Saturday, October 15, 2022

All About Japan - Stories, Songs, Crafts and Games for Kids

All About Japan - Stories, Songs, Crafts and Games for Kids

All About Japan - Stories, Songs, Crafts and Games for Kids

by Willamarie Moore

Tuttle Publishing (2017)

ISBN: 978-4805313947
Hardback, 64 pp

All About Japan - Stories, Songs, Crafts and Games for Kids.

Young readers join 10-year-old Yuto and 12-year-old Momoka as they explain all about Japan from a child's perspective. Yuto lives in the countryside with his large (for modern days) family, and Momoka, an only child, lives in Tokyo. Both are fun, active kids involved in many things.

The children talk about their living arrangements. Yuto lives in a traditional old Japanese house, and he explains things like shoji, fusuma, tatami etc., while Momoka lives in a modern 2LDK apartment with many high-tech gadgets.

The children also mention their three favorite places in Japan, a typical day in their lives and Japanese culture; consisting of things schoolchildren are interested in these days such as manga, anime and video games. Their parents will be more drawn to other things explained such as ikebana, kabuki and shodo.

As for activities, readers will learn the ingredients for and how to prepare okonomiyaki, mochi and onigiri, how to fold paper into things like frogs and samurai helmets by using origami, and even the 10 steps necessary to perform in bon dances. If your young one doesn't know how to use chopsticks, that is covered, too. So is writing nengajo, a cultural part of Japan which is fading away, at least among the young.

There are slightly more "academic" sections on things like the myths of the origins of Japanese people and the appearance of Commodore Perry's Black Ships in 1868. Even long-time foreign residents of Japan might learn something if they don't already know about Izanagi and Izanami. The basics of haiku are also covered.

There is little to no kanji in the book except for translations of the few haiku and when readers will learn how to write numbers 1-10 in Japanese. Kanji, hiragana and katakana are all briefly explained.

One of the longest sections, taking about a quarter of the book, regards Japanese holidays and celebrations. Here, subjects such as oshogatsu, kodomo no hi, tanabata and o-bon are touched upon.

The final pages offer a few helpful resources to help children learn about Japan.

The book is large (8.5 x 11 inches, or 21.6 x 28 cm), and the drawings are fun, colorful and level appropriate.

Tuttle, the publisher, recommends this book for 8-12 year-olds. Eight might be a little young for a few of the pages, especially the four-page Japanese folktale of "The Boy Who Drew Cats," but consider it a challenge. Ratings for this read on various sites are high, with one site listing 97% of raters giving it four or five stars. The book won the 2012 Creative Child Magazine Preferred Choice Award.

All About Japan - Stories, Songs, Crafts and Games for Kids.

Buy this book from Amazon USA | UK | Japan

Looking to buy Japanese things directly from Japan? GoodsFromJapan is here to help.

More Japan Book Reviews

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Friday, October 07, 2022

Happi Coats Japan Festival Wear

Happi Coats はっぴ

Dancers in red happi coats with a kinchaku, a drawstring bag, hanging from their obi. Happi coats do not usually have pockets.
Dancers in red happi coats with a kinchaku, a drawstring bag, hanging from their obi. Happi coats do not usually have pockets

The kimono is obviously the best-known item of traditional and contemporary Japanese fashion, but various other garments are gaining prominence recently, chief among them the happi coat.

Most commonly seen on participants in summer festivals, the happi is a simple jacket, usually in bright, primary colors, with a simple design, although each of these features has started to change in modern times.

The happi coat is traditionally a jacket that commonly came down as far as the wearer's hips, though nowadays, especially among yosakoi dancers, longer versions are worn, some as long as down to the calves.

The sleeves are fairly wide and of varying lengths, but completely sleeveless is also possible. The happi is a wrap-around garment and is held by a narrow sash or obi like a kimono, though many times it is simply worn open. The happi is distinguished from the hanten, another kind of jacket that does not wrap-around and is closed using ties. The hanten is usually shorter and, being mostly cold weather wear, thicker and sometimes padded.

Japanese children wearing happi taking part in a festival.
Japanese children wearing happi taking part in a festival

History

Originally the happi seems to have been a kind of uniform, being worn by male servants and with the family mon, or crest, on the back of the garment.

Later other groups, like Edo firefighters, took to wearing it to identify themselves as members of a group, and sometimes in the Edo period women also took to wearing it.

Festival Wear

Nowadays it is most commonly associated with matsuri, festivals, and perhaps the most common style is with a simple, plain happi in one bold color with the kanji for matsuri (祭り) on the back.

At any festival, no matter how small, the people carrying the mikoshi, portable shrine, will all be wearing happi. In larger festivals where different communities "compete", each community will be wearing a different happi coat. Also in matsuri parades each different group of dancers will be wearing their own happi. As well as dance groups, music groups, like taiko troupes, will often wear happi coats as well.

The heri or lapel of a happi coat will often be a different color and carry the name of the group or organization.
The heri or lapel of a happi coat will often be a different color and carry the name of the group or organization

Work Wear

Outside of festivals, workers in many "traditional" Japanese businesses may wear them, such as rickshaw pullers, or izakaya and sushi restaurant staff.

Increasingly happi are worn for civic events such as unveilings and event or building opening ceremonies, and in purely commercial situations, businesses and stores will have staff members wear happi featuring the company name worn for sales events and campaigns.

Members of a traditional taiko drumming group wearing happi coats sporting the group's name on the back. In this shot the three male drummers wear their happi loose, and the two females use an obi.
Members of a traditional taiko drumming group wearing happi coats sporting the group's name on the back. In this shot the three male drummers wear their happi loose, and the two females use an obi

Material

Originally happi were made of cotton, but nowadays polyester and other man-made fibres are increasingly being used. Colors are usually bold, with bright blue and bright red being very common and black or white also popular.

Increasingly, especially with the dramatic rise of yosakoi dance groups who favor longer happi, a wider range of colors and combinations are now appearing.

The lapel, or heri, is usually a contrasting color (often black) and will often carry the name of the group. Decoration has traditionally been fairly simple with traditional emblems or patterns used in contrasting colors, but some happi use an all-over pattern, and increasingly varied decorations and color combinations can be found.

People carrying the shrine during a festival have always worn happi coats in Japan.
People carrying the shrine during a festival have always worn happi coats in Japan

Purchase a Range of Happi Coats from Japan

Purchase a selection of happi coats from GoodsFromJapan

Or contact us if you wish to design your own happi coat

Jake Davies

Gallery

Once quite limited, the designs and color schemes of happi coats are becoming increasingly varied.
Once quite limited, the designs and color schemes of happi coats are becoming increasingly varied
Using increasingly varied color combinations and designs, happi coats are becoming even more popular in modern times.
Using increasingly varied color combinations and designs, happi coats are becoming even more popular in modern times
Tsunagi, or chain-linked, traditional pattern is a common design used on happi coats.
Tsunagi, or chain-linked, traditional pattern is a common design used on happi coats

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Saturday, October 01, 2022

Floating World Japanese Prints Coloring Book

Floating World Japanese Prints Coloring Book: Color your Masterpiece & Clear Your Mind

Floating World Japanese Prints Coloring Book.

Floating World Japanese Prints Coloring Book

by Andrew Vigar

Tuttle Publishing (2016)

ISBN: 978-4805313947
Paperback, 96 pp

Adult coloring books? Are those some kind of modern-day shunga?
Nope. Adult coloring books are a big thing these days, letting children of yesteryear relive their childhoods, relax frayed nerves, show their artistic side or just plain revel in nostalgia.

For Japanophiles, quite possibly the best choice of adult coloring books is Andrew Vigar's Floating World, which consists of copies of 22 Japanese wood block prints, all dating between 1777 and 1930. More than 90% of readers of one book review site rate this book at four or five stars.

The pictures to color are all from the ukiyo-e (literally "pictures of the floating world") genre, and readers will recognize some of them for sure. The most famous print to color, Katsushika Hokusai's "The Great Wave off Kanagawa," is also on the cover of the book. ABC Television news has called the picture, "possibly the most reproduced image in the history of all art."

Floating World Japanese Prints Coloring Book.

But, if you don't care about the history of Japanese wood block prints, you can simply grab your pens or pencils and just start coloring. Some say that the paper is not thick enough for sharpie-based markers, but that seems to not be a consensus opinion. In any case, color pencils will work every time.

Prints include geisha, kabuki actors, flora and fauna, and beautiful scenes/landscapes. Mt. Fuji and cherry blossoms? Of course. The book is 9 x 12 inches (22.9 x 30.5 cm), with some parts of most pictures being very detailed. You can color in great swaths at once, or you can color in fine detail.

After the short opening of two pages of the history and background of wood block prints and ukiyo-e, and two pages of a somewhat-interesting history of the seals on the prints, the book is split into four-page sections.

The first, right-facing pages have 2-5 paragraphs on the artist and/or the history of the print, including the date. The next two pages are the print on the left side and your soon-to-be magnum opus on the right. The fourth pages are blank, save for the name of the previous artwork with the artist's name and year of completion in small letters at the bottom of the page.

Of course, there is no need to copy the original colors. Color in "The Great Wave" as all red, or even chartreuse if you want. There are no art teachers around to give you a low score or unwanted suggestions.

When you are done, leave your masterpieces in the book, or tear them out using the perforations on each page that you've colored.

Hokusai, who is said to have influenced painters such as Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet and Claude DeBussy, has three pictures represented in the book, but Utagawa Hiroshige has the most, with seven. Most of these may be familiar to you, especially "Suijin and Massaki on the Sumida River." Two of Hokusai's contributions come from his famous series entitled, "Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji."

An adult coloring book of Japanese classics by Hokusai, Hiroshige etc.

Buy this book from Amazon USA | UK | Japan

Looking to buy Japanese art directly from Japan? GoodsFromJapan is here to help.

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Thursday, September 22, 2022

変なホテル henn na Hotel は変じゃないホテルー浅草橋

Henn na Hotelーvol.2

前回このブログでオープンしたての「変なホテルー仙台」を紹介しました。

コスパ最高、コロナ感染対策満点の有良ホテルとして取り上げたのですが、今回は東京の浅草橋に泊まってみました!

浅草橋といえば、スカイツリーは目と鼻の先。東京を訪れる観光客にはとっても魅力的なエリアです。

まずは変なホテルの一番の売り、ロボットが受付でお出迎え。

ホテルの特徴その1、受付はロボット.
ホテルの特徴その1、受付はロボット

セルフチェックインなので入力などに少し時間はかかります。

でもその分、宿泊料金(1泊ツイン1人当たり¥3,500~)に還元されているので、これぐらいの手間はまあいいか。非対面なので何より安心。

玄関には電動キックボード「Luup」も設置されています。これで、下町を闊歩するのもいいですね! あと10歳若かったら、絶対トライします。ちなみに20代のカップルは楽しそうに試乗してました(悔し涙)。

電動キックボードもレンタルできる
電動キックボードもレンタルできる

2階フロントでは1時間置きに15人のロボットたちが華麗にダンスを披露。可愛い。シャープが開発した人型ロボットとスマホが合体した作品。ロボットファンには垂涎の的で、これ目当てに訪れる人もいるようです。


さて、お部屋に入ってみましょう。

私が推す変なホテルの特徴その2。アメニティが良いです。この価格帯のホテルだと、ボディシャンプーや髪の毛のシャンプーにそう期待はできません。使った後、髪の毛ゴワゴワ~でも「まっ、しょうがないか」とあきらめることも多いのですが、ここのは香りもチープじゃなく、仕上がりも適度にしっとり。女性客のニーズを掴んでいると思いました。

アメニティは意外と高品質.
アメニティは意外と高品質

そして、前回仙台編でもお伝えしましたが、自動クリーニングマシンの LGstylerで脱いだお洋服をリフレッシュするのもお忘れなく。スチームジェネレーターが、衣類についたしわや、嫌なニオイを除去してくれます。変なホテルチェーンはほぼ全室これを完備しているので、これを使わないと、ここに泊まった意味がありませーん!

シャワーを浴びて一息ついたら、もう夕暮れ。スカイツリーが夏の夜空に光を灯しはじめました。

浅草橋から望むスカイツリー、美しい!
浅草橋から望むスカイツリー、美しい

浅草橋は神田川沿いの下町情緒あふれる街です。小粋なカフェや飲み屋さんも多く、そぞろ歩きにはぴったり。一昔前の時代にタイムスリップしたかのようなレトロで独特の雰囲気があり、外国人にも人気があります(特にフランス人)。私は勝手に「ここは日本のカルチェラタン♪」と思っていて、泊まるなら浅草駅や東京ソラマチ界隈よりも、絶対お薦め。

すみだ葛飾北斎美術館にも近い.
すみだ葛飾北斎美術館にも近い

朝食は地階の「インド料理GANGA」でいただきます。

これが変なホテルの特徴、その3。レストランが面白い。GANGAでは、日本食と本格インドカレーやナンのビュッフェが朝から楽しめます。タンドール窯でチキンも焼きたてですよ!

朝食は本格インド料理と和食のビュッフェ.
朝食は本格インド料理と和食のビュッフェ

ちなみに、「変なホテル―赤坂」にはアイリッシュパブCRAICが階下に入っています。こんな風に変なホテルはローカルの客層も取り込んで、国際色豊かなダイニングを提供しているんです。グローバルな雰囲気に浸れて、毎回お泊まりする楽しみの一つです。

やっぱり今回も「変なホテルhenn na Hotelは変じゃないホテル」でした!

www: 変なホテル―赤坂 henn na Hotelを予約

www: 変なホテル―浅草橋 henn na Hotelを予約

下町歩きにはうってつけ。

Gallery

変なホテル―赤坂.
変なホテル―赤坂
変なホテル―赤坂.
変なホテル―赤坂
変なホテル―赤坂.
変なホテル―赤坂
変なホテル東京浅草橋.
変なホテル東京浅草橋
変なホテル東京浅草橋.
変なホテル東京浅草橋
変なホテル東京浅草橋.
変なホテル東京浅草橋
変なホテル東京浅草橋.
変なホテル東京浅草橋
変なホテル東京浅草橋.
変なホテル東京浅草橋

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Kabosu Juice Oita Prefecture

Oita Kabosu Juice 大分カボスジュース

Kabosu fruit on a tree.
Kabosu fruit on a tree

Kabosu are a southern Japanese citrus fruit, closely related to yuzu. While yuzu, however, are most popular for their peel, kabosu are famous for their juice.

Kabosu juice is essentially used for the same purposes as lemon juice but it has a much stronger acidity and a rich unique aroma - much richer than the mass-produced Californian lemons commonly available at Japanese supermarkets. Thus, people in Kyushu, Japan's main southern island, clearly prefer the kabosu over imported lemon. In many cases, they also replace vinegar with kabosu juice.

Kabosu Fruits

Kabosu fruits grow on evergreen trees sporting sharp thorns. The harvest season is from about late August to early October, depending on the area.

Kabosu are generally harvested while being green and thus unripe - this is the time when their flavor is the best. Kabosu can already be used to full effect in their green state. When stored, kabosu fruits then turn into a bright yellow.

A box of Oita kabosu.
A box of Oita kabosu

Oita Kabosu

While you can find the occasional kabosu tree successfully growing fruits even in the Chichibu Mountains close to Tokyo, the main area for kabosu is Kyushu, and there specifically Oita Prefecture in the northeast of the island.

Oita Prefecture has some kabosu trees more than 100 years old, some are said to be 200 or even close to 300 years old. Such old kabosu trees cannot be found anywhere else. This leads some historians to believe that the fruit is an indigenous Oita Prefecture plant.

Today, Oita Prefecture is the main producer of kabosu in Japan, harvesting more than 5,000 tons of the fruits annually, mostly grown in orchards around the ancient cities of Usuki and Taketa.

Bottle of MOHEJI Oita Kabosu Juice.
Bottle of Moheji Oita Kabosu Juice

Oita Cuisine

Kabosu are an integral part of Oita cuisine, replacing lemon in most local restaurants and used in many households as a daily ingredient. As juice or sliced as a garnish on fish dishes. Kabosu juice gets sprinkled over sashimi, kabosu slices are added to some udon noodle soups, kabosu are also used in a wide variety of sweets.

People in Oita also often add kabosu juice to their shochu. Oita shochu like Shitamachi Napoleon, Nishi no Hoshi and Iichiko are famous all over Japan - they are however best with a bit of kabosu juice added to the shot.

In Oita, people pour kabosu juice into ice cube forms and keep it in their freezer - ready for use throughout the year. In short, in Oita, kabosu are part of daily life.

In recent years, dried and powdered kabosu peel has become a popular ingredient in spice mixes such as the Shichimi Togarashi.

The English-language website of the Oita Prefecture Kabosu Promotion Association gives an informative and richly pictured introduction to the manifold uses of kabosu in the region.

Oita Kabosu Juice

Boxes of freshly harvested Oita kabosu are a popular autumn gift in Japan. Outside of Japan, however, kabosu fruits are hard to come by.

Many countries prohibit the direct import of fresh fruits.

Bottled Oita Kabosu Juice however can be shipped worldwide. It's 100% fruit juice without any additives and ready for use in all the ways freshly pressed kabosu juice is used in Oita Prefecture.

Similar to purely pressed lemon juice, it is highly concentrated and cannot be consumed as a drink as such. Just add a little of the juice to a glass of cold sparkling water and you have a refreshingly sour drink for the still pretty hot late summer / early autumn days in Oita and elsewhere. Add a few drops to a hot black tea and you have a great warming winter tea.

Moheji Oita Kabosu Juice

Numerous companies press, bottle, and ship Oita Kabosu Juice. The bottled juice pictured here comes from Moheji, a Tokyo-based company that, according to its website, is active all over Japan and closely cooperating with producers of traditional agricultural products, striving "to create safe, reliable, and high-quality products that bring out the magic of the ingredients and to deliver authentic flavor and the diverse food culture born in every corner of Japan to our many customers."

Moheji Oita Kabosu Juice comes in 150ml bottles. As the juice is highly concentrated, a bottle or two might last for quite some time if used in a regular family setting. Restaurants, of course, will have a much higher demand.

Unopened bottles stay in good condition for about one year. After opening, the bottles should be kept in the refrigerator.

MOHEJI Oita Kabosu Juice.
Moheji Oita Kabosu Juice

Purchase Moheji Oita Kabosu Juice & A Range of Other Foodstuffs From Japan

You can buy Moheji Oita Kabosu Juice directly from Goods from Japan.

Purchase a range of Japanese foodstuff and drinks from GoodsFromJapan.

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Thursday, August 11, 2022

Jinbei & Samue

Japanese Summer Dresses: Jinbei and Samue 甚平と作務衣

Jinbei are traditional, Japanese summer wear.
Jinbei are traditional, Japanese summer wear

In Japan, beating the summer heat has been a major concern for centuries. From summer retreats in the mountains for the rich to traditional architecture that puts much emphasis on the most thorough ventilation to the creation of refreshing summer drinks - finding ways to alleviate the heat has always been on people's minds. So, it's certainly no surprise that the fashion designers of yore did their best to contribute. One such invention was the jinbei.

A jinbei worn in the Nagano countryside.
A jinbei worn in the Nagano countryside

Jinbei 甚平

With its upper part loosely based on the haori, a traditional jacket worn by men over their kimono, the jinbei of today is a casual combination of short-sleeved light jacket and somewhat Western-style knee-length pants made of cotton or hemp.

The jinbei jacket is held in place by two sets of cords: the right side of the jacket is worn inside and fit into position by the set of cords to the left. The left side is worn outside and fixed by the cords to the right. It's the same principle that also the yukata, the light summer kimono employs. Just that in the case of the jinbei jacket, no obi belt is necessary - the cords do the trick.

The jinbei jacket typically has a pocket on the left side, jinbei pants may or may not have pockets.

Jinbei sets come with jackets and pants in the same color, usually solid indigo, blue, brown,  or black with a muted or no pattern.

The seams connecting the sleeves to the jacket as well as the side seams of the jacket leave space for ventilation, assuring the airy quality of the jacket.

Relaxing in a jinbei in Japan.
Relaxing in a jinbei in Japan

History

The history of the jinbei is up for debate. Though its roots in the haori seem to be quite clear, some fashion historians claim that the design has been based specifically on the jinbaori, a very basic haori worn by samurai over their armor in order to display their kamon, the symbol of their allegiance.

Jinbei jackets more in line with today's style became a fashion in Osaka during the Taisho Period (1912 - 1926). Those were however knee-length and didn't come with trousers.

The current design - a short jacket and short pants - is said to date back to 1965.

Gaps between the jinbei jacket and its sleeves provide good ventilation.
Gaps between the jinbei jacket and its sleeves provide good ventilation

Wearing Jinbei

Jinbei are traditionally men's clothing though jinbei for small children are also popular. Women seem to prefer the yukata over the jinbei when it comes to light summer dress.

Jinbei are considered to be very casual attire. They are typically worn around the house, in the garden or for short walks in the neighborhood, like say, to the convenience store.

While very few middle-aged men can be seen wearing jinbei in public, younger men attending summer festivals often see the jinbei as a comfortable alternative to the yukata. At summer festivals and firework displays you often see groups of young people with the girls in a yukata and the guys in a jinbei.

Some seniors on the other hand tend to show no hesitation in walking in public in a jinbei at all - they might take the train right to Ginza in a jinbei. Some may consider that odd but in general, the reaction is rather, "that's really cool".

Samue are traditional working dresses for monks and farmers.
Samue are traditional working dresses for monks and farmers

Samue 作務衣

The samue comes with long pants but looks otherwise very similar to the jinbei. It has a totally different background, however. While the jinbei is an urban leisure dress, the samue is the traditional working dress for Buddhist monks performing gardening, farming, and other duties maintaining Zen monasteries. This type of work is called samu, hence the name samue for the dress.

Because of its practicality, the samue has also become popular with farmers and gardeners - from there it spread to the city streets as a fashion item. Light, well-ventilated samue are perfect summer fashion.

Since the samue has its roots and is still employed as a work dress, however, there are versions for the other seasons as well. Monks and farmers do need to go out working in the winter, too. So, there are heavy-duty samue that keep you warm even in freezing temperatures.

Purchase samue from GoodsFromJapan.
Purchase samue from GoodsFromJapan

Purchase Jinbei and Samue & A Range of Other Clothing From Japan

If you want to buy a light summer samue, you will find it at Japanese department stores right next to the jinbei line.

For a winter samue, you are best visiting a work clothing store like Workman.

Or simply order jinbei and samue from GoodsFromJapan.

Purchase a range of Japanese clothing from GoodsFromJapan.

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Yuzu Kosho Spice from Kyushu

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© GoodsFromJapan.com

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Ramune - A Taste of Japan's Summer

Ramune ラムネ

Chilled ramune on a hot summer day.
Chilled ramune on a hot summer day

Ramune is a refreshing, Japanese, carbonated drink sold in Codd-neck glass bottles. The drink is a popular staple at summer festivals across the country, it can also frequently be found in small shops near tourist destinations. The more obscure that tourist destination is, the more old-fashioned the shop is, the more likely you are to encounter Ramune.

In a country that sees highly-touted new releases of soft drinks every season by the large beverage companies, ramune survives as a sort of niche product, seen by many Japanese in quite nostalgic terms.

Most Japanese seem to have memories of drinking ramune during a summer trip to the countryside - and of breaking the bottle to retrieve the glass ball from the bottleneck to use it as a marble to play with.

Today's parents buy their children ramune to have them experience those same childhood moments, just the way their own parents did. Thus, ramune lives on through the generations - and children like to play with glass balls no matter what the newest electronic toy may be.

Ramune bottles, Japan.
Ramune bottles

Codd-neck Bottles

The word ramune is a Japanese adaptation of the English word lemonade. Ramune is however not just any lemonade. There are plenty of lemonades in Japan sold in cans and plastic bottles – they can however never be a ramune. To qualify as ramune the drink has to come in a Codd-neck bottle.

The Codd-neck bottle was patented in 1872 by British inventor Hiram Codd as an alternative to the use of cork as a bottle cap for carbonated drinks.

In a Codd-neck bottle, a glass ball, usually called a marble, is pressed against a rubber gasket in the narrow bottleneck close to the lid by the power of the carbonate in the liquid, tightly sealing the bottle by using the power mechanics working inside the bottle. You open the bottle by pushing the glass ball out of its position and into a neighboring chamber within the bottle. The tiny tool to do this comes with the bottle, sealed under the plastic wrapper covering the top.

This demands certain techniques that customers quickly learn, though often only after having a part of the drink shoot out in a gush or by the glass ball falling back into place once they raise the bottle to their mouths. That's all part of the fun, part of those precious childhood memories that make ramune a drink handed over from generation to generation.

Hiram Cobb also introduced the idea of bottle recycling. He started a bottle exchange in London where his bottles could be returned to the original manufacturer. Agents collecting the bottles were paid a fee.

What he didn't count on was the popularity of the glass marbles inside the bottles to children, the main customers of the carbonated soft drinks sold in his licensed bottles. They rather smashed the bottles and used the glass marbles for their own purposes. For playing, for trading.

Hand-drawn ramune poster at a store in Chichibu, Saitama.
Hand-drawn ramune poster at a store in Chichibu, Saitama

Banta

Codd-neck bottles became the rage all over the British Empire but it was the Crown Colony of India where a soft drink was invented that was particularly suited to and, in fact, defined by the mechanics of the Codd-neck bottle: Banta.

The lemon or orange-flavored drink soon went from the posh Colonial clubs into the Indian street markets. Codd-neck bottles were produced by the millions in small glass works. Today. Banta is still one of India's most popular soft drinks.

Opened ramune bottle with bottle opener. The pushed-in glassball can be seen in the upper part of the bottle.
Opened ramune bottle with bottle opener. The pushed-in glass ball can be seen in the upper part of the bottle

History of Ramune

British pharmacist Alexander Cameron Sim (1840-1900) may have known about the success of Banta in India. In any case, shortly after his arrival in the newly-opened port town of Kobe, Japan, he devised his own invention, a lemon-based drink in a Codd-neck bottle that soon became known as ramune.

Introduced in 1884 to the foreign settlement, ramune soon became popular with the Japanese population after an article in the Tokyo Mainichi Shimbun praised the drink's preventative properties against cholera.

Cholera, an infectious disease caused by poor-quality drinking water, was a major concern at the time. Ramune, made from clean mountain water was seen as an easy alternative to drinking the questionable water of the wells within the big cities. As it contained no alcohol, it could also be used as a drink for small children.

Ramune Manufacturers

Today, the production of ramune is regulated by the Law Concerning Adjustment of Business Activities of Large Business Operators to Ensure Opportunities for Business Activities of Small and Medium Enterprises (SME Sector Adjustment Law), a law that also regulates the production of tofu and shochu, for example.

Major beverage companies are not allowed to engage in the production of ramune and have to leave the field to a variety of smaller businesses. Hata Kousen, based in Osaka, might be the most well-known of the ramune manufacturers active today.

Ramune comes in a very wide range of flavors though the most common is still the original lemon / lime flavor. Some people like to add a few drops of lemon juice to the drink - taking out some of its sweetness and adding more freshness.

Retrieving the Marble

In the old days, the rubber gasket at the lid was sealed to the glass bottle, necessitating the destruction of the bottle to retrieve the glass ball inside.

Today, that rubber gasket has been replaced by a plastic cap that can be unscrewed from the bottle. This makes it very easy to take the glass ball out. Just make sure to turn the cap to the right, in the opposite direction of common unscrewing. The marble then easily plops out of the bottle.

Codd-neck Bottles Today

While the Codd-neck bottle was a major invention of the late 19th century, in the course of the 20th century it was almost universally replaced by the much more convenient crown cork.

Very few beverages are still offered in Codd-neck bottles today. The two major drinks among them are India's Banta and Japan's ramune - which makes the bottles collectibles among some aficionados of vintage bottle designs.

Six-pack of Hata Ramune.
A six-pack of Hata Ramune

Purchase Ramune & A Range of Other Drinks From Japan

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by Johannes Schonherr

© GoodsFromJapan.com

Wednesday, July 06, 2022

Yanai Goldfish Lanterns

Unique Goldfish Lanterns of Yanai 柳井市

Kingyo Chochin lanterns, unique to Yanai in Yamaguchi Prefecture.
Kingyo Chochin lanterns, unique to Yanai in Yamaguchi Prefecture

Yanai, a small town in the far western Japanese prefecture of Yamaguchi, is home to unique paper lanterns shaped like goldfish.

Located on the Yanai River a little upstream of where the river empties into the Seto Naikai, the Inland Sea, the tidal river in earlier times was navigable as far as Yanai.

As a result, the town developed and grew as an important port and trading center at a time when the Inland Sea was in essence the most important transportation route in Japan.

Shirakabe Street in Yanai.
Shirakabe Street in Yanai

Edo Period Architecture

A large part of the old town has escaped development and remains essentially as it was in the Edo Period. The town, in fact, is registered as a Historical Preservation District, one of only about 120 in the country.

The main street is lined with buildings displaying one of the common features of merchant towns of the Edo period, white-plastered walls.

Called Shirakabe in Japanese, quite a few tourist areas around Japan have "Shirakabe" streets. Like many of the other similar historic districts in Japan, Yanai has a wide range of local history museums, historic "open houses", interesting gift shops and cafes, and a particularly large soy sauce brewery with a museum. However, what distinguishes Yanai from all the others are the unusual paper lanterns hanging everywhere.

Goldfish lanterns strung above historic buildings in Yanai, Yamaguchi.
Goldfish lanterns strung above historic buildings in Yanai, Yamaguchi

Paper Lanterns

Lanterns made of paper are not an unusual sight in Japan. The classic red lantern, akachochin, hanging outside drinking establishments are well known.

Also many shrines and temples feature paper lanterns, also large numbers of them are hung during festivals with night-time activities such as cherry-blossom viewing parties, and most notably during the Obon period in August where the return of the ancestors is celebrated.

However, the lanterns you see in Yanai are unique and are not round or cylindrical, but shaped like goldfish.

Display of paper lanterns with designs of goldfish during the goldfish lantern festival in Yanai.
Display of paper lanterns with designs of goldfish during the goldfish lantern festival in Yanai

Goldfish

Goldfish, kingyo, have been a popular feature of Japanese summer festivals since the Edo Period, with children playing kingyo sukui, scooping up the tiny fish using a kind of paper scoop. Towards the end of the Edo Period a local merchant named Kumatani Rinzaburo had the idea that maybe the town's kids would enjoy lanterns shaped like goldfish.

The lanterns are made in the same way as traditional lanterns, out of paper and thin strips of bamboo, but with the big, dramatic eyes, and drooping tails and fins, the kingyo chochin are just as decorative during the daytime with the lights off.

Historic streets of Yanai illuminated by unique goldfish lanterns.
Historic streets of Yanai illuminated by unique goldfish lanterns

Kingyo Chochin Festival

The lanterns can be seen all year round along the streets of the old town with hundreds of them hung from the buildings, and are especially delightful when illuminated after dark, but starting in late July even more of the lanterns start to appear, culminating in the town's Kingyo Chochin Festival on August 13th.

Part of the town's Obon celebrations, both banks of the river have large numbers of lantern displays, as well as along Shirakabe Street.

The highlight of the festival are giant goldfish lanterns on floats pulled by local teams. This is very much an influence of the famous Nebuta Festival of Aomori. Bon dances are held alongside an array of traditional festivals stalls, and the culmination is a large firework display.

Goldfish lantern display along the river in Yanai.
Goldfish lantern display along the river in Yanai

Purchase a Range of Lanterns from Japan

Purchase a selection of Yanai lanterns from GoodsFromJapan

Jake Davies

Gallery

In earlier times trading vessels docked at the riverside merchant town of Yanai.
In earlier times trading vessels docked at the riverside merchant town of Yanai
The goldfish lantern has now become the symbol of Yanai, appearing everywhere, even on drain covers.
The goldfish lantern has now become the symbol of Yanai, appearing everywhere, even on manhole covers
Goldfish lanterns strung along a street of historic buildings in Yanai, Yamaguchi.
Goldfish lanterns are strung along a street of historic buildings in Yanai, Yamaguchi
Kingyo chochin, a goldfish lantern from Yanai in Yamaguchi.
Kingyo chochin, a goldfish lantern from Yanai in Yamaguchi

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