Archive for February 2014

Plum blossom festival heralds spring in Kyoto

White and pink plum blossoms and geisha serving tea

A few days ago in Kyoto, geisha served tea and sweet cakes in an outdoor ceremony beneath the plum blossom. This annual Plum Blossom Festival heralds the start of spring and honours a 9th century scholar and poet, Michizane Sugawara, a court official who greatly loved plum blossom. The festival takes place at the Kitano Tenman-gu Shrine, the best place in Kyoto to view the plum blossom: about 1500 plum trees bloom exquisitely throughout the grounds.

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Tags: plum blossom | festival | Kyoto | geisha | maiko | Japanese art | haiku | symbol | design | Japanese kimono

Cranes and kimonos

Flying cranes, red-crowned crane head and vintage kimono

The crane - white-feathered, soaring and graceful - is a popular motif on the Japanese kimono. Not only for its beauty, but for what it symbolises: faithfulness and loyalty. Cranes mates for life and perform elaborate courtship dances to strengthen the bond, circling, leaping dramatically, spreading their wings and throwing up their heads to trumpet in unison. In Japanese tradition, the crane is also fabled to live for a thousand years and is therefore a national symbol of longevity and good fortune as well. For these reasons the crane is an important image in New Year and wedding ceremonies in Japan and is depicted on kimonos - especially wedding kimonos - more than any other bird or animal.

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Tags: crane | Japanese kimono | wedding kimono | vintage kimono | symbol | tradition | design | video

Valentine's Day in Japan

Valentine's Day in Japan heart and girl giving chocolates to boy

They do things differently in Japan. On Valentine's Day it's the girls who give to the boys, and it's always chocolate. A girl can give chocolate to as many men as she likes but the quality and quantity will indicate how she really feels: giving just a little of a cheaper variety ('duty' or 'courtesy' chocolate) is a not-so-subtle message to a work colleague or male acquaintance that he doesn't feature too largely in her dreams. Bestowing expensive, beautifully wrapped chocolates that she may even have made herself ('true feelings' or 'favourite' chocolate) expresses true romantic interest in the recipient. Of course the hapless male may find it difficult to discern the real message.

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Tags: Valentine's Day | White Day | gift | chocolate | 3D printing

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