Japan Australia Pages

Friday, April 29, 2016

Golden Week in Japan 2016

Golden Week starts today, April 29 in Japan with Showa Day (昭和の日). What is Golden Week? It is basically a collection of four national holidays closely grouped together in the space of seven days from late April to early May. This year in 2016 Golden Week is based on two separate holiday periods from April 29 to May 1 and from May 3 to May 5.

Golden Week and this time in Japan is a celebration of spring with a lot of festivals and historical events taking place all over the country.

The Four National Holidays of Golden Week 


1. Showa Day (April 29) 

The first national holiday of Golden Week is Showa no Hi (昭和の日) or Showa Day, which is the birthday of the former Showa Emperor. It is a day to honour the birthday of the late emperor, as well as to remember the hard work and effort of the Japanese people in rebuilding their country during the turbulent Showa Era (1926 – 1989).

2. Constitution Memorial Day (May 3) 

The second national holiday of Golden Week is Kenpou Kinenbi (憲法記念日) or Constitution Memorial Day. It is a day to commemorate the new Japanese constitution, which was put into effect on May 3, 1947.

3. Greenery Day (May 4) 

The third national holiday of Golden Week is Midori no Hi (みどりの日) or Greenery Day. It is a day to show appreciation for the environment and nature. It is the perfect time to head outdoors and enjoy the beautiful spring weather and fresh green leaves of the season.

4. Children’s Day (May 5) 

The last national holiday of Golden Week is Kodomo no Hi (こどもの日) or Children’s Day on May 5. It is a day for children in general, but is primarily for boys, as girls have their own day called Hina Matsuri on March 3. Children’s Day is a day to celebrate boys and to pray for their healthy growth. It’s a Japanese tradition for families with boys to celebrate this day by raising carp streamers (koinobori) outside their houses around this holiday. Carp are believed to symbolize successes in children’s lives. The black carp of koinobori represent the father, the red carp for the mother, and blue, green, purple or orange for the subsequent children.

Golden Week is one of the busiest travel periods in Japan with most tourist destinations extremely crowded and fully booked out. Airports and train stations are usually overflowing with people during this time and it can be very hard to get reservations for accommodation and transportation during Golding Week without booking months in advance. Many Japanese offices close for about a week to 10 days, depending on the calendar with many workers taking a vacation, traveling abroad or to a popular tourist destination in Japan.

The travel peak is anticipated for around April 29 this year with the return rush around May 8.

If you are not traveling, there are numerous local festivals and events for the whole family to enjoy around Japan.

What are your plans for Golden Week in Japan? Please leave your reply in the comments below.

Colonel Sanders all dressed up for Kodomo no Hi (Children's Day)
Colonel Sanders dressed for Kodomo no Hi

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

2016 Kumamoto Earthquakes in Japan

2016 Kumamoto Earthquakes in Japan
Over the past week Kumamoto in the Kyushu region of Japan has suffered a series of devastating earthquakes. The first earthquake occurred at around 9:26 pm on April 14, 2016 around Mount Kinpu to the north north-west of Kumamoto City. The first earthquake was a foreshock measuring M6.5, with the worst damage occurring in the town of Mashiki, 15km east of Kumamoto. 

More than 140 aftershocks were registered within two days of the foreshock with 11 aftershocks of at least M4.5 and one of M6.0.

The mainshock occurred at 1:25 am on April 16, 2016 beneath Kumamoto City in Higashi Ward. The M7.3 quake has caused significant additional damage to the areas already affected by the initial foreshock several days earlier.

This is the worst humanitarian challenge Japan has faced since the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami. As of today (Thursday, April 21), there have been 48 confirmed deaths with thousands affected by the disaster. New reports have being saying that around 10,000 people are staying in their cars in Mashiki Town, while there are 180,000 evacuees seeking shelter.

There has also been 11 indirect deaths in Kumamoto related to the disaster. Quite a few people have been dying from the so-called "economy class syndrome" (Deep Vein Thrombosis) caused by sitting too long in cramped conditions in recuse shelters and from sleeping in cars.

2016 Kumamoto Earthquakes in Japan
Image Source

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has mobilized personnel of the Japan Self Defense Forces to assist local authorities with search and rescue recovery efforts. Japan is struggling to cope with the disaster with relief efforts stretched to the limit.

Nearly a week after the first quake struck, aftershocks continue with nearly 700 aftershocks hitting Kyushu since April 14. To further add to the disaster, heavy rain and wind is predicted the next few days with the possibility of landslides causing even more problems.

You can find news and updates about the Kumamoto Earthquakes on the Japan national Tourism Organisation website.

If you are interested in helping out and supporting the people and areas affected by the earthquakes, Yahoo Japan has set up emergency fund raising for the 2016 Kumamoto Earthquake. They will donate an equal amount to your donation (up to 20 million yen per donation). You can find more information on their website in both English and Japanese http://donation.yahoo.co.jp/detail/1630023/

Emergency fund raising for the 2016 Kumamoto Earthquake

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Kodomo no Hi Japan Festival 2016

JAFA Kodomo no Hi Japan Festival
JAFA’s Kodomo no Hi Japan Festival is the biggest Japan festival in Adelaide, South Australia. The festival organised by the JAFA (Japan Australia Friendship Association) has been running for over 20 years now. It's great to see Japanese culture so prevalent overseas and festivals like this promoting Japanese culture. If you are a fan of Japanese culture and live in the Adelaide area make sure to mark it down on your events calendar.

The festival is a lot of fun and is filled with Japan-related performances, exhibitions, activities, stalls and plenty of delicious Japanese food.

Some of the many attractions you can see at the festival include: 
  • Martial Arts Demonstrations (Judo, Kendo, Aikido, Iaijutsu) 
  • Taiko Drumming 
  • Japanese Folk Dance 
  • Traditional Japanese Folk Songs 
  • Origami 
  • Calligraphy 
  • Ikebana (Flower Arranging) 
  • Tea Ceremony 
  • Bonsai Tree Displays 
  • Japanese Pottery 
The event has won a number of prestigious community awards including:

• 2013 WINNER - The City of West Torrens Community Event of the Year Award
• 2013 WINNER - The Australia Day Council of South Australia Community Event of the Year Award

Come along for a fun day for the whole family at this unique community event.

Event Information 

What: Kodomo no Hi Japan Festival
When: Sunday, 1st May 2016 11 am to 4 pm
Where: Cowandilla Primary School
Address: 21 Jenkins St, Cowandilla, SA, Australia
Cost: $2 per person, $5 per family
Access: Free parking is available
Other: Come in a Japanese costume to add to the fun of the festival

Volunteers, stallholders, performers and display holders are needed. Please visit the website below to apply or to find out more about the festival.

http://jafa.asn.au/index.php/kodomo-no-hi-japan-festival

Here are some pictures from last year's event.

JAFA Kodomo no Hi Japan Festival
Japanese festival yukata

Japanese festival atmopshere and fun
Japanese festival atmosphere and fun

Popular Japanese festival food Takoyaki
Popular Japanese festival food Takoyaki





Martial Arts Demonstration
Martial Arts Demonstration
Japanese Taiko Drumming
Japanese Taiko Drumming



Traditional Japanese Costume
Traditional Japanese Costume

Google Map

Monday, March 21, 2016

Shunbun no Hi Spring Equinox Day

Spring Equinox Day Shunbun no Hi
Spring Equinox Day, or Shunbun no Hi (春分の日) in Japanese is a National Holiday that is usually held around March 20 or 21.

The holiday occurs on the date of the vernal equinox in Japan Standard Time, and is not determined until February of the previous year.

This year, the holiday falls on Monday, March 21. It is a day in Japan to admire nature and the love of living things.


History of Shunbun no Hi 


The national holiday was first established in 1948, and marks a time when night and day are equal in length. Prior to that it was the date of Shunki Koresai (春季皇霊祭) an event relating to Shintoism. To separate religion and the state in post-war Japan, it was repackaged as a non-religious holiday.

How is Shunbun no Hi Celebrated? 


Shunbun no Hi is a holiday celebrating spring in Japan. It is a boundary marking the end of winter coldness and the start of the warm of spring. The three days immediately before and after Shunbun no Hi is a seven day period called the spring equinoctial week or higan in Japanese. It is a time to follow traditions and visit family graves to pay our respects to ancestors. People will visit their loved ones’ grave sites to sweep the gravestone, clear debris, leave offerings of food and fresh cut flowers, and burn incense to console the spirits.

Many people usually return to their family homes to spend time with their families, as well as head outdoors to enjoy the beautiful blue skies and warmth of spring. The cherry blossoms are usually just about to open at this time of the year in Japan, so it is a wonderful time to appreciate the beauty of nature after a long winter.

Festivals and Events for March in Japan

Spring Equinox Day Shunbun no Hi

Sunday, February 21, 2016

See the Cherry Blossoms in Japan with a Rail Pass

Deer in Nara during Japan’s cherry blossom season
One of the main reasons tourists flock to Japan every spring is to take part in a beautiful tradition which the Japanese refer to as “Hanami”, meaning cherry blossom viewing. The various species of “Sakura” (cherry trees) bloom in succession as the warmer spring temperatures arrive in different parts of Japan. The milder the climate, the earlier the blossoms open so you can follow the cherry blossom trail from south to north. With a Japan Rail Pass you can travel across the country while experiencing this amazing natural phenomenon in the same way that the Japanese do - by eating, drinking, and barbecuing underneath the cherry blossoms.

Deer in Nara during Japan’s cherry blossom season
Deer in Nara during Japan's cherry blossom season

How to follow the cherry blossom trail by rail 


The cherry blossom season begins in late March and usually ends in mid-April but sometimes continues until early May. The stunning pink, white and red flowers and Hanami festivals can be witnessed in several major cities including Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima, Sapporo and Nara.

The easiest and most cost-effective way to visit all locations and see the cherry blossoms in all their glory is to travel by rail, and the best way to follow the blossoms by rail is with a Japan Rail pass. The Japan Rail pass is exclusive to those travelling to Japan. You can’t purchase the pass once you arrive in the country. The JR Pass offers unlimited train travel in Japan for 7, 14 or 21 days’ consecutive travel.

You can plan your cherry blossom trail by checking the Sakura season dates which are listed on the Japan Weather Association website. One way of translating the page is to use Google Chrome and then either accept the translate option if your browser offers it or add a translator app extension such as Google Translate and then translate the text into English that way. You can also use the English cherry blossom forecast found on Japan Travel Advice.

Cherry Blossom Hotspots 


Tokyo 


Cherry trees start blooming in early April in places all over Tokyo. Some of the popular locations to view the Sakura in Japan’s capital include:

Asukayama Park
This hilltop public park is one of Tokyo’s most famous Hanami spots. The park is a short walk from Oji Station.

Cherry Blossoms in the Park
 • Ueno Park
This is one of the most popular spots for cherry blossom celebrations. The park boasts over 1,000 cherry trees and is just a few steps from Ueno Station.

Kitanomaru Park (Edo Castle)
The western castle moat surrounding the park is famous for its beautiful Sakura trees and Hanami parties in springtime. The park is next to Tokyo Imperial Palace East gardens in the centre of the city.

 • Koishikawa Botanical Garden
You can see many weeping cherry trees close to the garden’s entrance gate in spring. The garden is a 10-15 minute walk from either Myogadani Station or Hakusan Station.

Nara 


It takes around 35 – 45 minutes to reach Nara by train from Kyoto. Nara’s cherry trees normally bloom in late March and favoured viewing spots include:

Cherry Blossoms and Deer in Nara
 • Mount Yoshinoyama in Yoshino Town
This is the most famous Hanami spot in Japan. There are over 30,000 cherry trees around the slopes of the mountain.

Todai-ji temple in Nara Park
Todai-ji temple is located in Nara Park which contains a large lawn surrounded by cherry blossom trees. The park is also home to around 500 deer.

Kyoto 


You can usually see the cherry blossom flowers from late March till mid-April in Kyoto. Some of the best locations to view the Sakura include:

Cherry Blossoms and Canal in Kyoto
The Path of Philosophy
The whole path is lined with cherry trees which become a spectacular sight when they are in bloom. It is magical at night when the trees are lit up and the crowds have diminished.

Shimbashi
This is a beautiful section of Gion on the banks of the Shirakawa Canal which becomes very crowded during Hanami season. It is a truly enchanting spot when the trees are flowering.

Hiroshima 


You can reach Hiroshima by taking the JR Tokaido or Sanyo Shinkansen (bullet train). Fabulous spots to enjoy Hanami parties include:

Cherry Blossoms in Hiroshima
Peace Memorial Park
You can use the Gangi Water Taxi service to enjoy the breathtaking blossoms on a lovely riverside cruise.

Hijiyama Park
This is one of the most popular places in the city for Hanami festivities with 1,300 cherry trees.



Osaka 


The best time to see the Sakura in Osaka is generally late March to early April. The most important cherry blossom viewing locations include:

Cherry Blossoms in Osaka
 • Nishinomaru Garden, Osaka Castle Park This is an extremely popular Hanami spot located within the castle grounds which contains around 600 cherry trees.

Kema Sakuranomiya Park
This park is on the banks of the Okawa River and incorporates the Osaka Mint building which marks a much-loved cherry blossom viewing spot.



You can get your hands on a great-value-for-money Japan Rail Pass (from just $389 AUD for a 7 day, standard class adult pass) by heading to the Rail Plus website to make the most of this spectacular natural event in Japan’s calendar.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Cherry Blossom Yoghurt in Japan

Sakura Flavoured Yoghurt in Japan
Spring in Japan means sakura (桜) or cherry blossoms and sakura-flavored food and drinks. A tell-tale sign that spring is soon on the way is when cherry blossoms start appearing on food and drinks in Japan. Early to mid-February is usually the time when sakura flavoured food and drink starts rolling out and hitting the supermarket and convenience store shelves and refrigerators.

You can find many different kinds of food and drinks containing sakura at this time of the year in Japan. Some of my favourites are the sakura drinks from Starbucks Japan, and sakura mochi (桜餅).

A new sakura product recently caught my eye, so I just had to share it with you all. Sakura flavoured yoghurt.

Sakura Flavoured Yoghurt in Japan


We picked up this four-pack of yoghurt from our local AEON supermarket with its pretty cherry blossom design. Not only does it look like spring, it tastes like spring as well with its sakura flavour. The yoghurt contains cherry blossom leaves and is a pale pink colour. Sakura petals and leaves are a seasonal ingredient used in a variety of Japanese foods, desserts and drinks.

How does it taste? Really good! It has a light cherry flavour and the cherry blossom leaves give it a nice saltiness. Check it out if you are in Japan and want an early taste of spring.


Saturday, February 6, 2016

McDonald’s Japan Chocolate Fries

McDonald’s Japan Chocolate Fries
McDonald’s Japan has done it again! They have created a huge marketing buzz surrounding their latest offering, French fries covered in chocolate sauce. The launch last week saw the Internet go crazy over this new menu item, and it has even reached the furthest corners of the globe.

Recent years has seen McDonald’s Japan witness sagging sales, various food scandals and supply issues. In an attempt to turn around its fortunes in Japan, it has been creative with its menu items in order to bring back the masses to the once vastly popular fast-food chain in Japan.

McDonald’s Japan Chocolate Fries or McChoco Potato as it is known here in Japan forms part of its special winter menu, and went on sale from January 26. The sweet and salty French fries come with two different kinds of chocolate sauce, milk chocolate and white chocolate, and cost 330 yen (USD$2.80).

McDonald’s Japan Chocolate Fries


I’ve been quite surprised by how many people have been shocked by this latest creation. After all, when you think about it French fries and chocolate is a pretty good flavour combination that works surprisingly well. You have the saltiness of the fries and the sweetness of the chocolate sauce, creating a nice harmony and balance of flavours. Salty and sweet is a combination that goes together well and has been used many times before in Japan.

There is a company in Hokkaido, called ROYCE, who has made a great success with potato chips dipped in chocolate. This unique item is hugely popular in Japan and makes a great souvenir from the region.

Royce Potato Chips Dipped in Chocolate


The chocolate-covered French fries will only be available for a limited time, with McDonald’s Japan scheduled to stop selling them in mid-February, soon after Valentine’s Day.

We were intrigued by this latest offering, so headed to our local McDonald’s to check them out.

The Taste Test 


Japan Australia was very keen to try these new chocolate-covered French fries out and we weren’t disappointed. The hot fries were receptive to the chocolate sauce, which melts all over when squirted over the top. They were very moreish and as expected the saltiness of the fries was a perfect mix with the sweetness of the double chocolate sauce. This could make for the perfect McDonald's snack! I highly recommend the chocolate fries for anyone out there who has ever dipped their fries in a chocolate milkshake. Bon Appetit!

McDonald's Japan Chocolate Fries Box
The McChoco Potato comes in a good looking box. I'm lovin it!
McDonald's Japan Golden French Fries
The Golden French Fries of McDonald's Japan before being covered in chocolate sauce
McDonald's Japan Double Chocolate Sauce
The easy to squeeze double chocolate sauce
McDonald's Japan Double Chocolate Sauce
The sauce comes with milk chocolate and white chocolate
McDonald's Japan Chocolate Fries
The McDonald's Japan Chocolate Fries ready to demolished


If you are interested in McDonald’s Japan unique and interesting menu items, check out the following gems:

McDonald’s Japan Halloween Burger 

McDonald’s Japan World Cup Menu 

McDonald’s Japan Sakura Teritama Burger 

McDonald’s Japan Website 

McDonald’s Japan Chocolate Fries

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