Cultural Statistics

Some Australian students visited the Japanese high school where I work, so I made a class activity comparing some national statistics between Japan, Australia and the USA. I would provide a stat for two of the countries and students would guess if the third country was higher, lower or in between and guess a number. Of the 10 categories the interesting reactions were from the homicide and obesity rates. In annual homicides per 100,000 Japan had 0.29 and the US had 4.0 which was higher than the students expected but they laughed with an “oh, of course” reaction. The Japanese obesity rate is 5%, Australia 27% and the US 33%- the students were predicting that America would be about 50% obese; I was surprised that they would have that image, but the stats kind of back them up.

Kendo tips; small things I have from kendo in Japan

Equipment handling

  • Don’t push your baggage around with your feet. Just as you should be careful to not step over someone else’s shinai and show respect for your own equipemnt during a match, you are expected to display a serious attitude with a high degree respect for your own equipment. If you want to press you baggage back against a wall, you should bend down and use your hands.

Dressing for success

  • New uniform for tests. Let the judges see that the test is a serious priority for you. Remember that proper attire is important for kendo and don’t get demerits for formality.
  • A zekken to match your dojo(s). If you are practicing at several places, a secondary dojo may ask you to conform with the rest of the practice group. This is not as obvious as getting a zekken for competitions.

Carbon shinai; don’t use them when…

  • you take a test. Strict senseis may object to them, so don’t take the risk. Use a nice, new bamboo shinai.
  • when you partner has a fancy dou. The polymer coating on a carbon shinai could rub off and leave a faint streak against a dou. Sometimes, dou with fancy (expensive) designs, materials and colors are given as gifts and prizes to kendoka, so those people would prefer to see you using a normal, bamboo shinai.

Men himo length

  • If your men himo is too long you may need to change the style in which it is tied. Tying men himo in the “Kansai Style” requires a longer set of himo.

Kyo no Tanabata 京の七夕

This is the post excerpt.

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Tanabata (七夕) is the Star Festival held in Japan every year around July 7th (7/7, which is why kanji used are 7七 and night夕). During this time, stalks of bamboo are erected in public places and visitors write wishes on colorful strips of paper (tanzaku 短冊) which are hung on the tree. It makes a beautiful spectacle that is like a summertime Christmas tree.

Also, as this is a nighttime event tou will see many lights and illuminations, especially around shrines and landmarks which makes tanabata an especially romantic and photogenic event.

In Kyoto there is secondary Tanabata that is held in mid-August. The main attraction in this Kyo-no-Tanabata are the artistic light displays along the canal in front of Nijo Castle (Nijojo Mae station on the subway).

The exhibits are free and it takes about 30 mintutes to walk through the length of the exhibits. Some nights during the event there will be performers among the light displays (traditional shamisen players, food vendors, traditional handicrafts vendors, artists, tea ceremonies…). The display is active only during a relatively small window of time (sunset is after 7pm and the display shuts down at 9pm).