今月の文化 2023年2月 マイナンバーカード

In Japan, the “My Number Card” was introduced, and many people have received their ID number. The “My Number” has been available since a little while ago, but the card came a bit later. A My Number Card contains a person’s name, address, birthdate, and so on, and there have been some problems with privacy. For that reason, many people have not yet applied for their My Number Cards.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the country distributed relief money; however, it was difficult to receive the money, and it used a lot of tax money. Filing income tax is also very difficult. There are probably other reasons as well, but it was around that time that the government began encouraging people: “Everyone, please register your My Number Cards!” It was not an obligation at first, but now it seems as if it has become mandatory, so many people have complained.

Finally, there was a campaign to reward everyone who registered their My Number Card with 20,000 yen. That campaign spurred lots of people to get their My Number Cards. In order to receive the money, people had to register by February 28. Today, February 28th, so many people went to their city halls to try to register that some of them had to wait in line for five hours, according to interviews on the news. Lots of people were left with terrible memories of the last day of the month.

今月の文化 2023年1月 カニ漁解禁

There are all sorts of events and foods to enjoy once winter comes. For example, crabs. Winter is crab season. Around November, the news starts talking about the opening of crab season.

Crab season’s opening day is the day it becomes OK to fish for crabs. In order to protect crabs and make sure their numbers don’t get too low, crabbing is limited to a specific period of time. This year’s crab season opened on November 6th.

Crabbing season begins with catching female crabs, and in the latter half male crabs are caught. This crab season will end on March 20. In crabbing areas, you can eat crabs at onsen hotels and so forth.

There are some interesting phrases relating to eating crabs. For instance, if you want to make someone shut up, you should feed them crabs. For some reason, everyone becomes very quiet and focused as they remove the meat from the shells, and they eat it silently. Isn’t that funny? If there is someone around you who talks too much, how about treating them to a feast of crabs?

今月の文化 2022年12月 針供養

Harikuyo is a service of thanks for the sewing needles that we have used throughout the year. Broken sewing needles, or needles that have become old and unusable, are stuck into soft materials such as tofu, konnyaku and then set adrift in rivers or dedicated to shrines.

The reason they are placed in soft materials like tofu or konnyaku is because up until now they’ve worked hard to pierce tough cloth, and so in the end they should get to be laid to rest in a soft material.

These services have a long history and have continued since the Edo period. These days most households don’t do this sort of thing, but people who work with needles in their jobs often do participate in harikuyo.

Harikuyo is performed on set dates: February 8 or December 8; once or twice a year, depending on the region. In eastern Japan it is usually performed on February 8, while in western Japan it is usually performed on December 8.

今月の文化 2022年 11月 良い肉の日

“Eleven” is pronounced “jūichi,” but it is made up of two ones. Since “one” can be pronounced “i,” two ones can be read as “ii,” which means “good.” For example, 11/29 can be read as “ii niku,” with the two and nine in twenty-nine read as “ni” and “ku.” Thus 11/29 can be called “good meat” day.

On this year’s “good meat” day, hamburger restaurants are having sales. Since it’s the 29th, some offer discounts of 290 yen, or they serve patties that are larger than normal. Also, steak restaurants and so on are giving discounts or all-you-can-eat plans.

Supermarkets are also having sales on meat. It’s interesting. Since every day in November starts with 11, there are lots of “good _____” days, making it a fun month.

今月の文化 2022年 10月 わらアート

There is an annual event in which large artworks are made and displayed outdoors using the straw that comes out of the rice fields after the harvest is over. They are displayed between August, when the rice is harvested, and October.

Every year in the fall you can enjoy these festivals and straw art photographs. That includes large sculptures of gorillas and triceratops. It’s impressive!

新潟県で行われている祭りが大きいようですが、仙台市や山口、浜松などでも行われているようです。長い期間展示がされているので、いつか見にいてみたいですね 。
The festival in Niigata is large, and there are also festivals in Sendai, Yamaguchi, Hamamatsu, and so on. They are displayed for a long time, so I’d like to visit and see them some day.

今月の文化 2022年 9月 岸和田だんじり祭

The Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri takes place in September, in Kishiwada, Osaka. It’s a very famous festival, so many people who have never even been to Kishiwada know of it.

This year it took place on the 17th and 18th of September. The most well-known feature of this festival are the “danjiri,” the large mikoshi carts which are pulled through the streets. Each danjiri weighs about 4 tons, and is pulled by a group of people running at high speeds through the streets. The maintain their high speeds even when they turn corners, which is called “yarimawashi.” The first time I saw this on television I was surprised by how dangerous it looked.

Each danjiri is guided by people on top who give directions. The large groups of people pulling the danjiri look very cool in their identical uniforms. The danjiri are made from zelkova trees and covered in ornate carvings.

Many people go to see this festival, so it gets very crowded, but I’d like to go and see it with my own eyes some day.

今月の文化 2022年 8月  土用の丑の日―パート2

During doyou no ushi no hi, we eat foods that begin with う. Among those the most famous is unagi (eels). Unagi season begins in the fall, so not many fish markets have them in the summer. These days there are many farmed eels, so it is possible to buy them year-round.

In the summer there aren’t too many fish with lots of fat. However, eels have lots of fat and vitamins. During doyou no ushi no hi, it is said that eating eels will help you work hard through the summer heat.

Before doyou no ushi no hi, you can see signs at supermarkets and fishmongers calling for eel reservations. It’s interesting to see these old customs continuing even today. By the way, in Fukui, on hangeshou (the 11th day after the summer solstice) there is a custom for each person to eat one whole saba (mackerel). This is for a reason similar to why people eat eels during doyou no ushi no hi. Mackerels have lots of nutrition, so farmers would eat them after the planting was done. But one whole fish per person seems a bit too much!

今月の文化 2022年 7月  土用の丑の日―パート1

The four seasons of the year each have a set day when the season changes. The last 18 days before this set date are called “doyō.” Long ago, the twelve signs of the Chinese zodiac were used to tell the dates. Thus, once every twelve days is a “day of the ox.” During the 18 day doyō period, there will be either one or two days of the ox.

Each year contains several doyō periods, with several days of the ox in them, but the most famous is the day of the ox which falls in the summer doyō. This period is so hot and there are many people who feel weak during this time, so it’s a custom to eat nutritious foods to support your body during these days. Because ushi (ox) starts with ‘u,’ it is thought to be good to eat foods that start with ‘u,’ such as umeboshi, udon, uri, etc. on these days.

今月の文化 2022年 6月  節電

This year, spring was a bit cold, and there were many cool days even in May. But as expected, the rainy season started in June and there were many hot and muggy days. Recently, Niigata Prefecture in the Tohoku area even reached 37 degrees Celsius! Other areas were also very hot, reaching 35-36 degrees Celsius.

In the US, Florida is well known for being hot, but after it rains there it becomes cool and the wind blows, and I remember it feeling very nice. In Japan, after it rains it does not get any cooloer, but it just gets even more humid and uncomfortable.

The Kanto area is also very hot, and recently the news has been saying that there is a problem of not having enough electricity. On March 33, the supply and demand reached a critical point and an energy emergency was declared. The government asked people in Kanto and Tohoku to reduce their energy usage, but the temperature has been so high that without using air conditioners people will suffer heatstroke. As a result, everyone is using air conditioners and the energy continues to be insufficient, creating a terribly difficult problem. What is going to become of this summer??

今月の文化 2022年 5月  新緑と神社

I took a photo of a beautiful shrine surrounded by gorgeous green moss and a forest. Every year there is a festival for the paper goddess during Golden Week.

Due to COVID19, they haven’t held this festival for two years, but they did a simplified version this year. They didn’t use the beautiful golden mikoshi and only used simple wooden mini box to carry the goddess this year.

Since 2020, people have had to cancel many traditional events and parties. I hope people are able to start holding fun events and traveling again this year.

Japanese Grammar Review