Tag Archives: culture

The Anticipation of Going to Canada

It’s only two and a half months until we’re in Canada. It’s been more than five years since I’ve set foot in my home country. But this time, we’re going there to stay. I’m going to miss Japan a lot, and there are things I don’t really want to leave, but there are some things I’m looking forward to. They may not be typical things, though.

  • Landing in Vancouver. We will no longer have to worry about lugging around our six suitcases and three carry on bags. How the hell are we going to get to Narita? Actually, how are we going to get those bags from our home in Fujisawa to my wife’s parents’ house? I’ll be glad when my sister and mom pick us up, and we won’t have to worry about how to get them from place to place.
  • Taking the ferry to Vancouver Island. It’s been nearly twenty years since I’ve taken the ferry. I loved it back then, and I’m sure I’ll love it this time. One of the highlights of traveling to the island.
  • The Rocky Mountains. We’ll be driving back to Edmonton through the mountains. That will be great.
  • University of Victoria. I want to see the campus again. As an alumnus, if I had a card for the alumni association, I could use the library any time I wanted. But I just want to see the campus and the surrounding neighbourhood.
  • Downtown Victoria. I lived downtown for a while, and I spent a lot of time there. It’s beautiful. I really want to see it again.
  • Prairie clouds. The clouds in Japan are nice, but there’s something I never get to see here: huge cumulonimbus clouds that bring thunderstorms. Those things are incredible.
  • Big sky. Here in Japan, there are so many multi-storey buildings everywhere. The streets are narrow, and there aren’t many wide open spaces. The sky seems small here. The prairies have a very big sky.
  • Driving. I like Canada’s roads. I feel comfortable on them. The ones in Japan, not so much.
  • Dill pickle potato chips. I just love them.
  • Harvey’s burgers. I love them, too.
  • Central heating. I like to have a warm home in winter. In Japan, no central heating and poor insulation lead to cold homes in winter.
  • People. Especially friends and family. It’ll be great to see them again. But this time, I want to meet as many of my friends as I can.
  • Travel. From Canada, we should be able to afford to travel more often.
  • Lack of city tax and national health insurance premiums. Those costs are so high in Japan. No city tax for me to pay in Canada, and health insurance is dirt cheap.
  • Carpet. That’s right, carpet. We have hardwood floors, which is fine, if you like them, but I love the feeling of carpet on my feet.
  • Bookstores. I look forward to seeing English books everywhere. That’ll be incredible.

Well, that’s about it for now. Some of them are typical, while others aren’t. Any surprises? Let me know in the comments below.

A New Year in Japan – A Temple Visit with Luck?

We went to another temple, this time Monjuji in Saitama City. I’ve been there before about three times. This time, things were a bit different.

The main gate of the temple.

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The main hall of the temple.

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We went next door, to an attached building, where most of my wife’s family went up for a New Year’s service. My sister-in-law’s husband and I stayed downstairs to watch my daughter and his daughter. The cousins played while we waited. After that was over, it was time for something a bit different.

My daughter got to drink some amazake, a sweet drink available at New Year’s.

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We waited in line to go up to the temple, ring the bells, toss in a coin, and pray or make a wish for the year.

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And then, I got an Omikuji. This is a fortune. I was trying my luck.

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It turns out my fortune said suikichi. That means future luck. So, I should have luck later on this year. It said I shouldn’t rush into things and take my time. When looking for a new job, I should be patient, and one will come. Health will be better, and to stay the course in my studies.

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I wish I had luck after that because when we returned to my wife’s grandparents’, we had lunch. It was a good lunch, and we ate a lot. However, my daughter had diarrhea. We had no change of clothes and ran out of wet wipes. We returned to my wife’s parents’ house and did laundry. I am now waiting for it to dry in a coin laundry.

Well, that’s it for now. We’ll see what’s in store for later.

A New Year in Japan – The Feast

We spent quite a bit of time with various relatives eating a lot of food. I had plenty of meat, shrimp, and egg. But here’s the osechi again. Much more than lunch!

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Afterwards, we are more. My daughter was exhausted from the early morning and lots of walking. She fell asleep around 6 pm.

Well, this is it for today. We did most of the big things today, but who knows what happens tomorrow?

A New Year in Japan – Hatsumode

Hatsumode is a tradition on New Year’s in Japan. It’s the first visit to a temple or shrine in the new year. We went to Wakoin, a temple in Saitama city to visit a grave.

Here’s the main gate of the temple.

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And the main hall of the temple.

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I didn’t take a picture of the cemetery, since that would be considered rude. This is probably the biggest tradition on New Year’s Day. Some people do it at midnight. Temples and shrines are typically quite busy after midnight, and some have thousands or hundreds if thousands if visitors in the first three or four days of the year. Wakoin wasn’t very busy.

One more update for today.

A New Year in Japan – Traditional Food for Lunch

When we arrived at the in-laws’, we got to have some lunch. It was mostly normal fare, but there was also osechi. This is a set box with traditional foods that are eaten at New Year’s. Here’s one osechi set.

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And here’s my daughter eating renkon, or lotus root. She likes it! I’m surprised.

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Next, it was time to go out for Hatsumode. What’s that? Find out in the next post. But before that, here’s a New Year’s display in the in-laws’ house.

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Keep checking back. More to come before the day is over.

A New Year Live Blog

I’m going to try something a bit different this New Year. A kind of live blog where I tell you some of the highlights of our New Year adventure.

Like last year, we plan to see the sun rise at Enoshima early in the morning of January 1st. Then we’ll head up to my wife’s family’s for the big family gathering. Expect pictures of a sunrise (if it’s not cloudy), a train called Romance Car, and plenty of food and drink. I want to do this mostly for my family to see what our New Year is like, because they’ve never experienced a Japanese New Year. It’s the biggest holiday of the year here.  It’s also our last one in Japan. I want to show some great memories.

Who’s interested?

What Do You Think of Turkey?

Turkey is delicious. At least, I think it is. I love eating turkey breast meat with the skin on, smothered in turkey gravy, along with a side of mashed potatoes and gravy. To me, that’s Christmas dinner.

The following day, we can eat more turkey! And having a turkey sandwich with barbecue sauce is great on the third or fourth day. It makes my mouth water. Amazing leftovers.

However, here in Japan, whenever I talk about Christmas dinner, people always say they’re eating chicken. Then, when I mention that I always ate turkey in Canada, they immediately say that turkey doesn’t taste good. They don’t understand how I can eat turkey. I think the problem is that they have such little experience with turkey in Japan, that they don’t actually know what it tastes like. And those who have tried to cook it don’t really know how to cook it so that it isn’t dry. It’s difficult to roast, as the breast meat becomes pretty dry if it’s not properly cooked.

But then, a lot of people in Japan prefer dark meat over white meat on chicken. Chicken breast is very cheap in Japan, which surprised me.

What do you think? Do you like turkey? And do you prefer white or dark meat? Gravy? Let me know in the comments below.

The Christmas Feeling Is Missing

It’s Christmas Eve. Christmas Day begins in less than two hours. But unlike my Christmases in Canada, the ones I’ve had in Japan just don’t feel like Christmas. Not in the same way.

Yes, I have family here. We have presents, though mainly for kids. We have a Christmas dinner. There are Christmas parties. There are Christmas decorations, and even some people cover their houses with lights. Christmas music is all over the place. There are some Christmas TV shows. What’s not the same? What’s not Christmas?

Well, in Japan, Christmas is all commercial. It’s not so much about family, it’s more for the children. It’s not a holiday, so people work. The big difference is that the build-up to Christmas just isn’t there. Well, there is a build-up, but in a totally different way. And the strange thing is that the day after Christmas, all decorations are gone. They’re replaced by New Year’s decorations. New Year’s Day is the biggest holiday in Japan, so that’s understandable. It overshadows Christmas in a big way.

There are many differences between a Canadian Christmas and a Japanese Christmas. And these are things I miss a lot.

  • Christmas dinner – Turkey, mashed potatoes, and gravy. In Japan, it’s Kentucky Fried Chicken.
  • Focus on family – In Japan, the focus is on kids.
  • The relaxing feeling – It’s not relaxing in Japan. It’s basically a day like any other day.
  • The Christmas spirit – People get into Christmas in Canada. Not so much in Japan. It’s not very important.
  • The TV shows – I miss the Garfield, Charlie Brown, Rudolph, and Frosty Christmas specials.
  • Sitting around the Christmas tree – Some people do this in Japan, but it isn’t a major thing.

I think the biggest difference is the anticipation. During December, everyone is anxiously waiting for their holiday to start and spend time with their family. This happens here in Japan, but for New Year’s Day. It’s just a different kind of celebration.

Ever spend Christmas in another country or culture?

Mythology in Science Fiction

Mythology plays a very important part in establishing the culture and world in fantasy novels. It is often the basis for the magic system, the religious beliefs, and the antagonist. There’s often an influence by gods or other supernatural beings, and the amount of power could be limitless.

In science fiction, mythology is quite different. It may not even be present. In Star Wars, the Force is almost mythological. In Dune, the religions have changed so much that they’ve become the new mythology. In the Hyperion Cantos, the Shrike is often regarded as a myth or legend. Much of the time, mythology draws on older religions, but not always.

In my Ariadne universe, there will be a couple cases of new religions and mythologies that develop. One has an origin that will change over time as the centuries pass, but it’s an interesting mix of elemental and old Earth religion, mainly Christianity. The Christianity part fades away, but the basis is there. In the other case, Earth itself becomes almost mythological, and it’s revered by a large portion of the population.

What are some other examples of mythology in science fiction? Let me know in the comments below.

Questions I Want to Answer with Worldbuilding

Worldbuilding is a big task, and there are many things to consider. You can go into as much detail as you want, depending on the scope of your story. You could involve an entire world, or you can keep it to a small pocket of a continent. Whichever it is, you have to answer some questions.  Here are some questions I’d like to answer:

  • Is there skiing?
  • Where do they go on vacation?
  • Where do children play?
  • What kind of literature do they read?
  • Is there any kind of popular music?
  • In that case, are there any idols that young people watch?
  • What kind of weapon do they use for hunting?
  • What kind of fashion trends are there?
  • What are the strange local delicacies that outsiders think are disgusting?
  • Do they go to museums?

These seem a bit random, but they could come up when writing a story, both fantasy and science fiction. You often have to consider the more obscure facts that may not even be normally thought of.

Can you think of any other questions?