Even though they are an actual animal living in Japan, Tanuki are also among the most recognizable images in Japanese folklore, and have been part of Japanese folklore since ancient times. The legendary tanuki is reputed to be mischievous and jolly, a master of disguise and shape-shifting but somewhat gullible and absent-minded. Statues of tanuki can be found everywhere in Japan in front of restaurants and drinking establishments. These statues often wear big, cone-shaped hats and carry bottles of sake in one hand, and a promissory note (which it never pays) or empty purse in the other hand. Tanuki statues always have large bellies, and also usually show humorously large testicles, typically hanging down to the floor or ground. It is worth noting the tanuki’s testicles are unrelated to sexuality or fertility, and instead are merely a symbol of good luck and an element of silly and risque humor. Read more on “Tanuki” »
Archive for September, 2011
The Daio Wasabi Farm is located about 32 kilometers north of Matsumoto in the city of Hotaka. The farm, covering 15 hectares, is the largest wasabi farm in Japan. Established in 1915, the natural water springs fed by melting snow from the surrounding mountains enable the farm to produce 150 tons of wasabi annually. Its beautiful watermills alongside the clear river running through the farm and views of the surrounding Japan Alps make it a popular tourist spot with the Japanese. The farm is also famous for its appearance in the 1990 film “Dreams” by the world-famous film director Akira Kurosawa. The watermills and river appear in the segment called “Village of the Watermills”. These watermills still remain today, and can be best viewed by taking one of the special raft tours available during the spring and summer months. Read more on “Daio Wasabi Farm” »
This is a Japanese party/drinking game played by Maiko and Geiko (Geisha) with their clients at tea houses. The game is called Konpira, and the rules are very simple. The two players face each other and alternate touching the box or table between them. If the box is on the table when it is their turn, they must touch the box with a flat hand. If the box is not on the table when it is their turn, they must touch the table with a fist. Failure to do either means you lose the game. Sometimes when you lose, it means you will have to take a drink. Which means you will probably lose more games, which means you will have to drink more, which means, well you get the idea. Or the game can be played as an icebreaker between the Maiko/Geiko and their clients. Read more on “Japanese Party/Drinking Game” »
September 11th was the 6 month anniversary of the earthquake and resulting tsunami in Japan, but that fact was overshadowed outside of Japan by the observance of the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Here in Japan there were numerous special services held at Buddhist temples around Japan as well as numerous silent vigils in honor of those who were killed. Initially, I had decided not to write about this, but after seeing the advertisement displayed here I changed my mind. Read more on “Six Months After” »
Genkotsu-ame (literally translates to Fist Candy) is a specialty of the Hida (Takayama) region of Japan. It is one of the most popular sweets made in the area, and can be found in just about every souvenir shop in Takayama. They can even be found in supermarkets and convenience stores as well.
It is relatively easy to make. First, soybean powder is mixed with mizuame (literally translates to water candy). Mizuame, a starch syrup and Japanese sweetener, is usually made by converting rice or potato starch to sugars and looks and tastes much like corn syrup. Sometimes green powder tea, chocolate and other ingredients are also added to the genkotsu-ame for flavoring. Read more on “Making Fist Candy” »
There were thousands of Ukiyo-e artists, however, three stand out. They are Utamaro, Hokusai and Hiroshige.
Utamaro Kitagawa is highly appreciated as the dominating Ukiyo-e artist of the late eighteenth century. Yet little is known about his life. Neither the precise date of Utamaro’s birth, his birthplace, nor any substantial information about his parents is known.
The original name of Utamaro was Ichitaro Kitagawa. It is generally agreed that he started his career as a pupil of the painter Toriyama Sekien. His early known works were actor portraits and theater programs, published under the name of Utagawa Toyoaki. In 1781 or 1782 he changed his name to Utamaro Kitagawa. Around 1783 Utamaro started a successful cooperation with the publisher Tsutaya Juzaburo. Together they published several book illustrations. The early works of Utamaro were influenced by Torii Kiyonaga and Harunobu. Beginning in 1791 Utamaro concentrated his work on single portraits of women. He took his models from the street or from the Yoshiwara pleasure district. The stories of his love affairs with the ladies of the Yoshiwara are said to be abundant. Read more on “Ukiyoe – Art for the Masses – Part 3 – Utamaro, Hokusai and Hiroshige” »