March 14th may be one of the most eventful days in the Japanese calendar. While most people these days celebrate White Day (ホワイトデー), a reverse Valentine’s Day where men were expected to give generously to women, perhaps foreign people in Japan should be celebrating Japan’s International Marriage Day, which occurs on the same day.
For people unfamiliar with White Day, the festival originated as a way to even things out after Valentine’s Day as Japan has a very unique Valentine’s Day (バレンタインデー) that consists of two days. Valentine’s Day when guys receive from rather than give chocolates to their girlfriend/spouse and White Day when guys give gifts back.
As if this wasn’t unusual enough, Valentine’s chocolates aren’t reserved for potential or actual boyfriends only. Instead, these delicious treats can be given to any important person in the woman’s life. Friends, family and coworkers may all potentially receive chocolates, leading some women to rightfully complain about the stress, pressure and financial cost of making sure that noone feels left out.
While this reverse Valentine’s Day may sound like a good deal for the guys, it is complicated by White Day when it is the guy’s turn to shower his girlfriend or wife with gifts.
A key word in that sentence is ‘shower’, as White Day operates with a harsh ‘jyuubai kaishi’ (literally ten-times return) rule whereby the unlucky guy has to repay his girlfriend’s kindness on Valentine’s Day with a present valued at 10-times the cost of her gift.
Naturally, this caused things to escalate to ridiculous extremes and high schools and workplaces became a hotbed of gift-giving and the resultant stress. It has reached the point that many schools and big-name companies have completely banned the giving of chocolates.
International Marriage Day
The lesser known holiday is International Marriage Day (国際結婚（しんこく）の日（ひ）, …continue reading
Single use plastics are one of our most critical environmental issues. And you don’t have to travel far to find them. Practically every hotel room is stocked with a plastic razor, ready to be used once and thrown away. Japanese company KAI Industries is solving for this with their latest creation: a 98% plastic free […]
But despite their excellent track record, every now and then there’s going to be a slip up. That’s what happened on March 11 at Asaka Daigo Elementary School in Asaka City, Saitama Prefecture.
Seven people, one teacher and six students, ended up with chipped teeth after eating the school lunch, and three of the children had to go to the hospital. The cause of their injuries: the noodles were fried too hard.
▼ Not the sensei you want to be seeing after lunch.
The meal in question was sara udon (“plate udon”), a dish from Nagasaki that puts cooked vegetables and meat on top of fried noodles. Unlike other udon dishes, the noodles are supposed to be crispy, rather than soft and chewy.
▼ Check out 3:18 in this video to see the toppings
put on top of the fried, crunchy noodles.
Apparently what went wrong was the cooking time for the noodles. Instead of being fried for two to three minutes as they should be, they were fried for ten minutes, turning them extremely hard. The staff who cooked the food on-site at the school did not have instructions for the correct cooking time and opted to fry them longer because “they didn’t look done yet.”
What’s more, the previous day, sixth-grade children were served donuts that had expired a year ago, due to a delivery mistake.
The school’s lunch department has said that they are taking measures for this to not happen again, but Japanese netizens had a lot of pressing concerns:
Why, back in my day, we had to make music by hitting and blowing into pieces of wood!
Although it generally isn’t thought of as such, music is probably one of the most challenging subjects for students to learn. Proficiency in it requires a combination of mathematical technical theory with the muscle coordination of Phys Ed simultaneously.
But now, children in elementary and junior high schools all across Okazaki City in Aichi Prefecture are getting a huge leg up in the form of Yamaha’s Vocaloid software.
For a long time now Vocaloid has been the go-to tool of online songwriters. This package which helped launch the career of virtual idol Hatsune Miku allows a computer to do all the singing and instrument playing, letting anyone express themselves through music without requiring the physical traits often acquired through years of practice.
For those unfamiliar with how Vocaloid works, it simplifies musical performance and notation by visualizing all components of a score as blocks on a grid. Singing is done by simply typing text into the block and assigning it a note by positioning it on the grid.
▼ Here’s a demonstration
Last month the simplified Vocaloid Education Edition II for iPad seen in the video above was made available to all students as a part of the city’s version of Japan’s GIGA School concept, which aims to replace all paper textbooks with individual tablets for every student.
A trial run was conducted with a second-year class at Okazaki Municipal Minami Junior High School. The teacher in charge reported: “By using Vocaloid, it’s possible to express yourself musically regardless of your strengths or weaknesses. It felt like the possibilities within each student were greatly opened up.”
A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people” ~ Gandhi. Over the years, learning new Japanese words has evolved into a passion of mine. If I could sum up my findings so far, it’s that Japanese culture makes you aware of small details that were always there but didn’t […]
The brand will launch a brand new nutty flavor to round out the line.
Last year, Asahi Breweries and Marushige Confectionery combined their forces: namely, Asahi Breweries’ knowledge of the drinks industry and Marushige Confectionery’s ability to turn plates and other eating implements into edible alternatives. The fruits of their labor were tested in limited restaurant and work settings, and now it’s time for their brainchild—the edible cup—to hit the market.
March 10 heralded the opening of the Mogu Cup Shop. Mogu is the Japanese onomatopoeia for munching, which is apparently what you’re expected to do to the cup after you drain the last sip from it. The cups are made from locally-sourced potato starches and baked at high heat under severe pressure and can be purchased in a range of sizes and flavors.
▼ The menu presented at the online store.
Sizes are ranked by who is likely to use them in a hypothetical set of siblings; the smallest, the S size, is nicknamed the “eldest daughter”, with the M size represented by the second son and the eldest son standing in for the L size. The cups are divided again into salty or sweet flavors. Savory fans can choose between plain or shrimp cracker flavors, while those with a sweet tooth can pick between chocolate or nuts flavors.
▼ Left to right: plain, shrimp cracker, chocolate, and nuts.
The cups are sold in packs of ten: 1,150 yen (US$10.60) for S size, 1,200 yen for M size, and 1,400 yen for L size. As mentioned earlier, the products were initially tested in restaurants but customers expressed a desire to use the edible cups …continue reading
Rather than a single email this month, I’ve got a collection of questions via email, Facebook posts and Instagram comments all about love and White Day in Japan.
Valentine’s Day vs. White Day in Japan
As one friend pointed out this past Valentine’s Day: “Smash the patriarchy. Screw giri choco.”
To many, Valentine’s Day is about couples showing their love to one another, so having it be a day where women traditionally fawn over men can be very off-putting. White Day, on the other hand, might ostensibly be the same kind of holiday as Valentine’s Day, but a lot of women — both Japanese and foreign alike — don’t agree with the concept.
According to several women I am in contact with (of all ages and nationalities, who have lived in Japan), White Day is:
“…annoying…” (Japanese, 30s)
“…a rip-off…” (American, 20s)
…“forgettable…” (Japanese, Canadian, British, French, Chinese, American, New Zealander, 20s-40s).
To put it plainly: a lot of Japanese and foreign men alike are notorious for “forgetting” White Day even exists, which leaves many women stuck with all the emotional labor in a relationship and little to show for it. “It makes me not want to bother,” says one Japanese woman in her 30s. “If he can’t remember to romance me, why should I stick around and beg for his attention?”
While there are several options for gifts on Valentine’s Day — honmei choco (true love chocolates), giri choco (obligatory chocolates), tomo choco (friendship chocolates) and gyaku choco (chocolates from a man to a woman) — there aren’t really terms for the gifts men are meant to give back. Some give their own form of giri choco (usually as a collective “thank you” from the men of the office to female coworkers), …continue reading
Taketomi is a small island a 10 minute ferry ride from Ishigaki Island in Okinawa Prefecture. The small village on the island of about 300 inhabitants is registered as a Group of Historic Buildings a classification I refer to as Preservation District for simplicity. It is one of only two such districts in Okinawa. For other preservation districts I have covered in this blog please click
The cast of the hottest shonen series show up in Shibuya.
Shibuya Station is one of the busiest in Tokyo, with five different train lines and three subway ones all converging at the rail hub. But it’s also right in the middle of downtown, where space is at a premium. because of that, most of the station is made up of long tunnels that run for blocks and blocks under the city streets.
Of course, long tunnels mean long walls, and right now one of them is being put to very good use, serving as a massive canvas for giant, amazing character art from anime/manga hit Jujutsu Kaisen.
With Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba’s manga having come to an end, and Attack on Titan just a few weeks away from its conclusion, Jujutsu Kaisen has stepped in to fill the void for actively ongoing shonen manga action series. In keeping with its occult theme, the Shibuya Station mural is accompanied by the written proclamation “A cursed curtain covers Shibuya.”
The artwork went up earlier this month to commemorate the release of the 15th collected volume of the Jujutsu Kaisen manga. Fans looking to make a pilgrimage can find it by taking the large staircase near the statue of Hachiko the dog down into the station and then following the signs for the entrance to the Fukutoshin subway line, which will eventually take them to the hall where they’ll see the mural on their right-hand side.
The Suga administration recently submitted a bill to revise Japan’s Act on Special Measures to Facilitate Investment in Agricultural Corporations. The bill aims to expand the recipients of investments from special agricultural funds, or limited liability partnerships consisting of financial institutions specialised in financing agricultural businesses. Special agricultural funds are currently only permitted to invest in the agricultural sector, but the revision would also allow investments in the fishing, forestry and food-processing sectors.
By making greater financial resources available to producers and exporters of agricultural and food products, the Japanese government aims to expand agricultural exports from 922.3 billion yen (US$8.5 billion) in 2020 to 2 trillion yen (US$18.5 billion) by 2025, and 5 trillion (US$46.1 billion) by 2030. The revision is expected to play a significant role in helping to promote exports given the large investments that are needed in infrastructure systems, overseas marketing and advertising, and human resources development.
The promotion of agricultural exports — nicknamed seme no nosei, or ‘proactive agricultural policy’ — has become an important element of Japan’s economic growth strategy. This is in sharp contrast with Japan’s old protectionist policies in the past.
Japan is negotiating with other countries to remove or relax trade barriers and regulations on agricultural products. It is promoting Japanese food product sales by hosting business fairs overseas. Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) established a new agency in 2017, the Japan Food Product Overseas Promotion Center, for overseas sales promotion and branding of Japanese food products. MAFF also started the Global Foodstuff Export Project in 2018, which provides business consulting to producers and exporters. Third, the government provides financial support to producers and exporters to invest in infrastructure systems for exporting their products.