Thanksgiving Day in Japan (Kaede Sugano)

Origin and Traditions of Thanksgiving Day | Hotel Playa Mazatlan

When it comes to “Thanksgiving day”, what do you remind of? Most of you may imagine a table full of dishes, turkey, parades… etc. Those are classic ways of celebrating thanksgiving day in the US, which unfortunately suggested to be cancelled this year. Due to the global spread of COVID-19, most of the gatherings are cancelled in the US. Health experts worry that increased travel and mingling over Thanksgiving and into the December holidays could exacerbate an already dangerous situation as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are rising across.

However, do you know there is a similar customs in Japan? November 23rd is “Kinloh Kansha No Hi” (勤労感謝の日)in Japan, which is a national holiday to honor work and everything that has been accomplished by people’s hard working. Japanese thanksgiving day does not really involves festive stuff, rather they celebrates in the family.

In Japan, Thanksgiving day has originated from the “Nii-name Festival”(新嘗祭)which was a ceremony that honored the grain-rich food that had been around before 1945. It is similar to the American Thanksgiving, which comes from Pilgrims celebrating a good harvest.

On that day, kids often give handmade gifts to their mom and dad who are always working hard. They often make message cards with thank-you words or handmade mugs and so on. In addition, some companies may also give presents like gift certificates or items to express gratitude to the employees who are always working for the company.

It is an event so old that it is recorded in “Koji-ki” (Record of Ancient Matters), and it is a ceremony to “offer the new grains harvested in autumn to the gods to thank them for their rich blessings”. The word “new grain” is said to refer mainly to “new rice”, which means rice the first rice crop of the year. Thanks to God’s grace, Japanese enjoy the delicious new rice with gratitude.

New rice is rich in the natural sweetness and aroma of rice. Enjoying the natural flavor of the rice in its pure white form is a luxury, but if you add more flavor to it with broth and other ingredients in “takikomi gohan”(炊き込みご飯), the feeling of feast is inevitable! So, with the concept of enjoying a new rice with a new mood, we have picked up some popular “takikomi gohan” recipes with some novel ingredients.

【Ingredients】

450g Japanese short grain rice
150g Takenoko bamboo shoots
150g Renkon lotus root
100g Gobo burdock
4 Shiitake mushrooms
1 Carrot
1 Sachet dashi stock powder
600ml Water
2 tbsp Soy sauce
2 tbsp Sake
2 tbsp Mirin

【Recipe】

  1. Start by rinsing the rice in running water until the water runs clear. Drain and set aside.
  2. Next, peel and slice the burdock root into thin slices. Soak the burdock root in water for 5 minutes along with the shiitake mushrooms. Remove and discard the stems from the shiitake mushrooms and slice the remaining part of the mushrooms, takenoko bamboo shoots, renkon lotus root, and carrots into small pieces.
  3. Add the sachet of dashi stock powder to 600ml water. Stir and bring to the boil. Add the shiitake mushrooms, burdock root, bamboo shoots, lotus root, and carrots and cook for 5 mins. Drain the vegetables and reserve the stock.
  4. Add the rice to your rice cooker or pan, then place the vegetables on top of the rice. Mix the dashi stock you drained and add some more water to make a total of 600ml. Pour the stock over the rice. Set the timer on your rice cooker to cook normally or follow our recipe for cooking Japanese rice if cooking in a saucepan. Once the rice is cooked, mix the vegetables and rice together well and serve.

How do we celebrate Christmas in Japan? クリスマスの過ごし方 Kaede Sugano (LXX)

Many streets, buildings and stores are decorated with twinkling festive lights during the holiday season in Japan. As you no doubt already know, Christmas is originally the annual Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, and a widely observed holiday around the world. However, Christmas Day is not a national holiday in Japan.
Christmas in Japan is a little different from Christmas in western countries. Traditionally faiths such as Buddhism and Shinto are practiced in Japan, but usually people here enjoy celebrating Christmas regardless of their religion. (Of course, there are some people who are more strict about religion.) Christmas in Japan is more like a festival and a commercial matter for many people, rather than a sacred event.

Important Christmas food for most Japanese are cake and chicken. Usually cakes are not homemade but purchased, typically by fathers on their way home from work. Some people, however, order very luxurious cakes from famous hotels, while others just buy them at convenience stores.
Fried chicken, especially Kentucky Fried Chicken now enjoys increased popularity, boosted by its good image on TV commercials. At Christmas, many people eat not only roasted but also fried chicken these days, in contrast to people eating turkey, roast beef and so on in western countries.

Instead of decorating a real fir tree, people adorn fairly small, pretty and colorful artificial trees with ornaments - a practical choice for small Japanese houses.
Some couples stay at really luxurious hotels, or enjoy a meal at a restaurant, and exchange expensive gifts, such as watches and scarves and jewelry.
On the other hand, some people still retain a childlike festive wonder, filling stockings with presents and saying they are from Santa Claus. The presents are, however, generally Nintendo games, digital cameras, computerized animal toys and so on. It seems like kids’ presents these days are mostly electrical goods.

日本はこの季節になると、道も建物もお店も飾りたてられ、イルミネーションでキラキラです。ご存じのように、クリスマスは本来はキリスト降臨の日で、休日の国も多いもの。でも、日本では休日ではありません。
日本のクリスマスは、欧米のそれとはちょっと異なります。日本人は仏教や神道やいろんな宗教があるものの、宗教など気にせずにクリスマスを楽しむのです(もちろん、敬虔な方たちもいるのですが……)。日本のクリスマスは宗教行事というよりも、お祭りや商業的な意味合いが強いからですね。

日本のクリスマスに欠かせないものといえば、ケーキとチキン。母親が作るのではなく、父親が仕事帰りに買ってくるのが一般的ですが、ホテルに豪華なケーキを注文することもあれば、手軽にコンビニで買ってくる姿も見られます。
また、存在感を増したのが、フライドドチキン(特にケンタッキーフライドチキン)です。CMの上手さも手伝って、欧米ではターキーやローストビーフなどを食べる代わりに、最近の日本では、ローストビーフに加えてフライドチキン色が色濃くなりました。

クリスマスツリーは、本物のモミの木の代わりに、(おもちゃながら)小さく、可愛くて、色とりどりのツリーに、オーナメントを飾ります。小さな日本住宅にも合うサイズのものですね。さて、恋人たちはといえば豪華なホテルへの宿泊やレストランでのディナーを楽しんだり、時計やらマフラーやらと少々高価なプレゼントを交換したりします。
その一方で、プレゼントは、クリスマスの靴下を下げてその中に入れて、サンタさんからだよ、なんて子どもらしい夢を与えています。が、その中身は今らしくゲーム機、デジカメや、コンピューター制御の動物だったり……デジタル化の波も押し寄せているようです。

Japan Day 〜日本文化の体験〜 — Hikari Sugano (F)

We had a Japan day on 9th of October, and here is an article written by Japanese F block how she felt about the day.

先日、Fブロックのクラブの一環として、日本の文化について学ぶ講座がありました。その日の授業はすべて休みになり、日本の文化について、実際に体験して学びました。

— Silent Voice (2017)

はじめに行ったアクティビティは、日本映画『聲の形』の鑑賞です。この物語は、日本でも有名な作品で、耳の聞こえない少女といじめっ子の青春ラブストーリーなので生徒全員が共感安い作品だったと思います。言語は日本語、英語字幕で鑑賞しました。鑑賞後、聲の形についてのポスターを班に別れて制作しました。日本の文化について、他の国籍の生徒達も理解を深められたと思います。

午後には、全員で巻き寿司を作り、食べました。コロナウイルスの関係もあって、生の魚を使うことはできませんでしたが、酢飯と海苔で野菜を巻きました。その際に使った巻きすは、生徒にプレゼントされました。皆とても楽しんでいて、日本の文化に日頃ふれることができる日本人であることを誇りに思えました。

A few days ago, as part of our F-block enrichment, we had an Activities Day to learn about Japanese culture. All the classes were cancelled for the day, so the children learned about Japanese culture through hands-on experience. The first activity was to watch the Japanese movie “Silent Voice”. This is a famous film in Japan, which is a love story between a deaf girl and a bully. I think all the students could easily relate to it. We watched it in Japanese with English subtitles. After watching the film, we were divided into groups to make posters about the film. I think the students of other nationalities were able to deepen their understanding of Japanese culture. In the afternoon, all the students made and ate sushi rolls together. Due to the coronavirus, we couldn’t use raw fish, but we wrapped vegetables with sushi rice and seaweed. The rolls were given to the students as gifts. They enjoyed it very much and it made me proud to be a Japanese person who is able to experience Japanese culture on a daily basis.