The month of May in Japan starts with the week containing three public holidays
: Constitution Memorial Day celebrated on 3rd, Greenery Day on 4th and Children’s Day on 5th.
Originally, May 5th was a festive day for only boys but it is now for both boys and girls..
People celebrate Children’s Day by displaying special dolls, putting up carp-shaped streamers and taking a sweet flag bath.
It is also a traditional custom to eat Chimaki (Japanese rice cake wrapped in bamboo leaves)
and Kashiwa-mochi (rice cake stuffed with sweetened red bean paste and wrapped in oak leaves).
to pray for a child’s growth and happiness.
While the former is mainly served in the west of Japan, the latter is mostly enjoyed in the eastern Japan.
The oak leaves are not edible, but they give a nice fragrance to the mochi wrapped in them.
Since oak trees called Kashiwa in Japanese don’t shed old leaves until new leaves grow,
they symbolize prosperity of one’s descendants.
Generally used for Kashiwa-mochi, are two kinds of red bean paste,
i.e. mashed sweet bean paste and smooth sweet bean paste.
Red bean paste known as Anko in Japan is made from red beans mixed with a lot of sugar to create very sweet paste.
It has been the staple of Japanese sweets for a long time and is still enjoyed on happy occasions like Children’s Day,
as red was traditionally believed as a color that chases away evil,
which gave red beans the same power, and considered festive.
Below are Japanese annual events and Anko sweets:
*March 3rd : Hina-Matsuri (a festival for girls) :
Sakura-Mochi (sweet pink-colored glutinous rice filled with Anko and wrapped in a salt-pickled cherry leaf)
*May 5th : Children’s Day
*Around the week surrounding Vernal Equinox Day in March and Autumnal Equinox Day in September:
Ohagi ( a sticky rice ball covered with sweet red bean paste).
*Toji or “winter solstice” in December
Eating boiled pumpkin with Anko and taking yuzu-yu (a yuzu citron bath) on the day is believed to prevent catching cold.
Besides theses, there are many varieties of Japanese sweets with Anko filling.
Many Japanese, young and old, love them. Foreigners, especially Westerners might find them
too sweet. It’s not a matter of preference. It depends on what you are used to or not. Anyway, it deserves to have a bite!
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April is a month of a fresh start in Japan.
A lot of new employees in a newly-made business suit
and students in a brand new school uniform are seen passing through big stations like Shinjuku and Shibuya in Tokyo,
commuting to work or go to school..
On the northwest side of Shibuya Station,
there is the world’s busiest pedestrian crossing.
called “ The Scramble crossing” A popular spot for tourists.
An estimated number of 3,000 people cross it each time the signal changes.
The traffic lights all turn red, stopping traffic, and at the same time pedestrians from all sides flow into the massive intersection,
forming the stream of bodies, passing without colliding.
They seem to know how to remain well-behaved in the crowded place,
but many don’t realize they have a strategy for not running into others.
For some reasons, the Scramble started and works well.
It might be related to Japanese culture. People get used to tighter space.
They are daily crammed like sardines into train cars on their way to workplace or school.
Crowded or not, the pedestrians are considerate toward others and respect harmonious interactions.
In addition, the development history of Shibuya might be one of the main reasons.
The city became a big place in Tokyo with the developments of the north-west Shibuya done by the Tokyu Group in 1960s
and the Seibu Group in 1970s respectively.
The north-west Shibuya are covered with a large number of stores and restaurants,
and the Hachiko statue, a very well-known meeting place in front of the station,
which caused the disproportion between pedestrian volume and available infrastructure in those days.
Thus the Scramble started in the mid-1970s to cope with over 3 million pedistrians per day.
What makes foreign tourists overwhelmed is the organized chaos seen at the Scramble crossing.
It’s really something that they can’t experience in their country.
This moment can be watched from Tokyu Department store train level. Free and enjoyable attraction!
Spring is around the corner.
Every year the bunches of peach tree branches with lots of buds are found at a flower shop in Japan
from around mid-February.
They are arranged for Dolls Festival (Hina Matsuri) celebrated on March 3rd.to pray for girls’ healthy growth
Peach trees were believed to ward off evils.
The traditional practice was held when peach trees began to flower.
Although this is no longer true since the new calendar was introduced.
Peaches blossoms are still symbolic of the festival.
As this tradition shows, people have appreciated
the beauty of seasonal flowers and plants and celebrated festivals with them for centuries,
as the country has four distinct seasons with suitable flowers for each season.
Considering this, it’s understandable that Ikebana (Japanese art of flower arrangement) was born in Japan..
1“Flowers to be appreciated,” 2 “Yorishiro (an object that divine spirits are summoned to)”
i.e. Kadomatsu, a pair of pine used even today as decoration for the New Year 3 “Flower offerings
on the Buddhist altar” –
With these interacting elements in place,
ikebana began to be formalized in the 15th century.
Its origin came from floral offerings left at the temples,
and Ikenobo, the first school, was established by a Buddhist priest in Kyoto in the 15th century.
Later, other schools appeared, each with their own aesthetic philosophy,
eventually becoming a pastime for 19th-century ladies.
Ikebana has continued with the times, reflecting various eras,
but it is governed by strict rules.
The style which most people generally think of as ikebana is a triangular composition of three main elements:
the tallest representing heaven, the lowest, earth, with man .in the middle
One of the big differences between Ikebana and western flower arrangement is that in Ikebana,
line of branches is very important with some spaces, and asymmetry,
while flower arrangement has many flowers to make round shapes without any spaces.
If you are interested in pottery, taking Ikebana lessons is recommended.
The flower vase is a key element of Ikebana. But keep in mind that it takes time to master even basic techniques .
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