Category Archives: Kanji

今月の文化 2023年5月 お好み焼き

This month the G7 meeting took place in Hiroshima. The leaders of several countries gathered in Hiroshima Prefecture, and it seemed quite complicated.

Leading up to G7, all the coin lockers at train stations in Hiroshima Prefecture were shut down. It seems that even in far away places like Tokyo, Fukuoka, and Kyoto, the coin lockers became unusable. Traffic was also restricted in many locations, so commuting to work and school became difficult for many.

Anyway, while G7 was quite an ordeal, on the second day of the meeting the prime minister of England was on the news making okonomiyaki; so this month’s culture note is about okonomiyaki.

Okonomiyaki is made with flour, eggs, and cabbage, on top of which you can add pork and other ingredients, which are then mixed up and fried. Generally, people make it on a large steel skillet. This style of okonomiyaki is called either Osaka style or Kansai style. On the other hand, in the kind of okonomiyaki eaten in Hiroshima, the ingredients are not mixed up before frying. Also, when yakisoba is added into the mix, it is called Hiroshimayaki. A crepe-like covering made of flour is laid on top, so the appearance somewhat resembles Kansai style okonomiyaki.

There are a few other styles of okonomiyaki; when you mixed the ingredients like in Kansai style okonomiyaki then put it on top of yakisoba, it is called modanyaki. Also, when the vegetables and flour thinned with water are added to the frying pan and cooked bit by bit, it is called monjyayaki. Monjayaki is usually eaten in Tokyo.
It’s interesting how even similar kinds of cooking can change in various ways from place to place!

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 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 3月 花見の場所取り

It’s spring and the season of cherry blossoms! The blossoms have not fully bloomed yet in Japan, but since it’s getting warmer, I think the flowers will bloom soon.

As for cherry blossoms, I talked about ohanami previously. This time, I’d like to introduce a custom related to ohanami called basho tori (reserving seats). Technically, people can do hanami anytime, but if they want to have liquor and party with friends or co-workers, it’s common to do it at night.

To do hanami at night, some people go to the location early to claim their spot before hanami starts. If it’s a company-organized hanami party, usually a new employee is assigned to this “job.” If the location is very popular, he/she might have to go there the day before the hanami party to claim the location.

Every time I see news about basho tori, I think it is a terrible job to do. However, thanks to COVID, the number of company drinking parties (and other sorts of parties) has declined, so it’s not too hard to get a nice spot for hanami nowadays.

I’d rather enjoy a quiet and relaxing hanami gathering than spending lots of effort and time to take “the best location,” so I can not understand the culture of bashotori. I just hope that everyone can enjoy a beautiful night view of cherriy blossoms this year.

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 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 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 大掃除


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10月 ハロウィーン

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 和梨

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?