Old fashion (Oshogatsu) activities

In the good old days, long before people got occupied and carried away with anime and manga, people had fun activities and spent time together rather than with machines! Other than making mochi together (without the magic machine, it takes one to pour water while another pounds the rice), Japanese people played card games, for example. The following examples used to be popular during Japanese New Year’s.

Hanetsuki bats
Hanetsuki hagoitas

Hanetsuki is a game similar to badminton though it doesn’t have a web. The wooden paddle is called hagoita and there is also brightly colored shuttlecock.

Fukuwarai “Lucky Laugh” is the Japanese equivalent of Pin the Tail on the Donkey, which is usually played by children. In Fukuwarai, blindfolded players pin different face parts onto a blank face, making funny results.

Iroha-garuta and other games
Iroha-garuta and other games

Iroha-garuta is a card game that requires only the ability to read hiragana. One person reads a proverb, while the others try to find the corresponding card.

Origami made by someone other than me
Origami made by someone other than me

Last but not least, the mother of all things Japanese: origami, traditional art of paper folding. I had true masters, the Japanese obaasan instructing me on making boxes from old advertisements and newspapers. Of course we also made the famous crane, 1000 of which are called senbazuru. One who folds 1000 cranes is granted a wish, such as long life and recovery from illness and injury. (I am 995 cranes short!)
The crane is a symbol of long life in Japan, and they are presented as offerings to a shrine or temple.
The thousand origami cranes also symbolises world peace, since a girl radiated in Hiroshima atom bombing believed that creating thousand cranes would cure her leukemia.

Skilled sensei
Skilled sensei

I have admit, that my results in origami was only thanks to the great instructor. I doubt I could make them again. Previously I have looked some instructions online and in books, but it is definitely different to have someone guide you through it, even in a foreign language!

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Tokyo by numbers

Here are some interesting numerals about Nippon’s capital, where I am currently definitely not checking out if they are true or not!

Tokyo by numbers

Tokyo Subway map

13 Subway lines
503 Train stations
3750 000 People in the Shinjuku train station every day, which keeps all the
300 exits busy
35 676 000 Citizens in the greater metropole area
21 People inside a Mini Cooper

I’d rather take one of the 13 subways

21,000 Ramen restaurants
257 bars in Golden Gai, Shinjuku
400 000 vending machines

No need to be hungry or thirsty, let the lights guide you!

300$ for a cantaloupe in Takashimaya department store
5500 000 000$ Annual sales in Tsukiji fish market
35 000 000yen for Kobe beef meal in the world’s most expensive restaurant, Aragawa

It’d better not be rotten inside!

Sources for these interesting facts were Lonely Planet and Time Out Tokyo. Pictures from: here, here and here

Kurisumasu

Prima ballerina
Prima ballerina

Christmas in Japan is not a big deal in the same sense it is in Europe. Of course you can hear the jingles and buy all the very necessary decorations, cards, cookies and chocolates here as well, but the way of spending the holiday is completely different.

Christmas market in Vienna, Austria (2011)
Christmas market in Vienna, Austria (2011)

Christmas markets are abundant all over Europe, and though it’s mostly unnecessary knick knacks and foods they sell, the spirit is indescribable!

In Finland, Christmas is by far my most favorite holiday. It is a time for family, candles, good smells, over eating and staying indoors. Basically what New Year’s is to the Japanese. My first Christmas time away from home has not felt like Christmas at all: being in the mountain isolated from all the commercial stuff has probably been a good thing for me. After Christmas, I will let you know how it went – so far I know that there are things I really miss from Christmas, but also some that I can perfectly do without. I guess the most important thing about the holidays is the company, no matter where you are. But the spirit can easily be lifted with few familiar things!

Satsumas (mikan) and chocolate: essentials for Christmas
Satsumas (mikan) and chocolate: essentials for Christmas

I will let you know how my Japanese Christmas went, after returning from where ever I spend it!

Merii kurisumasu minasan!

Christmas adventure

I have to face it: there will be no Christmas as I know it this year. Even the time waiting for Christmas has been so different from what I am used to – in fact there has been no waiting, besides waiting for tomorrow! Tomorrow I will leave to Tokyo, where I will meet my dad. We will spend the Christmas together in a so far unknown location, after which he leaves back to Thailand and to Finland on the 26th. After that, I am on my own for 10 days, until it’s APU time again, for the last 3 weeks of school. Whoa.

Christmas lights in Fukuoka
Christmas lights in Fukuoka

 
Time does fly, no matter how you look at it. Outside it seems to be fall, but I have already been here for months and the new year is coming faster than I would have imagined.

So, since I will most likely be occupied with other stuff than posting here for the next days (or weeks?), I can only promise to tell stories about my experiences later on. As stated above, since time goes by so fast, the posts will appear sooner than you’d expect!

Merii kurisumasu!
Merii kurisumasu!

Sunny Sunday stroll in Yufuin

Next to Beppu, there is a small town called Yufuin. It is a perfect location for a day trip, relaxed walk along the bustling streets.

Sunday stroll
Sunday stroll

Yufuin is old-fashioned and rather different from Beppu: along the main street you can find gift shop after another, selling specialities in various product categories (excuse me for the term, I have been studying too much marketing recently).

Successfull concept: Buy your sake and (pickled) snacks from the store, and go to the hut outside to enjoy!
Successfull concept: Buy your sake and (pickled) snacks from the store, and go to the hut outside to enjoy!

Yufuin is perfect for half-day or one day, since it can be easily walked within few hours. The area is famous ofr the Lake Kinrin as well as some onsen (though not as famous as Beppu, ha!). The style is more upscale and visitor-oriented than Beppu’s.

Famous Lake Kinrin (bit of a disappointment)
Famous Lake Kinrin (bit of a disappointment)

 

The speciality of Yufuin is korokke (croquette), but there are plenty of other novelty stores lined next to each other.

Enjoying cheesecake tofu ice cream
Enjoying cheesecake tofu ice cream

 

Most of the stores don’t hold back on samples, so there is no need to leave Yufuin with an empty stomach.

Dried persimmon outside a condiment store
Dried persimmon outside a condiment store

Of course, most of the products are locally made, on-the-spot.

Edible flower cookies, as tasty as they are pretty
Edible flower cookies, as tasty as they are pretty

 

There is also a mountain near by with a ropeway and possibility to hike, but we concentrated on the village atmosphere and food rather than exercising.