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White Gold A guide to Japan’s ski resorts

Events | Origami | Yojijukugo | Mochi nagazasshi │ March/April 2012


nagazasshi Volume 5 Issue 3 November/December 2012

Editor-in-chief Audrey Akcasu

Deputy Editor Qi Yang

Assistant Editors Raymond Arcega Katelyn Schwartz

Copy Editor Rosario Paz

Magazine Manager Kim Durinick

Layout and Design Douglas Bonham

Contributors Hannah Conklin Kevin Fleming Susan Fogarty Ryuhei Tsutsumi Remco Vrolijk


s fall comes to an end and the weather turns cold, I hope you can enjoy this issue under a blanket or kotatsu (heated table) while appreciating 読書三余 (dokushosanyo), a 四字熟語 yojijukugo (p.22) meaning “a winter night or rainy weather; the ideal conditions for reading.” I, for one, will probably not leave my house until spring, passing the time eating mikan (p.10) and doing origami (p.8). But for you winter-lovers out there, enjoy! Kyushu may not get too cold, but it has its fair share of winter events and activities. If you’re looking for something outdoors, try one of Japan’s many ski resorts (p.12) or try your hand at making one of Japan’s most beloved treats, mochi (p.18). With the holidays approaching, we polled our foreign readers to see how they feel about the Japanese style Christmas (p.20). While the Christmas and New Year’s celebrations are a bit different in Japan than many western countries, I think we can all appreciate the peace and hope this season brings. The Nagazasshi staff wishes you very happy (and safe) holidays! See you in the New Year,


Andrew Morris Matthew Nelson

Audrey Akcasu, Editor-in-chief



Cover photo: Remco Vrolijk

March/April 2012 │ nagazasshi





Who’s on Your Money?


The World of Origami




Kanji of the Month


Japan’s Winter: White Gold


Much Ado About Mochi


Yojijukugo — Compact Wisdom


The series ends with the ¥10,000 note Learn about how origami folds into Japanese culture Japan’s winter citrus explained o ot ph ug Do am nh Bo


A guide to Japanese ski resorts

The story behind the sweet rice treat The story behind Japan’s four-character idioms

12 photo Remco Vrolijk

nagazasshi | November/December 2012


Event of the Month Winter Night Fantasia Shimabara, End of December to beginning of January Enjoy the brisk weather with your loved one under the “romantic arch” or in the “couple zone” in Shimabara City. You can also bring the family to enjoy the decorated Christmas tree and other wintertime festivities.


September/October 2012 | nagazasshi

Events 10th Annual Harvest Festival Matsuura, November 3-4 Experience a range of activities from cloth sandal making to country cooking, while enjoying the fresh autumn weather and beautiful cosmos flowers. 99 Islands Oyster Festival November weekends and holidays, Pearl Sea Resort Let the succulent fragrance of grilled oyster lead you to this festival at Saikai National Park. There will be grills where you can cook shellfish to your heart’s (or stomach’s) content.

Church Week Kamigoto, December 4-9 Escape the chill with some beautiful illumination and moving Christmas hymns at six of Kamigoto’s famous churches. The events are as follows: (12/4)Fukumi church (福見教会), (12/5) Kiri church (桐教会), (12/6) Aosagaura Church (青砂ヶ浦教会), (12/7) Aokata Church (青方教会), (12/8) Tougajima church (頭ヶ島教会), (12/9) Sone Church (曽根教会).

Daihougou no Uchi Goto, November 10-11 With this lively festival that travels through 18 villages, the Goto locals celebrate good health and pray for abundant catches and harvests.

Kira-kira Festival Sasebo, December 17-25 If you’re craving some Christmas festivities, this festival is for you. Shimanose Park’s buildings and trees will be decked in Christmas lights, you can listen to a 1500-member chorus sing carols and even enjoy some fake snow on the weekend.

Sasebo Saruku Sasebo, November 11 Head to Sasebo for a Spanish-style “bar crawl.” Drink and food tickets are ¥500 each and can be used at 41 locations from French restaurants to sushi and wine bars.

Heart Candle Winter Festival Nagasaki, December 23-25 Get into the Christmas spirit at Glover Garden where the historic houses will be decorated with Christmas illuminations for this two-day festival.

Omura Autumn Festival Omura Park, November 18 The conclusion to a three-part fall fair, this festival brings together Omura’s famous curry, fresh produce, a lion dance and a battle of traditional dances between Omura and neighboring Isahaya.

Huis ten Bosch Countdown Huis ten Bosch, December 31 Didn’t get enough fireworks this summer? Send 2012 out with a bang and enjoy a concert, a spectacular fireworks display and other New Year’s Eve festivities.

nagazasshi | November/December 2012


Who’s on your money? In the final installment of our Japanese bills series, Katelyn Schwartz tells us about the most coveted bill, the ten-thousand yen note


hrough our journey to learn about the historical figures on Japanese bank notes, we have met several who shaped modern Japan. Yukichi Fukuzawa, the gentleman featured on the 10,000 yen note, is no exception. He is arguably the most influential of modern Japanese revolutionaries. First and foremost an academic, Fukuzawa’s life was dedicated to education. He wrote the first Japanese-English dictionary, the first world geography book for children, founded Keio University and authored the widely acclaimed Seiyou Jijou (Things Western). Astonishingly, he was able to accomplish all of this despite coming from an impoverished background. Fukuzawa, born January 10th, 1835, be-


gan his education with the study of Confucianism and Han Learning in Osaka. At the age of 19, his brother sent him to Nagasaki to study Dutch. Being the bright guy that he was, he quickly began to outshine his host, Iki Okudaira. Realizing he had overstayed his welcome, he forged a letter about his sick mother and moved back to Osaka to continue his studies. After mastering Dutch, he moved to Edo (modern day Tokyo) and to his shock found that almost all of the American and European merchants at the newly-opened ports were English speakers. At that time, there were almost no English-Japanese interpreters and no bilingual dictionaries. To say this made his study of English difficult would be an understatement. Yet, he did learn it and in 1860, he accompanied the first diplomatic mission to the United States. He even got to take a snapshot with an American girl. I wonder what he told his friends about her. Japan, having spent so many years in isolation, was at a great disadvantage when November/December 2012 | nagazasshi

Who’s the man? Yukichi Fukuzawa it came to international knowledge. Fukuzawa took particular note of this when he wanted to teach his children about world geography, finding a serious lack of books or resources. Fukuzawa decided to write his own. Not wanting to be out done by anyone, he capped it at just six volumes.

Continuing his quest to impart knowledge to his fellow countrymen, Fukuzawa opened Keio University. Initially focusing on western schools of thought, the university eventually expanded and became one of the foremost educational institutions in Japan.

Children’s geography books weren’t all Fukuzawa’s feelings on education are best that was missing in Japan; a general summed up in his own words, “Civilizaknowledge of western culture and custion means… toms was almost knowledge and non-existent. First and foremost While Fukuzawa an academic, Fukuzawa’s the cultivation of virtue so as to was traveling, he life was dedicated to elevate human life learned a great education. to a higher plane” deal about western (An Encouragelife, including ment to Learning, 1872-6). His life was imperialism. He decided that the best dedicated to these two principles. He way for Japan to combat the encroaching did so not only for himself, but also for imperialism was for the government and its citizens to be knowledgeable about the his countrymen, including women and world and thus be able to counteract it. In children. He introduced his country to the world at large and promoted its virtues Seiyou Jijou (Things Western), Fukuzawa explained many western ideas, ideals, and while also trying to maintain national culture and history. n customs. The book was a great success.

nagazasshi | November/December 2012


The World of Origami Discover the origins and endless possibilities of origami with Sakura Gaoka Special Needs School student Ryuhei Tsutsumi


ave you ever done origami? Origami is a traditional Japanese craft in which we make animals, plants and other objects using only paper. You don’t need a stapler or glue. It is both a simple and commonly known craft with profound meaning. I’d like to introduce you to the world of origami.

The origin of origami, however, is not clear. There are many theories though. Some say that origami was created in China and brought to Japan. Others say that the Japanese used paper to decorate presents in the Heian period and therefore it is of Japanese origin. However, no matter the origin, origami has become an important part of Japanese culture and is loved by people of all ages.

Most Japanese people know how to make some form of origami because they are taught by their family and friends during childhood. Planes and ninja stars are popular and fun origami designs for children. In addition, the dove and the Origami is well-known all over the world angel, emblems of peace, are famous origami designs. In Japan, the crane is and the word “origami” is a Japanese not only a symbol word which is understood by EngHowever, no mat- of delight and happiness, but lish speakers even ter the origin, origami has in its original become an important part also of longevity. Therefore, it form. The word of Japanese culture is traditional to “origami” is made make senbazuru, from two words, “ori” and “gami.” “Ori” comes from “oru,” a thousand paper cranes, when praying for someone’s happiness or well-being. meaning “to fold.” “Gami” comes from We pray for all sorts of things, from the “kami,” meaning “paper.” health of someone who has been hospi-


November/December 2012| nagazasshi

photo flickr.com/origami-kunst

talized, to our favorite athlete winning their game, to world peace. The Japanese believe that making senbazuru will make prayers come true. Nowadays, origami is even used to help with brain development. Some Asian countries have adopted origami as a method of education. Nursery schools introduce it to promote creativity, concentration and color pattern awareness for children. Origami is useful not only for education, but also for medical rehabilitation. In some hospitals, elderly people practice origami as a way of preventing Alzheimer’s disease. This therapy, called nagazasshi | November/December 2012

“origami therapy” has three benefits: concentration, relaxation, and rehabilitation of hands and fingers. It is also good entertainment and a way for people to communicate. Origami can help people develop physically as well as give them a sense of fulfillment. A piece of paper is two-dimensional but it becomes three-dimensional masterpiece after some folding. Don’t let the lack of origami paper stop you! Origami can be made with almost anything: newspaper, napkins, wrapping paper or even a chopsticks wrapper in a restaurant. So why not try expanding your world with just one piece of paper? n


Mmm...Mikan! Audrey Akcasu shares some fun facts about Japan’s favorite wintertime citrus


ate the cold? Here’s one reason to like it: it makes mikans sweeter. 温 州蜜柑 (unshu mikan) is the formal name for the fruit we all know and love, the mikan. It has many other names too, from “table orange” (from the practice of setting out mikan on top of the kotatsu in winter) to “mandarin orange” or “clementine.” As if you need another reason to love mikan, it’s a Kyushu native, kind of. While the first trees are thought to have been planted in current-day Sonogi, it’s thought the first mikan were brought to Kagoshima from China over 500 years ago. In fact, one of the more common names is “Satsuma mandarin,” derived


from the Satsuma province in present day Kagoshima, from where this seedless citrus was first brought to America in 1876. However, the mikan made its first debut in the western world in the 17th century. Due to its loose peel and ability to withstand, if not thrive in, cold weather, mikan have gained popularity and are grown around the world. It could be Japan’s most famous meibutsu (specialty product), even topping sushi. There are even four US cities named after Japan’s most successful fruit. So if you’re looking for a way to avoid the flu (they’re jam-packed with vitamin C), looking for a sweet treat or just plain hungry, turn to your locally grown mikan this winter. n

November/December 2012 | nagazasshi

Japan’s Winter: White Gold Let one of Nagasaki’s resident skiers, Remco Vrolijk, provide tips to enjoy Japan’s powder on snowboards or skis this winter


whilst renting gear can cost about ¥15,000 per weekend, so think in advance about how often you plan on going. For buying gear, try Sport Depot or Xebio from November to April, Fukuoka tends to have the most variety. You can also shop online for cheaper new or second hand gear at Rakuten or Yahoo! auctions.

iving in Nagasaki comes with warm summers and reasonably mild winters, so it may Many areas of not necessarily If you are only Japan offer world-class evoke images of planning on skiing and snowboarding winter sports. going a few facilities Yet many areas times, renting of Japan offer will be cheaper. some world-class skiing and snowAll ski resorts will have rental shops boarding facilities and it would be a that have all the items you are going shame to miss out. to need. Rental places at the actual ski resort are convenient but more Before heading out… expensive than the rental shops you will find along the road before you hit Skiing and snowboarding does not the resorts’ parking lot. only require travelling to your destination, you are also going to need a To save money, bring your own large lot of equipment. Buying your gear thick socks, gloves, scarf, hat, suncan easily add up to about ¥100,000 glasses (if it’s nice weather), lip balm for a basic set (skis/board, boots, and sunblock. ski-wear, waxing kit and accessories)


November/December 2012 | nagazasshi

A guide to Japanese winter resorts Kyushu Area Although Kyushu does not get much snow, there are a few operating ski resorts. They rely on snow machines for most of the season (beginning of December – middle of March) and mainly attract beginners. There are a few bus tours from Nagasaki and Sasebo, but it is easiest and cheapest to drive there yourself. Go here if you just want to have a first try or when you are short on time. photo Remco Vrolijk

Tenzan Ski Resort Location: Saga prefecture near Taku. The closest resort to Nagasaki prefecture. Lifts: Two Day Pass: ¥5,000 Pros: Very close by. Easy to go for a day-trip or even use the evening ticket from 4pm-9pm. First timers won’t need the lift much yet and can use a one-ride ticket each time, which will work out very cheaply. Cons: Snow quality is usually bad and mostly manmade. There’s only one main slope. Only one lift operates for most days unless there is plenty of fresh snow. The lift is hard to get off and the slope is narrow.

Tenzan Ski Resort

Kokonoe Shinrin Koen Ski Resort Location: Oita Prefecture. Kokonoe Exit on the Oita Expressway. Lifts: Two Day Pass: ¥5,000 Pros: Possible to do a day trip. 2 wide slopes of reasonable length. Usually better snow quality than Tenzan. Cons: Dependent on manmade snow. It is still a good few hours by car. Not a lot of variety for intermediate skiers/boarders. Can get crowded on the weekend.

nagazasshi | November/December 2012


Mizuho Highland is one of the most impressive ski resorts in western Japan, and includes an extensive snowboard park (above). However, the sole beginner run can get crowded (below). photos Remco Vrolijk


November/December 2012 | nagazasshi

Chugoku Area Between Hiroshima and Shimane prefectures there is a cluster of ski resorts, around 15 in total, which you can explore for variety. Natural snow here is already much more common than in Kyushu, though still slushy compared to the rest of Japan. Try a weekend excursion with one overnight stay. Driving times are five to seven hours (400 to 500 kilometers from Nagasaki). Make sure you bring snow chains and some friends to share accommodation with. Ski bus tours from Nagasaki and Sasebo go to these areas, which you can book at most travel agencies.

Mizuho Highland Location: Shimane Prefecture. Mizuho Exit on the Hamada Expressway. Lifts: Seven Day Pass: ¥5,500 Pros: Has the most variety of runs in this area, possibly the best in Western Japan. There is also an extensive board park. Snow quality is good after a fresh dump, but gets heavy quickly. The lifts are modern and access is easy, as it’s just off the highway. Cons: The rental places, ticket booth and the gondola get very crowded in the mornings. It has only one good run for beginners, which tends to get crowded. Restaurants are expensive and service is average.

Osorakan Location: Hiroshima Prefecture. Togouchi Exit on the Chuugoku Expressway. Lifts: Ten Day Pass: ¥4,900 Pros: This place is known for getting the best quality snow this far south and has 100% natural snow. Nice selection of runs for all levels. It is the cheapest resort in the area considering the amount of lifts. Cons: Access is difficult and takes time. You most likely need snow chains. Lifts and restaurants feel a little old. The three parts of the resort are very poorly connected and require a lot of walking, especially for boarders.

nagazasshi | November/December 2012


photo flickr.com/bental_3000

Shiga Kogen in Nagano was a host for the 1998 Winter Olympics

Other Areas of Japan Japanese Alps


To really experience what Japan has to offer you will have to venture further up north. The Japanese Alps are the birthplace of Japanese skiing and have by far the most areas. Hakuba is always a good place to start, with many good ski resorts close to each other. You can also try Shiga Kogen, Japan’s largest ski area, where you can access 71 lifts on a single day pass. Naeba, in Niigata prefecture, is a popular weekend trip for many Tokyoites.

Tohoku is the most expensive and hardest area to reach from Nagasaki. Appi Kogen is a good and large mainstream resort in Iwate. Hakkoda, in Aomori, is a hidden gem, being arguably one of the world’s top off-piste destinations yet fairly unknown. There is only one ropeway up the mountain taking you to ultimate freedom. Take note, as a populated region it receives one of the heaviest snowfalls in the world.


November/December 2012 | nagazasshi

Hokkaido Hokkaido offers some of the world’s best quality powder, but expect it to be very cold and snowy! Niseko is the biggest and most famous resort and probably has the best après-ski scene in Japan. Look further for less crowds and less discovered backcountry skiing. n

photos Remco Vrolijk

Niseko in Hokkaido is a powder wonderland

Much ado about mochi Susan Fogarty reveals the history, fascination and preparation of this sticky rice cake


ired of eating plain rice? Try mochi, a glutinous rice cake that can sometimes end in death!

Mochi is a sticky rice cake that comes in sweet and savory forms. It is associated with New Year’s oshogatsu celebrations but can be enjoyed all year round. The traditional ceremony for the making of mochi is called mochitsuki. First, rice is soaked overnight and then cooked. The rice is pounded using a large pestle and mortar - the kine and the usu. Two people are needed for this process as the rice needs to be moistened from time to time to stop it from caking to the usu. The work is hard; often all the members of a neighborhood will take part. After the rice is mashed to the right consistency, it is molded into shapes. Generally, in northern parts of Japan the mochi will be cut into rectangular blocks, while down south, a round shape is preferred. It is left on a rack for a few days


to dry out. You can now get a machine that pounds your mochi for you if you want to speed up the process. Mochi has been around for thousands of years. Its association with New Year’s goes as far back as the Heian period (794-1185), and was mentioned in the 11th century novel The Tale of Genji. A folk tale from the Nara Period (710794) highlights mochi as a sacred food and tells of a man who tried to use the rice cake for target practice. Before his arrow hit the mochi, it turned into a swan and flew away. Then rice crops in the area failed and people starved to death. The moral of this story is that you should respect mochi and not waste it‌ or use it for target practice. Mochi was seen as a luxury reserved for the nobility in Japanese society. It is made from mochi-mai rice. This type of rice has a lower yield than the uruchi-mai that we commonly eat. This scarcity meant that the rice was more expensive and thus a cake made entirely from mochi-mai was the symbol of happiness and good luck. The importance of mochi can also be seen in the belief that a giant rabbit stands on the face of

November/December 2012| nagazasshi

photo Doug Bonham

the moon pounding mochi with giantrabbit-sized kine and usu. As mochi is made from glutinous rice, it is a very sticky food. Each year around New Year’s there is a spike in deaths from choking. This is attributed to mochi. In the first few days of 2011, six people died and 18 were hospitalized after mochi related incidents. While it is the elderly that tend to be the victims, the fire brigade issues warnings each year to remind people to cut mochi into small pieces for young children and the elderly, to chew the rice cakes carefully and not eat it alone. Mochi comes in various guises. It is eaten in soup called ozone, stuffed with various bean pastes or flavored with green tea. Mochi balls filled with ice

nagazasshi | November/December 2012

cream are a recent creation, and a grill similar to a waffle iron was made to create “moffles,” a fantastic hybrid of waffles and mochi. Mochi also comes flying from the sky during mochi nage or the mochi toss. This eccentric performance takes place after the roof of a new house is erected. The owner of the house and the carpenter climb onto the new roof, place a Shinto shrine on top and toss money and mochi down to neighbors and family members who are equipped with bags to stash the falling goodies. Now armed with this new-found knowledge, go forth and try some delicious mochi, ask about local mochitsuki or stalk your area for a mochi nage. Just remember to chew slowly and don’t enjoy the sticky treat alone! n


nagazasshi poll results!


hristmas in Japan is quite different from Christmas in western countries. Many traditions have arisen over the years that have surprised foreigners. To name a few, people order KFC holiday buckets months in advance, celebrate on Christmas Eve, view Christmas as a date night, and eat Christmas cake. To get a grasp on foreigners` reactions to Japan-style Christmas, we polled some of our readers at our Facebook page, facebook.com/nagazasshi.

What have you found to be the weirdest thing about Christmas in Japan?

Thanks to all who participated in the poll! We hope you have a merry Christmas!

Other answers: Busiest day for pizza shops; People work on Christmas; Music Station Live Christmas TV program

58% People eat KFC 29% It’s a date night 6% People celebrate

without really knowing why


Let’s study


the most effective way!

Instructor Kiyoko Hayashi

2-19-22 Haiki Sasebo City Nagasaki


kuumons@ mtf.biglobe.ne.jp

write for us nagazasshi.submissions@gmail.com

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nagazasshi nagazasshi | November/December 2012



Compact 四字熟語 Wisdom Kevin Fleming explores the world of Japanese idioms while giving us a bit of food for thought.

字熟語 (yojijukugo), or fourcharacter compounds, are expressions that both serve as cultural idioms and reveal a linguistic connection to Chinese sayings and Buddhist philosophy. However, there is some disagreement over the definition of yojijukugo. Some consider this term to cover all compounds consisting of four kanji, such as 株式会社 (kabushikigaisha, a joint-stock company), while others allow only those expressions which have an idiomatic meaning not easily inferred from the individual characters. Note that 株式会社 is composed of 株 (stock) + 式 (system) + 会社 (company), and the full compound’s meaning is apparent. Idiomatic yojijukugo, however, can be more difficult to decipher. We will examine some examples from this latter category.


君子豹変 (kunshihyouhen): 君子 (wise man) + 豹 (leopard) + 変 (change). In this phrase, 豹変 refers to a leopard’s spots changing with the seasons. The idiom implies that a wise person can, or should, change as well. Although it originally carried a positive connotation, these days this phrase can also be used negatively or sarcastically, implying that one has no principles to stick to. Be careful when you use this!

狡兎三窟 (koutosankutsu): 狡 (clever) + 兎 (rabbit) + 三 (three) + 窟 (den). This yojijukugo arrived in Japan by way of China, where it was said to have been coined by a 3rd century BC aristocrat, Lord Mengchang. He was able to evade his enemies through careful planning and declared that “a clever rabbit has three dens”; in other words, one should always have a backup plan. A rabbit who really wants to be prepared, however, would have even more dens, so I propose the following yojijukugo: 狡兎百窟, in which we replace the 三 with 百 (hyaku) or 100.

November/December 2012 | nagazasshi

四苦八苦 (shikuhakku): 四 (four) + 苦 (pain) + 八 (eight) + 苦 (pain). 四苦 are the four sufferings referred to in Buddhist teachings: birth, aging, disease, and death. Add to this four further pains of parting with a loved one, having to meet with one’s foes, being unable to obtain what one desires, and general sufferings of the body and mind to arrive at 八苦. As you might guess, 四苦八苦 means that one is in great distress and can be used to express your worries in a poetic way.

一期一会 (ichigoichie): 一 (one) + 期 (period of time) + 一(one) + 会 (meet).  一期 is a Buddhist term meaning one’s

entire lifetime. This yojijukugo indicates a once-in-a-lifetime meeting or opportunity. It was originally used in the tea ceremony, referring to the idea that the current day and moment will never come again, and that the ceremony should be performed with this in mind.

There are over 3,000 yojijukugo out there, so search your local library or the Internet for more, but you’re sure to run into some in everyday life as well. *See the Nagazasshi website for more links to yojijukugo with English translations. n


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Nagazasshi 5.3  

As winter rolls in, we discuss the best winter resorts in Japan, conclude "Who's On Your Money?", investigate origami and mochi, and more!

Nagazasshi 5.3  

As winter rolls in, we discuss the best winter resorts in Japan, conclude "Who's On Your Money?", investigate origami and mochi, and more!