Sunday, August 22, 2010

Japanese charcoal stick (Kishu Binchotan, Binchozumi, 備長炭)

Kishu Binchotan is known a stick for the best quality charcoal used for freshen in the air and purifying water. It is a special charcoal made from real pieces of a type of white oak wood, uses a special tree called Ubamegashi or ubamega oak (Quercus phillyraeoides), now the official tree of Wakayama Prefecture.

The excellent of Binchotan are attributed to steaming at high temperatures because the coal burn extremely hot without any smell of chemical and burns much longer than traditional charcoal. The aroma of the burning coal is pleasantly subtle and the grilled food does not come out with an over power smoky or other unpleasant flavors; it is a favorite of Unagi (Eel) and Yakitori (Grilled chicken) cooks. And then, you drop a stick of Binchotan into a glass, bottle or pitcher of water and place in your fridge overnight. It will naturally purify and soak up the chlorine and other unpleasant tastes, while releasing natural minerals, improving the taste and softening it as well. Then, you can put it in rooms to freshen the air. There are many more supposed benefits and health values of white charcoal. Currently there are a number of Binchotan based consumer products on the market such as socks, shirts, shampoo, cosmetic products, and many more. It can be reused for up to 3 months and easily recharged once a month by boiling it for 5 minutes let it dry. It can be recycled it by breaking it small pieces place into your plant soil for creating micro water and air cavities in the soil.

Rice balls with deep-fried shrimp or tenmusu

This dish originally from Nagoya a few years ago and became very popular in Japan now. you can buy them in convenience stores and many other places.

Rice balls with deep-fried shrimp, called Tenmusu is a Nagoya specialty, are highly favored for takeout food and great as a snack. Tenmusu is a little smaller than a regular rice ball (onigiri), There are contains small pieces of deep-fried shrimp or vegetable tempura at the center of it, was wrapping each musubi with nori (dried seaweed) and placing it on dish or a dried leaf. tenmusu often come with Japanese butterbur boiled with soy sauce( kyarabuki).

Crying Baby Sumo Contest (Konaki or Nakizumo)

Crying Sumo (Konaki) or Sumo of tears (Nakizumo) is a popular annual Japanese contest for babies that take place all over the country. The festival held on Sunday by sumo wrestlers, the tiny winners are determined by who cries first. If both babies start crying at the same time the winner is the one who wails the loudest in the arms of sumo wrestlers. Japanese parents apparently believe the sumo-induced cries are beneficial, with the babies crying out as a prayer to the gods for good health. At the very least, it probably exercises the lungs.

Some babies reportedly refused to cooperate and stayed silent or even dared to laugh in the wrestlers’ faces. Or, at least, that wasthe case until the wrestlers resorted to slipping on their scary masks. The event is based on the ancient Japanese proverb that ‘crying babies grow fast’(naku ko wa sodatsu). It is thought that the louder the cry, the more the gods have blessed the child with strong and good health, are supposed to drive away evil spirits. is at least 400 years old.

Locations with Crying baby Sumo contests are the Sensoji temple,Tokyo, There are also contests at Ikiko shrine in Kanuma-ski, Tochigi, in September; Yamajioji temple in Shimotsu-cho, Wakayama, in October; and at Saikyoji temple, Hirado, in February.

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