The Japanese Art of Gift-Giving

The Japanese Art of Gift-Giving

Introduction

Let’s admit it, who doesn’t like getting gifts? We all love getting a personalised present from someone. Some of us enjoy hunting for the perfect present for another. Giving and receiving gifts in Japan are whole new, revolutionary levels that you can’t even imagine!
 
It’s no secret that the Japanese culture is unique in so many ways, and this is one of them. Their polite and respectful mannerisms are deeply inbuilt in various aspects of their lives. That’s no different for their gift-giving culture. For the Japanese, it is more than giving someone a souvenir or presents. It’s an act of appreciation, a show of respect and a presentation of gratitude.
 

The Japanese Art of Gift-Giving

Birthday present. Father giving gift to daughter, closeup

East Asia has a long and important history of gift-giving. Japan is one of them. The Japanese do not take gift-giving lightly, as many other traditions in their culture. It’s a serious act that strengthens relationships and maintains ties with one another. It can also be a way to show fondness for the other.
 
There’s no limits to gift-giving in Japanese culture. It can be casual or business, personal or political. 
 
One thing that is unique to the Japanese is the numbers. There’s a superstition that giving it in pairs or some even numbers brings about good luck. Giving it in a set of fours or nine is seen as unlucky. It’s best to avoid those. 
 
During weddings, money can be given as a wedding gift. When it comes to the number, though, offering an odd number is best. If you give an even number, the Japanese see it as an easy split of amount between the couple. This brings about the superstition of the easy split of the pair. 
 
The Japanese art of gift-giving is an elaborate and limitless one. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t know all the rules and superstitions that come with it. The Japanese will definitely understand. That mannerism is part of their culture as well!
 

Types of Japanese Gifts

Utsunomiya, Japan – April 4, 2019: Famous Tochigi prefecture citrus lemon filled mochi flavored with strawberry flavor in souvenir gift boxes in store retail display

On top of their detailed specifics to the art of gift-giving, there are also various types of Japanese gifts. These different types are given (and received) during different occasions and people. Here’s a summarized list so you’ll know the difference between them.
 

Omiyage

The omiyage (おみやげ) is generally known as souvenirs brought home from a trip. They often consist of local snacks or produce, or even local alcoholic beverages from the place they went. Some might even bring back a local handicraft that represents the place.
 
This act of bringing back a piece of their travels dates back to the Edo period. During that time, there were only a few lucky ones that had the luxury to go on journeys and bring back souvenirs for the ones who weren’t able to go.
 
One key point to note is that omiyage refers to the gifts for others and not the ones you buy for yourself.
 
A sub-category of omiyage is the meibutsu (名物) which refers to prized delicacies from a specific city. Each area has their own specialty, like how takoyaki (fried balls with octopus cuts in the middle) is unique to Osaka.
 

Temiyage

Temiyage (手みやげ) refers to the gifts given to friends, family and host family when one visit their home. While it is not expected of people to give them, it is a nation-wide practice that’s appreciated. 
 
The gift shouldn’t be too cheap or too expensive. Recommended products that are great as temiyage gifts include food, drinks and any unique products from your home country or city
 

Okaeshi

The tradition of okaeshi (お返し), which translates to returning something, is a simple, small gift as a way of saying thanks. Okaeshi is usually given at parties and weddings.
 

Who Do You Give the Gifts?

In short, you can give gifts to just about anyone.
 
Generally, these gifts are often given to those who you might feel indebted to or to show appreciation to. It can be your family members, the host family that took care of you, colleagues or even your boss. 
 
When Do You Give the Gifts?
 
The Japanese give gifts all the time. If they go on a trip, they’ll come back with omiyage to give out. If they’ve been invited to another person’s home or establishment, they’ll get a temiyage ready for that. 
 
There are also specific times of the year where the Japanese will go into the full gift-giving mode. Here are some of them listed!
 

Ochugen & Oseibo

The two special seasons for gift-giving is the ochugen (御中元) and oseibo (御制帽)
 
Ochugen is set in the summer and lasts from the first of July to the fifteenth. People in Japan make their rounds to give gifts to people that they appreciate and are close to them. This is a tradition that started during Obon (お盆), a Japanese Buddhist custom to honour the ancestor’s spirits
 
Gifts can be just about anything. These can include food, alcohol, housewares and other related products that the receiver might appreciate
 
The winter gift-giving season is the oseibo. 
 

Birthday & Christmas

While birthdays and Christmas aren’t traditional Japanese traditions, the people of Japan have adopted the western ways and use these occasions as reasons to give gifts as well. It’s not necessary and definitely not expected, but it’s always nice to have them on these special occasions, isn’t it?
 

Japanese Gift-Giving Etiquette

The Japanese are well known for their proper etiquette, so it’s no surprise that the Japanese art of gift-giving has its own set of etiquette. Here are some to take note of:
 
  • Always give and receive gifts with both hands as a sign of respect.
 
  • It’s Japanese tradition to refuse gifts twice before accepting it. If you’re giving them, expect up to two refusals. If you’re receiving them, modestly refuse it before finally accepting.
 
  • Gifts are not opened in public as it’s considered rude to the giver.
 
  • If the gift is for an individual, make sure there isn’t anyone else around before giving it to them as an act of courtesy to the others.
 
  • Gifts are often given at the end of any meeting or encounter. Giving it at the start is a sign of rushing the meeting.
 
  • The price of the gift should be kept in mind. It shouldn’t be too expensive but not too cheap either.
 
  • There’s a strict hierarchy in Japanese society. In other words, what you give your colleagues shouldn’t be the same as what you give your boss.
 

Gift-Giving Tips

Now that we got the nitty-gritty details out of the way, here are just a few fun tips that are nice to know. It might even add on to your gift-giving experience!
 

Presentation

The way a gift is presented is just as important as what’s in it. This includes the bows, paper and ribbon used to wrap the gift.
 
The Japanese often present their gifts in cloth that are often reusable. This cloth is known as the furoshiki (風呂敷), which refers to the bath spread as it was originally used to wrap a bather’s clothes in ancient times. Over time, it has been used to conceal gifts in Japan.
 

Colour

Keep in mind the colour you use for the gift wrapping! Some Japanese might be sensitive to that. But, as mentioned before, they’ll definitely understand if you don’t particularly know.
 
Go for pastels as they’re the safest bet and the best option. Bright colours are often associated with being too flashy and showy, and red is linked to funerals or sexuality.
 

Conclusion

There’s so much thought put into gift-giving in Japanese culture that it might even make the rest of us look bad. But that’s just the unique art of it all. It’s praiseworthy how serious the people of Japan take gift-giving that it’s ingrained in the Japanese culture.
 
With all that you know about the Japanese art of gift-giving, will you take it up as part of your own gift-giving ways?
What is Survival Japanese?

What is Survival Japanese?

Introduction

There’s a term floating around the English-speaking community in Japan, and that is survival Japanese. This specific term often pops up when one is asked if they can speak Japanese. Instead of replying “sukoshi” (少し), which translates to “a bit”, some might respond with “I know survival Japanese.”
 
It is neither a good nor a bad thing to know survival Japanese. It only becomes bad when you’re out of survival Japanese to get you by! Regardless, it’s best to know of its existence and what is and isn’t considered survival Japanese.
 
If you have zero clue about what it is, you’ve come to the right spot! Here’s everything you need to know about the term “survival Japanese.” 
 

What is “Survival Japanese”?

 
This can encompass basic, everyday Japanese words and phrases an English native needs to get by the average day in Japan. Some might categorize the lowest level of beginner Japanese as survival Japanese because it can’t be effortlessly used in everyday conversations.
 
Survival Japanese isn’t definite. It generally refers to the necessary Japanese skill, often the lowest level, a foreigner should at least have
 

Why is it Called “Survival Japanese”?

Rumor has it that the term came about by a tourist who gathered random words and broken sentences to get through their holiday smoothly. Any foreigner who has been to Japan would know that it isn’t an easy task to travel around when you don’t speak their native language. It’s not impossible, but it definitely would be so much more convenient when you know a word or two.
 
To survive in Japan and live a semi-smooth lifestyle, it’s best to have the basics of the Japanese language. That’s generally how the term “survival Japanese” came about.
 

Survival Japanese Phrases

Enough talk about what it is, let’s get on to using it!
 
As mentioned before, survival Japanese can consist of anything from words and phrases to a full sentence. Most of the time, they can be used in most general circumstances as it happens more often than other situations.
 
The Japanese language has pretty easy pronunciation, so don’t worry about mispronouncing the romanisation to it. There’s quite a high chance that you’re pronouncing it perfectly.
 
The survival Japanese phrases depend on the place it occurs. We categorized the different survival Japanese phrases into these common situations: greetings and goodbyes, exclamation, in a convenience store, in a restaurant and in a taxi.
 

Greetings & Goodbyes

The survival Japanese greetings can be said to anyone. It’s a pretty general section. If you’re a traveler in Japan, use some of these greetings to greet the hotel staff and receptionist on your way in or out. If you’re living in a dormitory or sharehouse, your roommates are bound to understand these greetings, too, regardless if they’re Japanese or not. After all, it is survival Japanese!
 
Good morning!
Ohayou gozaimasu! (おはようございます!)
 
Good afternoon! / Hello! 
Konnichiwa! (こんにちは!)
 
Good evening!
Konbanwa! (こんばんは!)
 
Good night! 
Oyasuminasai! (おやすみなさい!)
 
How are you? 
Genki desu ka? (元気ですか?)
 
See you later!
Mata ne! (またね!)
 
Goodbye!
Sayonara! (さよなら!)
 

In a konbini

A konbini (コンビニ) is what the Japanese calls the convenience store. There’s always a similar flow of system when it comes to ordering and paying at the convenience store. Most of the time, the staff will either gesture at what they’re referring to (like the microwave if it’s to heat up your purchase, or a plastic bag to ask if you would like one). With these survival Japanese phrases to use at the konbini, you’re bound to go in and out in a jiff!
 
Yes.
Hai. (はい。)
 
No.
Iie. (いいえ。)
 
This one, please.
Kore, kudasai. (これ、ください。)
 
Do you have ______?
_______ arimasuka? (___ありますか?)
This last phrase can be used to ask if the place has a specific product. Insert any product into the black space. For example, if you’re looking for Coca Cola, ask the staff, “koka kora arimasuka?” (コカコーラありますか?)
 

In a restaurant

You’re going to need these few survival Japanese phrases. There’s no way you’re not going into a restaurant when you’re in Japan. Be it a fancy, English-speaking restaurant or a local ramen-ya (らめんや), it’s always best to know these essential phrases to survive the time you spend in the eatery!
 
Excuse me.
Sumimasen. (すみません。)
 
____, please.
____ o kudasai. (__をください。)
 
For the above phrase, you can substitute any item you want. For example, if you want water, add mizu (水) into the blank. If you’d like to order something off the menu, just point at it and say “kore o kudasai” (これをください).
 
Where’s the toilet?
Toire wa doko desu ka? (トイレはどこですか?) 
 
Tip: you can substitute out toire for any location to ask where it’s at. 
 
One
 
Two
 

In a taxi

After a long night or when you just can’t be bothered to take the public transport, a taxi is the way to go. Don’t be scared off if you don’t know a lot or any Japanese. There are a few survival Japanese words and phrases that will get you through your experience and to your destination safe and sound.
 
_________, please.
________ onegaishimasu. (___お願いします。)
 
Here
Koko (ここ)
 
There
Asoko (あそこ)
 
Left
Hidari (左)
 
Right
Migi (右)
 

Exclamations

If you have watched a Japanese movie, anime or show, you would know that the Japanese love their exclamation. A basic remark can be applied to countless of situations. That’s the beauty of Japanese exclamations, and in that sense, it’s like English as well. Whether it is a thought that popped in your head when you see something as you walk down a street or a response to what your friend is saying, pick one from this survival Japanese exclamation phrase below!
 
(elongated) Eh!
Eeeeh! (えええ!)
 
This is probably the most common phrase you’ll hear on the streets. It can basically be applied in any and every situation and reaction to statements. For example, if your friend told you they bought an expensive piece of clothing, you can react to it by saying, “eeeeeh!” 
 
That’s nice!
Ii desu ne! (良いですね!)
 
Delicious!
Oishii! (美味しい!)
 
Cute!
Kawaii! (かわいい!)
 
You’ve worked hard.
Otsukaresama. (お疲れ様。)
 
Wait a moment.
Chotto matte kudasai. (ちょっと待ってください。)
 
I’m sorry.
Gomennasai. (ごめんなさい。)
 
Thank you.
Arigatou. (ありがとう。)
 
Good luck!
Ganbatte! (頑張って!)
 
Cheers!
Kanpai! (カンパイ!)
This last one is one you have to know. It’s often used when you clink glasses in the air at a bar or club. And in the Japanese case, in an izakaya (居酒屋), which is a Japanese-style bar.
 

Can One Survive on Survival Japanese in Japan?

Another question remains: can one actually survive on survival Japanese living in Japan? The answer is yes and no. Of course, it’s possible to live off survival Japanese for most of the time you spend in Japan. These words and phrases are essential in navigating day to day activities. It only becomes a problem of insufficient Japanese when you need to take care of official business like going to the post office, the bank, ward office, immigration office and other official situations.
 
With that said, survival Japanese is best when you’re in Japan solely for travel and vacation as that eliminates any serious business
 

Conclusion

If you think that survival Japanese is difficult, watch a few Japanese anime and shows. With the number of times these words and phrases come up, it’s bound to be drilled into your head by the end of the episode. 
 
Survival Japanese is a great step to take to integrate into Japanese culture as a beginner. The Japanese appreciate all efforts, big and small, the foreigners put in to learn and speak their language.
Preparation for the New School Year

Preparation for the New School Year

Introduction

 
As the holidays draw to a close, there’s that bittersweet feeling about the new school year. It’s the excitement of a fresh start but also the dreadful early mornings and piles of homework. There’s bound to be anxiety because of the new class with strangers as classmates. Or even the fear of the unknown subjects being thrown at you. These might be overwhelming and daunting. But there’s also the after-school trips, also known as the shuugaku ryokou (修学旅行), and school festivals like the bunkasai” (文化祭), a cultural festival you don’t want to miss!
 
Regardless of how we feel about the situation, it’s best to prepare yourself in advance. From the mindset to the actual physical objects, easing your way into the new school year is always the better option than winging it the first week back.
 

New School Year, New Me

Motivational self encouragement quote New Year, New Me, New Beginning appearing behind torn blue paper.

You know the saying “new year, new me”? Well, it applies to the new school year as well! Everyone deserves a fresh beginning. Forget all the things you’ve done the previous school year like that embarrassing moment no one can seem to forget. Or that exam paper you were upset about because you missed a higher grade by a mark. Start afresh! Go into the new school year head first with only optimism and positivity.
 
Here are five steps to get you in the right mindset and prepare for this exciting year!
 

1. Set Goals

Top view of notepad with Goals List, cup of coffee on wooden table, goals concept, retro toned

Get pumped by setting some goals for yourself! It’s said that the best way to know what kind of goals to set is to evaluate yourself. Think of some that are within your capability and control rather than things that you can’t change.
 
For example, if in the previous year you weren’t managing your time well, aim to be better at time management this year. If you were sad about not having enough friends to hang out with after school, make more of an effort to make new ones! Here’s a helpful phrase to ask someone to be your friend: tomodachi ni natte kudasai!” (友達になってください!)
 

2. Get Ahead

Shoes standing at the crossroad and get to decision which way to go. Ways to choose concept.

Regardless of what kind of leap you’re taking into the new year, it’s always best to get ahead on the curriculum. If you’re starting at a new school (from junior high school to high school), the subjects you’ll be taking might be new to you. Read up the new books in advance so you won’t get stumped in class.
 
If it’s a grade up in the same school, clear up any homework given early rather than leaving it to the last minute. Looking through the next few chapters that will be covered during the new school year is a great way to get ahead too! Maybe try out some practice exercises. Don’t worry if you get them wrong, because you’re just testing the waters!
 

3. Build Routines

Fake Dictionary, Dictionary definition of the word Routine.

The holiday is definitely a wonderful break from rigid schedules of school. Having relaxation time is what everyone is due once in a while. But when the new school year comes around, it’s time to build a healthy routine again! This will help you to gain momentum and set the pace for the year. 
 
Make sure that when you start building your own personal routine, there’s a balance between work and play. Include the downtime as well. If you like playing sports, have that on weekends. If you love reading, add half an hour every other day to accommodate to that. But don’t forget to schedule in ample time to complete your shukudai (宿題, which means homework in Japanese)!
 

4. Organise Your Space

Concept flat lay with modern office supplies from eco friendly sustainable materials without single use plastic to reduce waste and organize sustainable lifestyle.

A messy space is a messy head! Before the new school year starts, take some time out to clear your space. It can be your desk or even your whole room. It can also include your messy bookshelves where all your chucked textbooks and notes are in. Having a tidy space will make you feel motivated and in the study mode after a school day. What’s more, cleaning and organizing can be somewhat therapeutic.
 

5. Treat Yourself 

Back to School Supplies in Shopping Cart

There’s no use lying about this: a shopping spree always brings about a burst of positive feelings. Take this opportunity to go on one! Get that luxurious pen you’ve been wanting for ages but never found the occasion to get it. Or that slightly too expensive notebook with the fancy cover. Now’s your chance to go all out without anyone judging you!
 
Stationeries are one thing to treat yourself to, but also think of what other stuff that will help you during the new school year. Maybe an aesthetically-pleasing wall calendar that goes well with your room’s decor? Or even some folders to put at the side of your desk for all the loose pieces of notes. Whatever tickles your fancy!
 

Conclusion

There’s no way that these five wonderful steps did not get you pumped to start the new school year. Think about the newly bought school uniforms, fresh from the store and without a stain in sight. What about that peaceful walk to school under the sakura (桜, which means cherry blossom) trees as the petals slowly rain down?
 
Get excited, be prepared, and welcome the new academic school year with big, welcoming arms!
Learn Japanese Visually Through Netflix!

Learn Japanese Visually Through Netflix!

Introduction

Picking up a new language is hard work. You’ll find yourself in the routine of hitting the textbooks every morning and exercise worksheets every night. The Japanese language is one of the hardest languages to learn, but don’t be disheartened by that. Anything is possible! Think of the satisfying feeling of picking up a difficult language! 
 
The best way to keep yourself motivated in learning a new language is by making the learning process fun. What’s more fun than Netflix? If you could learn Japanese while binge-watching your favorite show or movie, would you say no to that? Of course not!
 

Netflix as Visual and Hearing Aids

Netflix is a famous streaming service for subscribed users to watch countless TV shows, movies, documentaries and more. Why not use it as an innovative way to learn Japanese by immersing yourself into a world where you see and/or hear the Japanese language only
 
Whether it is having English subtitles on for a Japanese movie or turning on the Japanese dubbing for an English show (with English subtitles still on, of course), these methods trigger different areas of your brain to work on the absorbing of the new language. It’s different than reading off a page in a textbook. In fact, it’s way better!
 
It’s also best to note that using Netflix as aids to learning a language is not recommended if it’s the first time you’re hearing Japanese. A lot of the learning tools for Netflix aren’t going to teach the fundamentals and grammar, rather it is the exposure to the language itself. It’ll definitely help your listening skills and build your confidence to speak it.
 

Extensions for Netflix

The way you can use Netflix to learn Japanese is by using extensions. What are extensions, you ask? Well, they’re a small software program that is embedded into a specific browser that allows you to customise and enhance your experience.
 
There are various extensions out there for learning languages through Netflix. Most extensions for Netflix are compatible with the Chrome browser. Some are not compatible yet with tablets and smartphones, but they have their own perks to compensate for that.
 
To decide on which extension is best for you, you have to think about your learning style. Different extensions offer different learning tactics and methods to relay the educational factor. Choose the one that you think best suits you.
 

1. Language Learning with Netflix

What is it?

This extension is by far the most popular one of them all. Language Learning with Netflix (LLN) is known to be one of the more complete tools out there. It’s only compatible with the Chrome browser, but it’s definitely worth it. 
 
LLN focuses on introducing the new vocabulary of your desired language to learn while watching Netflix. It also helps you to break down sentences spoken during the show. The best part about LLN is that it can work with over 30 different languages! It goes without saying that Japanese is one of them!
 

How does it work?

LLN shows two subtitles at the same time — one is the native language of the show and the other one is the language you’re learning. In this case, it is Japanese. LLN offers a visual pairing of words in the two different languages.
 
There are other features included in this extension. Not only do they provide the comparison, you’re also able to highlight the words and find out their translation, pronunciation and ways to use them. There’s also a function where they introduce other less common words that are related and you can study them later.
 

Why use it?

LLN is the epitome of visual learning. Because of the two reflected subtitles on the screen, your brain is more focused on the comparison of language texts. If you’re so focused, you might even be engrossed in the learning factor than the story line of the show itself!
 
The LLN extension is also free! The free mode already has many features to assist in your language studies but there’s also the pro mode. This mode gets you more customization including saving the words you encounter and going back to them at a later date. The free version is enough enough, though.
 

2. Mate Translate

What is it?

This extension is more extensive than the previous one. Mate Translate is not only compatible for laptops but also tablets and phones — both Android and iOS. The specific Netflix extension is available for Chrome like LLN, but also on other browsers including Firefox, Edge and Opera.
 
Mate Translate covers more languages of up to 103 different languages! With that high of a number, there’s more than a solid chance that Japanese is one of them.
 
On top of Netflix extension, Mate Translate can also be used for normal web pages, articles and others. Its comprehensiveness is the winning point to this language-learning extension
 

How does it work?

Mate Translate focuses on the subtitles on Netflix, proving that the subtitles can be a primary tool for language learning. If you have the extension set up on your browser, it’s easy for you to learn the Japanese translation of any specific word that pops up on the subtitles.
 
It’s as simple as clicking on a word or even a phrase. Mate Translate will provide the learning language’s translation, synonyms and phonetic transcription. If you’d like to learn the correct pronunciation of the word, Mate Translate has that feature too! Click on the speak-out button to listen to the correct pronunciation a couple of times. Save your words to review them later.
 

Why use it?

While it may not have the comparison subtitles like LLN, Mate Translate is more than a Netflix extension. Even if you use this extension solely for Netflix, there are export functions that allow you to keep the list of words you’ve encountered. This saves you the extra hassle of manually listing it yourself. 
 

3. Subtly

What is it?

The Subtly extension works like the other two Netflix extensions. Even though the extension is able to translate to only 11 languages, it’s still an essential translating extension for Netflix. Japanese is one of them, by the way!
 
The fact that the producers of this extension is not focusing on the quantity of languages, it goes to show that they prioritise quality. Translations are more reliable for the 11 languages available.
 

How does it work?

It’s as simple as clicking on a word or phrase you’d like to translate. Subtly helps you to build a vocabulary list while you enjoy streaming your show or movie. After the episode, you can review them again.
 
This feature allows you to learn and enjoy what you’re watching without the plot information and language content overwhelms you. Subtly helps you collate your desired learning words while you finish watching the show
 

Why use it?

While Subtly is less extensive than the others, its translations and in-built dictionary are the most reliable. As there are lesser languages offered, the extension is more focused on building the most quality translations for them. What luck it is that Japanese is one of them!
 

The Power of Audio and Subtitles on Netflix

Extensions aren’t the only way to learn Japanese on Netflix. Never underestimate the power of combined audio and subtitles!
 
It may be a level up from using the extensions, but if you don’t mind the challenge and the frequent pauses of the show, these are two great ways to maximize the existing tools on Netflix.
 

1. Watch a Japanese movie with English subtitles

This is the easiest way to practice your listening of the Japanese language. If you’ve already gotten the hang of the basic grammar, exposing yourself to Japanese shows and movies will definitely boost up your language skill.
 
Without the help of extensions, there won’t be an automated vocabulary list created for you after the show. Because of that, be sure to have a pen and paper by your side to jot down all the new words you hear.
 

2. Watch an English movie with Japanese subtitles

This is an even bigger step up from extensions and the previous pointer. Take up the challenge of recognizing the Japanese words in the subtitles to the English words mentioned during the movie
 
This helps you to memorize the word you already know vaguely and also exposes you to the Chinese kanji characters in the Japanese language. This method utilizes hearing as well as reading, and with more practice, you’ll be a pro at reading Japanese!
 

Upsides of Visually Learning

 
Learning Japanese through Netflix is already too good to be true. On top of picking up Japanese through your desired show or movie, you’re utilizing many learning techniques that work different parts of the brain.
 
Visually learning activates a different aspect of your learning brain, and who knows, you’ll even discover that it’s easier to learn the language! Learning Japanese through Netflix uses a bit of audio aid as well. This helps you with your listening skills in conversation. and even exams if you have one.
 

Downsides of Visually Learning

With all good things, there are bad. But it’s not so much of a downside because it can be fixed over time. The one bad point about learning Japanese through Netflix is the inevitable distraction and loss of focus
 
You’re bound to want to watch the show at its fullest and feel like skipping the language learning that day. But with self-motivation and perseverance, this distraction can be eliminated and you’ll be even more focused than ever!
 

Conclusion

Aren’t you sold yet? What better way to study a language than learning it through Netflix? Netflix has a wide range of Japanese movies and shows, as well as anime. A good number of English movies and shows have subtitles in Japanese too. You can use the various tools mentioned above to get started on learning Japanese visually through Netflix!
The Ultimate Cherry Blossom Guide 2020

The Ultimate Cherry Blossom Guide 2020

Introduction

It’s the time of the year again. The sun’s out and about more often than not, warming the streets and lifting spirits all over the world. What’s special about this time of year in Japan is that it’s the most beautiful time of the year in this country. Locals and foreigners from near and far plan months ahead to be in the right spot at the right time. As soon as these sakuras start to bloom, that marks the cherry blossom season in Japan.
 

What is Cherry Blossom Season?

Fujiyoshida, Japan Beautiful view of mountain Fuji and Chureito pagoda at sunset, japan in the spring with cherry blossoms

The cherry blossoms in Japan is also known as “sakura” (桜) in Japanese. It is a symbol of the beginning of spring in the country. The blooming of these flowers all around has become such a significant event. Many have come to call the weeks of these blooming the “cherry blossom season”, and so we’ll call it that as well. 
 
The months leading up to the cherry blossom season is full of predictions and forecasts. It’s to pinpoint exactly when the sakuras will make their grand appearance. “Kaika” (開花) refers to blooming of the cherry blossoms, and “mankai” (満開) translates to the full bloom. From the buds to the ultimate falling petals, it is an entire experience worth witnessing.
 

Types of “Sakura” in Japan

There isn’t only one kind of cherry blossom. In fact, there is quite a variety of them of over 200, including both cultivated and wild types! All the cherry blossoms share similar traits though, but observe a bit harder! Peep closer and you’ll see a variation in size, colour and even shape!
 
The most common one of Japanese cherry trees is the Somei Yoshino. This cultivated type of sakura is a single-flowering variety. It has five petals for each flower with a pink tint so pale that it appears almost white.
 
Another common sakura is the Yamazakura which is a wild sakura variety. It’s also known as the Hill Cherry because of its location on the mountains of Japan. This type of cherry blossom is also a faded tint of pink with five petals each flower.
 
Keep an eye out for the Shidarezakura, with another name of the Japanese Weeping Cherry Tree. Its physical appearance of drooping branches is why this variety has the name. Compared to the rest, the Shidarezakura cherry blossom type blooms earlier. The most famous place to see this variety is the Miharu Takizakura in Fukushima. This area has been growing for over a thousand years!
 
 

When is Cherry Blossom Season in Japan?

There isn’t an exact date for the whole country, or even an exact date that’s the same every year. The cherry blossoms’ blooming period is different depending on where it is. Certain regions in Japan get warmer earlier than others while some are still colder. Northern Japan gets the late blooming cherry blossoms often. The central and southern part are lucky enough to get the early bloomers. Get ready from mid-March onwards for areas like Tokyo and Osaka. Expect them till late April in areas like Hirosaki and Sapporo.
 

Where to See Cherry Blossoms in Japan?

Be in-the-know of the ideal spots for your best fill of sakuras. There are specific areas that are abundant in them than others. Some of these areas also hold festivals for the cherry blossom season.
 

Kanto Region — Tokyo and Around

Let’s address the most popular destination in all Japan for tourism: Tokyo. This city in Kanto region has one of the best areas for viewing the cherry blossoms. Never leave Shinjuku Gyoen out of your sakura hunting list. It’s the city’s largest national garden with at least a thousand cherry trees! 
 
Another popular spot is the Meguro River. During the cherry blossom season, stalls will line along the river. There are also hung-up lanterns that complement the pale pink cherry trees.
 
If you find yourself near the Tokyo Skytree, pop by the Sumida Park. You might even consider getting on a river cruise and admire them as you take in the beauty of the area. Keep a lookout for the Bokutei Sakura-matsuri Festival. The sakura trees are also lit up in the evening!
 
Ueno Park is also a festive area for a natural cherry blossom spot. There are thousands of lanterns hung up to light the way in the evening. The Ueno Sakura Matsuri is a cherry blossom festival full of local stalls for you to experience! You can also head to the former Edo Castle in Chidorigafuchi. The cherry blossoms gathers around the moats of the building.
 
The Rikugien Gardens has a 70-year-old shidarezakura tree. This is the best place to view the weeping cherry trees. The night sakura experience in this area is second to none. Witness a beautiful landscape with the most ethereal ambiance.
 
If a little adventure is what you seek, going up to Mount Fuji area might bring some cherry blossom good luck. In fact, you’re guaranteed to see some with an amazing view of the mountain in the background.
 

Kansai Region — Osaka, Kyoto, Himeji

Osaka castle among cherry blossom trees (sakura) in the evening scene after sunset with dark blue sky and light (selective focus on the castle with blurry foreground of branches and cherry blossom trees)

South of the Kanto region is the Kansai region, and they have their own fair share of cherry blossoms. Osaka is usually the first stop one would take in this area. It is one of the biggest cities in Japan, after all. The Osaka Castle provides a wonderful landscape with the pale sakuras around it. The former 1970 World Exhibition turned into a public park. Now it is the Expo 70 Park and it holds over 5000 cherry trees, making it a popular sakura viewing spot.
 
Yoshinoyama and Tanzan Shrine are wonderful places in Nara for beautiful sakura clusters. The Miho Museum in Shiga and Mt. Shiude in Shikoku area are also spots to consider. Don’t forget about the Yodogawa Riverside Park, either!
 
Kyoto is one of the most culturally-enriched cities in all Japan. Why not take advantage of your cultural visit to view some cherry blossoms at the Takase River? Stay till the evening to witness the magic of lit-up, illuminated cherry trees. Another famous spot for sakuras is the Philosopher’s Path, a stone path that’s about two kilometers long. A trip down there during the full sakura bloom period is an unforgettable experience. If you find yourself in Kyoto in mid April, Ninnaji Temple should be your first stop. The area is full of Omuro cherry trees which bloom later than usual, so snag your last chance of sakura viewing!
 

Northern Region — Hokkaido, Tohoku

Hirosaki castle and Sakura cherry blossom tree in spring. Hirosaki castle tower is not that big but it’s the only one castle tower in Tohoku area which rebuilt at Edo Period.

Northern Japan is the best place for the late blooming cherry blossoms. It is the colder region in the country. Don’t worry about missing your chance at witnessing the beauty of Japanese sakuras. Some here even last till the end of April!
 
The Tohoku area has a few wonderful spots for the cherry blossoms. The Hirosaki Castle, Hanamiyama Park and the Shiroishi River are to name a few. If you find yourself in the city of Sapporo, head over to Moerenuma Park for your fill. Hakodate’s Goryokaku Tower and the Fort Goryokaku are full of these seasonal flowers, too!
 

What to Do During Cherry Blossom Season?

There’s more to do than stare at the beautiful flowers during the cherry blossom season. People don’t get excited for these two beautiful weeks for the landscapes only. The festive atmosphere that comes with it is the best part!
 

“Hanami”

The most popular activity to do during the cherry blossom season is none other than “hanami” (花見). This translates to the traditional viewing of the sakura trees. It has become a practice for the locals to set down a mat under the blooming sakuras. Most of the time they have a few beverages and some light snacks to munch on while chatting. There are no specific places for this activity and one can go through with it anywhere they please. Yet, the best places include parks with hundreds of cherry trees and areas with stalls set up nearby.
 

Cherry Blossom Festivals

TOKYO,JAPAN-APRIL 1: People come to join Hanami festival at Ueno park in Tokyo,Japan on April 1,2015.Hanami festival will start when cherry blossom full bloom.

Speaking of stalls, the festivals that come around during this time of the year gathers quite a crowd. These festivals celebrate the start of the new season. It also brings people together over traditional Japanese food and beautiful nature. Some of these stalls serve exclusive products for the cherry blossom season. Look out for sakura-themed food, drinks and souvenirs for you to mark your experience by.
 

Photoshoot

While this may not be a customary activity, one might as well make the best of the opportunity. It’s no doubt that these sakuras have out-of-this-world beauty. Some may not even be able to comprehend the ethereal landscape they’re witnessing. What better way to show off this magnificent sight by posing in front of them? Grab a camera or your smartphone and snap some pictures of the sakura flowers. In fact, hold a mini photoshoot with you and your friends or family!
 

Conclusion

Are you excited about the cherry blossom season already? Well, you should be because it’s around the corner. Some are even blooming around Japan as we speak! It’s not too late to put on your sakura hunting shoes. Get a move on to view the best cherry blossoms Japan has to offer this year!