Monday, June 28, 2010

Special dishes for Doll festivel (Hinamatsuri)

Hishi-mochi (Diamond-shaped rice cake)

Hishi-mochi is diamond-shaped rice cakes and typically formed from three layers of red (or pink), white, and green mochi, from top to bottom. The red of the mochi are derived from fruits of Gardenia jasminoides , and is symbolic of plum flowers. The white is made from the water caltrop, and represents the snow and its cleansing effects. Finally, the green is from Gnaphalium affine or mugwort like kusa mochi, and is believed to be restoratives that improve the blood.

Depending on region, the red may be substituted with yellow, or the sweet may have 5 or 7 layers instead.

The cake is believed to represent a nature scenery of early spring when green grass starts to grow under white snow while pink blossoms of peach trees come into bloom.

Hina-arare (colored rice cakes)
Hina-arare is colorful rice puffs that are eaten on the Girl’s Festival. Each color of puffs represents special meaning–white is earth, red is life, and green is trees–and is believed to provide energy to those who eat them so that they can drive out their misfortune and disease.

Shiro-zake (Sweet white sake)
Shiro-zake is made of mirin or shochu (distilled liquor from wheat or potato) mixed with steamed glutinous rice or rice malt. It is fermented for about a month and then lightly grinded to finish. Shiro-zake is cloudy white and contains about 9% alcohol. It has 45% sugar and is considered a liqueur by Japanese liquor tax law. Shiro-sake is often confused with Ama-zake (sweet sake), which has almost no alcohol content, but it is made of cooked rice or porridge mixed with rice malt, and then simmered to turn starch into sugar. Ama-zake is akin to a soft drink, so to speak, and is completely different than Shiro-zake.

Shirozake is believed to purify the body of those who drink it as pure as its color.

Japanese Good-luck charm (Omamori)

Omamori are Japanese amulets dedicated to particular Shinto deities as well as Buddhist figures. and the Japanese people believe that omamori is a charm that protects the holder and gives good luck. literally, the word mamori means to “protect” or “defend”, with omamori meaning “honorable protector”. Originally omamori were kept in small bamboo tubes or worn around the neck.

Nowadays Omamori are small pieces of paper or fabric packets or small bags (omamori bukuro) ritually consecrated in the temple. They are typically made with the name of the originating temple on the front and a charm on the back for prosperity, health, travel, or a multitude of other purposes. Generic omamori exist, but most of them cover a single area: health, love, or studies, to name only a few. More recently it has become popular for stores in Japan to feature generic omamori with popular characters such as Mickey Mouse, Hello Kitty, Snoopy, Kewpie, etc.

Amulets do not expire, but it is common practice to replace them, usually once a year. Old omamori are usually returned to the shrine or temple to be burned.

Some popular omamori are:

• Kanai Anzen - For good health and help with illness.
• Koutsu Anzen - Protection for drivers and travelers of all sorts.
• Emmusubi - Available for singles and couples to ensure love and marriage.
• Anzan - Protection for pregnant women during term and to ensure a safe and easy delivery.
• Gakugyojoju - for students and scholars.
• Shobaihanjo - Success in business and matters of money.

Rock Paper Scissors (Jan-ken-pon or Janken)

Jan-ken-pon is the most popular game among Japanese children and it is a subset of games played using only the hands, symbolizes both the spirit, theme and the categories of this competition.

The hand in the game
-“Rock (Gu)” for a fist.
-“Scissors (Paa)” for the index and middle fingers, parted and extended.
-“Paper (Choki)” for an open hand

The exchange is won as determined by the rules:


1. rock breaks scissors

2. scissors cut paper

3. paper wraps rock.

an Ken Pon Song

A Japanese version of “Rock, Paper, Scissors”
Played with hands behind back until final line.

Japanese Translation:

Jan-ken-pon yo, jan-ken-pon
Jan-ken-pon yo, Goo, cho-ki, pa

English Translation:

Rock, Paper Scissors
Rock, paper, scissors
One, two, three

Doll festival or Girls’ Festival (Hina matsuri or Hina no Sekku)

Hinamatsuri takes place on March 3 when the ornamental peach trees are in bloom. This day is also called “Momo no sekku” (Peach blossom’s Festival), the first flowering trees to bloom as winter turns to spring. The peach blossoms symbolize for happy marriage and that families pray for the happiness, prosperity and healthy growth of girls.

Several days before March 3, the precious dolls are removed from their wooden boxes where they have been stored and then arranged on a seven tiered stand that has been draped with a red cloth. The dolls are representations of the Imperial court and are made of kiri wood and straw.

The Hina dolls are arranged precisely the same way every year. A set of Hina dolls usually consists of at least 15 dolls which wear costumes of the imperial court during the Heian period (794-1192). The display also includes miniature household articles which are often exquisite artistic productions. The dolls most highly valued are the Dairi-sama, which represent the Emperor and Empress in resplendent court costumes of silk. They are attended by their two Ministers, three kanjo (Court Ladies), and five Court Musicians. All are displayed on one of usually five steps, each from 3 to 6 feet-long and covered with bright red cloth, making the figures look like they are sitting on a red carpet The Imperial couple occupy the top step, the Emperor at the left of the Empress. Court ladies and banquet trays and dishes occupy the second tier; the other dolls are arranged on the lower tiers.

• Sitting at the top center are Emperor and Empress. They are wearing the twelve-layered ceremonial robe

called (juhni-hitoe).
• On the second tier displays three Court Ladies (three kanjo or three ladies-in-waiting to the Emperor and Empress.)
• On the third tier play five male court Musicians.
• On the fourth tier has the Lords sit on either side of small dishes of food and furniture.
• On the next tier has three drunken servants with a cherry tree on the right and a wild orange tree on the left.
• On the final step has furniture and coaches.

The practice of displaying these dolls on the third day of the third month on the traditional Japanese calendar began during the Edo period (1603-1868). It started as a way of warding off evil spirits, with the dolls acting as a charm. Even today, people in some parts of the country made paper dolls, and in making them they transferred their ill fortunes or sickness to the dolls. Gathering the dolls, and release paper dolls into a nearby brook or rivers after the festival, praying that the dolls take people’s place in carrying away sickness and bad fortune. It was thus an occasion for a family outing, just when the pleasant spring season started. Also the date which this festival is held marks the onset of spring.

Typical special foods that are eaten on Hina matsuri day.

A sweet snack only for Hinamatsuri is called Hina arare (colored rice cakes), Hishimochi (diamond shaped rice cakes with pink, green and white layers) are placed on the stand with hina dolls as an offering. Hishimochi are colored in red (or pink) cakes (implies chasing evil spirits away or peach flowers), white cakes (implies purity or snow), and green cakes (implies health or new growth), Hama-guri (Clam),sakura mochi (bean paste-filled rice cakes with cherry leaves),shiro zake (sweet white sake) is made from fermented rice. It is kind of sake, but it doesn’t have alcohol.

The Hina Matsuri song.

Happy Hinamatsuri (Ureshii Hinamatsuri)

Akari o tsukemashou bonbori ni
Ohana o agemashou momo no hana
Go-nin bayashi no fue taiko
Kyoo wa tanoshii hinamatsuri


Let’s light the lanterns
Let’s set peach flowers
Five court musicians are playing flutes and drums
Today is a joyful Dolls’ Festival

The teru teru bozu’s song.

Teru-teru-bozu, teru bozu
Ashita tenki ni shite o-kure
Itsuka no yume no sora no yo ni
Haretara kin no suzu ageyo

Teru-teru-bozu, teru bozu
Ashita tenki ni shite o-kure
Watashi no negai wo kiita nara
Amai o-sake wo tanto nomasho

Teru-teru-bozu, teru bozu
Ashita tenki ni shite o-kure
Sore de mo kumotte naitetara
Sonata no kubi wo chon to kiru zo


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 booze

Teru-teru-bozu, teru bozu
Do make tomorrow a sunny day
but if it’s cloudy and I find you crying
Then I shall chop your head off

Japanese rain doll (Teru teru bozu)

Japanese rain doll (Teru teru bozu)

Teru teru bozu is traditional handmade doll that is made of tissue paper or clothes and a string and hang them from the eaves or in front of a window to wish for sunny weather. Japanese believed to have magical powers to bring good weather and to stop or prevent a rainy day.
Teru in Japanese means “sun shine” or “(weather) be fine” and a “bōzu” is Buddhist monk. literal translation of Teru teru bozu is the shining shining Buddhist monk. therefore, is a monk sending your message to heaven.

Japanese wind chimes or Furin

In Japanese, wind chime or furin, is one idea for mental relief .Made of materials such as metal, ceramics or glass. It has been traditionally one of the typical things Japanese in summer, people set small bell are hung from the eaves of a house or in front of the windows to signal the presence of a cooling breeze. When swung in the breeze, it delivers a pleasant sound most of us Japanese love and enjoy very much and they can feel a little coolness.

These days, furin are not always welcomed because of the dense urban housing conditions in Japan, but the distinctive sound still symbolizes summer, and during the hot humid season signifies a breeze.

Wind chime has a long history. It seems to begin in China, but Chinese used wind chime by a different way. They used it for fortune-telling and expel, because they believe wind tells destiny. Also, the bell sounds secure people from evil. Later, wind chime comes to Japan with Buddhism. So there are wind chimes at temples in Japan and the areas around the temple which people can hear the bell ringing are secured.

Geisha girls in Japan


Geisha , Geishaor Geiko , Geiko
are traditional, female Japanese
whose skills include performing various Japanese arts, such as classical music
and dance. Contrary to popular belief, geisha are not prostitutes.

“Geisha girls”

“Geisha girls”
(pronounced “geesha”), also known as “panpan girls,” were Japanese women who worked as prostitutes
during the period of the Allied Occupation of Japan. They almost
exclusively serviced American GIs stationed in the country. The
term is a mispronunciation of the word geisha. The mispronunciation persists
among some westerners.

Adding to the confusion is
the fact that these women dressed in kimono and imitated
the look of geisha. Americans unfamiliar with the culture of Japan did not know
the difference between these costumed prostitutes and actual geisha. Shortly after their arrival in 1945, occupying American GIs
are said to have congregated on the Ginza
and shouted in unison “We want geesha girls!”

Eventually, the term
“geisha girl” became a general word for any female Japanese
prostitute or worker in the mizu shobai, and included bar hostesses
and streetwalkers.

Geisha girls are speculated
by researchers
to be largely responsible for the continuing misconception in the West that
geisha are prostitutes.

Modern geisha
Modern geisha still live in traditional geisha houses
called okiya in areas called hanamachi
“flower towns”, particularly
during their apprenticeship. Many experienced geisha are successful enough
choose to live independently. The elegant, high-culture world that geisha are a
part of is called karyūkai (”the flower and willow world”).

Young women who wish to become geisha
now most often begin their training after completing junior high
school or even high school or college,
with many women beginning their careers in adulthood. Geisha still study
traditional instruments like the shamisen, shakuhachi (bamboo flute), and drums, as well as traditional
songs, Japanese traditional dance, tea ceremony, literature and poetry. By
watching other geisha, and with the assistance of the owner of the geisha house,
apprentices also become skilled in the complex traditions surrounding selecting
and wearing kimono,
and in dealing with clients.

Kyoto is considered by many to be where
the geisha tradition is the strongest today, including Gion Kobu. The geisha in
these districts are known as geiko. The Tokyo hanamachi of Shimbashi,
and Kagurazaka
are also well known.
In modern Japan, geisha and
maiko are now a rare sight outside hanamachi. In the 1920s there were
over 80,000 geisha in Japan, but today there are far fewer. The exact number is
unknown to outsiders, and is estimated to be from 1,000 to 2,000, mostly in the
resort town of Atami. Most common are sightings of tourists
who pay a fee to be dressed up as a maiko.

A sluggish economy, declining interest
in the traditional arts, the exclusive nature of the flower and willow world,
and the expense of being entertained by geisha have all contributed to the
tradition’s decline.

Geisha are often hired to attend
parties and gatherings, traditionally at tea houses (ochaya)
or at traditional Japanese restaurants (ryōtei).
Their time is measured by the time it takes an incense stick to burn, and is
called senkōdai ( “incense stick fee”) or gyokudai
(”jewel fee”). In Kyoto the terms “ohana”
(”hanadai”, meaning “flower fees”, are preferred. The
customer makes arrangements through the geisha union office (kenban),
which keeps each geisha’s schedule and
makes her appointments both for entertaining and for training.

The History of Geisha

History of geisha

First geisha appeared in the early 1600s. After 8 centuries of fighting among the warrior lords, the country was united under a military dictator, or shogun. Tokugawa Ieyasu quelled the internal warfare, unified most of the country, and in 1603 became shogun, establishing his government in Edo (now Tokyo). This Edo-based shogunate lasted some 265 years and is called the Edo period. Under shogun rule, Japan isolated itself entirely from the rest of the world. During that time, prostitution was controlled. Special “pleasure quarters” were set up. The pleasure quarters became the places of sexual freedom. Exclusive prostitutes or courtesans would entertain samurai warriors. It was there where the first geisha appeared. These geisha were men. They also were called jesters (hokan) or drum bearers (taiko-mochi), and they were there to make the guests laugh. In 1751, some customers in a Shimabara brothel were surprised when a female drum bearer came to their party. She was referred to as geiko, the term still used in Kyoto instead of geisha. By 1780 female geisha outnumbered the men; by 1800, a geisha was a woman.

Even after the novelty wore off, female geisha remained in high demand. By the 1750s, the licensed quarters had already been in existence for 150 years, and yujo (the prostitutes) were not as skilled in the arts as they had once been. In fact, the entertainment of the pleasure quarters had probably gone a little stale. The new female geisha took the quarters by storm. They sang popular songs; they were fun to talk to. And although in the official hierarchy of the licensed quarters, geisha stood near the bottom, customers preferred the fresh-faced geisha with her shamisen to a high-ranked yujo.

The geisha in the licensed quarters were forbidden to sleep with the yujo’s customers. In 1779 geisha were recognized as practicing a distinct profession, and a registry office (kenban) was set up to provide and enforce rules of conduct for them. Geisha were not to wear flamboyant kimono, or combs and jeweled pins in their hair. Arthur Golden further explains:A traditional image of a geisha in the West is often confused with what was a prostitute from the 1800s. The look of a prostitute and the geisha is very distinct. Geisha tie their obi tied in the back. A prostitute, on the other hand, wear her obi tied in the front: she is taking her kimono on and off all night; she can’t have a dresser come in, so she ties it in front herself. Also, the image of lots of hair ornaments — it is also of the prostitutes. Geisha wear much simpler ones. (The Secret)

Under these regulations, geisha completely separatedfrom the prostitutes. Geisha prospered. The simplicity of their appearance became highly popular. They spread over the country while Japan continued to shut itself out from the rest of the world.
World War II also had great influence on the image of geisha. Japan proclaimed war against the United States. The Japanese were sure they would win because the emperor’s power was divine. After the United States bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan surrendered. The country had been devastated. The United States Army headed by Gener al McArthur came to Japan. Already a year and a half before the surrender, the war was having its effect on the geisha districts. The expensive restaurants at which they entertained were required to close at eleven, and geisha to cease entertainment at ten. Sayuri recalls the times of Depression during World War II:
Our okiya had been stripped off the things other families had lost long ago, such as stores of food, undergarments, and so forth. … The neighborhood association began confiscating many of our ceramics and scrolls to sell them on what we called the “gray market,” which was different from the black market. … It was mainly housewives selling off their precious things to raise cash.

The geisha districts were required to close down completely on March 5, 1944. Since the geisha houses were closed, the Americans looked for fun elsewhere:Even as the Meiji government had essayed to provide ladies of pleasure for early foreign visitors and residents, so the Japanese government thought to do it for the Occupation forces. Soon after the surrender there was a poster in Ginza inviting young ladies to join a “recreation and amusement association” for the entertainment of the Americans. It had a few gatherings in the basement of a Ginza department store, but soon became a cabaret for Japanese. The government early indicated a willingness to set aside a generous number of pleasure quarters for the exclusive use of the Occupation.

The American troops found pleasure with the streetgirls. They called them geisha (wrongly pronounced “geesha”). The new “geisha” had neither the accomplishments nor the brains of the real ones. However, Americans used the term geisha because it was easy and convenient. Japan lost the war, and the geisha their reputation.

Flat Marbles (Ohajiki, 御弾き)

Flat Marbles (Ohajiki, 御弾き, おはじき)

Ohajiki is a traditional game for Japanese children, especially girls. In the past, they used roll shells, pebbles or pieces from another game, but now they use flat ball made with small coin-shaped colures ceramic, glass or plastic, and whose diameter is 1-1.5 cm The name of game came from playing by snapping or flicking (“hajiki” in Japanese word) with the fingers.a game similar to marbles. This game became very popular as an indoor game for girls during the Edo period (from 1603 to 1867).

How to play

1. All players sit down on the floor and all players place the same number of ohajiki on the floor, and then do jan ken pon (rock, paper, scissors) to determine who goes first.

2. The first player gathers everyone’s pieces using one hand and then scatters ohajiki 20 pieces on a table or on the floor.

3. The player can only touch the disc, Shoot (flipping or snapping) one of the two pieces to hit another. If the player successfully hits one of the other players’ discs she can keep it.

4. But if player cannot hit, player does not get to keep any of them, then it is the next player’s turn. The person who acquires the most pieces is the winner.