Tag Archives | Japan

We don’t say Sayonara

Rather than say Sayonara to this season of songs from East and Southeast Asia, we acknowledge recent research finding that 70% of Japanese rarely or never use the phrase to say goodbye. Instead, let’s say, “Otsukaresama desu,” which means, “You must be tired, thank you for your work!” Other new favorites, according to JapanToday, are:

— Ja ne. (See ya)
— Mata ne/kondo/ashita/raishuu. (See you later/next time/tomorrow/next week)
— Shitsurei shimasu. (I’m sorry for having been rude – on ending a phone call, leaving work, etc.)
— Osaki ni shitsurei shimasu. (I’m sorry for rudely leaving before you [at work])
— Gokigenyou. (Fare thee well – if you want to sound fancy)
— Bai bai. (If you want to sound cute)

Shanadoo Teaches Us How to Para Para

Yesterday we met Japanese para para, a fabulous form of synchronized pop dance. Para para is the kind of dancing that is incredibly enjoyable to watch, but even more frantically fun to do. This video teaches us some Para Para dance moves — the very basics, and they’re wonderful. Don’t be shy, get up and try!

Night of Fire

Japanese para para is AMAZING. The form of synchronized dancing emerged in Japanese clubs in the 1980’s, providing specific moves, mainly made with the arms, choreographed to frantic Euro-dance. Para Para has ebbed and flowed in popularity, alternating between “boom” and “glacial” periods, though in all periods “official” para para routines found favor among devoted “paralists” while routines choreographed by fans — nicknamed “maniac” — would make the rounds informally, especially outside of Japan where even the most committed dancers would be hard pressed to find a para para club. Purist paralist or no, you will absolutely enjoy — though you will perhaps be slightly confused by — “Night of Fire.” Let Shanandoo teach you some basic para para moves.


Dancing Bon Odori in the Public Square

Bon Odori is a Japanese folk dance most often performed during the Obon “ancestor appreciation” holiday in the public square and danced in concentric circles around a raised wooden platform called a yagura. The dance developed several hundred years ago from a Buddhist chant to welcome the spirits of the ancestors. Bon odori is a public, participatory dance that is meant to attract young and old, both trained dancers and those who just want to celebrate.

Strings of the Okinawan Soul

Japanese folk music encompasses four main types of songs: work songs, religious songs, songs used for gatherings such as weddings, festivals and funerals, and children’s songs. The tradition is strong throughout Japan, especially on the once-independent island of Okinawa, whose folk music differs from that on the mainland in several ways. For example, while mainland Japanese folk uses the shamisen, Okinawan folk music uses the shansin, as well as the sanba, which produce a clacking sound similar to castanets, as well a sharp form of whistling known as the “finger flute.”

Three shades of Gagaku

Japanese Buddhist chanting may be the most ancient form of Japanese music, but orchestral court music, known as gagaku, is well over a thousand years old. A full gagaku performance encompasses three forms of art — Kuniburi no Utamai, featuring ancient Japanese songs played on harp and flute, instrumental performances that accompany Japanese dance, and Utamono, danced to Japenese folk songs and sung Chinese poems.

Journey to Japan

All Around This World East Asia map featuring JapanThis week in our online class for kids we visit Japan, a country that deceives. On one hand Japan feels so close, so familiar, that American may easily assume we know much more about it than we actually do. So much Japanese culture has entered the world’s psyche–who among us hasn’t ever sung karaoke, eaten sushi, watched anime, done a karate chop or pranced around the living room our flabby belly hanging out, bouncing into our unsuspecting cousin Rosco like a sumo wrestler? On the other hand, what of these elements of Japanese art and culture do non-Japanese really appreciate, let alone fully understand? Just because we use Japanese DVD players, drive Japanese cars and have mastered Dance Dance Revolution, does that mean we truly know Japan…?

Shamisen Girls!

In class this season we’re going to listen to music performed on so many East and Southeast Asian instruments, some of which we don’t hear very often in the West, like China’s suona , others that are becoming more familiar, and many that give us a bit of both. For example, the Japanese shamisen clearly reminds us of the guitar, but its sound and emotional feel land us firmly and formidably in East Asia. The “shamisen girls” from the Japanese duo Ki & Ki will show you what’s up.

All is Jazzy in Japan

We end our jazzy week in the jazziest of all jazzy nations — Japan. Jazz became popular in Japan as early as the 1920’s. While Imperial Japan was wary of Western music, especially in the years before and during World War II, when American soldiers occupied Japan starting in the mid 1940s, Japanese musicians were quick to embrace the form. Today “J-Jazz” is so popular that some jazz watchers claim Japan has the more jazz fans than the U.S. Take that, America!

Glad to have had the chance to be jazzy with you this week. Next week we really get down to business with a week full of “work songs.”