Watch this very beautifully filmed video and think about the care and effort that goes into making these traditional shoes the next time you go shoe-shopping:

Her YouTube channel has equally beatiful videos of her making other crafts and foods. There’s not much English practice here, but you could try explaining some of these in English, and it’s one way you could do your demonstration task, by making a video of your own.

For people studying Chinese, some of these videos can be practice for your vocabulary recognition. I particularly liked this explanation  on the video showing how to make Lanzhou beef noodles: “Knead flour like playing with cats”

Writing prompt: What Japanese traditions (or those in your major language country) do you think should be preserved? Which would you like to learn how to do yourself?


Getting dressed

Yesterday was Coming of Age Day, which meant many (most?) women who turned 20 in the past year donned kimonos and did their hair for the ceremony.

How does this compare to women in 18th century England?

Here’s an upper-class woman being dressed:

And here’s a working woman getting herself dressed:

The grass is always greener…

“The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.”

This is a saying that means we often are dissatisfied with what we have, and we want what other people have. I think the Japanese saying is almost the same (the grammar is a little different). Can you imagine what it is without using your dictionary or googling it?

This short video is about how many women in Ghana go to great lengths to whiten their skin, sometimes at great personal risk.

I think more people are concerned about protecting their skin from UV rays these days, but it’s true that many fair-skinned people wish they had tanned skin.

Discussion/writing/research questions:

  • Is there anything about yourself that you’d like to change?
  • Why do you think the Japanese saying uses 青 instead of 緑? How would you explain to an English speaker why 青 is both blue and green (think 青信号, too …)?
  • Make some example sentences from your own life or books/movies/currents events you know about, in which “the grass is greener.”
  • Why do you think many people (women only?) in Japan and other parts of Asia think that fairer skin is more beautiful? OTOH, tanning salons exist in Japan, too. What kind of people do you think use them?
  • Do you think tanning salons are safe? What about skin whiteners or self tanners? Hair bleach or hair dye? If you’re interested, do a little research and find out.
  • What famous people can you think of who use some methods to lighten or darken their hair or skin color?
  • One news story this week focused on Princess Aiko’s entrance into high school, but some of the media has focused more on her tan than anything else. Apparently, she went skiing.  Here’s a short article about her from the Japan Times. Try summarizing it and noticing some language.

Pockets: utilitarian or fashion statement?

Based just on my observation, men in Japan carry bags much more frequently than men in the U.S. Businessmen carry briefcases, students carry backpacks, but in general, I don’t think many American men carry bags. They keep their essentials (money, smartphone, keys) in their pockets. Women, on the other hand, almost always carry bags or purses. Is it because they have more essentials? Fewer pockets? Maybe it’s both.

This is a short article about pockets, gender, and politics:

The Politics of Pockets (from Racked)

A few things I thought were interesting:

  • Hillary Clinton’s pantsuits don’t have pockets. But she does keep hot sauce in her bag.
  • Pickpockets were one reason people started using pockets instead of bags.
  • The things women used to keep in their bags hasn’t changed that much over the years. Even something like “writing materials” could now be included in your smartphone. I don’t suppose anyone has carried a sewing kit in his or her bag for at least a few generations, though?

Throughout history, men’s fashion has been largely functional, while women’s has been largely decorative:

“Men’s dress is designed for utility; women’s dress is designed for beauty. It’s not a giant leap to see how pockets, or the lack thereof, reinforce sexist ideas of gender. Men are busy doing things; women are busy being looked at. Who needs pockets?”

What do you think about this?

There’s also a video at the bottom of the article from Vox about why the color pink is associated with girls. I’ll embed it here, too: