Author: Juju Kurihara
On the night of the 13th of February, four Japanese musicians won at the 53th Grammy Award. This is historical. One of them is the guitarist, Takahiro Matsumoto from Japanese rock group B’z which has been one of the top group in Japan since the late 80’s. He won the grammy by collaborating with a master of guitar, Larry Carlton.
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.
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 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.
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.
The 11th of February is the National Foundation Day in Japan. It's called Kenkoku Kinen no Hi (建国記念の日) and has been a bank holiday since 1966. This day was originally celebrated as the first emperor Jin-mu founded Japan – back then called Yamato- in 660B.C.
This Emperor Jin-mu is actually a part of Japanese mythology. According to Nihon Shoki (The Chronicles of Japan), the second oldest Japanese classic history book, the Mikado, Iwarebi no Mikoto who unified Japan was the Emperor Jin-mu.
In many places in Japan you can see parades like this,
On the day of Japan's birthday, my page, Iromegane has born today.It's been nearly 10 years since I started wondering around the world. I went to the west, to the continent down south then now here I am in Madrid for 3 years.
I have a question to you.
"What is Japan?"
Hmm, so who are Japanese people?
So many images are out there but surprisingly it's not really known who Japanese people really are. I don't know how many shocking comments and questions people asked me about Japan.
Iromegane makes things all clear about Japan, Japanese culture and people. Hope this helps to make Japanese people more transparent for you and for us.