Thursday, February 27, 2014

How Japan Celebrates Girls' Day

Excitement is growing throughout Japan in anticipation of one of the nation’s biggest holiday traditions, Girls’ Day. The millennia old celebration, also referred to as Hinamatsuri or the Doll Festival, takes place every year on March 3rd. With all the history and tradition behind this special day comes just as many customs and celebrations. 

One of the oldest, and most important, customs that comes each year with the arrival of March 3rd is the displaying of dolls, a practice that began during the Heian period. The dolls can start to be seen being displayed throughout Japanese homes around mid-February and remain that way until the day of the festival has arrived. It is then customary for many people to participate in an ancient Japanese custom called hina-nagashi, one of the original practices of Girls’ Day. During hina-nagashi people place straw dolls into a boat and cast the boat out to sea, believing the dolls carry the bad spirits away with them. 

The more exquisite dolls do not get put in the boats- sometimes these dolls are passed down through generations- instead they get taken down and put away after the celebrations have come to an end. Although they are put on display in February, it is important that the dolls are taken down no later than March 4th, or it is believed the daughter of the family will get married late. 

And what kind of Asian holiday would be complete without food and drinks? On Girls’ Day customary food makes its way into the celebrations. Traditional foods consumed on this day include hina-arare, crackers flavored with either soy sauce or sugar (which one depends on the region) as well as colored rice cakes, or hishimochi. Chirashizushi, sushi rice flavored with sugar and vinegar then topped with raw fish among other various ingredients, is also a holiday favorite. And for girls seeking a united and peaceful relationship, it is suggested that they consume ushiojiru, a soup, that contains clams still in their shells because a pair of clam shells can fit perfectly together- but only with the original pair. 

In addition to traditional foods, Girls’ Day also brings to the table a customary beverage, shirozake, a Japanese sake made from fermented rice. 

Girls' Day is one of the best ways to get a peek into ancient Japanese culture and tradition passed down through generations of families, so if you ever plan on visiting Japan- be sure to add this holiday to your Japanese experience! 

To learn more about the cultural and diversity taught at Fujimini Island, please click here.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The History Behind One of Japan's Oldest Holiday Traditions: Girl's Day

With the ending of February and the coming of March, we can look forward to a transition from the long and cold winter into the beginning of the spring months. The coming of spring not only means welcoming warmer weather, but also a season full of fun and traditional festivals and holidays throughout Asia. One of the first spring holidays in Japan is just around the corner! On March 3rd, people around Japan will be celebrating the festival known as Girl’s Day. 

Also referred to as the Doll Festival or Hinamatsuri, Girl’s Day is one of the oldest known holiday traditions in Japan. The annual celebration first began during the Heian Period, which dates all the way back to 794! The people of the ancient villages began first by displaying the beautifully crafted dolls in their homes, believing that they possessed the capacity to ward off evil spirits and bring good fortune. It then became customary to engage in a custom known as hina-nagashi. This practice called for people to place the dolls into boats and push the boats out to sea, with the belief that the dolls would carry the bad spirits away with them. 

The Doll Festival has also become referred to as Girl’s Day because during the Heian Period, and still today, it was popular for many of the little girls to play with dolls. The dolls were so loved that they even became seen as the protectors or caretakers of the girls, even marriage
warding off bad spirits and keeping a watchful eye on their owner throughout her childhood, adolescence, courtship, and

Each year as the hand-crafted dolls are displayed, it reminds the people of Japan of an almost millennia-old custom. If you are looking to get a taste of the rich culture and history of Japan, there is no better time than during this beautiful display of Japanese history. 

To learn more about the cultural and diversity taught at Fujimini Island, please click here.

Monday, February 24, 2014

South Korea Shows Support for Kim Yu-na After Olympic Figure Skating Defeat

South Korea has always been known for their intense nationalism, and their sporting events are no exception. Which is why it was no surprise that Koreans reacted to their beloved figure skater, Kim Yu-na’s, loss to a Russian teenager in Sochi with anger and disappointment. 

People reacted to this defeat with anger saying Russia had cheated South Korea out of the gold medal because of their small size. A well-known author claimed he will remember the 2014 Winter Olympics as the “Suchi” Olympics, the Korean word for humiliation. A petition was even signed by 1.9 million people, mostly South Koreans, requesting that an investigation be done by the International Skating Union to look into the calls made by the judges. 

So why was South Korea so up in arms over this particular defeat? It has been proposed that there was so much emotion behind the loss because Kim Yu-na was so admired by the people and seen as a “perfect heroine” for her nation. Her story of coming from humble beginnings, beginning her skating career at 6-year-old on an old rink, to rise up and become an Olympic athlete, represents everything that postwar South Korea feels they stand for. In addition to that, Ms. Kim was the recipient of the Olympic gold medal in figure skating in 2010, a victory Koreans felt deserved to be repeated this year. Beginning after the Korean War, South Korea used nationalism as a method to restore pride and unity within the country during the times of severe economic hardship, and sports became seen as a pathway towards achieving that sense of national pride. This has led to a deep connection self-worth for many Koreans. 
between international sports achievements and

But despite the blow, the initial uproar has seemingly subsided and people have stepped out to show their support for Kim Yu-na. The figure skater herself has remained classy and put-together through the whole thing, refraining from any public criticisms about her defeat or about her opponent. She has only spoken up to assure everyone she is pleased with her silver medal and relieved about some of the weight of national pressure being taken off her shoulders, commenting, “I am happy that it’s over. Happy that I did well.” 
Good for Ms. Kim! 

To learn more about the cultural and diversity taught at Fujimini Island, please click here.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Marriage Agencies Help North Korean Refugees Adjust to Life in South Korea

Each year, North Koreans risk their lives and leave everything they know to defect to the South, and many of these 26,000 refugees are women. Due to cracking down on the boarder by the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong Un, the last two years have seen a drop of refugees by almost half of what it was in 2011. Even with sharp decrease in North Koreans arriving into South Korean, 3 of every 4 have still been women. 

These women leave their homes and make the treacherous journey through the Chinese border to South Korea in search of a better life. And once the long process of resettling is over, the realization that they are without friends or family in a brand new place becomes overwhelming. For this reason, one of the first things a North Korean woman looks for upon arrival is the love and companionship of a South Korean husband. 

Dating and marriage agencies have been a big part of Korean culture and business for some time now. Due to the number of single North Korean women pouring into the country, marriage agencies specifically geared towards helping North Korean women have become quite popular. 

The founder of Namnam Buknyeo, one of the most sought out marriage agencies, Hong Seung-Woo, says one of his companies main goals is to assist North Korean women in their resettlement process and help them to be as happy as possible in their new home. He adds, “To do that, they need to build a network that can support them.” 

Namnam Buknyeo tries to make this possible by servicing North Korean women for free and having a policy that all male clients must be screened before they can be paired with women. Any men who are disabled, already married, or unemployed are not able to register. 

Since Namnam Buknyeo’s opening in 2006, it has been responsible for 450 marriages. Hong Seung-Woo can express much confidence when talking about his company’s success, and all he has to do is use his own marriage as an example! Mr. Hong met his wife, Ju Jeong-ok, after she registered for his company, looking for a partner after coming to South Korea in 2012. He claims after just one date, he had fallen for her kindness, good nature, and beauty and was sure he would marry her! 

To learn more about the cultural and diversity taught at Fujimini Island, please click here.