七夕 Tanabata Festival: The Festival of Lovers in the Stars

Orihime and Hikoboshi, lovers separated across the Milky Way, are allowed to meet once a year. Represented by the stars Vega and Altair their meeting is a time of wish granting for lovers and hard workers. On the 7th day, of the 7th month of the lunisolar calendar, they are permitted to meet, and the …

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ジプリ 美術館: The Ghibli Museum

Pastel palette colours wave smoothly over the unexpected turns and asymmetric designs. Windows, varying in shape and placement, are frothing with leafy green vines. The huggable mass spills over the building like the froth from a pint of beer. It shimmers in the sun as a breeze passes. So far, the architect has succeeded in …

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おみくじ Omikuji: A Japanese Fortune Telling Slip

A Japanese language teacher gifted me an おみくじ, Omikuji, from the Dazaifu Tenman-gū, a famous shinto shrine in Fukuoka, Kyushu. She sat down to explain it to me, letting me know that Omikuji is best translated as a 'Fortune Slip'. As the Dazaifu Tenman-gū is a large and famous shrine, they had English Omikuji available. She happens …

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節分 Setsubun: A Japanese Coming of Spring Festival

A normally robust P.E. teacher quietly issues a ‘sumimasen’ at my shoulder. She stands behind my chair with a small paper bag in two hands outstretched, in the polite style of giving something. Rough calligraphy style kanji swoops over the front as is the norm with small, locally crafted gifts. She offers me the bag …

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語呂合わせ Goroawase – the Art of Japanese Mnemonics

Smiling, and with the slight self-awareness that comes with starting a conversation in an otherwise empty staff room, one of the older teachers at work swung round in his chair today to speak to me about Shakespeare. As a literature graduate who has seen that meme illustrating the heart wrenching uselessness of my degree far …

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