日本の月 ”Nihon no tsuki” 4 – Hanami 2009!

Flower viewing – or hanami in Japanese, dates back to the Heian period (794-1191). It was the aristocrats together with the imperial family that began celebrating the bloom of sakura (sakura matsuri).  There are well over 200 varieties of sakura trees in Japan but most of which do not bear fruit. Excessive cross-breeding have rendered them infertile, in exchange for more petals. The resulting trees are mass-blooming every spring. From mid-Mars to the end of April, Japanese weather forecasts report the zensen – or sakura front which starts in the south, moving northward as the weather gets warmer. Since both the Japanese school year (and fiscal year) begins in April, the first day of school often coincides with the sakura blossoms.

Nowadays, many people bring food and sit and chat in parks, watching the sakura – the Japanese’s favorite flower. The tradition is many centuries old and there are many symbolic meanings associated with the cherry blossoms. They are often said to describe the ephemerality of life – and of mortality, since they bloom only a few days with some species just lasting a week. In modern times, the cherry blossoms symbolized something more foul. For example, sakura trees were planted during the Korean occupation in the beginning of the 1900’s to claim territories as Japanese. The trees were cut down in 1953 in celebration of the liberation of the Korean peninsula.

Watch these pictures taken in Kungsträdgården (King’s Garden), Stockholm and be aware that summer is just around the corner!
Vodpod videos no longer available.

I don’t think these ones are sterile…

If you happen to be in Japan, or just curious, read about famous Japanese hanami spots here:
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2011_where.html

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日本の月 ”Nihon no tsuki” 3 – North Korea

Few people can have missed that Dictator Kim Jong Il launched a ballistic missile on April 5th 2009. Moreover, it’s the same Taepodong-2 rocket onto which North Korea presumably may mount nuclear warheads. The Taepodong-2 has a theoretical range of reaching Japan, Hawaii and Alaska. This is as close a nuclear war the world has been since the Cold War.

Japan, together with the U.S.A. have always played a stern North Korea policy since the Korean War armistice in 1953. Meanwhile, China has a more reasonable tone towards North Korea and the regime. Possibly because they are immediate neighbors and that they were allies during the Korean War. However, since the Taepodong-2 launch when one rocket stage landed in the Sea of Japan and the other fell together with the payload in the Pacific Ocean, even China might have to reconsider.

The United Nations Security Council condemned on April 13th the North Korean launch. In response to that, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il said that North Korea discontinues all Six Party talks and will re-enact the nuclear enrichment program. The Yongbyon reactors, crucial for North Korea’s Plutonium production have been restarted, and all IAEA inspectors have been expelled from the country.

Korea has been a unified nation since the 5th century A.D. It was occupied by Japanese forces in 1895 during Japan’s imperial expansion. After Japan’s victory over the Russian navy in 1905, Korea was declared Japan’s protectorate. During the 1930’s and later the Second World War, Japan oppressed the Korean people, stripping them of rights and education. The Japanese forced them into slave labor and depleted Korean food and metal resources, literarily sending the Koreans back several centuries of development.

Together with the Soviet Union, the U.S.A. divided the country in two at the 38th parallel in order to drive out the Japanese in 1945. The division of North and South was decided by the two superpowers without the consent of the Korean people. Even though the Japanese surrendered on 10th of August 1945, Japanese administrators were still in their original positions of power prior to the capitulation; by order of the U.S. Moreover, the U.S. had no intention of restoring Korean rule over the country. Instead they demanded more U.S. control which made them an eye-sore in the eyes of the Koreans. 35 years of oppression, continued by both Japanese and Americans infuriated the people.

The U.S.S.R. and U.S. agreed that both Korean sides should have self-rule after 4 years of supervision. Though, the only governments allowed were the ones in line with each superpower’s ideological position. This caused mass-riots in South Korea, where things slipped out of U.S. control. People in favor of the left-wing were prosecuted; tens of thousands were killed. At the same time; Kim Jong Il’s father, Kim Il-Sung became the leader of the North Korean government, quickly subduing any opposition and severing connections to nations outside of the communist world.

The year was 1948; Soviet and the U.S. left the peninsula when both Korean sides had “found” their leaders.

Both Kim Il-Sung and South Korea’s President Syngman Rhee wanted to unify the Korean peninsula. But, clashing ideologies soon escalated into the Korean War which was in effect a proxy war between the U.S.S.R. and U.S.A. Today, both countries are run more or less independently (yet, U.S. troops are helping South Korea to uphold the armistice). North Korea has the 4th largest standing army in the world, and South Korea is the world’s 13th largest economy. Roughly along the 38th parallel is a 4 km wide belt called the demilitarized zone, in which there is a train station used mainly for freight. It’s still awaiting the day families on both sides of the border can be reunited – once again.

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日本の月 ”Nihon no tsuki” 2 – JAPANLAND

Never before have I seen a documentary that depicts Japan so delicately and with such unpretentiousness as Karin Muller‘s JAPANLAND.

Karin Muller left America to travel one year in Japan, with the aim of becoming one with society there. A nearly impossible task. Though she could speak practical Japanese, she was still illiterate when she went there. With years of Judo training and a humble yet stubborn mind, she committed herself to document her travels in Japan without a camera crew. This resulted in a four-episode mini-series, totaling just above four hours, that has aired in many countries.

What differentiates this documentary from all the rest about Japan is that Karin Muller worked on it with a Japanese mind. A mind that values both dignity and the old-fashioned ways. A mind that respects hard work, commitment and strive for perfection. A mind that can see the beauty of nature yet has a taste for violence. The fact that she went there alone, with little knowledge of the language and the customs and rules of Japan, shows great courage. She didn’t only go there just to be there, she rather wanted to get acknowledged; therefore, she thoroughly studied etiquette, the Japanese language, traditions and history, at the same time asking for minimal help.

Let yourself get inspired by this awesome journey to a land very few people get to see from the inside. Visit http://www.japanlandonline.com/ where I bought my DVD that smoothly found its way to Sweden!

Among the biggest problems Karin Muller faced was the fact that she was a woman. It denied her entrance to for example the Sumo stable, which she instead filmed peeping through a window. Another was that she couldn’t document everything she experienced, since she had no crew; but sometimes she would let a local film her (with the risk broken or stolen equipment). A third problem is that she’s a young Caucasian from the countryside of Virginia with no respectable title or company to back her up. That places her automatically on the bottom floor of the hierarchy. No crew, all luggage on both her back and belly, making her look like a sumo wrestler herself and all odds against her – no wonder she had trouble fitting in…

Read more about her hardships here.

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日本の月 ”Nihon no tsuki” 1 – New Year, New series

Starting today, a new series of posts will be featured on WebMurder’s Inc.

For the uninitiated, 日本の月 or ”Nihon no tsuki” means literally ”The moon of Japan”, but can also mean Japan’s month. The choice for this name came naturally, as the posts will be featured (at least) once a month from now on, and they will all be about Japan. Upcoming topics for this new series can be ”Japan in the News”, ”Crazy Japan”, ”Things you didn’t know about Japan”, ”Learn Japanese” and much more!

To start things off:

Did you know that the Japanese have a version of the Man in the Moon? Instead, they have a Moon Rabbit, that makes mochi. It is a sticky pastry made from pounded, sweet rice, that is commonly eaten all year-round; though, especially during the Japanese New Year (shōgatsu), which is celebrated on January 1st. All kinds of foods are eaten around this time of year, even non-Japanese ones! The Japanese say that they let the weary stomach rest on the 7th of January by eating nanakusa-gayu (seven-hearb rice soup). The Japanese New Year is by far the most important celebration of all year, a tradition kept throughout the centuries. Even though the Japanese switched from the Chinese lunisolar calendar to the Gregorian calendar in 1873, the tradition just keeps getting bigger and bigger! The sending of nengajō (New Year postcards) is similar to Western Christmas cards, and has become quite a phenomenon. It involves sending postcards to everyone you know to tell them you are alive and well, and to wish them a prosperous new Year. Special stamps allow letters, mailed within a time limit, to be delivered on January 1st. Many cards these days have a lottery number attached to them, so any lucky person can find themselves a winner on January 1st! It’s probably a darn thing trying to keep track of what lottery numbers you have, since most households receive over a hundred postcards the same day!

Compete over nice prizes!

Happy New Year!

Kinga shinnen (Happy New Year)!

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Moyashimon!

If there is one anime I really want to see now it’s Moyashimon!

I read about it at Web-Japan’s Kids Web. It’s about this guy who studies at university who can see and talk to germs. The series is centered around fungi, bacteria and viruses and strange things happen involving them! It even has an educative side to it too, and since I want to specialize in microbiology it really made me interested in it. What’s more is that surströmming is featured in one episode, which is a smelly Swedish delicacy. Hah, really cool!

 

Roughly 10 % of the human average body weight consists of bacteria and 3-5 kg’s resides in your intestines.

Read how the series ends here: http://kurogane.animeblogger.net/2008/01/21/moyashimon-ends/

What D.Gray-man character am I?

Couldn’t help trying this simple test over at theOtaku.com:

What D.Gray-man character are you?

What D.Gray-man Character Are You?

What D.Gray-man Character Are You?
Hosted By theOtaku.com: Anime and Fandom

D.Gray-man is set in an alternative world during a time period that resembles our world’s 19th century. Someone named the Millenium Earl wants to destroy the world as we know it by destroying pieces of God’s power called innocence. To his help is an army of demons that are born whenever a person tragically dies, and someone close to that person on the Millenium Earl’s behalf calls out to that person. The born demon then kills the grieving one and takes that person’s form. In this way, the entire world could presumably be inhabited by demons who can at anytime kill unexpecting humans. This is were exorcists like Allen Walker steps in. They are hosts to innocence fragments, granting them superhuman powers of varying sorts. Their mission is to recover other innocence fragments before the Millenium Earl does and to kill his demon minions; thus, freeing the brought back souls trapped inside. Allen Walker has, except for his anti-demon weaponry, a unique eye that allows him to see the souls trapped to demons, thereby identifying demons disguising themselves as humans.

Allen’s childhood was a tragic one, just like most of the other exorcists but, he is determined to free the crying souls trapped inside demons. Allen is destined to destroy time, though he doesn’t know much about it yet. Until then, he battles the countless armies of the Millenium Earl in mankind’s last hope of avoiding annihilation.

Read more about D.Gray-man here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D.Gray-man
Shinsen-Subs and Toriyama’s World have made excellent fansubs of D.Gray-man, just Google-it!

Vid hägerns skarpa skri

Länge tvekade jag ifall jag skulle ta mig an den fjärde delen i Sagan om klanen Otori-serien. De första tre böckerna, som jag älskade och slukade med hela mitt jag, var ju så bra! Kan det bli bättre?

*Light spoiler warning*

Den fjärde delen, Vid hägerns skarpa skri utspelar sig 15 år efter den tredje delen, Under lysande måne. Kaede och Takeo är nobla härskare över De tre rikena, freden råder, handeln blomstrar och barnen är välgödda. Tyvärr är inte alla lika nöjda med freden; Takeos egen svåger konspirerar mot honom, och kejsarens general Saga Hideki, tänker med alla medel ta makten över De tre rikena. Till råga på allt är Takeos utomäktenskaplige son Hisao på god väg att ha ihjäl Takeo som den gamla profetian förutsäger.

Första hälften av boken gillar jag något alldeles utmärkt. Den flyter i samma stil som de tidigare delarna i serien och är precis tillräckligt spännande hela tiden. Däremot har man en gnagande känsla när man läser att, eftersom det här är den fjärde och ”avslutande” delen, så kommer allt att gå fel på något sätt. Men man lever på hoppet. Tyvärr infrias ens farhågor och allt går katastrofalt fel. Så fel, att det lämnar ingen oberörd när man läst ut boken. Men egentligen är det bara en upprepning av historien från de tre första delarna i serien. Istället för Otori Shigeru är det Otori Takeo som råkar illa ut. Jag blev förbannad först. Sen tänkte jag att det är så här berättarstilen är i Japan. Författaren Lian Hearn har gjort ett bra jobb i att skapa en autentisk medeltida japansk berättelse utan att själv vara japan. Det var precis så här det skulle sluta. Allt går inte åt helvete heller i boken, dock inte på det vis som man skulle önska och som man är van vid västerländska berättelser.

Man känner verkligen med karaktärerna i boken, man lider med karaktärerna i boken! Den enda jag ställer mig frågande till är Kaede som på slutet handlar alldeles oresonligt trots att hon älskat Takeo i så många år. Men även detta är som det ska vara och det irriterar mig så! Hur kunde berättelsen bli så rätt och så fel på samma gång?

*End of spoiler warning*

Ibland ångrar jag att jag läste fjärde delen. Men nu ger den mig en anledning att läsa den femte delen, Och himlens vida hav, som också är ett preludium till huvudtriologin. Lian Hearn försöker på detta sätt ”sluta cirkeln”, något som är vanligt förekommande i östasiatisk berättarstil. Det gläder mig att det finns en del till att läsa!

Låt mig dela med mig av min favorit Haiku:

”Inget regn faller
Utan att det skänker liv
åt blommor
På bergsluttningen eller i dalen”

Vill man läsa fler spännande böcker om Japan så rekommenderar jag Eric van Lustbaders verk. Haikudikten ovan kommer ur boken Miko (1989, sidan 449), den andra delen i serien om Nicholas Linnear. Första boken heter Ninja, hela serien går som följer:

  • Ninja
  • Miko
  • Vit ninja
  • Kaisho
  • Flytande staden
  • Ett andra skinn (ej bekräftad svensk titel)

Det finns dock en tvekan till Lustbaders Japan-kunskaper, men helt klart spännande och läsvärda böcker har han skrivit!