Where to Buy Kigurumi

Where to Buy Kigurumi

Kigurumi is big in Japan. It has always been big. Now it’s big all over the world! Started as a trend back in the ‘90s, who would’ve thought that it would be here to stay? But it did, and we’re all for it!

Now we’re not here to talk about what kigurumi is and how it came about. To know more about kigurumi, we have a whole article on it here! This article is a quick guide on where to buy it. Don’t worry, I’ll tell you first: it’s not hard at all to get your hands on a pair or two. Because it’s so popular now, kigurumi is easily accessible worldwide! 

We’ve listed a few places where you can get yourself a kigurumi, both in and outside of Japan. Keep on reading!

What is “kigurumi”?

Okay, I know I said we wouldn’t cover what kigurumi is in the intro, but we kind of have to… The word “kigurumi” (着ぐるみ) actually is a combination of two words – kiru (着る) which translates to “to wear” and nuigurumi (ぬいぐるみ) which translates to “stuffed toy”. So when you have them together, it refers to costumed characters. Kind of like mascots. Some say that kigurumi can also be a part of cosplay. 

Back in the day, you would get an oversized head along with your animal onesie. Often times this head is in the “chibi” (チビ) style, which is like an anime drawing style. Now, you just get a onesie with a hood. If you’re lucky, you get ears along with it.

While kigurumi was originally used to promote businesses and companies as well as donned by cosplayers, nowadays it’s just for fun. It’s on the streets, in trains, in shops…at least in Japan anyway. 

Buying kigurumi in Japan

I was quite surprised that I couldn’t find a guide online for buying kigurumi in Japan itself. I guess it’s because it’s everywhere. For those of you who have never been to Japan and are planning to get one when you’re here, I’ve got you covered.

Don Quijote is the ultimate place to go for all your costume needs. This is a chain discount superstore that you can find in almost every city and big neighbourhood. There’s always a section in the store that’s all for costumes, and I bet some even have their own sections for kigurumi. If you go to the ones in Shibuya and Shinjuku in Tokyo, I’ve seen them with their own kigurumi section! You can have your pick there. Oh, and it’s sold all year round – not just during Halloween season.

There are also other stores that sell kigurumi, too. While not all outlets have them, Tokyu Hands often has a section for costumes. You’re better off trying in bigger neighbourhoods like Shinjuku and Shibuya, too. 

Dollar shops like Daiso, Seria and Can Do often have their own costume areas, too. Of course, when it’s Halloween season, the section expands even bigger, but I’ve noticed that there are a fair share of outlets that sell them all year round too.

I’ve also noticed that Amazon Japan has quite a few certified sellers for kigurumi. Though you shouldn’t hold me to my word, I would recommend browsing through Amazon Japan and getting expedited shipping while you’re here. You could do that in your own country, but shipping can get expensive. And sometimes, they don’t ship outside of Japan. This might be a shout!

Buying kigurumi outside of Japan

For those of us who are outside of Japan and would like to get our hands on a pair of kigurumi, you’re in luck. There are a lot of online shops that sell them! I told you it’s popular.

The best place to look for kigurumi is Kigurumi Shopi. They are the OG when it comes to creating the best quality and design of kigurumi for overseas. This company is an exclusive North American distributor for SAZAC as well, which is Japan’s most respectable and successful manufacturer of kigurumi. You can’t match their quality, design, attention to detail, textile and service. 

SAZAC also has retail shops all around the world in Asia, Europe and the Americas. So wherever you are in the world, you’re going to be able to get your hands on a kigurumi from here – if not offline, then online.

For UK kigurumi lovers out there, Kigu  is a SAZAC-partnered company where you can get your high-quality kigurumi, too!

While that’s the place to go to for your highest quality kigurumi, nowadays, since kigurumi is so popular, you can get animal onesies just about anywhere online. Amazon, Etsy, EBay, AliExpress and all the online platforms have their version of animal onesies. Bear in mind that they might not be the best of qualities, but if you’re looking to grab one quickly for a party or event, they might just be the place to go to.

Get your kigurumi today!

From the best of my knowledge, experience and research, I have come up with this quick yet detailed guide of where you can get kigurumi, both inside and outside of Japan! So if you’re excited to get one on your trip in Japan, or just for a party in your hometown, we’ve got you covered. Go get your kigurumi today!

5 Unique Ways the Japanese Celebrate Christmas!

5 Unique Ways the Japanese Celebrate Christmas!

Christmas is just around the corner. Aren’t we all excited for this festive season? I know I am! In Japan, they too celebrate Christmas. Over the years, the country has adopted many foreign customs and traditions, and that included this Western holiday. 

However, just like everything else, Japan adds their own twist to this tradition and makes it their own. Of course, you’ll still hear jingle bells and Christmas tunes all throughout the country, but there are just a few celebrations that are unique to Japan only. In this article, we’ll take a look at the top 5 ways Japan celebrates Christmas differently from the usual.

1. A Holiday for Lovers

Generally, Christmas is known as a Christian holiday. Most of the Western world goes all out for this time of the year. Well, so do the Japanese. However, it’s treated more like a secular celebration regardless of religion. In fact, there are only a few percent of Japanese people that consider themselves as Christian, and mostly consider themselves as Buddhist or Shinto.

On top of that, Christmas is usually celebrated as a family. Members of the family come together and gather regardless of where they are in the world to be together during this time of the year. However, in Japan, it’s more of a celebration for lovers. It’s quite rare that you celebrate this as a family, unless you have young kids and make a practice of celebrating it the Western way. 

Usually, couples would plan romantic dates for the Christmas period, like a dinner at a fancy restaurant or strolling around festive areas in town with Christmas lights. 

2. KFC Chicken Feast!

Yes, the rumours are true. During Christmas time, the Japanese go crazy for KFC fried chicken! Rather than feasting on glazed ham and roasted turkey, the most popular choice for Christmas lunch or dinner is a good ol ‘bucket of fried chicken from the fast food chain KFC!

In fact, the popularity is so ridiculous that some outlets take preorders months in advance and the dates get sold out so quickly! Last year, I had friends who made orders as early as October! It’s no joke here for the fight for KFC chicken. It’s the real deal!

But hey, if you’re not fast enough to snag a bucket of KFC fried chicken, there are tons of other stores and convenience stores that offer them during this time of the year. They’re not the same, but they’re close enough, I reckon.

3. Christmas Illuminations & Markets

Japan goes all out for this time of the year. I love being in Japan during this season. Everything’s so colourful and lively. And that’s all thanks to winter illuminations that start up as soon as Halloween is over. Japanese cities are lit up with twinkling eco-friendly LED lights. Tokyo is probably the most festive city in Japan during this season. You see trees decorated with these lights, all down the street. 

Attraction sites have their own winter special illumination events, too. Flower parks and amusement parks have special decorations just for this season. Even shopping malls turn an ordinary trip to the mall into a magical fantasy experience.

Speaking of decorations, shopping for Christmas decorations and decorating the house is also a thing here. And where else can you get them other than Christmas markets? Of course, local supermarkets and convenience stores offer them too, but you get unique, authentic ones at these Christmas markets. 

From the beginning of December, a lot of them pop up, especially in Tokyo. The most popular one is the German Christmas Market in Roppongi that always brings in thousands of visitors every year! Other parts of Japan have Christmas markets too, including the northern city Sapporo.

4. Special Christmas Cakes! 

When we think of Christmas desserts, we think of gingerbread men, other types of cookies and also pie. Japan is number one when it comes to dessert, so you would think they would have them all.

Close. They have Christmas cakes! Cakes aren’t only enjoyed during your birthday. During Christmas, getting a special Christmas cake is a big tradition practiced here! They’re not the usual fruitcake that you would usually eat in European and American countries. Instead, the most popular kind of cake for this season is the sponge cake-based strawberry shortcake!

This love affair Japan has with cakes date back to 1922, when the confectionery manufacturer Fujiya started marketing cream-covered cakes with the tagline “kurisumasu ni keeki wo tabemashou!” (クリスマスにケーキを食べましょう) to mean “let’s eat cake on Christmas!”

Although, while the most popular choice of cake is the strawberry shortcake, I have heard from my Japanese friends that they also opt for chocolate cake nowadays. Maybe the trends have changed now, and any type of cake, as long as it’s marketed as a Christmas cake, will do?

5. Japanese Version of Santa 

We’re all waiting for the main question: what about presents? Not to fret everyone, the concept of Santa Claus and practice gift-giving is still alive and well in Japan. Kids in Japan look forward to a visit from Santa and opening presents under the tree on Christmas morning. Couples also exchange gifts, and usually done on Christmas Eve instead.

Here’s a fun unique twist: Western tradition has Santa climbing down chimneys. This is pretty difficult to do in Japan when a lot of people don’t have one in their homes. So instead, Santa is seen as some kind of magical ghost with exciting treats!

However, as compared to Western countries, gift giving isn’t that significant. It plays a much smaller role. It may be because that Japan has their own gift-giving day known as “Oseibo” (お歳暮) at the end of the year. .

Have a Merry Japanese Christmas! 

If you abide by these five fun facts of Japanese Christmas, you’re going to have one hell of a unique holiday! Whether or not you live in Japan, if you’d like to spice up your holiday, why not celebrate Christmas the Japanese way? Have a merry Japanese Christmas, everyone!

Basic Japanese Words and Phrases for Holiday Celebrations!

Basic Japanese Words and Phrases for Holiday Celebrations!

Holidays are just around the corner. Who’s excited? I know I am! But the holidays shouldn’t stop us from keeping up with our Japanese language learning journey. So instead, we should incorporate some holiday into it! 

Do you know any Japanese words and phrases for the holiday celebrations? If not, you’ve come to the right place! Just like in English, there are certain words and phrases we use to wish people for the holidays and to describe the holiday season. It may not always be in the first few chapters of your Japanese textbook, but we’ve compiled the top 10 words and phrases you can use for this upcoming festive season! 

Keep reading to find out!

1. Omedetou (おめでとう)

The first one has definitely got to be omedetou (おめでとう). You can say this for a lot of different things. It’s so versatile. This word actually translates to “congratulations”, but it’s also used in the Japanese way to say “happy new year”, and that’s “akemashite omedetou” (あけましておめでとう). It actually comes from the word “akeru” (開ける) to mean “to open”, so you’re kind of welcoming the opening of the new year. 

You can also say “akeome” (あけおめ) with your friends. This is a casual and slangy way to say it.

You can also attach “omedetou” to other types of holidays like Hanukkah: Hanu-ka omedetou” (ハヌーカおめでとう). Or even Kwanzaa: “Kuwanza omedetou” (クワンザおめでとう).

2. Yoi Otoshi Wo (良いお年を)

One of my favourite phrases to say when the New Year approaches is “yoi otoshi wo” (良いお年を). This translates to “have a happy New Year” and it’s a very common phrase used by Japanese people.

Bear in mind that this phrase is used before the clock strikes midnight on January 1st. When you want to wish someone a happy new year after that, use the phrase before this.

3. Yasumi (休み)

The next basic Japanese word great for the holidays is yasumi (休み). That’s because this word translates to “holiday” or “off day”. You can say to someone to enjoy their holidays by saying “yasumi tanoshinde” (楽しんで). Although it’s perfect for the holiday celebrations, this word can also be used all year round to talk about days you’re not working or school holidays, too. 

4. Mata rainen (また来年)

I find this next phrase pretty cute, because it’s a bit quirky and pretty similar to English. Usually, you’d say to someone “see you later”, but when it’s the new year period, I like to say “see you next year” as a quirky saying. I bet a lot of people do, too.

In Japanese, that’s “mata rainen” (また来年). “Mata” (また) actually means “again” but in colloquial Japanese, you can also just say “mata” to mean “later” or “see you”. “Mata ashita” (また明日) means “see you tomorrow”.

5. Kyuuka (休暇)

While we already have the word for holiday before, this is another basic Japanese word for “holiday”: “kyuuka” (休暇). This is a more formal version than “yasumi” but it’s often combined with other words like “Christmas holidays” or “summer holidays”.

“Christmas holidays” is “kurisumasu kyuuka” (クリスマス休暇) and “summer holiday” is “kaki kyuuka” (夏季休暇).

6. Tanoshinde (楽しんで)

This next basic Japanese phrase for the holidays is “tanoshinde” (楽しんで), which means “have fun”. You can attach this to another word to make sentences like “have a fun Christmas party”, or you can just say it on its own.

“Have a fun Christmas party” is “kurisumasu pa-ti wo tanoshinde!” (クリスマスパーティを楽しんで!) .

7. Oshougatsu (お正月)

The next basic Japanese word you should know for the holidays is “oshougatsu”, which translates to “Japanese New Year”. This is a more common word to describe the first of January, but there’s also another word: ganjitsu (元日). While both are acceptable to use, the first one is more popular.

8. Purezento (プレゼント)

If you’ve mastered your katakana, you already know what this word means: presents! Purezento (プレゼント) is the katakana form of the English word “present”, and what’s the holidays without a gift or two, am I right? 

9. Meri Kurisumasu (メリークリスマス)

We have a few ways to talk about the holidays and New Years, but not so much on how to say “Merry Christmas”. It’s pretty simple, which is why I saved it for the last few. “Merry Christmas” is just the katakana form: meri kurisumasu (メリークリスマス).

10. Shinnen ga yoi toshi de arimasu you ni (新年が良い年でありますように)

This is a pretty long one, but also a good basic Japanese phrase to learn for the holidays. You’re wishing someone the best wishes for the next year. Kind of like the shorter phrase above “yoi otoshi wo”. However, this is a more formal and genuine wish.

You can also use parts of this phrase to say other things like “I hope you have a good day”. Just use the “de arimasu you ni” and attach it to another wish like “a good day”, which is “yoi hi” (良い日): “yoi hi de arimasu you ni” (良い日でありますように). Just attach this phrase to any good wish you want to give!

Have a happy holiday season! 

And that wraps up the top 10 basic Japanese words and phrases for the holiday celebrations. I hope you learn them just in time for the festive season. They’re super easy and super useful. Try it out with your family and friends! Have a wonderful holiday season, everyone! よいお年を!

10 Best Polite Words to Have Handy in Japanese

10 Best Polite Words to Have Handy in Japanese

Learning a new language can be tough. While the Japanese language is a beautiful one, it can be difficult to pick up in the beginning. But what you should take note of even before learning the language is that it’s a polite language. There are so many aspects of the Japanese language that are based on politeness.

To get you started, here are the top 10 polite words in Japanese that will definitely come in handy – regardless of whether you’re just starting out or you’re travelling to Japan soon. This is one of the best ways to learn Japanese fast and easy!

1. Sumimasen (すみません)

This word is one that’s super commonly used. “Sumimasen” (すみません) has a few different meanings and can use in a few different situations. Check out our podcast episode, Season 1 Episode 1, for a full rundown of how to use this phrase. 

In summary, you can use this phrase to apologise for inconveniencing someone, kind of like “pardon me”. You can also use this phrase to say “excuse me” – for example, you’re getting off the train and there are people blocking your way. Say “sumimasen” to let them know you need to get through.

2. Gomennasai (ごめんなさい)

Another polite word to have handy is “gomennasai” (ごめんなさい). When you learn Japanese, this is one of the first things you’ll learn. Gomennasai translates to “I’m sorry” and it’s used as an apology. It’s similar to the first one, but this word can’t be used to say “excuse me”. Our Season 1 Episode 1 podcast episode also talks about this phrase!

3. Onegaishimasu (お願いします)

Also part of our Season 1 Episode 1 podcast episode is “onegaishimasu” (お願いします). This phrase can also be used in a lot of situations. It essentially means “please” when asking for help. 

For example, the konbini (コンビニ) cashier might ask you if you want to heat up your food. You reply with “hai onegaishimasu” (はい、お願いします) to mean “yes please”. For more examples and situations, check our podcast episode!

4. Otsukaresama (お疲れ様)

The next word is “otsukaresama” (お疲れ様). I like this word a lot, because it has such a heartwarming tone. This word can translate to “thanks for all your hard work” and is often said to other coworkers after work or groups of people/friends after an event. You can use the longer form “otsukaresama deshita” (お疲れ様でした) or even cut it short with people who you are familiar with, to “otsukare” (お疲れ)

5. Itadakimasu (いただきます)

If you’ve watched anime (アニメ) before, you would probably have heard this phrase. Before eating a meal, you should say “itadakimasu” (いただきます) which can be translated to “thank you for the meal” or “I’m digging in!” Either way, it’s showing appreciation for the meal presented to you.

6. Gochisou sama deshita (ご馳走様でした)

After your amazing meal, don’t forget to show appreciation too. To do so, say “gochisou sama deshita” (ご馳走様でした) which is also saying “thank you for the meal”. Note that this phrase can only be used after a meal, and the previous word is used only before a meal. Don’t mix them up! This is a good pair of Japanese words to learn fast and easy! 

7. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu (よろしくお願いします)

I’m sure you recognised half of this phrase – see, you’re already learning Japanese! “Yoroshiku onegaishimasu” (よろしくお願いします) can have a few different translations. Oftentimes, this phrase is used after a greeting with someone new. In this case, it’s translated to “nice to meet you” or “please take care of me” or even “I look forward to working with you”.

Sometimes, you can use this when requesting someone to do something for you. In that case, this translates to “please fulfill my request”. You’ll see it quite often at the end of emails.

I would say the best English equivalent would be something like “thank you in advance”. It’s commonly used in formal situations. You can also cut it short to “yoroshiku” (よろしく), but it then becomes quite informal.

8. Shitsurei shimasu (失礼します)

Another common polite word or phrase in Japanese that you should learn is “shitsurei shimasu” (失礼します). This translates to “pardon my rudeness” most of the time. You can say this when you’re interrupting a conversation or basically anything. If you are walking through a group of people and they’re talking, you can say this as you walk through them.

You can use this phrase in the past tense too, to make “shitsurei shimashita” (失礼しました). This is often said after the ‘rude act’, and it somewhat translates to “sorry for being rude earlier”. It’s a pretty handy Japanese word to know and have, I think.

9.  Ojama shimasu (お邪魔します)

Another phrase similar to the one before is “ojama shimasu” (お邪魔します). This one translates more to “I’m going to get in your way” or “I will disturb you”. Most of the time, this is used when you’re entering someone’s house. In my opinion, it sounds slightly harsher – or at least, the ‘act of rudeness’ is slightly harsher.

10. Ki wo tsukete kudasai (気をつけてください)

Last but not least, a polite word or phrase to have handy in Japanese is “ki wo tsukete kudasai” (気をつけてください). I personally have this as a personal favourite, because it shows so much kindness and warmth. This translates to “please take care”, and can be said to anyone. 

When I get my food delivered by a delivery man, I often say this phrase to them. When parting ways with friends, we often say this to each other.I It’s just a nice sendoff for anyone.

Conclusion 

And that wraps up our list of polite Japanese words and phrases to have in handy. This list is a fun and easy way to learn Japanese fast, because everything on this list is used almost on a daily basis! There are so many polite words in the Japanese language, but knowing this is a good start. Good luck! 

Top 9 Cultural Autumn Festivals to Attend in Japan!

Top 9 Cultural Autumn Festivals to Attend in Japan!

I don’t know about you but autumn is one of my favourite seasons ever. Autumn in Japan is beautiful – I’d argue that it’s just as beautiful as spring in Japan! Everyone in the country is looking for a bit of chill in the air after the hot and humid summer season. 

And not only is the weather a bit cooler, but the colours of the scenery changes too! The lush greens gradually change to vibrant shades of red and orange. And just like how people go for cherry blossom viewing (or hanami 花見) in spring, they go for autumn leaves viewing (or momijigari 紅葉狩り) in fall! I personally went from north to south of Japan just to witness this changing season. 

But that’s not all. Japanese autumn is full of cultural festivals. As I always mention, the Japanese love to celebrate anything and everything! While summer is the season with the most festivals, autumn is a runner up. Here we have a list of 9 culturally exciting autumn festivals for you to consider when visiting Japan during this season! 

1. Otsukimi (Nationwide)

One of the most exciting festivals to look out for during autumn in Japan is otsukimi (お月見), which translates to “moon viewing”. Somewhere from the middle of September and lasting till the beginning of October, you’ll get the fifteenth day of the eighth month of the ancient calendar.  This is known as the juugoya (十五夜), which is the night of the harvest moon and believed to be the most beautiful moon of the whole year!

During this time, the Japanese celebrate the cultural practice of moon-viewing to show their appreciation and pray for a successful seasonal harvest. Some even throw moon-viewing parties with friends and family. Decorations are put outside of houses, which includes pampas grass to resemble rice stalks and white rice cakes (dango 団子) to resemble the moon.

2. Shichi-Go-San (Nationwide)

Another autumn cultural festival that happens worldwide is the Shichi-Go-San (七五三), which literally translates to 7-5-3. This cultural festival involves families bringing their kids aged 3, 5 or 7 to the local shrine on the 15th of November. However, nowadays, families would schedule their visits for weekends close to the date to avoid the crowds. 

The history of this festival goes way back, believed to have originated in the Heinz period. This cultural festival is a way to celebrate the healthy growth of kids and also to pray for their future. The ages 3, 5 and 7 are odd numbers and believed to be numbers of good luck. So this festival involves a ceremony where they celebrate the healthy growth of the children into middle childhood as well as pray for their future.

Children are all dressed up and dolled up in the prettiest kimono and hakama, which are traditional Japanese costumes. Girls, particularly, are polished up in pretty makeup and hairstyles. 

3. Tori no Ichi (Nationwide)

Good things come in three. The third nationwide cultural festival in Japan is Tori no Ichi (酉の市). This is translated as “The Day of the Bird” and is one celebrated since quite a while back, since the Edo Period. While this cultural festival is famously celebrated in Tokyo, Tori no Ichi is actually celebrated nationwide with street parades, stalls and decorations. 

The cultural festival falls on the day of the rooster in the lunar calendar. In the olden days, this day was the best day for farmers to sell their goods and harvest that they got from the autumn harvest. It’s also a day that signifies the start of an economically strong year.

4. Takayama Autumn Festival (Gifu)

In Gifu Prefecture, a cultural festival that’s pretty well known nationwide is the Takayama Autumn Festival, celebrating for more than 350 years in early October. More than 100,000 visitors from all over the country travel to Takayama City every year to attend this festival.

The highlight of this cultural festival is the festival floats, each having their own theme based on Japanese traditions. But while the actual festival day itself is the highlight, the days leading up to the parade are no bore either. Food and drink stalls as well as artisan vendors are set up, along with the best entertainment on the streets. 

There’s also a Takayama Spring Festival if you missed out on this autumn festival. It’s not the same, but it’s a good replacement! 

5. Kurama Fire Festival (Kyoto)

One of the biggest autumn cultural festivals in Japan is the Kurama Fire Festival in Kyoto. The main object of this festival is….fire! You’ve got to travel into the mountains of Kurama for this event, but it’s not too far away from the capital city Kyoto. 

At the end of October, the festival starts right after sunset. Guests and participants dress in costumes to carry torches down the streets towards Yuki-jinja Shrine. At the end of the march, there’s a huge bonfire! It’s kind of like the summer festival Obon, because both festivals are about welcoming spirits. The difference is that this festival welcomes spirits from the shrine into the village. These spirits are believed to offer protection. 

6. Zuiki Festival (Kyoto)

Another Kyoto autumn cultural festival is the Zuiki Festival, which dates back to 947. This is another event that is a show of thanks for a good harvest, taking place between the first to the fifth of October. During this festival, you get to see a portable shrine known as mikoshi (神輿) that is decorated with taro stems being carried around the shrine grounds. This portable shrine is accompanied by about 350 priests and shrine parishioners! 

Performances are also part of this cultural festival. Some special ones open and end the event. One of them is a dance called yaotomemai, which means “sacred dance”, that’s performed by elementary school girls from the local area. 

7. Saga International Balloon Festival (Saga)

This is one of the lesser known cultural festivals by foreigners but definitely one extravagantly celebrated by the locals. Saga International Balloon Festival takes place in Saga prefecture at the end of October. This annual balloon festival is the largest in all of Asia! 

At around 5:30 in the morning, more than 50 hot air balloons start floating into the sky! But if you’re not there that early, there’s a night show where you can catch these balloons all lit up. Stick around for the huge market in the area, selling Saga-made products, food and drinks, and crafts. 

8. Nihonmatsu Lantern Festival (Fukushima)

In Fukushima at Nihonmatsu Shrine, the annual Nihonmatsu Lantern Festival takes place at the beginning of October. This is such an old cultural festival that has been going on for almost 400 years! Around 300 lanterns are involved, along with 65,000 people visiting annually!

This cultural festival is a way to honour the Hachiman and Kumano gods of the Nihonmatsu Shrine. These gods are believed to be the ones giving power to the rice plants and harvesting season. 

The shrine priests perform ceremonial prayers before sunset. A lot of incense is being burned too. Then, the lanterns are placed on seven floats, with some tied to long bamboo poles and stand up on the floats to represent rice plants. The marching parade only starts after sunset, accompanied by taiko drums and flute music.  and after sunset, the parade starts with taiko drums and flute music to accompany the march. 

9. Supernatural Cat Festival (Tokyo)

Last but not least, a more modern yet still cultural autumn festival in Japan is the Supernatural Cat Festival in Tokyo! Every year on the 13th of October, you’ll find people dressed as cats roaming the streets of the Kagurazaka neighbourhood. Anyone can participate, and to participate, all you need is to pay the entrance fee and a cat costume!

If you don’t have a cat costume, get your face painted by an on-site makeup artist! And just like any other Japanese cultural festivals, you have food stalls and dance performances to accompany the parade. 

Get your cultural experience at these top festivals!

There are tons of other Japanese cultural festivals in autumn, and if I were to list them all, it’d be an endless article. To get you started on that autumn festival checklist, these 9 festivals are a good starting point. Which ones will make it to your Japan autumn itinerary? 

10 important Japanese Cultural facts about Marriage in Japan!

10 important Japanese Cultural facts about Marriage in Japan!

In our current day and age, marrying someone of a different race is totally normal. However, because cultures are so different, it can lead to a few culture shocks. One of the more commonly known culture shocks when it comes to Japan is when it comes to marriage.

There are some things about Japanese marriage that are not common in other cultures. So, to shed some light on the matter, especially for those who are keen on getting into one, we’re going to look at the top 10 Japanese marriage culture facts!

1. Arranged marriages still exists

Even though Japan is very modernised, the custom of arranged marriages still happens. Sometimes, the first day you meet someone is also when they become your legally wedded husband or wife. Your parents can pick a wife for you, even though you can definitely pick one for yourself. 

2. San-san-kudo

During the wedding ceremony, there’s an event called the san-san-kedo. This is where the pair show their sign of fidelity to each other by sipping sake three times from three different cups. It’s believed that when they take their first sip, they officially become spouses.

3. Hiring actors to be family is normal

It might sound strange, but it’s completely okay to hire actors to play as family members at the ceremony. Image is so crucial in Japanese culture, so it might look bad if your side doesn’t have that many people. There’s a special service for this actually. These actors will cheer for you, greet your other guests, and greet you just like your own family.

4. Guests get gifts

In Japan, sometimes guests get gifts during the wedding. The bride and groom will give back to the wedding guests whether it’s in the form of a physical gift or money. It’s believed that a gift is given as a way to share happiness on top of giving back. 

5.  There are horns on the bride’s outfit

Wedding outfits are important in Japanese weddings. The groom is usually in all black, wearing the traditional kimono and pleated hakama trousers. This is topped off with a family haori jacket. 

The bride is in a white kimono and accessories. The most eye-catching of the outfit is the elaborate headgear that’s voluminous. Sometimes, it can be a wig, sometimes it can be a big hat. Regardless of what it is, it’s often decorated with horns that are very well hidden by a white veil. This represents jealousy and hiding it shows that she will not be jealous.

6. You can marry a virtual program in Japan

You read the title right. In Japan, you can marry a virtual program. You can marry your anime pillow, a stuffed animal, or even a hologram. A guy recently married a hologram of Hatsune Miku, who is a worldwide famous singer. He had a proper wedding and all, with his family, friends and colleagues. 

7. Japanese weddings are expensive…for everyone 

This is the one I hear most often. Japanese weddings are expensive not only for the couple but for everyone. Guests are expected to bring wedding gifts in terms of cash, and depending on where they are in the country, the amount differs. It can be up to 50,000 yen for relatives! There’s a phrase commonly used for this type of thing: “poor from celebrating”.

It is very different from European and American weddings where wedding gifts come in the form of housewarming items.

8. The wedding day is not the anniversary date

Usually, a wedding is celebrated during the registration of a marriage. So your wedding day is your anniversary day. This is pretty common worldwide. In Japan, it’s not always the case. You can register one day, and celebrate your marriage a year after! It’s common in Japan to have the wedding ceremony after the registration of the union. However, the anniversary date is then the registration date and not the wedding day.

9. Japanese law states that married couples must have the same surname

In some countries, like in Europe and America, surnames can be double barrelled. For example, if Mary Johnes married Bob William, she could be Mary William-Johnes, or Mary Johnes-William.

In Japan, there is a law and incredible social pressure for women to take their husband’s last names. Family lineage is extremely important in Japan, and record keeping is very strict. As everywhere, a woman must completely change her name on all legal documents and with all government institutions, which is a laborious task that new generations are fighting to change. 70% of Japanese people want the ability to keep their own names, but it keeps getting voted down in the government. In rare instances, a man will be the one to take the women’s name, this usually includes the man being officially “adopted” into that other family and losing all ties to his own legally. This is done typically when the woman’s family has a higher standing or more money.

10. Common-law marriage is not a norm

In many countries, common law marriages are the norm. You don’t have to get married but you can still come under the same laws as a traditional marriage for situations like taxes and housing.

In Japan, there’s no such thing. You’re not accepted as a marriage unless you have the whole shabang of a traditional wedding. You can’t get the same rights as a traditional marriage if not. For example, you won’t be able to sign off on any medical related issues because it’s difficult to prove the family relationship as a spouse. 

Which cultural fact surprised you the most?

Japan still follows traditional customs when it comes to marriage, as you can tell, even though the country is pretty modernised in other parts. These are just a few things you have to take note when dealing with a Japanese marriage, whether you’re going into one yourself or attending a ceremony. Regardless, which Japanese marriage cultural fact is the most important surprising to you

Everything you need to know about 3 Common Kimono!

Everything you need to know about 3 Common Kimono!

The kimono is one of the most significant Japanese cultural wear to date. If you don’t know what a kimono is, check out our previous article about all the things you need to know!

So what you might not know is that there are a few types of the kimono. They vary for occasions, and each type is different in components and ways of wearing. You definitely don’t want to accidentally attend a formal wedding in a casual yukata, do you?

We’ll look at the general parts of a kimono, the top 3 types of kimono, and where you would wear these various types of them.

Parts of a kimono

The kimono is most often considered as a whole piece of garment that is a simple robe. While it may be true to a certain extent, the term actually refers to the entire outfit rather than just one piece of clothing. The outfit consists of intricate parts to make up the kimono. Let’s take a look at some of the names of the main parts: 

Sode (袖) refers to the sleeves of the kimono. The sodeguchi (袖口) is the armhole, and the sodetsuke (袖つけ) refers to the inner armhole of the garment. Kimono sleeves can come in a few different lengths. It’s believed that the longer and brighter sleeves are worn by younger maidens. The simpler sleeve styles, usually black and normal length, should be worn by married or older women. 

The lower part of the sleeve that’s unsewn is known as the furi (振), which can be swung about freely. Performers like kabuki actors take advantage of this form of the kimono for their acts. There’s also a hidden pouch inside the furi part of the sleeve known as the tamoto (袂).

Only on the female kimono, there’s a small opening under the sleeve called the miyatsu-kuchi (宮津口) for the female kimono. This is used to adjust the fit of the kimono.

Eri (襟) refers to the kimono collar. The ura-eri (裏襟) is the inner lining part of the collar while the tomo-eri (とも襟) is the top piece of fabric,used as a protecting part that’s easily replaceable ifstained or damaged. 

The inner lining of the kimono is called the do-ura (銅羅). In a female kimono, it’s usually a simple lining. The male kimono is often seen with more decorative patterns. This comes from the concept from ancient times where the men would flaunt their wealth based on the inner lining of the kimono. The lower lining has a different name called the suso-mawashi (裾回し).

1. Yukata

One of the most popular types of kimono is the yukata (浴衣). This is a casual type of kimono made of thinner fabric like cotton, linen or hemp. That’s because it’s specially designed for summer use.

Unlike the other kimono types, the yukata doesn’t have an inner layer. It can be worn directly on your skin and tied off with the obi. The yukata is often worn with the traditional Japanese wooden sandal called the geta (げた).

When to wear?

Back in the day, yukata was worn for different reasons. The word literally translates to “bathing cloth”. That’s because the yukata was exclusively worn by the upper class as a bathrobe after they had taken a bath. 

Now, the yukata is quite famously known as the most informal wear of all the kimono types. Unlike the rest, you can wear the yukata to sleep! 

The most popular event to wear the yukata is to outdoor events like summer festivals and fireworks displays.  

2. Furisode

The furisode (振袖) is recognisable by its long sleeves and bright colours and motifs. It’s arguably the most glamorous of them all. This is made on purpose to symbolise the energy and beauty of youth. This type of kimono is exclusively worn by women, and more specifically unmarried women. Sleeves can be as short as 114cm to as long as 124cm!

When to wear?

The most common time to wear the furisode is during the Coming Age Day ceremony. Happening every start of the year, this is a celebration that marks the coming of age and maturity of young girls and congratulating them. The celebration is for both men and women, though. 

Other occasions to wear the furisode is a wedding ceremony. You’d probably see more girls wearing this during a traditional Japanese wedding. The bridesmaids and female guests will put on their elegant furisode for the occasion. 

3. Tomesode

Last but not least, there’s the tomesode (留袖). The best way to differentiate this type of kimono from the rest is by the motif position. This type is distinguished by having the patterns only below the waistline. There are two types of tomesode: one is the coloured one called the irotomesode (色留袖) and the other is the black coloured one, known as the kurotomesode (黒留袖). 

The kurotomesode is the most formal type of kimono. It holds the family crest at five different places: one on each sleeve, two at the front of the chest area, and one at the back. The kurotomesode can only be worn by married women

Unlike the kurotomesode, the irotomesode can be worn by unmarried women and they’re not as formal as the other. 

When to wear?

The kurotomesode is one of the highest levels of kimono. Because of that, it is only worn during the most special of occasions, like the mother of the bride or groom at a wedding.

As for the irotomesode, it’s not so strict. But it is still on the higher end of the kimono spectrum. It’s still worn during special occasions but not as exclusive as the kurotomesode. Other members of a wedding will put on this type of kimono. 

What kimono type do you want to try?

These are only three of the many types of kimono. It’s so interesting to see how motifs and colours affect the use of the kimono, don’t you think? What kimono type do you want to try when you come to Japan?

Top 3 Japanese Facial Gestures you need to know!

Top 3 Japanese Facial Gestures you need to know!

Japan is known for a lot of things. Sightseeing, nature, and neon lights are among them. But those who have been here for quite some time would also know Japan for its high context culture. If you don’t know what that is, read our blog post about it.

Anyway, an aspect of the Japanese’s high context culture is body language and facial gestures. Aside from the language barrier, you’d have to be able to decipher body language and facial expressions too. This can be quite a challenge, especially if you have no idea what to look out for in the first place.

So, if you’re looking to know how to grasp the concept of Japanese body language, you’ve come to the right place! We’re zooming into facial gestures that are part of Japanese body language in this article. Head over to this other article where we look at the top 8 body gestures to know in Japan!

Japanese Facial Gestures 

There’s no doubt that communication can be like a jigsaw puzzle sometimes. You get the pieces but you have to put them together. It’s all part and parcel of the high context culture! Japanese facial gestures take up quite a chunk of the Japanese high context culture. Sometimes, no expression is a gesture in itself!

So while it can be straightforward, it’s best to not roll the dice on it. There are a few things to take note of when it comes to the Japanese way of communication. They sometimes communicate with their facial expressions rather than saying it out loud. 

We’re going to highlight the top three facial gestures (感情表現 in Japanese) that give you an insight into what they’re trying to say: the one eyebrow raise, eye contact and the head tilt.

1. One Eyebrow Raise

This first one is the one eyebrow raise. Normally, if someone is doing that to me, I would be thinking that they’re waiting for an answer or reply. Sometimes, it also signals that they don’t understand. 

In Japan, it’s almost the same. When you get a one eyebrow raise, they’re telling you that they don’t understand. But not only that, they’re also asking you to repeat it. I guess that’s the difference – in Japan, no words are needed to ask someone to repeat.

Sometimes, you can get scrunched up brows instead, but they both mean the same thing. 

The best thing to do in cases like this is to repeat. If you were speaking in English, try repeating it slower and with easier phrases. I’ve gotten this a couple of times and in my case, they were just hesitant to ask me to repeat myself. 

2. Eye Contact

Another facial gesture to note in Japan is eye contact. To be more specific, the lack of eye contact. I’m used to making eye contact with people. It’s normal to me. In fact, I prefer talking to someone while making eye contact rather than not.

In Japan, it’s not always the case. Some people aren’t comfortable with eye contact. If that happens to you, don’t be offended. They’re not uninterested or bored. It’s just part of their body language. Prolonged eye contact is something they’re not used to or comfortable with. 

In cases like this, try to glance around to break eye contact. You’ll notice them doing the same. Try your best to be natural and not awkward about it!

3. The Head Tilt

Last but not least, the head tilt is a common facial gesture I get so often. This is often paired with the one eyebrow raise. This facial gesture is similar in meaning to the first one as it often tells you that the other person didn’t quite catch what you said.

However, this one, from my experience, is more of confusion rather than not understanding. 

Regardless of the difference, you’re also requested to repeat yourself. Similarly, rephrase your sentences so you’re not getting the head tilt again!

Are You Raising Your Brow Or Tilting Your Head? 

Body language can be quite difficult to grasp in general, regardless of which country. It’s a skill we constantly need to keep on learning. In Japan, it’s good that there’s a consistent set of gestures that can be easily decoded! You’re one step closer to mastering the high context culture here!

Japanese Music & important words you need to know!

Japanese Music & important words you need to know!

Podcast Recap!

(Bonus content for NM Podcast S2EP3)

Japanese music is actually pretty popular. More popular than we thought. Sometimes, we didn’t even realize it’s Japanese music. In our podcast, Season 2 Episode 3, we discussed the various types of Japanese tunes and beats. 

A country like Japan with such a long and rich history has got to have an equally rich music background. It’s an integral component in most cultures. And true enough, the oldest forms of traditional Japanese music date back to the 6th century.

Over the decades, music has taken over this island nation. 

In fact, Japan has the second-largest music market in the world, and was at one point the largest physical music market worldwide! If that’s not proof of music’s influence in the country, I don’t know what is.

In our episode, we looked at three categories of Japanese music. For those who have tuned in, this recap article is for you! For those who haven’t, give the episode a listen! We are on all the streaming platforms – Apple Podcast, Spotify, and we even have our own platform for it! Or subscribe to our channel on youtube for instant updates over there!

1. Traditional Japanese Music

The first category we looked at was traditionally Japanese music, known as hōgaku (邦楽). This refers to home or country music. The term is the opposite of yōgaku (洋楽), which refers to Western music. 

It was back in the Nara Period of 710 to 794 and Heian Period of 794 to 1185, when the two oldest forms of Japanese traditional music first popped up: shōmyō (声明) and gagaku (雅楽). Shōmyō, a combination of the kanji characters for “voice” and “wisdom”, is a style of vocal music practiced during Buddhist rituals. It’s believed to have originated from India before making its way to Japan in the 6th century, and to this day, this oldest living form of vocal music is still being practiced.

We have a clip of the Buddhist ritual chant played in the episode, so give it a listen if you’re interested! 

The other oldest traditional music, gagaku, translates to “elegant music”. This refers to court music. It’s the fusion of various continental Asian countries’ music with traditional Japanese music. Back in the day, if you were merely a commoner, you probably would never hear gagaku, as it was exclusively the music of the Imperial Court. A typical gagaku ensemble consists of traditional Japanese instruments split into three divisions: woodwinds, percussion and strings.

Similarly. We played a clip of gagaku music on the podcast episode! 

We talked a bit more about other types of Japanese traditional music like enka (although this might not really be classified under traditional Japanese music and more of Japanese popular music. This genre just has to be mentioned.). Tune in to know more about it and hear a clip of a typical enka song! 

2. J-pop

Of course, a category we looked at has got to be J-pop. This is short for “Japanese popular music”, and arguably the most famous one on the list. While K-pop has been taking the world by storm recently, J-pop is also busy winning over the hearts of Japanese people — specifically the youths. The older generation has enka — the youngins have J-pop. 

While J-pop has traditional Japanese music influences, the genre has its roots in 1960s music as well as Western pop and rock, prominently bands like The Beatles and The Beach Boys. J-pop is pretty diverse and not limited to only pop music. Before J-pop became J-pop, it was kayōkyoku. 

We played a clip of kayōkyoku in the episode!

J-pop nowadays has been taken over by aidoru groups. There are so many of them that there’s even a term to refer to this current age of overwhelming idol groups: “The Age of Idol War”. Japanese idols are professional entertainers. Although they’re primarily singers, they often take on other roles like modelling, acting and dancing. 

We name dropped a few J-pop groups and played some of their music in the episode. If you want to know which popular groups we talked about, give that a listen!

3. Video Game Music

The third category we looked at is something a lot of us would recognise: video game music. If you’ve listened to one of our previous episodes “Pixels and Powerups”, or if you’re a video game enthusiast yourself, you’d know that Japan is pretty much number one when it comes to video games.

Before video games had music to accompany it, they had chiptune, which is a kind of synthesised electronic tunes that’s made using sound generators or synthesisers. If you’ve ever owned those vintage game consoles or played old arcade game machines before, you’re probably familiar with this tune.

We played chiptune music for a brief understanding.

As technology evolved, so did music in video games, and Japanese video game developers are the first few to get the jump on it. Don’t we all know Pac-Man? Arguably the most popular video game of all time, this Namco-produced franchise consists of more than a couple of tunes that we’ll recognise instantly as soon as it’s being played.

Did the Pac-Man tune play in your head? We can refresh your memory in our episode! 

The same company, Namco, went on to produce music for various other video games, and so began the era of video game music. Namco’s maze and driving game Rally-X was actually the first video game to have continuous music being played in the background. Fast forward to where we’re at now, and video game music has evolved tremendously. For all the various types of games, there are beats and tunes that match the gameplay — reacting to the player’s movements and action with seamless transitioning from one music to another.

We played some popular game music that you might be familiar with! 

Oh, and if you realise, a lot of Japanese words in this genre are just the katakana form of the English words. A lot of the time, you’ll see the words in katakana in Japanese video games!

Vocab Recap

We slipped in a lot of Japanese words in our episode, so if you didn’t catch it well, we summarised it here:

Hōgaku (邦楽) — “home/country” music to refer to local, Japanese tunes

yōgaku (洋楽) — western music

Shōmyō (声明) — chanting, vocal music practiced during Buddhist rituals

Gagaku (雅楽) — court music

Enka (演歌) — a ballad-style Japanese music genre that was originally a form of political activism, but has evolved to become a nostalgic tune of the nation’s identity

Ongaku (音楽) — music

Kayōkyoku (歌謡曲) — a term for Japanese pop music used up until the 1980’s 

Aidoru (アイドル) — Idol

Kashu (歌手) — singer

Ākēdo (アーケード) — arcade

Gēmu (ゲーム) — game

Meiro (迷路) — maze

Akushon (アクション) — action

Tune in to Nihongo Master Podcast!

So this is a quick round-up of the top categories of Japanese tunes and beats! Nihongo Master Podcast discusses various aspects of Japanese culture, travel and even language with our Study Saturday language series! Tune in every Wednesday and Saturday for new episodes!

Everything you need to know about Omotenashi, the art of Japanese Hospitality!

Everything you need to know about Omotenashi, the art of Japanese Hospitality!

The Japanese people are proud of their country and culture. One of the top things they take pride in is ‘omotenashi’ (おもてなし). This is a Japanese concept that’s identified as ‘hospitality’. It’s deeply ingrained in Japanese culture and it’s something the rest of the world looks up to Japan for. 

This top quality customer service and overall hospitality is prominent in all aspects of the culture. You’ll definitely experience it when you travel here. If you’re planning to work in Japan, especially in the customer service line, you would also be expected to adopt omotenashi. You’ve come to the right place if you don’t know exactly what it is. In this article, we’ll cover the definition of omotenashi, how it came about and how it’s different from regular customer serivice!

What is omotenashi?

As we mentioned earlier, omotenashi refers to Japanese hospitality. This word became popular when it was used in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics candidate speech. Omotenashi is extremely prominent in customer service where staff pay extensive attention to detail and be at the beck and call of guests’ needs. 

One simple example is shop workers bowing to customers as they walk in or out of a store to thank them for coming to the store. Even if they didn’t buy anything, it’s part of Japanese culture to show the utmost level of respect and politeness to customers. 

However, the translation to ‘hospitality’ is such a loose translation as its meaning runs far deeper. Omotenashi is not just hospitality and impeccable customer service – it’s a way of life of the Japanese people. You’re focused on providing the best, regardless of what the situation is. This form of Japanese language is one that’s highly respected and abided by by all locals. 

The origins of omotenashi

So, when did this concept of omotenashi come into existence? It is said that the grandfather of Japanese tea ceremony, Sen no Rikyū (1522-1591), was the one that established this Japanese hospitality. The great tea master started the tradition of chado (茶道), which translates to “tea ceremony”. In a tea ceremony, every experience is “ichigo ichie” (一期一会), to mean “once in a lifetime experience”. He said: 

“Because life is full of uncertainty, one must engrave in his heart the events of the day as if there is no tomorrow. Today’s tea ceremony is a once in a lifetime experience, and one, along with his guests, must wholeheartedly approach the meeting with sincerity.”

Sincerity for the host is going through immense preparation so that the guests can have the most memorable experience possible. Preparation can take up to a year to prepare for a single tea ceremony. Flowers are picked properly, and so are the tea set, hanging scrolls and confections to match with seasons and guest preferences. If these parts aren’t perfect, the host will search high and low until they find the perfect match. Most tea masters agree that while this is the most difficult aspect, it’s also the most creative and interesting part of the process.

Omotenashi in the tea ceremony doesn’t stop there. Preparation of the tea in front of guests is also crucial. This involves cleaning cups performed in a ceremonial way to show their honesty and transparency. 

One of the roots of the word “omotenashi” is the phrase “omote-ura nashi”. This can be literally translated to “there is no front or back”. This means that guests are provided with genuine hospitality from the heart. Another root of the word is from a phrase that means “to accomplish through both conceptual and physical objects.” This combination, of decoration and intention, provides the best set up for the guests. 

Now in the present day, omotenashi is present in life encounters. Everything from customers treating guests to how one invites a guest to their home and how business partners treat each other. 

Omotenashi vs service 

Outside of Japan, service refers to the relationship between the service provider and the customer. It’s like a transaction between two parties, sometimes involving service fees and monetary returns. 

Japanese omotenashi is nothing like that. Service elsewhere is expected to get something in return. Omotenashi is done without expecting anything in return. It’s genuine from the soul. Japanese people are not providing Japanese hospitality for tips or charges. 

Another difference is that omotenashi is sometimes not as visible as service. It can frequently be intangible. It’s similar in the things done as it is in the things not done. For example, omotenashi needs no recognition. Service outside of Japan might be a topic raised to the customer to remind them they are getting customer service, whereas in Japanese hospitality, it’s the opposite. It’s best to not mention it blatantly, or at all. 

More to omotenashi

Omotenashi doesn’t just stop at customer service. It extends way past that. The wet towel you get when you enter a restaurant is part of that. That toothpick packaged together with that disposable chopsticks is also part of omotenashi. When a worker slips an ice pack into the box they’ve packed your cake with, that’s also part of omotenashi. 

Even the smallest of actions that would usually go unnoticed are part of omotenashi. Sometimes you would have to really look for it to figure out what is considered Japanese hospitality or not!

Don’t be surprised by Japanese hospitality! 

When you come to Japan for the first time, don’t be surprised if you are on the receiving end of omotenashi. Don’t think you need to tip the worker. They’re doing all of that because it’s part of their culture, and they’re happy to do it. All you can do is treat them with the same respect they give you. Omotenashi is beautiful, and you can only truly feel its beauty when you experience it.