Meeting The Furumachi Geigi, The Geishas From Niigata

Furumachi Geigi Geisha Niigata 3

Who doesn’t think of geisha when it comes to Japanese culture? These versatile artists who contribute significantly to the preservation of Japanese traditions and customs are usually associated with the city of Kyoto and the Gion district in particular where unique styles of traditional dance are taught.

But geisha can actually be found all over Japan. We’re meeting the geisha from Niigata today. They are usually referred to as geigi and can be quite different from the geisha you would meet in other Japanese regions.

Geigi culture has developed in the Furumachi district of Niigata and these outstanding artists have a fascinating history. Let’s take a look at some of its most interesting bits!

The History Behind Niigata’s Furumachi Geigi

The history of geigi is intimately linked to the economic development of Niigata. Located along the seacoast in the Tohoku region, such a strategic spot has established Niigata as an important port city on the Kitamaebune trade route.

During the Edo period, Niigata was just as vast and prosperous as other major Japanese cities such as Osaka and Tokyo. Many wealthy merchants were staying in Niigata for business and were searching for fancy and sophisticated experiences. This lead to some restaurants integrating geisha shows as part of their services, especially in the Furumachi district.

Niigata’s geigi have been around for more than 200 years and are now considered an integral part of the region’s cultural heritage.

Lunch at Ikinariya Ryotei

Furumachi Geigi Geisha Niigata 9

We decided to go to the Ikinariya Ryotei to meet Niigata’s geigi. Ryotei are traditional restaurants that usually accept new customers by referral …continue reading

    

Discover Yamabushi, The Mountains Monks Of Dewa Sanzan In Yamagata

Dewa Sanzan Shrine Yamagata - Yamabushi 7 Mt Haguro

Yamabushi (literally one who prostrates himself on the mountain) are mountain monks whose life philosophy is based on their close relationship with nature. They can be found in the mountains of Dewa Sanzan, in Yamagata prefecture.

Let’s find out more about these mysterious mountain hermits!

History of Yamabushi and Shugendo

Shintoism had been the main religion in Japan until the 6th century when Buddhism was introduced in the country from the Korean peninsula. At that time, religion was a useful tool to maintain a strong central power and the advent of Buddhism had the potential to challenge that balance of power. The emperor of Japan was Shintoist and believed to be a direct descendant of the Shinto goddess Amaterasu.

Buddhism was finally allowed and the two spiritualities lived in harmony in Japan. In the 8th century, Shugendo was born from a fusion between Shinto and esoteric Buddhism. The main pillar of this life philosophy is the strong relationship between man and nature.

Shugendo practitioners are called Yamabushi. At the beginning, they practiced their religion in solitude but then they started to gather around mountainous areas, the most famous of which is Dewa Sanzan in Yamagata.

Dewa Sanzan – The 3 Sacred Mountains of Dewa

Dewa Sanzan Shrine Yamagata - Yamabushi 12 Mt Haguro

Dewa Sanzan means “the 3 mountains of Dewa”. It is a sacred place composed of 3 mountains:

  • Mount Haguro or Haguro-san,
  • Mount Gassan,
  • Mount Yudono or Yudono-san.

It was Prince Hachiko, the son of Emperor Sushun, who first made the Dewa Sanzan mountains a religious site back in 593.

Over the years, these mountains have become a popular pilgrimage site and the …continue reading

    

Serve up incredibly easy to make roast beef for Christmas with this rice cooker recipe

Source: grapee.jp

A Christmas dinner menu in Japan typically consists of the now long tradition of grabbing some KFC and a slice of Christmas cake. That means most rice cookers have the day off (unless you happen to own a truly awesome one that makes curry and rice at the same time).

Japanese Twitter user Mugi Rice (@HG7654321) may have give us all a reason to fire up our rice cookers this holiday season, however, with an incredibly simple easy-made rice cooker for Christmas roast beef!

Mugi Rice provided pictures and an easy-to-follow recipe based off the following shortlist of ingredients:

Beef Round Block, 300-500g (10-17oz)

2 tablespoons of butter

Salt and pepper to taste

First, fill the rice cooker halfway with water and heat it up in the keep warm mode. Take the beef thigh block out of the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature for an hour or two.

Grill the room temperature beef block with salt and pepper, then place it in a freezer bag with a heatproof temperature of 100℃ along with 2 tablespoons of butter.

When closing the freezer bag, the key is to close the bag in a way that allows air to escape.

Once the mouth of the freezer bag is closed, place it into the rice cooker’s water that has been pre-warmed.

Source: @HG7654321
Source: @HG7654321

After 30 minutes in the rice cooker, cool the freezer bag in ice water.

Use a knife to cut it into desired sizes and you’re done! While coloring may depend on your grilling, Mugi Rice’s instructions result in an easy-to-make serving of roast beef that’s perfectly cooked.

…continue reading

    

How To Learn Japanese With Anime – 6 Tips You Should Start To Use Now

Learn Japanese with Anime 2

Learn Japanese With Anime – For many foreigners, learning Japanese is a wild and exciting but often daunting ride. Many people will delve into the world of anime for the first time and be utterly fascinated with the language. This, of course, always comes with the passion to learn and understand what some of their favourite characters are saying!

However, with huge pronunciation differences and phonetic disparities with the English language, Japanese is not exactly easy to pick up. If you’ve tried to study this language before, you know exactly what we’re talking about!

An innovative way that many people have attempted to learn more Japanese is via anime. Now, we know this may sound super fun and exciting at first, but it’s not quite like that.

Watching anime and picking out some well-known words such as ‘kawaii’ and ‘senpai’ is completely different to actually trying to learn the dialogue and ultimately the language.

If you’re keen to try and learn Japanese with anime though, here are some helpful tips!

1. (The Scariest Tip!) Remove English Subtitles

This is by far the most daunting thing you can do whilst watching anime, especially if you’ve never tried to properly study the Japanese language before. However, just as with many new hobbies and activities, throwing yourself into the deep end may just do the trick!

If you’ve just started watching anime, we recommend watching a few series’ before attempting this.

If you’re a seasoned anime-watcher, this is for you!

Whilst you definitely won’t be able to understand much of the conversations going on, you’ll be amazed by how many little phrases you’ll be able to pick up. Watch their expressions, interpret their body language, understand the situation, and you’ll find that you’ll likely understand what they’re trying to saying even without fully understanding the words just yet.

But don’t worry, …continue reading

    

Japanese illustrator leaves his creative stamp and a good dose of UFO humor on an envelope

Source: grapee.jp

With the spread of smartphones and computers, there are fewer opportunities to send letters to friends and family members.

However, sometimes we like to send hand-written messages the good old-fashioned way to our loved ones for birthdays, weddings and other special occasions.

For those who want to go the extra mile or those who truly enjoy letter-writing on a regular basis, stamps can be more than a practical necessity. They can figure into the entire design of the letter which comprises everything from the choice of letter paper, writing instrument, ink, envelope, stamps, stickers, labels, and even monogrammed wax seals if you’re getting fancy.

Take a look at this arrangement of stamps, including an original one made by illustrator 百瀬ガンジィ Gandhi Momose (@abaraharawata).

You can be sure that it made the recipient smile!

今年もいろいろ作ったけど一番テンション上がったの「UFO切手で作った前島密のキャトルミューティレーション」かもしれない

隣のニホンカモシカが上に引っ張られている感があるのも良い pic.twitter.com/JmFS0d68KZ

— 百瀬ガンジィ (@abaraharawata) December 1, 2021

Reproduced with permission from 百瀬ガンジィ Gandhi Momose (@abaraharawata)

“I’ve made a lot of things this year, but the one I’m most excited about might be “Hisoka Maejima’s cattle mutilation* made with UFO stamps”. I also like the way the Japanese serow next to him looks like he’s being pulled upwards.”

* In a common mistranslation, the term キャトルミューティレーション, literally “cattle mutilation,” is often confused with “alien abduction” in Japanese.
Baron Maejima Hisoka 前島密 (1835-1919) was a Meiji-era statesman, politician, and businessman who founded the Japanese postal service.

The three stamps below are arranged so it looks like the Baron, a Japanese serow and a Japanese macaque mother and baby are being abducted by the UFO!

Of courses, the original stamp is the one at the top!

Japan Post Co., Ltd. offers a service whereby you can create original stamps with your own design, so anyone can easily create their own stamps.

Momose designed an envelope to match the design of his …continue reading

    

The best way to eat McDonald’s Japan’s new Beef Stew Pie

Source: grapee.jp

While nowhere near as unfortunately named as their Adult Cream Pie, McDonald’s Japan has decided to ramp up their pie offerings, this time with a savory stew pie just in time to brave the winter cold.

The new Beef Stew Pie is made is made by slowly simmering beef and vegetables such as potatoes to bring out their flavor in a savory stew made all the richer by Fond de Veau veal stock.

The Beef Stew Pie is marketed under the slogan “Pie wa Ai da”, or “Pie is love” in English, in a humorous romantic campaign as Christmas is viewed a bit as a couple’s holiday in Japan. Each pie comes in a package featuring one of five romantic pie-punned slogans as well. The commercial shows off the theme of the campaign:

❤ビーフシチューパイ❤テレビCM初公開❤

やさしく包み込む…
想いがつまってる…
一気にあふれ出す…#パイは愛だ

???

ビーフシチュー愛にあふれた瞬間をご覧ください?

新作パイ #ビーフシチューパイ が12/8(水)新登場✨?
食べたらあなたも♪エンッダーーーーー!!https://t.co/sWrxCuAnrW pic.twitter.com/0t9LaoPWLE

— マクドナルド (@McDonaldsJapan) December 2, 2021

Sincere its release earlier this month, McDonald’s Beef Stew Pie has been getting quite a bit of praise and positive reviews online, with many praising the rich flavor and meaty volume of the pies as authentic. However, we found a common consensus among those praising the winter treat, and that’s that the Beef Stew Pie is best enjoyed with a pair of McDonald’s French Fries.

Wanting to test out the combination for ourselves, we set out to our nearby McDonald’s to acquire the two.

(c) grape Japan

Our Beef Stew Pie came with the loving message “Embraced lovingly. Pie is love.”

(c) grape Japan

Opening up the pie, we found it to be as pleasantly voluminous as many who tried it had said, and were welcomed by the aroma of slow-cooked meat and vegetables. The pie’s casing is actually quite crispy …continue reading

    

Enjoy the New Year with the whole family with this dog friendly Osechi-ryōri

Source: grapee.jp

Whilst the west focuses on starting the new year with a lovers kiss, in Japan the celebrations put an emphasis on spending time with family. For those of us with dogs, that means sharing that special moment with our fur babies too – and what better way is there to get them excited about 2022 than with their very own Osechi-ryōri set.

A traditional part of the Japanese new year, Osechi-ryōri is a selection of dishes all put together in an elaborately decorated stacked bento box. Each dish holds a special meaning and is selected carefully to bring in luck to the consumer in the new year. For an in depth introduction to Osechi-ryōri and the meaning of each dish check out this article we wrote previously.

Produced by With Pet Family Co. – the company that operates the pet friendly yakiniku restaurants ‘Ushisuke’ in Yokohama and Tokyo – this dog-friendly Osechi-ryōri set has everything a dog needs and wants.

Roast beef, sweet potatoes and datemaki-style fish cake can be found inside the container resembling a traditional Osechi-ryōri bento box. A lot of thought and research has gone into the choices of ingredients, with consideration and priority given to maintaining dog immunity and improving health. An additional positive of the set, is that the partitions between each dish slow down speedy eaters and prevent overeating.

Ushisuke’s Wanchan Osechi 2022 bento box is available to pick up from the following stores until the 12th of December 2021:
– Wami Yakiniku Ushisuke Head Store
– Meat Vegetable Ushisuke Daiba Store
– Meat Vegetable Ushisuke Rose Garden Tama Store
– BISTRO Ushisuke Odaiba Store
– GRILL&BAR Ushisuke VenusFort, Odaiba
– Ushitan Ushisuke Mosaic Mall Kohoku Yokohama Store
– Ushitan Ushisuke Kichijoji Store

Alternatively, the set will be available to purchase from Ushisuke’s online store from the 18th …continue reading

    

Japanese farmer’s grows most ripped tomato when bodybuilder grows out of it

Source: grapee.jp

Farmers can sometimes be treated to some truly funny surprises when their produce doesn’t exactly go according to script. With sexy daikon radishes and epic action hero carrots, vegetables find a way to keep farmers on their toes. Japanese tomato farmer (of Soga Farms) knows that very well, having grown viral “ugly duckling” tomatoes in the past.

Soga Farms recently shared another surprise their highly regarded tomatoes (which took top prize at the Vegetable Sommelier Summit) that has Twitter delighted. When they went to check a new batch, they were greeted by a type of tomato that was in far better shape than the rest!

Source: @pasmal0220

“A bodybuilder grew out of my tomato so please take a look.”

…continue reading

    

Losing track of your Corgi in a crowd of 200 Corgis and other cute Corgi stories from Japan

Source: grapee.jp

Kids grow up so fast.

You may not be able to tell how fast they grow when you spend time with them every day, but when you see them after a long time, you may be surprised to see how big they’ve gotten already!

Little Pembroke Welsh Corgi puppies are the same. They grow up before you know it!

If you love Corgis (or maybe recently became a fan after seeing Ein on Netflix’s live-action adaptation of Cowboy Bebop), we have the perfect eye candy for you!

This Japanese couple has been raising their Corgi, Tsumugi, since she was a puppy.

By filming her eating from the same angle every day for 300 days, they were able to create an amazing video.

Take a look at how fast Tsumugi-chan is growing!

She’s getting bigger and bigger…!

In the beginning, she fit in the center of the screen, but after 300 days, she had grown to the point that her rear end was off-screen.

In addition, you can see that the amount of food that she ate was increasing as her body got bigger and bigger.

As all Corgi lovers know, it’s cute to see how short her legs are in relation to her body, even as she grows.


Vaccinations are also necessary for a dog’s health. Tsumugi went to the vet to get vaccinated.

She was still a puppy, so she didn’t know what the vet was like or what they would do to her.

However, when she got on the examination table, she was so afraid that she couldn’t even stand…

Flapping her short legs, she desperately protested!

Still, she managed to go through with the examination and the injection. You’ll get over it, Tsumugi…


As she grew older, Tsumugi also participated in “Corgi events.”

At the Corgi Festival in 2020, where more than 200 Corgis had gathered, a major incident occurred when her owner lost …continue reading

    

Christmas in Japan – 5 Things To Do To Celebrate This Magical Event

Christmas in Japan - KFC

The magic of Christmas is something that can be felt by anyone, anywhere around the world. The joy of celebrating the wonderful season with great food and better company is one of the most anticipated events of the year, and in Japan, it’s no different.

Watch as shops slowly roll out their ‘santa-san’ decorations and figurines, enticing children and adults alike to come hither. Marvel at the stunning light illuminations which go up as early as October. Take photos with the Christmas trees that pop up all around the cities, decorated with tinsel and baubles and everything in between.

If you happen to be in Japan over the Christmas period, there are a heap of things to do to celebrate with the locals. Try and tick off as many as you can from this list so that you can have the quintessential Japanese Christmas!

1. Eat KFC

Yep, you read that right! Ever since the 1970s, when a bizarre but sensical KFC chicken campaign took off in Japan around Christmas time, KFC has become as much as a tradition as turkey in the U.S.!

On Christmas day, family and friends will gather around to happily feast on a massive KFC feast. It’s become so popular that KFC stores all around the country will become inundated with orders; you pretty much have to get your order in a few weeks earlier to get a spot!

Over the years, the Christmas offerings have been chopped and changed, but one thing has stayed the same: Colonel Sanders Santa is a must-have guest at your Japanese Christmas celebration.

2. Shop at the Christmas Markets

Christmas in Japan - Christmas Market
Roppongi …continue reading