Friday, December 04, 2020

One aspect of changing seasons in our daily life


I had an important tea gathering to attend last month. It was called "Kuchikiri no Chaji", which literally means "to unseal the pot of tea leaves."  It is an important tea procedure throughout the year to open it up for the first time,  take the tea leaves out of it, and grind the tea leaves to enjoy in the tea gathering.
Inside a pot, new leaves picked in early summer this year have been packed almost a half year for the best flavor. It was the first day to unseal this pot in our tea class.
We wore kimono to celebrate this occasion.
My teacher told us that this procedure was like celebrating the coming of the new year in the world of Japanese tea gatherings. I put on kimono that day with a sash full of embroidery depicting autumn harvest of fruits. I enjoyed our traditional kimono culture to appreciate the changes of the season, too. 
This gorgeous sash was from my late mother-in-law whose  mother had prepared for her marriage in 1930s. This is so precious and valuable in quality, too  I’m responsible for handing it over to my daughter.


Friday, August 14, 2020

Does COVIT-19 change our culture?


 We are in the midst of the Obon holidays in Japan. 

Obon is a series of Buddhist memorial services for family ancestors which generally takes place on August 14 and on 15. To put it more precisely, when the event takes place depends on the sect you belong to or the local area you live in. My family belongs to the Soto sect and the services of Obon actually start earlier in August.

Every year, this is the time when many Japanese visit family graves in temples together along with family members who usually live apart such as children with families of their own. It’s a big family reunion.

However, this year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, things are quite different.

In order to avoid close contact, our temple has decided to minimize Obon memorial services. They have also limited the number of visitors from one family. The other day, at the beginning of the Obon, two people from one family were allowed to attend the service with a mask on in accordance with the service time schedule. The temple main hall used to be full of families coming in and out the whole day, exchanging greetings with one another—but not this year. There was no opportunity for us to talk with the principle monk and his family in person, and no tea service to relax with after the prayers either. We just gave a simple bow in greeting and farewell from a distance.

On August 15th, the last day of the Obon, the memorial service for our ancestors won't be an exception. This time, four members from one family will be allowed to participate in the memorial service in the main hall.
Surprisingly enough, many other temples have also suspended the Obon memorial services in their halls and have decided to provide memorial services via the Zoom meeting instead. We had never expected that IT technology would prevail in our traditional practices at temples and at home.

I know the temples took a drastic measure to prevent us from infection. Yet, it's sad that we are forced to change our tradition. No one can tell what Obon will look like next year.

No matter what, it’s time for us to remember our ancestors, including our parents who left us not so long ago, and to pray to them for protection at our family altar.


Tuesday, June 16, 2020

The Amabie is Back

 In Japanese folklore, we have many imaginary supernatural creatures called “youkai”, whose history mostly dates back to the period between the 17th and the 19th centuries.

The “amabie” is one example. It has recently caught our attention throughout the country. The creature has a mermaid-like body but its face looks like a bird with a beak, and it wears its hair very long. It is believed to be a harbinger of disease, telling people, "Draw my image and pass it on to others so as to ward off infectious disease." That's the reason the amabie has come back into our modern lives during the coronavirus pandemic.

People have been posting many amabie drawings on SNS, and they have gone viral. What's more, Japanese sweet shops across the country have been making sweets in shape of the creature.

Let's not talk about whether you approve of this business trend of making a profit from coronavirus confusion. We surely take comfort in sharing amabie products in hopes that we can put an end to the crisis.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

A concern following the lifitng of the state of emergency

This is the familiar view of the station building I saw this morning.
It was good to see nothing had changed. That being said, I feel that something has changed inside of me. I'm looking at the scenery with different eyes. I saw people wearing masks, few cars pulling in to the station, and few people waiting on the Shinkansen platform.

The state of emergency was lifted on Monday. Schools, businesses and many other social activities are gradually starting again with new social norms, such as washing your hands, wearing masks, and maintaining physical distance with others. Social life now definitely seems different from the one we cherished.

I hope we can manage this new stage in our lives without any serious cases rebounding.

Friday, February 08, 2019

The girl's death

Let me express how I feel in relation to the recent news of this girl's death.
I feel the same way most mothers do. It is terrible and a nightmare. I hope that the presence of neglect in our society won’t cripple the future of our children.

Whenever the story is aired, it makes me so depressed and angry toward the schools, education boards and police of two prefectures, Okinawa and Chiba, for their mishandling of her case and lack of coordination. The girl could have been saved and would be alive now if the teachers and officials had made more solid attempts at protecting the abused girl.

Gosh, whenever I recall the news, I want to scream at the guy from the education board for carelessly handing over the girl's questionnaire, full of her cries for help, to her sick father. She would still be alive if the education board hadn’t have handed over the questionnaire to her abusive father, who demanded the man show it.

After all, this only enraged her father and escalated his abuse of her.
She was found dead in the bathroom of her house. It makes me so depressed that no one could save her. These days, the occurence of domestic violence is spoken about in our society. Though abuse takes place behind closed doors, it is our duty to protect abused children on a more proactive and social level.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Charms of visiting Nagoya

 The city of Nagoya, the capital of Aichi Prefecture, is located just between Tokyo and Osaka. Nagoya has a history as a homeland of "samurai" warriors who had fought to unify the country in the 16th and 17th centuries. In fact the first political leader in history, called a "shogun, " came from this region. Nagoya Castle and Main Palace are part of our influential heritage and show the achievement of outstanding samurai in those days.

Present Nagoya is the fourth largest city in Japan and the leading city of the manufacturing industries across the nation especially in the automobile, aviation and iron & steel industries. Over the years, this success is still greatly owed to the samurai rulers. These rulers encouraged skilled craftsmen to move to this region to promote the local industry while the central samurai government had failed to protect them due to strict economy policies.

Nagoya is a hub. Nowadays, many tourists from abroad see the advantages of visiting Nagoya. We have Chubu International Airport which is a 40-minute train ride to and from the center of Nagoya. The Shinkansen Bullet train from Nagoya station connects the city to many destinations nationwide. Furthermore, accommodation is more reasonable in regards to price compared to any other big tourist cities like Kyoto, Tokyo and Osaka. Please make the best use of your JR Pass to go back and forth. While you are in town, you will surely feel at home, too. It's easy to get around with public transportation such as the subway, buses, and private train lines.

For tourists visiting Nagoya for the first time, Nagoya Castle including Main Palace should be top of the list. You may also like to visit the popular temple in downtown Nagoya and also one of the three main great shrines in Japan. Aside from these, you may like to visit Toyota Museum of Industry and Technology, Tokugawa Art Museum or one or two Japanese gardens. Depending on how long you will be in Nagoya, I will customize the best tour for you accordingly so you can really get the most out of your stay.

Let's explore Nagoya! I hope you find the city charming!

Saturday, April 07, 2018

The theater is back

The new Misonoza Theater in the city of Nagoya opened after five years of rebuilding. A kabuki play put on by one of the prestigious families of actors is now being performed every day to celebrate the grand opening of the theater. April 25 is the last show.

I love kabuki.

For one thing, I am fascinated by the gorgeous stage, which follows tradition, and also by how it is performed, which has been passed on for generations. And for another, my friend plays a leading gidayu; in other words, a narrator who chants stories with his powerful and emotional voice.

Watching kabuki gives me a chance to leave my routine life behind and get lost in a unique and magical world.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

The cutest maching only in spring

It was a beautiful Sunday in the midst of spring.

I could easily imagine that the highway to my mother's was busy with cars--sightseers on their way to see the cherry blossoms. I didn’t want to be trapped in a bumper-to-bumper traffic jam on the way. I gave up on driving and took a train instead.

Soon after the train left, my eyes were caught by the breathtaking view of cherry blossoms in full bloom out the window in the distant mountains, along the riverbanks and the railway lines. I was glad that I had made a good decision.

The nearest station to my mother’s is called “Sakura”, namely “cherry blossoms”. I was most happy when I stood on the platform and saw the sign saying "Sakura" with beautiful sakura at their best in the background. The name of the station perfectly matched the cherry trees that bloomed beyond.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Retired Hina Dolls

For the last few years, you may have seen some small hina dolls in unexpected places or in unusual postures.

At the Chubu International Airport, I saw hina dolls sitting casually along a sidewalk into a building. They didn't sit neatly on a tiered stage, just like you would expect with a regular set of hina dolls on display. 

Rather, they were placed in many spaces and on corners, and they were in some vivid, realistic poses. Some are reading newspapers or books, and some talking over a cup of coffee together; some hoist a flag of welcome to tourists, and some look happy with shopping bags in their arms.

They are happily "retired hina dolls".

When their outfits got worn out over the years and were not suitable to be displayed at home, people handed them down to various public communities in towns and cities across the country. People arranged those dolls to entertain visitors, so as to energize communities during the hina doll festive season.

So they are called “fuku-yose-bina” in Japanese, which literally means “good luck inviting hina dolls.”

Friday, August 04, 2017

A complex of three tea rooms and a reception room

This building is a landmark at Shirotori Garden.
It consists of three tea rooms and one reception room.
The whole complex is called “Seiu-tei”, which literally means “a pure feather house”.
It's fascinating because the overhead view of the complex depicts a white bird spreading its wings to touch down on water.

The tea room on your right is the head of the bird. The corridor symbolizes its neck and the reception room symbolizes its body. The two tea rooms are its wings.
Another unique point about Seiu-tei is that it was built on the edge of the pond, which is not such a common location for a tea house.
When you attend a tea ceremony and sit in a small tatami room, the pond comes into view through the window.
You may feel as if you are attending a tea gathering on a floating boat as you can feel a nice breeze from the pond.