June 29, 2009

i-ro-ha #6 "he" and my attempts at youtubing

it is important to know that this character "he" is pronounced like the "he" in "head" or "helicopter"
I think it is a "silly" character.
When the "e" sound is drawn out "heeeee" it is the sound people make when they mean "is that so?" or "really?!".
Two nouns that start with he:

he = a fart
heso = a bellybutton
...see how "silly" it is?

Well then, how about this...using the characters he, no, mo and ji
you can draw a frowning (but funny) face...
(I have no idea when and who thought this up but it has been around for a long time and I am pretty sure all Japanese people are familiar with this...)

"henohenomheji" starring I_am_Tulsa:
If someone says that your mouth is shaped like a he that means you look unhappy.

(BTW, I couldn't upload video from my computer so I had to make a youtube account....argh. I soooo wanted to stay away from this... I think it is some kind of google conspiracy...)


A colorful time in Japanese history, for someone who enjoys literature, would have to be...
the Heian Period. (794-1185)

This is when that famous Harlequin-like story about a prince and his "conquests" (The Tale of Genji) was written by Murasaki Shikibu (a court lady). It is said that Murasaki Shikibu didn't actually finish the tale (some even say that she didn't write it :-S), but with things like just never know.

The Pillow Book, a witty diary written by Sei Shonagon (another court lady!) was also written during the Heian Period.

Then there is "The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter" ("Taketori Monogatari" ) a story about a moon princess being raised up by a bamboo cutter and his wife, that was written during the Heian Period. There was a great movie that was released in the 1980's titled "Princess from the Moon" which made me realize that this story could very well have been one of the first science fiction stories in the world!

Another era that begins with he is the Heisei Period.
It began in 1989 when the current emperor ascended the throne and since it is the current era, I find this to be a rather important period!

The unveiling of the name for the new era was of course shown on tv back then, and I found a clip on..yes, youtube:
speed it up to 56 seconds and you will see the kanji...

The man "unveiling" the name is Keizo Obuchi.
At this time he was chief cabinet secretary. Later on he became the 84th Prime Minister of Japan.
Unfortunately, he passed away while still in office in the year 2000.

The kanji for Heisei is supposed to mean Peace on earth and heaven....

The word for peace in Japanese is HEIWA

a nice word in any language I suppose...

But, back to the silliness of he

hesokuri = a secret savings (usually a wife's)

a silly phrase...
heso wo mageru = to turn your bellybutton....this means to "become perverse"... which usually happens when a husband finds out that his wife has a secret savings ;-)

Sorry that I didn't have any pictures of Japan to post today.... it has been a really weird week...and I am surprised that I even got this post posted...

Hope you all have a great and heiwa-na (peaceful) week!

June 24, 2009

5 favorite meme

Jelica over at Budapest Bits has tagged me with my very first meme!
(You can see her very interesting favorites by clicking

I am supposed to list 5 of my favorite things for the following 5 different here it goes!

✐5 favorite songs
■Dream On by Aerosmith
■Madeleine Bas-de-laine by Tete
■Dejame Entrar by Carlos Vives
■Eyala by Richard Bona
Koishikute by Begin (A Japanese band from Okinawa)

(choosing 5 favorite songs was the hardest for me...I could choose at least 5 songs for every country, I have so many favorite artists and songs! )

✐5 favorite movies
Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain
■Lord of the Rings trilogy
Hotel Hibiscus ( a Japanese movie about a little girl and her interesting family set in Okinawa)
The Great Dictator
Stat Wars

(Star Wars was my first favorite as a kid so that will probably stay on the list forever. Amélie has been a favorite ever since it's release too. I love a lot of Charlie Chaplin movies, so tomorrow I might want to choose Modern Times instead...but Chaplin will forever be on my list. I was really tempted to include Woody Allen's Deconstructing Harry...and then there are all the Ghibli movies...oh well...)

✐5 favorite books
■Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett (ever since I read it a couple of years ago)
■The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien (ever since the 6th grade)
■Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (the move from Oklahoma to California overlaps with my own history...of course, totally different times and circumstances but still....)
■Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C O'Brien (ever since the 4th grade)
■Opposite of Faith by Amy Tan (her autobiography made me laugh so hard...)

(gosh, this was hard too...)

✐5 favorite crushes
■Keanue Reeves (I even went to his band's concert 3 times...the band Dogstar...I don't know what
happened to them though....)
■James Dean
■Denzel Washington
■David Boreanaza (from Buffy, Angel and most recently, the tv series Bones...)
■Jensen Ackles (from the tv series Supernatural)

(These guys are all so cool.)

✐5 favorite random things
■mashed potatoes
■the smell, texture and sound of a hardcover book
■bubble wrap (I love popping bubble wrap....)

I think I am supposed to tag 5 people, am I supposed to tag 5 people?
If I'm not supposed to tag...well, these people have great blogs so check them out regardless of this meme!...

Lola at
Dee at
Alaine at
Carol at
Frances at

June 21, 2009

i-ro-ha #5 "ho"

Some of my favorite words start with "ho".
So for today's edition of "i-ro-ha" you may learn more about me than Japan.

For example:
hon = book
hondana = bookcase ... some people say you can judge a person's personality from their that case, I could have all sorts of personalities!

hoshi = star
Tonight is cloudy, so no stars. Well...not very many stars can be seen in this city anyways...
(by the way the book you can sort of see in the picture... has been with me for about 30 years)


hochoucho = E major ... Chopin's Etude No3. in E major "Vhanson de l'adieu" Op.10-3 is one of my          
                      favorites...(I like Fujiko Hemming's piano performance.  She is a pianist who I will post        
                      about  someday.)

"ho" is also the sound of relief... when you say "hotto shita" it means "I am relieved."


Another word that starts with "ho" is "honki", which means "earnest" or "seriousness".
In kanji, written by poet and calligrapher Aida Mitsuo (last name comes first in Japanese), it looks like this
The meaning of the kanji for "hon" means "real" (also is the same kanji for book!)
"ki" means "mind, spirit" (also means atmosphere).


This is from the cover of a book my dear friend  Blossom gave to me a few years ago...
(book design by happy and happy, book published by bunka shuppan kyoku)

The title of the book "Honki" comes from a poem in the book also featured on the above cover.

This book contains English translations but for the sake of copyright and is my own translation of the poem:


Anythings is fine - just be sure to do it earnestly
It will be fun - if you do it earnestly
You won't get tired - if you do it earnestly
And even if you do get tired - it will be a refreshing kind of tired

As you might be able to tell from the above cover, Aida Mitsuo's form of calligraphy looks care free and not confined to strict rules...

So, in the same vein, without thinking too much, yet being attempt at writing the letters for the word "hotaru" which means "firefly"...  posing with my firefly stationery!

Here's a sentence using some words we learned today...
Honki de yareba hotto surudeshou.
If you try in earnest, you will surely be relieved.

Now I must earnestly go and make (a late) dinner!

Hope you all had a great weekend!

June 19, 2009

my week of sunshine, memories and lame excuses

Every year it happens...the Japan Meteorological Agency announces the official start of the rainy season. Then, the next day, it starts to rain....sunshine.

Gloriously hot and partly to mostly sunny weather have been the norm for the past week.
A shortage of rain will lead to a summer with a low water supply. Although this is not such a good thing, I couldn't help but be happy since I finally got to hang out the futon!
I know you may not be interested in my blankets, I just thought I'd show you how Japanese people 'hang out their laundry'. ;^)

As you might be able to tell from the above picture, we live "pretty high up" so it can be freaky to hang things over your veranda, but this is the way it is done, complete with huge futon pins to keep the covers from blowing away. THAT would be dreadful...


The great weather also meant I could do a little more digging around in our "still unopened boxes room", ie: the den. What should come out of boxes? More boxes! This is a small portion of the boxes I have accumulated over the past couple of years...

I got to air them out...and then put them back in I think I need "help"...


Then I found an old suitcase, and lo and behold, Tulsa circa 1975!

My passport photo.

I didn't take this picture for posting purposes, it was just a random thing I did since I am practically glued to my camera these days. But when I looked at it later, I realized that I had my picture squeezed in between East and West....My first Japanese fan that I used when I was learning traditional Japanese dancing and my infant dress.

With this first passport I came to Japan with my mother to meet her side of the family for the very first time.

My grandmother's house is in a place that resembles the scenery in the Japanese animated film Totoro, so on that first trip I felt like an Asian version of Alice In Wonderland.
Instead of following a white rabbit, I would follow white butterflies. Instead of meeting a caterpillar I met koi. The Cheshire Cat... well, let's just Aunt was there.

I look at that picture and think, who IS that girl?

That little girl wanted to be a veterinarian. She ended up being a... vegetarian...
She also wanted to be a movie director ended up being a radio show director.
She also wanted to be an author...and well, still does.

I had a great elementary school teacher who taught me the pleasures of reading and story telling.

My mother also played a big part in my love for books. With her "unique" English accent she would read me bedtime stories and I would memorize them. The next day, I would be the story teller.

We come up with so many reasons to let go of our dreams...not enough money, not enough time, too many worries... I've used them all too. But I've also been able to do many things that I dreamed of...
I've met some pretty famous people too... so I wonder why I shy away from the things that I want to do the most. Fear.

Fear of failure.
What a lame excuse...
I think I'll air that out too.

Airing out my fear of failure as we write.


Upcoming "i-ro-ha series" will be on the Japanese character "ho".
Coincidentally, a word that starts with "ho" is:
"hosu" = to air, to dry

Hope you have a great weekend, wherever you are!

June 15, 2009

i-ro-ha #4 "ni"

The fourth character to introduce in the "i-ro-ha" series is "ni".
Words that start with "ni":
ni = two
niji = rainbow
ningen = human
not to be confused with...
ninjin = carrot
oh, oh, oh NINJA!
and of course another word that starts with "ni" is NIPPON or NIHON. You know this as JAPAN.
a land of grey buildings and red gates...
Here is the kanji for Nihon
Rice paddy near my mother's home...
I started this series as an attempt to describe Japan, and here I am trying to explain the word Japan (Nihon) in one session.
...uh... not going to happen.

So allow me to focus just a little on religion.

Japan is often called a Buddhist country and although that is not a false statement it only captures one side of Japan's spirituality.
Buddhism was popularized in Japan during the Kamakura Period (1185~1333).
One of the most well known religious figures of the time was a man whose name starts with todays letter "Ni"(に).

Nichiren (1222~1282).
He founded the Nichiren sect which focuses on the Lotus Sutra.
The most influential sect that embraces the teachings of Nichiren would have to be the Soka Gakkai. They are popular overseas as well, with many famous musicians and other celebrities among their followers. They are known in Japan for their ties with the Komeito, a political party that is now one of the ruling parties.

Other Buddhist sects are the Jodo, Jodo-Shin and of course Zen, just to name a few.
So, if Buddhism doesn't have that long of a history in Japan... then, what is an indigenous Japanese religion?


The kanji characters mean "the way (or path) of god".

a shinto shrine I pass during my commute...
I'll try to take better pictures someday.

Two chronicles written in the 8th century (the Kojiki and the Nihonshoki) are known as Japan's first history books. They are books that show how mythology and history are intertwined in this country.

Amaterasu-no-omikami is one of the 3 original gods and is part of the root of Shintoism. There are more gods though...Izanagi-no-mikoto and Izanami-no-mikoto were husband and wife and they gave birth to dozens of gods who also gave birth to gods...

Included in the ranks of the gods, was the Emperor. Emperors were deified up until the end of World War 2, after which religion was separated from government.
(I remember seeing a picture of the Showa Emperor (the current Emperor's father) hanging on a wall at my Japanese grandmother's house when I was about 4 years old... I don't know what happened to it after my grandparents passed away.)

Another aspect of Shintoism that started before the word Shinto was put into use, is the belief in...well...almost everything!
Japan is the land of ... Yaoyorozu-no-kami (八百万の神). It means, 8 million gods.

I'm not kidding.
Eight million gods.

There is a god in everything. Not just the elements like earth, wind and fire, but also in all species.
There are spirits in all things and all spirits are divine, and have powers.

There is another saying in Japan...
Iwashi no atama mo shinjin kara. = Even a sardine's head can be worshiped.
This means that "faith can make anything holy".
Although the saying is rather critical and not used as praise, I think there is a lot of wisdom and beauty in worshipping nature.

This philosophy has enriched Japanese culture (example: paintings and kimono designs.) and literature (example: haiku which has now become quite the phenomenon!).

Although the Japan I know of now seems to be letting these ideals slip through their fingers
new buildings being built all over the place...
I have hope that some of the ancient philosophy will be revived and live on.
Movies like "Princess Mononoke" and "Spirited Away" show the basics of the Shinto philosophy...without the preaching.

oh and another word that starts with "ni":
ninjou = human nature
this is always used in a good way, focused on the warmth and kindness of humans...

Thank you for reading this extremely long post...and thank you for visiting!

June 12, 2009

plates and dishes

Willow at Willow Manor and her friend at  About New York  posted some beautiful plates on their blogs and ...well... I thought...

since I still haven't found all the boxes with my tableware in it, maybe this would be the perfect type of thing to give me the incentive to move my butt and get those plates found!
This  plate comes in a box made of paulownia.  Lots of precious things in Japan are kept in boxes or drawers made  of this wood. The Kanji on the box (the one in the middle 皿) is "sara" and it means plate (or dish). It was made by the potter, Ryoshu.  He is one of the many brilliant potters from Arita in Saga Prefecture (located on the western coast of the Kyushu island).

This next plate is from the Maebata China Corporation.
I like how the inside is a simple blue and white with a gold rim and the outside is...
red, gold and black.
This will never go into the microwave...

and now for some smaller dishes...since Japan may have many large plates, we often use lots of small dishes to decorate the dining table... 
these are the ones I use on a daily basis.  They are from one of my most favorite china makers in Japan... Fukagawa.

..and then there is one very simple dish.

I use this one for "edamame" (boiled green soybeans)...sorry I don't have any today...

This is a simple dish, I have lost the details on who made it. 
I like how it fits perfectly into my hand.  

There is a shiny glazed area but it also has  a rough, granola type feel to it too.  

The bamboo leaves are the accent... in which this dish speaks.

June 8, 2009

Dear Diary, just stuff I saw these past few days

The last couple of days: taken from my phone camera's point of view....

1.  a book I bought a few months ago and totally forgot about...but remembered last night when I was making my list of "100 Japanese authors to read". (click here for an almost finished list)

This is a book titled "a  book of women author's - Meiji Era born authors edition" by Ichikawa Noriko.    (I just found out that she has a magazine titled....."Iroha" ....  unfortunately the last one was published in 2007 and there hasn't been a new one out yet.  I'll try to find one of the 5 issues that have so far been published!)

This is a book of 150 pages and it introduces 6 authors (born in the Meiji Era: 1868 ~1912) with timelines, pictures of their most favorite belongings, book covers and sometimes pictures of their homes and offices...
(click here and you will be taken to the publisher's website...all in Japanese but some very nice books...)

2. I found a mushroom underneath the book return box at my local library....
   It looks like a shiitake, but I'm not sure!

3. On my way home the other day, I was staring out the train window and I saw a rainbow.

I thought, "awww, if only I could take a picture..."
Then, when I got off at the train station, the rainbow was still there!  It was starting to fade away, so I took the picture with my phone...can you still see it?
Then an even stranger thing happened...I was looking at the new "blogs of note" and found out that that person was looking at the EXACT SAME rainbow!  

The rainbow is a bit more clear in his picture over here: is my English strange

The world is so big, yet so small...

June 4, 2009

i-ro-ha #3 "ha!"


This letter is normally pronounced "ha" but when it is used as a "topic marker particle" it is pronounced "wa".


words that start with “ha” ():


ha = a leaf (also happa is leaf), leaves

ha= a tooth, teeth

(this is a restaurant in Kobe)

hahaha = the sound of laughter ;-)

hai = yes

haru = spring

haha = the sound of laughter? 

Well, actually “haha” means “mother”…


For me, the words “laughter” and “mother”, are kind of the same thing.


My father passed away when I was a toddler.  So my mother brought me up on her own….in a country that was not her homeland.  She spoke English like her life depended on it, and well, I suppose it did. 


Despite the grief she held inside her after my father passed away, she is the person who taught me to laugh.  There wasn’t a week that I didn’t get scolded but there wasn’t a day that we didn’t laugh out loud.  (All my personal “Joy Luck Club-ish” memories can go into another post…)

More words that start with “ha” are:


hashi = chopsticks

hashi = bridge

hashi =edge


If we didn’t use Kanji, it could be hard to figure out what the above sentence means.

But with Kanji....

Pretty chopsticks.

A pretty bridge.

A pretty edge.
I know this picture does not make a whole lot of sense, but that is the point...after all you COULD be talking about the edge of your seat!

There are many other words like "hashi" that seem to be the same but are very different.
They will continue to pop up in upcoming editions of the "i-ro-ha" series.

(hasami = scicors)

Since I received a wonderful question from a fabulous bloggy friend about how Japanese is is an example of a short paragraph.  This first one is written in only the Hiragana characters (I keep calling them letters).  
(Hiragana are the letters that I am featuring on this "i-ro-ha" series.)


Yikes!  Of course it is still readable but VERY confusing...

Since Japanese is written stuck together (except for the occasional commas and periods), the above paragraph is hard to read because there is no break.  So, let's change some of these words into Kanji characters and Katakana letters, which will help divide the words.
(Katakana letters are used for words that are of foreign origin or for onomatopoeia. )

Now we know that this means: My name is Tulsa.  I am introducing Japan on my blog.
Today, I am introducing words that start with "ha".  If you have any questions about Japan, please leave a comment.

(Sorry the blue didn't turn out so well in the above paragraph...but "Tulsa" is a foreign name, so it is in katakana and "comment" is also a foreign word used in Japanese now, so also gets written in katakana.)
Pictures of "hashi-oki".
Hashi-oki are chopstick rests.  Most people have them but not everybody uses them everyday.
Always use when you are having guests at the table!  The one that has chopsticks resting on it has a hidden compartment in it for a toothpick!  I bought this in Hokaido a few years ago.

And of course when I found elephant ones, how cold I resist!?

Now, it is time for me to rest....

June 1, 2009

haPPy day off...

I don't have a whole lot to say today... been busy getting things together for renewing my visa etc...
But just to let people see what I saw the other day...

Things I bought and saw on my HaPPy day off...
polka dots
iron-on patches
pretty beads from Indonesia...
purplish hydrangeas
more purplish hydrangeas
and of!
What's coming up soon on "the art of living in Japan":
◆the letter "ha" (は)
◆"realistic things" you have to do to "live in Japan"
◆Japanese book list

i-ro-ha #2 "ro"


This is only the second letter but it is probably going to be the hardest one to feature.  

There aren’t very many names that start with “ro”…. Rosanjin!

Rosanjin is a famous calligrapher, potter and food critique.  He passed away 50 years ago but his philosophy on food and the dishes that they should be served on has continued to influence Japanese cuisine. 


I wish I could take a picture of the real thing, but this will have to do for today...

a book about Rosanjin and his ceramics. 

The most well used word that starts with “ro” would have to be…

 the number 6 = = ろく= roku


Other words that start with “ro”:


roba = donkey

roudou = labor 

("rou" is pronounced like "row" in "row a boat" but the "r" sound is actually in between an L and an R... it can be very hard to say correctly at first)

roudoku = reading aloud

rouka = hallway, passageway

There is a very strange passageway in Osaka.

There is “trick art” painted on the walls.


rou = wax

rousoku = candle = ろうそく

These are Wa (Japanese) Rousoku.  Traditional Japanese candles are “vegetarian”.  They are made from wax taken from wax trees.

The candles in my picture are about 9cm in length and will stay lit for about 55 minutes each. 

Wa Rousoku need tending to. 

You can’t just light one and walk away.  The wick needs to be cut off after a while so that the flame doesn’t get too big and start to smoke. 

You could call this inconvenient but the purpose of the candle is not just to light a room. 


A candle is also used for guiding the soul…


In Japan when you pray to your ancestors there is almost always a candle lit.  Whether the religion is Shinto (like my mother’s side of the family) or Buddhism (like my husband’s side of the family) there is a candle. 


In Shinto there is often more than one candle.

Buddhists light one candle and with that flame you burn incense.


When you tend to the light of a candle it becomes a natural way of meditation. 

Be careful not to cut off too much of the wick, make sure you cut off enough. 

The light of a Wa Rousoku is bright enough to read by…even the tiny one that I lit.

roudoku by rousoku

(reading aloud by candelight)