December 31, 2006

New Year's Decoration Kadomatsu

This is a common New Year's decoration. These were outside a karaoke center.

Click here to see photos of some American kids in Hawaii making one. More information about the symbolism is given, too. The link also mentions mochi. I'll post more about that later.

Kids Web Japan--New Year's

Holiday Flower Arrangements

These flower arrangements were outside a small flower shop in a grocery store. Bamboo was used as the vases.

More decorations.

Flower Shop

This decoration is sold at other stores, too. I have seen wreaths made out of this. This rope is also draped across an entrance with white folded paper hanging from it.

Pine branches are added to flower arrangements and bouquets at New Year's.

The owners put these up as their decorations for the shop. They put rice with their pine branch at their entrance. This is a JFTD flower shop. They make FTD deliveries.

December 30, 2006

More New Year's Decorations

Pine branches are put on both sides of the gate or entrance. Aunt put these at our front gate.

This is a close-up of one of the branches.

This is one of our neighbors' gates.

This is their front door decoration.

Decorations at the Grocery Store

This is a common decoration used in stores.

This citrus fruit is used for a decoration.

A display of decorations at the grocery store.

Cabbage & Lily Root

These Chinese cabbages and vegetables were outside a grocery store. Look how big the cabbage is!

These are packages of lily root.

December 29, 2006


We had sukiyaki tonight. It's a nice fall and winter meal. We use the bottled sauce as a shortcut. Still, there's a lot of work involved. There's a lot of chopping. These are some of the ingredients of sukiyaki. You've probably seen Japanese leeks in another posting here. You've seen carrots, but probably not as small and fat as these. You may have seen or eaten shitake mushrooms (the big brown ones in the picture). Here are close-ups of some of the other ingredients:


enokitake mushrooms,

or edible chrysanthemum greens. (Please don't eat your garden variety.)

This is grilled tofu.

These are shirataki noodles. They are lightly boiled before they are put in the sauce with everything else.

This is only one-fourth of the whole cabbage. This is still a lot.

This is lard. You use this to grease the pot.

Thinly sliced beef is used in sukiyaki. That's the lard on top. The meat is lightly cooked before the sauce and vegetables, tofu and noodles go in.

This is part of what was made. It turned out to be way too much! We'll be eating it for lunch tomorrow, too. A good recipe for sukiyaki is in Quick & Easy Japanese Cuisine For Everyone by Yukiko Moriyama.

This is the side of the iron pot that we use. Sukiyaki is usually cooked at the table on a small burner. Vegetables and meat are added as everyone serves himself with the dish's chopsticks. Each person has a bowl in which to put his serving. Some people break a raw egg in their serving. Of course, each person has a bowl of rice.

Purple Sweet Potato Mochi

Unfortunately, this picture doesn't show how purplish pink this sweet potato is. Glutinous rice is in the middle. This is a nice dessert or snack with green tea.

Basic New Year Cards

This is a basic New year's card. It was purchased at the post office. The front is blank. People draw pictures here or write messages. The address goes on the back (left picture).

Here is a close-up of the back of the New Year's card.

This card has the postage already on it. It is printed on the card. So, this is like the postage stamp. This card costs 50 yen to mail. 2007 will be the Year of the Boar or Pig. In Japan, "Boar" is used instead of "Pig". You may know that "Nippon" is the Japanese word for "Japan".

These boxes are at the top of the back of the card. This is where the postal code or zip code is written. The receiver's address and name are written a few spaces below this. It is written from top to bottom, right to left. (Maybe I'll post an example later). The sender's address and name are written to the left, top to bottom, right to left.

This is at the bottom of the back of the card. These are lottery numbers. The winners are printed in the newspapers on January 14th. There is a range of prizes. The Japanese written by the boar is otoshidama. That is the money that is given at New Year's. More about that later.

This is a card that Big Sister wrote for one of her friends. Many people asked her to send them a card. It is fun to receive New Year's greetings from your friends, but it is also nice to have lots of chances for the lottery. The post man's arrival is anticipated on the first three days of the New Year.

Kids Web Japan--New Year's card

December 28, 2006

Mail Boxes

This mail box was on the street near a hospital.

This one was in a shopping area. Those are garbage cans in the background. They are used by the shops.

This is another type of mailbox. It was on the sidewalk in front of a mansion, an apartment building.

December 27, 2006

Mail Man's Motorbike

The holiday goes on. New Year's is just around the corner. In Japan, sending New Year's cards is a very big deal. Everyone does it. The mail service of the first three days of the new year is devoted to their delivery. Everyone anticipates the mail man's visit. It's sort of like waiting for Santa.

Gift Books

Little Brother received the green book as a gift. It is a translation of Into the Wild by Erin Hunter. See the white lettering under the title Warriors? That is "warriors" in katakana, the script for foreign words.

The red book is a gift Big Sister got for Christmas. It is a translation of a German book called Tintenherz by Cornelia Funke. You may know it as Inkheart.

Titles and covers and artwork are changed when books are translated into Japanese. Click on the label below to see other books that were translated into Japanese. You'll also see authors I have met this year.

December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

We bought this statue a few years ago. We found it in a shop down the street from the peace monument at ground zero in Nagasaki.

The holidays are just beginning here. School break begins today.

Cakes Given and Received

Our friend, the baker, chased me down the street to give me this cake on Christmas Eve. I walked by his shop on my way home from the grocery store. Everyone on the street smiled. This is the traditional Christmas cake. A nice gift! We used it for Aunt's birthday cake. Her birthday is Christmas Day.

Big Sister made this Buche Noel to give to a friend. Christmas Cake decorations and supplies have a special place at the front of stores during this season. Over the years, people have started making cakes at home.

Report Cards on Christmas Day

This was the last day of school before the winter break. Students took their report cards home. They just finished the second term of the school year. They will go back to school on the 3rd of January. The school year ends in March.

This is part of the report card. I didn't want to include Little Brother's marks even though they were good. On the left is a column of different subjects and objectives. On the right are columns for the marks or grades for the three terms of the school year.

Here is a close-up of the headings for the terms. On the left, there is a section of three columns for the marks for the first term. In the middle, there is a section for the second term. And then a section for the third term is on the right.

Students do not get a number or a letter grade. See the three columns beneath the 1 and the 2 and the 3? The marks are written in columns below those words. If students are working hard and doing well, they get a circle in the first column under the word yoku dekiru "can do well". If their work is adequate, they get a circle in the middle column under the word dekiru "can do". If they need to work harder, they get a circle in the third column under the word mou sukoshi
"a little more ".

Parents sign the cards by stamping them with the family seal (a stone with their name carved in it.) Students take them back to school and the teacher stamps them with her seal. I can't show that section of the report card to you because they contain legal signatures. They should not be posted because they could be duplicated.

Kids Web Japan--winter break

December 24, 2006

Silent Night In Japan

Little brother received this creche when he graduated from Japanese kindergarten at age 5. He went to a Catholic kindergarten. All of the students were Japanese. I'm not sure if any of them were Catholic.

Big Sister received this plaque when she graduated from the same school. We have used both every Christmas since they received them.

Big Sister and I have gone to "The Nutcracker" every year since she was four. It is performed by the Matsuyama Ballet Company. Little Brother went once, but he was not interested. He stays with Baba when we go. This is the ticket from last year. (I couldn't find this year's ticket.) There is only one performance in our area. It is early in the month.

At the end of the performance, the dancers came out to take a bow. They started tapping their feet. They scattered as the music began to swell into Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. They do this every year. (Click here to read a story written by some children from Bando, Japan. It is about the history of the Ninth symphony in Japan.)

The dancers came out in groups to take their bows as the Ninth Symphony was played. The music moved into other Christmas carols. Some dancers came out and did a little jig. Some came in sleighs or on the backs of reindeer. A big banner that read "Happiness to All Peoples Everywhere" was lowered with confetti.

At the very end the dancers all lined up on stage. The orchestra played "Silent Night". In the past, the dancers and the audience sang it in Japanese. This year the dancers stood with their heads bowed. They slowly moved forward closer to the audience. They gradually raised their hands into prayer. It was very touching.

Here are the lyrics to "Silent Night" in romaji , the roman alphabet. I put the English words under the first verse so you can see how to phrase it while singing. I hope it helps. It is not a word for word translation so please don't think that "shi" means night in Japanese, etc. Check the links section for Dr. Bestor's pronunciation guide or the one on Kids Web Japan. I then wrote the first verse with the 2nd and 3rd verses so you can see the Japanese words written as they should be in romaji.

Kiyoshi Kono Yoru

ki--yo shi
Si--lent night

ko no yo ru
Ho-- ly night

ho shi wa

All is calm
hi ka ri
all is bright


i-- no
Moth- er and
ma bu ne---
Ho-- ly In--fant
ka ni
and mild

ne --
mu ri-
in heav-
- - ta
mou-- (this "u" means the "o" is long)

to ya--
in heav-en
su ku--
-ly peace--

1. kiyoshi kono yoru hoshi wa hikari
sukui no miko wa mabune no naka ni
nemuri tamou ito yasuku (this "u" means the "o" is long)

2. kiyoshi kono yoru mitsuge ukeshi
makibitotachi wa miko no mimae ni
nukazukinu kashikomite

3. kiyoshi konoyoru miko no emi ni
megumi no miyo no ashita no hikari
kagayakeri hogaraka ni