Relocation And Inauguration Flowers

When you find many flowers at the entrance of an office building, hotel, restaurant or store like in the following pictures…

flores4

…the most likely reason is that a new business is being inaugurated or and existing one has relocated. Each flower pot is the present of a client or a business partner. If you can read some Japanese you can identify the name of the companies and the persons that sign the flowers. For example these flowers are a present of the president of Kadokawa:

Japanese inauguration flowers

Another curious thing is that you could guess how wealthy or powerful the company sending the flowers is just by spotting the biggest and most sumptuous flowers, which can cost as much as 1,000 EUR / 1,100 USD.

Japanese inauguration flowers
I found these flowers in this website, it is one of the standard models and costs around 250 EUR / 280 USD.

Japanese inauguration flowers

Japanese inauguration flowers

Japanese inauguration flowers

Japanese inauguration flowers

flores3
This one was sent by a board member of Fuji Xerox

Japanese inauguration flowers

Japanese inauguration flowers

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Sowing Rice And Collecting Stories

Last Summer I visited for the first time an area with rice paddy fields in Chiba. I loved the experience. It was not only the place, but the friends I made there that made me return more times to breath the fresh air of the Japanese countryside.

After a while, I was offered to be a member of an association of rice paddy owners. My first reaction was to reject the offer, it seemed like it was just another thing to worry about in my life. But after some days of thinking about it I remembered one of the wisest advice my friend Zordor has given me:

“In life you should invest in stories”

This thing about the rice paddy fields sounded like a great opportunity to “invest in stories”, so I eventually accepted the offer. During some months it was a hassle to read and sign contracts, to do transfers to the bank of the association, to read the rules of how to maintain the rice fields, to speak with other members on the phone… It was like dealing with one of those secret clubs that characters in Haruki Murakami novels bump into.

After investing so much time, finally the harvest of stories began last week. We put together a group of more than twenty friends and we learned how to sow rice. We lost the fear of sinking in the mud, we learned how to walk without falling into the water and we learned how to put our hand in the mud while you feel a frog walking up your arm. We learned how to plant rice sprouts by using only two fingers just as the farmers in Kurosawa movies do. On top of that we were even interviewed by a local radio in Chiba!

Sowing rice following the traditional way made me understand the importance of Japanese agriculture and its influence in the countryside culture. All the members of our group had to coordinate and work collectively so that the plants will grow aligned. It is very important for the community to work in unison and for everybody to collaborate in order to have a good harvest. Not only in you rice paddy field but also in the neighboring ones.

Thank you very much to all of you that came to help. In September we will collect more stories and we will harvest the rice in our field! :)

Screen Shot 2015-05-08 at 15.55.35

sowing rice in japan

sowing rice in japan

sowing rice in japan

sowing rice in japan

sowing rice in japan

sowing rice in chiba

sowing rice in chiba

sowing rice in chiba

sowing rice in chiba

sowing rice in chiba

sowing rice in chiba

sowing rice in chiba

sowing rice in chiba

sowing rice in chiba

sowing rice in chiba

sowing rice in chiba

sowing rice in chiba

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Sakura 桜

The Sakura is something that I didn’t understand at the beginning. I remember my first years, when I was looking at the flowered cherry trees with indifference, taking a photo from time to time. I recall how I looked with surprise the passion of hundreds of Japanese people gathering around the trees and spending the day chilling. After several years my indifference has been transforming into love of the Sakura. I guess it’s like wine or bitter chocolate, it’s a matter of learning how to appreciate it.

It’s not only one flower, it’s all that is represents. The change from cold to warm weather, from the gray skies of winter to the blue skies of spring which melt with the white of the Sakura. The smiling crowd flooding the streets and the parks of the city, making you forget the non-stopping flow of salaryman dressed with dark suits that clog the subway stations during rush hour.

Although I had been waiting for the arrival of the Sakura, it caught me off guard. I was not expecting it to be so beautiful. It surprises me every time, I don’t get used to it. The problem is that not only it surprises me when it arrives, but also when it leaves. One day you leave home in the morning and you see flowers everywhere, one week later you start seeing petals on the sidewalks, and when you less expect it, the Sakura is gone! Sayonara! See you next spring!

These are some of the photos that I’ve been publishing in my instagram during the last two weeks:

sakura in tokyo

sakura in tokyo

sakura in tokyo

sakura in tokyo

sakura in tokyo

sakura in tokyo

sakura in tokyo

I obtained the last illustration by playing with the app Paper 53 in my iPad. Inspired after painting I wrote a haiku. What is your haiku of the Sakura?

“青空に
さくらのシーツ
春が来た”

In the blue sky,
a sheet of sakura sakura,
spring arrived

sakura8

Related posts:

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Japan's Emperor Celebrates 80th Birthday

Here in Japan we have to work on Christmas but today the 23rd we had a national holiday because it’s the 80th birthday of the Emperor. Akihito is the second Emperor of Japan that has reached 80 years old while being on the throne, just after his father Hirohito achieved the same feat.

Apart from having a free day, if you went near the Imperial Palace you had the opportunity to see the Emperor greeting the commoners.

Emperor Akihito

Source: Mainichi.

Other posts about the Emperor:

Shin-hanga 新版画, Kawase Hasui and Yoshida Hiroshi

Shin-hanga (新版画, new prints) was a Japanese art movement that arose in the early 20th century. It emerged from ukiyo-e art and evolved it a step further bringing new ingredients as for example the use of isometric perspectives. The creative process of shin-hanga artists was the same as the one ukiyo-e artists used. In order to create a work of art it was necessary to draw, carve and print. The shin-hanga prints became very popular among art collectors in United States.

Shin-hanga

Kawase Hasui and Yoshida Hiroshi were the two most important artists of the shin-hanga movement. My favorite of the two is Kawase Hasui, who not only made prints of the most popular places in Japan, but he also liked to represent scenes of daily life in the streets of Tokyo, as if he was taking photos. By seeing his prints we can have an idea of how Japan was one hundred years ago.

Shin-hanga

Shin-hanga

Shin-hanga

Shin-hanga

Shin-hanga

Shin-hanga

Shin-hanga

Shin-hanga

Shin-hanga

Yoshida Hiroshi had a somewhat different style, more influenced by impressionism from the West. He introduced in his works of art light techniques not seen until then in Japanese paintings. He used a more varied color scheme and played with warm and cool colors depending on the situation. He traveled a lot outside of Japan, mostly around United States and Europe. It’s interesting to see his paintings of places around the world such as the Taj Mahal.

Shin-hanga

Shin-hanga

Shin-hanga

Shin-hanga

Shin-hanga

Shin-hanga

Shin-hanga

Shin-hanga

Shin-hanga

During Second World War United States froze the imports of Japanese prints thus bringing the shin-hanga artistic movement to its end.

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Aikido – The Samurai Spirit

I didn’t have much idea about aikido but after watching this 45 minutes documentary I have become quite interested in it. It is fascinating how master Shioda knocks down Robert Kennedy’s bodyguard in a second when he visited Japan in 1966, it seems like he uses a magical technique. In the documentary some of the basic techniques and foundations of aikido are explained: not attacking, concentrating strength in a point and using the energy of the enemy in our favour.

Video via Jim Grisanzio

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Ofuro – お風呂

Ofuro or furo (traditional Japanese bath) is a really deep seated tradition in Japan that has carried on until today. The Japanese routine entails showering at night right before going to bed. After a shower, Japanese people get into a bathtub full of really hot water (approximately 45 ºC / 110 ºF) for a few minutes. They say it’s a very healthy habit to take a bath in such hot water right before bed.

First you have to scrub while sitting on a plastic stool. You don’t use a sponge for scrubbing, but some sort of special “rag”. In order to rinse, you pour water in some sort of vat and then pour it on yourself using some kind of bowl.

Ofuro bowls
Bowls

Ofuro
After scrubbing yourself clean, you can get into the bathtub (ofuro) to relax.

Ofuro
It reminds me a lot of Ranma

If you travel to Japan and want to enjoy this experience, look for public baths (sento). They are a very common sight in Japan and some of them are very well equipped with ofuro, jacuzzi, sauna, gym, a video room, a cybercafé… all in the same premises. Apparently there are also mixed-sex sento, but those are more complicated to find.

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Pachinko

Pachinko are the quintessential Japanese slot machines. They are machines with small marble-like balls that you have to throw and depending on where they land, you receive money or not. On most playing modes, the only thing you can control is the speed at which you throw the balls, so it’s quite a “stupid” game.

Japan is full of pachinko arcades where Japanese people have tons of fun gambling. Those arcades are usually crowded, the noise of the falling balls is deafening, and they blast the music up to encourage people to keep playing. If you ever want to experience pachinko, the way to do it is buying balls at the entrance and then proceeding to sit down at the machine you like best. If you’re lucky, you might leave richer than you came in. Legend has it that professionals devote themselves to study the probability of winning with each machine at a certain arcade; but then it is said that the parameters of every machine are changed from time to time so people can’t cheat…

Pachinko
Pachinko machines

Pachinko
Building full of pachinko machines

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Be bamboo my friend

Bruce Lee said: “Be water my friend”, last weekend Garr Reynolds in his talk at TEDxTokyo said: “Be bamboo my friend”. In that sentence, Garr sums up several lessons Japanese people has taught him using bamboo as a metaphor: what looks weak is strong, you do not have to be big to be strong, bend yourself but don’t break yourself, you have to be deeply rooted yet flexible, slow down your busy mind, you have to be always ready, find wisdom in emptiness, commit yourself to growth and renewal (even a 20 meter bamboo cane can grow one meter more), express your usefulness through simplicity, unleash your power to spring back, if you fall 7 times stand up 8 times. Making it short: be flexible, tough, adaptable and able to recover with even more strength, like bamboo.

Every morning, on my way to work I pass by a place with bamboo canes, from now on every time I pass by there I will remember Garr’s words:

Be like bamboo my friend

Here you have the complete fabulous talk by Garr:

“Be bamboo my friend”

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The dragon that goes up and the dragon that goes down – 昇り龍・降り龍

In one of the temples in Nikko, the ceiling is full of dragons, some of them are holding a ball and others are not.

Dragon up, dragon down, in Nikko

Those that are not holding a ball, are the ones that go up (Nobori Ryu – 昇り龍), they are coming back to the sky. Legend has it that those that are holding a ball are much more powerful. The ball, which they got in the sky, allows them to be able to enter the world of humans, they are the dragons that go down (Kudari Ryu- 降り龍).

That ball which the dragons that go down are holding is known as “zuitama” 瑞玉, ball of good fortune, or maybe “dragon ball” 😉 The legend also says that “zuitama” 瑞玉 balls can bring good fortune to humans and are able to make your dreams come true.

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