今月の文化 2020年 7月 7月の祝日

I talked about the rainy season last month, but it hasn’t ended yet although it’s the end of July. Some people say that the rainy season might continue until August. It has been raining almost every day, and there was a big flood in the Kyushu area. The weather has been really unpredictable and scary.

Normally, there is only one holiday in July, called Sea Day. But this year, a holiday normally in October, called Sports Day, was moved to July because of the Olympics. Originally, the opening ceremonies were scheduled to be held on July 24th.

However, due to the pandemic, the Tokyo Olympics was postponed to next year. Therefore, the government has discussed moving the holiday again next year.

I am impressed by the Olympics. It has the power to move national holidays around. I hope someday we can enjoy the Olympics without worry again.

今月の文化 2020年 6月 梅雨とマスク

June is the rainy season.
The rainy season is known for its rainy, humid, and hot weather everyday. However, due to recent strange weather patterns, we have been having extreme weather, such as sudden huge rainstorms after a long string of sunny days. It causes flooding.

There was a huge disaster caused by rain in China recently. There was a flood in the Kyushu area as well. Many people evacuated to the same places as usual, but this year they suffered difficulties due to COVID-19. People had to wear masks and keep social distances, so they needed to be cautious even after being evacuated.

Summer will start after the rainy season. People say this summer is going to be hot because of the warm winter last year.

I realized after I lived in the US that Japan lacks trees in the cities. In addition, tree branches are cut short to prevent disasters like floods caused by leaves blocking storm drains. It’s hard to find shade on the sidewalks.
I looked at pictures of Tokyo the other day and saw businessmen wearing masks wiping their sweat in the blazing sun surrounded by only buildings. Global warming will affect us a lot more in the future, so we need to start adding greenery to cities.

今月の文化 2020年 5月 緊急事態宣言

May is already over.

When speaking of May, Golden Week is the first thing that comes to mind. This year, due to a state of emergency having been declared, people were not allowed to travel during Golden Week.

During April, the number of infected patients rose steadily. People were worried that the number of infections would increase even more during the May holidays. Many prefectures made their own state of emergency declarations on top of the central government’s declaration. Each prefecture’s governor asked their residents repeatedly not to go outdoors.

This year’s Golden Week was a five day long holiday, so everyone was worried that lots of people would leave their houses during the break. While some people did go outside during Golden Week, shops and sightseeing locations remained closed, so after all not that many people went out. The end result was very positive.

If the number of infections had gone up during Golden Week, the whole country would have seen an explosive increase in infections. Infected people would have gone sightseeing in other prefectures, carrying the coronavirus with them and spreading it wherever they went.

Staying in place is a very important infection prevention measure. Personally, I don’t need to go out that often, so it wasn’t difficult for me to stay indoors during this period. However, for people who love going out and talking to other people, it was very difficult.

Right now it’s important for everyone to do as many things online as possible, and to discover new ways to enjoy life without going out, isn’t it?

今月の文化 2020年 4月 布マスク

Last month I talked about the inability to buy face masks due to COVID-19. The situation hasn’t changed much regarding disposable face masks. People say you can buy them at drug stores in the mornings, but people line up every morning, so they are always slod out by noon. In Hokkaido, drug stores have stopped selling face masks in the morning for the sake of people those who cannot line up all morning.

Other prefectures have other unique plans. For example, some prefectures distributed “mask tickets” to residents. This “mast ticket” allows residents to buy up to 2 boxes of disposable face masks.

Speaking of face masks, the most famous face masks in Japan right now are the ones which the Japanese government shipped to every household in Japan. They decided to buy a lot of cloth face masks and distribute them to people. A lot of people had negative reactions to this plan. According to people who already received the face masks, the size was too small for adults, so it didn’t cover both their mouth and nose. Also, some are stinky or a bit discolored.

The Prime Minister told us these face masks are washable and reusable, but if you wash them many times, the effectiveness will drop. Also, people have no problem buying cloth face masks. I think it would be nice to buy my preferred face masks bymyself instead of receiving cloth masks at great expensive from the government. I just hope these government face masks won’t become am enormous pile of expensive trash.

今月の文化 2020年 3月 マスク

みなさん こんにちは。

Hello everyone. I usually write about spring in this season. But this March has been a disaster, so we aren’t hearing anything about spring this year.

There is a product which we cannot buy anymore due to COVID-19. That is face masks. We stopped seeing regular face masks at stores in February when we started reading the news about a cruise ship at Yokohama carrying a lot of infected people. The fear of infection caused people to buy a lot of face masks. Some people bought unnecessary amounts of them and sold them with a very high mark up online. Unfortunately, there are always people who try to profit off of from vulnerable people during disasters. After that, toilet paper and tissues also sold out, but they were restocked quickly. However, face masks are still scarce.

In Japan, wearing a face mask is a common thing to do. People wear face masks when they have a cold, don’t want to catch a cold, have hay fever, and even when they don’t want to get a sun tan. When you wear a face mask, you inhale humidified air, so it makes you breath more easily. That’s why you wear it. People who wear glasses and hate breathing humidified air don’t like wearing them, but I think most Japanese people don’t hesitate to wear face masks. It has become a norm to protect yourself and others. However, the current situation is a bit strange because you feel like you should wear a face mask even when you don’t have any symptoms. It’s silly, but I think seeing people wear face masks makes others feel safe.

I know a lot of people are not comfortable or not used to wearing face masks, but if you get into a closed place like an airplane, I strongly recommend using one. The air is dry and sick people might be all around you.

Please be cautious, everyone. You need to wash your hands and disinfect them frequently. If you touch a doorknob or a door, you should not touch your face. You should keep washing your hands and sanitizing your hands everywhere you go. You shouldn’t use the air dryer at toilets either. And if you have a strange feeling in your throat or you are sneezing or coughing, you should put on a face mask. Stay safe!

今月の文化 2020年 2月 暖冬

Even though it’s February, it feels like it’s already April. When winter is warm like this, it is called “暖冬.”

Comparing recent winters with winters when I was a child, the frequency of 暖冬 has increased. This year’s winter has been especially warm. I heard that some prefectures’ cherry blossoms have bloomed already. Since it didn’t snow this year, transportation was not too bad and my life was easier, but I still missed the snow. The Hokuriku area didn’t get much snow, so some ski slopes couldn’t even open this season. Vegetables also grew irregularly, so farmers and the economy were negatively effected.

When the climate behaves strangely, it can have a strong effect on businesses as well as our daily lives. The important thing for us to do is to be mindful about our environment and think carefully about how our actions affect it.

今月の文化 2020年 1月 鏡餅

Hello everyone. This year was the first New Year’s holiday since the era name changed from Heisei to Reiwa. The new year is Reiwa 2.
How was your New Year’s holiday? I caught a cold again this year, so the middle of the month was pretty rough.

Anyway, this month I’d like to introduce a common New Year’s decoration called kagami mochi. KAgami mochi is a stack of two white mochi cakes on top of each other. The bigger mochi goes on the bottom, and the smaller mochi goes on top of it. This decoration is said to invite in the new year’s god (toshigami). They are usually put up around December 28th in anticipation of the new year.

Kagami mochi is usually displayed on the kamidana or in the front hall of a house. Decorations placed on the 31st are called “ichiyakazari” (“one night decorations”), but just one night seems too short to welcome the toshigami, so it’s said to be best to put them up before December 30th.

On January 11th, an event called kagamibiraki occurs. This is the event of eating the kagami mochi. Eating the kagami mochi which the toshigami inhabited is said to bring good luck in the new year.

Kagami mochi is not just two pieces of mochi; a daidai (bitter orange) is usually also placed on top of the mochi. Daidai are said to grow on their trees for 4 to 5 years without falling off. For that reason they are placed on kagami mochi as a symbol of longevity and prosperity.

今月の文化 2019年12月


Christmas is over, and the next big event is New Year’s Day! In December, Japanese supermarkets start to sell Christmas and New Year’s decorations. On the 26th they take down all the Christmas decorations.

One of the things you have to do before the new year is clean your house. The big day is called “oosouji.” This means “big cleaning day.” People do this big cleaning at their workplaces and schools. My workplace did this cleaning on the 25th.

The custom of performing a big cleaning has been around since a long time ago. It used to be part of the preparations to welcome the god Toshigami-sama in new year. In the Edo Period, people performed this cleaning on December 13th. All the houses had a fireplace and used wood as fuel, so their ceilings were covered in charcoal soot. Charcoal is called “susu” in Japanese, so this cleaning was called “susuotoshi (dropping the charcoal to the floor)” or “susuharai (sweeping charcoal)”

Is it common to perform a big cleaning in your country too? I think the AC and kitchen fans are the hardest places to clean thoroughly. It’s also really hard to do everything in one day, so we should clean bit by bit everyday. 😊

今月の文化 2019年11月


2019 will end soon! It’s already December. I feel like this year was short. Do you feel like it was fast too? We need to think about what do we need to do before 2020 arrives. We only have one month left.

This month, I had a chance to participate in making senbazuru, so I will talk about senbazuru this month. Sen means a thousand and tsuru (zuru) means crane, so senbaduru means a thousand cranes. We make a thousand crane using origami and tie them up.

People make senbaduru when people close to them get sick and suffer for a long time. The crane is a symbol of long life, so people make cranes in hopes that the person gets better soon and lives for a long time. “A thousand” is a metaphor for “a lot,” so it doesn’t necessarily mean precisely one thousand.

You can find origami for senbazuru at stores like 100 yen shops, so it seems like making senbazuru is still a common custom today.

One important thing to consider is the feelings of the recipients. Many people make senbazuru to send to areas which were damaged in natural disasters. Senbazuru are pretty big things, and they require lots of space to store them. Even throwing them out can cost money. We all have the feeling that we want to do something, or that we want to encourage others, but I think we should stop to think about what kind of support is most needed.

今月の文化 2019年10月

October will end soon! This year, we had an extra day off in October, so I felt that this October was a bit shorter than other months. This month, I will talk about a well known event called Halloween. Like Christmas, Halloween didn’t used to be a common event in Japan in the past.

Halloween was introduced to Japan by a company called Kiddy Land, which is famous for the character of Kitty-chan (aka Hello Kitty). Kiddy Land started selling Halloween related goods in the 1970’s.

hen the first Halloween parade took place in 1983, not many people knew about Halloween. The reason that Halloween became such a famous event in Japan is Tokyo Disney Land and Universal Studios Japan. Tokyo Disney Land started putting on Halloween events in 1997, and Universal Studios Japan started in 2002. Since people started using cell phones and SNS around that time, this fun and cool foreign event started to become very popular in Japan.

Nowadays, there are all kinds of Halloween events all over Japan. Mostly these are in the form of parades or flea markets which sells horror-related goods. I have been to such an event, and I think that goth accessories and cosplay costumes were the most popular items sold.

The actual Halloween day is often a weekday, so Halloween events are held during the same weekend or the weekend before Halloween. During these events, many people stroll through town wearing impressive costumes, so the ordinary towns look different on that day. Unlike in America, children don’t wear costumes or say “trick or treat” at their neighbor’s houses. It’s more of an adults’ event. Adults wear costumes and throw themed parties. Like Christmas, cultures and events change their forms when they are imported to other countries. It’s interesting, but at the same time it can be a bit disappointing too.

Japanese Grammar Review