In Japan the season changes are very abrupt. We have had a terribly hot Summer but Fall arrived last week and we already have rain and cool winds. I would prefer October to be hotter, but it’s quite good to know there’s a sudden temperature change, not for nothing special but to know what to wear each day without having to think much. Despite the stifling hot July and August, this Summer I went out quite often for walks around the streets of Tokyo, mostly around the Western part, to take photos and try to capture the Summer atmosphere in the streets of this great city. Most of the pictures have been taken with my Nikon D90 and my Sigma 10-20mm lens. If you don’t really care if it’s REALLY hot outside, Summer is a good season to visit Japan. Notice that there’s not many people on the streets, they just don’t feel like going out and prefer to stay indoors enjoying their A/C.
My brother has sent me this Pokémon itasha pictures. Itasha is a word used to refer to decorated cars with manga, anime or video game motifs. It’s something that has become quite popular in some otaku circles of certain age that have enough money to afford it.
Japanglish is the kind of humorous English language usually seen around Japan characterized by a poor translation from Japanese to English. The results of those literal translations can be very funny. Japanglish is also known as Engrish.
Honne and Tatemae are two very important terms to understand the behavior of Japanese people within their society. Honne could be defined as the true desires, opinions and thoughts of each individual; while Tatemae refers to how the social obligations and the opinions of each individual adapt to the society in general. It is the “face” that a Japanese person shows in public.
Tatemae is displayed when the words and the true intentions of somebody don’t really match completely. What is expressed in the words of the individual is the Tatemae and what he really thinks is the Honne. This can be found in any country in the world; maybe we could even define it as “hypocrisy” if we translate it in a brutal way. However, in Japan it is something that is used in daily life and not in a negative sense, on the contrary, it considered a virtue to be able to express the Tatemae and the Honne in the proper situations.
From a Western point of view, to conceal the truth is usually not well seen. However in Japan it is very important to maintain harmony, thus most of the time the true feelings and thoughts (Honne) are usually not expressed in a direct way in order to not hurt the feelings of others. We could say that the Tatemae is used as a lubricant in the relations between people. It is also frequently used in companies and the corporate world in general, where established protocols have to be strictly followed.
Let’s suppose that a Japanese person invites us to coffee in their house and at the end of the evening we are asked: Would you like to stay and have dinner? (that is Tatemae, it is something that it’s mandatory to say), the answer should be something like I’m not hungry but thank you very much. This can look kind of stupid and confusing to Western eyes but that’s how things work in Japan. To foreigners living in Japan it’s quite complicated to understand what a Japanese person truly wants and thinks. Another example would be when buying a ticket for some show and they are sold out. The sales clerk won’t answer directly saying “Tickets are sold out”, it is very probable that you will have to wait while he is looking at something in the computer, he will start putting weird faces and say “chotto” (a word that you will hear a lot if you come to Japan), he would even go to talk with his boss, etc. The final result, after making you lose your time there waiting, will be that he will say to you something like “It is very difficult to find available seats… chotto…”; that is the damn Tatemae in action.
Honne is usually displayed outside the working world; for example it exists in the events known as nomikai, where work colleagues gather to chat, eat and drink in an ikazaya (traditional Japanese bar). On those occasions you are supposed to show your Honne, talk about your work problems, family problems, etc; so that your colleagues can help you and give their advice. Nomikai are also the moment to complain about your boss or about the asshole of some other department. Let’s say that alcohol plays an important role when evolving from your Tatemae to your Honne mode. I always say that a Japanese guy/girl after drinking a couple of beers is a COMPLETELY different person that when he/she is completely sober. The most extreme case that I’ve experienced was when a very serious and strict boss from another department that I didn’t know very well came with us to a nomikai. The atmosphere was very formal and tense until he drunk a couple of beers and started to tell me how he got divorced the last weekend, as if I had been a close friend all his life!! In that moment all the books and articles about Japanese culture that I had read came to my mind to know what to do and what to say 😉
The first lightning technologies in Japan arrived from China during the 6th century. The commerce and exchange of technologies with China during that time was very intense. The first kind of lanterns that arrived from China were made of stone and they started being used in Buddhist temples to honor Buddha. This kind of lanterns can still be seen today in many different places in Japan, they are called “ishidouru” 石灯籠 (Stone lantern):
1.- Tourou, 灯籠（とうろう）
Tourou, 灯籠（とうろう): generic term for traditional Japanese lanterns. The main types are:
Ishidourou 石灯籠 : traditional stone lantern. They were the first to be introduced in Japan.
Tsuridourou 釣灯篭: traditional hanging lantern.
Little by little the use of lanterns became also commonplace in Shintoist temples, and in gardens and houses of wealthy people as well. Their aesthetics started to evolve, thus starting to look different from the first designs that arrived from China.
Detailed structure of an ishidourou. Source: aisf.or.jp
Ishidourou that are used in temples differ significantly from the ones used in gardens. The garden ones are usually smaller and wider; while the temple ones are tall and stylized. They are usually made of granite; nowadays they are only used as decoration and they are lighted up only in special celebrations. In the garden in Kill Bill and in the first scene of the movie Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi) some ishidourou can be seen.
Ishidourou in a traditional Japanese garden.
Tsuridourou 釣灯篭 (Hanging lanterns), evolved from ishidourou. The shape of the space where you put the oil to start the fire is similar but instead of being attached to the ground with a granite column they hang from the ceiling; usually they are only seen in temples.
Tsuridourou 釣灯篭 (Hanging lanterns).
If we take the column out and also the cable, then we have a plain lantern, a tourou 灯籠. One of the Summer traditions in many places in Japan consists on making many tourou 灯籠 using paper, lightning them up and leaving them floating on rivers. This tradition is known as tourou nagashi 灯籠流し.
Lanterns ready to be left floating on a river.
Tourou nagashi video.
2.- Chouchin, 提灯（ちょうちん)
Chouchin are another kind of lanterns, much simpler, that also originated in China. They are commonly seen at the entrance of Buddhist temples, in traditional festivals and at the entrance of bars and restaurants. On the contrary to tourou, chouchin are used daily, not only in special celebrations, but instead of oil like the tourou light bulbs are used.
Chouchin at the entrance of a yakitori restaurant.
Finally, andon 行灯 lanterns. They are the most modern, they can usually be seen in interiors in hotels, restaurants and sometimes in small gardens. They usually have a tetrahedron, cylinder or cubic shape and are placed on the ground.
Odaiba is an artificial island located in Tokyo Bay where people usually go for a day trip. It’s not a “mandatory” visit if you visit Tokyo, but if you’re at least 15 days in Japan it could be a good option to spend one day. It is an island where most of the buildings have been built not long ago, there are many museums, research labs, etc. As a whole, you can feel a really modern and high-tech atmosphere. Odaiba is also the island where the cult classic Takeshi’s Castle was recorded.
To get to Odaiba one of the most interesting options is to go to Shimbashi station using the Yamanote line. Once you are in Shimbashi you have to take the Yurikamome line; but before I recommend you to try some great ramen at the first restaurant just out of the north exit.
The Tokyo Monorail, is a line that operates on a special elevated line; during the ride you will see large business buildings and if you are lucky you will see the Shinkansen pass by. The last stretch of the line consists on crossing the famous Rainbow Bridge.
Rainbow Bridge. On the right you can see the Tokyo Tower, and on the left the tallest building is the Mori Tower.
Once you are in Odaiba you will be offered many leaflets with information about the island and advertising of the different places to spend your time. If you like technology and science you can visit the Japan’s National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, where you will be able to see the Honda robot Asimo in action.
One of the most spectacular buildings is the Fuji TV building. Fuji TV is the television channel that broadcast Dragon Ball for the first time and that currently shows One Piece. The building is really easy to recognize, thanks to the enormous spherical structure that is attached to it. There are free access areas for visitors where you can take a picture with the TV channel mascot; and where you will be able to buy merchandising of Dragon Ball and other TV shows.
That’s an old pic of me and the popular blue dog, the mascot of Fuji TV.
Just in front of the Fuji TV building there are two buildings with shops. The most interesting ones are the Sony store that occupies several floors and the Osamu Tezuka shop where you can find all kinds of stuff related to Osamu Tezuka, the so-called father of manga.
Osamu Tezuka shop.
Right next to that building there’s another building with a Sega park, called Joypolis; it’s a huge arcade with the latest Sega arcade machines, but there are also attractions using 3D cinematographic and audio-visual techniques, those where the seat starts to move while watching a movie.
In Odaiba there’s also a replica of the Statue of Liberty of New York. On the picture you can see in the foreground the replica and in the background the Tokyo Tower, a replica of the Eiffel Tower of Paris.
AKB48 is probably the most popular idol-music group at the moment in Japan. They started in 2005 performing every week in a small venue in Akihabara; little by little fans started to increase and this year they reached the number one position in the national sales ranking with the song Sakura no Shiori:
The name of the group, AKB48, comes from the fact that there are 48 girls in the group in total. Because the number of girls is very high they are organized in subgroups of 16 girls; each of them has an idol-girl leader. The members of the team rotate, once they become famous they become independent, and they become actresses or simply they appear on TV shows just showing off their beautiful smile. When some girls move on to other things, new positions open up in the group and they welcome new members; the system is similar to that of the legendary group Morning Musume.
Minami Takahashi, leader of the subgroup A of AKB48.
Sayaka Akimoto, leader of the subgroup B of AKB48.
Yuki Kashiwagi, leader of the subgroup C of AKB48.