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No. 59

2022

Culture of Japan

MIRAI nihon no utsukushi

Kaiseki Guide

All about Yukata

Hanami Festival 1

Editor’s Note

Contents

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by Yong Zi Ying

Japanese culture has always been a subject of my facination. I don’t quite know when it started, but I somehow grew to love this asian country and their rich deverse culture. In fact, one of my life goals is to one day go to Japan myself and explore the country. From their food to kimonos and even their sceneries, I can never get enough of Japan, and I wish that there were more people out there that share mr appreciation for Japan, thus why I decided on this theme for my magazine.

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10 Features

the Wonderful Brief History of the Summer 06 Into 24 AJapanese 42 Japan’s World of Wagashi Kimono Festivals: About Yukata: Guide: 12 Kaiseki 32 All Traditional Japanese The Art of Japanese Multi-Course meals

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Summer Kimono

How to Enjoy the Famous Matsuri

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Food& beverages

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Inside the Wonderful World of Wagashi

In his humble Tokyo patisserie, Chikara Mizukami preserves an ancient art.

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Into the Wonderful World of Wagashi 7

Mizukami is a fourth-generation wagashi maker who learned the trade from his father. For the past 43 years, Mizukami has specialized in confections that honor the 72 micro-seasons recognized on the traditional Japanese calendar. (The seasons last about five days and have names such as mimizu izuru, meaning “worms surface,” for a season in mid-May, and kinsenka saku, or “daffodils bloom,” in late November.) The peach Mizukami has crafted marks the beginning of peach blossom season. Tomorrow might bring a cherry blossom or a leaf. Each confection is as fleeting as a perfect spring day: The nerikiri dough, a combination of white bean paste and rice flour, has such a high water content that the sweet must be consumed within a day or two, before it turns inedibly dry. Chikara Mizukami works with an easy concentration as he rolls a piece of what looks like white Play-Doh in his palm, gently flattening it into a thick disk. He places a mound of anko red adzuki-bean paste in the center of the disk and smooths the dough around it to form an orb the size of a golf ball. Without breaking his rhythm, he picks up a light wooden tool and scores the soft sphere. Seconds later, he holds in his hand a tiny white peach, complete with the signature dimple. It’s marvelous. From two seemingly simple elements, he’s created a miniature work of art.

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Mizukami is making wagashi, Japanese sweets composed of some combination of red bean paste and rice flour and traditionally served with green tea. The word wagashi describes a wide range of treats, from the humble mochi (made from sticky rice, and served either savory or sweet) and dorayaki (red bean paste sandwiched between disks of flat cake) to more complicated sweets such as dango (skewered mochi grilled over charcoal and served with a sweet soy glaze) and the intricate nerikiri wagashi fashioned by Mizukami at Ikkoan, his tiny shop in Tokyo’s Bunkyo neighborhood.

Mizukami’s exquisite designs and commitment to the art form have elevated him to cult status in Japan. He’s been lauded as one of the five best chefs in the country; he travels around the world to talk about and demonstrate wagashi making; and he has published a book, Ikkoan (Seigensha, 2016). Despite his fame, Mizukami retains a humble attitude and an appreciation for wagashi’s spiritual nature. As I watch, he dips a small bamboo straw wrapped in muslin into a jar of red powder made from beets, then blows into the straw.

The powder floats onto the peach in an uneven pattern, but he doesn’t move to fix it. “Why not?” I ask. “This human element is essential to evoke divine imperfection,” Mizukami says, pausing to look up at me. Wagashi have always had a spiritual connection. The sweets were developed during the Edo period (1603–1868), coinciding with the rise in domestic sugar production and the popularization of the Buddhist tea ceremony. They were further refined during the Meiji period (1868–1912) into what we know today as wagashi. But here’s the most important thing about wagashi, and how they most differ from Western treats: While they can be quite sweet, wagashi aren’t meant to be the star of the show. They’re meant to support the tea. You enjoy the treat, then allow the bitter green tea to wash it away. Wagashi are designed to disappear. Though wagashi continue to thrive, there has been an undeniable attrition in small family-run shops, typically because there isn’t a family member who can (or wants to) take over. Training an apprentice takes four years: In the first year, apprentices work in the shop; in the second year, they observe; the third year is spent working one-on-one with the master; and in the fourth year, they make wagashi on their own. Many aren’t up to the task.

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“If the apprentice has not learned the craft after four years, a fifth year won’t make a difference,” Mizukami says.

Currently there are no contenders to fill Mizukami’s shoes, though his daughter is poised to run the business. (The art of wagashi is traditionally practiced only by men.) But he’s a young seventysomething, so a handover is not imminent. “What happens if you don’t find the right person?” I ask. Mizukami shrugs. “The shop will close,” he says. And with that, he returns to rolling dough, creating his ephemeral treats.

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Kaiseki Guide: The Art of Japanese Multi-Course Meals Kaiseki is a traditional Japanese multi-course meal that centers around shun, a philosophy that ingredients should be enjoyed at peak freshness. Chefs plan kaiseki meal courses around the availability of seasonal ingredients. Kaiseki dining environments typically feature soft lighting, luxurious tableware, and an overall serene atmosphere to showcase the display of food. In Japan, you’ll find kaiseki dining primarily served in two types of locations: ryokan, which are traditional inns with tatami-matted rooms, and ryotei, small traditional Japanese restaurants. The city of Kyoto is particularly renowned for kaiseki dining due to its history as the home of the Imperial Court and Japanese nobility.

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There are two different styles of kaiseki service:

Kaiseki is a multi-course dining experience that embraces seasonal ingredients

Cha-kaiseki: This traditional kaiseki service has roots in the sixteenth century-formal Japanese tea ceremony experience. Cha-kaiseki service involves a simple meal of miso soup and a variety of side dishes served before drinking several cups of matcha tea. You’ll most likely find the cha-kaiseki style at more traditional Japanese tea houses with tatami mats. Kaiseki ryori: This more contemporary kaiseki service is an elaborate and luxurious banquet-style dinner. You’ll most likely find kaiseki ryori dining at a high-end Japanese restaurant with more modern interior decor.

Kaiseki vs. Omakase: What’s the Difference?

Kaiseki and omakase are both types of Japanese multi-course meals, but there are key differences in the dining experience. Kaiseki is an entirely pre-set multi-course meal based on available ingredients. The chef designs each course in advance with much thought and intricacy, and diners may know the menu and cost before sitting down to eat. Omakase derives from the phrase Omakase shimasu, which translates to “I trust you, chef.” In omakase dining, the chef serves the first course based on what fresh ingredients are available that day, then creates the following course based on the diner’s reaction to the initial course, and so on and so forth. Diners keep eating as many courses as they wish until they tell the chef that they’re full. Since the food items and number of courses vary from diner to diner in omakase, you won’t receive the price of the meal until after you’ve finished eating.

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11 Proper Kaiseki Dining Etiquette

Kaiseki is one of the most sophisticated styles of Japanese cuisine, so before you dine at a kaiseki restaurant you’ll want to be prepared with the proper dining etiquette.

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Express gratitude

Only use the oshibori towel on your hands

Use correct chopstick etiquette

Before eating, say itadakimasu to the chef and restaurant staff to express your thanks for the meal. Itadakimasu translates to “I receive this food.” At the end of the meal, express gratitude by saying gochiso-sama deshita, which translates to “it was a feast.”

You’ll receive a towel called an oshibori. This towel is specifically meant for cleaning your hands, and it is bad manners to use it for wiping anything else, so avoid using it on your mouth or to wipe the table.

When not using your chopsticks, always place them back on the chopstick rest, called a hashioki. When you are using your chopsticks, hold the grip end and pick up food with the pointy end. Avoid using your chopsticks to spear or cut the food into smaller pieces.

Common Kaiseki Meal Courses There are no set rules for how many courses a kaiseki meal must feature since ingredients are determined by season availability and the chef’s personal preferences. You can find kaiseki meals containing anywhere from six to 15 courses, including everything from soups to grilled fish:

Sakizuke

An appetizer intended to prepare the diner for the meal and introduce the chef’s style. Sakizuke is similar to the amuse-bouche in French dining.

Hassun

A course that establishes the seasonal theme of the meal.

Suimono A soup made from dashi stock that’s meant to cleanse the palate.

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Futamono

A second soup course served in a dish with a lid.

Mukozuke

A course of flame-grilled seasonal fish and seafoods.

A plate of premium seasonal sashimi.

Takiawase A vegetable dish served alongside meat, fish, or tofu.

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Yakimono

Shiizakana Translating to “strong snack,” shiizakana are small dishes meant to be enjoyed with sake.

Gohan A seasonal rice dish often cooked in a clay hot pot.

Tome-wan A vegetable or miso soup often served alongside the previous rice dish.

Mizumono A platter of seasonal Japanese desserts, featuring items such as fruit, confections, ice cream, and cake.

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Traditional Clothings

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A Brief History Of The Japanese Kimono Alicia Joy

Perhaps the most recognisable Japanese article of clothing, the kimono’s humble beginnings date back over a thousand of years to the Heian Period. Although it is no longer an everyday choice, this traditional garb is still worn for special occasions, such as weddings, funerals and tea ceremonies. Read on to explore its history and role today.

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The history of the kimono Clothing similar to the modern-day kimono started being worn during the Japanese Heian Period (794-1185). It was often worn with the Chinese-influenced hakama (a type of long skirt with or without a division to separate the legs, similar to trousers), or a type of apron known as a mo. Later, it became fashionable to wear the kimono-style garment without the hakama. This meant the wearer needed a new way to hold the robe closed, and so the obi (the wide sash worn around the waist) was born.

By the Kamakura Period, the kimono had become an everyday clothing choice, and layering came into fashion. It is thought that this is when the traditional Japanese colour combinations were first experimented with; the colours were based on seasons, gender or sometimes on political and family ties. The art of kimono-making grew into a specialised craft during the Edo Period, and some kimonos were literal works of art. People would keep their kimonos and pass them down to the family.

Kimonos were popular for many reasons, mainly for being versatile. They could easily be layered or altered to suit any season. Heavy silk kimonos could be worn in the fall and winter, while the light linen and cotton kimono, known as a yukata, could be worn in summer. The yukata is still commonly worn during seasonal summer festivals and fireworks displays (miyabi). Since the Edo Period, men’s and women’s kimono fashions have remained pretty much unchanged. Eventually, however, the complexity of kimono-wearing and the cumbersome sandals they required became a hindrance. The kimono fell out of fashion during the Meiji Period (1868-1912), when the government encouraged people to adopt Western clothing styles.

“ The art of kimono-making grew into a specialised craft during the Edo Period”

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Things you didn’t know about kimonos Though kimonos are often handed down through generations, the garment can be extremely expensive, sometimes costing several hundred pounds. This is because it is traditionally made of costly materials such as silk and linen, but also because its seams and edges must be finished by hand. However, the most expensive options are usually reserved for special occasions, and it’s now possible to buy an informal cotton version (yukata) across Japan. While kimonos appeal to fashionistas around the world, in Japan they are closely linked with manners and can reflect the formality of an occasion. Wearing the appropriate garment for the right event is a way of conveying respect and gratitude. Rank, formality and status can also be expressed through the kimono’s design, styling and colour and even the way the obi is knotted at the back. Kimonos should also always be worn with the left side over the right: only a dead body dressed for burial should wear the right over left.

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The role of kimonos today Though kimonos are indelibly linked with tradition in Japan, they have more recently become a cult fashion item around the globe. This coincided with a renewed interest in Japanese culture worldwide in the late 1990s. The kimono’s delicate patterns, sumptuous colours and striking silhouette suddenly appealed to a fashion-conscious generation who were keen to stand out from the crowd, especially on social media. For some, wearing one offers a break from the norm, a chance to dress up and connect to a rediscovered history. For others, it is simply the opportunity to wear something breathtakingly beautiful and feminine, an alternative to a designer dress that might be spotted on anyone. In fact, many of its modern fans have never even visited Japan yet remain drawn to the kimono for special occasions. Likewise, in Japan itself, the upsurge in kimono rental shops suggests more people are keen to rediscover this classic garment normally reserved for formal celebrations such as weddings. With a booming breed of young designers offering a fresh take on traditional styles and patterns, the kimono’s new fans are certain that the garment can still have a role in our everyday wardrobe, too.

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All About Yukata: Traditional Japanese Summer Kimono The yukata is a light summer kimono. This article explains how to wear a yukata with a video, when to wear it, how it differs from kimono, yukata styles. Learn more about how you can appreciate and wear this traditional Japanese garment yourself.

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Rent a Yukata at a Kimono Rental Shop! In Japan, you can use the services of kimono rental shops to borrow a yukata or a kimono for a day. Licensed kimono professionals will dress you up and, at most of the shops, you can even have your photo taken! In Tokyo, we recommend the services of Asakusa Terakoya-i (2,500 yen for 4 hours) in Asakusa. Asakusa is a traditional neighborhood famous for Sensoji Temple and the Sumida River and is an ideal place to wear yukata and take pictures.

The cherry blossom season in spring brings sakura blooming along the river, which would make lovely photos. If you visit Kyoto, you can wear a yukata and have your picture taken against the background of beautiful temples. We suggest looking into local kimono rental shop Yumeyakata in the Gion area. Gion is the old geisha district in Kyoto and has a traditional townscape complete with shrines and temples. Arashiyama is also famous for

How to Wear a Yukata?

with the right side of the clothes placed over the top before burial. At first, wearing a yukata, a type of Therefore, be careful when complettraditional Japanese clothing, can ing the first step of dressing. seem intimidating. However, there is no need to worry. The process is ac- After that, place the obi (also known tually simpler than you would think. as the belt or sash) around the midFirst, begin by putting the yukata dle of your waist, so that the belt is on as if it is a robe, tucking the right touching the front of the yukata but side of the yukata underneath the left. not the back. Then, wrap the obi The left side should be covering the around yourself, crossing your back right and pulled over to the side of the once, with the two ends of the obi body. back towards the front of your body. Tie the belt in a bow at the front and This difference is important, as in Ja- then move the knot slightly off-center pan, corpses are often dressed of your body.

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What Is a Yukata?

When to Wear it?

As mentioned above, yukata is a style of traditional Japanese clothing. It is most commonly worn in the summers, but they are often offered to guests who stay in ryokan (a Japanese inn with tatami mats, onsen, food, and other uniquely Japanese experiences). In accommodations that offer yukata to guests, the clothing can be worn anywhere; when sleeping at night, when traveling from room to the hot bath, and even into the surrounding town.

Yukata are most popular during the summer months, where the unlined cotton fabric is most suited to combat the hot temperature. They can be worn around every day; however, it is most common to see young people enjoying them during the firework viewing festivals, known as hanabi in Japanese.

How Is the Yukata Different from a Kimono? Oftentimes, people make the mistake of calling the yukata a kimono. While there are similarities between the two, they are fundamentally different clothes. Firstly, the fabric choice is completely different. Kimono are made from silk whereas yukata generally come in cotton, or other light and breathable textiles. Yukata is worn generally in the summer season, whereas kimono, which have more layers, and are heavier to wear. The yukata is a more casual style and far more affordable than a kimono; therefore, it is easier for people to purchase one and wear around on a more regular basis.

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At these hanabi festivals, both girls and guys wear their favorite yukata to watch the stunning nighttime displays. Yukata can also be worn at summer matsuri (festivals), specifically the Buddhist bon-odori matsuri which honors one’s ancestors. They are offered to guests year round who stay at ryokan, accommodations with onsen, Japanese hot baths, and in these occasions, yukata can be worn regardless of the season. Even in the cold winter months, these yukata are worn when traveling from the room to the onsen.

Yukata Styles

Put On a Japanese Yukata!

The style of yukata is much more relaxed than that of kimono; generally, there are more whimsical options and brighter colors offered for purchase. Although yukata were initially made of indigo dyed cotton, making them mostly a deep blueish color, in modern times there is more freedom in design. Generally, younger women and children wear more lively patterns, while older women wear more subdued styles. Men’s yukata generally comes in darker colors and often lack a pattern.

During the hot Japanese summer months, a yukata is a must-have item in order to fashionably combat the heat. An iconic Japanese outfit, which is often mistaken for kimono, the yukata stands out for its light fabric and more whimsical designs. More affordable than buying a complete silk kimono, which can cost upwards of a thousand dollars, a yukata exists in a price range that makes it a perfect gift to buy - either for yourself or as a souvenir for someone else. This summer season, enjoy the weather the right way - by wearing yukata!

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Matsuri: The Japanese Festivals

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Japan’s Summer Festivals How To Enjoy The Famous Matsuri Sawada Tomomi

From July through August, festivals are held throughout Japan to celebrate the summer season and commemorate historical events. Find out what are the best ways to enjoy these festivals and which are some of the most famous ones!

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Summer festivals, also known as matsuri, are held all over Japan from July through August. Most summer festivals are annual traditions, and intended to celebrate the gods, the seasons, and historical events. Some of these festivals can last for weeks. At these events, you can experience Japanese traditions and power, so we’d love for you to attend a festival while you’re in Japan.

No summer festival is complete without portable shrines - known as mikoshi - and floats loaded with hand drums called dashi. In order to travel outside the grounds, the resident shrine gods temporarily ride in these portable shrines, which are carried on people’s shoulders. Floats, on the other hand - which are used to guide the gods around - are physically pulled.

Participants in festivals (the locals) patrol towns while carrying the mikoshi and pulling festival cars. Enjoy the rhythmic shouts of the shrine-bearers and the music being performed atop the floats. Some festivals even allow tourists to lift the mikoshi, so do some research before you go. Not all festivals will have mikoshi shrines and floats, so you mustbe careful.

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Famous Festivals from Across Japan

1. Nebuta Festival (Aomori)

Every year, the Nebuta Festival is held from August 2nd to August 7th in Aomori City, and more than 3 million people crowd the city for one of Japan’s biggest festivals. Participants place paper figures atop festival floats and drag them through Street Stalls the streets, while dancers perform a You can see street stalls known as dance known as haneto around the yatai at any summer festival. You can floats. get all sorts of delicious treats at these stalls, from freshly-made takoyaki to Sanja Festival (Asakusa, Tokyo) sweet and cold kakigori (shaved ice). Held every May in Asakusa, from the Walking from stall to stall and savor- third Friday of the month until Suning the street foods is the epitome of day, the Sanja Festival is an extremely the summer festival experience, and important festival for Asakusa resiseeing shopkeepers cooking their dents. Most people who hear about dishes on hot plates right in front of an Asakusa event might assume that you is fascinating. In addition, at local it would be held at Asakusa Temple. festivals, you can taste B-rank gour- However, this festival, where particimet regional specialties. pants carry the portable shrine which Other than food stalls, there are also houses the deity, is held at the neighfestival stalls where you can enjoy boring Asakusa Shrine. games like goldfish-catching and yoyo fishing. These stalls give players 3. Yosakoi Festival (Kochi) little tools known as poi, which have Held in Kochi city from August 9th to thin paper sheets attached. Players the 12th, the annual Yosakoi Festival is use these poi to scoop up goldfish one of the three great festivals of Shiand water balloons, and get to take koku, together with the Awa-Odori their bounty home. Festival and the Niihama Taiko FestiOther stalls sell anime character val. As the birthplace of the festival, masks which are popular with chil- which now takes place all over Japan, dren, and even adults really get into the Yosakoi Festival in Kochi city is the shooting range games, where known as one of Japan’s three great players fire arrows at prizes. Yosakoi Festivals

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Hanami Festival Most often referring to cherry blossoms, the Hanami Festival is celebrating the traditional Japanese custom of enjoying flowers. Starting towards the end of March and lasting until the beginning of May, cherry blossoms – sakura, as well as plum trees – ume are in blossom all around the country.

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This is the ideal time to celebrate the Hanami festival, which coincides with the blooming forecast. In fact, the Hanami festival is intrinsically connected to the forecast, as each year the blossom forecast is announced, the Hanami is then planned accordingly.

History of Hanami Festival The concept of Hanami has been embedded in Japanese tradition for How to celebrate centuries, dating back Hanami in Japan? to the Nara Period (710- Oftentimes, outdoor 794). This time-honored parties will occur untraditional symbolizes derneath the vibrantly the welcoming of spring pink cherry blossom and the appreciation trees, where people will and admiration of natu- gather together and ral beauty. enjoy food, drinks, and celebrations. CelebraIn the past centuries, tions can take place there was a deep under- during the day, or also in standing and belief that the evening after the sun deities were enshrined sets. These evening parin the sakura trees, sim- ties are uniquely beauilar to the god of the tiful and are referred to mountain and god of the as Yozakura, translating rice fields. Traditional- to “night sakura”. The ly, farmers would pray evening celebrations to cherry blossoms in often include paper lanorder to increase their terns which are hung harvest. In time, the among the trees, bringconcept evolved and ing a new perspective changed and the serene and beauty to the cherbeauty of the sakura ry blossoms. trees became the focal point. Many artists and Another traditional way poets celebrated the to celebrate Hanami is pink cherry blossoms by drinking sake and in a variety of artworks. traditional tea. SeasonThis admiration for na- al foods, in particular, ture and beauty became sweet foods are also enthe more important part joyed with these beverof the sakura blossom, ages. Oftentimes people and the same concept is will decorate using similar motifs that resemble spring, and the floral trees.

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If you plan to enjoy a picnic, always double check that the park or outdoor space allows food and drink. Not all sites permit food consumption, so it best to check in advance if you plan to eat outside

Some of the places to enjoy Hanami in Tokyo include Ueno Park and Yoyogi Park, Meguro River and Chidori-ga-fuchi (Kudanshita). In Osaka, Sakuranomiya is a popular choice. In Kyoto, Arashiyama, Kinkaku-ji, and When picnicking, be mindful of othGion are great places to enjoy Han- ers in the area surrounding your space and do not act inappropriately ami. or take more space than is necessary. If you are traveling during Hanami, Do not litter or leave garbage or food one of the best ways to celebrate is to scraps in the park, always be sure to enjoy an outdoor picnic underneath clean up afterward. the sakura blossoms. Enjoyment of food, drinks and great company un- It is not appropriate to be outwardly derneath the trees is an authentic way intoxicated or loud. Always drink responsibly. to enjoy Hanami.

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The Beauty of Japan’s culture

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