Friday, December 30, 2011

New Year in Japan

by aleks

First of all - reposting link to Hiroko's (our own SJG docent) childhood memories of New Year in Japan...

+ Another fragment of a holiday article from Billy Hammond, from his TanuTech webpage - again be sure to note his extensive index of Japan related information when you click the link to the rest of the article...

Also fragment of the Japanese New Year description from -  you will see pictures of  traditional shogatsu dishes when you click link below article....

Memories of New Year  
by Hiroko:

New Year was the biggest event of the year in my family. I literally counted days until the morning of the New Year. Whole family contributed preparing for the coming of the New Year, and that is the reason why it was engraved deeply in my mind.

Cleaning up the whole house took place a couple of weeks before the New Year. My father was the general of the operations, even he did not touch a thing on other days during the year. All the tatami mats were lifted, and shoji papers were changed. I was in charge of cleaning my family’s temple and shrine. This was a good chance for me to reacquaint with my ancestors by polishing their ihai, Buddhist memorial tablets which are black wooden lacquer tablet with his or her posthumous Buddhist name inscribed in gold in the front, and secular name, the date of death, and the age at death on the back.

New Year's in Japan

By Billy Hammond

The Japanese celebrate the New Year in a big way. The official New Year falls on January 1st, however, in actuality the season itself runs from the 31st of December through the 3rd of January.

Preparation for the New Year begins during the middle of December, with people preparing New Year's postcards usually purchased from the Japanese Postal Service known as nengajo. These cards are sent to business clients and aquaintances, friends, and family members. Those destined for businesses are usually printed commercially at a print shop while those sent to family and friends tend to be handmade. For people with large mailing lists, though, the trend is to have all the cards prepared commercially.

The nengajo often have caricatures of the animal representing the coming year on them, together with a standard New Year greeting. The person sending the card will usually add a brief, handwritten message to the back of the card to express his or her thanks for the assistance received during the past year with wishes for continued support in the new year. Cards are not sent to people who have had a relative pass away during the old year. People who have suffered the loss of a loved one during the year send out postcards asking that they not be sent nengajo beforehand, so a list is usually kept of who to send and who not to send cards to.
The rest of the article here....

• • • • • 

New Year 

New Year (shogatsu or oshogatsu) is the most important holiday in Japan. Most businesses shut down from January 1 to January 3, and families typically gather to spend the days together.

Years are traditionally viewed as completely separate, with each new year providing a fresh start. Consequently, all duties are supposed to be completed by the end of the year, while bonenkai parties ("year forgetting parties") are held with the purpose of leaving the old year's worries and troubles behind.

Homes and entrance gates are decorated with ornaments made of pine, bamboo and plum trees, and clothes and houses are cleaned.  On New Year's eve, toshikoshi soba (buckwheat noodles), symbolizing longevity, are served. A more recent custom is watching the music show "kohaku uta gassen", a highly popular television program featuring many of Japan's most famous J-pop and enka singers in spectacular performances.
The rest of the article here...

New Year in Tokyo

I wish you will have a good new year. 
Yoi otoshi o omukae kudasai. (formal) 
Yoi otoshi o! (casual) 

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas in Japan

by aleks
Our November continuing education meeting for the SJG docents was about Japanese Holidays and Festivals (see post from November 9, 2011) - being so close to Christmas date it sparked my curiosity about how is Christmas celebrated in Japan.

Internet is a wondrous invention: with a few keystrokes I came across many interesting descriptions of Christmas celebrations  in Japan; below is one that really grabbed my attention - it comes from TanuTech webpage -  a translation, software localization and publishing company, located in Kawachinagano City, Osaka, Japan.  When you click a link to this webpage, please note that besides this article the website  has an interesting index of Japan related information from Japanese holidays, through Japanese recipes, information on Japanese castles, use and misuse of Japanese language, and more - all written by Billy Hammond, who has lived in Japan for more that two decades.

Christmas in Japan

By: Billy Hammond

Christmas in Japan is quite different from the Chrismas celebrated in most countries in which the population has a large percentage of Christians or a Christian heritage. Only 1/2 of 1% of the Japanese population is estimated to be Christian, with the majority of Japanese being tolerant of all faiths: Buddhism, Christianity, Shinto, etc. In spite of this, the Japanese are great lovers of festivals and celebrations, including Christmas.

December 25th is not a national holiday in Japan, although December 23rd, which is the birthdate of the present emperor, is. Although it is not an official holiday the Japanese tend to celebrate Christmas, especially in a commercial way. The Japanese celebrate Christmas Eve by eating a 'Christmas Cake' which the father of the family purchases on his way home from work (or his wife does in the case where he has to work on Christmas Eve). Stores all over carry versions of this Christmas cake and drop the price of it drastically on December 25th in order to sell everything out by the 26th. This has resulted in a rather interesting expression in which young girls are referred to as a 'Christmas cakes': marriageable until their 25th birthday and requiring heavy discounts to get married after their 25th birthdays.

In recent years, thanks to the marketing prowess of the folks at Kentucky Fried Chicken, the Christmas Chicken Dinner has become quite popular. Many Japanese even make reservations for their "Christmas Chicken" ahead of time. People line up at their outlets to pick up their orders. As a result of KFC's brilliant advertising campaign, most Japanese now believe that Westerners celebrate Christmas with a chicken dinner instead of the more common ham or turkey.

Christmas Eve has been hyped by the T.V. media as being a time for romantic miracles. It is seen as a time to be spent with one's boyfriend or girlfriend in a romantic setting, so fancy restaurants and hotels are often booked solid at this time. It is often also a time when girls get to reveal their affections to boys and vice versa. Because of this, extending a girl an invitation to be together on Christmas Eve has very deep, romantic implications.
The rest of the article here...
• • • • •

Wonder how do you say 'Merry Christmas' in Japanese? This Japanese Language  has detailed instructions, including pronunciation - if you stay on that page too long, like I did,  you will also find out how to sing the  Rudolf Song in Japanese or get to the Japanese song/animation about Santa Claus (included below) - that webpage is full of holiday fun, so enjoy... :)

Merii Kurisumasu!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

NYC uses Haiku to bring Poetry to the Streets

by Lynnda
with added 12/22 P.S. from aleks

What a surprise to stumble upon a story about New York City and the use of haiku to provide traffic safety reminders.  This article was aired on December 3, 2011 on NPR's Weekend Edition.  Each haiku is accompanied by boldly colored graphics to illustrate the potential problems of inattention to the warnings. 

Artist John Morse designed 12 signs for display around the five boroughs.  Here are three of the signs.  To see the full story, and see all of the signs, follow this link: haiku in NYC

    John Morse/NYC DOT
"One of the joys of doing this sort of thing is how many people have responded to it with their own haiku," Morse says. "There's just a plethora of haiku coming out. It's so exciting."

Haiku is traditionally thought of as Japanese poetry that involves imagery of nature and how that is experienced by the poet.  The standard haiku has three lines and a total of 17 syllables, usually in a 5-7-5 rhythm.

If you feel creative, write your own haiku and leave it as a comment!
P.S. from aleks:  Metro Transit Seattle had a long lasting (1992-2007) public art project 'Poetry on Buses', which started with haiku form, I believe, then moved into more free form.  Here are links to:
 • Seattle Weekly 2007 article about 'Poetry on Buses'  by Rachel Shimp
King County Metro Transit archive of 'Poetry on Buses'  1997-2007 - enjoy!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

LUMINOUS - the Art of Asia at SAM

Website for this image: Poem Scroll with a Deer

by aleks
'LUMINOUS • The Art of Asia'  exhibition at Seattle Art Museum will be displayed till January 8th, 2012  - make sure you see it, as it is quite extraordinary.  It showcases the jewels of SAM’s Asian collections, from Chinese bronzes and Japanese lacquers to Korean ceramics and South Asian sculpture and painting;  but the collection itself is not what drew me in:  how many more vases, scrolls and kimonos one can see in a lifetime -  it is the way it is presented which makes it all very special.

This particular exhibit is all about context - something usually very missing  in museums and  easily making me leave the place when I'm sufficiently dazzled and overwhelmed, but not necessarily wiser.

Artist Do Ho Suh, who put it together, was exceptionally mindful about that very aspect - seeing his way  of arranging material  is a super-satisfying experience and easily incorporated into what one already knows: by learning how objects circled the globe, lost and gained value depending on surroundings, their original meaning (usually sacral) as opposed to current meaning  (esthetic).

I was particularly touched by a story and exhibit of 'Poem Scroll with a deer' - it turns out that SAM owned the second half of a 72' scroll like forever, but it wasn't until last year's scroll's visit to japan, that it was reunited with the first half, that was in pieces and dispersed among public and private collections there!  here is the scroll and the story:

Website for this image: The literature Network Forums

I like to visit exhibitions twice: once with a guide and once by myself (not necessarily in that order)  - this one I'd like to visit many, many times.

Here is more info on the exhibition:

Luminous: The Art of Asia
October 13, 2011–January 8, 2012
SAM Simonyi Special Exhibition Galleries

Wednesday–Sunday: 10 am–5 pm
Thursday & Friday: 10 am–9 pm
Monday & Tuesday: closed

Free Days:
All free day programs include access to special exhibitions as well as all SAM collections and installations. Exceptions may apply to special exhibits that carry a surcharge.
First Thursdays: Free to all
First Friday: Free to seniors (age 62+)
Second Fridays, 5–9 pm: Free to teens (ages 13–19) with ID

Friday, December 2, 2011

Nobuko, our fellow SJG guide and friend honored

On edit: 12/3/11 - ooops, only now found and posted text that MAC attached (in blue ink below)
Mary Ann C. (MAC here, on this blog) forwarded this info to me to post:

December 2011 - pic by MAC

I was at the Wing Luke Asian Museum Tuesday night when Nobuko was presented with her Denny Award by the Seattle Parks and Recreation.  It was a festive night with one of our own being very deservedly honored. I've attached the comments made about Nobuko and a couple of pictures for the blog.  This is the last time I ask you to post this for me!  I'll either have to learn or not post again in the future:

Congratulations to Nobuko, who was the recipient of the Seattle Parks and Recreation's Denny Award for “Best New Resource”.  The Denny Award began in 2003 to recognize “outstanding volunteer sterwardship.”  This award was presented to Nobuko at the Awards Ceremony, held at the Wing Luke Asian Museum on Tuesday night (29th).  Laurie (JGAC member) introduced her, outlining the ways that Nobuko has contributed to the Japanese Garden:  “Nobuko has been a member of the Japanese Garden Advisory Council for 3 years, and has worked very hard to reach out to the Japanese and Japanese-American community in Seattle on behalf of the Japanese Garden.  She has taken on the leadership of the committee focused on a new fundraising event – the Garden Party.  

The first party was held in 2010, as a way to recognize the sponsors of the Garden's 50th Anniversary.  Nobuko solicited the majority of the $10,000 raised from these sponsors.  This year, she again led the planning committee for the Garden Party, which succeeded in raising $14,000. Using her connections to the travel industry, Nobuko secured two first class domestic airline tickets for the raffle drawing held at the party.  The local United Ailines representative was so impressed with Nobuko's work that he has verbally committed to providing two business class tickets to Japan as a fundraising prize for next year's Garden Party.  She is also a member of Unit 86, giving guided tours of the Garden, and is involved with the Japan-American Society.  In all of her activities, Nobuko works with people from a variety of organizations and has gained the respect of these groups.  The Garden has benefited from this, by being able to expand its reach throughout the greater Seattle community.”  In her acceptance speech, Nobuko very graciously acknowledged the team effort that has contributed to the successes achieved these past two years.   

December 2011- pic by MAC

Oh, do  learn blogging, Mary Ann - you have so much to contribute, please use me to find out more!
AND SUPER Congratulations. Nobuko!  from all of us at the Seattle Japanese Garden!

- about Denny's award here
- more about about Nobuko's award  here

We love you, Nobuko!