Friday, April 24, 2015

A Review of Eileen Wacker’s “Blue Penguin and the Sensational Surf”

The animals who call Fujimini Island home are all buzzing with excitement because today is the grand opening of the Fujimini Island Surf School. Many of the animals are eager to learn to surf, and everyone is eager to watch Blue Penguin display the surf skills he is known for. 
The penguins are hard at work getting everything ready for the special occasion, preparing drinks and hanging ribbons to welcome their guests. The time has finally come for the grand opening, and more guests than Blue Penguin expected have shown up to watch and participate. Blue Penguin is proud of his skills and just can’t resist showing off to the crowd. Unfortunately, he is so busy showing off he doesn’t notice that a stranger has arrived on Fujimini Island and one of the animals may be in some trouble! Who is this stranger? And will Blue Penguin stop showing off in time to notice that one of his students is in trouble?

As can be expected with all of Eileen Wacker’s books in the Fujimini Island Adventure series, this story is entertaining and fun for kids, but also has an important lesson embedded within it. Blue Penguin is a great surfer and should be proud of his skills, but being too proud and showing off has a price. His students are depending on him to help them and look after them out in the ocean, but Blue Penguin is so distracted by impressing the crowd, he doesn’t notice when one of his students are in trouble. Through a cute and creative story, Wacker highlights the importance to kids about not bragging and showing off, and the consequences they can have. 

In the 7th installment of her popular series, a new character with a connection to Japanese tradition is introduced to teach kids about some elements of Asian culture that they might not have heard of outside of reading this book.  

Monday, April 20, 2015

In South Korea, After Children's Day Concludes, May 8th is For the Celebration of Parents

In South Korea, May 5th is a day dedicated to the celebration and appreciation of all the Children in the country, but just three days later it’s the parents turn for some celebration.

Each year on May 8th, people across South Korea celebrate and honor their parents. Though the holiday is not considered a national public holiday by the South Korean government, it is widely celebrated across the country and many people take this day off to be with their families. The holiday is purposed to commemorate all of the efforts parents make when raising their children, physical, social, emotional, and psychological. 

On Children’s Day, parents shower their children with love and affection to show how much they appreciate them and how special they are. So on May 8th, it is parents’ turn to be showered with love and shown appreciation. Parents make tremendous sacrifices for their children, so this holiday is the time for children to give back. 

Today, to celebrate and mark the special holiday, children will set aside the entire day to spend it with their parents- something teens rarely take the time to do. Not only do families spend the day together, but the activities they do are specifically ones that the parents enjoy. Children also give their parents gifts and flowers to demonstrate their gratitude and love. Carnations and roses are the most widely chosen flower for Parents’ Day, to mark the importance of the holiday. 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

South Korea Also Has a Holiday for Celebrating Children

May 5th is not only a special day in Japan, but it is a public holiday in South Korea as well. And like Japan, South Korea also dubs May 5th as the day for the celebration of children nationwide. 

May 5th was designated as Children’s Day by the government in 1961 after The Children’s Welfare law was written into the constitution. It was thought of as a movement to respect children and look after their wellbeing. It wasn’t until the 1970s that the day became thought of as a public holiday and a nationwide time for celebration. It also serves as a day to honor adults who have dedicated their time to improving the lives of children in Korea. 

Dr. Bang is the man who originally proposed the idea of having a holiday dedicated to children. He was a writer in the 1920s and was also responsible for pioneering studies about ways to intervene and help children in need. During the 1920s he started an organization called “Saek Dong Hoi” with his friends to contribute to his cause. He believed having a day dedicated to children could be used as a way to instill a sense of independence and national pride in children. It could also be used to highlight the dignity of children and show adults their need for care and respect. 

Today, each year on May 5th, parents across South Korea will shower their children will gifts and attention to show them how loved and special they are. It is not uncommon for children to be taken to museums, movie theaters, zoos, parks and other places that children would choose to go to as a treat. Various towns and cities across South Korea will also host fun events for children and their families to partake in on this exciting day. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Japan Concludes Golden Week by Celebrating Children’s Day

The Japanese string of national holidays known as Golden Week definitely goes out with a bang, saving one of the perhaps most exciting and most widely celebrated holidays of the week for last. 

Every year on May 5th, children across Japan are celebrated during the holiday, appropriately named, Children’s Day. Although it has only been dubbed a national public holiday by the Japanese government since 1948, the holiday has been deeply ingrained within Japanese culture dating back to the reign of Empress Suiko in 593 A.D. 

Originally, May 5th was named Tango no Sekku and designated for boys, while March 3rd was the holiday for girls. But it has since been changed so May 5th is a day for celebrating all children, both boys and girls. It is a day set aside to celebrate children’s happiness and pay respects to their wonderful little personalities. It is also a day to express gratitude to mothers across Japan who carried and gave birth to the children. For this reason, it is no longer referred to as Tango no Sekku but instead Kodomo no Hi. 

All across Japan, giant carp-shaped streamers can be seeing flying outside of houses to symbolize strength and success. Inside the home, families will display dolls of famous warriors and other beloved heroes. Children are encouraged to take baths sprinkled with iris leaves and roots to promote good head and ward off any evil. And as you may have guessed, the holiday comes with a traditional food as well. No Japanese holiday is complete without a traditional food or drink, and for this holiday that food is kashiwamochi. Kashiwamochi is a rice cake wrapped in oak leaves and filled with a delicious sweet bean paste. 

Countless events are held on Children’s Day to honor children, highlight their talents, promote good health, and of course- to have fun! One event included a performance of Kyogen at the Yokohama Noh Theater, featuring 18 actors between the ages of seven and thirteen. Eager parents, teachers, friends, and family members packed the theater to witness the display of impressive skills that the children had spent nearly a year preparing. 

Kyogen is a type of comic theater that has been around for 600 years and is very important within Japanese traditions and culture. It is performed wearing traditional costumes with very distinct styles of acting. It takes much time, practice, and skill to learn the unique comic expressions, movements and uses of a fan. 

Children’s Day is the perfect way to end Golden Week because it is filled with tons of fun traditions and celebrations that the whole family can love and enjoy. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Celebrate All Things Green During Japan's National Greenery Day

Following Showa Day and Constitution Memorial Day during Japan’s annual Golden Week, a series of national holidays beginning at the end of April, is Greenery Day. As you may have guessed, Greenery Day, celebrated May 4th, stays true to its name and celebrates all things green! The holiday can also be referred to as Midori no Hi, which literally translates to green day. 
The idea for the holiday came about after the passing of Emperor Hirohito, the same emperor honored during Golden Week’s first holiday Showa Day. Emperor Hirohito was a lover of nature and spreading of environmental awareness had always been very important to him. In fact, he dedicated much of his life to this cause and spend a great deal of time looking for ways to improve the environment, including opening the Imperial Biological Research Institute. The beloved Emperor passed in January of 1989 and the people of Japan wanted to find a way to remember him and continue the work that he was passionate about- so what better way than to create a holiday dedicated to nature and the environment! 
Originally, April 29th, which was the Emperor’s birthday, was dubbed Midori no Hi, following his death. However, the Japanese government decided Emperor Hirohito’s birthday should still be celebrated each year despite his passing, so Greenery Day was moved to May 4th and thus Showa Day was born. This way, the country can honor the Emperor’s memory and all his accomplishments on his birthday while still taking a day to celebrate nature and all things green.

Today, Japanese citizens use May 4th as an excuse to flock to their local parks with their families for some springtime fun. Cities, such as Tokyo, host dozens of events such as concerts, parades, and planting trees. The holiday is also used to address current environmental issues and spread awareness. Initiatives are taken to clean up parks, beaches, and streets. So if you are in Japan during this time, especially around Tokyo, expect to see hundreds of people sweeping and picking up trash all over town. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Japan's 'Golden Week' Continues With Constitution Memorial Day

During Japan’s series of national holidays known as Golden Week, Showa Day, which falls on April 29th, is followed by Constitution Memorial Day on May 3rd. Not only is this holiday the second holiday of Golden Week, but it is also Japan’s first public holiday of May. Golden Week is one of the biggest weeks of the year in Japan, where public celebration, travel, and large family gatherings are both encouraged and expected, and Constitution Memorial Day is no exception. 

On this day, thousands of people attend national and local events, lectures, and ceremonies. Perhaps the most special feature of this holiday is the opening of the National Diet Building, which is normally off limits to the public. Hundreds of families flock to the building to roam the halls, an activity forbidden every other day of the year, and take pictures out front. 
Despite Golden Week’s long time standing in Japanese culture, this particular celebrations is one of the newer holidays on the list. May 3rd was dubbed Constitution Memorial Day beginning in 1947, when the current Japanese Constitution was established. Using the British and American constitutions as models, Japan’s new constitution renounces war and declared that as human beings we are entitled to certain fundamental rights. 

As Showa Day was created to honor the Emperor and reflect on the changes made during that era, Constitution Memorial Day asks the nation to reflect on Democracy and the Japanese government. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Japanese Citizens Will Kickstart Golden Week by Celebrating Showa Day

The end of April and first week of May is the busiest time of the year in Japan, other than the New Year and Obon Festival, and also the most popular time to travel. This “week” is known throughout Japan as Golden Week. It is one of the best times of the year to be in Japan not only because most employees get an entire week off but also due to the string of back to back national holidays. During Golden Week, Japanese citizens will celebrate four major holidays, beginning with Showa Day on April 29th

Showa Day was originally celebrated in honor of the Emperor Hirohito’s birthday, whose rule lasted from 1926 to 1989. The beginning of his rule in 1926 saw the beginning of the Showa Era, a time of great change for Japan. Following World War II, Emperor Hirohito was seen as the symbol of the new state and was highly respected and loved by his people. 

Following his death in January of 1989, April 29th was converted to a different holiday, known as Greenery Day. However, in May 2005 the people decided April 29th should still be a day to honor their beloved Emperor, so April 29th was renamed Showa Day and Greenery Day was moved to May 4th. 

Emperor Hirohito’s reign is associated with the rise of Japan as an industrial and economic power. Therefore, Showa Day is meant to encourage the people of Japan to take the time to reflect on their nation’s recovery from the turbulent times that made up Hirohito’s reign, including the rise of Fascism, World War II, and the post-war occupation. The holiday also serves to kickstart the upcoming week of festivities across Japan.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Why the End of April is One of the Busiest Weeks of the Year in Japan

For Japan, the arrival of April means more than just the beginning of beautiful spring days, this month also welcomes a variety of special holidays and festivals after a relatively quiet March. 

In addition to warmer weather, Japanese families have an entire week of back to back festivities to look forward to, a celebration known as Golden Week. Starting at the end of April and continuing through the beginning of May, Japan celebrates four national holidays in a row as well as a week off from work and other daily obligations. The week is the longest vacation period of the year for many Japanese employees, making it an extremely popular time to travel. In addition to the traditional practices of each holiday, Japanese citizens are encouraged to use this time to relax, travel, spend time with their family, reflect and enjoy the warmer weather. 
The four public holidays that make up Golden Week are Showa Day, celebrated April 29th, Constitution Memorial Day, celebrated May 3rd, Greenery Day, celebrated May 4th, and concludes May 5th with Children’s Day.

Other than the New Year and Obon celebrations, this is Japan’s busiest week of the year so if you ever want to travel to Japan and experience Golden Week for yourself (which I would highly recommend) than make sure you book your trip way way in advance!