Monday, May 1, 2017

Word of the Month: May

May: 奈落

Naraku is the Japanese word for “Hell.” It refers to the area beneath the stage and hanamichi. The revolving stage (called Mawari Butai) and elevator traps (called Seri) made it necessary for the theater to have a cellar area, so the naraku was born. It was quite dark below the stage in the early days, so the term naraku was coined to describe the area. Today, the area under the stage houses the electric mechanism that move the traps and make the stage revolve, the heating and air conditioning systems, and some dressing rooms. The term naraku is now applied to the underground passageway running beneath the hanamichi from the stage to the agemaku room.


Saturday, April 1, 2017

Word of the Month: April

April: すっぽん

Suppon, meaning “snapping-turtle,” is a word used to describe a stage trap located at the place on the hanamichi called shichisan. It is used for the entrances and exits of ghosts, sorcerers, and other unusual characters. It is about two feet and eight inches in width and four to five feet feet in length and is mechanized so the floor can go up and down.

Three theories attempt to explain the derivation of the term. One claims it comes from the resemblance of the actor’s head – when it is seen rising from below – to that of a turtle in its shell. Another holds that since the corners of the trap are slightly rounded, it resembles a tortoise shell. The third theory states that the name comes from the sound made when the trap rises to the level of the hanamichi floor, which resembles that of a snapping turtle.


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Word of the Month: March

March: 花道

Hanamichi. The “Flower path” is a raised passageway that joins the stage on the audience’s left and passes straight through the auditorium. This is Kabuki’s most characteristic stage element. It is used not only for entrances and exits, but actually forms an integral part of the stage; many important moments are acted here.

The word hanamichi is used in a different, but related, way in colloquial speech. As a colloquial expression, the word implies that a person has arranged all his affairs and retired from public life, much as a Kabuki actor playing the lead takes his exit on the hanamichi amidst the applause of his devoted fans.


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Cooking Class: Gyudon


JASWDC held a cooking class on Friday, February 10th where attendees learned to make Japan’s favorite comfort food – gyudon (beef served over rice). It was one of our largest cooking classes ever!

First JASWDC staff went over a presentation about the history of gyudon. Gyudon, which was popularized by the restaurant Yoshino-ya in 1959, is now one of the most affordable, accessible, and delicious foods in Japan.
After learning about the history of gyudon and how to prepare the meal, everyone set out to make their own bowl of gyudon. Everyone worked together to prepare a delicious meal. They were even kind enough to share some of their wonderful cooking with busy JASWDC staff.

It was a fun and delicious night! JAS hosts cooking classes throughout the year. Our next class is ehou-maki, the Japanese good fortune sushi roll. Registration will be up soon on the JASWDC website, and updates will be posted on our Facebook page.

Japan 360°: Matsukawaya Sweets

Japan 360°: Matsukawaya Sweets

On Monday, February 13th, a wagashi master from Matsukawaya Sweets held a tea ceremony-style event at JASWDC. Guests learned about the history of Matsukawaya Sweets, which was founded in Nagoya over 75 years ago. To this day, Matsukawaya uses the original family recipes alongside new creations that change with the seasons. Their creations are traditional wagashi made from azuki beans and chestnut that awaken all five senses.

Guests were able to watch the sweets being made and then were able to taste them! This was a historic event for JASWDC and for the US. Wagashi, traditionally made in Japan for the elite, has never been available in the US before. The only way a person can get this type of wagashi is to have a master come and make it for them.
Everyone was treated to a delicate sweet with cherry blossom tea. Following, they were served green tea and a second sweet. While the first wagashi, known as “raw” wagashi can only be enjoyed when made by a master, the second type of sweets are packaged and sold. They will be available during the Sakura Matsuri – Japanese Street Festival.

It was an honor to host a master sweets-maker during his first trip to the US! It was a one-in-a-lifetime experience that few people in the US have the pleasure of experiencing. We will be lining up to try his creations again during Sakura Matsuri, and we hope to see you there!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Setsubun Happy Hour

On Friday, February 3, JASW held a Setsubun Happy Hour in conjunction with the Washington Nomikai Group! The office was transformed into a bar with kirin beer, sake, and delicious Japanese snacks. Guests gathered together to practice Japanese and celebrate the holiday. About halfway through the night, an Oni ran through the office. Guests grabbed their fuku mame (fortune beans) and scared the Oni away.

After the Oni left, we celebrated with a raffle. Four lucky guests went home with Japanese snacks, Hakutsuru sake, or ANA materials. The night only got better from there, and people continued to enjoy the festivities! Everyone had a great time meeting new people and seeing old friends. This was The Society’s largest Happy Hour ever, with over 50 people in attendance. Thank you too everyone who came, and we look forward to seeing you at our other events throughout the year!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Word of the Month: February

February: Yago 


Yago.”Shop name.” Kabuki actors of the early Edo period were considered too lowly to be allowed surnames. Many, therefore, used a name derived from a sideline business in which they were involved. This became known as their yago. The yago could be the name of a place with which the family had a deep connection, the name of a place from which the actor hailed, the name of an ancestor’s occupation, and so on. Among the earliest yago were Yoshizawa Ayame s Tachibanaya and Ichikawa Danjuro s Naritaya, revealing that the custom began during the Genroku era. The yago is a kind of nickname and is used by the audience as a word of encouragement that is shouted out to the actor during a performance. Yago are also shouted out during firework festivals: tamaya or kagiya.