Ikebana is the Japanese art of flower arranging. The oldest school for ikebana was a Buddhist school formed in the 15th century. The tradition of ikebana schools began with a priest at the Rokkakuda Temple in Kyoto. It was said that he was so skilled at flower arranging that other priests would seek him out for instruction. This led to the priests being known at Ikenobo because they spent their time learning and practicing their arrangements by a lake.

During Ikebana silence is a must because the creation of the arrangement is meant to be a time to appreciate things in nature that people most often overlook. The process allows one to feel close to nature and to appreciate and find beauty in all art forms. It also inspires patience and tolerance of differences, not only in nature but in life as well.

When Ikebana first began the arrangements were quite simple consisting on only evergreen branches and flowers. This form of flowering arranging is called Kuge. By the end of the 15th century Ikebana was an art form and book were written with detailed instructions. The oldest is Sedensho which covers the years from 1443 – 1536.

During the Momoyama Period (1560-1600) ikebana evolved into a style known as Rikka. This style consisted of standing flowers that were meant to be a Buddhist expression of the beauty of nature. This style including seven branches which were arranged in a specific way in order to represent hills, valleys, waterfalls and other aspects of nature.

As the tea ceremony evolved so did another form of Ikebana, Chabana. This style was much simpler and did not have the rigged rules and instructions of other forms of Ikebana. It was simply meant to be an elegant but simple flower arrangement to be displayed during the tea ceremony.

There are three other styles of flower arranging and they are known as Nageire, Seika or Shoka, and Jiyuka. Nageire is consists of a very tight bundle of stems in a triangular three-branched arrangement. This style is considered very classic and it is also very easy to learn.

The Seika or Shoka style consists of three branches, with each having its own meaning. They are ten (heaven), chi (earth) and jin (man). This style is meant to show off the beauty and uniqueness of the plant in a very simple way.

The final style Jiyuka is a very open and creative style. It can include anything and everything, even things that are not plants. This style allows the flower arranger to be very creative and show off the beauty of nature as well as their own particular art form.

The Niigata Prefectural government announced on April 7, 2010, that it will conduct an experiment involving a geothermal binary-cycle power generation system at Matsunoyama Onsen – a hot spring resort area in Tokamachi City. This power generation system will be jointly tested by the Geothermal Energy Research & Development Co. (GERD) and the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) as a three-year project from fiscal 2010. This project will be conducted in coordination with the Ministry of the Environment. These organizations aim to develop, demonstrate and promote a geothermal power generation system with no impact on the hot spring or the local power grid.

The power generation system will be constructed at one of three hot springs located in a hot spring resort called “Taka no Yu,” which opened in 2007. It will apply a binary-cycle power generation system using hot spring water at a temperature of 97.2 degrees Celsius and ammonia water with a low boiling point. Under this system, the water from the hot spring will boil the ammonia water into vapor which will then be directed to a turbine. After being utilized for power generation, the temperature of the hot water will still be around 50 degrees, appropriate for bathing. This is the nation’s first experiment to produce power from a hot spring with a water temperature below 100 degrees Celsius.

The power generator will be a 50-kilowatt micro-turbine developed by NEDO, with annual capacity up to 416,000 kilowatts. GERD and NEDO plan to conduct a development and feasibility study of the system in FY2010, and install and test it from FY2011 to FY2012. During the testing, they will also conduct a series of impact assessments including monitoring of underground water levels and temperatures of neighboring hot springs, and analyze the cause of past changes in water volume.

From: Japanfs.org

七月、オレンジ色の花びらに黒い斑点のあるユリが咲き始めます。ユリは可憐な姿をした花ですが、このオレンジ色のユリには「オニユリ」という恐ろしい名前がついているのです。

日本の昔話を知っている人や、節分について知識のある人は「オニ(鬼)」を知っていますね。鬼とは想像上の怪物で、頭には角が、口には牙が生えています。それ以外は人間によく似た姿として描かれますが、力が強く乱暴を働くので「悪役」を担わされることが多いです。

そんな鬼とこのユリにどんな接点があるというのでしょうか。実は、生物の名前につく「オニ」には「大きい」あるいは「同じ種類のものとは違った形をしている」という意味があるのです。大きいユリ、他のユリとは外観が異なるユリであるから「オニユリ」と命名されたわけですね。

想像上とはいえ、鬼は日本人にとって身近な存在です。その鬼の持つ「大きくて、人間と似てはいるが異なる外見である」というイメージを巧みに利用している点が興味深いですね。この名づけ方の仲間として、オニアザミ(花)、オニヤンマ(トンボ)、オニヒトデなどが挙げられます。

では、小さいことを表わす場合はどんなことばを用いるのでしょう。それは「ヒメ(姫)」や「ヒナ(雛)」です。
ヒメユリは五~六月に開花するオニユリと同じオレンジのユリですが、オニユリの持つ怖いイメージとは反対に、可愛らしい花が想像されます。名前の持つ力は大きいですね。
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A lily with orange petals and black spots starts blooming in July. The lily is a lovely looking flower, but this orange lily has a terrible name of Oniyuri or “demon lily”.

For those of you who know Japanese folk tales or the tradition to close winter will know what an 鬼 oni or “demon” is. An oni is a monster beyond the imagination, with horns on the head and fangs in its mouth. Besides that, they are depicted with a close resemblance to a human, but are very strong and violent, and so often bear the part of the “villain”.

So what connection does such a demon and this lily have? Actually, when the word oni is used for living things, it has the meaning of “big”, or “different shape from others in the same variety.” It’s been named “demon lily” because it’s big, and it has a different appearance from the other lilies.

Although imaginary, the oni is a familiar existence to the Japanese. It’s interesting how the image of an oni being “large, appearing similar to a human but different” is skillfully used. Within the same group of naming, there are, oniazami or “bull thistle” (flower), oniyanma or “Cordulegasteridae” (dragonfly) and onihitode or acanthaster (starfish).

Now, what kind of word would you use to express that something is small? That would be hime or “princess” and hina or “chick”. The Himeyuri or “princess lily” blooms in May~June and is the same orange color as the oniyuri, but contrary to the scary image the oniyuri has, a cute flower image is imagined. The power a name hold is very big.

From: JapanesePod101.com

Japanese Castles as they are known today evolved from traditional fortifications. These fortresses were built for the main purpose of military defense. For this reason they were placed in very strategic locations. These fortifications were also built to serve as governing centers which meant they needed to be well protected.

By the Sengoku (1467 – 1603) period these fortifications became the homes of daimyo’s (feudal lords). The fortifications served as a way to not only show other lords their strength and power but also to impress them with the beauty and elegance of the interior. As these fortifications became more and more elaborate they became known as Japanese castles.

The first one of these castles was built in 1576 by Oda Nobunaga. This was the first fortification or castle to include a tower keep and it was the center of governance for Oda’s territories as well as being his lavish home. The location of the castle allowed him to keep track of the movement and communication of his enemies and it was only a short distance from Kyoto.

These castles were built to last and they had to be able to be defendable and strong, despite this they were still primarily constructed of wood. They did include more stone that other Japanese buildings but nowhere near the amount that is found in European castles.

Few of these castles remain today many of them were destroyed by conflict which they were built to guard against. While others were destroyed in a more modern era, such as the castle at Hiroshima which was destroyed by the atomic bomb, this castle was rebuilt as a museum. Castles that remain today include the castles at Matsue and Kochi which were built around 1611. Today more than 100 castles can be found throughout Japan, this number may seem large, until you realize that at one point there were over 5,000 castles scattered all over Japan.

A large number of these castles were deliberately destroyed by the Meiji Restoration in 1871 which sought to abolish the Han system. During this period 2,000 castles were either destroyed or dismantled. Many of the castles you may see in Japan are reconstructions that are made out of concrete and made to resemble the wood that they were originally built from.

Japanese gardens first came into prominence during the Asuka period( 538-710). These original gardens were meant to express Buddhism and Taoism by replicating the mountainous regions of China. These gardens can be found in ruins in Fujiwara and Heijyo castle towns.

The next type of garden that emerged was during the Heian Period. (794-1185) this is when the gardens began to move from being purely religious to becoming a place for ceremonies, amusement and even contemplation. These gardens would often be featured in front of mansions or what was called the south side. These gardens would include water that would flow through artificial waterways before ending in a pond that would have small floating islands. Very few of these gardens exist today but their formation and description is found in old texts.

Near the end of this period the style of the gardens would shift once again. This was due to the influence of Pure-Land Buddhism. This caused the homes and gardens of the Japanese to be modeled after the Amitabha hall style which was a shift from the Shinden style.

The next period of gardening was during the Kamakura and Muromachi periods (1185-1573). During this period gardens evolved due to better gardening techniques and the spread of zen beliefs. Zen beliefs had a large influence on the design of gardens and it was during this period that dry designs began to get popular. Gardens also grew in popularity during this period due to the fact that the Shoguns truly enjoyed them.

This explains why during the Edo period (1603-1868) the gardens drifted even further away from religion and more to express the power and prestige of the Shogun. It became typical for the garden to represent the tastes and desires of the Shogun himself.

During the Meiji period traditional gardens are owned by businessmen and politicians. Today many of these extensive and beautiful gardens are open for public viewing some of which are found in Kyoto and Tokyo.

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