Thursday, 30 December 2010

Japanese New Year

New Year is very important event in Japan.

It is a national holiday and some people can have from 3 to 7 days off duty or school at this moment. Many companies are close or very low staff at this time of the year. This time is served to make a lot of “Time Honoured” to family and friends.

There is an old Japanese proverb that says like this about January 1st; 
“It is the day to make new plans for the Year and start afresh with a new state of mind.”

Let’s see more about it...

Preparation for seeing the New Year were originally undertaken to greet Toshigami, or deity of the incoming year. These began on December 13th, when the house was given a thorough cleaning; the date is generally closer the end of the month now.


Although local customs differ; the entrance of the house is decorated in traditional fashion way with “Kadomatsu” pine branches and bamboo besides the entrance way, sacred straw ropes “Shimenawa” with dangling white paper stripes (Shide) is hung over the front door to demarcate the temporary abode of the “Toshigami” and to prevent bad spirits from entering.


A special altar, known as “Toshidana” meaning Year Shelf is piled high with “Kagami mochi” (flat round rice cake), sake (rice wine), natural salt, persimmons, and other foods in honour of the Toshigami.

The night before New Year is called “Oumisoka” and many people visit the Buddhist temple to hear the bells rung 108 times at midnight to dispel the evils of the past year. It is also customary to eat “Toshikoshi Soba” that means year crossing noodles in the hope that one’s family fortunes will extend like the long noodles.

“Toshikoshi Soba”

January 1st is called Ganjistu or Gankan.
This day is to celebrate the coming of the New Year in family.
On the second and third day of the New Year Holidays friends and business acquaintances visit one another to extend greetings named “Nenshi” and to sip some “Toso” a spiced rice wine.


New Year dishes...
In Japan during the Holiday people are eating traditional dishes called “Osechi” meaning feast for the New Year.

The Typical Osechi includes rolled kelp, mashed sweet potato with chestnut, sweetened black soybeans, teriyaki style small dried sardines, fried burdock root, fish cake, salted herring roe, rolled sweet omelette and so on...
"Other Osechi"

Each dish has a blessed meaning such as happiness, prosperity, long life and so on...
This food is prepared in last days of December and placed in very beautiful lacquered boxes (Special type of Bento) so this way housewives do not have to worry about cooking during the New Year. In our days, Osechi are available in supermarkets and department stores to be even more convivial.

Otoshidama (Pochi bags)...
It is a special monetary gift to children from their parents and relatives during the New Year holiday. The money is put in a small cute envelope called pochi bag and handed to children. In old days this gift was not money but round rice cakes.

New Year Japan there is the custom to exchange New Year postcards with personal or business acquaintances. On these cards fixed phrases of thanks for the year gone by and greetings for the New Year are written, along with beautiful design of the Oriental zodiac sign of the New Year.

This year 2011 is the year is the year of the Rabbit...

 These cards fulfill much the same purpose as Western Christmas cards. Interesting facts is that Japanese are sending much more postcards the average mailing is 100 postcards by family. The cards must be posted in between December 15th to December 25th to then the postcards are held by post office and they are delivered on January 1st.

First calligraphy of the year is to practice with Japanese brushes and ink for the first time in the year. It is custom to do it on January 2nd and to write favourite kanji or phrase facing the lucky direction of the year. Some people write their New Year resolutions.

We hope you have liked to read us this year... we say Bye bye to 2010 now... and we will face 2011 with new aims new goods and new articles for you .

We wish you a Happy New Year....明けましておめでとう。 Akemashite Omedetou...!!!

We hope that you will come back next year... See you soon...

Friday, 24 December 2010

Merry Christmas to all of you...

The best part of the season is remembering
those who make the holidays meaningful.


We wish you all the love and happiness
this season can bring,
and may it follow you throughout
the coming new year.

Merry Christmas !!!

Thank you to have start to follow my blogs all long this year...
If you ever need anything leave me a message... I will answer to you as soon as possible.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Kimono - Part 2 Type of Kimono

Do you know that there is many types of Kimono?

For women we have:

Who is wearing a Furisode ?
This one is for young unmarried women.

What is typical difference with other kimono?
The sleeves of Furisode have an average between 39 and 42 inches (1,100 mm) in length. In fact, there are three lengths possible the oburisode that have a length of 105 cm, the chuuburisode have a length of 90 cm and the kofurisode is 75 cm length at last.
In the past, Furisode was black and with time it becomes such a beautiful and colourful design. It is richly design kimono.

When to wear it?
They are usually worn at coming-of-age ceremonies (seijin shiki).
At a wedding, unmarried female relatives of the bride are wearing it.
This Kimono is for all formal and ceremonial occasion of the unmarried women.

Who is wearing a Hōmongi?
Worn by both married and unmarried women

What is typical difference with other kimono?
This one is characterized by patterns that flow over the shoulders, seams and sleeves and a little more “Chic” then other Kimono (Tsukesage).

When to wear it?
At a weddings and receptions they may also be worn to formal parties.


Who is wearing an Iromuji?
It is worn by married and unmarried women.

What is typical difference with other kimono?
Only one color kimono (monochrome) and the material making of this kimono is satin ( mon rinzu), crepe (chirimen) or tsumugi.

When to wear it?
Those kimono are worn to do Tea ceremonies.

Who is wearing a Komon?
It is worn by married and unmarried women.

What is typical difference with other kimono?
This Kimono has a small and repeated pattern throughout the garment.

When to wear it?
It is to wear all around. To make it more formal for going out to restaurant or to go for a diner you put a more formal obi.

Edo komon
Who is wearing a Edo Komon?
It is worn by married and unmarried women.

What is typical difference with other kimono?
This is komon characterized by tiny dots arranged in dense patterns that form larger designs. It can be decorated with some Kamon too.

When to wear it?
May be worn as visiting wear

Who is wearing a Mofuku?
The completely black kit is reserved for family and others that are close to the deceased.

What is typical difference with other kimono?
The mofuku is a formal garment intended for mourning. It is made of pitch black silk, without any embellishment other than the 5 kamon.

All accessories are also black.
White being symbolic of death in Japan, the mofuku was made formerly of white. These days, the modern mofuku is now a black garment, to contrast with the white kimono of the dead

When to wear it?
The mofuku is worn on the days of the wake, funeral, and cremation of the deceased in a Buddhist funeral ceremony.

Due to white being symbolic of death in Japan, the mofuku was formerly a white garment; however, the modern mofuku is now a black garment, to contrast with the white kimono of the dead.

Iro Tomesode
Who is wearing an Iro Tomesode?
It is worn by married and unmarried women.

What is typical difference with other kimono?
It is a single-color kimono, patterned only below the waistline.
An Iro tomesode may have three or five kamon.

When to wear it?
Iro Tomesode are slightly less formal than Kuro Tomesode so it worn for close relatives of the bride and groom at weddings.

Kuro Tomesode
Who is wearing an Kuro Tomesode?
It is worn by married.

What is typical difference with other kimono?
It is a black kimono patterned only below the waistline.
Kuro Tomesode usually have five kamon printed on the sleeves, chest and on the back of the kimono. The length of the sleeves are more shorter then a formal Furisode and opening of the sleeves are smaller too.

When to wear it?
They are often worn by the mothers of the bride and groom at weddings.

Who is wearing a Tsukesage?
It is worn by married.

What is typical difference with other kimono?
It is more modest patterns that cover a smaller area under the waist.

When to wear it?
It is worn to visiting, school entrance, ceremony, parties

Who is wearing a Uchikake?
Back in time this kimono was worn by ladies of warrior or noble families.
In our days it is only worn by Japanese bridal ceremony.

What is typical difference with other kimono?
Uchikake is a highly formal kimono.
The Uchikake is supposed to be worn otherwise then the actual kimono and obi, it is taken as a sort of coat now. You can understand that we never tie the obi around the Uchikake. It is meant to trail along the floor. The color is all white or red.

When to wear it?
It is Japanese bridal ceremony costume.

Who is wearing a Shiromuku?
A bride.

What is typical difference with other kimono?
It is a whole white kimono that signify the pure intention of the bride to fit into her husband’s family.

When to wear it?
It is Japanese bridal ceremony costume.

Susohiki / Hikizuri
Who is wearing a Susohiki / Hikizuri?
Maiko (apprentice geisha), Geisha or stage performer.

What is typical difference with other kimono?
It is a longer kimono then a traditional one. The skirt of is supposed to trail along the floor. Susohiki literally means "trail the skirt". The length of such a kimono can be 2 m long. That’s why Geisha and young Maiko are lifting up their Kimono while walking in the streets.

Here is a chart to help you with all this:




Black Tomesode


Official function




Edo Komon




Formal Reception
Formal Parties

Edo Komon




School Entrance





In Town


Meeting friends


I hope you enjoy this reading.
Next post on Kimono will be Part 3 – Parts of a Kimono and accessories.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Tansu - Japanese Chest - Part 1

Tansu seems to have made it first appearance around 340 years ago from now durin the Edo era (1603 - 1867).

The Tansu became popular by the growing demand of the Japanese society needs.
The chest have many styles and there usage is different from each to the other one.
They All have the same purpose and it is to store your goods.

I am sure the image you have of the Japanese chest is the one with may drawers of all size.
This is one of most current Tansu and its the Isho-dansu.

This Tansu was kept in a store house named “Kura”. This store house was made of fire proof material to secure all the Tansu content. This store house was either next the house or a little upper on the street.

At the end of the winter (fuyu) the Tansu was brought back home to exchange the content for the clothes of the ending season. After that the Tansu was brought back to store house until the next season change of clothes.

In the old Japan, it was usage to give a new bride a chest made of a tree planted at her birth. Such a customs have changed these days.

Another image of Japanese Tansu you surely have is the Staircase one and this one is a Kaidan-dansu.

Wood chosen for making Tansu

The Tansu are generally made out of Kiri wood (Paulownia) because it isconsidered the ideal wood for storage furniture.The Paulownia wood repeals insects and it is old Japanese believes to repeal also the fire.

You can also have your tansu made out of Keyaki wood (Zelkova) it is said to be the best hardwood in Japan.It is strong and durable wood.

There is also many other wood species to be use for Tansu making:

  • Kuwa (Mulberry tree)
  • Hinoki (Cypress wood)
  • Sugi (Cryptomeria)
  • Hoonoki (Magnolia obovata)
  • Toneri (Ash)
  • Kaedezai (Maple)
  • Sakura (Cherry)
  • Shounou (Camphor)
  • Kuri (Chestnut)
Most popular wood for a daily life Tansu is the Kiri (Paulownia) it is not so expensive and it have many good advantage.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Shuubun Aki Higan / Autumn Equinox in Japan

September is called Nagatsuki according to old calendar and it is coming from Yonagatsuki meaning the month where nights is becoming more long and that at the end of it autumn will slowly take place.

The autumn equinox is around September 23th and it is the day where the sun sets in the due west and the length of day and night are same.
The Autumn Equinox is a national holiday in Japan and it is that day where they give respect to ancestors. This Holiday is a period of seven days 3 days before the day of equinox and 3 days after it and it is called Aki-Higan. Just like Haru higan (Spring equinox) people goes to Buddhist services or visit their family graves.

On this special occasion Japanese sweets are eaten then. This sweets are Ohagi sweet dumplings made from rice and cover with red beans jam.

Japanese traditions are to put plain dumplings and flowers to Buddhist altar for the repose of the ancestors.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Basics of 'O Bon'

"O bon" is a buddhist memorial service for the ancestors and deceased members of families.
It is an event to receive and comfort and honour ancestral spirits.
The formal name is Urabon-e.

It takes place in July from the 13th to 16th or August the 12th to 17th.
It depends on lunar calendar and location where you are in Japan.

During this period, spirits of the dead are believed to return home families.

In the area I know, people lit fires on August 13th to guide ancestors and deceased family members to their home.

They also lite lantern inside the house to help them to find their way.

In most places, Bon stand are display and some offerings are display.

At home, Butsudan (buddhist altars) are set up and offerings are made out of vegetable and fruits and are displayed for ancestors spirits.

People visit the family's grave, clean it, offers flowers, burn incense stick and pray for their souls to rest in peace.

Here is the manners when you go visiting a grave in Japan:

Pour water onto the gravestone, clean it with sponge (or other) and wipe off the waper.
Also clean the flower vase stand and water bbasin if you have one.

After, put flowers in the flower stands, light candle and a bundle of incense sticks and place them in to incense burner.

If you have brought offerings, you please place them on a sheet of Japanese paper.

Once the grave have been cleaned and all apparels being set, each visitor pours clean water onto the grave stones from pail.

They squats down facing the front of the gravestone, and take your "Juzu" in hands and prays quietly joining one hands together.

Bon dances "O bon dori" are performed to entertain ancestral spirits throughout Japan.

On the last evening of "O bon", farewell fires are made to guide the spirits back to their world.

You see more of the floating lanterns in the country sides.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Kimono part -1

Kimono is a general term for the Japanese national costume for men as for women.
It consists essentially of a long dress open at the front which are crossed left over right and maintained by a fabric belt which is called "Obi".

The kimono, which succeeded the short-sleeved kosode became the standard costume. The kosode was worn as underwear since the Nara period and becomes a top dress in the sixteenth century.

Until the seventeenth century women fixed it with only a belt of flexible material and it was replaced by a hard belt equipped with a knot in the back. However, the courtesans continued to tighten their kimono with a soft belt knotted at the front.

All kimono are cut the same way, only decoration and fabrics differentiate them.

In general, men's kimono use dark colors, sometimes in the case of kimono, you can see the Kamon (family Crest) of their families. They are appointed with hakama pants and go over a large jacket named Haori.

In summer kimono made of wool and silk is usually replaced by a light cotton kimono, printed or dyed in indigo on white background, called yukata.

In winter, a large heavy cloth jacket named tanzen is brought to the house over the kimono

More explanation about the Yukata:

The Yukata (浴衣) is an unlined kimono-like garment for summer use, usually made of cotton, linen, or hemp.

Yukata are strictly informal, most often worn for festivals, by men and women of all ages. They are also worn at onsen (hot spring) resorts, where they are provided for the guests.

It is very light and very confortable in summer time.
It is not wear with the tabi only with the Zori or Getta.

Some Japanese vocabulary about clothing:

Obi () is the sash worn with kimono.

Tabi (足袋) are ankle-high, divided-toe socks usually worn with zōri or geta.

Geta (下駄) are wooden sandals worn by men and women with yukata.

Zōri (草履) are traditional sandals worn by both men and women, similar in design to flip-flops. Their formality ranges from strictly informal to fully formal. They are made of many materials, including cloth, leather, vinyl and woven grass, and can be highly decorated or very simple.

Do you know that there is many types of Kimono?

Today I just explained the basic knowledge about Kimono and the more simplest one the Yukata.

Next Time I talk Kimono...I will tell you more about all of them and their differences.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Han / Hanko / Inkan

Called Inkan, Hanko or Han
Seals are normally made of wood, stone, bone, ivory or plastic usually used by most Japanese as a signature.

It is a personal seal that is made of normally circular shape cylinder.
It is usually one’s family name or first name that is engraved at the bottom.
It is an essential item for everyday life in Japan, because seals are legal means of identification used instead of signature.

Seals are classified into many kinds:

Jitsu in is a registered seal that you have to register in local government office.
The use of it is for legal and official documents.

Mitome in called also Sanmon ban which means “three penny seal” is unregistered and for everyday use.

Ginko in is a bank seal. You use it to make banking transaction.
There are more rules for this one depending of which bank you are dealing with in Japan. Rules are about the sizing of the Hanko and you should always provide your full name on your Ginko in.

Gago in is more a decorating seal and usually it is your nickname or a slogan.
The Gago in is many size and many shape.
Hanko/ Inkan / Han are normally written in Kanji or Hiragana or katakana.
Foreigner’s names are almost always carved in rômaji, katakana and sometimes made out of kanji or Hiragana.

You store your Inkan in a Inkan case.


You use the Shuniku "Red Seal ink".
You use a small cloth or a tissu to clean your inkan after use.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Seasons in Japan the "Summer"

In Japan the month of June is called “Minazuki” that means “The month where the water runs dry” because of the big heat. Also in June, rice plantations are at their peaks and trees are green and thick.

In June it is also the start of the “Rainy Season”, it starts in the middle of the month to finish in mid July. Rainy season bring a lot of rain and a give very humid period of time for everyone.

Do you know that Nyuubai is the day which starts the rainy season and it is called “Tsuyu”?

From all time the rainy season always starts around middle of June, but as you may know the time differ each year by region and by all climatic changes.

During the rainy season children of Japan do some traditional paper dolls called “Teruteru-bozu” to pray for good weather.

The teruteru-bozu is made out of white paper or fabrics.
The tradition about the teruteru-bozu is to hang it the window with a string heads up for a fine and sunny day and head down to have some rain.

Even today this tradition is still observed by children before outside event they hang their teruteru-bozu at windows and chant a prayer.

Here is English version of the Chant:

Teru-teru-bozu, teru bozu
Do make tomorrow a sunny day
Like the sky in a dream sometime
If it's sunny I'll give you a golden bell

Teru-teru-bozu, teru bozu
Do make tomorrow a sunny day
If you make my wish come true
We'll drink lots of sweet rice wine

Teru-teru-bozu, teru bozu
Do make tomorrow a sunny day
But if the clouds are crying (it's raining)
Then I shall snip your head off

Monday, 7 June 2010


What is Noren?

The Noren is a rectangle of fabric made:
Vertically, this gives a single opening cut from bottom to top.


Horizontally, this generally gives more vertical openings cut from bottom to top.

The openings allow an easier transition for customers and provide a better visual of what is inside the shop.

Patterns and color Noren

Noren are made in many sizes, colors, materials and patterns.
It can be done with a mixture of cotton and hemp, linen, wool blend and cotton, cotton, synthetic fibers, poplin, and other mixing properties of tissue.

The noren originally were cobalt blue with the seal inscribed in white.

Now, Noren have many colors to better represent the company that bears or to satisfy the decorating that you want to create at home.

The basic dimensions of Noren are:

Standard width is about 34 cm and its length is about 1.24 m per piece Noren

Noren's name varies depending on the length of the fabric.
Ex: Noren a sushi bar, is called "half Noren"

Because in general, the length of Noren is 57cm and a width of five feet.

The Noren below a fabric of 38 cm is named "Noren draped.

The reverse rather long, with a Noren over 1.24 m is called "Noren length.

The number of cloth pieces from Noren normally correspond to favorable sales in Japan so they will number three pieces of tissue, five pieces of tissue, seven pieces of tissue.

The pieces of fabric over a large 1.80 m to 2.70 m hanging from the eaves, and supported is called "Noren awnings".
The Noren is filled with air and gives a sound when the wind is called "Noren barrel"

The origin of Noren
At first it was called Nanren and over the centuries was called nonren, Nauren and nohren before reaching its contemporary form Noren.

History Noren

The Noren has a long relationship with the Japanese people.

At the Jomon era...
It was this period that the acquired Noren are useful as windbreaks

In the Heian era...
They begin to be used in everyday ordinary people with the aim to separate the space into a large room to create a room on one side and another space for other uses on the other. He also served at the entrance of the house for protection against wind and rain.

In the Muromachi era...
Most common tools of the trade in people (as displayed) the use of a curtain at the entrance to stores, he began to be used for advertising.

A variety of applications it found commercial advertising or partition and tapestries, decorative, it has an infinite value.

Use of Noren

A wide variety of use for the Noren, a Japanese fabric divider room, curtain, curtain door or window curtain.

Although initially intended to protect those inside against both external elements and prying eyes of passersby, the rapid development of technical textile dyeing

The Noren are traditionally used by shops and restaurants as a means of protection against sun, wind and dust, and as an advertising space.

Sento (public bath) also have Noren also crossing their entrances, typically blue for men and red for women with the kanji 汤 (yu, lit. Hot water) or the corresponding hiragana ゆ.

The Izakaya also use it much.

They are also hung in the main entrance of the shop to mean that the property is open to the public, and they are always removed at the end of the business day.

During the Muromachi period people used the Noren to display their family name or advertise their products. It is also good for measuring business reputation.

Using Noren is well known and beloved tradition in Japanese companies.

Noren is the unique culture of Japan, the same lifestyle, power and functionality as an interior space that can never be neglected is very grateful and they offer superb production of the season.