack Obama. The ceremony was held in Oslo, Norway.
His speech was on air at the news and appeared on the Internet too. As he said in his remarks, compared to some of the giants in the history such as Schweitzer, King, Marshall, and Mandela, his accomplishments seems slight.
Among the Nobel Peace Prize winners, Dr. Wangari Muta Maathai from Kenya in 2004 is the most impressive person for me. She promoted the concept of Japanese word mottainai (もったいない) as a term that is roughly equivalent to the English phrase "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle". I have been to her honorable degree award ceremony in the Waseda University in Feb. 2006.
Among all the Nobel Prize winners, Dr. Esaki Leo (江崎玲於奈) is very special for me, because I escorted Mr. and Mrs. Esaki at the Expo '92 in Seville.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

漱石忌(Soseki ki): Death anniversary of Natsume Soseki

Today is the death anniversary of Natsume Soseki (夏目漱石: Feb. 9, 1867-Dec. 9, 1916). He is one of the most famous novelists at the Meiji era (明治時代:1868-1912). His well-known novels are Kokoro (こころ,1914), Botchan (坊ちゃん,1906), I Am a Cat (我輩は猫である: wagahai wa neko de aru, 1905) and his unfinished work Light and Darkness (明暗: mei an, 1916). They are translated into English therefore you must have read them.
Soseki is his pen name which is the similitude of sour grapes or strong character. His real name is Natsume Kinnosuke (夏目金之助). He was also a scholar of British literature and actually studied in UK from 1901 to 1903. However his life in UK seems miserable. After returning to Japan, he replaced Koizumi Yakumo (小泉八雲) at the First Higher School and later he became a professor of English literature at Tokyo Imperial University.
His portrait appeared on the front of the Japanese 1,000 yen note from 1984 until 2004, therefore if you have visited Japan before, you may have seen them.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

名前(namae): Name

How do you name children's name? In Japan we have kanji (漢字) characters which have meaning. Parents name their children's name by selecting a good combination of the kanji character, and making wishes on their names.
For example, my name Kimiko is written as 公子 in Japanese kanji character. Kimi (公) means public and ko (子) means child or girl. So my parents wanted me to be someone for the people. Girls name of our generation usually have ko at the end of the name.
Popular names are different depending on the era. In today's paper there are the ranking list of the popular names of babies who were born this year. Boy's No. 1 is Hiroto (大翔) and girl's No. 1 is Rin (凛). Hiroto has been No. 1 for 4 years in a row. There are three boy's names which have the same kanji character sho (翔) in top 10. Sho literally means to flap. Rin means handsome.
Popular names are influenced by the famous sports player or personalities. From next year there must be so many Ryo (遼) because of Ishikawa Ryo (石川遼), the youngest leading prizewinner golfer.

Monday, December 7, 2009


Today is taisetsu (大雪), one of nijyushisekki (二十四節気), the 24 solar terms. The last one was shosetsu (小雪) on November 22, and the next one is toji (冬至) on December 22. Tai setsu (大 雪) literally means big snow, and it is the time when snow starts falling heavily. Actually it was very cold today.

Today's big news of the newspaper was the professional golfer, Ishikawa Ryo (石川遼), 18 years old. This was the second year for him, but he became the leading money winner (賞金王:shokin o) of the year. He received yen 183,524,051. He is the youngest prizewinner in the history. He greatly renewed the Japanese youngest record of prizewinner of 26 years old when Ozaki Masashi (尾崎将司) achieved in 1973. Besides this he was awarded 9 titles including MVP and Most Impressive Player award. This was also the most in history.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

名古屋 その2(nagoya sono ni): Nagoya 2

Each place has its specialty. Nagoya's special foods are called Nagoya meshi (名古屋めし) in Japanese. Some of them are miso katsu (味噌カツ: cutlet with miso sauce), doteni (どて煮: miso stew of variety meat), miso nikomi udon (味噌煮込みうどん:Udon noodle cooked in miso soup), kishimen (きしめん:flat wheat noodles), tebasaki (手羽先:fried chicken wing), Nagoya kochin (名古屋コーチン:Nagoya cochin), hitsumabushi (ひつまぶし: rice and eel), tenmusu (天むす: rice ball with tempura), uiro (ういろう:steamed cake made of rice flour and sugar). Since haccho miso (八丁味噌) is very famous, their seasonings are rather thick and heavy for the people from other region.
The most famous sight seeing places are Nagoya castle (名古屋城:nagoya jo) and Atsuta shrine (熱田神宮:atsuta jingu).
There are four sister cities in four countries. They are Los Angels since April. 1, 1959, Mexico City since Feb. 16, 1978, Sydney since Sep. 16, 1980, and Torino since May 27, 2005. In all of these cities the Olympics were held.
Another things famous in Nagoya is the width of the road, it is called 100 meter's road.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

名古屋: Nagoya

How many cities in Japan do you know?
I went to Nagoya (名古屋) this weekend. Nagoya is located in the central area (中部地方: chubu chiho), and is the seat of the prefectural government (県庁所在地: kencho shozaichi) of Aichi(愛知), and one of the ordinance-designated cities (政令指定都市: seirei shitei toshi).
It is the fourth most populous urban areas (2,257,888 in Oct. 2009) in Japan. No. 1 is Tokyo (東京:8,742,995 in Jan. 2009), No.2 is Yokohama (横浜:3,654,427 in Jan. 2009), No. 3 is Osaka (大阪:2,661,700 in Oct. 2009).
The three men who unified Japan in the 16th century have strong links to Nagoya. They are Oda Nobunaga (織田信長:1534-1582), Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣秀吉:1536-1598), and Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川家康:1543-1616).
I have lived there for 6 months while I was working at Expo 2005 Aichi Nagoya.

Friday, December 4, 2009

E.T.の日(i tee no hi):Day of E.T.

On December 4, 1982 the movie E.T. was released in Japan. More than 10,000,000 people watched. It has been the best hit movie until 1997 when Mononoke hime (もののけ姫), Princess Mononoke exceeded by 14,200,000 audience.
E.T. is Extra-Terrestrial. I liked the movie very much. What movie do you like? I like "Pay It Forward."
I have been to the theater for 22 times this year so far. Among them I liked This Is It by Michael Jackson, The Time Traveler's Wife, Red Cliff Part II, Slumdog Millionaire, and The Rare Case of Benjamin Button. I hope to see some more this month.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

秩父夜祭(chichibu yomatsuri): Chichibu Night Festival

There are many festivals in Japan. I have seen some of them, but usually I just know the festivals by names and just through TV news.
One of such festivals was held tonight. That is Chichibu Night Festival. It is a festival of Chichibu Shrine in Saitama (埼玉). It has a history of more than 2,000 years. It is one of Japan's three greatest hikiyama (曳山:float) festivals. The other two are the Gion Matsuri (祇園祭) in Kyoto (京都) from July 1 to 31, and the Takayama Matsuri (高山祭り) of Gifu (岐阜) from April 14 to 15 and from October 9 to 10.
The most exciting scene of the Chichibu night festival takes place in the evening of December 3.

Please check the following site.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

流行語大賞(ryukogo taisho): Vogue-word grand prix

On December 1 every year top ten of the vogue-words and the grand prix are announced. It has been started since 1984, and this year was the 26th. The title, the sponsors and the kinds of awards have been slightly changed, but outlines are the same, that is the new words or vogue-words of the year are selected and the people or organizations related to the word are awarded.
The grand prix of this year is seikenkotai (政権交代), change of power. By the 45th general election held on Aug. 30, the ruling party has been changed from the Liberal Democratic Party to The Democratic Party of Japan. This was the first time in the history. The winner is the prime minister Yukio Hatoyama (鳩山由紀夫).
One of the grand prix of the last year was ara fo (アラフォー), which is around 40, meaning the people who are around 40 years old.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

師走(shiwasu): December

Another month has come. How fast time flies! There is only one month left. December is jyunigatsu (十二月) in Japanese. The other name is shiwasu (師走), which literally means teachers or priests run. People feel rushed in December.
In Japan we feel it is the end of the year and that January is the totally new month of the new year, therefore at the end of the year we do the general housecleaning (大掃除:osoji) to welcome the new year. We usually have about a week off between the end of the year and the beginning of the year, which is called nenmatsu nenshi(年末年始).
December is also the season of the year-end gift called oseibo (お歳暮). The summer time gift after the bonus season is called ochugen (お中元). Beers or coffee or hams or fish or meat or oils or soaps are some of the popular items.