Category Archives: Kanji

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.

今月の文化 2019年9月

Hello everyone!
It’s September, but it has been quite hot. It’s finally grown cooler recently, so it’s getting nice outside.

In autumn, you can see a lot of fruits at stores, such as pears, grapes, and figs. I like fall foods, so I will talk about Japanese pears this month.

Pears are eaten in many countries, but the shapes and flavors vary in different countries and areas. Pears from Japan are called “wanashi.” Unlike Western pears, wanashi are round. There are a few types of wanashi. The two biggest categories are akanashi (red pear) and aonashi (blue pear.) Akanashi are more popular that aonashi in Japan. The major akanashi brands are “Kousui” and “Housui.” Akanashi are brown and round. Aonashi are bit more pale than akanashi and are colored yellowish green. The major aonashi brand is “Twenty First Century Nashi.”

私はアメリカで「赤梨」の方を見た事があります。味も日本で食べた「赤梨」とよく似ていました。「Asian pear」として売られていました。
I’ve seen akanashi in the US, where they are called “Asian pears.” The flavor is similar to Japanese akanashi. Akanashi are sweet and their texture is juicy and tender. In contrast, aonashi have a lighter flavor with a hint of sourness. They have a refreshing flavor.


I prefer aonashi over akanashi, but I haven’t seen many kinds of aonashi recently. I wonder if aonashi have declined in popularity? At grocery stores, I see a lot of Kousui and Housui. I see Western pears too, but those are a bit expensive.

What kind of pears do you like?

今月の文化 2019年8月


Hello everyone!
August is famous for Obon and summer vacation, but I already talked about both of them. This month I will introduce something related to Obon.

前回ご紹介したように、お盆というのはあの世(other world)に行った霊がこの世(this world)に帰ってくる時期の事です。お盆の時期と言うのは、人々にとってあの世が少し近くなる時期だという事です。それに加えて、8月と言うのは残暑が強くてまだまだ暑いですから、人々は怖い話をして気分だけでも涼しくなろうと考えました。そのような理由から、8月には「怪談話」をする事が夏の風物詩(ふうぶつし)になっていきました。


As I talked about in the Obon post, Obon is the period which ghosts come back to this world from the other world, called “anoyo.” Therefore, the Obon season makes people feel that anoyo is closer to them for a short period. In addition, since August is still pretty hot, people believe that telling ghost stories will give them a chill. Ghost stories are called kaidan. For these reasons, holding kaidan telling parties, called kaidan-kai, became a common summer custom in Japan. Kaidan means talking about something which doesn’t exist in this world, such as ghosts, yokai, and the like. If you look up “yurei” or “yokai,” you can find a lot of results including “the 3 greatest kaidan” or “the most famous ghost stories of Japan.”


When I was a student, I went to many local haunted spots with my friends and participated in kaidan-kai. I was curious about the stories, but at the same time, I was scared and felt a chill. Do people have any customs similar to kaidan-kai in your countries too?

今月の文化 2019年7月

Hello! Right now it is the rainy season, called tsuyu, however this year has not been too bad. I wish every year were more like this, but that’s just wishful thinking.

July is the most popular month for students because of summer vacation! Summer vacation starts in elementary school. The amount of vacation time varies from school to school. Most schools start summer vacation in the 3rd or 4th week of July and end in late August. The new semester starts at the beginning of September.

In the US, summer vacation usually starts in June, so I felt it was very long. What did you do during summer vacation when you were a kid?

In Japan, children gather at parks, shrines, or temples at around 6 am and do radio calisthenics. The kids can get stamps or stickers on their activity cards when they do this. If they get many stamps/stickers, they can get a prize from their schools. My elementary school had a pool, so I used to go there everyday for free pool activities. There also were public pools and a public warm water pool in my town, so I went there with my friends.

There are lots of activities to do if you are in the countryside. I gathered many shiny stones/branches/flowers from around my house. I went to look for beetles, and practiced jump rope, played on the swings, and explored by bike the parts of my town which I hadn’t yet discovered.

I had a game system called “Family Computer” (known as NES in English). So my friends gathered at my house and played Super Mario Brothers and Donkey Kong with me. We didn’t have AC at that time, so we used a fan. A bunch of sweaty kids looking at a TV monitor all together in one room sounds gross, but it’s one of my nostalgic memories.

Now that I recall, I think that elementary school summer vacation was the longest and the best. I wonder what other countries’ kids do during their summer vacations…

今月の文化 2019年6月




Hello everyone

This year’s June wasn’t too bad. It was cool and comfortable. A lot of prefectures have officially said they have entered the tsuyu season, so most of Japan is experiencing tsuyu now.

The humidity and temperature will go up in July, and that will make us hesitate to go outside.

This month, I will introduce you to a Shinto event: Chinowa kuguri. A chinowa is a big circle made of a kind of reed called chigaya or kaya. Chinowa kuguri means making a chinowa and walking through it to wish for good luck. Some place do this twice a year, and some do it only in the summer.

The event originates in Japanese mythology. Once upon the time, the god Susanoo-no-mikoto asked Somin-shourai to let him stay at his house for one night. Somin generously let Susanoo use his house. In return, Susanoo told him, “To avoid bad luck, you should tie a small chinowa on your hip.” Somin-shorai did this, and was able to avoid many bad things. People copied the custom and started tying chinowa on their hips, hoping to have a peaceful life. During the Edo Period, the custom changed from wearing a small chinowa to passing though a big chinowa.

Chinowa-kuguri is performed in order to purify yourself from the first half of the year and to wish for a peaceful second half of the year. Chinowa-kuguri is a part of an ceremony called Nagoshi-no-harae, held every June 30th.

The way you pass through the chinowa depends on the specific shrine. One basic way goes like this: first, you bow in front of the ring and step though starting with your left foot, then pass through and walk back taking the left path. Then you do the same thing with your right foot and take the right path back. If you were to see the ritual from above, it would look like people were making a figure 8 by walking through the chinowa. Some shrines require you to do it 3 times (left-> right -> left) and other shrines require to do it only one time (just left.)

When going through the chinowa, people often say specific sentences in their head, but what you say also depends on the shrine. Usually, shrines have a written description by the chinowa, so you can follow the instructions.

今月の文化 2019年5月

A new era started on May 1st. This year is called Reiwa Gannen (Gannen means first year.) The next year will be Reiwa 2nen. This year started as Heisei and it lasted until April 30th, so it’s a bit confusing.

For the past 31 years, December 23rd was a national holiday because it was the emperor’s birthday. What do you think will happen to this holiday this year since we have a new emperor? Do you think the national holiday of the emperor’s birthday will go away? Will the new emperor’s birthday, February 23rd, become a new holiday? If that’s so, since the new era started on May 1st, we won’t get an emperor’s birthday holiday this year.

The emperor’s birthday has changed every time the emperor has changed. However, the Meiji emperor’s birthday and Showa emperor’s birthday are still holidays today.

The Meiji emperor’s birthday was November 3rd. After he passed away, November 3rd became a non-holiday. People liked the Meiji emperor a lot, so they wanted to continue to celebrate his birthday. 15 years after he passed away, in Showa 2 (1927), his birthday came back as a holiday, and it was called Meiji-setsu. In Showa 22 (1947), the name was changed to Bunka no hi (Culture Day).

The Showa emperor’s birthday was April 29th. After he passed away, people discussed making his birthday a non-holiday. However, April 29th falls in the middle of Golden Week and it would cause a lot of negative feelings to cut the series of holidays. They changed the holiday name to Midori no hi (Greenery Day) because the Showa emperor liked nature, and kept it as a holiday.

Greenery Day was changed again in Heisei 19 (2007) in order to “remember the terrible years of Showa and to create a better future.” The name was changed to Showa Day. May 3rd is Constitution Memorial Day and May 5th is Children’s Day, so May 4th automatically became a national holiday. Greenery Day was moved to May 4th, so the major part of Golden Week, May 3rd to 5th all became holidays.

The Heisei emperor’s birthday will become a non-holiday this year, but someday the law might change the holidays might change their dates. Calendar makers have to keep their eye on the changing holidays!

今月の文化 2019年4月

April 30th will be the last day of the Heisei Era. We will have a new emperor on May 1st, and the new era is going to be called Reiwa. Heisei will end after 31 years. It is the first time in a long time that the emperor has resigned before passing away, passing the emperorship to a new person.

This year’s Golden Week will be famous for the longest holiday season, thanks to the enthronement ceremony. A lot of hotels in Japan are booked full already by tourists.

Usually, Golden Week contains only 4 holidays: Showa Day, Constitution Day, Greenery Day, and Children’s Day. If a holiday falls on Sunday, the next day (Monday) becomes a substitute holiday. Also, if Saturday and Sunday are in between these holidays, it becomes a week long holiday.

This year, May 1st has become a temporary holiday for the enthronement. I wrote about this in September 2018’s blog post, but if there is only one day between holidays, that day becomes an extra national holiday. This Golden Week’s holidays will fall on 27th (Sat), 28th (Sun), 29th (Showa Day), 30th (National Holiday), May 1st (Enthronement Day), 2nd (National Holiday), 3rd (Constitution Day), 4th (Greenery Day), 5th (Children’s Day), 6th (Substitute Holiday). That’s the reason we have a 10-day long holiday this year!

In Japan, the new semester starts in April, so Golden Week is a good time for students to relax. However, for those families who have young children or elderly parents to take care of, the long holiday can be worrisome because preschools and day care centers may be closed on these days.
It’s good that we get more days off, but the most important thing is to create a good society in which everybody can enjoy his/her holidays.

今月の文化 2019年3月

It’s been very warm this month. We had a heavy snow in February of 2018, so we had a lot of leftover snow in March of last year as well. The weather difference between last year and this year is significant! I am so surprised.

This month, I will introduce to you a kind of new event in Japan. It’s St. Patrick’s Day. The event might be celebrated in your country, but in Japan this tradition only began in 1992, so it’s kind of a new tradition. They started holding a parade every year since then, and it has gotten bigger and bigger.

The number of prefectures which hold St. Patrick’s Day events grows every year. The Embassy of Ireland in Japan lists the locations with St. Patricks Day events, including Tokyo, Yokohama, Nagoya, Chiba, Fukuoka, Okinawa, Hokkaido, Aomori, etc. In the Hokuriku area, only Fukui holds a parade.

Even though the event is getting bigger, there are still only a few bands who can perform Irish music. The same groups have to travel from place to place during the holiday, so some areas have to hold the event a week before or after the actual St. Patrick’s Day takes place due to lack of performers. In Fukui Prefecture, they hold a parade a week after the actual holiday every year. It’s a bit of a strange feeling, but the event itself is surprisingly quite authentic and fun.

I like festivals, so I hope we can import many events from a lot of countries.

今月の文化 2019年2月

Last year I introduced Setsubun, and I mentioned that people eat a special type of futomaki (thick sushi roll) called ehomaki.

This year, I will tell you more about ehomaki. The custom of eating ehomaki evolved during the Edo and Taisho Eras. It was said that if you eat ehomaki while you are facing towards eho, you will have good luck. Eho is the direction where Tokutokujin, a god of luck is located. Tokutokujin’s direction changes every year. You need to discover this year’s eho before you eat ehomaki.

It is believed that the ehomaki custom started in the Kansai area first, and expanded outwards gradually. In the Osaka Museum of History, you can see advertisements for ehomaki which were published in Showa 15 (1940).

Ehomaki used to be a simple maki sushi, but nowadays people eat a big futomaki with seven kinds of ingredients. Seven is considered a lucky number because of the famous seven lucky gods, the shichifukujin. The standard ingredients include cooked eggs, cucumbers, shitake mushrooms, and so on. Due to the number of ingredients, ehomaki became very big.


Recently, I read some sad news about ehomaki. A lot of unsold ehomaki have to be thrown away on February 4th. When people saw the pictures of the discarded ehomaki, they were shocked at the waste. Due to the news, many supermarkets and sushi stores now only make ehomaki for people who ordered in advance to reduce the amount of wasted food.

Everything has become convenient these days, so we can get many things with just a little money. I think an important word to know is mottainai, it means “try not to waste things.” We should use things until they breaks, and people should try to reduce the amount of wasted, uneaten food.

今月の文化 2019年1月


Hello everyone.
It’s January and it’s getting colder and colder. Since this year is the last year of the Heisei Era, I’ve seen a lot of “last chance in Heisei” ads at stores and on TV. This year is the same as every other year, but it makes it sound special when you hear “this is the last chance for ___!”

On the New Year’s Day, there are a lot of Japanese customs dealing with what to eat, make, and decorate. This time, I will introduce you one New Year’s Day custom: otoshidama.

現代のお年玉は、お正月の日 (1月1日) に大人から子供にお金を渡すことです。お年玉袋という袋に年齢によってお金を入れて渡します。お正月には親戚の家に挨拶に行ったり、遠方の親戚が遊びに来たりするのでたくさんの大人と子供が集まります。子供にとってはたくさんのお金がもらえるチャンス!ですが、大人にとっては大きな出費になることもあります。
In the modern era, otoshidama are presents of money given by adults to young children on January 1st. Adults put some money in a special envelope called an otoshidama bukuro. The amount varies depending on the recipient’s age. On New Year’s Day, families who live far away come back to their hometowns, so a lot of adults and children gather together in one place. For children, New Year’s Day is a big chance to get money, but for adults it can be a huge expense.

昔のお年玉はお金ではなくてお餅を配っていました。これは鏡餅というお餅で、今でもそのお餅を年末からお正月に飾る習慣があります。この鏡餅は、1月1日に歳神 (としがみ) 様という神様をお迎えするために準備するお供え物ものです。丸い餅を2つ重ねて置きます。この餅を1月1日に家長が家族に分けることをお年玉と言いました。
In the past, people gave mochi instead of money. This mochi is called kagami mochi. People still decorate their houses with kagami mochi over the holiday. Kagami mochi is a gift for toshigami-sama, the god who comes on New Year’s Day. Kagamimochi is a pair of round mochi stacked one on top of the other. On the New Year’s Day, the head of the house would distribute kagamimochi to the household members. That is the origin of otoshidama.

The mochi-distributing custom changed to money during the Edo Period. People still make kagamimochi, but nowadays they eat it with family members on New Year’s Day.

As I said earlier, the money in each otoshidama varies depending on the recipient’s age. In general, the price range is like this:

3~6歳  :500円~1000円

7~10歳 :1000円~2000円




Some families stop giving otoshidama when their children graduate high school, but some families keep giving otoshidama even to college students.

For otoshidama, you need to use crisp, unwrinkled paper money. The side of the money with a person’s portrait is the front. Therefore, if you have to fold the money to put it into a small envelope, you should made sure the person’s face is folded on the inside, so when the recipient unfolds the bill, they see the face.

Number 4 is considered an unlucky number, so you should not give sums of money that include the number 4.