Omikuji is a traditional form of Japanese fortune telling in which a person's fortune is written on a piece of folded paper and is typically sold at Shinto Shrines and Buddhist Temples for about 100 yen. These fortunes are either drawn at random from a box or purchased from a vending machine. Omikuji can range from excellent to poor and tell about various aspects of life including love, business, academics, special wishes, travel etc. Many Japanese visit shrines and temples at the New Year and hope for good fortune. Omikuji are not usually taken seriously and are read with a sense of fun. Once the omikuji is read, many people tie them on trees and pillars at temples and shrines for good luck.
In Japan, the custom on Valentines Day is for ladies to give gifts of dark chocolate to the men of their choice - this, in fact, quite often extends to guys she works with also. One month later on 'White Day' men reciprocate with gifts of white chocolate to the lady of their choice (usually just their wife/girlfriend). In the weeks leading up to these dates, you will see fantastic displays of the most mouth-watering chocolates you've ever seen!!
Hold chopsticks towards the ends, not in the middle. When you're not using them or have finished eating, lay them in front of you with the tips pointing to the left. Don't stick chopsticks into your food, especially not into rice; at funerals chopsticks are stuck into the rice that isput on the altar. Don't pass food with your chopsticks directly to someone elses chopsticks; at funerals, bones of the cremated body are passed this way from person to person! Don't point at things with them , or play or wave them around, or move plates or bowls with them. If you've already used your chopsticks, transfer food from shared plates onto yours by using the opposite ends. Etiquette is very important in Japan and your efforts will be appreciated!!
There are two different types in Japan; western style and Japanese style. Away from the tourist areas, many public loos will be the Japanese squat style. So this is how you use them!
1. Face the rear of the loo (towards the wall)
2. Drop your trousers below your knees
3. Squat as closely to the porcelain as you can!!
If, as in the picture, there is a raised platform, then this is where you should stand.
Carry some tissues with you, as toilet paper is not usually provided.
If using a loo in a private house, don't forget to change into the 'wc slippers' that will be provided by your host, and also back again into your usual slippers afterwards!
Most entertaining takes place outside the home, so if you are invited to a Japanese friends home, here are some pointers:
When entering the house, take off your shoes in the lobby (genkan), and put on the slippers provided. Before entering any room laid with tatami mats, leave behind the slippers and carry on in your socks/or bare feet. So, before you go, put on clean socks!!. Men usually sit cross-legged and women can too, if they're wearing trousers/jeans. If not, fold your legs under you. Be aware, if you need to use the loo, you need to take off your slippers and put on the special 'wc slippers' before entering, then change them back after leaving the loo. Etiquette is hugely important in Japan, and your efforts to fit in will be much appreciated by your host!
Many of the cities in Hokkaido are named from Ainu words (Sapporo, Shiraoi, Tomakomai, and Asahikawa). Ainu are the aborginal people of Hokkaido. The Ainu believed that anything they couldn't control was a god, including nature, animals, plants, and objects. Ainu means human or the opposite of those gods. From the 1400s mainland Japanese began to colonize Hokkaido. The Ainu people were used as forced labor, families were broken up, and the language was banned. During the Meiji Period, the Ainu were assimilated through intermarriage, and over time most of the daily customs and language was lost. In the late eighties there was a large movement to preserve the dying language and culture. Most of the Ainu that you meet these days are only half Ainu and can't speak the language. I highly recommend you take the time to learn a little about this fascinating culture while in Hokkaido.
The red star you?fll see all over the city (makes me think of Texas) represents the North Pole star.?@?@The Old Government Building, the Clock Tower, Sapporo Factory, and the Beer Musuem all have a red star.
Japanese language is one of the most complicated! Three types of characters. Anyway, here's some useful phrases to keep in mind in case you need help.
IN AN EMERGENCY:Help! Tas'kete!
Call the police Keisatsu o yonde kudasai!
Thank you Arigato gozaimasu
Excuse Me Sumimasen
I don't understand Wakarimasen
Do you speak English? Eigo o hanashimasuka?
How are you? Ogenki desu ka ?
Good morning Ohayo gozaimasu
Good afternoon Konnichiwa
Good evening Konbanwa
Good night Oyasumi nasai
Good bye Sayonara
Genghis Khan Fry: Lamb or mutton cooked on a dome-shaped frying pan with seasonal vegetables, such as green peppers or onions. The cooked food is dipped in a Worcestershire type sauce & is often enjoyed with beer.
Sapporo Ramen: A year-round favorite because of its steaming hot, full-bodied soup & noodles that don't go limp in the broth. Most delicious on a wintery cold night!
Ishikari-nabe: A type of stew which is cooked in front of you & eaten from a large pot set in the middle of the table. This typical fish of salmon, tofu (bean cake) & many kinds of vegetables are dipped in a special bean paste sauce. Yummy!
2 areas of Japanese life to note:
(1) Shoes - In certain temples & restaurants, leave your shoes & change into slippers provided unless the room is laid with tatami mats (woven straw flooring) which you must proceed with your stockinged feet.
(2) Bathing - Japanese do not wash in the same water they bathe in. A small towel & a cotton dressing gown are given. Squat outside the hot tub & wash, shampoo & so on. Finally shower or scoop water from the tub to rinse off all soap & rinse out the towel. Then, sit in the tub, soak & relax. Finally, towel dry & put on your underclothes & then the yukata.
I'm definitely not having these dried fish for lunch & dinner! No way!!! Love Sashimi & Sushi, that's what I call FISH! (Check them out in my Japan page if you are not familiar with the Japanese cuisine. Click Here.)
The Ainu people perform this dance in the sacred rite 'iyomante' meaning to send a spirit of bear-bod back to heaven, or in the festival as a courtesy for the gods. This dance is registered as an important cultural property by the Ministry of Education on Jan. 21, 1984.
The Ainu ladies performing their dances in front of a fireplace. No cable TV & online access? This is definitely not my style of accomodation ;-) !
Another thing new for me and a routine for the people who live at these latitudes: Getting up early every day during winter to remove the snow from their roofs and entrances.
Here, an obaachan (old woman) working very hard at 7 AM.
Make sure you bow when greeting people and say sumimasen (excuse me) when leaving places, people & making requests. And of course, wear shoes that are easy to remove when entering peoples houses. Remember to scrub up outside the onsen before dipping in.