Mysterious Garden Rocks

If you’ve ever been to a Japanese garden, you’ve may have seen these little rocks wrapped in ropes in various places. What are they?  Decorations? Stuff left by lazy workers? If I saw the rock in the middle of this path, there’s a good chance I’d just obliviously keep walking. Actually, though, this is a  sekimori ishi (or  tomari ishi), and it’s a “Do Not Enter” sign with a difference.
Sekimori ishi are usually used on stepping-stone paths in teahouse gardens and are a subtle message telling people not to enter when a tea ceremony is going on or to let people know that a path is closed to the public. However, unlike a “Do Not Enter” sign, they represent a tacit agreement between the guest and host to, “pretend that this is not here.” They also have a decorative function, and it’s true that they have a lot more aesthetic appeal than a “keep off the grass” sign.

Learn everything you ever wanted to know about the history of sekimori ishi and how to make them here (in Japanese only). It’s a site by a professional garden designer, and he made the rock in this photo. You can even purchase your very own authentic sekimori ishi from the site.

Fukagawa Matsuri

The Fukagawa Matsuri (officially the Fukagawa Hachimangu Matsuri) is one of Tokyo’s “Big Three” festivals, but seems to be a lot less well-known than Asakusa’s Sanja Matsuri and the Kanda Matsuri.

Its a mikoshi festival, and its gimmick is that people throw water on the mikoshi carriers to cool them down.

This year I went to the children’s mikoshi event because it’s not nearly as crowded. It was great for photography because there were enough people to give it quite a lively atmosphere, but I could move around as much as I wanted and get up close for photos.

It’s held near Monzennaka-cho on the Oedo and Tozai Subway Lines. The climax of the festival is always on the 15th of August.

Happy Pineapple Day!

On August 7 this month, I found a huge bunch of about 15 bananas for only 120 yen at my local supermarket. Looking around, I noticed a sign saying that Aug. 8 was “Banana no hi” (Banana Day). This is a kind of Japanese wordplay involving numbers where the numbers’ sounds are used to make words. For example, my old homestay families phone number was 931-8782, which they remembered as “kusai iyana yatsu.” It meant “a stinking jerk.” The numbers it is made of are: 9=ku, 3=sa (san), 1=i (ichi), 8=ya (hachi), 7=na (nana), 8=(i)ya (hachi), 2=tsu (two).

Here is a list of some of the other dates on the Japanese calendar. You can often save money if you go to a store looking for an associated product. For example, on August 29 this month, you might want to go out for yakiniku (Korean barbecue) because many shops are likely to have special discounts on this day.

Jan 3
Hitomi no Hi (Pupil Day)
1=hito, 3=mi
Celebrating glasses, contact lenses, and eye care in general

Jan 9
Kaze no Hi (Cold Day)
Commemorating the death of a famous sumo wrestler named Tanikaze in 1795, who died of an infection.

Jan 13
Tabako no Hi (Tobacco Day)
Celebrating the introduction of Peace cigarettes in 1946

Jan 15
Adaruto no Hi (Adult Day)
Celebrating the performance of Japan’s first strip show in 1947.

Jan 27
Kyuukon no Hi (Marriage Proposal Day)
Celebrating the first matrimonial advertisement in a newspaper in 1833.

Feb. 9
Fugu no Hi (Puffer Fish Day)
2=fu, 9=gu

Feb. 12
Burajya- no Hi (Brassiere Day)
Celebrating the day in 1913 that the brassiere was patented in America.

Mar. 8
Mitsubachi no Hi (Honey Day, lit. bee hive day)
3=mitsu 8=bachi

Mar. 9
Zakkoku no Hi (Grains and Cereals Day)
3=sa 9=koku

Mar. 13
Sandoicchi no Hi (Sandwich Day)
1=ichi 3=san (the ichi is “sandwiched” between the threes)

Mar. 20
Wain Day (Wine Day)
Both “20” and “wine” are pronounced the same in French

Apr. 3
Ingen Mame no Hi (Kidney Bean Day)
Ingen sounds like the name of a monk ( who died on April 3) in 1673.

Apr. 29 – Youniku no Hi (Mutton Day)
4=you, 2=ni, 9=ku

May 8 – Gouya no Hi (Bitter Melon Day)
5=go, 8=ya

May 30
Gomi Zero no Hi (No Garbage Day)
5=5, 3=mi

June 16
Wagashi no Hi (Japanese Confectioneries Day)
Celebrating an offering of Wagashi that was believed to have stopped a plague in the Heian period.

July 4
Nashi no Hi (Pear Day)
7=na, 4=shi

July 8
Nanpa no Hi (Picking Up Women Day)
7=nana (nan), 8=ha (pa)

July 10
Natto no Hi (Fermented Soy Bean Day)
7=na 10=tou

July 21
Onani- no Hi (Masturbation Day)
0=o, 7=na, 2=ni, 1=i

July 22
Nattsu no Hi (Nuts Day)
7=na 2=tsu (There are two “tsu’s” in nattsu.)

July 23
Tenpura no Hi (Tenpura Day)
Hottest time of the year after end of the rainy season, so tempura is eaten to prevent heat exhaustion

July 27
Because a watermelon’s pattern is like a braided rope, which is pronounced “tsuna” (2=tsu, 7=na).

Aug 3
Hachimitsu no Hi (Honey Day)
8=hachi, 3=mitsu

Aug 6
Hamu no Hi (Ham Day)
8=ha, 6=mu

Aug 7
Banana no Hi (Banana Day)
8=(ba, 7=na

Aug 17
Painappuru no Hi (Pineapple Day)
8=pa 1=i 7=na

Aug 19
Haiku no Hi (Haiku Day)
8=ha, 1=i

Aug 29
Yakiniku no Hi (Korean Barbecue Day)
8=ya, 2=ni, 9=ku

Aug 31
Yasai no Hi (Vegetable Day)
8=ya, 3=sa, i=i

Oct 8
Tofu no Hi (Tofu Day)
10=to, 8=fu

Oct 9
Dogu no Hi (Tool Day)
10=do, 9=gu

Nov 3
Mikan no Hi (Mandarin Orange Day)
Because ii mikan (good mandarin orange) sounds like ii mikka (1=i, 1=i, 3=mikka)

Nov 10
Toire no Hi (Toilet Day)
Comes from ii toire (1=i, 1=i, 10=to)

Nov 14
Pachinko Day
Celebrating the establishment of the Zenkoku Yuugi Kyoudo Kumiai Rengokai (National Games Cooperative Association) in 1979, as well as the opening of the first pachinko parlor in 1930 on that date.

Dec 21
Enkyori Renai no Hi (Long Distance Love Day)
Because in 1221, the one’s are separated and the twos are in the middle together.

There’s more information about these days on the following homepages:

http://hukumusume.com/366/kinenbi/index.html

http://www.ffortune.net/calen/kinenbi/goroawase.htm

http://www.bioweather.net/recipe/event_recipe.php

Two Obons

This is the annual festival at my son’s preschool and was held on July 17. I thought it was kind of strange to have an Obon festival in July because the Obon holidays are in August, but apparently, the festival gets celebrated at different times in Japan.
In Tokyo and Tohoku (northern Japan), it’s celebrated in July and is called “Shichigatsu Bon” (literally July Bon), but in Kansai and most other areas, it’s called “Hachigatsu Bon” (August Bon) and is celebrated on the 13th, 14th, and 15th of August. The reason is that it was originally based on the lunar calendar, and when Japan converted to the Gregorian calendar, some regions kept celebrating it on the old dates while others switched it to the modern calendar. In fact, there are even a few places that still celebrate kyu-bon (the old Obon), so it falls on a different day every year depending on the moon.

I really enjoyed the dancing and other events, and if you’re ever walking by a preschool and you see a festival going on, you should definitely stop in because it’s really photogenic. All the kids dress up in yukata and jinbei, and they’re really cute when they dance.

Average Rents in Tokyo by Area

Tokyo is one of the world’s most expensive cities, and rents can be astronomical, but if you’re a little bit careful in deciding where you live, it can also be surprisingly cheap. This chart is from the homepage of a Japanese real-estate agent called Homes Chintai that shows the average monthly rents for various apartment sizes throughout the Greater Tokyo Area. It goes from cheapest  to most expensive and there’s a huge variation in the 70,000 yen you’d pay for a two-bedroom apartment in Hachioji City to the 194,500 yen you’d pay in Minato Ward downtown (not to mention the fact that you’d probably get an extra 20+ square meters of living space in Hachioji).

The website has similar charts for all areas of Japan, but is in Japanese only.

The first number in each cell is the average rent in tens of thousands of yen (E.g. 3.73=37,300 yen) and the one in brackets is the number of apartments the company has within ten minutes’ walk of the nearest station.

Area One room 1K 1LDK・2K・2DK 2LDK・3K・3DK 3LDK・4K・4DK
Hamura City
3.73 (11)
5.01 (67)
6.23 (81)
7.31 (81)
8.18 (16)
Ome City
3.77 (84)
4.64 (198)
5.81 (129)
6.86 (121)
8.33 (37)
Hino City
4.46 (356)
5.54 (1023)
7.26 (385)
9.38 (255)
11.45 (133)
Akishima City
4.47 (69)
5.81 (483)
7.07 (146)
9.04 (91)
10.60 (34)
Tama City
4.50 (138)
5.55 (454)
8.40 (163)
10.04 (86)
12.88 (66)
Hachioji City
4.56 (632)
5.36 (1658)
7.00 (535)
8.50 (409)
10.77 (214)
Higashi-Yamato City
4.61 (16)
5.33 (101)
7.00 (128)
8.22 (83)
9.92 (12)
Fussa City
4.65 (51)
5.36 (173)
6.14 (102)
7.24 (82)
9.62 (20)
Kodaira City
4.66 (245)
5.74 (672)
7.46 (263)
9.88 (188)
12.54 (95)
Kiyose City
4.73 (52)
5.99 (196)
7.05 (71)
8.57 (35)
9.46 (17)
Higashi Murayama City
4.83 (184)
5.51 (367)
6.80 (270)
8.63 (202)
10.39 (77)
Higashi Kurume City
4.98 (27)
5.59 (208)
7.37 (66)
10.09 (53)
11.36 (36)
Kunitachi City
5.25 (112)
6.19 (548)
8.56 (179)
11.04 (137)
12.91 (143)
Machida City
5.38 (273)
5.97 (1326)
7.29 (242)
10.04 (163)
12.81 (119)
Kokubunji City
5.42 (391)
6.15 (814)
8.44 (326)
11.24 (162)
14.50 (64)
Inagi City
5.44 (39)
5.55 (241)
7.82 (144)
11.60 (358)
13.78 (167)
Fuchu City
5.46 (310)
6.34 (1429)
8.67 (667)
11.30 (438)
13.03 (183)
Tachikawa City
5.48 (367)
6.08 (1151)
7.90 (514)
9.71 (276)
11.25 (110)
Nishi Tokyo City
5.49 (219)
6.41 (790)
8.04 (305)
9.45 (191)
12.49 (159)
Katsushika Ward
5.51 (687)
6.43 (2186)
8.06 (1275)
10.87 (539)
12.84 (195)
Koganei City
5.68 (173)
6.51 (705)
8.84 (230)
12.06 (138)
15.15 (70)
Komae City
5.74 (61)
6.76 (352)
9.61 (138)
12.28 (47)
16.05 (37)
Chofu City
5.92 (344)
6.83 (1840)
9.66 (820)
12.50 (569)
14.63 (312)
Itabashi Ward
6.12 (1873)
7.01 (6627)
9.72 (2810)
11.66 (951)
14.87 (540)
Adachi Ward
6.17 (982)
6.52 (3588)
8.14 (2363)
11.06 (1150)
14.47 (457)
Edogawa Ward
6.18 (528)
6.85 (2916)
8.93 (1457)
11.43 (881)
13.52 (276)
Nerima Ward
6.25 (1484)
6.98 (6059)
9.71 (2309)
11.89 (1803)
14.29 (971)
Suginami Ward
6.42 (2472)
7.60 (7609)
11.26 (2531)
14.81 (1039)
18.89 (564)
Kita Ward
6.47 (1358)
7.41 (4784)
10.26 (1723)
13.75 (837)
15.74 (275)
Mitaka City
6.60 (315)
7.53 (871)
10.81 (326)
16.13 (109)
19.54 (60)
Toshima Ward
6.67 (2315)
7.94 (5835)
11.39 (1915)
16.18 (798)
20.22 (263)
Nakano Ward
6.69 (1817)
7.86 (4537)
11.80 (2170)
15.30 (763)
17.71 (346)
Arakawa Ward
6.77 (505)
7.74 (1721)
10.36 (867)
14.18 (486)
16.47 (144)
Ota Ward
6.90 (1560)
7.78 (6729)
11.06 (2852)
14.66 (1093)
19.04 (669)
Setagaya Ward
7.19 (3387)
8.01 (9818)
12.69 (4070)
17.08 (1973)
22.84 (1102)
Musashino City
7.24 (448)
7.60 (1679)
12.04 (540)
16.56 (232)
21.12 (85)
Sumida Ward
7.28 (961)
8.21 (4071)
11.03 (1451)
13.33 (443)
17.10 (187)
Bunkyo Ward
7.39 (1486)
8.37 (4462)
13.78 (1786)
19.29 (1032)
26.62 (447)
Koto Ward
7.68 (870)
8.60 (4394)
12.08 (1391)
16.91 (678)
18.20 (418)
Taito Ward
7.86 (848)
8.98 (3242)
12.06 (1664)
15.45 (559)
19.53 (138)
Shinjuku Ward
8.15 (2887)
8.87 (7763)
14.00 (2698)
19.73 (961)
26.72 (375)
Shinagawa Ward
8.32 (1783)
8.59 (4788)
14.04 (2166)
18.90 (831)
23.44 (393)
Meguro Ward
8.79 (1449)
9.49 (3517)
15.94 (1683)
21.71 (781)
30.78 (414)
Shibuya Ward
9.65 (1819)
10.21 (4184)
17.91 (2506)
25.40 (1001)
36.53 (399)
Chuo Ward
9.87 (731)
9.86 (2821)
15.42 (2510)
20.86 (943)
26.34 (239)
Chiyoda Ward
10.38 (434)
10.13 (1241)
17.99 (618)
26.58 (225)
53.60 (100)
Minato Ward
11.47 (1578)
11.21 (4273)
19.45 (3344)
29.33 (1572)
42.86 (535)


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