Saturday, April 4, 2015

Sakura in my kitchen! めいび~!

I may live thousands of miles away from the cherry blossoms of Ueno Park, but that doesn't mean I can't still enjoy that beautiful Japanese harbinger of spring: sakura are in bloom in my kitchen! Take a look:

Beautiful, two-dimensional sakura...they'll never wilt!
OK, you got me...I don't have a cherry blossom tree anywhere near my kitchen. But April's picture in my Fushimi Inari Taisha calendar on the wall in my kitchen is gorgeous, don't you think?

I picked up the 2015 calendar in January, when we returned to Kyoto's famous shrine. (Even if you haven't been there, it should look somewhat familiar: the background of my blog is from a photo I took during our first visit in March 2013.) The calendar is actually bilingual--flip it one way it's in English, and flip it the other way it's in Japanese--with English and Japanese covers to boot...

Bilingual covers are in English and Japanese
The photo for each month usually has a seasonal theme, too: January's photo was of hatsumode, the first shrine visit of the new year, traditionally done on January 1; February's photo was of the Setsubun Festival on February 3, when dried beans are thrown to cast away demons and evil spirits; and March's photo was of Okushahohaijo, the pavilion where climbers pray for a safe ascent up Mt. Inari (perhaps because temperatures begin to warm up in March with the approach of spring, making a climb up the mountain a little less chilly).
L to R: Hatsumode in January, Setsubun in February, and a shrine pavilion for March
With a Japanese calendar comes a lot of things not seen on other calendars: aside from days of the week and months being marked with their appropriate kanji, there's also the curious text of 平成27年 printed under 2015 (as seen on the middle panel of the photo above). This means "Heisei 27 Year"--or, the 27th year of the Heisei period.

In addition to observing the Gregorian calendar, the Japanese also observe different eras based on the current emperor's reign. The current era began with Heisei 1 on January 8, 1989, the day after the previous emperor, Hirohito, passed away, and his son Akihito took the throne. Hirohito's death marked the end of the Showa period--the name of Hirohito's era, ending at Showa 64--and began Akihito's Heisei period, with "Heisei" meaning "peace everywhere." As per Japanese custom, Hirohito was posthumously named Showa, and is typically referred to as "Emperor Showa" in Japan today; likewise, Emperor Akihito will be posthumously named Heisei.

Want to get your hands on a bona fide Japanese calendar, for this year or next? Aside from actually visiting Japan and picking one up there, websites like J-List will be your best bet: they ship all sorts of goodies from Japan and offer a wide variety of calendars, featuring subjects like anime, Japanese architecture, and traditional Japanese art. I've shopped with them before and highly recommend them! (Naturally, if you're looking for a calendar, it's best to shop toward the end of the year; popular subjects sell out quickly, so their current stock isn't a great representation of what they had at the end of last year.)

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