Welcome to Japan!
The amazing country between old tradition and new life style.



A

The AINU are the aborigines of Japan, today their descendants are living in Hokkaido. The Ainu males usually have a more powerful physique than the present japanese population, they have abundant black hair and long strong beards. Their aboriginal rights are still not fully taken into consideration, however, the situation has improved recently, but still they remain outsiders.

The AINU possess no written language. All of their customs and history has been handed down by word. Anthropologists think that they are of Caucasian race. Their main occupation is fishing and farming. There is an interesting Ainu village at Shiraoi, in Hokkaido, which is visited annually by thousands of japanese and foreigners, where these primitive people my be seen in their native surroundings. Ainu right groups claim their number to be more than 50.000 out of a population of about 125 million.

B

BONSAI is the art to cultivate a tree, mostly combined with a landscape, in miniature format. If treated well, such trees can live as long as if they would grow naturally or even often longer. Precious bonsai can fetch prices of US$ 1.000 and more.



C

CHI stands for knowledge.

It is one of the four virtues of the Confucian concept for harmony in life. The other three are: JIN (love of mankind), GI (lawfulness) and the fourth REI (tactfulness). All four are an important key to understand Japan. You can see all four symbols if you click on the symbol for chi.

..... and CUP RAMEN !
Nisshin Chicken Ramen was the first instant ramen in the world pioneered by Momofuku Ando, the founder of NISSHIN FOODS in Japan. It was introduced to the USA first in 1972. Cup ramen can be eaten by simply adding hot water. There are many people now all over the world who eat cup ramen regularly, but the high sodium content and poor nutritional quality are problem points.


D

DAIBUTSU means "Great Buddha". - Buddhism was introduced to Japan via Korea in about 550 and 200 years later the first large Buddha statue was built in Japan, in Nara. It is 16 meter tall and the head alone measures 4.85 meter. It stands in a big wooden hall, which is regarded as the largest wooden structure in the world.


E

ENKA is the name for a very typical kind of japanese song, somewhere between traditional folk song and popular music. It is something similar to what the chanson is in the frensh and the country songs in the USA culture, however, it is not so popular with the younger generation. Young enka stars are mostly popular with women in their 30th or 40th. But, in any case the older generation above 40 still enthusiastically like Enka. They sing nearly only Enka songs at Karaoke bars.
As to history, in 1874 Japan's first political party was founded, and the call for direct election of a national parliament gained strength. Leaders, who were often prohibited from speaking in public, had songs written to air their message and singers walked the streets selling copies of the songs. This was the beginning of enka.


F

First, never say Fuji-yama as FUJI-SAN is the appropriate word for the most famous and highest mountain in Japan with 3.776 meters. Mt. Fuji is a dormant volcano which erupted last in November 1907. In former times climbing Mt.Fuji was considered a religious practice and women were not allowed to climb the mountain, but today during the summer months thousands and thousands climb the mountain for various reasons, mainly for leisure, and to welcome the rising sun early in the morning.


G

GEISHA refers to a woman and means "artful person". They are not only fine entertainers but also witty in conversation and skilled in the japanese arts of the tea ceremony, flower arrangement, traditional music, etc. They are usually dressed in Kimonos and have real old japanese hair-style, called "mage" or wear such wigs. Often very young girls were sold by their poor parents to Geisha-schools where they were tought all those skills. Of course such custom does not exist today anymore.

H

HAIKU is one of the most important form of japanese poetry consisting of three metrical units of 5-7-5 syllables and the inclusion of a seasonal theme.
Basho Matsuo (1644-1694) is known as the first great poet in the history of haiku and here is a famous example of one of his haiku:

An old pond!
A frog jumps in-
The sound of water.

But there are also haiku from present days:

Ozone layer hole,
twice Australia's size, growing
sends message to world
(M. B.Tobin Bass Highway, Australia)

I



IKEBANA is an art, well known all over the world: Flower arrangement. There are various schools including some modern ones, however, the basic principle is always the same: Heaven, the highest point, Earth, the lowest, and Man the center of the arrangement. In contrast to the massing of blooms typical of flower arrangement in western countries, Japanese flower arrangement is based on a small number of blooms.


Some people and facts you should know .....

Born in 1978, Ayumi Hamasaki joined at the age of 14 the entertainment world. In 1998 her first single was released and within three years she already released quite a number of records and soon become a superstar in Japan and other Asian countries. She is also well-known for greatly influencing the fashion trends amoung Japanese and Asian teenager girls.

















"Beat" Takeshi, or better known to foreigners as Takeshi Kitano, is regarded often only as a funny commedian entertainer in Japan, however, outside Japan "as a prodigious talent that has no parallel in the West" (William Gibson, TIME), where he became famous as a movie director and actor. In 1997 he won the Venice Film Festival with "Hana-Bi". There are many other well know movies like the famous "Kikujiro".

Kikujiro
Release Date: May 26th, 2000
Official Selecion: 1999 Cannes Film Festival 1999 Toronto Film Festival

It's summer and nine-year old Masao (Yusuke Sekiguchi) has no one to play with. With soccer practice suspended and his friends away at the beach, living alone with his grandmother seems even less fun. By chance, Masao discovers the address and photo of the mother he has never met. But with little money and even less sense of direction, he needs help. A friend of his grandmother, Kikujiro (Beat Takeshi) volunteers to accompany the boy on his quest....

CHINDONYA
In the old Japan, if you wanted to advertise the opening of a new store or an upcoming event, you couldn't turn to radio or television. Instead, the ambitious shop owner would hire a group of gaudily dressed musicians called chindonya to get the word out. Today they are a rarity but still employed to make a difference. Click on the photo for a video clip of the opening of a new subway line.

CAPSULE HOTEL

enjoy your own spacious 3.5 foot x 3.5 foot x 7.25 foot "private room" in one of Japan's many capsule hotels.

DARUMA is a papier-mache doll of a round shape, without limbs, representing the Buddhist priest Dharma (founder of the Zen sect) whos legs decayed and went off because he sat too long meditating. It is said that the Daruma doll brings good fortune if you fill only one of its eyes. After your whish has come true, the other eye is filled in.
----

DETO means DATE and is in Japan the same as all over the world.











A native of Hiroshima EIJI OUE began piano lessons at the age of four.
The primary conductor for the Radio-Philharmonie Hannover orchestra in Germany, has been chosen to conduct Wagner's opera "Tristan und Isolde" at the Bayreuth Music Festival in 2005. Oue will not only be the first Japanese, but also the first Asian to be invited to conduct at the time-honored Wagner festival.

In Japan, eating FUGU (blowfish) is the ideal of gourmet dining-and the cooking version of Russian roulette. Fugu is one of the most expensive foods in Japan. Cut up and served in a restaurant, it can bring $200. There are over 1,500 fugu restaurants in Tokyo, where an average of 100-200 people a year show signs of poisoning. The death rate is 61%! - but the Japanese seem to have an obsession with dangerous food, at least 26 people nationwide, mostly elderly, have died after choking on traditional Japanese "mochi" rice cakes in the first three days of the new year, according to a Kyodo News survey January 4, 2003.

TIME reports already in their March 9, 1998 issue about the super band GLAY, in the meantime the four members have become the number 1 super band in Japan and even they have become Manga stars. Although virtually unknown outside Asia, they are one of the most successful bands in Japanese music history.They have sold over an estimated 36 million copies of their albums and singles as of 2007 in Japan alone.
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HANAE MORI is the founding mother of 'fusion fashion' the idea of East meets West style. The way she draws creative inspiration from Japanese culture, yet translates it into Western clothing, cut and sewn to the highest couture standards, makes her unique, explains Suzy Menkes, respected fashion editor at the International Herald Tribune.
She also became very famous because of her unique perfume combinations for women as well as for men.




ICHIRO, no one bothers with his last name, the super baseball batter from Japan sliced up the American League with a .350 batting average, got more hits (242) than anyone else in 71 years, and became only the second man ever voted American League Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player in the same season. No one found a way to neutralize him then, and now in 2002, just a season and a half after he hit the beach, American baseball is waving the flag of surrender. On July 4, 2002 Ichiro was hitting .360 and 2004 was his most impressive offensive season yet, as he set several MLB records, including a new all-time, single-season Major League record with 262 hits.


Some comments about Japan of today .....

How safe is Japan?
A question often heard from those traveling to Japan for the first time - Is it really as safe as I've heard? Japan has a long held reputation for being a safe country, low in crime compared to most. Maybe you've been told stories of riding the Tokyo subway late at night without worries or forgetting a camera in the park only to find it right where it was left hours later.


BIKE GANGS
Most members of teenage bike gangs have some problems, either within themselves or their families, but the typical Japanese way of judging people is also one of the reasons why these bikers exist. Society judges teenagers on their scholastic results. Such pressure is leading to more school dropouts, who find a place in bike gangs.
(Tetsuya Anzawa, 23)

Gangs of hot rodders are cruising at night through the streets of Tokyo ... their cars or motorbikes are unlawfully remodeled, very noisy and make a fuss of the police. Ignoring traffic lights or rules is a common practise.
Bosozoku first appeared in the 1950, and reached their peak in the 1970's when there were as many as up to 40 000 nation-wide. Although their numbers have declined recently, they are still very active.They are also believed to have links to the Yakuza, as many of their members go on to join the ranks of organized crime.

















CHERRY BLOSSOMS = SAKURA
End of March the cherry blossoms are in full bloom and it's the time of enjoying the comming spring.

I'm often asked by foreigners what "hanami" or cherry blossom viewing means to me. It may not be an easy concept to understand, since the appreciation of cherry blossoms comes from certain Japanese traditional aesthetics that value short lives that come and go in a minute as the most beautiful and precious. The code of bushido represents this. Even drinking alcohol has an aesthetic meaning of showing our praise for the beauty of "sakura". (Takashi Saeki, 70)

DATING

(Yukino, 15)
The most important thing for me is that he looks good and it has to be always fun to be with him. If he has a boyish personality in him, it would also be nice. I don't like rugged-looking guys and those guys who go wild. Also, he needs to be tall, at least taller than me.



(Tacihi, 18)
I need a girl who will stop me from doing crazy things with my friends. Baseball will be an issue, too. I like girls with patience, who don't mind waiting in line to get a new computer game or similar. She must be someone who does not think that it is a waste of time.

ENJO KOSAI
which translates as subsidized socializing or simply prostitution

(S, 18) I started doing Enjo Kosai during my first year at high school. On most of my dates, I had sex. That's the weirdest thing I've ever done meeting someone for the first time and screwing him the same day. I was going to school like usual but I was bored and had no money. So I just left a message about myself on a cyber message board and chose a sex partner from the guys who wrote back. It wasn't hard.

Mount Fuji
(Yasuke 24)

Mount Fuji is such a nice place to go so I am sorry that people go there just for killing themselfes. I just read in the newspapers that police found the bodies of two people in a forest at the foot of Mount Fuji, after being tipped off by a woman. The police said that they suspect the two died in a suicide pact in Aokigahara forest, which is a well-known site for people contemplating suicide, but I surely would never do this. It is a sad story at a great mountain.



GYAKUTAI
means abuse.

The current jobless situation in Japan and many young people not knowing how to treat small children may be putting these people in a heavy stress situation. Unfortunately, many Japanese are not good at dealing with such stress and consequently they are driven into a corner, and the only way to ease their pain is to attack something which is weaker than themselves, which in many cases are their kids. This is a big problem today in Japan.
(Daimu Kato, 21)

HOMELESS

I actually think the homeless are cool as they seem very free and wild. Well, to be homeless should not be regarded as a negative thing if they have chosen such a lifestyle. But if they haven't, the government should give them real opportunities for employment and help them to find somewhere a house or an appartment, rather than living on the street or in a park. There have been incidents of homeless being beaten up and even killed by young kids recently and I think they should be punished severely for taking someone's life away, just because they are homeless.
(Tadashi Anzai, 21)

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What else .....


BIKKURI
means surprise!



Now people in Japan can understand their dogs better than ever before with a gadget that translates doggy talk into human words. Bowlingual, the new device made by toy maker Takara Co. has dogs saying things like "I'm feeling great!" "It's so annoying!" and "Come on, play with me!"



You think
we are in New York?


NO, this is TOKYO!



Woman leaves husband to die tied to lamppost

A 52 yeal old woman wrapped a dog chain around the neck of her sick husband who was recuperating at home after a stroke, tied him to a street lamppost and left him to choke to death.




Revellers dance at Asakusa Samba Carnival in downtown Tokyo. More than 4,000 people from 35 teams participated in the annual summer festival.


COOL JAPAN

Japanese animation goes global The Japanese animation industry's impressive growth is raising hopes for big business. For decades, Japanese publishers of comic books and producers of TV cartoons have been entertaining the nation, but in recent years the industry has gained additional momentum and the market for animation has expanded significantly worldwide.


The second Monday in January is the

Coming of Age Day

"Seijin-no-hi", and is a national holiday honoring all those who have reached their 20th birthday. In Japan, at the age of 20 the status of adulthood is attained, now you are allowed to smoke, drink, and vote. Coming of Age Day is actual nowerdays the only chance to see young japanese girls and sometimes boys too, wearing a traditional Kimono in the streets.



Enjo Kosai

About 70% of questioned girls between the ages of 15 to 17 linked to acts of prostitution with men whom they met via the mobile phone do not have a sense of guilt in being paid for sex, according to survey results released by the Kyoto prefectural police in July 20, 2002




SUICIDE

Not only in the scenic area of Mount Fuji but also in Tokyo the railway operators in the metropolitan area are alarmed over the rising number of suicides on all routes. Railway suicides usually create chaos for the railway system, especially if commited during rush-hour congestion and can effect more than 100.000 commuters.


GYAKUTAI/abuse.

Compared to 1999 figures, the amount of physical abuse increased in 2000 about 1.5 times while that of neglect doubled, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. Unfortunately this trend is still has not slowed down and is still a big problem in 2007.



HOMELESS

There are many homeless people today in Japan and parks and river beds have become the dwelling place of the homeless in the big cities.






IREZUMI - Tatoo

My parents were really against it when I started to have it done because they think tattooing is only done by the gangsters, the Yakuza. But this is not true and many young folks in Japan hava a tattoo, same as many young people all over the world. Anyhow, my gril friend has one too and we both like it and we really think it looks way cool.
(Ken, 19)



IREZUMI

is the japanese word for tattooing.
In Japan the art of tattooing reached a very high level and since the country opened to the outside world in 1853, it has been widely admired outside Japan. The foreign interest may well have saved tattooing from being suppressed as a barbaric practice. Today it is again popular with the very young.


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