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Class outing to Okinawa

Class outing.

Is there a child who doesn’t love a group outing?

Back in kindergarten days, it simply meant going out to the local park, definitely during “working hours.” In those days, “sleepover” was an unknown concept, something older children did. Back then everyone wanted to sleep at home, in their own little beds.

allatkert

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Halloween in Japan

When I was in Tokyo 8 years ago on a scholarship, the cult of Halloween was already pushing its way into Japan. Jack-o’-lanterns, witches, and ghosts were all over the shops in October, where they took over the window displays. You could see the signs that Halloween was just around the corner, but it didn’t go much beyond the decorations, the pumpkins, and the witch-shaped goodies one could eat. In the past few years, though, Halloween has exploded in popularity, with restaurants and night clubs holding a wealth of Halloween parties throughout October. The Kawasaki Halloween Festival, which started 18 years ago but wasn’t very popular initially, has now come into its own, with huge numbers of participants wearing costumes.

Hello Kitty pumpkin

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Kintetsu reincarnated!

In February 2012 the Kintetsu Department Store, which had stood in front of the railroad station in the city of Hirakata, Osaka prefecture, closed down after 36 years of operation. In the less than ideal economy, department stores offering high quality and comparatively expensive products were unable to hold their own against the 100 yen stores and the low-cost products of the supermarkets that sprang up around them. If I remember correctly, Kintetsu was the second department store in Hirakata to close, following Mitsukoshi. Today Keihan is the only department store still standing. And, somehow, that is so sad. I loved going to Kintetsu as a child and took the news of its closing as a personal insult. It literally hurt. Continue reading…

Shichigosan (“Seven-five-three”) celebration as seen by a 5-year-old girl

I spent part of my childhood in Japan, including my fifth birthday. That was the year I learned something new and exciting about Japan, because on November 15th, my parents celebrated the traditional Shichigosan along with all other parents – this is a special celebration for seven, five, and three-year-old children.

The roots of this celebration go back to the 1600s. Initially boys were celebrated in their 3rd and 5th years and girls in their 5th and 7th years. The distinction has since disappeared, though, and both genders get to celebrate three times instead of two. But what does this mean in practice? On November 15th, the parents pray at the altars of Buddhist or Shintoist deities (and more recently, at Christian ones, too) for a happy and fortunate future for their youngsters. On these days, the children are dressed in traditional Japanese garments, kimonos, taken to a photographer to register the moment, and then they go on to celebrate with all sorts of sweet goodies. Continue reading…

Romeos for sale – the mysterious world of Japan’s male escorts

While living in Japan, I regularly stopped at Tachikawa station, close to my home, to do some shopping at the huge malls and entertainment complexes. Crowds of people walking on the streets under the shiny bright ads and shop owners inviting prospective customers to their shops give this part of Tokyo a very lively and exciting atmosphere. On these busy streets, there is a group of young men in neat suits and with gelled hair that stand out the mass. They usually hand out brochures to ladies whom they assume are wealthy and rich.

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A sapling planted in a swamp, or the history of Christianity in Japan

Many years ago I had a discussion about Christianity with a Japanese colleague. That was when I learned that Christianity had reached Japan in the 16th century but did not really spread. (In today’s Japan with its population of 130 million, only about a million and a half people consider themselves followers of Christ, while the vast majority are either Shintoist or Buddhist.) Since I had never before heard of the persecution of Christians in Japan or of the Japanese Christians who were martyred for their beliefs, my colleague suggested I read a novel called “Silence” by a 20th century Catholic(!) Japanese author named Shūsaku Endō.

silence

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The Josai story…

Accidental events, which create heroes and victims alike, are a favorite theme of romantic novels and dramatic films. Everyone’s life is influenced by accidents that are sometimes devastating, and we tend to wonder about these accidents. What would have happened if….I’m no exception but I prefer to think about the lucky accidents that have shifted my life and those of others, in a good direction.

            One fateful event I am proud to remember followed a cherry blossom celebration in London, when an unexpected change in program left an acquaintance of mine, who had just become a top manager at the Sumitomo Mitsui Bank thanks to a merger, free for an evening. Continue reading…

Love Hotel

Here’s another Japanese invention, something we have never heard of although it can be found everywhere in Japan as a very normal segment of the hotel industry. It’s a form of accommodation – although rest and relaxation are hardly what it’s about… History-wise, it dates from the Edo Period (1603-1868). You might call it a successor or an heir to the inns and teahouses of that time. According to Wikipedia, the name originates from a hotel in Osaka, which was built in 1968 and named Hotel Love). Today it is a definite subtype of hotel in Japan, and by definition it is meant to “accommodate” couples requiring an intimate “rest.” Continue reading…

The language of music

Hungarian cellist Csaba Onczay and Kouketsu Haruhiko met in Japan twenty years ago, marking the start of a beautiful friendship. It also marked the start of Gifu’s Hungarian Friendship Society and the Hungarian Academy of Music’s Friends of Japan Music Society. Since then, Masters’ level courses have been held every single year. Thanks to this program, over 100 Japanese musicians have studied in Hungary to date, enhancing the reputation of our Academy of Music among Japanese music lovers. Continue reading…

Juku – Private school in Japan

In a blog I wrote on June 3, 2015 called “Studying Day and Night”, I tried to outline the Japanese education system and, within that, the secondary schools and their main features. I relied principally on my own experience when describing life in school, although towards the end I mentioned the juku system. Since no description of education in Japan can be complete without discussing this type of school, I’d like to continue my earlier blog with a brief description of the juku, the private school system. Continue reading…