Paper

Around the world, many Japanophile-in-waiting has enjoyed their earliest, sometimes unknowing, encounters with Japanese culture through the medium of origami, paper folding. But this graduation from paper planes and fortune tellers to more sophisticated designs like jumping frogs and cranes is nonetheless often conducted using rather unassuming paper torn from sketchbooks and notepads. Enter any…

Nishikigoi

Koi (鯉]) or more specifically nishikigoi (錦鯉 , literally “brocaded carp”), are ornamental varieties of domesticated common carp (Cyprinus carpio) that are kept for decorative purposes in outdoor koi ponds or water gardens. Koi varieties are distinguished by coloration, patterning, and scalation. Some of the major colors are white, black, red, yellow, blue, and cream….

Rain

A Begin Japanology video about rain in Japan

Ise Jingu Shrine 伊勢神宮

The Ise Grand Shrine (伊勢神宮 Ise Jingū), located in the city of Ise, Mie Prefecture of Japan, is a Shinto shrine dedicated to the sun goddess Amaterasu. Officially known simply as Jingū (神宮), Ise Jingū is a shrine complex composed of a large number of Shinto shrines centered on two main shrines, Naikū (内宮) and…

紋 Mon

Mon (紋), also monshō (紋章), mondokoro (紋所), and kamon (家紋), are Japanese emblems used to decorate and identify an individual or family. While mon is an encompassing term that may refer to any such device, kamon and mondokoro refer specifically to emblems used to identify a family. An authoritative mon reference compiles Japan’s 241 general…

Origami

Origami (折り紙 from ori meaning “folding”, and kami meaning “paper” (kami changes to gami due to rendaku)) is the art of paper folding, which is often associated with Japanese culture. In modern usage, the word “origami” is used as an inclusive term for all folding practices, regardless of their culture of origin. The goal is…

Wagasa

The Japanese umbrella is made with Japanese paper (Washi) or silk cloth with bamboo bones. It has been uniquely refined as living necessities in the ancient capital of Kyoto where varieties of local specialties are gathered from around the country. It was widely used from the Heian and Kamakura Period (794 – 1333) until the…

Rice

Japanese rice refers to a number of short-grain cultivars of Japonica rice including ordinary rice (uruchimai) and glutinous rice (mochigome). Ordinary Japanese rice, or uruchimai (粳米) is the staple of the Japanese diet and consists of short translucent grains. When cooked it has a sticky texture such that it can easily be picked up and…

Rock and Stone

The importance of Rocks and Stones for the Japanese culture in a Begin Japanology documentary.   Photo by Japanaibunka

Shinto Shrine

A Shinto shrine (神社 jinja, archaic: shinsha, meaning: “place of the god(s)” is a structure whose main purpose is to house (“enshrine”) one or more Shinto (神道 Shintō) kami. Its most important building is used for the safekeeping of sacred objects, and not for worship. Although only one word (“shrine”) is used in English, in…

Festivals

Japanese festivals are traditional festive occasions. Some festivals have their roots in Chinese festivals centuries ago, but have undergone great changes as they mixed with local customs. Some are so different that they do not even remotely resemble the original festival despite sharing the same name and date. There are also various local festivals (e.g….

Katsuobushi

Alongside soy sauce and miso, one of the primary seasonings is katsuobushi––the secret behind the dashi stock that provides the mouthwatering body of Japanese soups and hotpots, and an ingredient that has few parallels in other cuisines around the world. So what is katsuobushi, exactly? Many diners from overseas first become aware of the substance…