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Chigusa: 第二十一回 日本文化レッスンでございます。ちぐさです。
Yoshi: よしです。
Peter: Peter here. Japanese culture class #21. As always, brought to you by Erklaren, the translation and interpretation specialists. All right, we have a great show for you today. Now we promised to show about marriage but actually we changed it at the last minute because we forgot that yesterday was one of the most important days during the month of July. So we changed the plan around, we will be bringing you the lesson on marriage in two weeks, in two weeks time.

Lesson focus

Peter: So today, before we get into yesterday’s event which was Yoshi san?
Yoshi: 七夕
Peter: Before we get into that, we want to talk about another custom that happens at this time. Yoshi san, can you tell us a little bit about why we are covering this topic today. Why this subject was brought up and it has to do with one of your part time jobs you are working on right?
Yoshi: Yes.
Peter: Let’s hear it.
Yoshi: It’s called お中元. This is Japanese tradition to send present to the people who’s been helping you and supporting you.
Peter: And taking care of you.
Yoshi: Right.
Peter: It’s actually called mid-year present and it refers to gifts that individuals and businesses send from early July to around July 15th to people who have taken care of them as Yoshi said. Now Chigusa, can you tell us anything else about this?
Chigusa: At this time of the year when you turn on the TV, you will see lots and lots of commercials on お中元 gifts.
Peter: What kind of gifts?
Chigusa: The common ones are お素麺 like 素麺 noodles.
Peter: Thin noodles.
Chigusa: Yeah and oil.
Peter: Cooking oil.
Chigusa: Food stuff like gorgeous food stuff.
Peter: And do you put these baskets together yourself?
Chigusa: No recently I think the department store or the store itself has お中元 gifts which is like perfectly designed and packaged for お中元
Peter: Now for example, say if you wanted to send Yoshi san for whatever reason, Yoshi san if you wanted to send him a お中元 midyear present, what would you do? How would you go about it?
Chigusa: First, I will have to think – I will have to think about my budget like how much I am willing to pay for him.
Peter: Take a good look. What is Yoshi? What budget range does Yoshi fall into?
Chigusa: No more than ¥10,000.
Peter: Wow! You are really nice.
Chigusa: Am I?
Peter: Yeah.
Chigusa: Am I too rich?
Peter: Yeah I think so.
Chigusa: Okay five thou…
Peter: Like Yoshi, what do you think about the 10,000, pretty happy with that right?
Yoshi: Yep.
Peter: Okay.
Chigusa: But I am not sure how much the average お中元 gifts are. What do you think?
Yoshi: I am not sure either because it’s usually you know like sent between the job related people.
Chigusa: Company to company.
Peter: Yeah. I think it’s pretty expensive.
Chigusa: I think so too.
Peter: Once you decide your budget, then where do you go from there?
Chigusa: I will go to the department store.
Peter: Not the internet?
Chigusa: Well you can of course use the internet too and their catalogues too at this time of the year but I like going and actually seeing them myself.
Peter: Okay and is it one section of department store or just a counter?
Chigusa: I think it’s a section.
Peter: Okay so you head over there and what happens?
Chigusa: And you will see a variety of gifts. So you go ahead and pick whatever one that suits your needs.
Peter: And then it’s sent there or you just fill out some information.
Chigusa: You can either choose to have it sent or you can just bring it home and take it to the person you want to give the gift to.
Peter: See, I have never personally gotten one.
Chigusa: Me neither.
Peter: Yoshi san, how about you?
Yoshi: Of course not because I think it’s usually for you know adult like…
Peter: Yeah I have actually given one. The Japanese for someone who is taking care of you.
Chigusa: お世話になっている人
Peter: Yeah somebody who takes care of you. So when I first came to Japan, I came by myself and I was living in Ibaraki prefecture in the city of Hitachi and there are many people there who are very kind to me but in particular, one person and their family were extremely, extremely kind to me. So when I actually got some money years later, I mean really years later, I sent them a mid-year gift and they were quite surprised and what’s in there, the food that’s in there, that’s usually in there is really good. Quite expensive but really good. So anybody with any stores out there, please let us know.
Yoshi: Okay my father used to go into the mountains to look for 山芋
Peter: Mountain potato.
Yoshi: Yeah it’s – it’s a little different from regular potatoes. You can smash it or cut them like thin and eat it but its really good but you have to like dig sometimes like five, six feet.
Peter: Wow!
Yoshi: To get this like long potato you know growing under the ground. Like he used to bring them to his like boss or company’s president.
Peter: As mid-year presents?
Yoshi: Uhoo yeah.
Peter: Wow.
Chigusa: Wow.
Yoshi: And they really liked it.
Peter: Yeah it sounds really good.
Chigusa: Umm…
Peter: Are we going to get one this year Yoshi san?
Yoshi: Yep.
Chigusa: So I think what matters is not what you get but like how that person is thinking of you like…
Peter: Speak for yourself Chigusa. And I know you had a good point.
Chigusa: Right. If you have a heart or not, don’t you think?
Peter: So do you have the expression, it’s the thought that matters most in Japanese?
Chigusa: I don’t think so but you can say 気持ちが大事。
Peter: Ah!
Chigusa: If a person did that to you like did that for you, you would be happy, don’t you think?
Yoshi: More than just a regular brand name box…
Chigusa: Yeah.
Yoshi: And also it was cheap.
Peter: Yoshi, come on, you did it…
Yoshi: It didn’t cost him anything.
Chigusa: That’s 一石二鳥
Peter: Two birds, one stone. Now is this the only type of present that you give throughout the year?
Chigusa: We also have end of the year presents which is called お歳暮.
Peter: And here, it’s the same custom, the same budget or is there any difference?
Yoshi: I think it could be the same but also you know, you can choose like the seasonal food like which is – which suits the season better.
Chigusa: Like I think roast beef would be more common at the end of the year and like cool Jello type of desserts would be common for mid-year presents.
Peter: And these type of presents are given to the same people?
Chigusa: Yes.
Peter: It’s nice to be in the circle.
Chigusa: Right.
Peter: Now what about the person getting the gifts. He just gets and gets and gets?
Chigusa: No that person has to do お返し so that person has to send something in between too.
Peter: Ah so it’s not just a one way street.
Chigusa: No. It’s Japan.
Peter: All right. I think at japanesepod101.com, we are going to have to start doing this custom. Everyone’s going to have to send to everybody. What do you think?
Chigusa: Umm I will be watching.
Peter: Yoshi san, how about you?
Yoshi: Yeah it sounds cool.
Peter: All right.
Yoshi: You have to remember, you have to you know return.
Peter: While you are going to go first, I was going to go first but all right, very nice for you to step up and do this.
Yoshi: Umm…
Peter: Okay enough of this. Now there is one more thing kind of associated with summertime and this falls within my budget.
Chigusa: Mine too..
Yoshi: Of course mine too yeah.
Peter: What’s this?
Chigusa: 暑中見舞い
Peter: Now this is a postcard asking after one’s health in the summer and this comes right after this 中元 season ends. I guess that it’s kind of the adults with money and then the adults without money season from July 15th to around August 8th and it involves sending out a postcard to greet someone from around this time and usually in this postcard, you ask about someone’s health.
Chigusa: Right.
Peter: Now Chigusa san, have you done this?
Chigusa: Never.
Peter: Yoshi san, feel free to lie. Oh is that a yes?
Yoshi: Yeah yes I have.
Peter: All right. Let’s ask you again. Yoshi san, have you ever done this?
Yoshi: Yes I have.
Yoshi: All right. Tell us about it?
Peter: I just sent some postcards to my friends during summer time just you know saying hi and asking like how they are doing but it’s really nice you know to get those postcards you know having someone like thinking over you and also like you like myself caring about people like my friends and relatives you know.
Yoshi: I feel really bad about myself right now.
Chigusa: Me too! Wow!
Peter: All right Chigusa san, let’s make an effort to do it this year.
Chigusa: Okay I will try.
Peter: Yeah me too..
Chigusa: And yeah, it’s good because even if you miss the 暑中見舞い season, from the next day, you can do 残暑見舞い
Peter: Really what’s that?
Chigusa: 残暑見舞い is a postcard. It’s basically the same as 暑中見舞い but it’s from around August 8th to the beginning of September and its asking for health at the end of the summer sort of.
Peter: And add this in with the postcard at the end of the year and that’s a lot of postcards.
Chigusa: Right.
Peter: All right. So what we are going to try and do is get this out this year.
Chigusa: Okay.
Peter: Thank you Yoshi san for that inspiration.
Yoshi: My pleasure.
Peter: Yeah.
Yoshi: Any time.
Peter: All right. With that said, we are going to move on to our next topic and the subject of yesterday’s intermediate lesson. Now in yesterday’ intermediate lesson, we actually gave you this story in Japanese. Chigusa san, what’s the name of that story?
Chigusa: 七夕
Peter: And the translation is
Chigusa: The Star Festival.
Peter: Now what’s the literal translation?
Chigusa: The Night of Sevens.
Peter: Okay can you tell us about this? Tell us about the translation or give us the background behind this.
Chigusa: Okay the Star festival is actually based on 七夜 which means the Night of Sevens as I’ve said before. The so called Chinese Valentine’s Day which falls on the seventh day of lunar month 7 of the Chinese calendar.
Peter: Okay so yeah, the Chinese Valentine’s Day. Now is this a romantic day in Japan?
Chigusa: Yes it is.
Peter: Really.
Chigusa: And it’s a fun day for children too.
Peter: All right. Well we are going to get into that in a bit. Let’s just cover a little more of the background.
Chigusa: This ancient Chinese love story is the origin of 七夕
Peter: Okay so Chigusa san, can you tell us the story of the two romantics. Now we just covered that according to Legend Altair, the cowherd star and the weaver star Vega. The weaver star was put apart by the two banks and they come together once here in this night but can you tell us the story which we covered yesterday?
Chigusa: Sure. Well first of all, there was a weaver girl named 織姫 and she fell in love with a cowherd called 彦星 and the two were really loving each other and having a great time but they were having the times of their lives but since they got too close, they forgot to do their jobs and the villagers got really upset because all their clothes were getting old.
Peter: Because who wasn’t doing her job?
Chigusa: 織姫 and the cows are getting sick.
Peter: Because who wasn’t doing their job?
Chigusa: 彦星. So they complained to the god and the god got upset of course and he split 織姫 and 彦星 apart.
Peter: And then after that, what happened?
Chigusa: And after that, 織姫 got so depressed and the god felt sorry for her. So he promised her that they could meet once a year on the day of Tanabata.
Peter: And then because they had that thing to look forward to, they both worked so hard.
Chigusa: Right.
Peter: At what they did and then they were together that one night.
Chigusa: Yes.
Peter: Let’s get our professional romantics opinion. What do you think Yoshi san?
Yoshi: You know I was once a 彦星.
Peter: Really?
Yoshi: Yes.
Chigusa: How?
Yoshi: In a school play like lots of elementary schools have plays about this like at the Tanabata festival.
Peter: Really?
Yoshi: And I played the 彦星 but my 織姫 was like 6 foot tall and when I was like you know 4 feet tall. So…
Peter: Lucky you!
Yoshi: What do you mean?
Peter: Don’t you like tall girls?
Chigusa: You do?
Yoshi: Oh yeah why not but it was a good play and I had a good time and people liked our play. So…
Peter: All right. Now let’s get into a little more background behind this.
Chigusa: Altair, the cowherd star and Vega, the weaver star were split apart by the two banks of the river of heaven or the milky way and come together once a year on this night.
Peter: Yes as we said yesterday, it’s a love story. These two lovers can only come together just one day out of the year.
Chigusa: Right. So romantic, isn’t it?
Peter: Yes. And this week, it’s on a Friday.
Chigusa: Umm…
Peter: So it should be pretty exciting day in Japan.
Chigusa: Right.
Peter: So they come together for this one night and in honor, there are festivals in Japan.
Chigusa: Right.
Peter: So on this night, can you see the stars?
Chigusa: Yes.
Peter: This custom, maybe Yoshi san could tell us a little bit more about it.
Yoshi: Since the Edo period, this has been celebrated among the people and the way in which it is celebrated is on the night of the 6th.
Peter: So the day before Tanabata right?
Yoshi: The night before.
Peter: Wait, we should take this time to just clarify that Tanabata falls on the 7th of July and in some places actually in August between maybe August 5th and 8th depending on the location but for this discussion, we are going to stick with the 7th of July.
Yoshi: And the people write their wishes on paper, it’s called 短冊 and they hang them on bamboo trees. On the night of the 7th, they are put out in the garden. These are referred to as Summer Christmas Trees.
Peter: What you just told us about, have you ever done this?
Yoshi: Yes it’s like – it’s one of the biggest school events.
Peter: Really?
Yoshi: That kids love.
Peter: Up until what age?
Chigusa: Elementary school maybe.
Yoshi: I think some schools like some junior high schools still do it too.
Chigusa: Oh!
Peter: So this day has something for everybody, something for the kids and something for the adults.
Chigusa: Right. I think it’s mainly something for kids right now. Isn’t it?
Yoshi: Uhoo…
Chigusa: Like everyone could go to the festivals but adults usually don’t do 短冊 at home privately.
Peter: Yeah.
Chigusa: Because you need bamboo sticks and stuff. So it’s more common for kids to do it at school I think.
Peter: But wouldn’t the adults go out to eat or go out and do something on a romantic day like this.
Chigusa: I guess it depends on the individual but a lot of my friends don’t celebrate it with their boyfriends or girlfriends.
Peter: I see. More of kind of like a family event.
Chigusa: I think so but that’s only my opinion.
Peter: Let’s get a second opinion. Yoshi san?
Yoshi: I would like to you know celebrate it with someone special.
Peter: Oh!
Chigusa: He is the romanticist.
Peter: What a romantic guy right.
Yoshi: But this year, I am going to celebrate it by myself.
Peter: And this podcast is coming out a day late. So no one can help you.
Yoshi: But I am going to put like lots of 短冊
Peter: Make lots of wishes.
Chigusa: Wishes.
Yoshi: Yes.
Chigusa: So that you can celebrate it with someone next year.
Peter: That’s a good one.
Yoshi: Yeah.
Peter: Now and then the next day, you put them out in the garden?
Chigusa: Right and it’s really pretty because you decorate it not only with 短冊 but you have stars and like rays made out of paper and I don’t know why but people draw watermelons.
Peter: Really?
Chigusa: Like quarter cut watermelons and they decorate it on the bamboo stick.
Peter: Wow so it’s – there is a lot going on this day.
Chigusa: Right.
Peter: Now as we are talking about before, some of the festivals are held on July 7th while some are held on August 7th and this has to do with the discrepancy between the Lunisolar calendar and the Gregorian calendar. So that’s why in some places, it’s held in July and some places in August. Now Chigusa san, can you tell us about the most famous of the Tanabata festivals which is actually held in
Chigusa: August. The most famous Tanabata festival is held in 仙台 from August 5th to 8th. In the Kanto area, the biggest Tanabata festival is held in 平塚.
Peter: And that’s in?
Chigusa: 神奈川
Peter: That’s not too far.
Chigusa: Yeah it’s really near here.
Peter: Have you ever been?
Chigusa: No I have been to 仙台 but not 平塚.
Peter: You’ve been to the festival in 仙台?
Chigusa: Yeah when I was small.
Peter: Well how was it?
Chigusa: It was really pretty like big bamboo decorations everywhere.
Peter: Yeah they decorate the whole main street I heard.
Chigusa: Yeah it was really fun. I think there were parades too.
Peter: Yoshi have you been?
Yoshi: No.
Peter: How about 神奈川?
Yoshi: Not yet. When is it held again in 神奈川?
Peter: 神奈川 is July 7th and I think since this week, July 7th is on a Friday, they probably have some to carry over to Saturday and maybe even Sunday because it’s usually I believe a few days this festival. So this is something that you may definitely want to check out.
Chigusa: Right.
Peter: Hah may want to definitely..no, this is something you definitely want to check out if you have the time. 神奈川 July 07 and August, 仙台.
Chigusa: Right.
Peter: Now let’s just go over some terms associated with this. Can you give us the name of the guy again, the cow herder.
Chigusa: 彦星.
Peter: And how about the girl, the weaver?
Yoshi: 織姫 which means princess weaver.
Peter: Now there are some decorations, some streamers but they have a special name and a special meaning right?
Chigusa: Right 吹流し
Peter: And this means?
Chigusa: 吹流し is the strings that 織姫 used to weave – uses to weave.
Peter: And you probably saw some of these in 仙台 right?
Chigusa: Right.
Peter: As the streets were covered and decorated in them.
Chigusa: Uhoo…
Peter: What else do they have?
Yoshi: They have 巾着
Peter: And what’s this?
Yoshi: The purse and its good for business.
Peter: And what’s it made of?
Yoshi: I think they are made of papers.
Peter: All right. So these are some terms associated with this day. Now finally I heard that there is a song associated with this day.
Chigusa: Yes.
Peter: Chigusa san, who is singing it?
Chigusa: Yoshi.
Peter: Yoshi. Yoshi is singing it…
Yoshi: No, no Peter.
Peter: I don’t even know what this song is. How about Chigusa?
Yoshi: Umm...
Chigusa: Me?
Yoshi: Yeah I am sure everyone wants to hear Chigusa sing because she is 鶯嬢.
Peter: That’s right.
Chigusa: Okay I will sing with Yoshi then. We will do it.
Yoshi: All right.
Peter: Sounds nice. Lucky Yoshi!
Chigusa: ♪笹の葉さらさら のぎばにゆれるお星さまきらきらきんぎん砂子 
Yoshi: ♪笹の葉さらさら のぎばにゆれるお星さまきらきらきんぎん砂子
Chigusa: Yeay!
Peter: That was really nice.
Chigusa: It’s a pretty song.
Peter: Now let’s just break it down line by line. Give us the first line one more time.
Chigusa: 笹の葉さらさら
Peter: The bamboo leaves rustle rustle.
Chigusa: 軒端にゆれる
Peter: Shaking away the leaves.
Chigusa: お星様きらきら
Peter: The stars twinkle, twinkle.
Chigusa: きんぎん砂子
Peter: And gold and silver grains of sand. When do you sing this?
Chigusa: On 七夕 Day.
Peter: On any given time or night time or any time is fine?
Chigusa: Anytime.
Peter: There you have it. Chigusa gives you permission to sing any time you want. Just burst into song…
Chigusa: Yes.
Peter: On this day.
Chigusa: You are permitted.


Peter: All right. Well that’s going to do it for today. A lot in there hah!
Chigusa: Right.
Peter: So you have lots to do. Postcards to write, gifts to buy, songs to sing.
Chigusa: Bamboos to decorate, wishes to write on the 短冊
Peter: Now about these wishes real quick. We are about to end up and now we are jumping back to these wishes. Can you write just one? Just small, these pieces of paper quite small right? It’s not like an A4?
Chigusa: No they are small but you can write as many as you want.
Peter: Really? Kind of like a strip of paper that can be tied.
Chigusa: Yes, yes.
Peter: All right. Again stop by japanesepod101.com. Inside the PDF, we are going to have pictures about this day. This will help you visualize everything we’ve been talking about. So stop by, say hi and be sure to leave us a post. All right, that’s going to do it. Have a great weekend.
Yoshi: またね。
Chigusa: またね。


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