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Be My... Marshmallow? The unlikely origins of White Day

Hanami alternatives | Stand-up in Fukuoka | And much more

nagazasshi Volume 8 Issue 5 March/April 2016

Editor-in-chief Jennifer Edwards


Rosie Fordham

Layout and Design Laurel Williams Dylan Nordstrom

Assistant Editor Lorna Hanson Max Epstein

Public Relations Conor Hughes

Copy Editor Will Powell

Treasurer Karl Po

Contributors Dan Cohen Jennifer Edwards Rosie Fordham Conor Hughes Will Morgan Almas Rehman Jamaal Rowe Laurel Williams


Andrew Morris Matthew Nelson www.nagazasshi.com Cover photo: #bemymarshmallow Laurel Williams


emories of the prefecture’s heaviest snowfall in over a hundred years are fading fast. Spring is heading to Nagasaki, and with it, the blooming of thousands of beautiful cherry trees. Yet whilst cherry blossoms mark the beginning of spring – just as cicadas ceasing their chirping heralds the end of summer – they are not all this season has to offer. Our guide to Nagasaki’s other gorgeous flower displays (p. 10) aims to provide inspiration for those looking for an alternative to hanami (cherry blossom viewing), or for those who simply want to enjoy a flower adorned landscape. Spring in Japan also brings White Day, a chance for men to repay women in kind for the confectionary gifts they were given on Valentine’s Day. This issue, we investigate what White Day really means to Sasebo locals, and ponder whether Japan should implement the recent South Korean singles-orientated tradition:”Black Day.” Finally, in recognition of Shigatsu Baka, or April Fool’s Day, we introduce the Japanese comedy duo Rahmens (p. 14). Their sideways take on Japanese culture is sure to provide you with some laughs when April 1st rolls around. If you’re looking for even more laughs, check out our article on Comedy Fukuoka (p. 12), and founder Ollie Horn’s plans to bring Asia’s friendliest stand-up comedy to Nagasaki. Happy reading, and happy hanami!

Jennifer Edwards, Editor-in-chief

Contents Events


White Day


Nagasaki in Bloom


Funny in Fukuoka


Bringing People Together with Sass


Kanji of the Month



The secret behind the sweets

Plan an excursion with our flower-viewing guide

Learn how comedy came to Kyushu

Tuck into a steaming bowl of Rahmens



Photo credits (top to bottom): mic 2 flickr.com/chinaglia; Conveyor Belt Sushi flickr.com/jedray; Flowers Almas Rehman


photo visit-nagasaki.com

Event of the Month Nagasaki Tall Ships Festival April 21 – 25, Dejima Wharf, Nagasaki

Old-fashioned sailing ships from Japanese antiquity flock to Japan’s one and only Tall Ships Festival. The breathtaking, multi-mast oaken vessels conduct sailing drills, bay cruises, and onboard tours of their decks for festival-goers. During the weekend of the 23rd and 24th, fireworks displays will also be conducted in the port area for onlookers’ viewing pleasure. 8 visit-nagasaki.com/spots/detail/100


March/April 2016 | nagazasshi

Events Saikai Bridge Whirlpool Festival March 16 – April 14, Saikai The Inoua Strait in Saikai City is one of only 3 locations in Japan with notoriously rapid tides creating a unique aquatic environment where whirlpools frequently form. The associated festival overlooks these whirlpools, juxtaposed against cherry trees in the relaxing Saikai Bridge Park, making it an excellent photo spot. 8 visit-nagasaki.com/spots/detail/95 Kanoukaen Festival Late March, Throughout Shimabara Kanoukaen is an exciting fire festival that accompanies the bloom of the cherry blossom. Paying homage to the samurai warriors of old, locals dress in authentic samurai regalia and parade through town holding massive flaming torches and shouting war cries. 8 visit-nagasaki.com/spots/detail/96

phot o fl ick r.c om /m a

Nagasaki Kite Flying Tournament April 3, Tonhakkei Park, Nagasaki Come test your kite flying skills in Nagasaki City’s own kite flying tournament! Compete against others to win prizes, or simply enjoy the fresh air and flying kites. 8 at-nagasaki.jp/event/50246 h fis ru

Hirado Thousand Lantern Festival April 4 – 5, Throughout Hirado Come walk the winding cobbled roads of Hirado’s various temples! Throughout Hirado, countless stone lanterns are set alight in a distinctly cultural and serene evening event lasting from mid-day to 9 p.m. each night. 8 at-nagasaki.jp/event/61794 Orange Day Festival April 27 – 29, Dejima Park, Nagasaki In Nagasaki it’s referred to as “Orahneyeh” festival, but its namesake comes from the Dutch word “oranje,” meaning orange. Because of Nagasaki’s lengthy and illustrious history as a great trading hub, the Dutch holiday “Orange Day” has been affectionately borrowed by the Nagasaki community. 8 at-nagasaki.jp/event/61794 Hasami Pottery Festival April 29 – May 5, Hasami The town of Hasami is known for their specialty ceramic and pottery wares. Celebrating these crafts and the skills of those who make them, this festival includes raffles, shopping, and pottery classes! 8 visit-nagasaki.com/spots/detail/101

White Day Rosie Fordham explores White Day, and how it developed from one company’s efforts to sell more marshmallows in 1978


arch 14th in Japan is White Day. Though it began as a holiday for men who received chocolate on Valentine’s Day to return the favor, the tradition of White Day has evolved since it was created. We asked some Sasebo locals for their perspectives on the White Day holiday and how they think it’s changed.

Celebrating White Day For many, White Day is not just a day for guys to give gifts to girls, but an opportunity for anyone who received a gift on Valentine’s Day to reciprocate. “If I get chocolate then I return it to whoever sent it,” says Reiko. “From my girlfriends… I get cookies [and] sweets.” Rin echoes this sentiment, “Sometimes my [girl] friends give me sweets or something on Valentine’s Day. After that, I return a gift on White Day.” Ken says he receives presents from female family members and that his mother makes white stew to celebrate the day. However, people who didn’t give or receive anything on Valentine’s Day don’t necessarily do anything to mark the occasion. “Basically, I don’t do anything,” says Sayaka. “…if I give someone something on Valentine’s Day, I usually receive some gift from that person on White Day.”

Opinions on White Day It’s well known that White Day is an extremely commercial holiday and a relatively recent creation, according to a Tofugu article (“White Day: Japan’s

7 photos Laurel Williams

White Day was originally known as ‘Marshmallow Day,’ the purpose being to increase marshmallow sales

Answer To Valentine’s Day”), of Japan’s National Confectionary Industry Association. Many of the participants interviewed were well aware of this fact. Sayaka says, “I think White Day is a day which some Japanese candy company created to increase their sales figures.” Ken says the same: “Choco companies are tactical. I watched a TV [show] about it. A company MADE Valentine’s Day in Japan.” However, most of the participants have positive, or at least ambivalent, feelings about the holiday. Says Taiju: “I like White Day. I think it’s fun because we have a lot of choice of


chocolate to choose from.” Keiko echoes this sentiment, saying that it is, “Fun. Like a festival.” Rin, for her part, says that she does “not like or dislike [White Day]. Maybe I don’t care!”

Changes to White Day White Day has changed since it first began in 1978. According to Tofugu, White Day was originally known as “Marshmallow Day,” the purpose being to increase marshmallow sales. However, “people liked the idea of the new holiday, but weren’t too keen on the marshmallows,” so the focus of the holiday changed to chocolate and other gifts. March/April 2016 | nagazasshi

Even now, White Day has continued evolving and has even become popular abroad in countries including South Korea and China. South Korea took it even further by creating Black Day, a day for singles in April. According to our interviewees, the tradition in Japan has changed in other, subtler ways since they were younger. Ken mentions how, for a while, along with giri choco (obligation chocolate), honmei choco (chocolate exchanged between romantic partners) and tomo choco (chocolate exchanged between friends), there also used to be gyakku choco, “chocolate the boy gave to the girl he liked before Valentine’s Day, in hope he would get something from her on Valentine’s Day.” But, he says this type of chocolate is “not around anymore.” A couple of participants mentioned changes in marketing. Says Taiju: “I think the packaging has changed a lot since I was a child. Now there are very beautiful packages but the actual contents aren’t so great… I feel like I’m just paying for packaging.” Ryoko also mentions that gifts have become “more expensive.” Reiko thinks that White Day could afford to change even more: “I think White Day should come before Valentine’s Day so that girls can receive chocolate first and decide whether they want to start dating the boy… that sent them chocolate,” she says. “If you receive a gift first then you can decide to start a relationship.” nagazasshi | March/April 2016

Though no one seems to have particularly strong feelings about White Day, it’s likely that this holiday will continue into the future as a fun, lighthearted tradition. It also seems likely that it will continue to change as people’s attitudes towards relationships, both romantic and non-romantic, evolve with the times. Perhaps we’ll see the return of gyakku choco, or other shifts in which gender gives gifts and when. Personally, the tradition I would most like to see make its way to Japan is South Korea’s Black Day. Us singles need love too! n

With thanks to Jamaal Rowe for helping to secure interviews for this article.

Nagasaki in Bloom A

s the end of March arrives, people across Japan pack up a tarpaulin and a picnic and set up camp under the blooming cherry trees to enjoy hanami (cherry blossom viewing). Cherry blossom season isn’t the only opportunity to enjoy spectacular floral displays in Japan, however. As the year progresses, a huge variety of different flowers, including azaleas, roses, and rhododendrons open their petals and paint the landscape with color. Prime viewing spots will often host delicious food stalls, daytime entertainment, and evening illuminations, meaning that you can really make a day of your visit. So, don’t feel sad once the last cherry blossoms have fallen. Check out our guide below to Nagasaki Prefecture’s most beautiful flower viewing, and plan a post-hanami outing! Photo credits: Unless explicitly stated otherwise, all photos are the property of Nagasaki Convention and Tourism Association. | p. 11 (top two photos): Tulip Festival and Rose Festival ©HUIS TEN BOSCH / J-17118

Nagasaki Convention and Tourism Association (一社)長崎県観光連盟 8 http://www.visit-nagasaki.com


Tulip Festival

Mid-February – Mid-April (particularly: March 21 to April 6)

8 http://www.visit-nagasaki.com/spots/detail/94

Rose Festival

May 9 – June 2

The latter three weeks of May see a million stunning roses of 1,000 varieties create a gorgeous spectacle both in the daytime, and in the evening when they are illuminated with special light displays.

Huis Ten Bosch*

At the height of spring, Nagasaki’s own little slice of Holland explodes into a rainbow of tulips boasting all of spring’s vibrant colors. This Tulip Festival is, in fact, the largest in all of Japan!

8 http://www.visit-nagasaki.com/spots/detail/118 *Please be advised that both tulips and roses may bloom at different times than the above dates, due to the variable climate.

Mt. Inasa Azalea Blossoms

During the latter half of spring, enjoy a different side of Mt. Inasa when 80,000 gorgeous magenta azaleas bloom. Frequent live music performances, singing and kite flying competitions, and a wide variety of energetic outdoor events accompany the flower display.


Late April – Early May, Mt. Inasa

8 http://www.visit-nagasaki.com/spots/detail/98

Omura Flower Festival

Late March – Mid-June, Omura Park


Late spring sees the blooming of 45 varieties of rhododendrons – 5,800 in total. Between late May and mid-June, 30,000 Japanese irises adorn Omura with color. The Romantic Evening illumination of the park will provide a perfect ending to your day. 8 http://www.visit-nagasaki.com/spots/detail/97

Nagushiyama Azalea Festival April 11 – May 6, Mt. Nagushiyama, Saikai National Park

8 http://www.visit-nagasaki.com/spots/detail/99


Between Sasebo and Hirado, the 234-meter peak of Mt. Nagushiyama towers above the Kujuku Islands housing a bounty of over 100,000 azaleas. Festivities include singing, dancing, art and photo contests.

amusing|humorous|rib-tickling|witty|c omic|entertaining|droll|facetious|joc ular| funny |hilarious|side-splitting|h ysterical| in |riotous|uproarious|diver ting| fukuoka |scintillating|farcical|s Jennifer Edwards talks to founder of Comedy lapstick|wacky|zany|killing|silly|comic Fukuoka, Ollie Horn al|laugh-a-minute|by|Jennifer|edwards Jennifer Edwards talks to Comedy Fukuoka founder, Ollie Horn


ust around the corner from Tenjin Station in Fukuoka, on assorted Friday and Saturday nights, C.C. Café will likely be in the throes of a Comedy Fukuoka stand-up show.

Shortly after leaving Hong Kong, he arrived in Fukuoka in late 2014 (to study at Kyushu University) to find there was no local stand-up comedy scene.

Ollie decided that if he wanted to Regularly packed with both foreigners perform stand-up comedy in Fukuoka, and Japanese people laughing at one he’d have to create the opportunity for of Fukuoka’s local comedians, or an himself. The idea for Comedy Fukuoka international headline was born. act - were you to You may not betraipse up the narrow Ollie’s first hurdle was lieve that just over a staircase and edge into finding an appropriate year ago there was the tiny room, you venue, somewhere no stand-up comedy with a stage and, may not believe that just over a year ago more importantly, bar at all in Fukuoka there was no stand-up owners that understood comedy at all in Fukuoka. the atmosphere he was trying to create. He eventually found C.C. Café, which Comedy Fukuoka is the brainchild of lacked a stage and, indeed, anything British Ollie Horn, who first honed considered necessary for a conventional his skills as member of the renowned comedy club. Oxford University comedy society, The Oxford Revue, before experiencing the Yet the owners, despite having never vibrant comedy scene in Hong Kong. heard of stand-up comedy, happily


March/April 2016 | nagazasshi

seemed to “get” what Ollie was trying to do. Within a month, Ollie had built a stage, installed speakers, hung curtains and created a website. Comedy Fukuoka was ready for its first show in January 2015. C.C. Café is small, but feels intimate rather than intimidating. “I really believe that this is the friendliest stage in Asia,” says Ollie, who is particularly proud of the supportive and friendly atmosphere of Comedy Fukuoka’s open mic nights. British comedian Josie Long commented after a recent headline slot that it was the “perfect room for comedy.” Besides creating a friendly environment for local comics to perform, Ollie also wanted to reach out to Fukuoka’s sizable group of expats and tourists. “Tourists especially can find a bit of tranquillity at our comedy nights – hearing their native tongue for two hours in an unfamiliar country.” Yet the nights also attract a decent Japanese crowd, despite the fact that stand-up comedy as a concept does not exist in Japan. Ollie organized Comedy Fukuoka’s first Japanese language stand-up show in May 2015. Multi-award winning comedian Zenjiro,

from Japanese comedy powerhouse Yoshimoto Kogyo, headlined, and local Fukuoka comedians supported with Japanese language sets. The night was a success, and Comedy Fukuoka now runs regular Japanese language comedy nights with both Japanese and non-Japanese comics. Following Comedy Fukuoka performances in Kokura and Korea last year, Ollie is now planning a show in Nagasaki City. Many members of the prefecture’s large international population are already attending the Fukuoka show, people perhaps craving the kind of local English language entertainment that Nagasaki lacks. “Actually, when I came up with the name ‘Comedy Fukuoka’, I was thinking Fukuoka City, not Prefecture,” Ollie laughs. But with plans for future shows in Nagasaki, Kokura and Kumamoto, it seems like “Comedy Kyushu” may be more apt! n You can find out more about Comedy Fukuoka, and see upcoming shows at: 8 http://comedyfukuoka.com

Comedy Fukuoka’s Home: C.C. Café

) 〒810-0001 福岡市中央区 天神3-5-15 銀河ビル3F

( TEL 092791-5444 8 http://cccafe.jimdo.com photo courtesy of Comedy Fukuoka

nagazasshi | March/April 2016



Bringing People Together with In the spirit of April Fools, Conor Hughes recommends satirical comedy duo, Rahmens photo flickr.com/quinnanya


hile it doesn’t receive the same acclaim as other annual celebrations, some of my best memories come from the shenanigans that transpire once a year on April 1st. In good taste, a well-executed April Fool’s prank can endear you to your fellows just as well as kind words or a thoughtfullyworded letter. Though you may not speak your local area’s language with native-level proficiency, humor could be your tool to bond with your community’s culture! You’ll find no better guide for your journey down this kanji-coated rabbit hole than the positively hilarious instructional videos of Japan’s own Rahmens. The comedy duo rose to stardom in the mid-2000s with their informative, deadpan, and deliciously satirical guides to Japanese culture, creating a small library of videos with titles including Sushi, Origami, and “Dogeza” (Japanese-Style formal apologies). The videos themselves are presented with a straight-faced formality and ceremonial flourish that will leave you guessing throughout the act as to if contents are


factual or not. There is only the occasional wink of ridiculousness toward their audience, a reminder that you that you don’t actually have to hold sushi at a 43.5° angle while eating. No, you aren’t expected to fold a perfect replica of Angkor Wat out of a single piece of paper, and digging a hole to hide in is not (entirely) necessary for an apology in the workplace. At the height of their fame, NHK lauded Rahmens as one of the funniest duos in Japan with their sharp delivery and satire. Even subtitled, the duo’s wit and zany antics are evident, soliciting spirited guffaws around the world. Rahmens, and the myriad of foreign language comedians available to view online, serve as a sort of cultural waterslide for expatriates in Japan. All residents of Japan can relate to Japanese comedy, regardless of nationality. So how about taking this plunge by checking out Rahmens and maybe even some other Japanese comedians? Get in the spirit of April Fool’s with what really matters—having a good laugh. n March/April 2016 | nagazasshi


Kanji of the Month In commemoration of Japan’s unique holiday, White Day, we’ve decided to re-examine a basic kanji for you.

白 Onyomi - ハク Kunyomi - しろ、しら As any Japanese 101 student can tell you, 白い (shiroi) means “white.” However, this simple kanji makes an appearance in a variety of words. Here are a few useful and interesting examples: 紅白 (kouhaku) – “Red and white,” colors that take the spotlight for auspicious occasions. 白鳥 (hakuchou) – The “swan,” beautiful as it is unpredic table. Not unlike love! 告白 (kokuhaku) – A student’s ultimate test of courage. This means “confession.” 漂白剤 (hyouhakuzai) – Don’t confuse this for detergent! It’s “bleach!” Also seen as ブリーチ. 腕白 (wanpaku) - “Mischievous,” like when you’re looking for love around White Day. 美白 (bihaku) - Check your sunscreen for this to ensure you’re not getting any “skin whitener.” 面白い (omoshiroi) - “Interesting” or “amusing.” Hopefully your crush won’t have the latter response to your kokuhaku! 白熱電球 (hakunetsu denkyuu) – “Incandescent light bulb,” as opposed to fluorescent (蛍光). For anyone thinking of trying a kokuhaku this White Day, remember that a confession can be as simple as, “I like you,” in Japanese (anata ga suki desu). Use it wisely! We hope you enjoyed this colorful iteration of the Kanji of the Month.

Dan Cohen & Will Morgan

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Nagazasshi 8.5  

Spring isn't just about Sakura! Check out our great cherry blossom viewing alternatives. Plus learn the unlikely origins of White Day, and w...

Nagazasshi 8.5  

Spring isn't just about Sakura! Check out our great cherry blossom viewing alternatives. Plus learn the unlikely origins of White Day, and w...