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.
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).
More about Japanese language
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.
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.
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.
this is good
this is bad
Recent increase of foreign workers or residents, hanko is available in Katakana.
With this hanko, now you can sign in properly in Japan.
Kenkoku no Hi (建国の日)
Kenkoku no Hi, celebration parade.
The 11th of February is the National Foundation Day since 1966 in memory of the foundation of Japan in and as the day to grow love towards the country. According to the Japanese second old mythology, "Nihon Shoki", Japan was founded on this day in 660BC.
After the World War II, it had been prohibited to celebrate this day as GHQ was cautious about Japanese people getting too patriotic by worshipping the Emperor but with the desire of Japanese nation, it revived as Kenkoku no Hi in 1966.
Usually this day, there are celebration parades in many places in Japan but also, there are many protests against this celebration. It's quite controversial.
Protest march in Tokyo in 2010
Kaidan (怪談）means ghost story or horror in Japanese although it usually refers to Japanese old traditional ghost folktales. Kaidan is a story about death, ghost and monsters and it first appeared in a written form dates back to Heian period (early 12th century). In the 18th century, it became one of the popular topics in Kabuki.
In the early 20th, a Greek born Irish author, Yakumo Koizumi (Lafcadio Hearn) collected old traditional Kaidan stories and folk stories all over Japan and published a book "怪談 (Kwaidan)". One of his stories, "耳なし芳一(Mimi nashi Houichi / Houichi the earless)" is a story all Japanese have read in their childhood.
Kaidan used to be a typical summer event as well as the fireworks. To chill in the hot and humid summer in Japan, scary stories were perfect.
St.Valentine’s Day in Japan
This weekend, millions of Japanese girls are working on really hard. On what? On chocolate!!
The 14th of February is the day which sells chocolate the most in a year in entire Japan.
In Western country, St.Valentine’s Day is the day for couples. Yes, it’s the same in Japan. But only difference is, Japanese girls give chocolate to the boys they like. Well, actually, not only to the boys but also to their bosses and colleagues, because if you are man and you don’t get any chocolate on the St.Valentine’s Day, it can be quite hurtful as a man. Also it’s a shameful thing for Samurai spirits. To avoid the boys to commit Harakiri, Japanese girls prepare two separate boxes.
Here is the trick. The chocolate for the boy she likes or her boyfriend is called “honmei choco”. Honmei means favorit or certain thing whereas the one for the bosses and colleagues is called “giri choco”. Giri means duty or social obligation. Main difference between honmei and giri chocolate is the price.
If you are given something like these,
You are “honmei”. By the way, the chocolete at the bottom cost 3,400yen (about $40).
But if you are given like this,
which costs only 275 yen (about $3), means the girl is just being polite.
Here, these people explain very well about Japanese Valentine’s Day.
According to an economic news, this year’s chocolate sales is growing as the 14th coincide with a weekday. It’s a good day to be a boy or a man. If you are not the most popular guy in Japan, obviousy you have a reason to hate this day. In that case, never mind and just sing along with this song. “Sine! Barentain Dei!” (A-hole, St. Valentine’s Day!)
Apart from this chocolate scandal, there are some sweet things going on, too.
In Kyoto, a taxi company changed its symbol green clover into pink. Also to sweeten up even more, all women driver in the compay will be in full operation.
Many traditional senbei (rice crackers) shops are making heart sheped senbei.
And at last, in the up north, in Aomori prefecture, a special Valentine train named “Nasa Mero Meros” (I’m in love with you in Aomori dialect) is running during the Valentine’s Day period. You can get some photos with your partner in the “love booth”.
Japanese Ghost Story – Yurei –
Japanese people love ghost story. Traditionally there are many scary stories called Kaidan even for children such as Bancho Sara Yashiki and Yotsuya Kaidan. Usually they are stories about death, ghost and monsters which origin can dates back to 12th century. Ghost in Japanese is Obake or Yuurei, Obake means transformed figure and Yuurei means the soul of the death.
Bancho Sara Yashiki
By the way, do you know the main difference between Western ghost and Japanese one?
A typical image of Western ghost is headless as you might have seen in Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow.
Whereas typical Japanese Yuurei has no legs.
Now recent Japanese horror films which have sent a shudder through not only Japan but Western world were Ring, One Missed Call or Dark Water, and all of these have been remade in the Hollywood.
Japanese people some how love horror films. There are many TV programs talk about ghost and psychic phenomenon.
And now, there is a new horror film coming out in Japan which made all Japanese horror fun shudder!! The film is Tomie Unlimited, it will be on screen in May and currently its trailer is showing all over Japan. However it's so terrifying that many of the cinemas have stopped showing it.
If you are not big fan of horror film, skip the video please.
So now, which do you scare more, Western horror or Japanese horror?
Well for me the most makes me terrified is the look of the ghost. One vote for Japanese Yuurei brrr.