Japanese Culture and Tradition in Nara

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I interviewed my floor mate, Morimoto Shotaro, about unique Japanese culture which other countries do not possess. Shotaro made a good explanation about Japanese culture and tradition in his hometown. Shotaro was born in Nara. He spent his youth there and moved to Osaka for educational purposes.

Nara and Osaka are cities in Kansai region. Nara is famous for being traditional until now a days. Having numerous numbers of shrine and making traditional accessories made the city’s identity stronger. Some might guess the difference between shrine and temple. The big difference between them are, who they believe in. Temple believe in Buddha, but shrine believe in Japanese Gods. There are many events and festivals held in Shrines. Popular ceremonies are ‘Shichigosan’ and the first day of the year. ‘Shichigosan’ is a festival for kids who are turning 3 years old this year. All the families from the town head to the shrine wearing Kimono when their kids become 3-year old. People in the shrine prey for their children’s health and fortune. Children eat special candy called ‘Kintaro candy’ especially that day. It is made by layering different colored and melted candy materials, rolled together into a long white candy, elongated while hot and then cut into cylindrical slices. Almost all of Japanese have eaten it at least once when they were children. Thus, this candy has a nostalgic taste for them.

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January new year is also a huge festival in Japan, almost everyone in Japan participates. It is also held in shrine like ‘Shichigosan’ at January 1st. The main purpose is to prey for this year’s wealth and longevity. Along with the prey, they also make an offering to Japanese gods. Usually it is 500yen, because it has the same pronunciation as ‘luck’ in Japanese. After enjoying the festival, families gather around and have a meal together. The typical meal is ‘Ozoni’ and ‘Osechi’. ‘Ozoni’ is a new year mochi soup containing other ingredients such as chicken. It has a special meaning for each ingredient. For example, as mochi is stretchable and can be pulled long, it represents longevity. Chicken, is used to signify getting ahead of others and achieving success. ‘Osechi’ is also a meal that comes with ‘Ozoni’. It is similar to bento box, stacked in layers to 2 to 3 of bento boxes and there are many dishes in each box. The popular dishes are ‘sweet rolled omelette’, ’candied chestnut with sweet potatoes’ and ‘daikon and carrot salad’.

Not just the festivals and shrines made the city traditional. Through the experience from generations, the artisans are able to make a traditional accessory that are exactly the same as the past. There is a free craft museum in Nara to give the tourists a good overview of Nara’s heritage.

I have never been to Nara before and only seen the futuristic side of Japan, but hearing from Japanese local gave me an urge to go on a trip to traditional cities like Nara. It was a meaningful time understanding Japanese culture with students from Japan.

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