Have you ever seen decorations made with cucumbers and eggplants like these in Japan?
They are called shōryōuma (精霊馬). Shōryōmeans spirits, and uma means horse. In obon season in August, people make these vegetable decorations symbolizing a horse (cucumber) and a cattle (eggplant). Obon is when spirits of the deceased are believed to visit the physical world, so the horse is supposed to carry those spirits from heaven quickly to our world, and the cow will bring them back to heaven slowly and comfortably on their way back. The cow can also carry offerings made to the spirits during obon.
Making shōryōuma is a fun activity for kids to engage in, and it’s also a great way to educate them on showing respect to the ones who have passed away.
Golden Week is a season between late April and May where several holidays of Japan are clustered together. Originally, it only referred to holidays between May 3rd to 5th, but when holidays land on weekends, the next business day will instead be a holiday. As a result, day-offs could last as long as a week.
Here is a list of holidays taking pace during Golden Week.
April 29th: Shōwa Day (Honors Shōwa Emperor’s Birthday)
May 3rd: Constitution Memorial Day
May 4th: Greenery Day
May 5th: Children’s Day
Golden Week makes one of the busiest seasons in Japan for traveling and sightseeing. It is said that the number of travelers in this period is comparable to that of New Year and Obon. Many people take advantage of the holidays to travel abroad too. Hotels, transportation, and tourist site slots in Japan sell out very quickly, so do plan ahead if you’re visiting Japan at this time!
Happy Thanksgiving Day! Are you enjoying turkey dinner today?
Today’s Word is: Shichimencho (七面鳥)
Shicimencho means turkey. “Shichi” means seven, “men” means face, and “cho” means bird. Thus, its literal translation would be “seven-faced bird.” Why? The exact origin is not certain, but common belief is that it’s called shichimencho because a turkey changes its skin color from red, blue, to violet, depending on the season, giving the illusion it has multiple different faces.
Turkey is not a common dish in Japan. It doesn’t naturally grow in wild, and Japanese houses usually don’t have big enough ovens to cook a whole turkey, so there isn’t enough demand to worth stocking turkeys in stores. On Christmas Eve, it’s common to eat roasted or fried chicken in Japan instead of turkey (thanks to KFC Japan’s marketing strategy).