Valentine’s Day Chocolates

Hello Everyone!

Valentine’s Day is slowly approaching. In Japan, women are the ones that gift men with chocolate and gifts on Valentine’s Day! There are three types of chocolates that women often give out.

The first type is called the Giri-choco (also known as obligation chocolate). This chocolate is meant for male colleagues, close male friends, and other people whom the women have no romantic attachment/feelings to. It is usually an inexpensive gift women give. Below is an example of a Giri-choco.

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The second type is called the Honmei-choco (also known as True feeling chocolate). This chocolate is given to a boyfriend or husband. Women tend to make these at home to demonstrate true love. Some believe that if it is not “homemade” but bought at a store then it is not true love. These chocolates tend to be of a higher quality and more expensive than Giri-choco. Below is an example of a Honmei-choco.

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The third type is called the Tomo-choco (also known as friend chocolates). Women gives these chocolates to their female friends. Below is a picture of Tomo-choco.

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Valentine’s Day chocolates are often a big hit in Japan. Many department stores have big displays with different chocolates that can be given.



Department store chocolates
Department Store Chocolate Display

Here are some recipes in making homemade chocolate if you’re interested!

If you want to make the chocolate from scratch click here!

If not, click here!

Or if you want, you could google “homemade chocolates” and you’ll definitely find a recipe you’d like.

Thanks for reading!




Hey Everyone!

Most of us have all seen a bento. Maybe some of us have even made our own! A bento is a Japanese lunch box. There are many different types of bento boxes.

How To Make Bento  | Easy Japanese Recipes at

The original bento was first created by samurais. Samurais created the foods that evolve into the modern day bento. During this time, a bento was simple and could carry rice balls or simply just rice.

During the Meiji era, Japan was modernizing by opening their markets to the global world. The bento also became modernized. Workers made their own lunch boxes and brought them to work, mothers prepared a bento box for their children, and office workers did the same. Aluminum and lacquer boxes became popular. Many bento in Japan now are mass produced and could be bought in many places: bento shops, train stations, restaurants, and convenience stores. They are very common.

Mass bento

There are many different types of bento. One very popular one is called the kyaraben, also known as the character bento. It is a bento that is designed with cute characters or cartoon characters. It was originally meant to entertain children. However, now there are national contests held .


Another type of bento is called the Ekiben. Ekibens are sold on shinkansen (Japanese bullet trains) and other express trains. Each station is known to have their own signature bento. There are some people who ride trains to collect the various bento.

The bento has become an important part of the Japanese culture and pastimes. People enjoy a bento under a sakura tree or during the hanami.

Hanami Bento

There are different bento that can be created. There are simple ones with rice and a umeboshi (pickled ume plum) to more extravagant ones.

If you’re interested in making a bento, check out this website right here.

Enjoy the rest of January everyone!


Coming of Age Day

Hey Everyone!

The second Monday of January is known as the Coming of Age Day (成人の日), also known as seijin no hi. It is a national holiday that celebrates becoming an adult. People who turned 20 years old the previous year are invited to a ceremony in their local city hall and often visit a shrine as well.


Women dress in a furisode.  A furisode is a long sleeve kimono that is often quite expensive and is given to the women by their parents. Furisodes are only worn by single adult women. It is meant to symbolize their availability for marriage.

Coming Of Age Day in Japan Kimono (1)

Men wear a male kimono and a hakama. A hakama can have legs like pants but can also be open like a skirt. However many men wear western suits now.

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After the ceremony and visit to the shrine, families will have a small party. Many photos are taken during this day and the focus is on the 20 year old. After the small party, many of the participants will change into informal clothes and go with their friends to the izakaya, Japanese pub. They go to celebrate reaching the legal drinking age.

There has been a decline in participation of the Coming of Age Ceremonies. Many refuse to buy/rent a furisode or a kimino, which are expensive. Many youths are not in a rush to become adults. There have been times where youths disrupt the ceremonies in protest. Therefore, there is often a police presence during the ceremonies.

It’s interesting to see how everyone rallies together to celebrate the young men and women who turn 20 as a community together.



Hello Everyone!

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.

7 Tips About Kotatsu to Enjoy Winter in Japan!
Simple Kotatsu

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.

Kotatsu Layers


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.

Kotatsu with Cat

I hope everyone enjoyed learning more about the kotatsu. Hope everyone stays warm during the winter!



Sumo Kyushu Basho

Hello Everyone!

Sumo is a traditional and competitive wrestling sport that is very popular in Japan. To win, a wrestler must push his opponent out of the ring or to get any body part, other than the soles of his feet, of his opponent to touch the ground. Below is a picture of two sumo wrestlers.


The Kyushu Basho is one of the Grand Tournaments of Sumo. There are a total of six annual Grand Tournaments. This one is the last tournament for the year and takes place in mid-November in Fukuoka.

Fukuoka is a small city. Many of the locals get excited and enjoy seeing famous Sumo wrestlers around their town. To fully enjoy the tournament, one should get a tatami seat so they could throw their zabuton for when they’re angry. A zabuton is a thin mat that used to sit on tatami floors. Below is a picture of when people threw their zabutons on the Sumo ring.

Crowd throwing their zabuton

The whole tournament is 15 days. The top wrestlers wrestle one day and the lower ranking wrestles the next. Each day the matches are different. Below are some of the pictures of the wrestlers.

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It is highly recommended to go and watch a sumo event if there is an opportunity to do so!




Hello Everyone!

If you haven’t heard already, OJC is having a Cooking Day! We will be making Strawberry Daifuku and onigiri! Today, I will be talking a little about onigiri.

Onigiri, also commonly known as rice balls, was first seen in Lady Murasaki’s diary. It stated that people were eating rice balls. However, the origins of the onigiri occurred much earlier than Lady Murasaki’s diary.

Traditional onigiri is just rice shaped into cylindrical or triangular shapes and sprinkled salt. The use of nori, dried seaweed, was first used during the mid-Edo period. Below is a picture of the traditional onigiri during the mid-Edo period.

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However as society progressed so did the onigiri. Onigiri begins to have different fillings. The most traditional one is the pickled ume (umeboshi) filling. Umeboshi is also known as pickled plums. However there are many different fillings: salmon, kombu, and etc.

Originally it was thought that the onigiri could not be massed produced because of the hand technique that was required to put the different fillings in. However in 1980s, a machine was created that was able to make the onigiri even with the feelings. Ever since then, onigiri has been mass produced to fit on the shelves of convenience stores.

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Soon onigiri becomes so popular that it spreads to other countries: Korea, China, London, and etc. There are specialty shops and small restaurants that sell onigiri.

To learn how to make your own, check out OJC’s Cooking Day! All information is written in the flyer on our Facebook Page at Origami & Japanese Club at UIUC. If you have any questions, feel free to message us through our Facebook.

Thanks everyone!




Trick Or Treating

Hello Everyone!

I hope October is treating you well! Halloween is right around the corner and many of you might have already made plans on how you’re going to be spending it: costume parties, trick or treating, and etc. Similarly, Halloween is a fun day in Japan as well!

In America, trick or treat is a traditional activity. Children go out to their neighborhoods and knock on doors asking, “Trick or Treat”. Then they would receive candy and different small trinkets.

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Figure 1

People in Japan often go out to Halloween parties; however, trick or treating is still not as popular as it is in America.

Well first of all to go trick or treating, people have to pay in the neighborhoods that are hosting the trick or treating events. Second of all, children could only go to specific houses and only the people who paid before could go. Lastly, the children don’t say “trick or treat”. Instead, they say “Happy Halloween”. You can learn more about it by clicking on this video.

Why is this case? In Japan, there is a desire to avoid being a bother/pain to someone else. Going trick or treating can be imposing another house for candy and be real inconvenience (Reference).

There are different yummy looking candy treats. Most of these are very popular and often made to match the Halloween theme.

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Figure 2  (Yummy!)

I hope the post help explain why trick or treating is different in Japan than it is in America. In Japan, people really do not want to be an inconvenience to others.

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Have a fun and safe Halloween everyone!




Hello Everyone!

October has finally arrived! And you know what that means…. HALLOWEEN!

In the United States, we have lots of well known monsters: vampire, werewolves, poltergeist, and more. As you guys might have already assumed, different countries have different monsters.

Today I will be talking about the yuki-onna. A yokai monster (ghost, supernatural, spirit) from Japan.

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The picture on the left (Figure 1) is a picture of an older depiction of the yuki-onna. The picture on the right (Figure 2) depicts a more modern picture of the yuki-onna.

Yuki-onna is literally translated into “snow woman”. There are many different myths and depictions of the yuki-onna. However, the appearance is generally the same. She is usually dressed in a kimono; however, there have been depictions of her nude. She has long black hair and pure white skin. Her eyes are known to be terrifying.

The origins of this yokai remains something of a mystery. She was supposedly a young girl who died on a snowy man. Hence why they typically live in mountains with snow. However, modern times depict them in places anywhere with snow.

Yuki-onna is very well known in Japan. And yet, there is no one single myth. There are myths of her being a blood sucking vampire, who goes and steal the blood and souls of men who she seduced. However, there are also myths of her being a loving mother and caring lover who fell in love with her prey.

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Figure 3

There is one well known myth about her. There were two woodcutters named Mosaku and Minokichi. One night there was a strong snowstorm so they took shelter in a hut. However in the middle of the night, Minokichi woke up and saw a woman with black hair and dressed in white. She was breathing on Mosaku’s face. The woman approached Minokichi and said to him “I planned on treating you like the other man. However, you are young and I pity you. Never tell anyone about this or else I will kill you” and she left. One whole year passed after this, Minokichi had not uttered a word of what he saw that day. He marries a young women and has children with her. One night, Minokichi tells her of the Yuki-onna he had met. His wife turned to him yells at him and announced that she was the yuki-onna from that night. However, she decided to spare him one last time for the children they had together. Then she melted into mist and disappeared.

Here is the link to the full story! Yuki-Onna story

I hope everyone learned a lot about the yuki-onna. If you’re thinking about a costume for Halloween, maybe this is something you want to try!



Respect of the Aged Day

Hey Everyone!

Today is Respect of the Aged Day in Japan! It’s a national holiday that is celebrated on the third Monday every September. It’s also called Keiro no Hi. The Holiday can be traced back to 1947 in a small village from the Hyogo Prefecture.

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Figure 1

This day is the day to express respect to the elderly, thank them for all the contributions they’ve had to the community, and to congratulate them for their long lives. Elders who turn 100 years old 12 months before this day are given a silver sake dish from the government on this day. Below is a picture of a silver sake dish.

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Figure 2

Sadly, due to government costs, the size of cups had shrunk and the government is currently thinking about just sending a letter and ending the practice.

Communities will throw parties and give special gifts to the elders.

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Figure 3

In America, we have Grandparents’ Day, but we don’t have a day where we respect the elderly in general. The Japanese show great respect for the elderly. It is part of their culture.

For this day, maybe you can call your grandparents or do something nice to an elder.



Seiza (Traditional Sitting Style)

Hi Everyone,

        In today’s post, we’ll discuss about seiza(正坐/静坐, literally means the ‘proper’ or ‘right’ way of sitting), one of the most traditional sitting postures adopted on formal occasions in Japanese culture. The history of seiza could be traced back to the Muromachi period. In traditional Japanese architecture, floors in various room designed for comfort were completely covered with tatami (straw mats); thus the ruling warrior class adopted this manner of sitting as a way to show respect and formality. To sit seiza-style, one needs to be kneeling on the floor with the calves tucked under the thighs, while resting the buttocks on the heels and toes pointed to support the backside. It’s also important to keep the back straight, fold hands and put on the lap while practicing this posture.

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(Retrieved from

Seiza and traditional Japanese arts are inseparably intertwined, it is the most commonly used sitting posture for calligraphy (flower arrangement), tea ceremony and Buddhist meditation. In modern time, seiza has become less common and popular in Japanese life due to the drastic change in the style of architecture and clothing. Also, seiza is blamed for reducing blood circulation and causing pain from the tight tendons which many parents openly discourage their children from sitting in this manner. However, proponents still believe seiza is the most ideal sitting position because it leads to an alert mind and shows a high level of respect.

Warm wishes,