“I have drawn ‘spring’.”

According to this article in the Economist, the average peak-bloom date for cherry blossoms in Kyoto is getting earlier, probably because of climate change.

Here are some ukiyo-e featuring cherry blossoms with explanations in English. This is of a hanami party from the mid-19th century:

Discussion/Writing/Research questions:

  • Did you enjoy a hanami this year? Where do you think are the best places for different types of hanami (walking around type, sitting and eating/drinking type)?
  • How would you explain the word “hanami” to someone who does not speak Japanese, has never been here, and doesn’t know much about Japan?
  • Do you associate cherry blossoms more with entrance ceremonies or graduation ceremonies? If this trend continues and cherry blossoms continue to bloom earlier, what do you think will happen to this tradition?
  • In this excerpt from The Tale of Genji, it says that they celebrated the cherry blossoms in “the second month”. But they followed a different calendar in the Heian Period, didn’t they? What would that be today? Have you read Genji? What do you remember about it?

Experimenting with their feminine side

Yesterday was Culture Day in Japan: a day to do something cultural or artisitc. What did you do?

According to this article from Teen Vogue, the students at Komaba Boys’ High School put on a beauty pageant every year on Culture Day, where they are the contestants. No girls in sight.

boys pageant

The article calls it ‘refreshingly devoid of judgement’ (a paraphrase). What do you think?

Crazy food

Takoyaki (たこ焼き) is one of everyone’s favorite street foods in Japan. I’ve heard people translate it as “octopus balls” but that just sounds crazy … and pretty unappetizing. Really, they’re small, round savory pancake-like snacks made from a batter, small pieces of octopus, and usually slices of pickled ginger, topped with a savory sauce, sometimes mayonnaise, and finally ao-nori (青のり, dried seaweed flakes) and katsuobushi (かつお節, dried bonito flakes).

Not so crazy after all, right?

How about some of these “crazy” state fair foods from the U.S.? (State fairs are similar in some ways to Japanese festivals — the prevalence of street food is one.). There’s no shortage of round snacks:

Sriracha balls  and Nacho balls from the Minnesota State Fair and from USA Today:

“Hot tail” (roasted pig tail), also from the Minnesota State Fair:


Corn in a cup (from USA Today): “a pile of sweet corn cut right off the cob, then mixed with chorizo sausage, chayote cheese, lime juice, mayo, butter and a mix of spices the fair calls “magic dust.”  Wow. Magic dust.


Bacon-wrapped corn-on-the-cob (from the California State Fair):

Bacon corn edit3

Bacon-wrapped, deep-fried peanut butter cups (Oregon State Fair)

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As you can see, people in the U.S. do seem to like bacon. But it’s not very healthy, so here is a crazy alternative: “OSU researchers discover the unicorn – seaweed that tastes like bacon!”

Something to drink? How about drinking fruit from a fruit?

1435846783-12-ridiculous-foods-state-fairs-across-america-1What’s the craziest street food or festival food you’ve eaten? Which summer festivals are you going to this year?

Wishing on a star

tanabataIt’s Tanabata again. What will you wish for this year?

Here are some things to get you thinking, listening, reading, writing and speaking today:

An explanation of Tanabata in English from Kids Web Japan

A video in Japanese with English subtitles explaining Tanabata:

Last year’s Tanabata post and 2013’s.

And now for some music — “Wishing on a star” in four versions:

The original song from the 70s, by Rose Royce:

Beyonce’s version from 2004:

And in between the two, Jay-Z’s 1998 rap version, which has the singer from the original (and a bit of swearing):

Finally, the most recent cover that I know about, from Seal in 2011. This one seems the most ethereal and maybe the best fit for the story. Which version do you like best?