Japanese Bento Boxes

Japanese bento boxes are packed lunch boxes or takeaway containers that are made out of wood, plastic, or metal. Bento boxes are often filled with cooked rice, meats, fish, pickled and/or cooked vegetables, and egg. They are usually made by parents to give to their children for lunch in school or sold as takeaway foods from restaurants or train stations. These bento boxes are often nicely decorated and look very cute. I’m not exactly sure if I would be able to eat from the bento boxes if they looked this cute!

The Difference Between Korean Kimbap and Japanese Sushi

Korean kimbap and Japanese sushi look the same, but are they really the same thing? The answer is yes and no.

Japanese sushi consists of vinegared rice, which is combined with other ingredients like raw seafood and vegetables. Japanese sushi has various types. Some of these include:

makizushi, also known as norimaki (rolled sushi)              makizushi

nigirizushi (hand-pressed sushi)                                                      nigirizushi

chirashizushi (scattered sushi)                                        chirashizushi

inarisushi (pouch sushi) -fried tofu pouch filled with cooked vinegared riceinarizushi

oshizushi (box sushi)                                                   oshizushi

Korean kimbap is like a variant of Japanese norimaki. In kimbap, however, the rice is usually mixed with sesame oil. Kimbap usually contains rice, vegetables (carrots, kimchi, pickled radish, etc.), meat (beef, ham, crab, etc), and fried egg.

kimbap

 

 

Top Anime Words You Should Know

If you’re an anime fan, but don’t know any Japanese-here is a list of anime words you should know:

  1. anime Japanese animation/cartoon
  2. baka – stupid, fool
  3. chibi– small, short (characters)                                                          chibi
  4. gijinka – personification of animals or characters gijinka
  5. kawaii – cute
  6. manga – Japanese comic book
  7. neko – cat
  8. oishii – delicious
  9. onee-san/chan – older sister (-san is more formal as -chan is more affectionate)
  10. onii-san/chan – older brother (-san is more formal as -chang is more affectionate)
  11. otaku – someone who has an obsessive interest (anime, video games,  manga), usually a derogatory term
  12. sugoi – amazing, awesome
  13. sensei – teacher
  14. senpai – a person’s senior in occupation/school/etc.

 

The Land of the Rising Sun

In less than  one week, I will be going on my next adventure to-if you didn’t get it from the title-Japan!

Japan is also known as the Land of the Rising Sun since the Kanji (Chinese characters) for Japan-日本 (Nihon/Nippon)– literally means  “the sun’s origin. Then from “the sun’s origin” translates to “The Land of the Rising Sun. Also in the national flag of Japan, officially known as 日章旗 (Nisshoki), has a red circle representing the sun in the center of a white background.

Japanese flag

Anyways, I’ll be going to Japan for about a week and a half to visit a friend of mine I met in college. I’m really excited now, since the closest I’ve came to actually being in Japan was being in the Narita airport 3 years ago. This time I’ll actually be exploring in the cities of Nagoya and Kyoto-the food, the culture, and the language. The language part will be interesting since I decided to start learning Japanese this semester, so let’s see how that works out…

White Day

해피 화트데이! Happy White Day everyone! Many of you may be asking, “What exactly is White Day?” Well my dear readers, let me explain.

White Day is celebrated on March 14, one month after Valentine’s Day. It is celebrated in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and China. White Day (ホワイトデーHowaito-de)originated in Japan; it was first celebrated in 1978. It was started by the National Confectionary Industry Association on the thought that the men should give back to the women that gave them chocolate and gifts on Valentine’s Day. This holiday has not always been known as White Day. A candy company known as Ishimura Manseido also started to produce marshmallow treats for people to give on this holiday, which lead to the holiday’s original name, Marshmallow Day. Later on, confectionary companies started to produce white chocolate for this holiday and the name White Day was eventually given.

marshmallow heartswhite chocolate

On Valentine’s Day, girls and women in Japan give chocolates and other gifts to men and boys as an expression of love, courtesy, or simply, social obligation. Chocolates are put into three separate categories: giri choco, honmei choco, and tomo choco. Giri choco is obligatory or courtesy chocolate. For example, women would give their superiors and male co-workers giri choco (basically to any male that one does not have any romantic feelings for). Honmei choco is chocolate given to a man a woman loves or is serious about. Tomo choco is chocolate women give to their male friends (that they are NOT serious/in love with). Tomo choco, however, is not as common as giri choco and honmei choco. Handmade chocolate is usually preferred over store-bought chocolate, because of the thought, emotion, and effort put into the chocolate.

Then on White Day, the men who received chocolates are expected to return the favor and give gifts back (to “answer” or “reply” back to the women) such as white chocolates, dark chocolates, candies, cookies, marshmallows, jewelry, accessories, stuffed animals, and lingerie. There is a recited rule on returning a gift known as sunbai gaeshi/“triple the return,” the return gift should be twice or triple times the cost of the Valentine’s gift received. If a woman spends $5, the man is expected to spend $15. Or if a woman spends $50, the man is expected to spend $150.

Japan chocolate hearts

Japan chocolate

White Day gifts

In South Korea, White Day (화이트데이 Hwai-teu-deh-ee) is basically the same as Japan’s White Day except  chocolates and gifts are usually only exchanged between couples and lovers. School children, however, often give lollipops and other candies to their friends and classmates. When women and girls give men chocolates and gifts on Valentine’s Day,  the men return the favor on White Day. There is also another holiday that goes along with Valentine’s Day and White Day for all the people who did not receive any chocolates or gifts, which is known as Black Day (April 14) (I’ll make a post on Black Day later on). Anyways, gifts given on South Korea are commonly candies and sweets  (and of course, flowers). Chupa Chups lollipops are the most selling candies during White Day.

Happy White Day

화이트데이 캔디

화이트데이 헬로키티

츄파춮스

이민호 화이트데이

This last picture of Lee Min Ho, I randomly came across on the internet. I thought this was pretty relevant. And also the fact that Lee Min Ho is very handsome…

If any of you are wondering (probably not), I did not receive anything for White Day. Mainly because, I do not know many people from my area who is particularly interested in the Korean culture, Japanese culture, Chinese culture, etc. that know about White Day (especially the young men). However, my dad did get me flowers and chocolate for Valentine’s Day so that makes up for it.

Cherry Blossom Festival

When I was in Washington D.C. for the past four days, I noticed something in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Cherry blossoms. I was looking around the gift shop in the museum and saw souvenirs that were related to the Cherry Blossom Festival. I became very curious about the Cherry Blossom Festival, so here we are.

cherry blossomcherry blossoms

History: The National Cherry Blossom Festival (全米桜祭り) is a spring festival in Washington D.C. This festival commemorates the March 27, 1912 Japanese cherry tree gift from Mayor Yuki Ozaki of Tokyo (he donated 3,000 cherry trees). Mayor Yuki Ozaki gave these trees to the United States in an effort to enhance and support the friendship between the United States and Japan.

Read more information on the history on:

http://www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org/about/history/

The first Cherry Blossom Festival was held in 1935 under a joint sponsorship by numerous of civic groups. Now, the National Cherry Blossom Festival is coordinated by the National Cherry Blossom Festival, Inc. Each year, more than 700,000 people come to Washington D.C. to admire the cherry trees in the beginning of spring.

national cherry blossom

The National Cherry Blossom Festival is a festival that starts on the last Saturday in March (and lasts several weeks) with an opening ceremony in the National Building Ceremony. The 2013 National Cherry Blossom Festival is from March 20, 2013-April 14,2013.  There is a multitude of activities and cultural events on the following days such as photography, sculpture, and animation exhibits, parades, dancing, singing, kimono fashion shows, martial arts, and a rugby tournament. Every day there is a sushi and sake (Japanese alcoholic beverage) celebration, cherry blossom classes, and bike tours. The second Saturday of the festival, a three-stage festival takes place. After the three-stage festival ends, there is a firework show. The next morning, people can choose to participate in the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run (Washington Monument). At the end of the day, dignitaries gather at the Tidal Basin to light the 360 year old Japanese stone lantern in a ceremonial lighting. On the last Saturday of the festival, the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade takes place (Constitution Avenue) and the Sakura Matsuri-Japanese Street takes place during and after the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade (Pennsylvania Avenue-Northwest).

cherry blossom festival

cherry blossom float

cherry blossom washington

Festival gathering

sakura matsuri parade

If you’re ever in Washington D.C. at the end of March-early April, participate in this festival. I have never participated in this festival myself, but I would like to one day since cherry blossoms are one of my favorite types of flowers. Even if you’re not a “flower kind of person,” still participate. You only get to live life once, so you might as well live life to its fullest. Experience a new culture, you’ll be surprised about how different cultures (or anything in general) may appeal/fascinate to you.

Kokeshi Dolls

Recently, I’ve been thinking about my trip to South Korea. I was looking through my pictures when I saw a picture I took of kokeshi dolls at Narita airport. So let’s talk dolls! (Yes, even dolls are a part of culture.)

What exactly are Kokeshi dolls?

Kokeshi/こけし (koh-keh-shee) first originated in the Tohoku region of Northern Japan in the early 19th century. The Tohoku region was well-known (not sure if it still is or not) for its hot spring resorts. It is said woodworkers made these wooden dolls to sell as toys/souvenirs to the hot spring visitors or for the children of farmers. There are thoughts that kokeshi dolls could have a spiritual significance, such as they represented a wish for a healthy child.

These days, kokeshi dolls are often bought as mementos. Kokeshi dolls can be made from a variety of wood, cherry wood, dogwood, and mizuki are the most common .The head of kokeshi dolls are often made of mizuki wood, mizuki literally meaning “water wood.” For this reason, kokeshi dolls are also used as charms to “prevent” fires and “ward off” evil from the home.

There are two kinds of kokeshi dolls: traditional and creative. The traditional kokeshi dolls  are relatively simple in design, round heads and cylindrical limbless bodies. The patterns and designs painted on the kimonos have been developed and passed down from the generations of kokeshi makers, which means design and shape will correspond to the particular area they were from.

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The creative kokeshi dolls were created after WWII. Creative kokeshi dolls maintain the limbless feature, but have more of a modernized design. They have more shapely bodies, colorful kimonos, and other added features (such as hair). Artists create these dolls, which makes the style unique and more characterized.

Image

(*personal photo)

I must admit, I really regret not buying a kokeshi doll. The more I look back, I know I wanted to..but for whatever reason, I didn’t. However, I think the cheapest one was maybe $10? These dolls are not cheap. Some of the these dolls (that I saw) ranged from $12 to like $90. Next time I get the chance, I’ll buy me a nice cheap one. For now, I’ll just have to live with my drawing of one:

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