Akemashite Omedetou – A Kyushu New Year!

In Japan, New Years is not about popping champagnes, midnight kisses, ball drops, and a foggy memory of the previous night. Instead, it is a relaxing time for families and friends to visit shrines, enjoy watching New Years TV specials, and huddle under the kotatsu.

明けましておめでとうございます!(Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu) is what Japanese people say to family, friends, and colleagues when greeting them in the new year, adding 今年も宜しくお願いします(Kotoshi mo yoroshiku  onegaishimasu). It means “Happy New Year” and “I look forward to continuing our relationship this year.”

Cultural Tip: If a member of someone’s family has passed away, traditionally, it is not appropriate to send them a New Years card or say “Akeashite Omodetou” as the family is mourning.

Otherwise, it is standard to say after the clock strikes 12:00, but not before the new year! At the end of the year, people say, よいお年を (Yoi otoshi wo) when seeing someone for the last time before the new year, meaning “Have a great new year.” 良い (yoi) means “good” and the お年 means “year.”

This year, our staff spent Japan’s most important holiday in Fukuoka, Kyushu! It was no ordinary New Years, but one spent helping out in a Buddhist temple.

On New Year’s Eve, people eat 年越しそば (Toshikoshi soba), meaning “year-crossing buckwheat noodles” that represent hope for a long-lasting life. It is usually served at temples, where many people come to line up and ring a large bell, rung a total of 108 times. The number 108 represents the worldy sins and it is believed that ringing the bell will rid those sins of the past year.

As midnight approached and all were warmed up and full with soba, countdown commenced and party poppers danced in the night sky.

Most people will go to their local shrine to do “hatsumode,” the first visit of the year to the Shinto shrine. There, you will see locals praying, warming up around the bonfire, buying a fortune from the stand,  and having some sweet sake or pork soup. Usually very late into the night and sometimes until dawn, families and friends are chatting and enjoying good company to kick off the New Year.

New Years Day is a relaxing time spent with family eating osechi, the traditional New Years food assortment that symbolizes prosperity, luck, and happiness in the coming year.  Ozoni is a mochi soup also enjoyed on New Years Day, but if you are at a temple, you’ll be lucky enough to help make it!

Ozoni has different tastes depending on the region. Kyushu ozoni commonly features a white-miso base but this year’s was particularly special. One of the members of the family got married and it is a Kyushu custom for the husband to bring a large fish to his wife’s family for New Years. We enjoyed this year’s ozoni featuring yellowtail, it was delicious!

It is not as common these days, but some families will drink otoso, a medicinal spiced sake, usually served by the youngest family member. Three cups of different sizes are stacked on top of one another as each member of the family takes turns and chooses their desired cup. The person serving will drink last and will have otoso served by a different member.

After the cleanup and relaxing time over snacks and drink with family, we visited Fukuoka’s most famous shrine, Miyajidake Jinja. Be prepared to see a long wait and large crowds at the shrine on the first few days of the new year of the people who are there to do “omairi,”the act of praying at a shrine.

Some larger shrines hold a 3-4 day festival with food stands, performances, and handcrafted goods for families, friends, and couples to enjoy.

Before going back home to Tokyo, we couldn’t leave Fukuoka without eating the famous tonkotsu ramen! It was a perfect end to the beginning of the year.

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Airbnb: Norie’s Page

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Airbnb: Norie’s Page

2018 Tulip Bonenkai: Year End Celebrations with Israeli Eats!

Source / illustrain

Literally meaning “forget the year”, bonenkai (忘年会) are parties held with friends and coworkers at the end of the year to leave behind the stresses of the past year and begin the one ahead refreshed via alcohol consumption.

For this year’s Tulip bonenkai, our ever-enterprising lady-boss Norie-san invited us to Shamaim for an authentic Israeli tabehoudai (食べ放題) aka all-you-can-eat session. Think copious amounts of soft pita and scrumptious hummus washed down with your choice of alcoholic beverage! Perched on the first floor of an inconspicous suburban building just a minute’s walk from Ekoda station, Shamaim presents an intimate atmosphere of middle-eastern decor, dark honey wood interior and lively music.

L-R: Naomi, Jan, Owada-san, Kagamimiya-san, Lydia, Norie-san

We started off the evening with a heartful kanpai  (“cheers”) and an obligatory group snap draped with cheery Christmas tinsel supplied by our unofficial designer-slash-entertainer-in-chief Naomi! With the formalities out of the way, we were ready to wind down into a rowdy evening, catch up on life outside of work, and eat to our hearts content. Dinner began with a mouth-watering starter spread of hummus, falafel, pita, and salads!

The scrumptious starter spread!

Following the starters, we heartily feasted on plates of freshly fried schnitzel along with lamb and chicken shish-kababs on beds of perfect rice pilaf. As Tal, the hospitable owner is fluent in both English and Japanese, we had absolutely no problems requesting for seconds! And boy did we spare no effort asking for another round (or two) of our favorites. After chatting the night away exchanging experiences from past and present, we parted ways with full bellies and another year of memories as some headed home while others continued the celebration at the karaoke room!

Interested in giving Israeli cuisine a go? Why not make your way down to Shamaim at:
TM Bldg. 2F, 4-11 Ekoda, Toshima-ku, Tokyo
東京都練馬区栄町4-11 アートビル 2F
03-3948-5333

PS. They are veggie-friendly!

Japanese Harvest Moon: 中秋の名月 (Chushu no Meigetsu)

Google informed me that today is 中秋の名月 (Chushu no Meigetsu) 2017 with an adorable mochi-pounding rabbit graphic. This marks the harvest moon and the middle of the autumn season.

So cute! (image: google.com)

But to be quite honest, I wasn’t really sure what to do with this information. Am I supposed to honour this day somehow? I asked my colleagues about it and it seems especially in urban areas like Tokyo, the harvest moon is being celebrated less and less.

Harvest Moon Traditions

My boss has fond memories of being a ‘mochi thief’  as a child in the countryside of Aichi prefecture. Apparently the tradition there is similar to Trick or Treating. The children of the town not only demand sweets from their neighbours, but are even allowed to sneakily steal mochi off the altar of the shrine.

Another of my colleagues recalled having a picnic outside with her family to engage in tsukimi (月見) which is viewing the full moon. In the past, the viewers would get inspired by the beauty to compose poetry on the spot. In modern times kicking back with some good food and drinks is enough! But sadly, she also agreed that nowadays in Tokyo, no one does much to celebrate.

Traditional Japanese Harvest Moon sweets
By katorisi (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
According to Japanese folklore, the grey shadows on the moon are in the shape of rabbits pounding mochi which is why dango (little white mochi balls) are a traditional celebration food of the harvest moon.

 

But my colleagues did note that in the countryside where harvests are more important, people are probably still diligently recognising this festival. So the least we city slickers can do is eat some dango and look at how pretty the moon is tonight!

Enjoy your tsukimi!

 

Kanji List:

  • 中秋の名月(ちゅうしゅうのめいげつ) – Harvest moon (lit. middle of autumn’s great moon)
  • 月見(つきみ) – Moon viewing (having a picnic outside to appreciate the moon)
  • 餅(もち) – Rice cakes eaten as a sweet/dessert
  • 月見団子(つきみだんご) – Small rice cake balls eaten traditionally at this time of year (lit. moon viewing dango)
  • 十五夜(じゅうごや) – Another word for the night of the harvest moon (lit. 15th night but it does not necessarily fall on 15th, this just means the middle of the month)

 

Part Time Job Opportunity at Share House Company, Tokyo

Hi! We’re Tulip Real Estate, a small female-only share house management company in Nerima, Tokyo. We’re looking to grow our international team and we welcome women from all over the world.

Varied and Exciting Work
The work is very varied. You meet new people all the time and you will never be bored. Responsibilities range from usual duties like viewings, paper work, replying to inquiries etc., but also marketing, copywriting, updating social media, cleaning, stocking and decorating. We need someone flexible who also enjoys travelling to different locations within Tokyo.

We Want Your Ideas!
If you are creative and brimming with ideas, Tulip Real Estate is the part time opportunity for you!

As a small company, everyone’s ideas get listened to; you will be an important and valued part of the team. Our International Team members have the freedom to pursue their own projects for marketing or to improve the houses.

The work environment is casual and there is no dress code. However the work is also challenging and sometimes there are time restraints. Therefore we need someone who can take responsibility and manage their own time.

Gain Great Experience and Japanese Language Skills
You will be involved in all aspects of the business, meaning it is the perfect opportunity for those who want to learn about and gain experience in real estate; particularly share house and guest house management.

This is also a great chance to improve on Japanese skills and experience working in a Japanese business environment.

We are flexible when it comes to discussing work hours and days so students are welcome!

Hear From Our Current Staff!

Jess, UK:My Japanese has improved so much since I started working at Tulip. I’ve learnt so many words that I wouldn’t otherwise encounter and can now use them with confidence when communicating with colleagues.

I’ve also had the chance to explore many parts of Tokyo that aren’t well known and had the chance to share this knowledge with others through Tulip’s blogs and social media. I love meeting other people living in Japan, there’s always the chance to have an interesting chat and make a new friend.

Sometimes rushing around Tokyo to meet a client after another appointment overran is tough, but if you enjoy challenging and varied work with the chance to meet lots of new people, you will enjoy this job for sure!

Jan, Thailand:I like having the freedom to throw in my ideas and make use of my creative skills as a designer. I’m currently a student so I enjoy having flexible work hours and a casual office environment, where I can come to work wearing whatever I feel like!

My favourite part of the job is introducing Tokyo to newcomers and giving them all the tips and knowledge I’ve learnt by working here over the years. 

It’s fun to have the chance to get out of the office and travel around Tokyo for appointments, but this physicality can be tough. If you are the kind of person who is active and enjoys travelling, this opportunity is perfect!

Naomi, USA:It’s very rewarding to help those moving to Japan for the first time. Sometimes we are the very first people they meet after they land!

Adapting to Japanese work culture was a challenge but I’ve gained so much experience and greatly improved my cultural competence.

 

Requirements:
Fluent in English
Basic Japanese skills
Very organized and can manage own time
Can work independently as well as a team
Visa that allows working in Japan (with at least one year left)
Able to travel by train and bicycle to various locations in Tokyo

Desired Skills:
Creative skills
Familiar with social media
Good written English (for blogs and social media posts as well as copywriting)
Any other languages spoken will be considered a plus

➔ No dress code
➔ Travel expenses reimbursed (up to 10,000 yen per month)
➔ Flexible work schedule
➔ Possibility of a full time position in the future

If you are interested, send a resume and cover letter to n-mizutani@tulip-e.com

Tokyo’s Hidden Gems: Sangubashi’s Park Life

Sangubashi is a charming, hidden suburb nestled between the tourist hotspots of Shinjuku, Harajuku and Shibuya. Its great location has lead it to become a popular residential area with Japanese and non-Japanese alike. Judging by the flash cars crawling down the busy shopping street and tiny dogs in designer wear, you can guess that the local inhabitants are pretty well off.

If you’re looking for a place to live or just a short term visit, Sangubashi has overflowing appeal. These are our top picks for things to see, do and, most importantly, eat.

Yoyogi Park

The charms of living in Sangubashi are obvious from one quick look at the map. The giant, green blob that has gobbled up the whole area from Yoyogi to Shibuya is Yoyogi Park. Massively famous, this grassy sprawl offers a place for Tokyoites to just chill, while watching sparkling fountains in the summer sun. At the weekend you can be entertained by the street performers lining the path. Fashion hub Harajuku can be reached by a pleasant walk to the other side of the park.

 

Meiji Jingu

Although it is not Japan’s most eminent shrine, Meiji Jingu is arguably the most famous one, with most tourists at least making the effort to pop in. Coming in from the Harajuku entrance, visitors take the sudden plunge into a spiritual nature walk with towering trees blocking out any trace of the Youth-culture capital outside the shrine’s walls. Coming from Sangubashi you can take the little-known back entrance, avoiding the crowds… initially at least. If you’re feeling a bit run down, check out Kiyomasa’s Well, a ‘power spot’. Japanese people believe you can get a bit of extra energy from visiting such places. It’s worth a try right?

If all this sightseeing works up an appetite, hop over the road from the Sangubashi exit of Yogogi Park. Park Arms is an American style restaurant that sells all manner of hamburgers as well as formidably sized sandwiches. Even better than the food is the fact that dogs are welcome to sit in with their owners, so there’s plenty of cute pups to fawn over while waiting for your meal to arrive.

Teppanyaki Restaurant En

This restaurant seems to be always busy, the raucous laughter of merry-makers is audible from outside most evenings. If you’re in the mood for affordable slabs of okonomiyaki and monja-yaki with various toppings available you’re in luck, but we recommend you make a reservation in advance.

Two words: cheese naan. This Nepalese restaurant offers inexpensive set meals at any time of the day, choose your curry from an extensive list and it comes with salad and your choice of rice or naan. For a few extra yen you can make your naan cheese or garlic, and we really advise you to do so.

 

All-nighter

It’s not unusual to see unfortunate salary men who missed the last train home sleeping rough in an array of strange locations. Luckily, if you’re staying in Sangubashi you can party all night in Shinjuku, Harajuku or Shibuya and walk home. Or even jump in a taxi without breaking the bank. There’s all night arcades, karaoke, restaurants, the fun never ends. Shibuya has many 300 yen per drink establishments popular with locals as well as travellers. You can easily forget all about that last train, without ending up asleep on a park bench.

 

Want to live in or visit Sangubashi? We have a share house there that also accepts short terms stays through AirBnB.

Eat Like a Local: Japanese Halal Restaurants in Tokyo

If you have a dietary restriction, eating out in a foreign country can feel really unfair. You want to be able to try everything and eat like the locals do. Food is such a massive part of a country’s culture you can feel as though you’re missing out.

Luckily for Muslim visitors and residents in Tokyo, you can sample plenty of ‘Washoku’ (traditional Japanese dishes) as well as Japan’s other famous dishes in restaurants that are completely Halal. Here’s a guide to must-try foods for Japanese cuisine beginners, complete with links to Muslim-friendly restaurants.

Washoku

Washoku is traditional Japanese cuisine, characterised by light dishes with subtle, refreshing flavours that are packed with seasonal ingredients and use rice as a base food.

Yoshiya (Shinjuku)

 

Ramen

A typical comfort dish of soupy, noodly goodness. Japanese people eat it to regain their strength after a tiring night and now you can too! Honolu  even serve sides of Halal gyoza which will definitely help you get your genki-ness back!

Honolu (Ebisu, Hamamatsucho, Shinbashi)

 

Soba

Another noodle dish, soba is a bit like ramen’s healthier cousin, buckwheat noodles swimming in a light broth. It can also be eaten cold with a dipping sauce. Yoshitomoan offers Halal options for all your soba needs.

Yoshitomoan (Kagurazaka)

 

Sushi

A classic. If you like your fish uncooked and lying on top of a little vinegared rice bed, you are in for a treat.

Sushi Ken (Asakusa)

 

Yakiniku

Yakiniku literally means grilled meat. Based on Korean barbeques, this Japanese favourite involves ordering raw meat to cook yourselves on a grill in the middle of your table. 10/10 for fun, 10/10 for socialness, 10/10 for deliciousness. (But it can be pricey!)

Gyumon (Shibuya)
Sumiyakiya (Roppongi)

 

Shabu Shabu

Like yakiniku, shabu shabu has the do-it-yourself fun factor. You swish the meat around in boiling broth until cooked. This restaurant is pretty expensive due to the meat being Wa-gyu (premium Japanese beef) so don’t go unless you’ve got those yens to spare.

Hanasakaji San (Shibuya)

 

Bento

Bento are a staple of Japanese culture. People take great care making bento (lunch boxes) for their partners and children, to show love and get them through the work/school day. This website delivers bento to your door, what’s more caring and heart-felt than that?

Taste and Discover Japan (Order Online)

 

This is of course, not an exhaustive list. Please give your own recommendations in the comments!

Tokyo’s Hidden Gems: Nerima’s Suburban Attractions

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Nerima has a reputation for being a bit relaxed (read boring), but there’s actually plenty of little-known attractions for an easy-going day out around Nerima station. If you’re looking for somewhere to live, this convenient and cheap residential area is perfect for commuting to areas such as Ikebukuro, Shinjuku or Roppongi.

(Extra info about prices and locations of the attractions will be at the bottom of this blog!)

Walking through the unassuming suburbs there’s no way that you would guess there’s a theme park awaiting you around the corner. True, it’s not exactly Fuji Q Highland, but there’s charm in this old amusement park yet. The wooden merry-go-round of Toshimaen theme park is a designated important cultural property.

But thrill-seekers never fear. Once July rolls around the water park is open, with plenty of scary water slides to get that adrenaline rush, and a beautiful night pool where you can float under the summer stars.

Nature lovers will also be happy to know that surrounding the amusement park are beautiful gardens designed by the famous Japanese landscape architect, Kenzo Kosugi. They were designed specifically so that every season would give a different look. The best way to enjoy these gardens, is a dip in the Niwa no Yu onsen (public bath) next door. The outdoor baths give a gorgeous view. There are even co-ed saunas where you can hang out with your partner or guy friends (in bathing suits of course!).

Get ready die-hard mountain fans, because Nerima City Hall offers a view of Mount Fuji for free. But definitely check the forecast before going as it can only be seen on clear days.

You can also catch a movie at the United Cinemas cinema complex by Toshimaen station. Wednesday is ladies day meaning you can see all the latest flicks for a very affordable 1100 yen.

Pig Plus is one of the best restaurants in Nerima for sure. Nerima was a farming area back in the Edo period and nowadays there’s still plenty of farms on the outskirts. This restaurant uses only Nerima produce for its celebrated dishes. They even do take-out if you feel like taking a full rotisserie chicken home. No judgement here.

 

Toshimaen Theme Park
Price- Amusement pass – 4200 yen for adult, 3200 for child (Entrance only pass 1000 yen for adult, 500 yen for children)
Location- 1 minute walk from Toshimaen station
Opening Hours- Varies according to season (guests with tattoos may not enter the park)

Niwa no Yu
Price- Standard ticket 2310 yen, Night Spa ticket 1295 yen (No children allowed)
Location- 1 minute walk from Toshimaen station
Opening Hours- 10 am to 11 pm every day (Night Spa is not open during New Year, Obon Festival or Golden Week)

Nerima City Hall
Price- Free
Location- 5 minute walk from Nerima station
Opening Hours- 8.30 am to 5 pm on weekdays, closed for New Year

United Cinemas
Price- 1800 yen (Ladies Day 1100 yen every wednesday, Late Show 1300 yen every night after 8pm
Location- 1 minute walk from Toshimaen station
Opening Hours- Movie schedule

Pig Plus
Price- Menu
Location- 1 minute walk from Nerima station
Opening Hours-  13 seconds past 5 in the evening (I don’t get it either) until the early hours

تجربتي كفتاة عربية في كوكب اليابان (Resident Blog)

 

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You may remember our lovely resident Sahar from her interview. At that time, she touched on the problems facing Muslim women living in Japan when finding accomodation. We invited her to give us the full story in a guest blog! She has blogged in Arabic to share her experience and advice with other Arabic speakers who may have similar trouble.

انا اسمي سحر فتاة قادمة من تونس ، أعمل مهندسة باليابان. أول مرة جئت فيها إلى اليابان سنة 2015 وذلك للقيام بتربص يتعلق بختم الدراسة الجامعية.

لم أكن أعرف شيئا عن هذا البلد العظيم ولأني أنحدر من بلد صغير يقع لشمال افريقيا فإن كل ما رأيته كان جديدا بالنسبة إلي وغريبا في نفس الوقت إذ أني لأول مرة في حياتي أزور آسيا وخاصة هذا البلد المتقدم.

وقد قامت الشركة التي احتضنتني للقيام بالتربص لديها بكراء غرفة لي بمبنى مختلط (إناث وذكور) لعدم معرفتهم بثقافتنا وتربيتنا وعاداتنا وتقاليدنا فكانت صدمة بالنسبة لي كيف لي أن أعيش في دار مختلطة مع أناس لا أعرفهم ولم أرهم في حياتي قط. وقد كانت تجربة مخيفة خاصة من ناحية النظافة لذلك بدأت أبحث عن منزل آخر . وأخيرا التجأت إلى google  وwebsite « tokyoshared house » أين وجدت ضالتي .

« tulip »هي دار مخصصة للبنات  فقط  سعدت كثيرا عند رؤيتها وبما أنني مسلمة أحسست بارتياح للعيش فيها بأمان سواء من ناحية النظافة أو من ناحية عدم الاختلاط.

وسارعت بمكالمة القائمين عليها الذين أجابوني في الحين ورحبّوا بي بكل تلقائية وها أنا قد انتقلت للعيش في تلك الدار والحمد لله.

وكما تعرفون فالبنات يتميّزن عن الذكور بالشعور بالمسؤولية والنظافة والاحترام والسلوك الطيب ومنذ أن انتقلت لم أتعرض إلى أي مشاكل .

ومما أسعدني أيضا وجود هذا المبنى بالقرب من محطة (Oedo line) التي تعتبر استرتيجية من حيث انطلاق سفراتها إلى عدة أماكن معروفة ومهمّة في طوكيو في وقت قصير للغاية:

Shinjuku –  (17 دقيقة)

Roppongi –  (35 دقيقة)

وقطار  Fukotoshin يوصلني إلى Shibuya  في 20 دقيقة

و قطار Seibu ikebukuro line  يوصلني إلى ikebukuro

حقا لم أتخيّل يوما أني سأفوز بدار مخصصة للبنات فقط في بلاد كاليابان حيث يطيب العيش فيها فكل شيء متوفر وسهل الحصول عليه بدون مشاكل أو تعقيدات.

وفي الختام ، أنصح كل فتاة مسلمة اللجوء إلى هذه الدار للسكن فيها متمتعة براحة البال والسكينة والنظافة إلى جانب موقعها الممتاز والاستراتيجي الذي يساعدها في تنقلاتها.

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