Kotatsu

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.

Family

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-japanese-heating-bed-table-10
Kotatsu with Cat

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

Peace!

Hanna

Advertisements

Christmas in Japan

Hello Everyone,

Christmas is almost here!

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.

_40979438_japan416lights.jpg

Tokyo-dome-Christmas-by-Kryptop51.jpg

 

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!
cake.jpg

Happy holiday! I hope you all have a very merry Christmas!

Warm wishes,

Xue

Noh Theatre

Hello everyone,

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.

noh-1.jpg

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.

52678a.jpg                                                                            (Noh masks)

nohstage.jpg                                                                                    (Stage)

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.

Hope you enjoy this post!

Warm Wishes,

Xue

☆ Stars ☆

Hey everyone!

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:

dec-mount-fuji-sky
Mount Fuji

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.

dec-lucky-star
Lucky Stars

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!

dec-pentagonal-star
Pentagonal Star

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.

dec-star-bowl
Star Bowl

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! ^-^

Have a great day,

Yada

Strawberry daifuku いちご大福

Hello everyone,

           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.

7.jpg

 

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.

Ingredients:

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.)

Instructions:

  1. Mix the shiratamako and sugar with a whisk in a glass bowl.
  2. Slowly add in warm water into the glass bowl and stir it until the mixture has reached a thick consistency.
  3. You can either microwave the mixture for 3 mixtures or steam it for around 5 minutes.
  4. Make sure the mochi mixture looks translucent and then you can take it out and put it on a tray.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

 

9.jpg

  1. Rinse, dry and hull the strawberries.  
  2. Divide anko into 3 same size balls and then completely wrap them around the strawberries. (1 anko ball per stawberry).
  1. 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)
  1. 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!Strawberry-Daifuku-NEW.jpg

Now you can enjoy your delicious strawberry daifuku.  

For more details, visit: http://www.justonecookbook.com/strawberry-daifuku/.

Warm wishes,

Xue

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.

Sumo

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.

Figure 1
Figure 2

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

Peace!

Hanna

Origami Day

Hey everyone!

November 11th is origami day in Japan. This is an unofficial holiday where the paper crane is a well known symbol for peace. In honor of this holiday, today’s post will be about the story of Sadako and her 1000 cranes.

nov-cranes
Paper Cranes

Sadako and the 1000 cranes is renowned in Japan and the crane is one of the most well known pieces of origami. Sadako was a young girl when the atom bomb of World War II was dropped. She developed leukemia from the radiation and was admitted into the hospital. To pass the time, she would fold cranes everyday hoping that her wish would come true. The belief is that one thousand cranes would grant one the creator one wish, thus hers was to get better and live.

She died on October 25, 1955 having completed over 1300 cranes. Her brother, Masahiro Sasaki, have donated some of them to various locations around the world— 9/11 memorial; Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; and so on. After her death, Sadako’s friends and schoolmate raised a statue in her honor for the other children who passed away as a result of the war. At the base of the statue, it states: This is our cry. This is our prayer. Peace in the world.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Sadako Memorial

For Origami Day, try to fold something new! Or you can try folding the symbol of peace, a crane. Like always, I’m including a visual instructions, and a video. Thanks for reading and best of luck to everyone!!

Have a great day,

Yada Thia


Origami Day References:

Sadako and the 1000 Crane References:

Autumn Leaves

Hey everyone!

I know it’s late, but there are still some leaves left on the trees! Kinda. Today’s post is going to be about the leaves we folded on club day. We folded two different types of leaves—maple and simple. I’m also going to be adding an extra one, but this one involves some cutting.

The first project was a maple leaf folded from a bird base. It’s not very hard to fold as long as you keep your folds as precise as possible. My stylistic choice is to fold the sides in at the end, otherwise the stem may look too chubby. The tutorial for this leaf comes from Origami Tutorial.

nov-yellow-maple
Origami Maple Leaf

Second item we folded was a simple leaf. This project is honestly quite easy to fold. If you remember folding fans as a child, it is basically the same repetitive motions as that. Since there are not many complex folds, this leaf can turn out quite large, so I would suggest cutting the paper down. The tutorial is from Origami Instructions.

nov-green-leaf
Simple Leaf

Finally, the final maple leaf project is kirigami, so it involves scissors. The folding for this is also quite simple. When cutting the final structure, try to make narrow semicircles as it’ll look more like a maple leaf. This tutorial is from Sakura Tanaka.

nov-brown-maple
Kirigami Maple Leaf

The compilation this month are on the easier side, but they’re still super fun to try out. Try making a colleciton of falling leaves. Best of luck and thanks for reading! ^-^

Have a great day,

Yada

November 5th meeting

Hello! This is your Japanese director, Stacie.

Last week, we had a combined meeting for Japanese and Origami. I kept the Japanese portion short because I knew teaching origami would take longer.We folded leaves and turkeys so I focused on Autumn themed words!

We learned:

秋 (あき), pronounced “aki,” which means “fall”

葉っぱ (はっぱ), pronounced “happa,” which means “leaf”

紅葉 (こうよう / もみじ), pronounced “kouyou / momiji.” This one’s a little more complicated to explain because there is no direct translation in English. If pronounced “kouyou,” it means something similar to autumn colors or leaves turning red. If pronounced “momiji,” it means “Japanese maple.”

七面鳥 (しちめんちょう) pronounced “shichimenchou,” and it means turkey.

感謝 (かんしゃ) pronounced “kansha,” and it means gratitude.

We also learned how to say phrases of gratitude for Thanksgiving.

私は____ に感謝しています (watashi wa ____ ni kansha shite imasu).

This translates to “I am thankful for my ____.”

Some words that can go into the blank are:

家族 (かぞく) (kazoku) – family

友達 (ともだち) (tomodachi) – friend

先生 (せんせい) (sensei) – teacher

For example, if you say “私は家族に感謝しています” (watashi wa kazoku ni kansha shite imasu), it means “I am thankful for my family.”

And that’s all I taught for November 5th’s meeting! Thanks to those who came on November 5th and we hope to see you tomorrow for cooking day!

Onigiri

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.

Figure 1

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.

Figure 2

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!

Peace!

Hanna