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.

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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.

More Japan Book Reviews

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All About Japan - Stories, Songs, Crafts & Games For Kids