Yaya’s Life in Japan

May 03 | Evan | Comments Off on Yaya’s Life in Japan |

A glimpse of everyday life in Japan

There is a new YouTube channel in town! Well, this is a new YouTube channel created by Japan Photo Guide’s friend in Japan. She is a photographer so despite it’s new for her to do videography, the videos are beautiful. The angles, subjects, and lighting, you can tell that a photographer worked on it. 

Anyways, this new YouTube channel is called “Yaya’s Life in Japan.” It captures everyday life in Japan, which might be nothing special nor spectacular to Japanese people, but for those who are dying to travel back to Japan or hoping to finally make it to your dream land, Japan, it’s fascinating. You get to see the glimpse of Japanese people’s daily lives on this channel as well as you can learn Japanese words and cultures. 

Yes, watching this channel will definitely be useful for you to prepare for your photo tour of Japan when international traveling resumes, but it’s simply entertaining and educational if you want to learn more about everyday Japan! 

“Enjoy SOBA Lunch” 

Are you a big Japanese food fan? If so, have you heard of soba? Soba is Japanese noodle, which is made from buckwheat. Many people probably know ramen, but if you are health conscious, you definitely want to try soba because it’s as great as the whole wheat spaghetti, much healthier than ramen. If you do not believe it, below is the list of nutritious facts about soba. 

  • Less carb than regular pasta 
  • High in fiber 
  • High in protein and low in fat 
  • Good source of Vitamin B1
  • Good course of manganese (which supports bone health, glucose metabolism, wound healing & support nervous system) 
  • Helps cardiovascular health 
  • Control blood sugar 
  • Free of gluten 
  • Prebiotic 
  • Other minerals (zinc, magnesium, & iron etc.) 

Do I have your attention now? If you are trying something new and are trying to better your health, choose soba over ramen when you are in a Japanese/Asian store next time! Also, are you curious to find out about how to eat soba? Well, take a look at “Enjoy SOBA lunch” from Yaya’s Life in Japan. 

Interview with Yaya, the creator of “Yaya’s Life in Japan” 

I was fortunate to interview Yaya, the creator of the new YouTube channel to learn more about “Yaya’s Life in Japan.” Let’s learn how this YouTube channel came to life. 

Q: What is the reason behind creating this YouTube channel? 

Yaya: There are 3 reasons why I started my channel. 

  1. I wanted my international friends to learn more about Japan. 
  2. I wanted my Japanese friends who live abroad to feel closer to Japan through my videos. 
  3. As a photographer, I have always wanted to try videography. 

Q: Your YouTube videos are beautiful. Is videography new to you? 

Yaya: Yes, I am a photographer, but I am completely new to videography. I have a desire to learn so through doing YouTube, I hope to polish my skill as a videographer. 

Q: How are you choosing your themes? 

Yaya: I am focused on “real life.” I don’t go anywhere special just because I am shooting for YouTube, but instead, I think of my friends’ faces and if anything comes up to my mind that I want to share with them, that is what I create. 

Q: What quality do you value when creating your videos? 

Yaya: I am not too keen on loud and busy so instead, I want the viewers to enjoy the videos without effort. If you can enjoy my videos and feel relaxed, that makes me happy. 

Q: Are there any videos you particularly want this blog reader to check it out? 

Yaya: Yes, the one with cherry blossoms at a local temple, Ikegami Honmouji is my recommendation. I am also going to upload kaitenzushi (converter belt sushi) one soon so if you enjoy sushi and/or Japanese food, please take a look at that one too! 

What do you notice by watching “Yaya’s Life in Japan?” If you have never been to Japan, everything is probably new to you, but if you have been to Japan, have you noticed anything new? In the pandemic era, we are all travel deprived. We are all on the same boat about missing traveling, missing the photo tour of Japan. You can’t yet go traveling to Japan freely, but by watching this channel, I hope you get inspired to learn about Japan as well as inspired to photograph and be more motivated to travel to Japan hopefully in near future

Learn Japanese Today

May 01 | Evan | No Comments |

 

Learn how to make possessive sentences in Japanese! 

In the last “Learn Japanese Today,” you learned how to say “this” and “that” in Japanese. In this article, let’s expand your Japanese even further to learn how to make a possessive sentence using this and that in Japanese. This will certainly be beneficial on your Japan photo tour next year! Sounds exciting? Let’s begin!! 

This dog is Pochi! 

You all know how to say “This is ….” in Japanese now. What if you want to be more informative in Japanese sentences. Below is an example using possessive, “no

This dog is Pochi. 

Kono inu ha pochi desu. (*In Japanese, you write “ha,” but pronunciate “wa.”)

いぬ は ポチ です。

犬 は ポチ です。

When you want to make a possessive “this,” you add “no” and subtract “re” from kore to make “kono.” Here you are providing the dog’s name. 

Let’s do another example using “This dog is…”: 

This dog is a Shiba inu.

Kono inu ha shiba inu desu. 

いぬ は しばいぬ です。

犬 は 柴犬 です。

As well as explaining the name of this dog, in this example, you can describe a type of dog, which is Shiba Inu. By the way, in Japan, as well as Shiba inu, you will hear Shiba ken for the same dog type.  

shiba inu dogs wearing party hats

Interesting fact

Pochi is a well-recognized dog name in Japan, but in more recent years, following names are gaining popularity as dog names in Japan: Maron, Leon, Coco, and Moka to name a few. As for cats, Tama is an equivalent of Pochi, but in more recent years, following names are gaining popularity as cat names in Japan: Mugi, Momo, Hime, Chachamaru to name a few. So when you are in Japan on your photography tour of Japan, pay attention to dogs and cats names. Maybe you can find a new trend in Japan’s pet names? 

“I am Lisa.” and “My name is Lisa.” 

So using possessive, “no” let’s try another one. To introduce yourself, you can do below. Let’s pretend that you are Lisa. 

I am Lisa. 

Watashi ha Lisa desu. 

わたし は りさ です。

私 は 理紗 です。

AND 

My name is Lisa. 

Watashi no namae ha Lisa desu. 

わたし なまえ は りさ です。

名前 は 理紗 です。

To introduce yourself in Japanese, you can use the “watashi wa… desu” form with your name at the … spot. This is simple and totally makes sense in Japanese, but you can also use the example above with the possessive tense using “no.” Even with simple sentences like these, Japanese would always appreciate it if you try using their language so don’t be shy, but try your best to introduce yourself when you meet new people on Japan Photo Guide’s photo tour of Japan! 

Additionally, when you want to say “That is mine” in Japanese, you can do below using “no.” 

That is mine. 

Are ha watashi no desu.

あれ は わたし です。

あれ は 私 です。

As you know “kore” “sore” and “are” in Japanese, depending on the location of the object you are talking about, make sure you use the right one. Furthermore, if you replace “watashi” to “Lisa” in the above sentence, you can say “That is Lisa’s” in Japanese. 

Are ha Lisa no desu. 

あれ は りさ です。

Finally… 

Learning about the possessive “no” gives you more freedom to play with Japanese. You may not have a lot of Japanese knowledge, but by 3 lessons we have had so far, you can say simple sentences to navigate yourself to have a small conversation with Japanese people on the Japan photo tour. If you also know more variety of Japanese nouns, you can also use the above structures to figure out how to say “That is my dog.,” “This is your cat.,” and “That is Lisa’s horse.” etc. 

Only in Japan? Snow Monkeys that enjoy a hot spring

Apr 15 | Evan | No Comments |

The most famous group of monkeys in Japan can easily be said to the group of monkeys at the hot spring at Jigokudani Monkey Park in Nagano. If you don’t know which group of monkeys I am talking about, these are the monkeys you might have seen in the photographs of monkeys relaxing at the hot spring in Nagano, Japan. Does it ring a bell? If not, take a look at the Jigokudani Monkey Park official website here to see what I’m talking about. 

They are the only monkeys in the world, which are known to bathe in the hot spring to keep themselves warm during cold winter. The park opened in 1964 and there are currently around 160 monkeys in the area, which come to bathe only during winter. Yes, this scene of monkeys bathing in the hot spring is a rare view only seen at this park. So, if you are not sure winter is a time to travel to Japan, this could be a good enough reason for you to join Japan Photo Guide’s photo tour of Japan to witness and capture the rare scene of monkeys relaxing in a hot spring.

What is “Snow Monkey?” 

So let’s learn more about the monkeys at Jigokudani Monkey Park. As already stated, the park opened in 1964 and there are 160 or so monkeys living in the area to use the hot spring. However, they do not all come down to the hot spring at once, but they come down in a group of 40 to 50 monkeys. The reason the monkeys come down to bathe is just like us humans, they want to warm their cold bodies during winter. 

The term “snow monkey” is a term created by international media. Even before international media came to this spot, it was a popular destination for Japanese, but ever since the international media gave a spotlight to these one and only monkeys, the number of foreigners visiting Jigokudani Monkey Park has increased tremendously. For example, back in 2012, the total of 130,000 tourists visited the park while 30,000 of them were international visitors. 

Nihonzaru = Japanese Monkey 

The kind of monkeys you see at Jigokudani Monkey Park is Japanese monkey, Nihonzaru. They live over a broad area of Japan except for Okinawa and Hokkaido. If you want to see them, you simply need to head to the mountains. The matter of fact, when I was a child, I saw Nihonzaru in my town as my town is surrounded by mountains in Kanagawa Prefecture just south of Tokyo. They came down to human habitations and there was even a week-long town alert to warn us to be careful not to engage with monkeys when going home and after school. During that week, a group of us saw monkeys at the park, which had a back to the mountain. Even today, I hear that my town and surrounding towns have monkey sightings regularly. 

Japanese monkeys are really everywhere in Japan except for Okinawa and Hokkaido. You get to see them at the zoo as well as randomly in mountainous areas. However, they are wild so you cannot easily spot them by simply heading to the mountains. A park like Jigokudani Monkey Park was created so that anybody can come and observe the monkey for pleasure, but also for research purposes. The truth is, Japanese monkeys have very high social ability, thus the zoo does not showcase everything for us to fully understand them. 

Let’s learn more about Jigokudani Monkey Park! 

Jigokudani Monkey Park is located in Yamanouchi town in Nagano Prefecture, which is at the altitude of 850 meters. During winter, the temperature drops as low as -10 degree Celsius/14 degree Fahrenheit and snow accumulates up to 1 meter/3.3 feet. Yes, the winter in this area is very severe and tough for monkeys as well as humans. 

The park is a cage free park, where Japanese monkeys can come and go as they wish. It was created in 1964 and 1st received international recognition back in 1970 when it was covered by US magazine, LIFE. However, the biggest media exposure was in 1998 when the Nagano Olympics took place. This is when the park received a lot of visitors from the Olympic players, Olympic spectators as well as media. 

The reason the monkeys return to the park is because they are fed in the park. However, the park is just a part of their entire life, thus they go in and out of the park freely. As stated earlier, the Jigokudani Monkey Park area is very cold, thus the monkeys come down to the hot spring to warm their cold bodies. This scene is unique to winter as the monkeys are not so keen to hop in the hot spring during other seasons. So if you want to capture monkeys in a hot spring, you want to visit the park during the cold winter. 

Dos and Don’ts when visiting the park! 

They are wild so please remember the points below when you visit the park or whenever you encounter wild monkeys in Japan. Below points are listed on the official website in Japanese, but they are not translated to English so hope you spend some time before you make your way to the Jigokudani Monkey Park! 

  1. Don’t feed them 
  2. Don’t touch/frighten them
  3. Don’t look straight into their eyes at close distance 
  4. Don’t get too close to them 
  5. Can’t bring in dogs and cats 
  6. You can do photography & videography even with flash 
  7. Can’t use a selfie stick

At the park, even photographing using flash is allowed, but when photographing using a phone, please be careful not to get too close. Additionally, a selfie stick is not allowed in the park as it can potentially frighten monkeys as they could look like a weapon to them. People often tend to lose the idea of distance when using a selfie, thus it’s not safe to use around the monkeys. 

When visiting the park, you need to always remember that they are wild. Little monkeys are curious, thus they may get close to you, but if that happens, please remove yourself away from them so that you can avoid any harm. They can call adults to help if anything happens. Also, looking straight into their eyes means an indication of hostility as well as opening your mouth big. Don’t get too close, always keep distance from them. 

Lastly, since you cannot get too close to the monkeys, bringing a binocular is a good idea suggested by the park to observe them from a distance. 

Finally… 

After seeing photos and videos of monkeys bathing, you might be thinking “I want to go to a hot spring too!” Well,l don’t worry! Even though the park is away from any human habitations, in the same town, there is Shiga Kogen Snow Ski Resort where you can enjoy skiing/snowboarding while warming up your cold body at the hot springs. Going to see the monkeys in the wild is exciting, but if you get to enjoy other aspects of Japan when visiting Nagano would be a bonus, right? By the way, if you want to learn more about Japanese monkeys before you head to Japan with Japan Photo Guide’s Japan photo tour, follow the park official Instagram here and/or watch the live camera of the park so that you can dream of the day to visit and capture the snow monkeys! 

What’s Different, Maiko and Geisha?

Apr 07 | Evan | No Comments |

What is the difference between the two? 

Maiko and geisha are one of the most iconic symbols of Japan. They are mysterious, beautiful, elegant, and perfect photographic subjects for your photo tour of Japan. With 300 years or so of history, we can learn so much about Japan through them. In this article, let’s learn about maiko and geisha so that when you are on your next photo tour of Japan, you have more knowledge of Japan, and furthermore, you are more prepared to photograph them and/or even become one for a day! 

Let’s learn about maiko! 

In short, a maiko is the girl who is training to be a geisha, an apprentice of geisha. Most of the girls start training to be a maiko after graduating from Jr. High School for 5 years or so. Back in the day, the training started as early as 10, but in today’s modern world, the girls who dream to be a geisha start their training as a maiko after graduating from Jr. High School, which is age 15 and then by age 20 or so, they turn into a geisha. 

So what do they do during those 5 years of training? Well, the first year is all training, they don’t even go anywhere near the customers. The girls learn traditional dance, dressing kimono, tea ceremony, flower arrangement, etiquette, and how to treat customers. After 1 year of training, then girls debut as a maiko to be in front of a customer for the first time. In the 2nd year onwards, the girls continue training as well as work as a maiko in front of customers until they make a decision to continue or discontinue working in the industry as a geisha or end the career around the age 20. 

Some fun facts about maiko is that maiko hair is not a wig. It’s all her natural hair and once the hair is made, a maiko wears the hair without washing it for a week! Additionally, a maiko wears a seasonal “kanzashi,” hairpin. If you are trying to differentiate between a maiko and geisha, check out their hairpin to see what kind of hairpins they are wearing. Furthermore, one clear difference between a maiko and a geisha is what they are wearing on their feet. Those ones with very thick platow heels are maiko. Geisha wear geta or zouri, which are much more flat compared to maiko’s footwear. 

Can you guess if she is a maiko or geisha

Let’s learn about geisha!

In short, a geisha is the woman who graduates from being a maiko. After 5 years or so of training being a maiko, then you become a geisha. Yes, everyone starts from maiko and then eventually turns into geisha. As well as a word, geisha, you also hear “geiko” and “geiki” which all mean the same. The difference is the area, which part of Japan you are in. Just to make things easy, let’s stick to geisha here. 

Geisha are the traditionally trained hospitality professionals. Not everyone can be one and those who are named as geisha have extensive training as described earlier in the maiko section. Besides its mysterious beauty and elegance, they are the living traditions who are passing down Japanese traditions.They also act as ambassadors to the world when international events take place. There is no age limit to being a geisha, thus some people continue to be a geisha even in their 80s! However, in general, once a woman marries, she graduates from being a geisha. 

If you want to meet a geisha and a maiko, you might be lucky enough to run into them randomly on the streets of Kyoto, but if you really want to spend time with them, then you need to go to ozashiki where geisha and maiko entertain guests. Back in the day, only a handful people with fame, money, connection, and power could spend time with maiko and geisha, but time has passed that there are some services offered today that with an interpreter, you can also enjoy ozashiki with geisha and maiko. I don’t know the cost involved, but if you are looking for one and only experience, perhaps request this in your private photo tour of Japan?

Maiko for a day – Let’s try to be a maiko in Kyoto! 

One of the most popular activities for females visiting Kyoto is to become a maiko or a geisha. There are many companies, which provide full make up, wig, and kimoto service to magically turn you into a maiko or a geisha for a day. You get to do a photoshoot with the full look and/or get out of the streets of Kyoto. No, you don’t need to be Japanese to be one. Anybody can be one if you use any of these services below. Don’t worry, all these companies below have English websites so you will be able to get a feel for what to expect. Additionally, if males also want to try wearing a kimono, some companies also offer services for males too. 

Maiko-Henshin Studio Shiki

Yumekoubou Kyoto Head Studio

Studio Kokoro

Gion AYA Maiko & Geisha Makeover

For those of you who want to know more about the actual experience, below is the YouTube video from Gion AYA Maiko & Geisha Makeover. This is from when American reality big family star, “19 Kids and Counting,” the Duggars girls as well as the mother and the grandmother are all trying this Maiko experience. 

So hopefully you learned something new about maiko and geisha in this article. Maybe we can travel to Japan later in 2021 or the following year on Japan Photo Tour so that you can capture beautiful maiko and geisha then. Of course, if you get inspired and interested in being one for a day, perhaps it’s not a bad idea to turn into one on your tour too. Just a note to remember is that there has been a significant number of complaints from the maiko and geisha of the Kyoto community in the recent years that some travelers have been too aggressive when it comes to approaching maiko and geisha. Besides the obvious facts, it’s not appropriate to touch their hair, kimono, and/or body, if you meet them on the streets of Kyoto or anywhere else, please be respectful and mindful. If you are photographing them, please always ask first so that it’s a pleasant experience for both sides. 

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