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Begin Japanology invites you into the world of Japanese culture, both traditional and modern, explaining how traditions evolved and the part they still play today in people's everyday lives.
The Japanese persimmon, scientific name Diospyros kaki. There are over 1,000 varieties, falling into 2 main types: sweet persimmons, which are unique to Japan, and astringent persimmons, which must be dried or otherwise processed to make them edible. The sight of drying persimmons hanging from farmhouse eaves is a very nostalgic one in Japan. On this edition of BEGIN Japanology, our theme is persimmons. This fruit's unique history in Japan can tell us a lot about the Japanese approach to food.
Japan's cities look very beautiful at night: the lights of the city shimmer amidst the darkness of ocean and mountain. Kobe, Hakodate and Nagasaki are sometimes considered the top 3, but Tokyo also has some brilliant nighttime landmarks. The Japanese have long enjoyed moon viewing and sitting under cherry blossoms at night. Recently, after-dark tours of industrial factories have become quite popular. On this edition of BEGIN Japanology, our theme is nighttime scenery.
Ise Jingu is one of Japan's most ancient shrines. Its expansive precinct, covering 5,500 hectares, actually encompasses 125 shrines, at which Shinto deities are honored. In October 2013, there was a ceremonial transfer of deities between sanctuaries that happens once every 20 years. For centuries, a visit to Ise Jingu has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience. More recently, it has gained a reputation as a "power spot". On this edition of BEGIN Japanology, our theme is Ise Jingu.
Japan is a global motor vehicle superpower, and about 40% of the cars on its own roads are K-cars. Technically one size down from compact cars, K-cars are trim, economical vehicles that still manage to be stylish and loaded with features. The first four-seat K-cars, selling at affordable prices, shattered the image that cars were only for the rich. Today there are K-cars that are roadsters, and even K-car camper vans. On this edition of BEGIN Japanology, our theme is K-cars.
Nancy Singleton Hachisu is an American expert on Japanese farm food, who adds her own touch to traditional recipes. In 2012, she released a Japanese farm food cookbook in the US, which became a big hit selling over 20,000 copies. This is the story of how Nancy Singleton Hachisu discovered the joys of Japanese cuisine, and became a devotee of the country's farm food.
American J-pop singer Chris Hart visited Japan for the first time at age 13, and he fell in love with the country. After moving to Japan at the age of 24, he appeared on a TV singing contest for foreigners - and won. In May 2013, Hart released his first major-label album, which has since sold 250,000 copies. Chris Hart's voice is ringing out in the world of J-pop.
Washi - handmade Japanese paper - has long been indispensable to the Japanese way of life. Rogier Uitenboogaart came to Japan from the Netherlands in 1980, and he has dedicated his life to making washi in the mountains of Shikoku. Amid a rapid decline in traditional paper-making, Uitenboogaart continues to uphold centuries-old cultivation and production techniques.
Japan's railways are interesting in many different ways. Some have unique features to make the ride more enjoyable, and some focus on comfort and luxury. Railways changed Japanese lifestyles, shaping new cities and developing new cultural trends. Japanese train fans are very passionate, and recently a lot of women have joined their ranks. On this edition of BEGIN Japanology, our theme is railways. We'll look at how railways developed in Japan, and how much they mean to the Japanese people.
40% of the pianos that exist today were made in Japan, and 40% of the Japanese population has learned to play the piano at some point. Sviatoslav Richter, often called the greatest pianist of the 20th century, loved Japanese pianos, and he is just one of many world-class artists who have praised them. On this edition of BEGIN Japanology, our theme is the piano. We'll see how a piano-playing culture developed in Japan, and explore the latest developments in the piano business
Japan has the world's biggest appetite for squid. Squid is eaten many different ways - sautéed, fried, as sashimi - and it features in countless local dishes across the country. However, to the Japanese, squid means more than just good eating: it's also used in rituals as a symbol of good luck. Recently, scientists have been discovering more about the fascinating lives of squid. On this edition of BEGIN Japanology, we look at the profound importance of squid to Japan's history and culture.
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