Two hundred and sixty-eight

Japanese Labor Thanksgiving Day – Kinro Kansha no Hi 

Every 23rd of November, Japan celebrates Labor Thanksgiving Day to honour workers, commemorate labour and production, and give thanks for employment and the prosperity that working brings to the family.  Labor Thanksgiving Day is a modern name for the ancient ritual Niiname Sai, or Harvest Festival.  The origin of Niiname Sai is thought to go back to when rice cultivation was first transmitted to Japan more than 2,000 years ago, although the first record is found in the Nihon Shoki (The Chronicle of Japan) which is one of the oldest histories of Japan dating from 720.  It is said that the emperor would taste the first rice harvest  himself and dedicate the season’s fresh harvet to the gods.

After World War II, Japan signed the post-war constitution that was written by allied forces, and in 1948 the holiday developed into what we now know it as.  “The holiday allowed people to make thanks for their recently introduced workers’ rights, such as minimum wages, a cap on working hours and the formation of unions. It was also set to have people celebrate their new-found freedom, no longer being subjects beneath a ruling Emperor; in turn supporting the shift their country was going through, instead of fighting against it.” (axiommagazine.jp)

Holiday traditions include early grade elementary students creating drawings or “Thank You” cards for the holiday and giving them as gifts to local kōbans (police stations), hospitals or fire stations; a labour festival is held in the city of Nagano; schools and government offices are closed; and many people will visit their local shrine or temple and reflect on the issues surrounding peace and human rights.

Meiji Shrine in Harajuku - decorative displays of fresh produce in honor of the harvest festival - from http://www.tokyotopia.com/kinro-kansha-no-hi.html

More information:

Wikipedia

AxiomMagazine.jp

Web-Japan.org

AGlobalWorld.com

Tokyotopia.com

Day one hundred and six

Japanese

Food etiquette from Japan-Guide.com:

  • In Japan, you say “itadakimasu” (“I gratefully receive”) before eating, and “gochisosama (deshita)” (“Thank you for the meal”) after finishing the meal.
  • It is considered good manners to empty your dishes to the last grain of rice.
  • After eating, try to move all your dishes back to the same position they were at the start of the meal. This includes replacing the lids on dishes and putting your chopsticks on the chopstick holder or back into their paper slip.
  • When drinking alcoholic beverages, it is customary to serve each other, rather than pouring your own beverage.
  •  Avoid using “chin chin” when drinking a toast, since in Japanese this expression refers to the male genitals.
  • Do not pour soya sauce over white, cooked rice.
  • Sushi:
    – Pour some soya sauce into the small dish provided. It is considered bad manners to waste soya sauce, so try not to pour more sauce than you will use.You do not need to add wasabi into the soya sauce, because the sushipieces may already contain it, or may be eaten plain. However, if you choose to add wasabi, use only a small amount so as not to offend the sushi chef. If you do not like wasabi, you can request that none is added into your sushi.
    – In general, you are supposed to eat a sushi piece in one bite. Attempts to separate a piece into two generally end in the destruction of the beautifully prepared sushi. Hands or chopsticks can be used to eat sushi.
    – In case of nigiri-zushi, dip the piece into the soya sauce upside-down so that the fish enters the sauce. A few kinds of nigiri-zushi, for example, marinated pieces, should not be dipped into soya sauce.
  • For miso soup, drink the soup out of the bowl as if it were a cup, and fish out the solid food pieces with your chopsticks.
  • For noodles, use your chopsticks to lead the noodles into your mouth. You may want to try to copy the slurping sound of people around you if you are dining in a noodle shop. Rather than being bad manners as Westerners are often taught, slurping noodles is considered evidence of enjoying the meal.
  • Chopsticks are used to eat most kinds of Japanese foods, with some exceptions. Some of the most important rules to remember when dining with chopsticks are as follows:
    • Hold your chopsticks towards their end, not in the middle or the front third.
    • When you are not using your chopsticks, or have finished eating, lay them down in front of you with the tips to left.
    • Do not stick chopsticks into your food, especially not into rice. This is only done at funerals with rice that is put onto the altar.
    • Do not pass food directly from your set of chopsticks to another’s. Again, this is a funeraltradition that involves the bones of a cremated body.
    • Do not spear food with your chopsticks.
    • Do not point with your chopsticks.
    • Do not wave your chopsticks around in the air or play with them.
    • Do not move plates or bowls around with your chopsticks.
    • To separate a piece of food in two, exert controlled pressure on the chopsticks while moving them apart from each other in order to tear the food. This takes some practice. With larger pieces of food such as tempura, it is also acceptable to pick up the entire piece with your chopsticks, and take a bite.
    • If you have already eaten with your chopsticks, use the opposite end to take food from a shared plate.

I joined an old friend for lunch today at Nami on Adelaide St. East.  Everything was delicious!  We had green tea, miso soup, and four types of maki: california roll (avocado, cucumber, flying fish roe and crab cake), dynamite roll (shrimp tempura), kamikaze roll (shrimp tempura with spicy sauce), salmon roll (salmon and avocado).

Maki

California maki

And a funny video on the sushi tradition (at first I thought this was serious, but I realized it was a parody when they started talking about eating endangered species!):

Tonight

I haven’t decided yet.  I should probably plan these things better!