Famous Person Friday! 有名人金曜日!

It’s time for everyone favorite day of the week, Famous Person Friday! (有名人金曜日) This week we will be talking about Hayao Miyazaki (宮﨑 駿). Miyazaki-san (宮﨑さん) was born January 5, 1941 in Bunkyo, Tokyo, Japan (文京区, 東京, 日本).

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Miyazaki-san (宮﨑さん) began his animation career in 1963, when he joined Toei Animation. From there he worked as an in-between artist for Gulliver’s Travels Beyond the Moon, where he pitched ideas which eventually became the movie’s ending. He continued to work in various roles in the animation industry until he directed his first feature film, Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro, released in 1979. After the success of his next film, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984), he co-founded Studio Ghibli, where he continued to produce many films. While Miyazaki-san’s (宮﨑さん) films have long enjoyed both commercial and critical success in Japan, he remained largely unknown to the West.  In 1997 Miramax films released Princess Mononoke which briefly was the high grossing film in Japan and it became the first animated film to win Picture of the Year at the Japanese Academy Awards.

Miyazaki-san’s (宮﨑さん) films often contain recurrent themes, like humanity’s relationship with nature and technology, feminism, and the difficulty of maintaining a pacifist ethic. The protagonists of his films are often strong, independent girls or young women. While two of his films, The Castle of Cagliostro and Castle in the Sky, involve traditional villains, his other films like Nausicaä and Princess Mononoke present morally ambiguous antagonists with redeeming qualities.  He co-wrote films The Secret World of Arrietty, released in July 2010 in Japan and February 2012 in the United States; and From Up on Poppy Hill released in July 2011 in Japan and March 2013 in the United States. Miyazaki-san’s (宮﨑さん) newest film The Wind Rises was released on July 20, 2013 and screened internationally in February 2014. Miyazaki-san (宮﨑さん) announced on September 1, 2013 that this would be his final feature-length film.

Check out the above video for an interview with Roland Kelts for more insight into this awesome artist! For more info about Miyazaki-san you can always check out his numerous films or check out the Ghibli studios website.

As always, if you have any questions on this or any other topic I cover you can always email me at colormeindie@gmail.com or leave a comment below! Til next time! じゃね。♪((└|o^▽^o|┐))

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Japanese History: Kofun period. Part 1 日本史: 古墳時代 パート1

The Kofun period (古墳時代) is lasted from 250 to 538. It is named after the type of burial mounds dated from this era. The Kofun period (古墳時代) and the subsequent Asuka period (飛鳥時代) is sometimes referred to collectively as the Yamato period (大和時代). The Kofun period (古墳時代) is the oldest era of recorded history in Japan.

The Kofun period (古墳時代) and the Asuka period (飛鳥時代) are divided by their cultural differences. The Kofun period (古墳時代) is characterized by a Shinto culture which existed before the the introduction of Buddhism.

Kofun (古墳) are defined as the burial mounds built for the people of the ruling class during the 3rd to 7th centuries in Japan. The mounds contained large stone burial chambers. Some are surrounded by moats. Kofun (古墳) come in many shapes, with round and square being the simplest. A distinct style is the keyhole-shaped kofun, with its square front and round back. Kofun (古墳) range in size from several meters to over 400 meters in length.

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The oldest Japanese kofun is said to be Hokenoyama Kofun located in Sakurai (櫻井) in Nara prefecture (奈良県) and it dates back to the 3rd century. The trend of the keyhole kofun first spread from Yamato to Kawachi and then throughout the country (except for Tohoko region) in the 5th century. Keyhole kofun disappeared later in the 6th century, probably because of the drastic reformation which took place in the Yamato court.

While conventionally assigned to the period from 250 AD, the actual start of Yamato rule is disputed. Regardless, it is generally agreed that Yamato rulers possessed keyhole kofun culture and held hegemony in Yamato up to the 4th century.

The regional autonomy of local powers remained throughout the period, particularly in places such as Kibi (current Okayama prefecture 岡山県), Izumo (current Shimane prefecture 島根県), Koshi (current Fukui and Niigata prefectures 福井県 and 新潟県), Kenu (northern Kantou), Chikushi (northern Kyushu), and Hi (central Kyushu). It was only in the 6th century that the Yamato clans could be said to be dominant over the entire southern half of Japan.

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The Yamato polity, which emerged by the late 5th century, was distinguished by powerful clans (豪族 Gozoku). Each clan was headed by a patriarch (氏上 Uji-no-kami) who performed sacred rites to the clan’s kami to ensure the long-term welfare of the clan. Clan members were the aristocracy, and the kingly line that controlled the Yamato court was at its pinnacle. Powerful clan leaders were awarded kanabe, a title that denoted a political rank. This title was inherited, and used instead of the family name.

The Yamato court ultimately exercised power over clans in Kyushu and Honshu, bestowing titles, some hereditary, on clan chieftains. The Yamato name became synonymous with all of Japan as the Yamato rulers suppressed the clans and acquired agricultural lands.

Based on Chinese models (including the adoption of the Chinese written language), they started to develop a central administration and an imperial court attended by subordinate clan chieftains but with no permanent capital.

The famous powerful clans were the Soga (蘇我氏), Katsuraki (葛城氏), Heguri (平群氏), Koze clans (巨勢氏) in the Yamato and Bizen Province, and the Kibi clans (吉備氏) in the Izumo Provence. The Otomo (吉備氏) and Mononobe clans (物部氏) were the military leaders, and the Nakatomi (中臣氏) and Inbe clans (忌部氏) handled rituals. The Soga clan (蘇我氏) provided the highest minister in the government, while the Otomo (吉備氏) and Mononobe clans (物部氏) provided the second highest ministers. The heads of provinces were called Kuni-no-miyatsuko. The crafts were organized into guilds.

I hope this gives you a better understanding of the Kofun period (古墳時代). Stayed tuned next week for part 2 where we will go into more depth about this period! As always if you have any questions on this or any other topic we cover feel free to send me an email at colormeinide@gmail.com or leave a comment below. Until next time! ~まったね!

Famous Person Friday! 有名人金曜日!

It’s time for everyone favorite day of the week, Famous Person Friday! (有名人金曜日) This week we will be talking about Masaru Emoto. (江本 勝) Emoto-san (江本さん) was born July 22, 1943 and lived until October 17, 2014.

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He was an author and entrepreneur, who claimed that the human consciousness has an effect on the molecular structure of water. Emoto-san (江本さん) was a graduate from Yokohama Municipal University’s department of humanities and sciences department, with a focus International Relations. In 1986 he established the IHM Corporation in Tokyo. In October of 1992 he received certification from the Open International University as a Doctor of Alternative Medicine. Subsequently, he was introduced to the concept of micro cluster water in the US and Magnetic Resonance Analysis technology. The quest thus began to discover the mystery of water.

Since 1999, Emoto-san (江本さん) published several volumes of a work entitled Messages from Water, which contain photographs of ice crystals and their accompanying experiments. Emoto-san (江本さん) believed that water was a “blueprint for our reality” and that emotional “energies” and “vibrations” could change the physical structure of water. Emoto-san’s (江本さん) water crystal experiments consisted of exposing water in glasses to different words, pictures or music, and then freezing and examining the aesthetic properties of the resulting crystals with microscopic photography.

Emoto-san (江本さん) claimed that different water sources would produce different crystalline structures when frozen. For example, he claimed that a water sample from a mountain stream when frozen would show structures of beautifully-shaped geometric design, but those structures would be distorted and randomly formed if the sample were taken from a polluted water source. Emoto-san (江本さん) believed that these changes could be eliminated by exposing water to ultraviolet light or certain electromagnetic waves.

If you would like to know more about Emoto-san (江本さん) you can always check out some of his numerous books at your local library or search for them on websites like Amazon.

 As always, if you have any questions on this or any other topic I cover you can always email me at colormeindie@gmail.com or leave a comment below! Til next time! じゃね。(=^・ω・^)y=

Chopstick etiquette in Japan. 日本では箸のエチケット。

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As many of you know the Japanese use chopsticks (箸) normally while eating food. Knives and forks are used for Western food only. Spoons however, may be used with certain Japanese dishes such as donburi or Japanese style curry rice. The proper usage of chopsticks is the most fundamental element of Japanese table manners. Some of the most important rules to remember while dining with chopstick are as followed:

  • Hold the chopsticks (箸) towards the end, not in the middle or the front.
  • When you are not using your chopstick (箸) or have finished eating you lay the chopstick down in front of you the tips to the left.
  • Do not stick your chopsticks (箸) into your food. This is especially important with rice because it is only done at funerals with the rice that is placed upon the altar for the ancestors.
  • Do not pass food directly from your set of chopsticks (箸) to another. Again this is only done at funerals.
  • Do not spear food with your chopsticks. (箸)
  • Do not point with your chopsticks. (箸)
  • Do not wave your chopsticks (箸) around in the air or play with them.
  • Do not move plates or bowls around with your chopsticks. (箸)
  • To separate a piece of food in two, exert controlled pressure on the chopsticks (箸) while moving them apart from each other in order to tear the food. This takes some practice. With larger pieces of food such as tempura, it is also acceptable to pick up the entire piece with your chopsticks (箸), and take a bite.
  • If you have already eaten with your chopsticks (箸), use the opposite end to take food from a shared plate.

Just remember these simple guidelines while dining with chopsticks (箸) and you should be fine. I suggest practicing at home not only using chopsticks (箸) but also using the guidelines I have given you.

If you have any questions on this or any other topic I cover you can always email me at colormeindie@gmail.com or just leave a comment below!

What is a Maid Cafe? メイドカフェは何ですか?

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First established in 2001 Maid Cafes (メイドカフェ) provide a unique dining experience for their patrons. In these cafe’s the waitresses, dressed in maid outfits, act as servants and treat their patrons as masters and mistresses of their own private home.

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The maid costume varies from cafe to cafe but most are based off of the traditional french maid costume. Often composed of a dress, petticoat, a pinafore, matching hair accessory, and stockings. Some waitresses also include animal ears to add more appeal.

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There are many rituals and additional services offered at many maid cafés. Maids greet customers with “Welcome home, Master (Mistress)” (お帰りなさいませ、ご主人様! Okaerinasaimase, goshujinsama) and offer them wipe towels and menus. Maids will also kneel by the table to stir cream and sugar into a customer’s coffee, and some cafés even offer spoon-feeding services to customers. Increasingly, maid cafés offer grooming services, such as ear cleanings and leg, arm, and back massages (provided the customer remains fully clothed), for an additional fee. Customers can also sometimes pay to play card or video games with maids.

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Customers are also expected to follow basic rules when patronizing a maid cafe. For example, customers should not touch a maid’s body, ask for a maid’s personal contact information, or otherwise invade her personal privacy. One common rule in a maid cafe is that photographs of maids or the cafe interior are forbidden. However, customers may have the option of paying an extra fee in order to get his or her photograph taken with a maid, possibly hand-decorated by the maid.

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Most maid cafes offer menus similar to those of more typical cafes. Customers can order coffee, other beverages, and a wide variety of entrees and desserts. However, in maid cafes, waitresses will often decorate a customer’s order with cute designs at his or her table. Syrup can be used to decorate desserts, and omelette rice (オムライス Omu-raisu) a popular entree, is typically decorated using ketchup. This service adds to the image of the waitress as an innocent but pampering maid.

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While found predominantly in Japan, maid cafes are expanding to overseas countries like China, South Korea, Taiwan, Australia, Hungary, the Czech Republic, France, Mexico, Canada and the United States. If you have one in your area I definitely suggest you checking it out! It is a fun a unique experience!

Hopefully, this gives you an idea about maid cafes (メイドカフェ). As always if you have any questions about this or any other topic I cover feel free to email me at colormeindie@gmail.com or leave a comment below.

What is Shinto? 神道は何ですか?

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Shinto (神道), also known as kami-no-michi (神の道), is the indigenous religion of the people of Japan. According to Japanese mythology 神道 (shinto) was founded in 660 BC. The first 神道(shinto) practices were recorded in the 8th century.

These early writing do not refer to 神道 (shinto) as being a unified religion but rather a collection of native beliefs and mythology. Still, as Japan’s largest religion with nearly 80% of the population as practitioners only a small percentage will identify as “Shintoists”. This is because 神道 (shinto) has a different meaning in Japan.

Most of the Japanese population go to 神社神道 (shinto shines) and beseech 神 (God) without belonging to an institutional “Shinto” religion. There are no formal rituals in becoming a member of the folk “Shinto”. Usually, “Shinto membership” is calculated from people who join organized Shinto sects. There are 100,00 神社神道 (shinto shrines) and 20,000 神主 (shinto priests) in the country.

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神社神道 (shinto shrines) are are considered to be the home of 神 (God) and therefore are places of worship. 神社神道 (shinto shrines) are often visited during special annual events such as 正月 (New year’s holiday) and festivals. People also visit shrines to pay respect to 神 (God) and pray for good fortune.

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When visiting a 神社神道 (shinto shrine) it is not much different then a church or cathedral. Visitors are expected behave respectfully.  Near the shrine’s entrance you will find a purification fountain. Pick up the ladle lying over the small well, fill it with the water provided, and rinse both hands. Then pour some water into your cupped hand, rinse your mouth and spit the water out beside the fountain. You are not supposed to drink the water directly from the ladle. Many people only wash their hands or simply do not perform this purification ritual.

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At the offering hall, throw a coin (any amount will do) into the offering box, bow deeply twice, clap your hands twice, bow deeply once more and pray for a few seconds. If there is some type of gong, use it before praying in order to ‘wake up’ 神(God).

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Although visitors are usually allowed to take pictures at shrines watch for signs prohibiting photography. Sacred objects representing 神 (God) are stored in the inner chamber of the shrine where they cannot be seen except on very special occasions.

Hopefully, this gives you an idea about 神道 (shinto) . As always if you have any questions about this or any other topic I cover feel free to email me at colormeindie@gmail.com or leave a comment below.

What is Maneki-neko? 招き猫は何ですか?

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Maneki-neko (招き猫) literally means “beckoning cat”. You usually see them in the entrances of shops, restaurants, pachinko parlors, and other businesses. Some are even electric or battery powered and have a slow moving paw .

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To some westerns it seems as if the 招き猫 is waving rather than beckoning. This is because of a difference in culture. The Japanese beckoning gesture is made by holding the hand up palm down and repeatedly folding the fingers up and down. Some 招き猫 made specifically for some Western markets will have the cat’s paw facing backwards, in a beckoning gesture that is more similar to the western gesture.

The significance of the right and left raised paw differs with time and place. A common belief is that the raised left paw brings in customers, while a right paw brings good luck and wealth.

The most common color of the 招き猫 is white, followed by black and gold, and occasionally red is used as well. Some consider white to be for good luck generally, black for good health and to lure away evil spirits, and gold for monetary good fortune. Other popular colors include green and blue, which are both supposed to bring academic success, and pink, bringer of love.

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Some believe the 招き猫 origins started in Osaka (大阪) while others insist it was Tokyo(東京). The exact origins however are uncertain but, there are numerous folktales that offer some explanation.

For example in one folktale, an old woman, living in eastern Tokyo (東京) , was forced to sell her cat due to extreme poverty. Soon afterwards the cat appeared to her in a dream. The cat told her to make its image in clay. She did as instructed, and soon afterward sold the statue. She then made more, and people bought them as well. These 招き猫 were so popular she soon became prosperous and wealthy. 
Hopefully, this gives you an idea about the 招き猫. Personally, I think they are really cute and quite interesting! As always if you have any questions about this or any other topic I cover feel free to email me at colormeindie@gmail.com or leave a comment below.