Japan - from Asahi to Zen
Traditional terms, and a pop culture glossary through the eyes of a raw gaijin.
Glosary Index            Mail Me            Home

A   B   C   D   E   F   G   H   I   J   K   L   M   N   O   P   Q   R   S   T   U   V   W   X   Y   Z  

I-go,   Ikebana,   Inari,   Inkan,   Inland Sea,   International Night,   Irori,   It's Possible,   Izakaya

I-go ( Go )
Go is an originally-Chinese 2-player boardgame introduced to Japan in the seventh century.

a game of go It consists of a 19x19 board, with vertical and horizontal lines which intersect at 361 points, called eyes (me).    Players take turns placing black or white stones on one of these points, attempting to capture the opponent's stones.    The one who gains the most territory and captures the most stones is the winner.

The stronger player takes control of the white stones and the weaker player uses black.    Before the start of a game, the players assess their relative strengths and the the black player is given a number of "free" stones placed on the board before the game begins properly.    In this way players of different abilities can still have an even game.

See Also:    Mah Jong

ikebana display The Art of Flower Arrangement, also known as Kado.

A longstanding traditional art in Japan, which was originally developed by and for the men of the upper classes.    It has flourished since it was practiced by the Geisha in the sixteenth century and, much like the Tea Ceremony, it can easily be seen as an exclusively female art form, which it was never intended to be.

It is said to have originated when monks offered up flowers to Buddha, as early as the sixth century.    Although the first written records date from the 11th century feminine-orientated Heian Period, when people enjoyed flowers placed in simple vases.

In the later Kamakura Period the followers of Bushido used these flower arrangements to display concepts of power, eternity, structure and territory.

Today there are many different styles of Ikebana, and the art is practiced worldwide.    For an explanation of the different schools of ikebana and to see some beautiful displays using those styles, take a look at Ikebana World.

See Also:    Arts,   Cha no yu,   Geisha,   Kamakura Period,   Sabi,   Wabi,   Yugen

The Shinto god of Harvests.

Often represented by his fox-messenger.

Inkan    ( Hanko )
stamp and laptop contrast Inkan Seals are small cylinders, about 5cm long, and 1cm across.

Your name is carved into one end, which is then dipped into red ink and stamped onto paper to "sign" your name.

This works as the equivalent of a binding legal signature in the West.    As such, it is important to choose your seal carefully, and have it registered at city hall.

The Inland Sea
The sea surounded by the islands of Shikoku, Kyushu and southern Honshu.

a map showing the inland sea area The Inland Sea contains thousands of tiny islands and is considered one of the most beautiful spots in Japan.    So much has been written about these beauty spots, but hey, why not go and see it for yourself?

See Also:    Regions

International Night
A party, for Japanese Girls, and Gaijin Guys, only.

For a Japanese girl there's something of a stigma attached to dating a foreigner.    However, these nights are arranged to facilitate just this, and are held about every two weeks in Tokyo.

Ignoring the shame of dating a foreigner is a big step, and most Japanese women wouldn't consider it.    Those that do are usually driven to do so because it is their last option to find someone.    Many of them are Christmas Cakes, others are divorced, others are just seeking to escape being married to a salaryman.

For the Gaijin, International Nights are a great way to meet English-speaking single Japanese girls, who are looking for a foreign boyfriend.    Despite this, some resident ex-pats dislike these events, because they feel that the women there are only looking for a way out of Japan.    Elsewhere in Asia, it's very common to find a girlfriend, only to discover that you've really just found someone looking for a passport to a richer country.    In Japan, the situation is similar, but the women are trying to escape cultural rather than economic hardships.

See Also:    Christmas Cake,   Gaijin,   Gaijin Groupie,   Office Lady,   Salaryman

irori fireplace A traditional Japanese fireplace.

The traditional predecessor to the modern kotatsu, an irori is an open fireplace placed in the center of a tatami room.    It was used both for warming people and cooking food - which was suspended from a fish-like hook on a chain hanging from the ceiling.    Even though irori's have mostly disappeared, these chains and "fish" hooks can still be seen, if not easily understood. :-)

Irori's mostly died out with the coming of electricity to rural societies.  They blackened the walls.  They were a fire hazard, and most of all, they were 'old-fashioned' and backward.

On the other hand, some people felt that they generated a communal seating, a focal-point for social interaction, as families and communities came together to eat, drink and be merry.   Just remember, build the fire with the logs reaching from the corners down into the center - unless you want to wake up with a bigger fire than you bargained for!

See Also:    Fusuma,   Futon,   Genkan,   Kotatsu,   Shoji,   Tatami,   Tokonoma,   Windchimes

It's Possible
It is not in fact possible.
It is totally impossible.
However, I'm not going to
  • embarrass you
  • admit something shameful
by saying it is impossible.
If you weren't such a crazy Gaijin you would already know it wasn't possible, and woulnd't ask such an embarrassingly direct question anyway.

See Also:    Honne to Tatemae,   Maybe

salarymen in an izakaya A Japanese-style Pub

The liqour served is mostly Sake, Shochu, and of course beer, but also food is usually ordered along with the drinks.    Typical dishes include grilled bits of chicken (including cartilage), Sashimi, various types of hotpot, or often some tempura.   

The more traditional, family-run izakaya are down'n'dirty haunts of the hard-drinking Salaryman, however more recently, increasing numbers of upsacle chain-Izakaya are spriging up.    Franchise such as Amatoro or Wala Wala are popular with both men and women alike.

A   B   C   D   E   F   G   H   I   J   K   L   M   N   O   P   Q   R   S   T   U   V   W   X   Y   Z  

Top Of Page Glossary Index Melmoth's Home Page