Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Japanese style Tatami room (Zashiki)

The Zashiki is the term for a tatami mat room. It can be also call Washitsu
In the Heian period (794-1185) when aristocratic residence (shinden-zukuri = aristocratic mansions) were floored with wooden planks, woven straw or rush mats, some with bound edging, and thick mats agedatami (is tatami finished on both sides) that was rising the person a little above the floor level and were used for seating.

With the time the word Zashiki applied to rooms completely covered with straw mats and was used for guests. Therefore, it became a reception room or a guest room. You have also have the “Sukiya-Zukushi” (a noble style house with tea room) and “Shoin-Zukuri” (more elegant styles house) that later came to use not only “Tatami” but also incorporated alcoves (both Tokonoma and Wakidana ) in the Zashiki.

Zashiki is composed with:

Tatami made of bundled straw with a surface of woven rushes.

Kamoi –Shikii are narrow boards that are laid horizontally above and under sliding doors in Japanese-style rooms. They have slots into which “Shouji” and “Fusuma” fit. The boards laid above the sliding doors are called “Kamoi”, and those under the doors are called “Shikii”.

Fusuma is sliding paper doors and their fitting are made by covering both sides of wooden frames with thick Japanese paper. They are decorated with paintings or designs.

Shouji is sliding paper screens and their fitting are made by covering one side of a wooden latticework frame with Japanese paper.

Tokonoma = alcove is a space in a Japanese-style room that is a step higher than the rest of the room and have a wooden floor. Kakejiku, flowers, calligraphy scrolls or paintings are displayed in the Tokonoma.

Tokobashira is the alcove pillar which square pillar or a pillar made of precious wood with gnarls is used.

Chigai-dana is shelves set in a side alcove that has staggered shelf boards.
The side alcove to the Tokonoma is called Wakidoko or Tokowaki.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Japanese House

Traditional Japanese houses are made of wood.
The structure of the house is built with wooden posts, beams and girders on stone fondation.

In Japan, as temperature and humidity wary in four seasons, many techniques are exercised in building houses so that they can adjust to all climates.

Normally, the flooring of traditional Japanese house is made of "Tatami" and the outer walls are made of bamboo or wood. Also the traditional house use sliding doors called "Fusuma" and removable partitions called "Shoji" or "Byoubu".

Also the house have a guest room where you find a "Tokonoma" where are display "kakejiku" and "Ikebana" and you have also the "Chigai-dana" part.

I will tell you more about the Japanese house in my next post...Japanese House -Washitsu

Friday, 5 March 2010

White Day

On March 14th in Japan it is been held the “White Day”.

The White Day is boys or men that have to send back the favour (Chocolate) to the girls or women that have gave them Chocolate on St-Valentine’s Day.
You should know that in Japan, Valentine's Day is practice by girls or women who give a present of chocolate usually to a male to expression their love.

On White Day, the contrary happens: males who received a honmei-choco 本命チョコ "chocolate of love" or giri-choco 義理チョコ "courtesy chocolate") on Valentine's Day are expected to return the favor by giving gifts, usually more expensive.

Traditionally, popular White Day gifts are cookies, jewellery and white chocolate, white lingerie. The generally recited rule about the return gift should be two to three times the cost of the Valentine's gift. The term is called sanbai gaeshi 三倍返しmeans literally "thrice the return".

Happy White day !!!

Juuni-hitoe 12 layers Kimono

The Juunihitoe (十二単衣, juunihitoe) is an extremely sophisticated kimono that was only worn by court-ladies in Japan. Juunihitoe means literally "twelve-layer robe".
In the Heian era we start to see the Juunihitoe.

The various layers of the Juunihitoe are silk garments. Most inner garment is made of white silk, followed by other layers which have various names, which are finally closed off by a final layer or coat. Motion in such a robe could be not really easy due to its total weight.

The arrangements of the layers and their colors were a good indication of what taste and what rank the lady had. The ladies was sometimes using the Juunihitoe as a pajama, but do not worry they were getting some layers off for the night.

The Trend to keep with the Juunihitoe was to wear the hair long and cut only on the sides you can see also on some picture that few ladies was wearing their hair tied in the back.

Today… you can look at Juunihitoe in Museum in Japan or in Movies. There is only the Imperial family now that uses it for very special occasion. You can understand that the production of it is very low and practically died out now. So the Juunihitoe have acquired a priceless title in Japanese clothing.

The Layers of the Juunihitoe

The undergarments: Usually a two-piece cotton or silk garment.

Kosode: A short silk red or white robe of ankle or lower calf length.
Hakama: A red pleated split skirt which can also be worn by men.
Hitoe: A light white, red or blue unlined robe.
Uchigi: A series of brightly coloured unlined robes that create a layered effect.
Uchiginu: A beaten scarlet silk robe worn as a stiffener and support for the outer robes.
Uwagi: A patterned woven and decorated silk robe than is shorter and narrower than the Uchiginu.
Karaginu: A waist length Chinese style jacket.

Customs of the ladies of the court:

Because it was not allowed to a lady to speak directly to men, the court ladies had fans as an accessory to hiding behind to shield her from inquiring looks and speak.
You see the fan was not only an innocent accessory to cool down the ladies. Yes it was used for it because the Juunihitoe was very hot to wear but it was playing a role of discretion in their communication. Maybe you have seen in some Japanese movies a court lady using her sleeve as a shield when she was talking to an outsider man. It was the practice of this time

The Juuni-hitoe was also called:
Karaginu no Shouzoku or Nyoubou Shouzoku or Shouzoku

Hina Matsuri

The Hina Matsuri is the Girls day in Japan. It is held on March 3th.

The days before March 3, Japanese girls expose their valuable dolls displayed on small platforms of several levels. These special dolls are passed from generation to generation, are stored and kept safe in a box all the rest of the year. The dolls (雛人形, hina-ningyō) are representing the Emperor, the Empress, the attendants, and the musicians in their traditional court dress of Juuni-hitoe of the Heian period.

How to display the dolls:
First level: Emperor and Empress (お内裏さま O-Dairi-sama and お雛さま O-Hina-sama)
Second level: three ladies of the court (三人官女, San-nin kanjo)
Third level: 5 musician 五人囃し, Go-nin bayashi and a singer かしゅ Kashu
On the other 3 lower levels you have: are court minister 大臣, Daijin and other character.

These days…
Now in Japanese houses there is less and less place to display the whole set of Hina-dolls so it is often that we can see only the Imperial couple display on Hina Matsuri. You can also use the Imperial couple in Origami to display if you really do not have space or Hina dolls.

This festival is coming from back the Heian period. The Hina dolls were supposed to protect from evil spirits.

To celebrate Hina matsuri, drink traditionally Amazake, slightly alcoholic drink made from rice and we eat hina arare, cookies made from rice, and sushi.

According to traditional belief, he must place the dolls on the evening of March 3, otherwise the daughter of the house will not get married for a year. This festival is celebrated in most homes, there is an unmarried daughter or not.

Next post will be on the Juuni-hitoe the 12 layers Kimono wear by Imperial court ladies.

Thursday, 4 March 2010



I have created this blog to talk about all aspect of Japanese lifestyle from old time till today.

I will do my best to talk about various thing of the Japanese daily life.

I hope you will enjoy it!

Of course the content of this blog is made from an Outsider's view [外人] so please for native people be diligent with me.

From Dana