In Japan, one of the oldest New Year’s tradition is the giving out of nengajo. A nengajo is a New Year’s postcard sent to friends and relatives very similar to that of Christmas cards sent out in the western world. It is intended to give tidings to family and friends who are far away, in effect telling them that one is alive and well.
These postcards should be received by the recipients on or before January 1. The Japanese Post Office has its busiest time towards the end of December up to the beginning of January. Postcards of this nature are stamped with the word “nengajo” so they can be given priority. The post office guarantees its delivery before the traditional deadline when received within a particular time period. A family who has a death in the family sends out the mochu hagaki or mourning postcards to inform other family members, as sending out nengajo should not be done at such time in respect for the recently deceased member of the family.
Because of their extreme popularity, ready-made nengajos can be bought from various stores and print shops where senders just need to fill in the name of the addressees. This is a more practical option especially if one has the intention of sending out a high number of nengajos. There may be additional spaces provided for personal messages which is always an opportune time to showcase shodo or one’s exceptional handwriting. Ink brushes are typically used for this purpose.
During the 1950s , nengajos were given an additional feature of being printed with lottery numbers. The annual draw is held every 15th of January and this caused its sales to further increase. A more modern presentation can be seen in use by the younger generation wherein nengajos are delivered through email or mobile phone. However, nothing beats the beauty and elegance of traditional nengajos.
Posted August 14th, 2012 by Teresa Martinez+ | Comment (0)
Do you remember the entry we had in April about the smart card that will, ideally, deter teenagers from purchasing cigarettes from vending machines? One of our readers, Jacl, commented on that post:
The only thing is â€¦ the machine will not â€œseeâ€ who is actually using the taspo card. If a minor is truly serious in trying to buy cigarettes, it wouldnâ€™t stop the teenager from â€œborrowingâ€ the taspo card from an adult and using it or finding some other creative ways around it.
Was he right! I was browsing Japanese-related news today when I ran across an article talking about a mother who lent her taspo card to her 15-year-old son! The article from AP goes:
Japanese police are demanding charges against a woman who allegedly lent her 15-year-old son an identification “smart card,” which is being introduced to prevent minors from buying cigarettes from vending machines.
The mother, 41, whose name was not disclosed because she has not been charged, lent her taspo to her son Monday so he could buy cigarettes to smoke in their home, a police official in southwestern Fukuoka prefecture said Tuesday.
Police have sent papers to prosecutors demanding charges of violating the law banning minors from smoking, he said on condition of anonymity because he was merely reading from police records. The maximum penalty is a 10,000 yen (US$96; â‚¬62) fine.
If parents themselves do not respect the rationale behind the taspo card, then I suspect that the Japanese governmentâ€™s campaign may not be as effective as they had foreseen it. Then again, with prosecution as a possibility, then parents might think more than twice before doing something like this.
Posted June 3rd, 2008 by Maki+ | Comment (0)
On May 11 of this year, many countries around the world celebrated Motherâ€™s Day. This celebration is something that spans cultures and races all over the world. In Japan, it is known as haha no hi. Though Motherâ€™s Day originates from the ancient Roman and Greek civilizations, it was not till after World War II that it was introduced to Japan.
We all have our own ways of celebrating Motherâ€™s Day and giving honor to the woman who gave us our lives. How do they do it in Japan? Ever since the practice was introduced in the country, the custom was for people to give carnations to mothers. Though some people prefer to give white carnations, as they are thought to symbolize the virtues of motherhood, the color red is preferred in Japan. Of course, many people give other kinds of flowers during this day as well. One thing that is not too common during Motherâ€™s Day is to give cards to mothers, though this is quite an acceptable practice as well.
Another practice for Motherâ€™s Day is for children between the ages of 6 and 14 to enter art contests with their mothers as the subjects of their works of art. This is another way of honoring their mothers. More often than not, an exhibit of these drawings is displayed from one country to another in order to showcase the talent of the children and to give more honor to their mothers.
Posted May 12th, 2008 by Maki+ | Comment (0)
In the last post, I talked about Hinamatsuri, or the festival for girls. Though this is quite an important part of Japanese culture, it cannot be denied that there is another similar festival that puts the nation at a standstill – Kodomo no hi. Kodomo no hi is actually Childrenâ€™s Day and takes place on the 5th of May â€“ yes, yesterday. It is considered a National Holiday and is meant to celebrate children (of course) and their varying personalities and to wish them happiness.
It was not always known as Childrenâ€™s Day, however. Prior to 1948, when it was changed to Childrenâ€™s Day and proclaimed a National Holiday, this day was called Tango no Sekku, or Boysâ€™ Day. This was also known as the Feast of Banners.
The reason behind the Feast of Banners tag is that tradition dictates that families fly fish banners or fish kites on this day. These fish are actually koi and the banners have come to represent the hopes of the parents for their children â€“ in particular, their sons. Koi fish are known to be full of energy and courage and they can swim against strong currents.
Today, Childrenâ€™s Day is celebrated all over the country for both boys and girls. Many Japanese communities outside of Japan also celebrate with festivities of their own. Indeed, those fish kites flying are a sight to behold.
Posted May 5th, 2008 by Maki+ | Comments (3)
Japan is well known for its exotic festivals that attract people from all over the world. For the Japanese, though, these festivals hold much deeper meanings than merely showcasing what their culture has to offer. One of the longest running traditions in the Japanese culture is called the Hinamatsuri, or Japanese Doll Festival.
Hinamatsuri started way back in the Heian Period and has its origin in an old Japanese belief that dolls contained evil spirits. In the old days, dolls made of straw were sent floating down the river out to the sea. The goal was to send away the evil spirits.
Today, the festival takes on a different light and is celebrated on the 3rd of March. The festival is actually aimed at little girls, wherein the family prays for their happiness, safety, and prosperity. Those who take part in the celebrations display special dolls if they have girls in the family.
Another name for Hinamatsuri is Momo no Sekku, which translates to Peach Festival. The dolls which are displayed are called Hina dolls and they are placed on tiered platforms with following configuration:
â€¢ Sitting at the top center are Emperor and Empress. They are wearing the twelve-layered ceremonial robe called juhni-hitoe).
â€¢ On the next step stand three Court Ladies.
â€¢ On the 3rd step play five Musicians.
â€¢ On the lowest two steps are miniatures of tableware used to serve these people.
â€¢ Small set with Court house: two Warriors guard the Court people.
â€¢ On the right are peach blossoms.
This configuration actually follows the hierarchy of the Heian Period Imperial Court.
Posted May 3rd, 2008 by Maki+ | Comments (3)
In Katsuhiro Otomo’s anime Roujin – Z, caring for the elderly has become such an issue that a robotic bed system was developed in order to take care of them.
Now, in what looks like another case of life imitating art, the Japanese are beginning to use the help of robots in caring for the elderly and the sick.
These robots may not look as sleek as the humanoid like drones developed by Honda or even as technologically advanced as the bed system in Otomo’s Roujin Z, but nevertheless, this system is helping in giving care to the elderly in their own unique way.
The robot, a product made by the Business Design Laboratory Co., is called Yorisoi ifbot and it can “talk” to its users. The 604,800 yen priced device’s main purpose is to help entertain children but it has gained a lot of demand from senior citizens and families who take care of a senior family member.
The robot cannot only respond to greetings by the owner, it can also ask riddles or sing songs as a way of stimulating the brain functions of the elderly.
Another robot that is in the market is the Chapit, developed by Ray Tron, Inc. This robot actually helps the elderly in operating various equipment inside their homes. The robot eliminates the confusion that the elderly feel when trying to operate so many different devices at home.
Posted March 4th, 2008 by Maki+ | Comment (0)
One of the enigma’s facing the Japanese is the situation of Princess Masako.
When Princess Masako married into the Royal Family in 1993, many people (most of them women) considered it as a triumph that could possibly change the way women are seen in Japanese society. Masako is an accomplished and successful woman, a Harvard graduate and a diplomat who can speak a number of languages. She was seen as challenging the traditions of the Imperial household. But this never came to be. tremendous pressure and stress as a royal has actually made her retreat from the public eye. Now, it has been years since Masako has retreated and there are no signs this is going to change.
The most perplexing part though is the lack of information that is being given to the public with regards to her health. This is quite strange for a member of the Imperial household. And the public is beginning to clamor for more news, which does not seem forthcoming.
Posted January 11th, 2008 by Maki+ | Comments (3)
Mobile phone penetration in Japan is one of highest in the world. Because of the very high tech phones that they have, the Japanese have unique problems related to the technology. For example, one of the major concerns of parents is the ability of children to access objectionable websites through their mobile phones.
Mobile phone companies are now trying to help parents with this problem by instituting new policies that give parents more involvement in getting mobile phones. For example, NTT DoCoMo does not allow minors to buy phones for the first time if they do not bring their parents or guardians and check a box in the form that would allow the company to install an internet filtering service to the line.
The National Police Agency reported that crimes emanating from internet dating sites is increasing and that children are very vulnerable to this because of their curiosity.
This is the right move for mobile companies. Their conscious efforts to actually help parents in monitoring their children is a step in the right direction. Hopefully, this becomes a widespread practice in all manner of technologies that affect children.
Posted November 30th, 2007 by Maki+ | Comment (0)
Despite much controversy and opposition a hospital at Kumamoto, Kyodo has installed the first ever baby hatch in Japan. The baby hatch is placed in the first floor of the Jikei Hospital and built into the wall. It is accessible outside through a door, which the parents can open to be able to pace the baby on a small specialized bed that maintains the same conditions as an incubator does. The hospital staff is alerted by an alarm and a surveillance camera pointed at the baby’s bed automatically starts capturing images once the door of the hatch is opened.
Taiji Hasuda, the hospital director, says that the baby hatch is a last resort meant to save the lives of babies who would otherwise be left to die. They however hope that parents will instead seek help from the hospital instead of leaving their babies in the hatch.
Posted August 2nd, 2007 by geisha+ | Comments Off