Posts Tagged With: France

Must see: Japanese talent show for gaijin (foreigners)

Big in Japan: A group of foreign residents compete in the 2011 edition of Gaikokujin Star Tanjo. This year's event will feature rap, dance and classical music.

Big in Japan: A group of foreign residents compete in the 2011 edition of Gaikokujin Star Tanjo. This year’s event will feature rap, dance and classical music.

They say that fortune favors the brave and this Saturday, in Fukuoka, brave non-Japanese residents will get the chance to feel like a star.

The sign-up period to take part in Gaikokujin Star Tanjo has passed, but you can still get in on the fun by heading down to the party to cheer on other hopefuls. The talented bunch will be competing for the prize of being Fukuoka’s “most talented foreigner.”

Gaikokujin Star Tanjo will be held this year for its fourth time and is reportedly one of the biggest international parties in Fukuoka. The event will take place at JR Kyushu Hall in Hakata Ward.

Contestants from Canada, Nepal, France and other countries are ready to deliver, through music and dance, an entertaining and cultural experience that allows the audience to gain an insight into the traditions of their home countries.

The seven finalists will perform from 7 p.m. and their talents include rap, dance and classical music. The top prize is ¥100,000 in cash.

The event, inspired by the TV singing competitionAmerican Idol,” was launched in 2010 under the name Gaijin Idol. A year later its name was changed to Gaikokujin Star Tanjo.

It is co-organized by Fukuoka Now, a local bilingual monthly magazine run by Fukuoka Now Ltd., and JR Hakata City, the owner of a commercial complex in the Hakata Station building.

The event will be hosted by Sebastien, the single-monikered personality behind “C’est ça la France” and “Afternoon Delight” on Fukuoka’s Love FM.



Gaikokujin Star Tanjo will take place Oct. 5 from 7 p.m. till 11 p.m. at JR Kyushu Hall on the ninth floor of Hakata City, a multifunctional facility complex at JR Hakata Station. Tickets cost ¥1,500. For more information, visit


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Japan’s birth rate to increase along with women’s empowerment – U.N.

Japan needs to give more rights to women in their workplaces and to promote male implication in child rearing if it wants to fight its falling birth rate, the head of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said on Tuesday.

“If they (women), for instance, leave to go and have a baby, they do not lose promotion, they do not lose anything, and then when they come back, they can also look after their children whilst they are working and then men’s participation in that also tends to ensure that you facilitate growth in population,” Babatunde Osotimehin, the UNFPA’s executive director, said according to Kyodo news agency.

It is very important for women to know that although they have a child, they still can work after giving birth and have a chance to advance their careers, Osotimehin said. In this regard, the public and private sector should work together, he added.

“What we urge governments to do in cooperation with the private sector and employers is to provide and promote the means to facilitate compatibility between labor force participation and parenthood so that women can have a career and be assured of career progression,” he said.

Men should also participate more to child rearing – a system that has progressed a long way in countries, such as Denmark, Sweden and France, and more recently in Britain.

“We have seen that in parts of the world where men have been involved with paternity leaves and getting involved with raising children we have been able to increase the birthrates,” he explained.

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Japanese souvenirs, omiyage explained

In Japan, souvenirs are known as meibutsu (products associated with a particular region); and omiyage, candies or other edibles to be shared with co-workers. Omiyage sales are big business at Japanese tourist sites. Travelers may buy souvenirs as gifts for those who did not make the trip.

Tourist shops everywhere in Japan are filled with colorful boxes of local sweets that are perfectly portioned for sharing. These are “omiyage.” At work, it’s almost expected that you bring back a box of omiyage filled with a specialty product from the area your business trip took place in, and friends and family often purchase omiyage for those who weren’t able to make the trip. Many argue that giving omiyage is a distinctly Japanese custom. Yuichiro Suzuki, author of Omiyage and the Railway, explains in an interview.

Don’t they have omiyage abroad?

Omiyage is translated as “souvenir” in English, but the two are a little different. A souvenir is something that the person who is doing the traveling buys for him/herself to remember the trip. In Europe and the United States, train station and airport stores are filled with key chains and other non-food items for this purpose. But Japanese omiyage typically consists of food items produced in the area the trip was taken in. Also, omiyage is not intended to be consumed by the traveler and is instead given out to coworkers or friends.

But what about chocolate-covered macadamia nuts in Hawaii?

These were created by Japanese-Americans who were most likely influenced by Japanese omiyage culture. France also has Mont Saint-Michel cookies which are popularly purchased for the same purpose as omiyage, but these are exceptions. The amount of food-related omiyage in Western souvenir shops is overwhelmingly low compared to shops in Japan.

But there are many types of candies and foods sold at tourist spots in China and South Korea.

I agree that there are. But in Japan, omiyage is associated with the history of a specific region, for example, Ise City’s Akafuku rice crackers or Gunma Prefecture’s famous Kusatsu Onsen mochi. In general, this is not true of omiyage elsewhere.

So when was omiyage first seen in Japan?

The origin of omiyage is unclear, but it is thought that the custom began in association with sacred pilgrimages. Those who visited Shinto shrines were expected to bring back evidence of the pilgrimage to their families in the form of charms, rice wine cups, or other religiously significant items. It was thought that the protection granted to pilgrims would be transferred to whoever received the items brought back from the sacred trip. This is said to be the beginning of omiyage.

So at that time, manju (steamed yeast buns with filling) and other foods that are commonly purchased as omiyage today didn’t exist?

Back then, food preservation techniques were limited and people traveled by foot so they could only carry light items such as medicine, money, and ear picks. There was only room for the essentials.

Does that mean that the types of food products increased once the railway system was built?

That’s right. For example, Shizuoku Prefecture’s Abekawa mochi originated in a small tea house next to Abekawa River. After the development of the railway system, “gyuhi,” a sugary gel confectionery, was made instead of mochi because it lasts longer and can be taken on long trips. At first, many people complained about this new style of Abekawa mochi, but it eventually became known as a specialty product associated with the area.

In your book, you mention that specialty regional foods such as Akafuku mochi in Ise or millet dumplings in Okayama Prefecture were not popular before the Edo period, but have been widely accepted since modern times.

Omiyage culture has been around for a long time, but it’s because of institutions that support the modern state such as the railroad, army, and imperial house that Japanese people have come to have a deep relationship with omiyage.

Is this type of research about omiyage popular?

Research concerning culture anthropology is progressing, but only a handful of people are studying how omiyage came into existence. It’s possible that the majority of those researching Japanese history don’t like sweets.

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