正月 Japanese new year

正月 (shōgatsu) the Japanese New Year.
Japan will celebrate the 23d year of the Heisei era. Or in accordance with the 皇紀 (Koki) calendar, the year 2670.Kōki one is the year when legendary Emperor Jimmu founded Japan, 660 BC according to the Gregorian calendar.
The Gregorian system was adopted in 1872 replacing the Chinese lunar calendar wish was celebrated at the beginning of  spring, just as the contemporary ChineseKorean and Vietnamese New Years are celebrated to this day.
 However, the Gregorian calendar was only used for the month, weeks and days. The years where still counted in eras, this system was introduced in practice during the Meiji period and instituted by law in 1979. Therefore, the posthumous names of the emperors and empresses who reigned before 1868 may not be taken as era names by themselves. 
We can also use the Kōki year that emphasizes the long history of Japan and the imperial family.
Nowadays, the Anno Domini years are used as well though, but only for business, not with in any government institution.
The New Years celebration here in Japan, is maybe the most important of all celebrations of the year and could be compared in importance to the Jewish Hanukah celebration or Christian Christmas or Eastern Celebrations and the Muslim Eid celebration.
It is a time for families to unite and practice Hatsumōde wish is the first trip to a shrine or temple with the entrance of the New Year at midnight. This should be done preferably in a kimono.
Every thing from there on is taken rather seriously and of great importance. One has to pay special attention to all things done for the first time, called “firsts”.
 初日の出 (Hatsuhinode) is the first sunrise of the year. Before sunrise on January 1, people often drive to the coast or climb a mountain so that they can see the first sunrise of the New Year.
Other "firsts" such as 仕事始め (shigoto-hajime) the first work of the new year or 稽古始め (keiko-hajime) the first sport practice of the new year all the way to the first tea ceremony of the new year called 茶の湯 (chanoyu).
This new year as every new year we will eat the traditional sashimi and sushi as well as boiled seaweed, mashed sweet potato with chestnut and this will be followed on the sevens day by a died of seven-herb rice soup wish is known as 人日 (jinjitsu) literally "Human Day".
The name comes from an ancient Chinese custom called Renri. These consist in the opening days of the first lunar month. Each day is assigned to a particular animal, it is forbidden to kill that animal on that day. The first seven days of the month are assigned as Chicken Day, Dog Day, Boar Day, Sheep Day, Cow Day, Horse Day, and Human Day: on this seventh day, no punishments can handed out to Humans including criminals.
Important as well this time of the year are the postcards called 年賀状 (nengajō) those are well marked and have to arrive on new years day. It is almost imperative to do this.
However, It is customary not to send these postcards when one has had a death in the family during the year. In this case, a family member sends a simple postcard to inform friends and relatives they should not send New Year's cards, out of respect for the deceased.
The New Year traditions are also an integrate part of the Japanese poetry, including haiku and renga.
We do decorate for new years as well, just as Christmas includes the Christmas tree the Japanese New Year needs the kadomatsu wish is a traditional decoration for the New Year holiday.
Most popular greetings for that time of the year would be 今年もよろしくお願いします (kotoshi mo yoroshiku o-negai-shimasu) meaning, “I hope for your favour again in the coming year.”
There for I shall conclude with 謹賀新年 (kinga shinnen) Happy New Year.


The Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival.

By, Uwe Paschen.
The Japanese Cherry Blossom festivals.
 In Japan, the Cherry blossom has a very particular and important meaning since the cherry tree is botanically a native of the Japanese Isles.
From an early period, it has been the national tree of Japan. Since the Man’yoshu, the earliest anthology of Japanese poems and songs (7th-9th cent.), down to the present day, the cherry tree has exerted on the Japanese psyche an almost mystical fascination. Most of today’s festivals traditions and poetry started in the Heian Period (794–1191), where poems such as Princess Shokushinnai Shinno – Private Anthology


Cherry blossom Festival, Narita, Chiba,  Japan. | Photo 02
  • Cherry blossom Festival, Narita, Chiba,  Japan. | Photo 02
  • Cherry blossom Festival, Narita, Chiba,  Japan. | Photo 03
  • Cherry blossom Festival, Narita, Chiba,  Japan. | Photo 04
  • Cherry blossom Festival, Narita, Chiba,  Japan. | Photo 05
  • Cherry blossom Festival, Narita, Chiba,  Japan. | Photo 06
  • Cherry blossom Festival, Narita, Chiba,  Japan. | Photo 07
  • Cherry blossom Festival, Narita, Chiba,  Japan.
  • Narita, Chiba, Japan, Spring 2009, Cherry Blossom. | Photo 02
  • Narita, Chiba, Japan, Spring 2009, Cherry Blossom. | Photo 03
  • Narita, Chiba, Japan, Spring 2009, Cherry Blossom. | Photo 04
  • Narita, Chiba, Japan, Spring 2009, Cherry Blossom. | Photo 05
  • Narita, Chiba, Japan, Spring 2009, Cherry Blossom. | Photo 06
  • Narita, Chiba, Japan, Spring 2009, Cherry Blossom.
  • Cherry blossom Festival, Iiama, Nagano, Japan. | Photo 02
  • Cherry blossom Festival, Iiama, Nagano, Japan. | Photo 03
  • Cherry blossom Festival, Iiama, Nagano, Japan. | Photo 04
  • Cherry blossom Festival, Iiama, Nagano, Japan. | Photo 05
  • Cherry blossom Festival, Iiama, Nagano, Japan. | Photo 06
  • Cherry blossom Festival, Iiama, Nagano, Japan. | Photo 07
  • Cherry blossom Festival, Iiama, Nagano, Japan. | Photo 08
  • Cherry blossom Festival, Iiama, Nagano, Japan.
  • Cherry blossom Festival, Iiama, Nagano, Japan. | Photo 09
  • Cherry blossom Festival, Iiama, Nagano, Japan. | Photo 10
  • Cherry blossom Festival, Iiama, Nagano, Japan. | Photo 11
  • Cherry blossom Festival, Iiama, Nagano, Japan. | Photo 12
  • Cherry blossom Festival, Iiama, Nagano, Japan. | Photo 13
  • Cherry blossom Festival, Iiama, Nagano, Japan. | Photo 14
  • Cherry blossom Festival, Iiama, Nagano, Japan. | Photo 15
“waga iado no   izureno mine no   no hana naran / seki iru taki to   ochite kuru kana are famous."
 "(from what lofty heights
      "come so many blossoms to my hut?
      first as if held back – then,
      unforeseen, this sudden cascade!)”
 Yet, one of the greatest poet was probably Saigyo a Japanese Buddhist priest-poet, one of the greatest masters of the tanka (a traditional Japanese poetic form), whose life and works became the subject matter of many narratives, plays, and puppet dramas. He originally followed his father in a military career, but, like others of his day, he was oppressed by the sense of disaster that overwhelmed Japan as the brilliant imperial court life of the Heian era passed into a period of civil wars in the latter half of the 12th century.
One of his greatest poems still honored today and that most Japanese may know by heard is about the cherry blossom.
“ negawaku wa, hana no motonite haru shinamu, sono kisaragi no mochizuki no koro."

"I pray that I might die beneath the cherry flowers in spring, in the month of February (by the lunar calendar) when the moon is full.”
 Here in Narita as else where in Japan we celebrate our Cherry blossom season as well. Where our temple is, as well as around the City hall, Schools and private houses, all are  surrounded by many Cherry trees now in full bloom.
Giving the eye a feast of natural beauty and harmony.
This season is as a master painting of combining nature’s beauty, seasons, colours and human ingenuity in trying to reflect that beauty in its architectures and temples.
 Some, that have the luxuries of time and financial independence will follow the Cherry blossoms through out Japan going from one festival to the next starting in the southern Islands of Kumejima followed by Odaiba, Sado and ending all the way North on Okushiri Island.
 The list of places and Islands is rather long, other then the five main Islands, with in each are  many places worth visiting in the Cherry blossom season as well as in other seasons.
 For us here the first festival in Chiba took place at the end of March in Tateyama, followed by Narita today wish will be followed for us by Nikko, (named a World heritage site by the UN) in two weeks.
 An almost two most long festivity since Japan is blessed with five climate zones, from the most Northern Island to the most Southern Island. Making the Cherry blossom trail a real adventure of sorts and a dream for many to look forward to undertake one day.

Could Japan become a beacon for the World to follow?


A title here is required | Photo 876
By, Uwe Paschen.
Is Japan’s change to be a beacon for a World to follow or merely an Isolated move by one bold Nation defying a super power?
Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and his Party (DPJ) won a historic election in August here in Japan, in part because he called for a review of the 2006 Japanese- U.S. Military agreement. Four DPJ members from Okinawa won parliamentary seats with promises of reducing and even eliminating the U.S. troop presence on the island. 

Denny Tamaki is one of Okinawa's parliament ministers. He says they won because voters believed they could achieve what the previous administration could not. That includes resolving the issue of U.S. military bases in Okinawa. Tamaki wants Futenma's marines and training facilities off the island altogether. In addition, polls show his constituents overwhelmingly support that view.
In a recent poll by one of Japan's national newspapers, nearly 70 percent of Okinawans said they opposed moving Futenma to another part of the island. The same percentage think Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama should negotiate with the U.S. to move Futenma out of the prefecture and the country altogether.

Japan may want the U.S. bases out and stop collaborating with U.S. military endeavours. Japan does however not want to escape its international responsibilities. "Our contribution to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan is great and will increase" as Mr. Fujisaki said, “Yes, We have been number two in the world for reconstructions of Iraq. Number one being United States, of course. In Afghan we are number three.”
Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has said he wants the U.S. bases to be moved off Okinawa, even out of Japan altogether
Japan's defence minister Mr. Toshimi Kitazawa said Thursday last, that rules governing the U.S. troop presence on Okinawa Island were “humiliating” For Japan. He further stated that “to build a new relationship that meets the requirements of the new era instead of getting mired in fears of offending them,”
The Minister also announced that Japan will cancel the purchase of U.S. Military Jets, specifically the F-35 and look for suppliers out side the U.S. as he said "our choice is wide open to other options, of non-American-made jets.”
Japan’s taxpayers fell that they should no longer have to neither pay for the U.S. bases nor tolerate the U.S. presence that has been continuously increasing in cost since 1948.
Kiroku Hanai, a former editorial writer for a vernacular newspaper, writes that Japan has to stop paying for the U.S. military and force the U.S. to withdraw and close all U.S. bases on Japanese soil.
"Japan is not ashamed of its Pacifistic constitution and its desire to hold on to it."
"Policing the World is not a task for the U.S. or any other supper power, but rather for a strong U.N." Mr. Hatoyama said. He did also evoke that war was not the anther to our international conflicts. 
“My grandfather Ichiro, then Prime Minister, was an advocate of the concept of yu-ai, or "fraternity". This yu-ai is a way of thinking that respects one's own freedom and individual dignity while also respecting the freedom and individual dignity of Others. “
Japan is most definitely moving in a new direction whose signs are clearly laid out by stopping all Military collaboration with the U.S. refueling program and moving the money saved in those military program into Humanitarian aid instead.
Further Japan has send out a clear message to the U.S. and other Western Nations as Japan’s foreign Minister said in October that “Tokyo's new way of contributing to the effort in Afghanistan will be in the form of humanitarian aid, which will include training former Taliban soldiers.”
Japan's new government has vowed to pursue a foreign policy independent of the U.S. and it is clear by now that this is well under way and to be a new reality that may force the U.S. to rethink their own political future that lately seems to look a lot like the former U.S.S.R. once did in 1989.
Ironically, the U.S.S.R. back then was struck by a major economic crisis, a never-ending war in Afghanistan and blessed with a President that received the Nobel peace price.
Japan has send the message, laud and clear, the question remaining, is whether the U.S. will hear it and understand it in time.
So far the U.S. have first mocked the changes in Japan, as the changes seemed to prevail though and proved to be real. The U.S. tried threats as well as fear mongering. Wish started with economic pressures, with Statements such as, 'Japan should align it self with its biggest trading partner', namely the U.S., 'if it wanted to remain part of the top producers', to wish Japan responded with diversification and new trade talks with China and other Asian and European partners.
Then came the North Korean card and fear mongering to wish Japan responded equally elegantly by insisting on continued six party negotiations rather then more confrontation.
The time for supper powers seems to be over and a new era has begun, one whose course is not yet fully shaped. Should we be wise or arrogant  will determine this era’s outcome.
Lets hope we find wisdom and move towards peace and co-operation rather them another power struggle for supremacy.
Japan has chosen peace and co-operation as well as the preservation of our Environment over power and dominance.