Posts in: 10月, 2015

  • BLOG

The basic actions you have to take in either shrine or temple are similar. First of all, keep in your mind that it is a holly place that you have to show resect. Then as follows.

Step1. Enter the site walking under the gate. Inside the site is regarded as holy.

Step2. Wash your hands and mouth at a place for ritual cleansing. Hold the ladle with your right hand and pour water on your left hand. Do the same with your left hand to clean your right hand. Then hold the ladle with right hand again to wash your mouth.

Only in Temples; After washing hands, you would find an incense burner. Wave your hands over the smoke to clean yourself with Read More

  • BLOG

Now you understand very basics of Shinto and Buddhism. But as a tourist, how shall you distinguish shrines and temples?

The easiest way is to check the entrance. If it has a gate made from either wood or stone, it should be a shrine. Originally the gate was the entrance of a spiritual zone which separate human world and holy zone.

Stone shrine gate

If it has an incense burner (jokoro), it is a sign of a temple. At the incent burner, people clean themselves with the smoke and its aroma before moving forward. Also, if you find grave stones inside or around, that place is a temple.

[caption id="attachment_603" align="alignnone" Read More
  • BLOG
a gate of shrine, called torii

A red wooden gate of shrine

When you come to Japan, you would visit at least one temple or shrine. There are 76 thousands temples and 88 thousands shrines in Japan. Actually there are more temples and shrines than convenience stores whose number is around 50 thousand.

But what are the differences? First of all, shrine is for Shinto and temple is for Buddhism. Shinto is the oldest religion in Japan and relatively primitive. Its unique characteristic is polytheism believing in many gods and spirits. People believe there are as many as 8 million gods and spirits- people find gods and spirits everywhere, from behind a leave, under a stone, to top of a mountain.

Buddhism Read More

  • BLOG

What are “itadaki-masu” and “gochiso-sama” in Japanese? If you a fan of Japanese anime, you should have heard the word “itadaki-masu” before a meal and “gochiso-sama” after meal. At home, we Japanese are educated to say those phrases before and after meals and if the children miss to say them, parents would let them say.
Both phrases are originally from religious concept. Itadaku, as a verb, literally means receive in polite expression. Japanese say itadaki-masu before meals to appreciate two things. The first appreciation is for all the people who relate to the cooking- not only cooks themselves but also others such as farmers and clerks of supermarkets. The second appreciation is for lives of all food, not only livestock Read More

  • BLOG

photo from

Sake is used in ceremonial occasions such as weddings. When I attended a friend’s wedding recently, kagami-biraki, which can be literally translated as “opening the mirror” was performed. It is a ritual whereby the bride and gloom break the wooden lid of a sake barrel together. The lid of the barrel is referred to as mirror because of its round and flat shape. By opening the lid, it is believed to bring good luck and prosperity to the couple. It is said that the ceremony originates from the time when sake barrel was opened to offer sake to samurai soldiers before battles.

With all the attendees watching, the newly-wed couple broke the lid together with a wooden Read More

  • BLOG


As you may know, Japan is a country of gourmet. According to a Michelin restaurant guide 2015, there are 12 three stared restaurants, 53 two stared restaurants, and as many as 161 one stared restaurants in Tokyo. When you come to Japan, perhaps you do not want to miss some of those finest restaurants, especially Japanese ones. However, sushi, tempura and kaiseki restaurants are hard to book for foreign travelers because of the language barrier. Usually you have to make a phone call directly to the restaurants and most of them do not speak English. If you want to book, you have to call them in Japanese. The best way is to ask your friend who speak Japanese or hotel concierge.

You may think it Read More

  • BLOG
By far the most common you are likely to get from Japanese people, especially those who have limited or no experience in western countries, is “Can you use chopsticks?”
For a less-than-fluent English speaker, this is often the easiest question to ask, and many Japanese are unaware of the prevalence of chopsticks in households and restaurants throughout the rest of the world.
However, in Japan, the more important issue is not how to use chopsticks, but how to NOT use them. Here are three handy rules for handling them like a native:
1. Never leave chopsticks sticking up vertically in your food
Buddhists funeral rites involve placing a pair of chopsticks vertically in a bowl of uncooked rice. Doing the same at a dinner table Read More
  • BLOG

sugidama green  sugidama brown

When you see a plant boll hung under the eaves, it is a sign of sake. It is usually brown but sometimes green. This ball, made from cedar leaves, is called sugi-dama (杉玉), literally means a cedar ball, and its color represents the matureness of sake.

Originally, sake was stocked in a barrel made from cedar tree and sake makers made a ball with cedar leaves. When the sake is freshly stored in the barrel in winter, the ball is still green. And as sake gets mature, the cedar ball turns to brown. However, now days less pubs hang a cedar ball to show the matureness of sake. It is used Read More

  • BLOG


Sake can be called rice wine and the process is similar to that of wine. Sake is made by fermenting rice like wine is made of grapes. In terms of brewing process, the major difference between wine and sake is glucose; grapes contain glucose whereas rice does not. During wine brewery process, grapes are fermented by yeast and ethanol is made during the process. Sake requires one more step to convert starch into glucose. For this process, koji mold*, or aspergillus oryzae, plays a very important role. Koji mold creates various enzymes which convert starch into glucose and these enzymes define the taste of sake. Technically it is very delicate process, therefore, usually sake breweries do not open this process to Read More

  • BLOG

Daiginjo is the most expensive sake as it uses only core part of rice; more than half of the rice should be polished to make daiginjo. But there are two types of daiginjo which are junmai-daiginjo and plain daiginjo. As we learned the difference between junmai-shu and jozo-shu, now you can guess junmai-daiginjo should not contain added alcohol. Plain daiginjo is made of water, highly polished rice and added alcohol and is a part of jozo-shu.

Then quality of plain daiginjo is lower? Not necessarily. As mentioned, alcohol is added to adjust the flavor or taste, and whether to add it or not depends on regional preferences. Taste of sake is tightly related with local culture and cuisine and some Read More