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Posts Tagged ‘New Year’

Mameshiba (豆しば)is one of my favorite short video series. In each 30-second episode, a bean of some sort–lentil, azuki, edamame–pops out of a diner’s food to convey a bit of trivia, the Japanese word for which is mame chishiki (豆知識), lit. bean knowledge. The facts are usually a bit awkward for the situation, like, “Female mantises eat male mantises.” Or, as the commenter lovelylexolicious writes for the prior video,

Storyline of mamashiba.
Random person is hungry, goes for a snack.
This random dog-like piece of food is found.
Mamashiba tells a random fact of trivia.
Person loses hunger and sets down mamashiba.
Mamashiba walks out like a BOSS!

You can watch all of the Mameshiba videos at the official site here or with English subtitles on the official site or on youtube.

Now, how does a Mameshiba celebrate Christmas?

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I had a tiny pre-decorated tree at my old apartment out in the country, which was no doubt left behind by a predecessor who wanted the place to feel a little more like home during the Christmas season. I left it behind because, not only was I taking way more stuff than I thought I even owned, the tree just didn’t do anything for me. For me, the act of decorating a tree with ornaments that represent places I’ve been and people I’ve met, rather than simply having a tree, is what invoked warm fuzzy holiday feelings. In fact, as a secular/cultural participant, the tree symbolizes the feeling as if winter has arrived, as the trimming of the tree coincides with the solstice and often the first big snow.

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New Year’s in Japan means it’s the season for mochi-gome (餅米), mochi rice, a sticky, glutinous rice. Mochi rice is used for two traditional New Year’s foods: mochi, a smooth rice “cake” made of this mochi cake, and sekihan, sticky rice with azuki beans.

Mochi is traditionally made by pounding the rice with a giant mallet called a kine in a large mortar, usu, carved from a tree trunk. While shrines and neighborhood associations will host festivals for New Year, inviting locals to participate in rice pounding, most household will either use an electric mochi-making machine (sort of like a bread-maker for mochi) or buy mochi premade.

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In Kanazawa, the trees covered in yukitsuri (雪つり), ropes that protect the them from snow, and the trees with holiday (LED) lights stand side-by-side near the station. Every year, plenty of news media and bloggers cover Japanese Christmas traditions from KFC and Christmas cake to Christmas Eve as a romantic date night. What does December in Japan for an expat look like on an individual level?

I had so much fun documenting Halloween in Japan that I thought readers might be interested in a more take on the holiday season here in Japan. Since I was raised celebrating Christmas as a mostly secular holiday and have adopted some Japanese new year’s customs since moving here, I’ll be focusing mainly on those two holidays.

Gingerbread cookies, 2010

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