27 April 2012

The modern Japanese style with IKEA

Are the Japanese people still living in rabbit hutches?!

There are some arguments how to interpret the meaning of the 1979's EC Working Paper which described "The Japanese are workaholics living in rabbit hutches." Japan got richer in many ways from those days but it is not too wrong to say that the average Japanese people still live cheek-by-jowl in highly populated urban areas.
The Swedish based multinational furniture company, IKEA, has successfully translated their concept to the unique needs of Japanese consumers, i.e. maximising 'small space living' with efficient storage capability, and modern design with European taste.

 (Above photos are from IKEA Showroom)
The unique exhibition that IKEA Japan attempted was to set up a number of 5m² showrooms (three tatami sized rooms) in the yard of a temple in ancient capital, Kyoto. Each of the room was 'furnished to suit a different use: the kitchen, the kids room, the tatami room, the bedroom and so on, all in Japanese style and following a smart use of small space, typical of Japanese house.' (Japanese language only: http://news.ikea.jp/life_home/3jyo/3jyo110803_03)

A video produced by Roomie evokes Japanese traditions in line with the exhibition. The display in a temple got the attention of many people including Maiko, traditional Japanese dancers (apprentice Geisha). It illustrates the old and new, young and modern, and from the world to Japan and Japan to the world in a beutiful way.

The only last thing I wish IKEA could do is to 'do-it-for-you', rather than do-it-yourself' :-))

20 April 2012

Cherry Blossoms - 'Sakura' - The Bittersweet Quality of Japan in Bloom

... I'm currently helping Matcha Latte Media by writing articles about Japanese culture:<<>>Cherry Blossoms: The Bittersweet Quality of Japan in Bloom ...

Edited by Matcha Latte MediaWhy do people love Sakura, otherwise known as Japanese cherry blossoms? Certainly the inspiring beauty of these delicate flowers which adorn most of Japan from the end of March to early April is an obvious reason. But one must look deeper to truly understand why cherry blossoms are one of the most beloved cultural symbols of Japan.

After the gloomy cold Japanese winters, spring is always eagerly anticipated. Flowers and plants awaken; the color of the fields turn verdant once again; and perhaps best of all, the rising temperatures and changing landscape evokes a sense of joy and hope for the good things to come.

Cherry blossoms symbolize the start of spring for the Japanese, so it is no surprise that cherry blossoms have come to represent new beginnings. In the past, cherry blossoms were originally used to predict the year’s harvest. In modern Japan, the cherry blossom season usually coincides with the beginning of the school year as well as the beginning of the new fiscal year for Japanese companies. It is a time of fresh starts, new acquaintances, and next steps.

Still, it is not all about beginnings. March is also a time of school graduations-- and therefore a time to move on and say goodbye. Furthermore, cherry blossom season is notoriously short and hard to predict. And surely there is sadness when one realizes that after seeing the first blossoms that it is only a matter of a couple of short weeks before all the beautiful petals are gone. Indeed, the fleeting nature of the cherry blossoms reminds us all that nothing in life lasts forever and that the most lovely things are often the most fragile.

Sakura-themed Japanese pop music illustrate the bittersweet nature of this cultural icon. If you pay attention to the lyrics of these beautiful songs, they are not just about the beauty of these flowers but also about sadness and pain. They reflect the complicated feelings that spring and sakura evoke for the Japanese people.
When I open my old family photo album, one of my favorite family photos is of all of us picnicking under fully-bloomed cherry blossom trees. My earliest photo in school uniform was taken next to a beautiful sakura tree. There are so many wonderful memories I have of the lovely flowers. Still, when I see the blossoms, I am not only reminded of these happy times; I am also reminded of how things have changed and how my grandparents have long since passed.

But it is precisely because cherry blossoms grace us with its great beauty while reminding us that life is fleeting, that happiness does not last forever, and that no one lives for an eternity, that they have become such an important symbol for the Japanese. Cherry blossoms inspire us because they tell the great truth that life is mysterious and does not last forever, but that is what makes life so precious.

Japan was stunned last spring after the tragic and massive earthquake in 2011. 18,000 souls perished and all of Japan was left in deep mourning. Yet, the cherry blossoms still blossomed, and it was a poignant reminder to the Japanese people that despite such sadness and tragedy, that there was still hope and beauty in the world. It also reminded everyone that life is short and that each day must be cherished. It is not an exaggeration that cherry blossoms have always been an important part of the soul of the Japanese, and it is safe to say that they always will be. Y★

17 April 2012

'Kodomonokuni' (Children's Land) - all fun things for children in one place

Parents always look for fun places for children of all ages, and preferably including grown-ups. 'Kodomonokuni' (Children's Land) in Yokohama, is one of a few places where everyone can have a good day out.
Please enjoy the photo gallery as follows!
- In one beautiful Sunday morning, people are at the entrance of 'Children's Land'.
- In the central park of 'kodomonokuni', a large 'koinobori' carp streamers are up high in the air to celebrate upcoming 'Children's Day' on May 5th.
- There was an outdoor booth to make a pinwheel with origami.
- A hand-made 'kazaguruma', pinwheel turned out beautifully.
- Inside the Children's Centre where children enjoy arts and craft works.
- My daughter made the one in the above in the Children's Centre. Not bad, is it?!
- The white curpet with cherry blossoms' petal.
- Row boats and pedal boats are available. It was just a little late to be surrounded by fully bloomed cherry blossoms.
- Some examples of many different playgrounds in the park.
- Pony rides are available. A baby pony was having sunbathing.
- Feed or milk the cows?!
- Paid rides for toddlers.
There are: a small zoo, camping site, swimming pools for summer, ice-skating rink for winter, tennis courts, rent-a-cycle and many more for both paid and free stuff in the children's heaven!
In 1959, 'kodomonokuni' was founded in commemoration of the Royal Marriage of the Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko. It is a little different for what people imagine for 'high-tech' park in Japan but there are good old and new real Japan in there.
You will love it!

04 April 2012

Toys?! what young Japanese girls are playing in these days★

Many of you may wonder what ordinary Japanese primary school girls are playing with in these days?

Nindendo DS, Wii, and tamagotchi (http://www.bandai.com/tamagotchi/) are the main electric toys for young Japanese children but someone like my daughter who has not got her very own electric toys is into the collection of fancy stickers and plastic rubbers.
The specially designed fancy stickers' books are called 'seal-cho' in Japanese. It is often the ring binder style which you can add some refills just like a photo album. You can put stickers and easily remove them from the sheets as many as you like without loosing adhesiveness.
The difference from those in old days is the stickers themselves are just like a little toy. There are glitter, cushy, 3D stickers, as well as the stickers made out of 'washi' - Japanese paper. It tells a story of old and new in a little world.
The plastic rubbers in above picture are some of many that my daughter has. They are so well made and it is pity to rub off something with them.
Children not only lean how to collect and keep them nicely, but they are leaning the 'commerce' with them. Kids show their items to friends and exchange them if they agree upon. If one values greater than the other, they have to exchange a few items to the one special. They are gaining 'negotiation' skills through little toys!!!
A pack of stickers and rubbers are available from 100 yen to several hundreds yen depending on the quality.
It is always fun to see what kids are up to!