今月の文化 2021年 12月 冬至

Tōji, the winter solstice, fell on December 22. Tōji is the shortest day of the year. One food strongly associated with tōji is kabocha (pumpkin). Another name for kabocha is nankin. There is a food made from boiled kabocha and azuki beans called tōji nankin. It is a sweet, nutritious, and delicious dish.

Another thing strongly associated with tōji is yuzuyu (citron bath). Yuzu are placed in the bathtub, and then we bathe in the fragrant yuzu water. There are several ways to do a yuzu bath, including using whole yuzu, yuzu sliced in half, or just yuzu peels. It is said that taking a yuzu bath on the winter solstice will keep you from catching a cold.

It will get colder and colder from now on, but by warming our bodies in a yuzu bath, and by eating delicious foods, we can enjoy the winter.

今月の文化 2021年 11月 ボジョレーヌーヴォー

There are a lot of events in November. One famous event for wine lovers is “Beaujolais Nouveau.” Beaujolais nouveau is released once a year on the third Thursday in November in Japan.I don’t drink wine, so I don’t know much about Beaujolais nouveau. However, I see flyers, reservation sheets, and wine-related decorations at liquor stores around that day.

It’s common to hold parties to drink Beaujolais nouveau together and critique the year’s Beaujolais.

Due to the pandemic, Beaujolais nouveau related events were mostly canceled, but some small events were held this year. In Toyama, an event called “Wine Train” was held from November 17th through 19th. People got in a streetcar-style train called the Man’yo Line (taking proper COVID precautions) and drank Beaujolais nouveau while enjoying the scenery.

We usually wear masks, so we have not been able to see others’ faces recently. It’s nice to be able to hold an event like this again, seeing each others’ faces and having meals with strangers.

今月の文化 2021年 10月 木枯らし

This October’s weather was weird. There were days on which temperatures reached over 30 degreed Celcius like during summer, but around October 17th, the temperature dropped significantly and topped at around 20 degrees. I felt that winter had come and skipped autumn. I was wearing t-shirts all the time in the beginning of October, so I had to rush into the closet and take out my winter clothes. I don’t think I will need autumn clothes for long this year.

When the weather begins to get cold, it’s the time when kogarashi comes. Kogarashi is a strong gust of wind from the north which comes after mid October and in November. There are specific conditions in which the wind is called kogarashi, so it doesn’t occur every year, but every time I feel a strong cold wind, I sense that winter is coming. The first kogarashi of the year is called kogarashi 1(ichi)-gou and the weather forecast reports about it. They say, “Today will be Kogarashi 1gou.” If you have an opportunity to listen to a weather forecast in Japan during autumn, maybe you can learn when kogarashi occurs that year.

今月の文化 2021年 9月 栗さん

It’s been getting cooler recently, so I often feel that fall has finally arrived. The reason I feel fall is not only the temperature change but also the atmosphere around me; the mountains’ colors change to brown, the fields start producing soba, and fall decorations start appearing inside of stores.

People call the fall the “season of appetites” because there are a lot of delicious seasonal foods that appear. This month, I’d like to talk to you about chestnuts.

You can find chestnuts everywhere in Japan. Their flesh is yellow, and their texture is crunchy. In the US, pumpkin is very popular, so you see pumpkin latte and pumpkin donuts and such in the fall. In Japan, chestnuts are just as popular as pumpkins. You can see lots of food using chestnuts here. For example, rice cooked with chestnuts, baked chestnuts, Mont Blanc, etc. I also saw chestnut parfait recently, which is really unique. If you happen to come to Japan in the fall, I hope you’ll try something with chestnuts in it.

今月の文化 2021年 8月 東京パラリンピック

Last month we talked about the Olympics. This time it’s the Paralympics. The Paralympics start shortly after the Olympics end. The opening ceremony was performed yesterday.

It was a very nice open ceremony, with fireworks, dancing, and musical performances. Unfortunately, Japan’s COVID-19 situation has gotten much worse, so the ceremony was performed without spectators. It must have been pretty quiet.

Now, a number of different games will take place. It will be stressful, with great restrictions placed on activities and nightlife, but I hope the athletes will be able to do their best and show us all their strength, and create some very good memories.

今月の文化 2021年 7月 東京オリンピック

In July of this year, the Olympics which were originally scheduled to take place in July of 2020 finally began. Last weekend was made into a 4 day weekend, just like in 2020, to accommodate the opening ceremonies.

Even though the Olympics are being held in Japan, it doesn’t really feel like it to me. There have been so many troubles leading up to the Olympics, including an increase in Covid-19 cases, and so it doesn’t really feel like all of Japan is excited about the Olympics.

But for all of the athletes who practiced hard to compete in this big event, I really hope they can make some good memories.

I hope that everyone around the world who has been suffering since 2020 from all of these troubles can find some sort of happiness through the Olympics.

今月の文化 2021年 6月 ヒートウェーブ

We often start to see lots of rain in June. If it’s sunny, the air gets humid and wet, like during tsuyu. However, during tsuyu it gets cooler after rain falls. In July and August, the temperature stays high even after a rain, so it’s hard to live without air conditioning.

Speaking of getting hotter, I read about the recent heat wave in northwestern America. That area is usually cool and comfortable in the summer, but right now it’s hotter than 40°C. I can’t imagine how terrible that must be…

It’s getting harder to predict the weather nowadays. Maybe someday, due to climate change, we won’t be able to say that it’s rainy because of tsuyu, or that it’s hot because of summer.

今月の文化 2021年 5月 丸岡城

Hello everyone. The weather has been really good this May. Tsuyu began early this year, so some days have been humid, but once it is sunny, the days become gorgeous.

Days like this make me want to go out. Recently, I went to a castle called Maruoka-jo in Fukui. Maruoka-jo is one of the oldest remaining castles dating from before the Edo Period. There are only 12 castles that old remaining in Japan. In the Hokuriku area, only Maruoka-jo has been standing for more than 400 years.

The castle itself is small, so it doesn’t have much impact, but seeing a traditional wooden castle which has been standing for more than 400 years is impressive and very cool. During cherry blossom season, more than 400 cherry blossom trees bloom around the castle, so Maruoka-jo is a famous cherry blossom viewing spot as well. If you go to the top of the castle, you can see the whole town below it. It’s a really nice place to visit on sunny, cool days in May.


今月の文化 2021年 4月 空き家

みなさん こんにちは。
Hello everyone!

The end of April means that Golden Week will soon be here.

This year we once again have been advised to refrain from going out, so we can’t travel or go and have as much fun; however having some days off is still quite nice.

Well, it doesn’t have very much to do with April, but this time I’d like to talk about akiya, or vacant houses. Japan is facing a big problem with vacant houses right now. Even large cities like Tokyo and Osaka have many vacant houses overflowing with garbage. They are fire hazards and there is a risk of collapse, so they are very dangerous. Because of this, new laws have been written to make buying and selling vacant houses easier. I frequently visit websites with vacant house listings, and I am surprised to see how many large and stylish houses being sold at very cheap prices there are.

Every municipality’s website and realtor’s website have sections to search for information on vacant houses by region. In Japan, it is much more common to build new houses than it is to purchase an old house and remodel it, so many large houses are torn down and replaced with 3 or so tiny houses within one year of becoming vacant.

I feel that this is a very wasteful situation. That these sturdy houses which have supported peoples’ lives for decades and stood firm against earthquakes and typhoons are so easily torn down is very sad.

Old houses have lots of storage space, and you can feel the love that the original owners had when they designed the house, and of the carpenters who crafted the decorations and ornamentations.

I really hope that people will develop an interest in akiya and reuse and reform them instead of tear them down.

今月の文化 2021年 3月 ホワイトデー

March has many events. White Day is a famous one. It’s a day to return gifts to the people who gave you chocolates on Valentine’s day. This event started in Japan around 1980, and now other Asian countries like Korea and China celebrate White Day as well.

When I was a child, the standard return gifts for White Day were marshmallows and candies. Nowadays, I feel not many people follow that tradition. I see a variety of return gifts such as flowers, chocolates, and cookies.

I have been wondering since high school about return gifts and replies to confessions of love on Valentin’es Day. Does a girl have to wait for a whole month to get a reply to her confession of love on Valentine’s Day? Would she get a return gift in a month only if the boy said yes? What if the boy said no? Would she receive some sort of return gift from him still?
I guess it differs from person to person, but I always felt this was a weird custom.

Japanese Grammar Review