Happy Tanabata! 幸せ七夕!

People usually write wishes (お願い) for Tanabata and tie them to a bamboo branch. My wish this year: "I want to pass the Japanese Language Proficiency Exam".

People usually write wishes (お願い) for Tanabata and tie them to a bamboo branch. My wish this year: “I want to pass the Japanese Language Proficiency Exam”.

There are many festivals celebrated throughout the year in Japan. However many festivals exist in Japan, there is only one fixed festival that honors the representation of stars: hopeful wishes.

Tanabata (たなばた, 七夕), or the Star Festival, is celebrated every year on July 7th all over Japan with local variations. It honors the legend of two lovers separated by the Milky Way. Fortunately, the lovers, Cowherd Star, or Altair, and Weaver Star, or Vega, are allowed to meet once a year on the evening of July 7th.

The legend, which is derived from a Chinese  folktale known in Japanese as Kikkoden (きっこでん, 乞巧奠), is about a cow herder named Hikoboshi and a weaver princess, Orihime, who played together so much, they forgot their duties, upsetting the king. In response, the king separated Hikoboshi and Orihimi by a river called Amanogawa River, or the Milky Way. However, Orihimi begged the king to allow her to see Hikoboshi again, so the king set aside one day for them to meet. Though tanabata’s legendary story is one about two lovers, the festival itself is a time where wishes are asked to come true.

During tanabata, people write their wishes onto small and colorful strips of paper called tanzaku (たんざく, 短冊). Once the tanzaku are hung onto bamboo stalks or trees and displayed in their yards and home entrances, people pray for their wishes to come true. The next day, the decorations with the tanzaku are released into oceans, rivers, or streams. Colored streamers are also used to show off the tanabata spirit around the neighborhood. Other decorations include a casting net, or toami (とあみ, 投網), for good luck in fishing and farming, and a purse, or kinchaku (きんちゃく, 巾着), for wealth and good business.

Each area of Japan celebrates tanabata differently. Several areas light torches as part of the celebration, while others use horse-shaped puppets instead of bamboo stalks for displaying their tanazaku. Though tanabata is largely celebrated on July 7th, some areas of Japan celebrate tanabata on August 7th alongside the ancestral summer holiday, Bon (ぼん, 盆), which honors the return of the family’s ancestors. Outside of Bon, some cities couple tanabata with another celebration. Aomori of the Touhoku Region also celebrates the star festival with the Nebuta (ねぶた) Festival, parading lanterns made of papier-mache alongside customary tanabata decorations.

Amongst all of the tanabata celebrations, Sendai of the Miyagi Prefecture and Hiratsuka of the Kanagawa Prefecture are known to have elaborate tanabata events. Because of this, Sendai and Hiratsuka have become tourist attractions during the month of July.

With the exception of the original tale, tanabata is one of Japan’s celebrations where hopes and wishes are requested in full festival fashion.

Sources:

Japan National Tourism Organization. “Tanabata (Star Festival)”. http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/indepth/history/traditionalevents/a69a_fes_tanabata.html.

Renshaw, Steve and Saori Ihara. (1999). “Orihime, Kengyuu, and Tanabata: Adapting Chinese Lore to Native Beliefs and Purposes”. Appulse; Bulletin for the Philippine Astronomical Society. Vol. 9:8. August, 1996. http://www2.gol.com/users/stever/orihime.htm.

“Tanabata”. Kids Web Japan. http://web-japan.org/kidsweb/explore/calendar/july/tanabata.html .

“Tanabata”. Leighton Buzzard Childminding Association. http://www.lbcma.org.uk/festivals/Mtanabata.asp.

“Tanabata”. (2007) Encyclopedia of Shinto. Kokugakuin University. Tokyo, Japan.
http://eos.kokugakuin.ac.jp/modules/xwords/entry.php?entryID=1057.

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How Much of the Snake I’ve Eaten

In January, I posted my New Year’s resolution. Now, six months later, I’m doing a check-in.

Gotta get that fat outta here!!

#1: Losing weight: Drop 25 pounds.

In January and February, while my husband did a cleanse, I opted for only eating meat once a day. I don’t know if I dropped weight, but my clothes did fit differently–good for not exercising (my husband did, though). Just when we were going at a good pace, my husband hurt his back and the exercising (for him) and the non-meat meals stopped. It goes to show how much being in a relationship can affect your body.

Three weeks ago, I started doing Tae Bo again. It wasn’t as bad as I remembered (I did it last year for two months), but I decided to do cardio three times a week and strength training once a week. A week ago, I hurt my knee, so I’ll have to stick with strength training and minimum cardio. Injuries are the worst!

Plan: Do 30-45 minutes of exercise every other day. Two times a week include a strength training regiment (12 reps, 3 sets with weights), and work on abs every exercise day.

How to write “learn” in kanji

#2: Learn Japanese: Become a more fluent speaker.

I entered an international speech contest in Japanese, but I wasn’t picked. Maybe next year… Every day, I learn a new Japanese word (today’s word is 野良猫, noraneko, or “stray cat”) to build my vocabulary. I also write in a journal in Japanese, and some of my posts on this blog have a Japanese translation. So far, my reading comprehension has gotten easier as well as my kanji.

Plan for the rest of the year: Sign up for the JET Programme’s free advanced Japanese course and get ready for another speech contest (to get picked this time!).

#3: Save more money

I haven’t saved any money (according to my Mint account), but I have managed to slim our daily expenses. Instead of buying many snacks and going out to eat, we cook at home and avoid sugary products like cookies and fruit juices.

Plan: Send a set amount of money to my American bank account and not touch it except for emergencies and bills.

#4: Travel more.

Because of Item Number 3, traveling is out of the question. Sadness!

Once upon a time, there was a writer…

#5: Get to reading and writing!

I became a part of a creative writing circle. We get a prompt and two weeks to write something, then we post in on Google Plus. It’s very convenient because I never know how people will react to it. Also, it keeps me on my toes in keeping with deadlines!

Plan: Continue with the writing circle. Win at least one writing contest!

Links

1. Scale: http://www.johnstonefitness.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Weighing-Scales-1.jpg

2. “Learn” kanji gif: http://nihongoichibandotcom.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/5b66.gif

3. Piggy bank: http://sj.sunne.ws/files/2011/09/Piggy-Bank1.jpg

4. Suitcase: http://henricodoctors.com/util/images/TravelMedicineSuitcase.jpg

5. Books: http://jadesescape.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/books.jpg?w=257

Time to Take a Bite Out of the Year of the Snake

Per New Year’s and weight gain, I made several resolutions to better my life. For 2013, I have a few, but I’m not just going to say what they are. Many people make that mistake. I want to avoid the talk and just get down to the core of the problem and how to realistically solve them.

Gotta get that fat outta here!!

#1: Lose weight.

Last year, I made this a goal, and in July, I could wear clothes that I hadn’t worn in two years because of my weight. By December, I regained most of the weight I lost five months ago. The most realistic approach to losing weight for me is not stressing out, getting enough sleep, eating more vegetables and fruits, and exercising.

My goal in losing weight this year is 25 pounds. Right now, I weigh 155 pounds–30 pounds over my high school weight–and I want to shed it. This fat represents the stress I’ve gone through since getting married, living in a foreign country without being fluent in the language, and becoming inactive in my local community. The fat needs to go.

My plan is to start with moderate cardiovascular exercises that I enjoy (basketball practice, dance, and jogs) and moderate strength-training regiments at home. I just have to watch my knees (two torn ACL injuries from ten years ago). Right now, my eating habits are OK, but they can be better. I’ll add more dairy products, fruits, and vegetables to my diet from now on.

How to write “learn” in kanji

#2: Learn Japanese.

I’ve come a long way since last year when I could vaguely understand what someone said in Japanese. Now, I’m on my way to becoming a more fluent listener. My goal this year is to become a more fluent speaker. It’s harder than it sounds because I have trouble with what I call the linkers, wa, ga, wo, and ni. I want to master them.

My plan is to study with a native speaker weekly and later take the lowest level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT). Right now, I have a book for passing the JLPT and I have several workbooks for learning the most basic kanji . In the meantime, I’m working on remembering my Japanese speech for a contest.

Bank on the Pig.

#3: Save more money.

That’s all. Just save more money. This past year, I was able to pay off just about all of my credit cards. Now I want to pay off one of two big debts and continue my savings plan for when I return to the U.S. One thing that has kept me in check is a financial planning website called Mint.com, which gives me a pie chart of all of my expenditures and keeps track of my financial goals.

Let’s get to packin’!

#4: Travel more.

My husband and I decided that in 2014, we’ll return the U.S. Before then, I’d like to visit some other nearby countries on holiday breaks. Of course, this could dig into Resolution #3, but we can definitely make it work without having to spend an arm and a leg. Flying between China and Japan starts around $150 dollars. For a new experience in a different land, I’m willing to pay for it.

Once upon a time, there was a writer…

#5: Get to reading and writing!

In August last year, I self-published The Ends Don’t Tie with Bunny Rabbits. Ever since then, I’ve gone on to do a free book-reviewing website by the same name and started to read indie authors’ books. I still have several books on my list, but I’d like to read up to 50 books in 2013. I only read 26 books in 2012 and 24 books in 2011.

With writing, I’d like to start this year with a great Korean comic review for the Manga Bookshelf column. I also want to finish writing another book and get it published this year. It’s possible to do all this if I use my time wisely. No more Youtube time wasters.

Links

1. Scale: http://www.johnstonefitness.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Weighing-Scales-1.jpg

2. “Learn” kanji gif: http://nihongoichibandotcom.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/5b66.gif

3. Piggy bank: http://sj.sunne.ws/files/2011/09/Piggy-Bank1.jpg

4. Suitcase: http://henricodoctors.com/util/images/TravelMedicineSuitcase.jpg

5. Books: http://jadesescape.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/books.jpg?w=257