メリー クリスマス = “Merry Christmas” in Japanese

Merry Christmas in Japanese ->  メリー クリスマス   This is phonetic, katakana spelling. You see it all over Japan During December.


Japan Noumen Newton 01y - Copy_________________________________________________________

Zenta Claus:  Japan’s Patron Saint of “Buy Nothing Day” (無買日). Passively fighting Christmas commercialism.

Thus, as a service to those Middle School teachers, party planners and the idol curious out there, I offer the title of this post and, once again, here provide “Merry Christmas” in Japanese:


This “Merry Christmas” (pron:  Mehri Kurisumasu) is written in Katakana, one of the three writing systems used in Japanese.  Katakana is used for foreign words and phrases, onomatopoeia, and italics.

If you want to say “Happy Christmas”, here it is in Katakana:


While here at  LetsJapan.Wordpress.Com, please feel free to browse the front page (along with back-issues), check out a couple of the photo galleries, like Shizuka, Rain or Tsukiji Mkt.

Goh・yukkuri de . . .

Your host.



Happy Thanksgiving ( ハピーサンクスギビング )

—   Updated with new photos and a Kanji Lesson   —

Looking towards Shinnyo-do Temple. Kyoto. November 2009. My first Thanksgiving in Japan was in 1984. That tale’s told just below . . .

Thanksgiving’s coming up in the U.S.  Back in 1984, I and my friend Lori, from Mystic, Connecticut, took the Keihan Line from Hirakata-shi into Kyoto.  About a thirty-minute trip.  We walked over to Meidi-ya, near where San-jo intersects Kawaramachi.  Meidi-ya was the “international grocery store” nearest to us and where we went to stock-up on “exotic” American food for Thanksgiving:  canned green beans and Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup for a green bean casserole; a whole chicken (turkeys were hard to find in Japan back then and, besides, the Nakamura’s, her homestay family’s, oven where we planned on doing the roasting cooking, was too small to handle a turkey); Idaho potatoes and gravy mix (we were not inclined to make it from scratch); dressing; cranberry sauce; and other odds and ends.

Harvesting rice in my neighborhood. Tsuda, Japan. Mid October 1984.

We brought the booty back to the Nakamura’s and over the next day or so prepared a very reasonable and respectable facsimile of a traditional American Thanksgiving Feast.  I think Lori made something like pumpkin pie, but that could be my memory playing tricks on me.  Being a Southerner, I made sweet tea.  With it being a special occasion, large bottles of Kirin beer and sake were on hand, too.  And rice.  Japanese rice, of course.  And as it was a special occasion, shoji were slid-back and three generations of Nakamuras and Lori and I ate seated around the low tables; my first (and so far only) Thanksgiving Dinner on the floor (a very comfortable tatami floor, mind you).

Meidi-ya Internation Grocery Store. Kyoto. November 10, 2009.

The Nakamura’s appeared genuinely touched and thought Thanksgiving was a very good and appropriate kind of holiday, worthy of celebration in Japan (no Pilgrim stories, but much to be thankful for with Japan and the Japanese going through good and awful times, sometimes owing to nature and sometimes owing to the choices of humans).  Lori and I had a blast, as 21-year-olds playing cook and hosts for Thanksgiving in Japan.

And Meidi-ya’s still there in Kyoto.  The same store in the same location.  And it still carries exotic Campbell’s soup.

Shinnyo-do Temple. Kyoto. Nov 2009.

Autumn Leaves,” from The Japan Times

A mosaic carpet of autumn foliage tinted in shades of green, yellow, orange, and red is currently rolling southward through the archipelago of Japan. 紅葉 (kōyō, crimson/leaves), the Japanese word for “autumn leaves,” only hints at the splendor of this multihued natural phenomenon.

Beeches, birches, persimmons, larches and ginkgos all produce beautiful colors, but the King of Kōyō “the tree to see,” is the Japanese maple (momiji; like kōyō, it is written with the kanji compound 紅葉). The crimson, lacy-leafed momiji — whether sunlit or artificially illuminated at night — is so impressive that the Japanese refer to autumn leaf-viewing in general as momijigari (紅葉狩り, Japanese maple/hunting).

The second kanji in 紅葉, 葉 (ha, yō), has the core meaning “leaf.” Mastering the shape of 葉 is a snap if you divide it into its three top-to-bottom components — 艹 (plant-life), 世 (generation) and 木 (tree) — and memorize the phrase, “Leaves are successive generations of plant life on a tree.” (Thirty years was the norm for a generation in ancient China, which explains why you can see three “10s” (十) in 世).

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Looking down the Takase Canal. San-jo (Third Street) , Kyoto. 2009.  The Takase continues down to Shi-jo (Fourth Street).  Turn right where the Takase  passes under Shi-jo and walk just a few yards west until you’re at Meidi-ya.


Looking North Up Kawabata-dori. Kyoto, November 2009.


Autumn Colors along the Kamo River. Kyoto, November 2009.

For summertime scenes and colors along the Kamo River,see this post.

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I’m going to take about a 2-week hiatus from LetsJapan.Wordpress.com  Back in early December.   I’ll continue to monitor comments, of course.  Happy Thanksgiving.  ハピーサンクスギビング

Mata, aimashou . . .

See you later.  Never “goodbye”.

About to pack.  I’ve a taxi to catch, then a “bullet” train to catch, then an airport express train, then a plane for the U.S.  Here are a few random photos from the past several days.  All in all, a very good and productive trip.  I leave business off this blog.  On the personal front, though, many long-time friends seen and haunts re-discovered, along with new friends met and memories made.

See you later.  Never “goodbye”.



Taking a short break. Kiyamachi. Kyoto. Nov 09.



Chance Encounter. Kawabata/San-jo Streets. Kyoto. Nov 09.



Along the Kamo River. Kyoto. Nov 09.



At Kurodani temple. Kyoto. Nov 09.



"The Body's Strong". But what about character, integrity and imagination? Detail from canned coffee poster. Kyoto. Nov 09.



Eikando Temple "Lightup". Kyoto. Night of 11 Nov 2009...


Kurodani Dera

As with other posts I’m putting up in a hurry while here in Japan, I’ll later do an entire gallery and more fulsome write-up on Kurodani Dera, one of Kyoto’s lesser-known temples (at least to non-Kyotoites).  Kurodani was founded in 1175, but was all-but-destroyed during the Onin Wars of the late 1500s, then almost 500 years later, fire in 1934.  It was rebuilt every time.  One of the older buildings that survived the 1934 fire was the pagoda built in 1633 which sits atop the hill on Kurodani’s right, atop the extensive and ancient cemetery.  Right now, during November, Kurodani’s back quarters and beautiful (though small by many Kyoto temple standards) garden are open to the public.  The temple’s situated in the Okazaki District of Kyoto’s “Eastern Mountain” area, and is one of my favorites.  I would note that this blog’s “feature photo” at the top of all pages (taken several years ago) as well as the “Kyoto Sunset” photo (taken a couple of days ago) that appears at the end of the “Long Day” post (just below this one) were both taken at Kurodani Dera.



Kurodani. From the garden looking Southwest. Nov 09.



Kurodani. Inside the priests' quarters courtyard. Nov 09.



Kurodani. A man facing west on the Main Hall portico. Nov 09.



Priests at Kurodani following special ceremony. Nov 09.



Kurodani priest. Nov 09.



At one of Kurodani's two garden tea houses. Nov 09.


Long Day.

I won’t go into it.  A very good day, but long.  A productive business lunch and meeting, my football team back in the U.S. won, a long walk in the late afternoon, met some very nice people at dinner and made an in-the-morning coffee appointment with a long time Kyoto expat who’s a friend of a friend of mine.  Be all that as it may, here are some photos taken over the past 36 or so hours.  I try to keep my camera with me at all times.  I’ll organize into galleries later this week or early next:



At Heian Shrine. Morning. 8 Nov 2009.



At Shoren'in. Founded in the mid-15th Century. Kyoto. 8 Nov 2009.



Bus Stop. Kyoto. 7 Nov 2009.



Just inside the Main Entrance of Kyoto Station. 8 Nov 2009.



Kyoto Sunset. 8 Nov 2009.

From Tokyo.

UPDATE: I’ve now posted the Tsukiji Market Gallery, which includes my first two videos posted on this site.


I write from my hotel room at 10:14 a.m., Tokyo time.  About to head out to a series of appointments, then in the late afternoon, take the Shinkansen (“Bullet Train”) to Kyoto.  This morning I finally got to Tsukiji Fish Market (the world’s largest).  Something I’ve always wanted to do.  Within a day or three I plan to put up a gallery of photos from Tsukiji, but for now these will have to do.  R.



Tsukiji Fish Market. Tokyo. Nov 2009.


Tsukiji.  Nov 2009..


Tsukiji. Nov 2009.


I was there from around 5:00-6:00 a.m., late in the day for Tsukiji.



To Japan, tomorrow…

Tomorrow morning (Wed, 4 November) I’ll be returning to Japan.  Many meetings await me — in both the business sense and in the personal and place way.  I’m scheduled to be gone about a week.  Too short a time.  Too short a time.  But this is not a “Fun Trip”, although I certainly look forward to being in the midst of Tokyo’s energy and Kyoto’s beauty in the heart of autumn, my favorite season in Japan.

Kurodani Dera. Kyoto. 2003.


Things that go “Bump” in Japan: Happy Halloween ハピ ハロウイン!

Kodai-ji Temple Goblin Lanterns. August 2011. Kyoto.

— H A L L O W E E N    2 0 1 3 — 

I originally posted this   “Things That Go ‘Bump'” piece 2009.  I’ve updated it over the years.  Let’s start it off with a vid of incredible, haunting, Steven Rollinson photos of mannequin scarecrows from Gifu Prefecture.  The angst and ennui expressed by these mannequins is a thing to behold — 

h/t to wonderful site/blog, Pink Tentacle, for bringing this to my attention.



October 2012 Kansai Scene – Magazine for the International Community

Kansai Scene — October 2012 Edition


Kodai-ji Goblin Lanterns. Detail. August 2011.

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WiFi for Smartphones Poster Detail. Tokyo. August 2011.

In October 1990 I was living in a small mountain town in Hyogo Prefecture.  I write about this town in the stories “Etsuko” and “Enlightenment”, whose links you can find at the top of this page.  I was a middle school teacher.  Come the season of red and gold, it occurred to me that in the spirit of cultural outreach I should find a pumpkin and carve a Jack-o-Lantern for and with the students.

My Japanese counterpart teachers (of English) liked the idea and a big pumpkin was found and brought into the school without much trouble.  A few days before Halloween, in a corner of one of the school hallways, I carved it in stages throughout the school day as students gathered around, amazed.  Several of them helped me scoop-out the insides of Jack’s skull.  Others handed me tools, acting as my nurses in the operating room.  Good times.  When, towards the end of the day, the job was done and the candle was lit and placed just so in Jack’s now-empty skull, I gave a signal and the lights were extinguished in the hall.  Gasps and giggles rippled up and down the flock of students nearby.  They had never seen such a thing.

While that wasn’t that long ago, it was long ago enough: Halloween — with its origins dating back well more than a millenium with the Celts of Northern France and the British Isles, brought to America in fits and starts during the 1700s, popularized by Irish immigrants during the latter half of the 19th Century, and supremely commercialized in the States after WWII — is now a Japanese holiday, in the strictly commercial, kitschy sense.


Happy Halloween in Japanese:   ハピ ハロウイン



"The Ghost of Koheiji".  Woodblock print.  Hokusai.  1830.

“The Ghost of Koheiji”. Woodblock print. Hokusai. 1830.

But ghosts and goblins and the creepy stories surrounding them have their own long tradition in Japan (as is the case in every culture).  Celebrated Edo Period wood block artist Hokusai (1760-1849) created a series of Kabuki-inspired “ghost story” prints around 1830, “Hyaku Monogatari”.  Above you see the print, “The Ghost of Koheiji”, based on an 1803 story-turned-kabuki-play by Santo Kyoden (poet, writer and woodblock artist).  Koheiji was betrayed and murdered by his wife.  So, naturally, he comes back from the dead to torment her and her lover by slipping under the mosquito netting around their bedding and joining and doling out horrific justice on them.   Below is famous, The Ghost of O-Iwa, a woman murdered by her husband who came back in phantasmic form to haunt and exactly bloody vengeance on her loathsome husband.

The Ghost of O-Iwa.  On the lantern is the Buddhist prayer, "Praise to Amitabha Buddha"

The Ghost of O-Iwa. Lantern writing’s the Buddhist prayer, “Praise to Amida Buddha”


Going back a good 1,000 years into early Japanese Buddhist tradition are the tormented “Hungry Ghosts”, or “gaki“.   Gaki are the spirits of those whose lives were consumed with avarice, greed and narcissism (today’s “social climbers”), while leaving their humanity on the back burner (or no burner at all) — you get the picture.  Seems in the afterlife such people will be assigned to wander through —  but never visible to  —  the living world, all disgusting with their distended bellies, wracked with hunger and able to eat only the bowel movements of those in the corporeal world.  They are all around us today, in fact.  Quite the disgusting ghost story and morality tale, all rolled into one and very reminiscent to me of Jesus’ parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, where in death the Rich Man begs Abraham, “‘Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish.’  But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things and Lazarus in like manner received like manner of evil things; but now he is comforted and you are in anguish. . . .’” (Luke 16:24, 25).

"Gaki", or Hungry Ghosts.  Late 12th Century.

“Gaki”, or Hungry Ghosts (detail from scroll). Late 12th Century.

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Hearn’s “In Ghostly Japan

After decades of bouncing from job to job and occasionally living in poverty, Lafcadio Hearn arrived in Japan from the U.S. in 1890 and began teaching English in a Middle School in Matsue  —  a town not far from the one in which I lived and taught Middle School English… exactly 100 years after Hearn.  And he fell in love with Japan.  Hearn became one of the first Western “Windows on Japan” and Japanese culture through his books and essays on every day life, Japan’s educational system (which is not too different a 120 years later) and, yes, Ghost Stories he collected over his years living in Japan.   Note:   one of the world’s largest Hearn collections is located in the Rare Books section of the University of Alabama.

Happy Halloween.

= March 2010 Video Update.  It’s inexcusable that I could have left THIS off the original post =

Ultraman was actually one of my first introductions to Japan.  In the late ’60s and early ’70s it aired every weekday afternoon on UHF Channel 20 in the Washington, D.C. Metro area where I grew up.  I was, indeed, a fan.

~      ~      ~      ~      ~


And then there’s the King of the Monsters, for Japan and elsewhere, whom I had the privilege of sitting down with and interviewing a few of summers ago.

Small Group Trip to Kyoto (April ’10)

This will be a brief post.  Just wanting to make a couple of announcements regarding our Spring ’10 trip(s).

* Our week-long trip to Kyoto is still on and I thank all who’ve signed-up, tentatively signed-up and/or who’ve expressed interest.  We’re going to have a blast.

* I’ve extended the deposit deadline a month, to NOVEMBER 16.   Please see the link atop this Front Page for trip details, itinerary, etc.

* I’ve made a command decision and nixed the more ambitious, 2-week, traveling all over the Kansai area of Japan trip . . .  for this year.  This was the one that included Kyoto, Himeji, Kinosaki, etc.  There was definitely interest, but we’ll put that off till next fall or the next spring, o.k.?

UPDATE: Please see new gallery:  “Fushimi Inari”, either by clicking this link, or at the top of this Home Page.

"Torii Tunnel" at Fushimi Inari.  2008.

"Torii Tunnel" at Fushimi Inari. 2008.


If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to email me at:  letsjapan@yahoo.com

Stone Buddha at Kurodani Temple, Okazaki District, Kyoto.  2007.

Stone Buddha at Kurodani Temple, Okazaki District, Kyoto. 2007.


Wedding Photos.  Niomon Street.  Kyoto.  2007.

Wedding Photos. Niomon Street. Kyoto. 2007.


秋  。。。autumn (Updated for 2011)


Note:  In 2011 I updated this post with a few photos I took Kyoto in November 2009; taken a little over a month after I first posted this piece.  After you (hopefully) enjoy this photo essay, I hope you’ll click over to my 2012 Autumn album.

The Takase Canal. Kiyamachi, Kyoto. November ’09.

.          .         .

Autumn’s my favorite season.  I suppose it comes from being a native of Virginia, growing up just outside of Washington, D.C., where during my childhood autumn seemed to last forever.  Cousins lived — and now raise their own families — in the Shenandoah Valley.  My grandparents on my mother’s side lived in West Virginia when I was very young, and then moved over to Shenandoah, Virginia.  The glorious leaves, the cool crisp days and chilly nights, football season, Halloween, Thanksgiving, apples and apple cider and a slow, sweet transition into the Christmas Season.  As a teenager and then as a college student I found autumn the most romantic time of the dating year and most of my fondest memories of that aspect of my life were played-out against the backdrop of autumn.

Kurama.  Just north of Kyoto.  October 2003.

Kurama. Just north of Kyoto. October 2003.

The first time I went to live in Japan, near Hirakata-shi and within about a half-hour of Kyoto, or Osaka, depending on which direction one takes the Keihan Line, was in August.  So I was able to experience the transition from summer into autumn in Japan.  Through two living experiences in Japan and a couple of dozen of 1- to 3-weeks trips there over the past 10 years, I count autumn as my favorite time in Japan, too.

Kyoto. 2003.

Autumn in Japan:   its heavy, oppressive, debilitating humidity takes a holiday, the Japanese maples (もみじ) transform into millions of delicate blazes of red and gold, lengthening shadows and deepening shades of red and orange, charcoal-sweet smell of roasted yams (still in the skin, of course) wafting about in both city and countryside.  “Sweater Weather.”  The sycamores that line Ni-jo Street in Kyoto, east of the Kamo River.  Comforting memories of dear people who’ve wafted like sweet smoke in and out of my life — or was I the shade that merged into and out of theirs’? — all make autumn in Japan particularly special for me.

I remember one cool autumn night in Kyoto, around 2003 when I and my traveling companion had just flown across the Pacific, gone through the Rites of Immigration, Customs and Baggage Claim at Kansai International Airport, taken the “Haruka” train from the airport to Kyoto Station, been picked up at the station by my Sensei, my Japanese language teacher from college, and taken to his and his wife’s home in North Kyoto.  We ate some, drank a little beer and sake and then turned in after a long, long, long day.  The last thing I remember hearing as I drifted off was the sound of a man singing, almost chanting, just outside the window, pushing his cart of roasted sweet potatoes through the narrow Kyoto streets, plodding on by with his voice rising and falling   —   “R o a s ted yaaaa…ms!  R o a s ted  yaaaa…ms”  (“yaaahhhhkeee   eeemohhhh,  yaaahhhkeee  eeemohhhh…“).  He sounded elderly.  Was he?   I think it was the most beautiful song I had ever heard.

.               .               .

G a l l e r y

Kiyomizu Dera.  November 2003.



Canal from Lake Biwa. Kyoto. November 2009.


Harvesting Rice. Near my house. Hirakata. Autumn 1984.


Leaves in Stone Basin. Shoren-in. November 2009.


At Shinnyo-do Temple. Kyoto. November 2009.


Persimmons (柿). Kyoto, Okazaki, Market. November 2009.


Ladder. Kurama. November 2003.


Katano-san. Near my house. Autumn 1984.


Friend at Eikan-do (永観堂) “Light Up.” Kyoto. November 2009.


Along the road, near Chion-in. November 2009.


Overcast day in Pontocho. Kyoto. November 2009.


Wall at Shinnyodo Temple. Kyoto. November 2009.


Kurodani-dera. Kyoto. November 2009.

More on Kurodani-dera here.