Now that winter has officially started the weather is a bit more dreary and definitely colder. Winters in Japan can be especially cold. This is where the kotatsu comes in. A kotatsu is by no means a necessity; however, it does seem nice to have one.
What is a kotatsu? A kotatsu is a short wooden table frame that is covered by a heavy blanket, also known as a futon, with a table top that is then placed on top. Beneath the table top and futon is an electric heat source that is built into the table frame itself. Surrounding the kotatsu are often cushions for people to sit more comfortably or chairs.
The kotatsu’s origins began in the 14th century. It was originally used to cook with a charcoal burner. However, the cooking function is no longer a part of the structure.
During modern times, when the weather gets colder, the kotatsu becomes the center piece of domestic life. Family and friends all gather around the kotatsu to watch TV, play games, and other social activities while keeping warm at the same time.
People can also take short naps, but they should be careful not to touch the electric heater at the bottom. Many times pets will hide underneath seeking the kotatsu’s warmth as well. One of the typical images of a kotatsu is a cat snuggling underneath one.
I hope everyone enjoyed learning more about the kotatsu. Hope everyone stays warm during the winter!
Although Christmas is not a national holiday or religious celebration as there aren’t many Christians in Japan, but it has been adopted as a time for friends and dating. The festivities begin in November with shopping malls and department stores all putting up beautiful decorations and illuminations which are of course accompanied with carols. The main celebration of the festival revolves around Christmas eve and not Christmas Day. Christmas eve is regarded as a romantic day in which couples spend together and exchange lavish gifts. In many ways, it resembles Valentine’s Day celebration in the USA. Young couples like to walk down the street hand in hand to look at the Christmas lights and have a romantic meal in a fancy restaurant.
When it comes to Christmas day, a slightly strange tradition of eating fried chicken at fast food restaurants has emerged because of the marketing prowess of the folks at Kentucky Fried Chicken. This tradition is so popular that many people even make reservations for their “Christmas Chicken” weeks in advance. KFC outlets will have their own life-size Colonel Sanders statue dressed as Santa and people line up at their outlets to pick up their orders at Christmas day. Japanese people now believe that Westerners celebrate Christmas with a chicken dinner.
Another traditional Japanese Christmas food is Christmas cake or “kurisumasu keki”. Unlike the fruity, boozy density of British Christmas cake, Japanese Christmas cake is a light sponge cake covered with a layer of whipped cream and decorated with ripe strawberries. One fun fact, the ‘shortcake’emoji [🍰 ] is a Japanese Christmas cake!
Happy holiday! I hope you all have a very merry Christmas!
Noh (能, literally means skills or talent) is a major form of classical Japanese musical drama and one of the oldest extant theatrical forms in the world. The early development of Noh lie in the entertainment of various kinds (ancient forms of dance or simply plays) performed at shrines and temples in the 12th or 13th century, and it became a distinctive form in the 14th century. Similar to western narrative drama, Noh is often based on tales from traditional literature with a supernatural being transformed into human form as a hero narrating a story. However, Noh performers are simply storytellers who use their visual appearances and their movements to suggest the meaning of the play rather than to enact it. The total effect of the Noh drama is less that of a present action than of a metaphor or simile made visual. Until 100 years ago, the audience was intimately familiar with the story’s plot and know how to appreciate the symbolic and indirect references to Japanese cultural history contained in the words and movements.
It is believed that Noh theatre is developed by Kiyotsugu Kan’ami (観阿弥 清次) and his son Zeami Motokiyo (世阿弥 元清). Zeami is often referred to as the father of Noh and developed many of the underlying principles of the Noh theatre in the 14th century, comparable in many ways to Shakespeare. For much of its history Noh drama was richly patronized by the warrior, priest and aristocratic classes.
There are five types of Noh plays, including the kami (“god”) play, shura mono (“fighting play”), katsura mono (“wig play”), gendai mono (“present-day play”), and kyōjo mono (“madwoman play”). A typical Noh play is relatively short (usually less than an hour) and by no means as complicated as Western theatre forms. The setting is generally a very simple place that has some special significance or meaning to the main character or actor (shite) and its dialogue is sparse. Essentially, there is no plot and everything on stage happens very slowly. There are five major Noh roles exists, including the shite (principal actor), the waki (subordinate actor) and the kyōgen actor (often serves as a narrator in the play). When an actor puts on his mask, he is transformed into that character. The Noh masks are used to express the fundamental human emotions common to Japanese dramas. Other than that, the story and the play’s “fuzei” (refined flavor or elegance) are the most important elements of the Noh theatre.
The stories are usually ended tragically and related to themes beyond the human realm in a space populated by gods, demons, and ghosts. And today, there are roughly 2,000 Noh texts that are known to exist and only 230 core works are still performed regularly.
Isn’t there something about stars that just fit the cold weather of winter? Maybe it’s because of the holidays? Personally, I love the scene of white snow and a starry sky. Here’s one by Takeshi.K to set the mood of this post:
Let’s start off with the most popular design around— the lucky star. It’s made out of a strip of paper that you fold around itself to make a puffy, 3D figure. Back when I didn’t have strips of paper, I would measure out 15 cm x 15 cm origami paper into 1 cm strips and cut them myself. They’re so cute to put into ball ornaments or into jars for decoration. Major tip for this project is to avoid harsh creases especially at the beginning. Doing this will make it difficult shape the star at the end. This video tutorial is from Paper Kawaii, and the visual is from Origami Resource Center.
The next two projects require pentagonal bases, but don’t worry, they’ll show you how in the videos and diagram. This star is a great project for beginning pentagonal origami because it has a lot of repetitive steps. You can also adjust if you want the flaps to be loose, thus making it three dimensional; or to push them down, and have a flat star. The tutorial for this project is from Homemade Gifts Made Easy. There is a video and visuals!
The last design is a star bowl, and it’s very easy to make, so no worries! >u< It would be great for little candies/snacks or storing hair ties/bobby pins. You could also make a cover for it and it can be a star box. And obviously, it can be very pretty decorations. Design for this figure comes from Paper Kawaii.
That’s all for today! Most of the time, if you’re folding stars, you’ll be starting from a pentagonal base due to the clear reason that stars have five sides (unless it’s modular whereas that is out of my area of expertise >___<). It’s a good base to know to fold and it’s not to hard. Hope everyone likes the projects and best of luck! ^-^
I hope everyone enjoyed our first cooking event for this semester. Today, I would like to share with you more information about the strawberry daifuku that we made.
Strawberry daifuku ( いちご大福, pronounced “di-foo-koo”) is a popular traditional Japanese sweet consisting of a small soft mochi (glutinous rice cake) stuffed with strawberry and anko (sweetened red bean paste). In fact, daifuku comes in many varieties, including yomogi daifuku (蓬大福), yukimi daifuku (雪見だいふく) and ume daifuku (梅大福). It was originally called Habutai mochi (thick belly rice cake) and it later changed to Daifuku mochi (big belly rice cake) and it literally means good luck in Japanese.
During the springtime, Japanese confectionery shops sell strawberry daifuku as the seasonal daifuku. Even though we don’t live in Japan, we can still make this simple and tasty confection on our own. Below is a list of ingredients that we need for making strawberry daifuku and simple instructions.
3 medium strawberries (1 strawberry per daifuku)
75g Anko (sweet red bean paste)
50g shiratamako (glutinous rice flour)
2 tablespoons of sugar
75 ml water
1 bag of corn/potato starch for dusting
(Most of the ingredients could be purchased in Asian markets or you can get them from Amazon as well.)
Mix the shiratamako and sugar with a whisk in a glass bowl.
Slowly add in warm water into the glass bowl and stir it until the mixture has reached a thick consistency.
You can either microwave the mixture for 3 mixtures or steam it for around 5 minutes.
Make sure the mochi mixture looks translucent and then you can take it out and put it on a tray.
Sift corn or potato starch on the tray, and then use a silicone spatula or kitchen scraper to put the mochi on top of the potato starch.
Mix the mochi with the corn or potato starch to make it less sticky, and then cut them into three equal pieces.
After you complete the most difficult task of making the mochi wrap, we can move to the next step of putting in the fillings.
Rinse, dry and hull the strawberries.
Divide anko into 3 same size balls and then completely wrap them around the strawberries. (1 anko ball per stawberry).
Put the corn or potato starch on your hands and put the anko covered strawberry on top of the mochi ball. (Make sure the tip of the strawberry is facing down)
Start covering the strawberry from all sides and hold the mochi with both hands to make it into a nice round shape.
歓呼する. You’re finished. This is what the Daifuku should look like!
Now you can enjoy your delicious strawberry daifuku.