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Thursday, January 11, 2018

Nagasaki Kunchi

The Nagasaki Kunchi is the festival of Suwa Shrine, held annually in Nagasaki on October 7-9. The festival has been celebrated for about 400 years and incorporates different aspects of Chinese and Dutch cultures, which have played a role in the city's history. The festival's name is believed to come from ku-nichi ("9th day"), the ninth day of the ninth month of the lunar calendar.

The festival's highlight are dance and show performances by groups representing Nagasaki's various city districts. Each district (odori-cho), participates only once every seven years, so this festival remains fresh to even the regular viewer.


About five to seven groups perform each year, presenting traditional Japanese dances, Chinese influenced dragon dances or performances involving large floats, many of which are shaped like ships. While some performances are calm and peaceful, others get wild and hectic.

Performances are held at four main venues with paid seating and/or standing areas in the morning and evening of October 7 and in the mornings of October 8 and 9. The four main stages are Suwa Shrine, Otabisho, Yasaka Shrine, and Kokaido.


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Monday, January 1, 2018

Fukubukuro (福袋)

Fukubukuro (福袋) is a Japanese New Year custom in which merchants make grab bags filled with unknown random contents and sell them for a substantial discount, usually 50% or more off the list price of the items contained within. The low prices are usually done to attract customers to shop at that store during the new year. The term is formed from Japanese fuku (福, meaning "good fortune") and fukuro (袋, meaning "bag"). The fuku comes from the Japanese saying that "there is fortune in leftovers."

Popular stores' fukubukuro usually are snapped up quickly by eager customers, with some stores having long lines snake around city blocks hours before the store opens on New Year's Day. Fukubukuro are an easy way for stores to unload excess and unwanted merchandise from the previous year, due to a Japanese superstition that one must not start the New Year with unwanted trash from the previous year and start clean. Nowadays, some fukubukuro are pushed as a lavish New Year's event, where the contents are revealed beforehand, but this practice is criticized as just a renaming of selling things as sets.



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Saturday, December 23, 2017

4 Dishes to Try Out When Visiting Fukuoka

As one of the closest cities to the Asian mainland, Fukuoka has developed a unique and interesting food culture that has been influenced by Korean and Chinese cuisine. Some Fukuoka dishes, such as Hakata Ramen and motsunabe, have swept Japan by storm and become widely popular across the country.

1. Hakata Ramen


Hakata Ramen is a local ramen dish that features thin noodles in a thick, creamy tonkotsu soup, topped with slices of chashu. Some of the best places to enjoy Hakata Ramen are the city's emblematic yatai food stalls. Hakata Ramen can also be found at any of the numerous ramen-ya in Fukuoka, especially around Hakata Station.

2. Mentaiko


Mentaiko, the spicy version of salted cod roe (tarako), is a common Japanese food that can be found nationwide accompanying rice or alcohol, used as filling for rice balls, or as a seasoning in pasta dishes. Mentaiko is particularly famous in Fukuoka, where it originated by way of Korea, and is a typical menu item at the yatai food stalls and izakaya around the city where it is usually served raw or lightly seared.

3. Motsunabe


Motsunabe is a local hot pot dish typically made up of beef or pork tripe, cabbage, garlic, chives and togarashi peppers in a soy sauce or miso based soup. The inexpensive, slightly spicy stew is usually cooked at the table on portable burners and served together with a bowl of white rice. Noodles or additional rice may be added to the leftover soup in the pot at the end of the meal to finish the dish.

4. Tetsunabe Gyoza


Gyoza are pan-fried, Chinese style dumplings, which are typically stuffed with a mixture of ground pork, cabbage and green onions. While gyoza appear on the menus of ramen-ya, izakaya and other restaurants nationwide, they are also a popular Fukuoka specialty where they are served in large batches on ceramic or hot iron plates. Fukuoka, or Hakata, style gyoza can be found at specialty gyoza shops around the city, especially around Hakata Station.

The local specialties are probably best sampled at one of the popular yatai food stalls found around the city. But there are also countless restaurants in Fukuoka especially around downtown Tenjin, the Nakasu entertainment district and Hakata Station where some nice restaurants are located on the upper dining floors of the station building.
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Monday, December 18, 2017

A Kickstarter Campaign to Check Out: Japanese Manhole Cover T-Shirts

There are many different ways that artists and cities can work together to decorate their cities, but it seems like cities in Japan have come up with one solution that is as unexpected as it is creative and beautiful – decorated manhole covers.

Each city takes pride in its manhole cover design, which can display anything from municipal symbols and local landscapes to abstract patterns or illustrations of local legends.

If you guys love the Japanese manhole cover designs then you'll definitely love these T-shirts. This Kickstarter was started by Kevin and Steven, founders of 47Regions, they are passionate about all things Japanese including the culture, history, art, and of course the food.

This campaign is looking to make T-shirts that feature different manhole designs from the 47 prefectures of Japan. From their prototype, the designs are very vibrant in colors and are unique. All the T-shirts will be hand printed by them in Tokyo and with this campaign, they are working towards producing these T-shirts on a larger scale! In just 10 days, the campaign is already 40% funded.

Visit 47Regions's Kickstarter page to learn more and show your support. A pledge of $32 will get you both a T-shirt and a card when it ships this March 2018.



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Saturday, December 16, 2017

Okonomiyaki

Okonomiyaki is a popular pan fried food that consists of batter and cabbage. Selected toppings and ingredients are added which can vary greatly (anything from meat and seafood to wasabi and cheese). This variability is reflected in the dish's name; "okonomi" literally means "to one's liking". The dish is available all over Japan, but is most popular in the west, particularly the cities of Hiroshima and Osaka.



Okonomiyaki is sometimes translated into English as "As-you-like-it Pancake". However, this may be misleading. Though it does consist of batter cooked on a griddle, okonomiyaki has nothing of the sweetness or fluffiness of pancakes, not to mention that it is usually filled with octopus, shrimp, pork, yam or kimchi. A more accurate comparison, which is also made, is between okonomiyaki and pizza.

In Japan, people usually eat okonomiyaki at restaurants that specialize in the dish. At some of these restaurants the dining tables are each equipped with an iron griddle ("teppan"), and customers are given the ingredients to cook the meal themselves. As this can be rather daunting, the stages of cooking are enumerated below. Information about regional variations can be found thereafter.


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Sunday, December 10, 2017

Gora Park (強羅公園)

Gora Park (強羅公園) is a western style landscape park located on the steep slope above Gora Station. It is a relaxing place to unwind and enjoy the scenery and views of Hakone.



Gora Park is primarily a French styled landscape park featuring a large fountain and a rose garden. The park also has two greenhouses, one housing a tropical botanical garden while the other contains a flower garden. Additionally, there is a restaurant overlooking the main fountain, as well as the Hakuun-do Chaen teahouse.

In the Crafthouse visitors can take part in craft activities such as glass blowing, glass etching, pottery and dried flower arrangement. Activities range in cost from 1000 to 5000 yen and take from 30 minutes to an hour to complete.


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Monday, December 4, 2017

Sanno Matsuri

The Sanno Matsuri is one of the three most famous festivals of Tokyo, along the Kanda Matsuri and Fukagawa Matsuri. It takes place in mid June in even numbered years, alternating with the Kanda Matsuri which takes place in odd numbered years. The Sanno Festival extends over a week and has a few events, but most of them are rather small.



The festival's main attraction is a parade that winds through central Tokyo over the course of nine hours on one of the festival days. The parade begins and ends at Hie Shrine, the shrine responsible for holding the festival. Hie Shrine enshrines the guardian deity of Tokyo. It is believed to predate the foundation of the city, and its kami (Shinto gods) have always been associated with the protection of the city.



At Hie Shrine, where the parade begins in the morning, visitors can find a large straw ring standing in the middle of the shrine grounds. Walking through the ring is an act of purification in which visitors can take part. The parade gradually winds its way around the area, passing by the Yotsuya train station and Yasukuni Shrine. Before noon the parade arrives at the Tokyo Imperial Palace and stops for about half an hour while the mikoshi are involved in religious ceremonies. The chief priest enters the palace to offer prayers to the emperor and imperial family, which is a rare honor afforded to the festival.



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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Yoyogi Park (代々木公園)

Yoyogi Park (代々木公園) is one of Tokyo's largest city parks, featuring wide lawns, ponds and forested areas. It is a great place for jogging, picnicking and other outdoor activities.

Fountain Yoyogipark.JPG

Although Yoyogi Park has relatively few cherry trees compared to other sites in Tokyo, it makes a nice cherry blossom viewing spot in spring. Furthermore, it is known for its ginko tree forest, which turns intensely golden in autumn.

Before becoming a city park in 1967, the area where Yoyogi Park is located served as the site of the Olympic Village for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, and before that, as a residential area for US military personnel.


代々木公園は、広い芝生、池や森林地域をフィーチャーし、東京の最大の都市公園の一つです。それは、ジョギングピクニックなどのアウトドア活動のための絶好の場所です。

代々木公園東京で他のサイトに比べて比較的少数の桜の木がありますが、それは春の素敵な花見スポットになります。さらに、秋に激しく金色になり、その銀杏の木の森、知られています。

1967年に都市公園になる前に、代々木公園が位置するエリアは、 1964年の東京オリンピックの選手村のサイトを務め、その前に、米軍関係者のための住宅地として。

Photos:

"Fountain Yoyogipark" by Shinjiro - Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fountain_Yoyogipark.JPG#/media/File:Fountain_Yoyogipark.JPG

"Yoyogi Park from Hyatt" by jonny-mt - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Yoyogi_Park_from_Hyatt.jpg#/media/File:Yoyogi_Park_from_Hyatt.jpg
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