Setsubun is the day before the first day of spring according to the lunar calendar. Setsubun falls on February the 3rd in 2013. There are some traditional practices to be done on the occasion. One of the popular practices is to eat a sushi roll. Then we have to take big bites of a whole roll silently. Rolled sushi is usually served in small pieces. However, rolled sushi is not cut in pieces especially on Setsubun. This is in hopes that we will never cut good relationships and we will be involved with good luck. South-southeast is the auspicious direction in 2013. So people bite into a sushi roll facing the direction.
Some big temples in Tokyo such as Sensoji temple and Zojozi temple will hold a special Setsubun event on this day. If you are in Tokyo, why not go and see it?
Mont Blanc is one of the most popular cakes in Japan along with strawberry short-cake and cheese cake. It is so popular that it is available not only in cake shops but also convenience stores.
This blown cream is chestnut puree. Since the shape is like that famous mountain, it’s named Mont Blanc. Sugar powder on the top represents snow, of course. The combination of soft moist sponge cake and chestnut cream is awesome!
Japanese pastry chefs have made a big success overseas. For example, Sadaharu Aoki is famous in France. Also, in Coupe du Monde de la Patisserie (Pasrty world Cup) held every two years, Japan has had victory twice. Although the competition has been held twelve times, only France and Japan won more than once. (In the 2012 competition, the Japanese team won.) You can taste sweets by one of the champion chefs, Masaki Okazaki in Grand hyatt Tokyo of Roppongi Hills.
The Western-style sweets in Japan will satisfy you who have a sweet tooth!
‘Akemashite Omedeto’, ‘Happy new year’ is our routine expression at the beginning of January. 2013 is ‘the year of the serpent’.
Have you made a new year resolution yet? How about trying to praise your partner this year?
It is said that a seminar to teach how to praise your husband has been popular in Japan recently. While Western people often make a compliment as a means of smooth communication, Japanese are not good at giving nice comments to others, especially to their partners. This tendency shows in such Japanese famous expressions as ‘You won’t feed bait to a fish you have caught’ and ‘A and UN breathing’ which means an unspoken understanding.
According to the seminar, negative words can be translated into positive as following.
You always forget things soon!→You are very easygoing.
You are a very stay-at-home man!→It is a nice proof that you don’t cheat on me.
You are too big!→You have a presence.
You smell bad!→You are masculine.
Why don’t you share household chores or look after our children?→You trust me, don’t you?
Vending machines can be found anywhere in Japan.
Most beverage vending machines sell green tea, water, coffee, energy drinks and other soft drinks like cola. Some vending machines speak. It’s like ‘Good morning. Start a wonderful day with a drink. Take care!’ It is the morning version. They talk differently in the afternoon and evening. There are even smart vending machines which can choose your beverage according to your mood and taste.
Now, I have a suggestion. Don’t look down on the canned coffee of vending machines. They are tasty enough to cater to many Japanese coffee fans. And I have seen many foreign coffee lovers surprised at its quality. I really like to see their reactions^^
Vending machines are a symbol of Japan’s safety. It is said that thanks to small number of robbery, such many vending machines can be installed on the streets.
A zen temple, Gyokusenji is located in Shimoda, Shizuoka. This was where the first American consulate in Japan was placed. Japan had closed the country from the 17th to the mid-19th centuries. During that period, Japan developed in the unique way but fell far behind Western countries in industry and technology. The U.S Commodore Matthew Perry and his black fleet made Japanese gape and forced the country to open in 1854. Then Townsent Harris was deployed as the first consul to Shimoda, a small seaside town in 1856.
Harris left a diary. It shows that he was struggling to fit into his new life in this far-east country.
On the temple compounds you could see the graves of American and Russian crews (they are buried separately) who died during their long voyages. Though they must have wanted to return to their home, I hope they like this scenic hot spring town now.
The then U.S President Jimmy Carter and his family visited this temple in 1979.
Soaking in a hot spring spa is regarded as one of the best ways to relieve stress in Japan.
Each hot spring has their own attraction.
Especially, an open-air bath is highly recommendable. It is wonderful in winter. (Now is the best season.) Because you feel both warm and cool at the same time. Soaking in the open-air bath feeling cool air on your face and seeing beautiful scenery can be a gorgeous experience.
Now more and more inns in hot spring resorts have a private open-air bath like a picture below. Then you can enjoy taking a bath privately in your group without caring about others.
This hall was dedicated to the founder of the Buddhist Nichiren school. Nichiren, a man of the 13th century was a charismatic leader with a ‘never say die’ spirit. He survived the penalty to be sent to a remote island three times. The walls of the hall is decorated with charming figures like below.
Japan’s second tallest five-storied pagoda is here. (The highest one is at famous Toji temple in Kyoto)
Japanese like going to see the beautiful red of autumn leaves as much as cherry blossoms.