Here’s a question for the more culinarily-inclined of you out there. Are you feeling hungry right now? Really hungry? So hungry you could eat an elephant? Try this out for size…
3. Mega Sushi Roll
Japan is well-known for its indulgence in ‘micro-cuisine’. Given the Japanese fascination for all things tiny, it is perhaps not surprising that the Japanese eat small too – from the lunchtime staple of the bento [弁当] boxed lunch to the dizzyingly diverse range of sushi dishes being produced in restaurants all over the world (and, so it seems, on every street in Greater London).
“Today I have seen queues at petrol stations of up to two miles. Some shops are open, but there are queues. It seems like you have to listen to local radio to hear what is opening and then head down there. But I’ve also seen people queuing outside shops that aren’t open. Whether they’ve heard they are going to open, I don’t know. We are quite lucky because we live in a fairly new apartment in the city. By half way through yesterday we had water and they got our electricity on.
We couldn’t stand up. The quake never seemed to stop – such powerful shaking for just over a minute. I had to jump on top of the nearest three kids and try to keep them calm even though they and also I were so terrified. The classroom was totally turned over, bookshelves down, the photocopier also fallen down. There are an estimated 10,000 dead in Miyagi, but that’s just an estimate. Some people can’t get in contact because they can’t phone, so hopefully that number will be less.”
Michael Tonge, an English teacher who was at work in Sendai, Miyagi prefecture, at the time the tsunami hit Japan’s northern coast
As the world has been watching Japan this week I thought it fitting to share another Japanese folk tale. This is for everyone who is in Japan or who is waiting for news about friends and loved ones. Spring is on its way. The wonderful symbol of Japan, the sakura, will soon blossom again. Our prayers are with you.
There once was an old man and his wife who lived in a modest house in a small village. The old couple were very kind to all they met. Unfortunately, they lived next door to another man and his wife who were mean and unfriendly. The kind old couple owned a pure white dog named Shiro, and loved him with all their hearts. However, their neighbours hated dogs and threw stones at Shiro whenever the poor dog came too far into their garden.
“Remarkably enough, I know people must think it was a really horrific experience – it’s so much easier to take any form of punishment if you believe you actually deserve it, and I did.
It wasn’t a weekend break, put it that way. I didn’t feel sorry for myself. I thought, ‘Oh my God, this place is absolutely filthy,’ because it was Pentonville. I just thought, you get your head down.”
Singer George Michael, speaking about his prison sentence last September for a drug-fuelled crash into the front of a photo shop in London
“It’s still very difficult for me to tell my family about my life being a lesbian. They know I am a believer, they know I am religious, but going as far as saying I am a lesbian is quite hard. I remember thinking this is the only time I am going to get married, and my family weren’t there.
That was constantly going through my mind – I am having an Islamic nikah, doing as much as I can through my faith, but my family weren’t there.”
Asra, a lesbian muslim woman who has married her partner Sarah through a ‘nikah’ or traditional Muslim wedding rite, despite the faith’s ongoing majority opposition to same-sex marriage
Is it just me, or are we far too easily charmed by silly gimmicks, toys and novelty products?
The other day I discovered a shop in Newcastle city centre which sells (vastly overpriced) items, of which the greatest value to the world could be described as ‘cute factor’; like the Matryoshka Stacked Measuring Spoons or the Mobile Pocket IQ Test, or perhaps the Spinning Petals Flower Fan Which In Fact Doesn’t Cool You Down At All.
Nevertheless, the very fact I stayed inside the shop long enough to gawk at these things persuaded me to dedicate the first of a series of posts to the bizarre novelties which companies come up with to part us with our cash.
There are many stories out there about the faithfulness of dogs. You might have heard one or two of these; maybe you are familiar with the tale of Old Shep, the border collie who followed his beloved owner’s coffin to the train station, and, barred from boarding the train, waited for six years him to return; or of Buddy the black labrador, who braved the sub zero temperatures of mid-winter Alaska to fetch help for his dying master.
It’s less likely you will have heard of the tale of Delta, a dog from Pompeii in 79AD who was found lying in a protective stance across the body of her child owner, preserved forever after the famous eruption. The silver collar around Delta’s neck had survived intact. On it was written the name of her young master, Severinus, and that she had previously saved his life three times; from drowning, from robbers and from a wolf.
Today’s entry to the dōbutsuen is a creature that you may have seen connected with Japan before. The kame is extremely prevalent in Japan’s modern culture but has, as all the dōbutsuen do, a rich folk history.
Many species of turtle are native to Japan’s shores, and so it is no surprise that they feature so strongly in Japanese culture. The kame has long been an important animal in Asian cultures, first as one of the four symbols of the Chinese constellations, Běi Fāng Xuán Wǔ [北方玄武] the Black Tortoise of the North; known in Japan as just Genbu [玄武]. However, the turtle enjoys an extremely unique part of Japanese culture itself.
So far in the study of the dōbutsuen I’ve covered a variety of mammals; so it’s high time for a creature of the feathered variety. When you talk about birds in Japanese culture, there is one in particular which comes to mind; the tsuru, or crane.
Cranes have been an important feature in Japanese art, clothing, literature and especially folklore, for centuries. Their graceful nature has long captured the Japanese imagination and have taken on many different meanings.
Japan’s native religion, Shinto, has far more than one deity. In fact, the Japanese believe that just about everything in nature has a spirit or kami [神] to protect it. As we’ve seen before with such animals as the kitsune [狐] and the tanuki [狸], living creatures are themselves considered sacred and have strong connotations of luck and good fortune.
You can’t go far in Japan without seeing one of its most popular good luck charms, the maneki neko [招き猫] or ‘lucky cat’. Maneki neko are so well-known that they have become national symbols for Japan and are widely recognised throughout the world.