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Soaking up the Benefits: Japan’s Hot Springs TraditionMatsuda Tadanori

Japanese people have loved onsen since ancient times for the comfort they bring to mind and body. We introduce the beauty benefits and anti-ageing effects offered by hot springs while examining the relationship between the Japanese people and onsen.
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Professor Onsen’s Top Hot SpringsMatsuda Tadanori

Japan is blessed with over 3,000 onsen (hot-spring) areas, but here we look at 12 specially selected by Matsuda Tadanori, a leading expert who has been dubbed “Professor Onsen.” These are hot spring destinations whose invigorating waters and age-old traditions set them apart.
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Ogres and Magic Beans: Japan’s Setsubun TraditionNippon.com Staff

Every February 3 Japan observes Setsubun. Children and adults alike rid their classrooms and homes of malevolent spirits by gleefully flinging handfuls of roasted soybeans, known as fukumame, at classmates and family members disguised as oni (ogres). Many temples and shrines around the nation also mark the day with ceremonies intended to ensure patrons good fortune in the coming year. Oni are …
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Jirō Dreams of Fuji: Japan’s “Hatsuyume” TraditionNippon.com Staff

Ichi Fuji, ni taka, san nasubi. The best dream is of Mount Fuji, the second-best of hawks, and the third-best of eggplants, according to an old Japanese proverb. This is the tradition of hatsuyume—literally “first dream”—in which the visions you see as you doze at the start of the year are said to predict whether the 12 months ahead will be good ones. There are various theories as to why these pa…
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“Hatsumōde”: Crowds Gather for the New Year’s First PrayersNippon.com Staff

Two things that could be said to characterize holidays in Japan are crowds and queues. Be it the snaking, slow-moving lines for the most popular Disneyland attractions during the summer break, or the multitudes that throng every park during the spring hanami season, expect to see people, and lots of them. New Year’s Day is no exception. In contrast to the ghost-town tone of many cities in other p…
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“Ōmisoka”: Ringing Out the Year in JapanNippon.com Staff

December 31 is arguably one of the most significant dates on the Japanese calendar. Known as ōmisoka, it encompasses a range of special customs and observances, both traditional and modern, intended to set people on the right foot for the coming New Year. Oshōgatsu (New Year) traditions are infused with the much-revered concept of engi, a noun that can broadly be translated as “luck.” Ensuring go…
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Samurai, Dream Lover, Fast Food Mascot: Santa in JapanRichard Medhurst

Last month, “Santa Yamashita” emerged triumphant at the Santa Winter Games 2014 in Sweden to become the first Japanese winner of the competition. Held in November each year, before the world’s top Santas enter their busy season, the games have taken place since 2003. Yamashita Kōhei saw off opponents from Hong Kong, Australia, and many other North Poles in such events as speed porridge eating, rid…
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Mountains, Mummies, and Modern Art: Ascetic Practice in Yamagata PrefectureDavid McMahon

For over a thousand years, Yamagata Prefecture, on the Sea of Japan side of the northern Tōhoku region, has drawn pilgrims and mystics to its mountains. As the native Shintō faith intertwined with imported Buddhism, Yamagata became the site for scores of shrines and temples, some of which remain to the present day. The holiest of all the sites in the region are the three sacred mountains of Dew…
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“Teika”: A Work of All-Consuming Passion from the Nō RepertoireMatsuoka Shinpei (Interviewer)

The second article in the Discovering Nōgaku series continues the dialogue between the head of the Kanze School of nōgaku and a leading scholar of the traditional stage art, who examine nō’s treatment of amorous passion in a play depicting the affair between an imperial high priestess and one of Japanese most renowned waka poets.
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The Glow of the Human Touch: Why Shoeshine Stands are Making a ComebackAhmed M. F. Mostafa

The words “street children” don’t conjure up images of Japan for most people, but don’t be fooled into thinking that no link exists. The 1950s, for example, saw big hits for both Akatsuki Teruko with her 1951 song “Tōkyō shūshain bōi” (Tokyo Shoeshine Boy) and Miyagi Mariko with “Gādoshita no kutsumigaki” (The Shoe Polisher Beneath the Tracks) in 1955. A long row of shoeshine stands on a Shibu…
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