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Japan's Famous Stories and Legends

Myths can exist as a part of a country or a town’s culture. Just like many other places, Japan has their own beliefs, myths, stories and even legends. One of the most well-known myths in Japan is what we call “yokai” which is referred to as a demon in some western countries. Though “yokais” exist as a typical myth [...]

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Japan: Famous Kyoto Tofu

Kyoto TofuTofu is considered as one of the healthiest diet one can eat. It is made of soybean curd with a rich, soft texture like cheese. The curdling agent is what termed “Nigari” in Japan, found mostly in ocean water. The process to make tofu is by thickening the fresh and hot soy milk with Nigari. After the process, [...]

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Ema Prayer Plaques and the Animal Zodiac in Japan

”A horse is a horse, of course, of course………" ~ Mr. EdWithout contradicting the world’s most famous talking horse, let me just add that sometimes horses are also small pieces of wood, at least here in Japan. I offer exhibit A:These petite wooden prayer plaques are called ‘ema’ and they’re a common sight [...]

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Moon-Viewing Burger Anyone?

In my last post I looked at some traditional ways of depicting the moon-viewing tradition in fabric and mentioned the rabbit in the moon and mochi pounded rice associated with it.  Japan has changed quite a bit since the days over a thousand years ago when members of the aristocratic class celebrated the full moon [...]

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There's a Rabbit in the Moon and he's Hard at Work!

Growing up in the states, when I looked at the moon I saw a man there. I never thought about what he was doing or how he got there, but there he was. I could make out his face, and I took it for granted that other cultures saw the same sort [...]

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Japan's Seven Grasses of Autumn Part 2

Could you identify the the tall grass depicted in the closeup of the furoshiki in my last post? I mentioned it earlier in that article, and it’s none other than Japanese pampas grass. It’s a mainstay in fall season motifs, often paired with bush clover. It’s a tall, delicate grass with a lovely ‘tail’ at [...]

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Japan's Seven Grasses of Autumn Part 1

The Japanese have long had a keen awareness of the seasons and a sensitivity to the things that make each time of year distinct. So it’s no surprise that so many furoshiki and tenugui and Japanese textiles in general celebrate the seasons in their motifs.Over the years though, as I’ve discovered more and more designs [...]

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Japanese Cotton Fireman's Sashiko 'Hikeshi Banten' Hanten Jackets: Wearable Art

When I came upon this antique fireman's hanten(jacket) from the Meiji(1868-1912) or early Taisho(1912-1926)period, it prompted me to do some research on these rugged, well crafted and often whimsically decorated coats. It also prompted me to open my wallet, but that's another story! Sashiko hanten like this are called 'hikeshi banten' in Japanese, literally [...]

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A Tokyo Meat Shop's English Sign

I noticed this sign on a trip to Tokyo from my home in Kyoto recently.  I habitually read signs here, mostly kanji signs, trying to polish my reading ability.  But English signs also inevitably catch my eye, as they're usually aimed at Japanese and employ English to give their sign an exotic appeal or to [...]

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Caught in a Sudden Downpour? This Osaka Train Station Comes to the Rescue!

I saw this umbrella stand at a small, local Osaka train station and took it as a chance to get some practical kanji reading practice in.  I was attracted to the hand written characters and intrigued by what it might be 'saying' to people as they pass through the station.People are invited to use an [...]

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