CULTURE

What is Omikuji?: Complete Guide to Japanese Fortune Slip

If you visit shrines or temples on New Year’s Day, you may see a lot of people lining up and receiving a small rectangle paper. People seem to read it carefully, and some people smile and others frown. What are they exactly doing there? They are reading a fortune slip called Omikuji, which is a popular thing to do all year round, but especially popular on New Year’s Day to test the new year’s luck. This article is going to feature the secret and attractions of Omikuji. What is Omikuji? Omikuji is a paper slip with the result of fortune-telling written on it. Many Japanese shrines and temples offer this […] …continue reading

    

Talented Japanese paper cutout artist creates incredibly realistic glassware and plastic bottles

Source: grapee.jp

Japanese paper cutout artist SouMa (@SouMaNoKirie) posted four photos on her Twitter account, eliciting many reactions of surprise and disbelief.

The pictures look like glasses and plastic bottles. The glasses, in particular, show the beauty of the delicate patterns even more clearly due to the reflection of the light.

However, as you can probably guess, the photos were not of real glasses or plastic bottles. Rather, they were of the artist’s paper cutouts!

No matter how hard you stare at them, they look like the real thing!

全て、切り絵作品です。。 pic.twitter.com/Ui9vJkuRDu

— SouMa 立体切り絵作家 (@SouMaNoKirie) November 6, 2021

“They’re all paper cutouts…”



Reproduced with permission from SouMa (@SouMaNoKirie)

SouMa’s works are made by cutting thin washi traditional Japanese paper with a utility knife.

When you think that the luster of the glass, the delicate patterns, and the realistic texture of ice and water are all expressed using only paper, you get a sense for SouMa’s amazing powers of concentration and skill.

Even if you know it’s a paper cutout, it’s hard to believe.

Many people praised her works, leaving comments such as:

  • ” ‘If it’s not a photograph, then it must be a painting,’ I thought. A paper cutout? That’s even more amazing!”
  • “I can’t understand how she does this…”
  • “There are truly amazing geniuses in this world.”

SouMa’s works surpass most people’s expectations of what paper cutouts look like. Many people were blown away by her work.

…continue reading

    

A mysterious “Fox Wedding” procession appears in a Japanese city on Halloween night

Source: grapee.jp

On Halloween night, October 31st, 2021, residents of Kagoshima City were treated to a “fox wedding” procession.

There are many legends about “fox weddings,” known in Japanese as 狐の嫁入り kitsune no yomeiri. It either refers to atmospheric ghost lights similar to will-o’-wisps which appear as if paper lanterns are floating through the dark, or to other strange wedding processions as described in ghost stories. According to Japanese folklore, foxes have the ability to change their appearance and sometimes appear as humans. Therefore, it’s perfect for Halloween night.

The mask artist Genkūdō 幻空堂 (@genkudou) has been organizing a kitsune no yomeiri procession and inviting people to participate for the past five years.

The austere procession of the fox-masked and kimono-clad women through downtown Kagoshima was so authentic that observers surely felt as if the members had been transported in time to the present. The unusual sight attracted many people.

#幻空堂 #お狐ハロウィン #狐の嫁入り
撮影:オニシ氏 pic.twitter.com/OxuogcyE0g

— 幻空堂 (@genkudou) November 1, 2021


Images used with permission from Genkūdō 幻空堂 (@genkudou)

“Photo: Onishi”

You can see from the photos that people on the street stopped to look at them. There were also rave reviews from Twitter users, such as:

  • “It’s amazing! I’d love to see this in person.”
  • “These people are here every year. It’s already a tradition.”
  • “Rather than a masquerade, it looks like the ‘night parade of 100 demons’ is about to begin.”

Even if there were real foxes disguised as humans in the parade, no one would have noticed. Everyone was fascinated by this mysterious procession that appeared on Halloween night.

…continue reading

    

Japanese Ema – All You Need To Know About These Wooden Wishing Plaques

Japanese Ema Wooden Wishing Plaques 5

Japanese Ema are small wooden wishing plaques that you may have seen before in Japanese Shinto shrines. They have been used for centuries to send prayers. Essentially people purchase a small plaque, write their wishes on them, and dedicate them to the gods. You’ll discover them hung or tied together in an overlapping manner in certain areas called ‘dedication’ areas.

Similar to Tanzaku during Tanabata celebrations, people will generally write freely about what they wish for on Japanese Ema. The most common wishes revolve around love and relationships, career success, academic achievement, and health and prosperity. However, you can wish for whatever you like, really!

The History of Japanese Ema

The word ‘Ema’ consists of two Kanji characters: picture and horse, and hence, the most traditional type of Japanese Ema will feature a picture of a horse. However, this tradition actually descended from a real horse!

In the late Nara period, people often dedicated their horses to the shrines as an offering to the gods who would then hopefully grant their wishes. Horses were believed to be ‘vehicles of gods’ and thus were considered the highest level of offering.

However, it gradually began to become too expensive to donate horses, and thus the Japanese Ema, the ‘picture horse’, was born.

Japanese Ema Wooden Wishing Plaques 6

These days, whilst the traditional Ema with the horse image is still widely available, there are many more types of ema available. For example, at Inari Shrines, you will likely encounter Inari Ema instead. You can even come across anime-themed Ema if you travel to enough Shinto shrines!

Where To Find Japanese Ema

<img title="Japanese Ema Wooden Wishing Plaques 3" src="https://cdn.statically.io/img/sugoii-japan.com/f=auto%2Cq=20/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/Japanese-Ema-Wooden-Wishing-Plaques-3.jpg" alt="Japanese Ema Wooden Wishing Plaques 3" width="1000" height="664" …continue reading

    

Traditional doll maker unveils Raikou kimekomi doll in celebration of upcoming zodiac year

Source: grapee.jp

Ornamental dolls play quite a big role in Japanese tradition and culture, and as such, there’s quite a variety when it comes to their types.
Perhaps the most commonly displayed are the hina dolls, which, during the three days of Hinamatsuri in March, fill tiered platforms as part of a celebratory tradition which prays for the good health and wellbeing of growing girls. Other popular and commonly displayed dolls include the kokeshi dolls of the Tohoku region, as well as daruma dolls which are believed to be bringers of good luck.
A lesser known type of doll is the beautifully handcrafted kimekomi doll.

Sometimes known as ‘wood and cloth dolls’, or Kamo-ningyo, kimekomi dolls are believed to have been first invented in the middle of the 18th century by Takahashi Tadashige, a carving artist who was serving at Kyoto’s Kamigamo Shrine.
These first dolls carved by Takahashi are said to have been made of willow tree wood. After shaping, Takahashi would wrap the carving in kimono material which he would attach to grooves cut into the wood. This technique of fixing material to the carving earned the doll the name ‘wood and cloth dolls’; and despite the declined use of willow tree wood, the traditional method of ‘dressing’ kimekomi dolls is still used by craftsmen today.

As for why these dolls aren’t as well known as their hinamatsuri counterparts, that could be down to the fact that only one doll-making company has ever been officially certified as a kimekomi crafting company by Kamigamo Shrine.
The sole owner of that approval is Mataro Ningyo, a traditional Japanese doll-making company that was founded back in 1919.

Though the majority of Mataro Ningyo’s lineup features dolls inspired by Japanese mythological figures, the company has recently begun to offer a collection of dolls that merge the traditional …continue reading

    

10 Japanese Movie Directors Who Have Shaped Japan’s Cinema 

Japanese cinema is often lauded as bringing to life some of the most fantastical and bizarre, but also relatable and thought-provoking works. Coming into prominence around the world in the mid-1900s, many Japanese movie directors have made a name for themselves with seemingly controversial and/or extraordinary techniques that deviate vastly from the recognised western storytelling.

The wide range of Japanese movies means that there is always the perfect choice for all situations: whether you’re in for an effortless viewing on a lazy Sunday afternoon, or keen for an over-the-top action/horror thriller that will leave you feeling all kinds of squeamish.

10 Popular Japanese Movie Directors You Should Know

We’ve listed below 10 Japanese movie directors who have shaped Japan’s cinema experience, with some prime examples of their work for you to watch.

  1. Hayao Miyazaki
  2. Takeshi Kitano
  3. Takeshi Miike
  4. Akira Kurosawa
  5. Hideaki Anno
  6. Kon Ichikawa
  7. Hirokazu Kore-eda
  8. Nagashi Oshima
  9. Koji Wakamatsu
  10. Kenji Mizoguchi

Let’s discover each of them in more details below.

1. Hayao Miyazaki

Hayao Miyazaki is synonymous with Japanese cinema. Thanks to his stunning visuals and captivatingly unique storytelling, anime has become one of the most recognised and respectable artforms in the cinematic world.

Hayao has directed many animations in his lifetime but his crown jewel would be ‘Spirited Away’, a 2001 film about a young girl involved in a fantasy dream which broke the previous box-record held by ‘Titanic’ and even won an Oscar.



His studio, from which the likes of Princess Mononoke and Howl’s Moving Castle also come from, is known for its unique strong and meditative protagonists and passive, often misunderstood villains.

2. Takeshi Kitano

Best Japanese Directors - Takeshi Kitano

Also known as one half of the nationally recognised ‘Two Beat Duo’, Takeshi Kitano is a renowned …continue reading