In 1930, the Japanese began to embrace the idea of matching personality traits with one’s blood type, and although there is no proven relation yet between blood type and personality, many matchmaking services cater to it. This is because of Takeji Furukawa’s paper, “The Study of Temperament through Blood Type” who published his paper in the scholarly journal Psychological Research.

It’s widely popular in Japanese women’s magazines as a way of scaling compatibility with a partner. It is used extensively in dating services as a good indicator of potential matches. Blood type appears in many celebrity profiles and even manga character profiles, along with zodiac signs, star signs and hobbies. Morning television shows and Japanese newspapers feature “blood type horoscopes”.  Both anime and manga authors often mention their characters’ blood types, and give them a corresponding personality. There’s even a rumor of a baseball coach who used blood type compatibility in the selection of his teams.

So here are some traits of each blood type:

 

TYPE A:

Type A people are known for being creative, sensible, reserved and patient, and they can also be fastidious, stubborn and overly conservative.

Examples: Hello Kitty, Utada Hikaru, GACKT, Angela Aki

 

TYPE B:

Type B people are known for energetic, creative, passionate and strong-willed, while they can also be selfish and irresponsible.

Examples: Akira Kurosawa, Leonardio di Caprio, Paul McCartney, Duo Maxwell

 

TYPE AB:

Type AB people are known for being cool, controlled, rational, and they can also be indecisive, forgetful and irresponsible.

Examples: Barack Obama, Miyavi, Jackie Chan, Squall Lionheart of Final Fantasy VII,

 

TYPE O:

Type O people are friendly, pleasing and optimistic, and they can also be vain, jealous, arrogant and rude.

Examples: Shon Oguri, Mayama Akihiro, Aerith of Final Fantasy VII, Seifer Almasy of Final Fantasy VIII

A is most compatible with A and AB.

B is most compatible with B and AB.

AB is most compatible with AB, B, A, and O.

O is most compatible with O and AB.

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Pachinko is a gaming device that originated in Japan, similar in concept to the pinball combined with a slot machine.  It’s extremely popular in Japan, and is even considered a day job by some as it employs a third of a million people, thrice as much as the steel industry!  Many also deem pachinko as Japan’s national pastime, as 20 million pachinko regulars shell out ¥30 trillion a year just to play this addictive game machine!

Every morning, men (and the occasional women) line up for the opening of their favorite pachinko parlor. There are about 13,000 pachinko parlors spread over the entire country, where you’ll find dozens of pachinko machines tightly crammed together.

 

The game itself is pretty simple: it is somewhat like a vertical pinball where players try to control where the small steel ball (about 11mm) that are shot up into the machine at great speed. The balls run through a maze of nail-like pins and the fall into slots at the bottom of the machine. The machine is tilted vertically so that the seated customer can play the game and view the action effortlessly.

 

Most of the balls just fall down the machine and disappear, but a few find their way into special holes, which activates a kind of slot machine. Just like with slot machines, you win the same when three similar pictures appear, and while this rarely happens in Pachinko, you win lots of new balls.

These balls can get redeemed at the prize counter that offers an array of goods, which can be exchanged for cash!

Turning three, five and seven in Japan is a big deal. In fact, it is celebrated by parents every fifteenth of November in what is known as Shichi-Go-San—literally seven-five-three, which are considered lucky numbers by the Japanese.

Historical accounts show that the practice originated in the Heian period (794-1185). Nobles are said to have celebrated their children’s growth on an auspicious day in November.  Today, parents celebrate Shichi-Go-San by dressing up their daughters of ages three and seven, and their sons of age five and taking them to the Shinto Shrine. This is believed to ensure a future free of sickness and misfortune.  

The ceremony is also to celebrate the growth of babies into healthy, sturdy toddlers. Shichi-Go-San is considered expensive, because traditionally, a child would receive a complete traditional outfit tailored for that occasion. Particularly, at the age of seven, a young girl celebrates wearing her first obi, while a young boy at the age of five celebrates wearing his first hakama pants in public. The girls would wear special ceremonial kimono while the boys don on haori jackets. In recent years though, an increasing number of families are wearing Western-style dresses and suits.

Following the visits, parents generally buy chitose-ame (longevity candy) for the children. Chitose-ame is shaped like a long think stick of red and white wheat gluten, which comes in a long white paper bag decorated with symbols of longevity and ensures healthy growth. Chitose-ame and the bag are both representations of the parents’ wish that their children live long and successful lives.

 

Flamboyance, flashy costumes and awesome visual music—this is the magic of Visual Kei. Visual Kei refers to a movement among Japanese musicians that is characterized by heavy use of makeup, elaborate hairstyles and flashy costumes, which can sometimes include androgynous aesthetics and cross-dressing elements. Called “visual” because of a heavy emphasis put on dramatic, attention-grabbing costumes, V-kei bands are made up of men who dress up in fashionable clothes, sport wild and colorful hair and wear striking makeup.

 

Much like Lolita and Ganguro, Visual Kei is a cultural phenomenon in Japan and a form of self-expression adapted by the Japanese youth. It was popularized by famous Japanese rock bands like X-Japan, Color, D’erlanger and Buck-Tick. Some sources state that Visual Kei refers to a music genre or a sub-genre of j-rock with its own particular sound related to glam-rock, punk, metal, and goth rock, but a great number of V-Kei bands sound more like pop music while others sound more classical than rock. It can be a bit misleading if one relies on a band’s appearance to tell what kind of music they play, so it’s become clear that Visual Kei has become more of a fashion movement than an actual music genre.

 

 

For most Visual Kei fans, it’s the band’s appearance that draws them in. Visual Kei has evolved so much since they entered Japanese mainstream music. The differences between many of the styles in visual music have become more pronounced, ranging from tame, almost masculine styles to the more feminine and flamboyant.

 

Visual Kei has vastly influenced Harajuku fashion. Many Japanese youth dressed in vkei style gather on Jingu Bashi, a pedestrian bridge connecting Harajuku district. Visual Kei enthusiasts also dress up for meet-ups, cosplay conventions and events.

 

Hello Kitty meets Gazette’s Reita!

Last week, we featured the Ganguro fashion style and subculture. Today we’re going to delve into the sweet and adorable world of Lolita fashion—a Japanese street fashion that is gaining popularity among young ladies, not only in Japan, but also all around the world. It is sometimes seen as a counter-reaction to the Ganguro subculture.

 

 

 

The Lolita subculture is inspired mainly by the clothing and the lifestyle of people during the Victorian Era and the Rococo Period. The Lolita fashion movement started in Japan around late l970s, and has developed greatly since. A lolita’s outfit is usually composed of basic key elements such as headwear, blouse, bell-shaped skirt, bloomers or undergarments, overknee socks and footwear, intent on producing a child-like yet elegant appearance.

 

It should be noted that the term “Lolita” has nothing to do at all with the sexual connotations generated by Vladimir Nabokov’s novel, “Lolita”. Lolita fashion does not seek to gain attention through sexy clothing or fetish. On the contrary, Lolita is a movement to fight the growing exposure of body and skin in mainstream fashion with modesty.

 

 

 

 

It’s not uncommon to see a Lolita walking down the streets of Harajuku, Tokyo on a Sunday afternoon. Many Lolita ladies are assumed to follow a lifestyle in which they seek to imitate the etiquette, manners and aesthetics from a variety of eras, the most easily recognizable being the English Victorian.

 

The lolita style has since developed into multiple sub-genres such as gothic lolita, sweet lolita, and punk lolita. Other sub-genres include hybrid styles such as the cyber-lolita, wa-lolita, qi-lolita, and hime lolita.

 

 

 

Just like the Ganguro girls, Lolitas seek to convey a message to the society. It emphasizes modesty, femininity and youthfulness, drawing from the aesthetics of eras where elegant people conform to the rules of propriety and take etiquette seriously.

 

 

In many eastern Asian cultures, traditional beauty is often ascribed to fair and immaculate skin. This can be traced back to ancient artworks depicting women and goddesses with lighter skin tones. Unlike the Westerners’ preference for tanned skin, many Asians attribute a fair skin tone to youth and social class since skin darkens with exposure to the sun and aging.

 

But in an attempt to break away from the established norms and the commonly expected standards of Japanese beauty, some youth began to develop fashion styles and subcultures that go against what society expects of them—chief among them perhaps is the ganguro subculture, which literally means “face-black”. These girls can be occasionally seen in Shibuya and Ikebukuro districts of Tokyo, sporting bleached-blond hair and a deep tan produced by tanning beds and bronzers. Accessories include high platform shoes or boots, fake eyelashes, plastic facial gems and colorful mobile phones.

 

 

 

Ganguro imitate certain hip hop appearance not only for physical attraction, but also to express their sense of identity as free individuals who refuse to conform to the conventions of Japanese social standards and values. The subculture is inevitably in conflict with the traditional Japanese society, as these girly defy constraining traditions, attempting to redefine Japanese standards of beauty, young womanhood, individuality, freedom and way of life.

 

For some Japanese girls, being ganguro, which means to defy the constraint and convention, is a way to escape the problems they face in everyday life with family and school environment. According to some social researchers, the Gothic Lolita style can be seen as a counter-reaction to the Ganguro subculture.

“Imagine walking to the same place everyday to meet your best friend. Now, imagine watching hundreds of people pass by every morning and every afternoon. Imagine waiting, and waiting, and waiting. For ten years, that is what Hachiko did.”

 

There is a statue of a dog at the entrance of Shibuya Station. His bronze feet are bright and shiny, polished by thousands of friendly hands. This is a prominent landmark in Shibuya, and the spot where the statue sits serves as a popular meeting place for locals and visitors alike. In fact, when you say “Hachiko mae de!” or “Let’s meet at Hachiko”, people will immediately understand where to meet. But do you know the fascinating story behind the dog’s regal bronze statue?

 

Unquestionable loyalty and faithfulness—these are the qualities that earned dogs the title “Man’s Best Friend”. One certain Japanese dog born in the Akita Prefecture epitomized these endearing qualities that he touched the hearts not only of the Japanese, but also of many people from around the world. Hachikō the Faithful Dog or chūken Hachikō is arguably the most famous and admired dog in Japan.

 

 

 

In 1924, Hachikō was brought to Tokyo by his owner, Hidesaburo Ueno, a professor in the agriculture department at the University of Tokyo. Each day, when Professor Ueno left for work, “Hachi” would stand by the door to watch him go. When the professor came home at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, Hachi would go to the Shibuya Station to meet him, waiting patiently and wagging his tail. This happy routine continued until one fateful evening, Professor Ueno did not return on the usual train. The professor died of cerebral hemorrhage while giving a lecture.

 

Hachikō didn’t realize that his master was gone, and so the dog returned to the train station every day, waiting for a friend who was never coming back. He was given away after the professor’s death, but he routinely escaped, showing up again and again in his old home. Each day, he returned to the station and waited—seated among the commuters to look for Professor Ueno, and each day, his friend did not show up.

 

Hachikō became a permanent fixture at Shibuya Station that he began attracting the attention of the people who passed through, including one of Professor Ueno’s former students, and they brought treats and food to nourish him as he waited faithfully for his master.

 

On March 8, 1935, after nine long years of waiting, Hachi finally went to meet his master—dying on the same spot where he last saw his friend alive. A year before his death, Shibuya Station installed a bronze statue of the dog to honor his loyalty and faithfulness to his master. Though the statue was melted down during World War II, a new version was recreated in 1948 by Takeshi Ando, the son of the original artist.

 

Hachi’s bronze statue remains standing at Tokyo’s Shibuya Station, forever keeping his vigil and forever in the hearts of the Japanese.

 

obon

Obon is the Japanese festival for the departed. It is held from the 13th to the 16th day of the 7th month of the year. Based on the solar calendar, July is the 7th month of the year while on the lunar calendar it is August. A lot of regions in Japan celebrate in August while others celebrate in July. The Obon week in mid August is one of Japan’s three major holiday seasons.

Obon is a very important holiday wherein families are reunited. They go back to their ancestors hometown to pray and celebrate.

During this festival, it is believed that the spirits visit their living relatives. As guidance for the spirits, lanterns are hung outside their relatives’ houses. There are also food offerings and obon dances (Bon Odori). At the end of Obon, floating paper lanterns (Toro Nagashi) are put into rivers, lakes and seas in order to guide the spirits back into their world.

mt fuji

Mount Fuji is Japan’s highest mountain with a height of 3776 meters. It is one of Japan’s Three Holy Mountains along with Mount Tate and Mount Haku. Mount Fuji is named for the Buddhist fire goddess Fuchi and is sacred to the Shinto goddess Sengen-Sama, whose shrine is found at the summit.

Mount Fuji has a symmetrical cone making it a common subject in art and photography. Among the most renowned works are Hokusai’s 36 Views of Mount Fuji and his One Hundred Views of Mount Fuji. It is also mentioned in a lot of Japanese literary works.

Mount Fuji is actually a dormant volcano which last erupted in 1707. Geologists estimated that the volcano was created 600,000 years ago. It is currently classified as active with a low risk of eruption.

The official climbing season for Mount Fuji is from July to August. Climbing during other months will be extremely dangerous due to unpredictable weather conditions. So if you want to have the experience of a lifetime, pack your climbing gear and book your adventure during the stated months.

(Mount Fuji Official Site http://www.mt-fuji.co.jp/index-e.html)

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More fun on  Gunpla’s (Gundam model kits)  30th anniversary!

Japanese airline ANA (All Nippon Airways) in collaboration with Bandai will be launching Gundam-themed jumbo jets (Boeing 777-300) on July 16, 2010. The jets are decorated with the iconic Gundam robot head on the left side and a "life-size" image of the RX-78-2 Gundam mobile suit on the right side. The jet will stay in service until the end of March 2011.

image Besides the themed airplanes, there will be limited edition model kits available: ANA original color version High Grade 1/144 Gundam G30th plastic model kit and ANA original color version 1/48 Mega-Size Model Gundam.

For more details and flight schedules, check out the ANA website: http://www.ana.co.jp/dom/promotion/gundam/

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