To find a list of Japanese cities famous for their cherry blossoms, please visit: http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/interests/cherry.html
I was reading about the Japanese cherry blossom festival as I know it is usually about this time of year and found this article on a website which I have referenced below. It was really well written so I have just included their information:
Anyone travelling to Japan in the springtime is sure to experience one of the more exceptional natural events in the seasonal calendar. Hanami, or flower viewing, is the annual Japanese custom of enjoying the blooming foliage after the winter weather subsides. While Hanami specifically refers to the blooming of cherry blossoms, many plan events around the one to two week period where nature flourishes with colour and fragrances.
Said to have begun in the late 8th century, the flower viewing tradition is widely believed to have started in the Nara Period. The seasonal event was used to welcome in the new year's harvest while marking the beginning of the rice planting season. In the Heian Period , Emperor Saga would welcome this time with celebratory feasts and parties under the Sakura trees in Kyoto's Imperial Court. While originally limited to Japanese royalty and the elite upper class, Hanami spread to all citizens by the Edo Period in the early 1600's. The custom still lives to this day as visitors from around the globe partake in this traditional event. Since then, the annual custom has drawn visitors to witness the beautiful seasonal changes while pinpointing and celebrating the beginning of the fiscal and scholastic year with friends and family. A typical Hanami usually consists of holding an outdoor party under cherry blossom trees during the day or night. Food, beer and sake are brought to a picnic as visitors bask in the cherry blossoms that fall from the tree. These parties last well into the night as the moon illuminates the pink blossoms.
While cherry blossoms bloom throughout the country, there are a few cities and regions famous for their Hanami festivals. The castle town of Hirosaki, which holds the Sakura-matsuri festival, is one notable Japanese city famous for its bountiful cherry blossoms that draw people from both near and far. Also, travel to the centre of the Nara Prefecture to find Yoshino-yama a mountain with over 30,000 cherry trees that is considered to be the best viewing spot in all of Japan. Or make a trip to the cherry blossom viewing tunnel at the Japan Mint in Osaka, where every April the grounds are open to the public for one week so that visitors may enjoy a prime view of their cherry blossom trees. Over 100 varieties of trees bloom at the Japan Mint tunnel, giving visitors the opportunity to distinguish between the various sizes and shapes of the flowers. Finally, if your trip leads you to Tokyo in the spring time, explore Ueno Park where 1,200 blossoming cherry trees burst to life. Don't forget to make a stop at one of Ueno Park's many museums, including the Tokyo National Museum, National Science Museum, and Japan's first zoological garden.No matter where your travel arrangements lead you, a visit to any number of cherry blossom festivals in Japan is guaranteed to be a joyful occasion that pinpoints the cleansing of the mind and new beginnings.
To find a list of Japanese cities famous for their cherry blossoms, please visit: http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/interests/cherry.html
Shunbun no hi is the Japanese holiday which celebrates the spring equinox in Japan. This holiday falls on Friday the 20th March this year and is part of a seven day period known as Haru no Higan (Spring Higan). On Shunbun no hi (March 20th 2020), the hours of light equal those of the of darkness and it is a time to mark the changing of the seasons. Each September, another higan is celebrated, this time marking the autumn equinox.
While the origin of Haru no Higan is unknown, it has been celebrated since the 8th century when the Emperor of Japan mandated it’s observation. So how do the Japanese spend Shunbun no hi? Many people head back to their hometowns and spend a portion of the day tending to the graves of their ancestors according to ancient Buddhist tradition. In Buddhism, the term higan means “other shore” and refers to the belief that there is a river between this life and the next.
Japanese is one of those languages that just seems impossible to learn. Many people are put off right away just by the different alphabet and then they are further misled by myths around culture and tradition. Just a quick Google will give countless ways to visit Japan without a smattering of the language. A further look will find a number of pages explaining why not to learn to speak Japanese. BUT, it is all total madness, the language is not impossible to learn, the traditions and culture are not difficult to understand and there are countless reasons why speaking Japanese makes a vacation to Japan so special.
Think of Japan and most people what comes to mind are atomic bombs, Honda and Mount Fuji all surrounded by cherry blossoms. Sure, these are all aspects that are a part of Japan, and for the narrow minded non-Japanese-speaking tourist, this very much all they will see. However, Japan is a country, a group of islands well worth exploring, and language opens up a rich tapestry full of colourful culture and people who are proud of their country.
Geographically, Japan may not be a large country, but true to everything Japanese, the country sure packs in a lot. From natural wonders to high tech entertainment, Japan has it all, and by speaking the language, as a tourist you can head off the beaten track with confidence.
One of the first things language opens up in Japan is travel, and more importantly, conversation while traveling. The Japanese Bullet Train is known worldwide for its speed and the amazing natural beauty is races through. With an understanding of Japanese, conversation with fellow passengers becomes easier, and locals will soon start to tell you more about the places you are shooting through. Gentle and friendly conversation will soon demonstrate just how proud the Japanese are of their country.
Eating out can often be a challenge, especially when exploring the less frequented areas of cities such as Tokyo or Kawasaki. Very often fast food cooked up in front of you seems very tempting but knowing how to order it, and not just order, but how you want it cooked sends people back to KFC. Language opens up the real Japan, and new tastes, smells and experiences become part of your visit where others may miss out. Eating and conversation go hand in hand and mealtimes becomes very enjoyable.
However, there are some quirky places to visit, and these will of course come up in conversation. Places that do not feature on the conventional 7-day bus tour of Japan or the 3-night stopover in Tokyo make Japan a place you must visit. Crazy places like the Bunny Café, not far from Tokyo, where you are invited to befriend a rabbit is a must. Stroking rabbits is considered therapeutic and for a small extra cost, you can even dress up your chosen bunny to help you relax more. Where else in the world would this be normal? Only by speaking Japanese is there any real chance you will ever discover it.
Japan is full of strange, quirky or just extremely beautiful attractions. One of the weirdest and a disconcerting and growing trend is what are called Maid Cafes. These are peculiar eateries where speaking Japanese can be very useful with girls dressed in maid outfits serve smiley faces, hello kitty and teddy bear shaped ice creams and treats. Almost unexplainable to an outsider it soon becomes clear why speaking Japanese is useful.
Only by speaking Japanese can anyone truly appreciate Japan and its people. The strange and often outrageous attractions are the ying to the yang of the peaceful lakes, caves, mountains and natural beauty Japan has to offer. To get the balance of everything in Japan, learning to speak Japanese is a must and heartily recommended. Contact VLLC for information on how they can help you start on your Japanese language journey.
The history of Valentine’s Day and the story of its patron saint–is shrouded in mystery. We do know that February has long been celebrated as a month of romance, and that St. Valentine’s Day, as we know it today, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition.
Leaning to say I love you in another language can be an exciting experience, as it opens your mind to new adventures and possibilities. I have found a rendition of the story of Valentine's Day. Have a read and see whether you think this is it!
According to https://www.olrl.org/lives/valentine.shtml The story of Valentine's Day begins in the third century with an oppressive Roman emperor and a humble Christian Martyr. The emperor was Claudius II. The Christian was Valentinus.
Claudius had ordered all Romans to worship twelve gods, and had made it a crime punishable by death to associate with Christians. But Valentinus was dedicated to the ideals of Christ; not even the threat of death could keep him from practicing his beliefs. He was arrested and imprisoned.
During the last weeks of Valentinus's life a remarkable thing happened. Seeing that he was a man of learning, the jailer asked whether his daughter, Julia, might be brought to Valentinus for lessons. She had been blind since birth. Julia was a pretty young girl with a quick mind. Valentinus read stories of Rome's history to her. He described the world of nature to her. He taught her arithmetic and told her about God. She saw the world through his eyes, trusted his wisdom, and found comfort in his quiet strength.
"Valentinus, does God really hear our prayers?" Julia asked one day.
"Yes, my child, He hears each one."
"Do you know what I pray for every morning and every night? I pray that I might see. I want so much to see everything you've told me about!"
"God does what is best for us if we will only believe in Him," Valentinus said.
"Oh, Valentinus, I do believe! I do!" She knelt and grasped his hand.
They sat quietly together, each praying. Suddenly there was a brilliant light in the prison cell. Radiant, Julia screamed, "Valentinus, I can see! I can see!"
"Praise be to God!" Valentinus exclaimed, and he knelt in prayer.
On the eve of his death Valentinus wrote a last note to Julia, urging her to stay close to God. He signed it, "From your Valentine."
His sentence was carried out the next day, February 14, 270 A.D., near a gate that was later named Porta Valentini in his memory. He was buried at what is now the Church of Praxedes in Rome. It is said that Julia planted a pink-blossomed almond tree near his grave. Today, the almond tree remains a symbol of abiding love and friendship.
On each February 14, Saint Valentine's Day, messages of affection, love, and devotion are exchanged around the world."
At Chinese New Year, you will often hear the phrase "nián nián yŏu yú", meaning "may you have abundance every year". You will also see it written in Chinese calligraphy on scrolls which hang on walls and by doorways, accompanied by a picture of a golden carp. What is the connection? The word for "fish" is pronounced in the same way as the word for abundance: Both are yú. SO, if you were to hear someone say "nián nián yŏu yú", it could mean "May you have fish every year!!
For another example, wǒ xiǎng wèn nǐ, means I want to ask you - Simple enough. But, if you were to say wǒ xiǎng wěn nǐ, it would mean I want to kiss you! The only difference is the tone over the e in wen! That could be a bit scary LOL.
Altogether there are over 50,000 characters in Mandarin Chinese, however, a modern dictionary will only list about 20,000, and you only need to know approximately 2000 to be able to read a newspaper.
千里之行，始于足下 Qiān lǐ zhī xíng, shǐ yú zú xià
A journey of a thousand miles starts with one step. Laozi, Daoist philosopher (6th Century BC)
One to bear in mind as you take your first steps in the Chinese language! Contact VLLC if you would like to take the Chinese language journey with us.
If you don’t speak Chinese, it’s difficult to order food in China. That is understandable. Chances are that you have hardly touched what Chinese food is all about. With 1.4 billion people and being the fourth largest country in the world, it would take a lifetime to order all the different dishes China has to offer. What’s really magical about China is that every province has its own specialty which sometimes can’t be found anywhere else. The food you eat in Guangdong province will be vastly different from the food you’ll eat in Xinjiang province. It’s a suspicious claim to make when you’ve hardly discovered their food. It’s the most broad term. Not liking Chinese food is basically like saying you don’t like ANY vegetables or meat.
There’s a HUGE variety of dishes in China. Look at the menu in many of the restaurants and you’re handed a book of what they offer. The selection is more than you could possibly imagine in China. Spicy, sweet, buttery, cold, hot, crunchy, deep-fried, nutty, oily, peppery, rich, sour, toasted – you’ve got it all. The selection is so big that really Chinese food can fit anyone's tastes. Every time I handed the menu to a local, they took long to order because it was difficult to decide what to get because it was too much. It’s like someone saying “I don’t like Australian food.” It’s so general that it doesn’t make sense.
Although there is much debate and confusion over just how many styles there are, most would agree that there are at least four major regional styles: Cantonese, centred on the southern Guangdong province and Hong Kong; Sichuan, based on the cooking of this western province’s two largest cities, Chengdu and Chongqing; Huaiyang (also known as Jiangsu or simply Yang), the cooking of eastern China (Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Shanghai); and Beijing or ‘Northern’ food, which takes its inspiration from the coastal province of Shandong. Some would add a fifth cuisine from the south-eastern coastal province of Fujian.
Each of these styles have developed over time as a result of factors such as the geography, climate, history, lifestyle and cooking preferences of the region, and all have their own distinct flavour. What distinguishes them is not only their cooking methods, but particular combinations of ingredients. All regions use ginger, garlic, spring onions, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and sesame oil and bean paste, but combine them in highly distinctive ways, using a variety of different cooking techniques.
For example, Sichuan (also known as Szechuan or Szechwan) cuisine, is known for its bold, hot, pungent flavours, derived from the liberal use of garlic and chillies, whereas Jiangsu cuisine has a strong emphasis on matching ingredients according to season, colour and shape, and so-called ‘red braised’ dishes are popular (in which meat is braised in soy sauce, fermented bean paste and sugar to give it a caramelised flavour and reddish brown hue).
Rice is an essential part of any Chinese meal, no matter the region, and the Chinese table is always a shared one. A typical meal would combine several small dishes to be served at the same time and shared. Each dish should complement the other in terms of taste, texture, flavour and the overall visual effect. Tea is drunk before and after a meal, but rarely during.
No matter what Chinese culinary delights you have tasted in the past, know that there are so many more flavours to experience and you should aim to indulge yourself in them all.
References for this blog are Michael Tieso who is the Editor-in-chief of Art of Adventuring and some other information gathered from the sbs site.
China is massive, it is a country that in many ways is just opening to the world and for a tourist, especially the more adventurous tourist this is a good and wonderful thing. China has new air routes and improved intercity rail links that are opening up the country more and more each day. But transport and technology aside, there is one thing that opens China more than anything else, and that is language.
Many people would be forgiven for believing that in China people speak Chinese but there are in fact 56 different Chinese Dialects broken down into their respective ethnic groups. According to Ethnologue there are 297 Living Chinese languages and this begins to demonstrate the vastness and diversity that make China what it is.
Mandarin Chinese is the most common language to learn and is broadly spoken on the Chinese mainland and on the mainland, once a grasp of the language is gained things really do open up. With 9.6 Million square kilometres to explore, China is vast, and getting off the beaten track, away from the pollution clogged cities, is what many adventurous tourists want to do. Urban sprawl has happened in China. Cities and industrial landscapes are as much a Chinese scene today as are the Bamboo and tea gardens one tends to imagine. Getting around the country, especially for those who cherish their independence, is challenging and thus language is important.
The growing airline network plays into the hands of tourists, and the number of domestic airlines in China has increased rapidly in the last few years as the country begins to expand its tourism reach. For Boeing, China has become big business. But again, travelling throughout China through the growing number of domestic airports is not easy without Chinese being spoken. Although there are a growing number of locals who speak a second language, most likely English, there is no guarantee that getting directions in your native language will be possible. China has opened up but it is still a challenge to find your around, especially in smaller towns.
Exploring the heritage of China, going beyond the Great Wall and Terracotta army is what many travellers want. The world has become smaller thanks to improved transport but still finding the unique parts, your own little piece of China if you like, is what travellers yearn for and being able to converse with the locals in their language creates this opportunity. Parking off in a small side street café with a cup of tea and chatting with locals gives a whole new perspective on China and its people, and by talking to locals, China expands as places to see and explore are unearthed through casual conversation.
China will get under your skin, the culture is diverse, the people have a unique take on life and the world beyond the Yellow River. This experience can only be truly appreciated and understood through language. A word or two helps but being able to converse makes things vastly better and friendships will be formed when in the past it was perhaps someone you saw in the distance or on a bicycle. If you want to explore China in its fullest, gain an understanding of the language and you will possess the keys to doors that few will dare to open.
How many times have you heard someone say ‘It’s all Greek to me?” For many, a holiday in Greece is typically spent soaking up the sun in Zakynthos, Mykonos or Corfu or maybe a rushed tour around the touristy parts of Athens, and that is about it. But Greece has so much more to offer, and that so much more can only be uncovered when you speak Greek. At first glance, Greece could well be all Greek to you, but, with the knowledge of the language, it opens up.
Greece is well-known for its mythology and ancient history, and while much of this has been easily translated into English, and other more widely spoken languages, nothing beats getting a little off the beaten track and delving a little deeper. Greek culture and history has amazed many children at school, for many years, but only a few of them have taken the time to learn the Greek language with its own alphabet, to find out more and perhaps live out some of the mythological adventures.
Athens itself has a few hidden gems that, by speaking Greek, can come alive with a local guide. One such place is just north of the Acropolis and tucked away from most tourists. Anafiotika is a quiet neighbourhood that seems to have been untouched by much of the twentieth or even twenty first century. With quiet, meandering avenues and streets, one can escape the modern world and in the heart of a city find something special. But without speaking Greek, you can barely begin to ask about such a place.
While on your travels why not visit a flea market, a great place to test your Greek. Monastiraki’s Flea Market in Athens is one that is truly special, and if you don’t speak Greek you will miss out on some bargains and much of the fun. Monastiraki’s Flea Market is a great place to enjoy a Sunday and try and haggle, in Greek, for a good deal on whatever catches your eye. At Monastiraki’s Flea Market you will find everything from furniture, to art and old cameras, to World War II War items. The market and the traders come to life with language and the stories behind the items for sale are soon told, and whether they are true or not, it makes no difference.
After you have negotiated and haggled your way to buying something you never knew you ever wanted, in Greek, it is then time to enjoy the setting sun and find a place to eat. There are some amazing small restaurants tucked away throughout Athens and hidden away on Greek islands, and because you speak Greek, the menus are not all Greek to you. Sitting and eating surrounded by a handful of locals, is something only language can do, and this will be one of many memories you make when you uncover hidden Greece. No longer will you say “Greece is all Greek to me” but you will soon discover somewhere magical, that you will fall in love with, just because you speak the language of the Gods.
Contact VLLC to discover the language of Greece.
For most people, when planning a trip, the biggest consideration is the money! How much is in the bank account? How much will I need to spend on the basics?
If you want to travel, you need to either be rich, win the lottery, or save money which requires discipline. Here are a few tips to help you save enough for your next holiday so that you can keep your travel bug alive.
Join VLLC to celebrate Christmas around the world!
Selamat Hari Natal สุขสันต์วันคริสต์มาส Merry Christmas!
¡Feliz Navidad! めりーくりすます
C рождеством! عيد ميلاد مجيد Joyeux Noël
メリークリスマス Buon Natale
Travelling is an exciting opportunity which can be enhanced by learning the language before you go. This blog contains some interesting articles about language and travel.