Category: Japan

04 Mar


Juju Kurihara Japan, Vocabulary Tags: 0 Comments

ema keiba

"Please make me win at horse race and get enough fund from it." Hmmm. 

hanging ema

After writing your wish, there is a place to hang it.

Ema (絵馬/ picture hourse) is used in Shintoism, is small wooden plaques on which people write their prayers or wishes. After writing your wish, you leave it hanging up at the shrine. On one side there are various pictures, often they are animals or other shrine imagery.

This tradition came from Nara perido (710-784). When their wishes came true, they devoted horses (considered as a vehicle for God) as a gift. However as not everyone could afford to donate a horse, those who are less rich started giving the shrine a paper horse, a painted horse or a figure of the horse instead. And it's been carried on until now.

Nowadays, Ema is used to write the wishes and some shrines are specialized for some particular purpose. For example the second photo shows an Ema for having a child (Kodakara).  

During the entrance exam season, many students and their parents go to a shrine and hang their wishes like the third photo.

Once a year, shrines collect all Ema and burn them by thanking and purifying the spirits at the same time.


ema horse
ema child


03 Mar

Meyami Jizo

Juju Kurihara Culture, Japan Tags: 0 Comments

Meyami Jizo (めやみ地蔵) is a Budhisattvas for eyes and people who have problems with their eyes come here to pray. Me-yami means sicken eyes in Japanese and Jizo is one of the Budhisattvas commonly known as a guardian god in Japan.

02 Mar


Juju Kurihara Japan, Vocabulary Tags: 0 Comments

Sushi is now worldwise known Japanese food, yet it's not so commonly known Sushi has just a general name and there are many kinds of Sushi in Japan. 

Sushi is written in Japanese as 寿司 but this is actually a substitute character and is also written as 鮨 or 鮓. The first character 鮨 means vinegared rice or fish and the latter 鮓 means fermented fish or rice, both came from the original style of Sushi. Sushi was a preserved food which dates back to the 4B.C in the Southeast Asia. It was around the 8th century when the idea of Sushi was introduced to Japan and it changed its style a little, which people started eating half raw fish with the rice.

Here are the types of Sushi.


In the early 19th century it was invented in Edo as a fast food. Since all the fish used for this sushi came from the Tokyo Bay, it was called Edo-mae-zushi (Sushi from the sea in front of Edo) and still is called that way. 



Some ingredients such as sea urchin or salmon roe are difficult to make Nigiri and Gunkan-maki is invented for those. Gunkan means warship in Japanese. With Nori (seaweeds) around it, it does look a ship.



This is a typical home party style sushi that you can make your own sushi. Temaki means wrap with the hand in Japanese and as it says you pick your favorite ingredients and wrap with Nori. You can also order in Suhi restaurant.



One of the types of Maki. Futomaki menas fat roll in Japanes and as you can see, there are many ingredients inside a roll. Often they make patterns as they layout the ingredients and when it's cut it appears like the photo. These are called "Kazari-zushi" (decorated sushi).



The difference from Futomaki is Chuumaki has only a few ingredients including some seafoods. Chuu means medium size in Japanese and with the recent healthy boom, salad roll can be seen often.



This is the standard maki served in Sushi restaurant in Japan. Usually it has only one ingredients such as cucumber (Kappa-maki), Negitoro (minced tuna and leak) or Natto-maki (fermented soybeans).



This is not really a type of Sushi but is commonly seen in the restaurant. Kaisen means fresh seafood and Don is a bowl in Japanese.

chirashi, kaisen


This is the most common Sushi which is made at both Sushi restaurants and home. The ingredients put over the vinegared rice is various, shiitake mushroom, fine cut eggs, shrimps, salmon roe etc.. Chirashi is often made for the celebration.



Instead of making a shushi one by one, this Sushi is made in a box like a cake. Oshizushi means pressured Sushi and as you see in the photo below, put the rice and fish in this wooden mold and press it until the ingredients gets stuck together. This is also called Battera, originally made in Kansai area in Japan (western part of Japan) and mackerel and kelp are usually used  but recently there is one with salmon which is made in Hokkaido (the most noth island in Japan).   


oshizushi box


The method is the same as Battera and the difference is Sabazushi is wrapped in bamboo leaves instead of putting in a wooden box. Saba is mackerel in Japanese. 


sabazushi wrapped


A type of Oshi-zushi, made in a box made of bamboo and wrapped in the bamboo leaves. Masu is trout in Japanese and this Masu-zushi is a specila product of Toyama prefecture in Japan.



This is another Sushi which is made at home quite often. The rice is wrapped in a deep-fried bean curd, slightly sweet taste. Sometimes the rice is mixed with other ingredients like the photo.


So now, which Sushi you feel like eating for lunch?

17 Feb


Juju Kurihara Japan, Vocabulary Tags: 1 Comment

Hiragana (ひらがな) is one of the Japanese wrting system along with Katakana and Kanji. As well as Katakana, Hiragana is phonetical and is a simplified form of Kanji.

Hiragana was inventied in the 9th century, in Heian period and is used for Japanese origen words, prepositions or as ruby characters.

When Japanese children start learning reading and writing, start with Hiragana.


Hiragana Chart

hiragana chart



More about Japanese language


Onomatopoeia with Mado Michio

Onomatopoeia with Taro Gomi

Kazoe uta


17 Feb


Juju Kurihara Japan, Vocabulary Tags: 0 Comments

Kanji (漢字) is one of the Japanese wrting system along with Hiragana and Katakana. Both Hiragana and Katakana were made from Kanji by simplifying the character. Kanji was first created in China and is an ideogram. During 5th-6th century, Kanji was imported from China to Japan by Japanese monks and students who studied there. Traditionally kanji were mostly used by men or well educated women, and Hiragana was invented for women to use.

One Kanji usually has more than one way of reading and there are more than 10,000 kanji. Obviously it's imporssible to remember all characters so that Japanese people use special Kanji dictionary. 

The Japanese Ministry of Education announces a list of official Kanji characters which is called Joyo kanji (usual use kanji). According to the latest announcement in 2010, 2136 kanji are set as joyo kanji.

This dictionary contains 14,313 individual kanji which is more than enough for to read the newspaper.


kanji dictionary

This is the complete version of Kanji dictionary which includes 50,000 individual kanji and 500,000 phrases.

I like to have them just to decorate my book shelf.

daikanwa jiten


16 Feb


Juju Kurihara Japan, Vocabulary Tags: 0 Comments

Katakana (カタカナ) is one of the Japanese wrting system along with Hiragana and Kanji. As well as Hiragana, Katakana is phonetical and is a simplified form of Kanji.

Katakana is mainly used in modern Japanese language when a word describes foreign language or names.

Ex: Television – テレビ (terebi)

       Coffee – コーヒー (koohii)

       Penelope Cruz – ペネロペ・クルス (Peneroepe Kurusu).


Katakana chart

katakana chart



More about Japanese language


Onomatopoeia with Mado Michio

Onomatopoeia with Taro Gomi

Kazoe uta


16 Feb


Juju Kurihara Japan, Vocabulary Tags: 0 Comments

Shokunin (職人・craftman) are those who are skilled and create things by hands in the industrial field. Traditionally shokunin are respected in the society, and in fact, in Edo periodo they were considered to be a higher social class than merchants. 

In modern Japan, the word shokunin applies to wider professions. As well as those who dedicate handicraft, carpenter (大工・Daiku), plasterer (左官・Sakan) and gardener (庭師・Niwashi), those who deal with food such as shushi chef or baker.

The most respected shokunin were those who manage metal. Japan used to bring many metal shokunin from Korea as they were known to have excellent skill.




16 Feb

Seal (Hanko)

Juju Kurihara Culture, Japan Tags: 0 Comments


Recently I've found something I haven't been using for a decade. It's a seal, hanko in Japanese. Instead of signing, Japanese people put the seal on any document. For the different purposes, they normally have various types of selas. For the usual use, only shows their family name but for something more important use, it shows the full name.


There are stil many seal makers (hanko shokunin) running the business all over Japan and they engrave the name by hand on any materials and font you like.

seal engraving

For seals, you can chose from various materials from different types of wood to ivory which can cost 64,900 yen (about $774). You need to buy a stamp pad which always comes in red. I've never seen other colour.

Once you have your seal, get a hanko case like this.







But for the daily use, to put the seal for receiving a parcel, you couldn't be bothered taking the hanko out, stamp is and wipe the ink etc.. Don't worry, there is a mechanical type which the ink is already set in, called shachihata


I remember this was always at the entrance of the house in the little basket where the keys were, and when the postman came, I'd stamp the hanko to receive a parcel or a letter.

Putting seal correctly is a quite important thing for Japanese people. If you put it on the wrong place or if it's not straight, your clients may not accept the document and can return it to you. Actually there are quite many forums and websites where teach them how to put the hanko perfectly.

This is an basic example.

shomei_natsuin right

this is good

shomei_natsuin bad

this is bad


Recent increase of foreign workers or residents, hanko is available in Katakana.



Danny White

Danny White


With this hanko, now you can sign in properly in Japan.