Japan - from Asahi to Zen
Traditional terms, and a pop culture glossary through the eyes of a raw gaijin.
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Yago,   Yaku Doshi,   Yakuza,   Yebisu,   Yokohama,   Yugen,   Yukata

"House Name".

Besides their stage names, all Kabuki actors have a house name which they share with other members of the same acting house or "ya".    The principal yago are Korai-ya, Matsushima-ya, Nakamura-ya, Narikoma-ya, Narita-ya, Otowa-ya, Tachibana-ya etc.

Yago are often shouted as Kakegoe.

Yaku Doshi
Bad Years

Certain ages are considered to be unlucky.

  • For men, these are 25, 42 and 61.    Although, 42 is the worst.
  • For women, it's 19, 33 and 37.    For women 33 is said to be a terrible year.

How are these years different?    Why are they bad?    Well they are turning points in life.  Also, your health and mental state are changing at these ages.    So, Japanese people have to take care of themselves, and some people go to a shrine to pray for protection during one of these "difficult" years.    5 yen coins are sometimes used as offerings on these visits.

See Also:    Christmas Cake,   Lucky 5

tatooed yakuza Professional criminal gangs, somewhat akin to the Mafia, but since they are Japanese, they're probably better organised than the Italians. ;-)    They're also the reason why Onsen and Gyms regularly ban people with tatoos - it's a sign of Yakuza membership.

Easily spotted by their tight-perm hairdos, dark glasses and expensive cars, and can be seen cruising around the Kabuki-cho area of Tokyo, next to the Shinjuku station area.
Recent news suggests that the Chinee mafia are pushing the locals out of this stronghold, but I can't confirm this.

chinpira hair A straw poll reveals that only about 1/2 of people think that the Yakuza are actually bad, and they seem to be a pretty widely-accepted part of society here.    On the other hand, there was strong condemnation of the Chinpira - the baby Yakuza, with a reputation for all sorts of petty, and not-so-petty crimes.

beer can Originally I had a plan to try one of each of the Japanese beers stocked by my local supermarket.    I mentioned this to an old hand here, and he soon set me right.    Instead go straight for the best.    Yebisu is the KING of Japanese beers, and compared to asahi or other beers here, it's really not even comparable.

Yebisu is a malt beer, and you can really smell and taste the hops.    It's reasonably priced, is available in bottles, and comes with my personal recommendation.    The finest beer in Japan. (so far)

See Also:    Asahi,   Izakaya,   Sake,   Shochu,   Suntory

Japan's second city, and Tokyo's major port.

Yokohama is Japan's second-largest city, but the claim to be the "Second City", would be hotly disputed by Kyoto and Osaka, if they weren't already claiming to be Japan's real capital! :-)

Yokohama is an unpretentious place, a bustling port, and the most multi-cultural city in Japan.    Basically, that means that there are lots of Chinese and Koreans living there.    Although it was also briefly the home to the Westren Powers in Japan, (along with Nagasaki), and there is still a gaijin cemetary there, full of Christian crosses.

It's nowhere near as cute as nearby Kamakura, but it does have a certain charm.    Eat some delicious food in the largest China Town in Japan, and you can see plenty of graffiti written in a Korean letters.

See Also:    Korea,   Korean,   Kyoto,   Osaka

The subtle and the profound.

Yugen is at the core of the appreciation of beauty and art in Japan.    It values the power to evoke, rather that the ability to state directly.    The principle of Yugen shows that real beauty exists when, through its suggestiveness, only a few words, or few brush strokes, can suggest what has not been said or shown, and hence awaken many inner thoughts and feelings.

The downside of this for the Gaijin is that this aesthetic world is only made possible in a homogeneous people, where members of the community can communicate by what is not said, and everyone understands the same allusions.

See Also:    Arts,   Cha no yu,   Haiku,   Ikebana,   Sabi,   Sumi-e,   Wabi

A loose cotten robe worn as a dressing gown in ryokan.

See Also:    Geta,   Kimono,   Kosode,   Obi

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