Language and culture go hand in hand and, if you’re learning a new language, it’s great to find out about the culture of the country it comes from. Our Japanese teacher, Kotomi, has compiled a list of trivia that you may find weird, strange or interesting, about the culture of Japan.
1. It is popular to eat raw fish, such as sushi or sashimi. But Japanese even love to eat raw meats, such as beef, chicken, horse meat, pork liver!!
2. The country of Japan is made up of 6,800 islands.
3. The land of Japan is more than 70% covered by mountains. Also there are over 110 active volcanos. This is around 7% of the world’s volcanos.
4. There is a very expensive type of melon, called mask melon in Japan. The most expensive ones cost about £250. These melons have a detailed and small “net” pattern on their skin. This fruit is often given as a gift.
5. Japanese vending machines sell alcohol. You are able to buy alcohol 24 hours a day.
6. There used to be these customs: A man would shave his head as an apology. A woman would cut her hair if she broke up with her boyfriend.
7. Japan has the second lowest crime rate in the world, but quite a high suicide rate. There is a famous suicide spot called “Aokigahara” near Mt. Fuji. This area is a deep forest and compasses don’t work. It is very easy to get lost. It’s best not to plan a trip here.
8. The Japanese animation industry accounts for 60% of world animation. Japanese anime culture is successful worldwide. There are over 130 voice actors/actresses in Japan.
9. 21% of the population of Japan are elderly people. This ratio is the highest in the world.
10. There is a custom to eat a puffy fish called “Fugu” which is extremely poisonous. The parts with this poison are slightly different between each kind of Fugu. and a licensed craftsman is necessary to serve in a restaurant. However, in some specific areas, recipes exist where a poisonous part of the fish is pickled to eat. It is still not understood why the poison is mysteriously detoxified by this recipe.
Golden Week is a collection of four national holidays which takes place over seven days and is one of Japan’s three busiest holiday seasons. Due to its popularity, trains, airports and tourist spots get very crowded during Golden Week and accommodation in tourist areas can get booked out well in advance.
The national holidays which make up Golden Week are:
• 29th April
Showa Day (Showa no hi):
April 29 is the birthday of former Emperor Showa, who died in the year 1989. Until 2006, Greenery Day (see 4th May) used to be celebrated on this day.
• 3rd May
Constitution Day (Kenpo kinenbi):
On this day in 1947, the new post-war constitution was put into effect.
• 4th May
Greenery Day (Midori no hi):
Until 2006, Greenery Day used to be celebrated on the 29th April, the birthday of former Emperor Showa. The day is dedicated to the environment and nature, because the emperor loved plants and the natural world. Before being declared Greenery Day, the 4th May used to be a national holiday due to a law which declares that a day which falls between two national holidays must be a national holiday.
• 5th May
Children’s Day (Kodomo no hi):
The Boy’s Festival (Tango no Sekku) is celebrated on this day. Families pray for the health and future success of their sons by hanging up carp streamers and displaying samurai dolls, symbolising strength, power and success in life. The Girl’s Festival is celebrated on the 3rd March.
We wish a fantastic Golden Week to our students Takuya and Kanae, and our lovely teachers Katomi and Kazuko.
It is often said that, to learn the language of a country, you must immerse yourself in the culture of the country. One of the better and most useful ways to do this without living in the country itself is by listening to its music. So if you’re looking to improve your Spanish but are not able to plan a trip to Spain or Latin America, here are 11 groups and musicians who can help!
1. Alejandro Sanz
Born in Madrid in 1968, Alejandro Sanz knew he wanted to dedicate his life to music when he was only a teenager. This was definitely not an arbitrary choice, as he could already play the guitar at only seven years old and started composing songs soon after. At the age of 16, he released his first record but it passed unnoticed, so he started composing songs for others. At the age of 23 he released his first well-known album, “Viviendo deprisa” (1991), which sold over 1 million copies, suggesting that a larger audience was waiting for him. Today he has sold more than 23 million copies, 16 albums, and has the most Grammys of any Spanish artist. Despite becoming famous, he is still the composer and writer of all his songs, so he deserves a place on this list.
2. Joaquin Sabina
Joaquin Sabina stands out not for being a great singer, but instead for his lyrics, with his songs considered poetry rather than music. In fact, he started writing poetry when he was only 14 years old. Since music was also a big passion of his at that age, he formed a music group with some friends. In 1975 he had his first performance in London and performed as a support act for Paco Ibañez, Lluis Llach and more. He was also in charge of the soundtrack of the BBC TV show, “The Last Crusade”. Since 1980, the year his first song was released, he has not stopped playing and doing shows with other artists – in 2007 he went on tour with Joan Manuel Serrat. The last award he received is from the magazine, Rolling Stone which awarded him the Best Singer of the Year in 2010.
3. Sergio Dalma
Born in 1964 in Barcelona, Sergio Dalma started his career very young and, at the age of 20, he had already performed as a singer as part of orchestras and choirs. After taking part in the TV contest, “Gent d’aquí”, he received an offer to record an album, which was released in 1989 with the name “Esa chica es mía” and was very successful. Due to this, he was chosen to represent Spain in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1991, and although he didn’t win, it made him very famous. The albums he released later appeared in the charts, competing with the likes of Alejandro Sanz and Enrique Iglesias.
4. Calle 13
Calle 13 was created in 2004 in Puerto Rico after René Pérez Joglar and his half-brother Eduardo Cabra Martínez had the idea of forming a music group. René is the singer and composer and Eduardo is the musician, music director and also composer. Their half-sister, Ileana Cabra Joglar, is the female voice of the group. The rap, reggaeton and hip-hop band is also known for their satirical lyrics which contain a social and political critique. So, if you like this music, this is the best group for you to improve your Spanish.
5. Enrique Iglesias
Probably the most well-known of these artists in English-speaking countries, Enrique Iglesias moved to Florida when he was only 7 years old and grew up there, making English his second language. Today, he records English versions of nearly every song he writes in Spanish. It was a big surprise to his family when, at the age of 20, he told them that he wanted to become a singer since he had never told them anything about it. In this same year, his first album was released. It was a big success and sold over 6 million copies in the worldwide. In 1997, he did his first tour with over 80 concerts in 13 countries. Today, Enrique Iglesias is a very successful artist with more than 200 gold records and 100 platinum records and, as we can see, he has not yet given any sign of stopping this long trajectory.
Rubén Pozo Prats and José Miguel Conejo Torres “Leiva” created “Pereza” in the late 90’s, but it was not until 2001 when a record company saw their talent and offered them a contract to record their first album. Although this did not make them as famous as the previous artists we have mentioned, it was thanks to this very first album that they were given opportunity to do over 100 concerts all over Spain and to be the warm-up act for other famous artists. In 2002, their next album, “Algo para cantar”, gave them the push they needed, allowing them to do an extensive tour of over 200 concerts and making them the opening act for Bon Jovi on one occasion. From that point on, their career kept rising, but in 2011, they decided to put an end to the group. Both members both released their own album, although “Leiva’s” has been far more successful than Rubén’s.
This band was formed in 1993 when Carlos Tarque (voice) and Ricardo Ruipérez met and decided to get together to form a band, convincing the other current members to join them. In the beginning, the 5 musicians from Murcia (Spain) played a mix of blues, soul and hard rock, and were even told to sound like Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith and others. In 1995 and 1997 they released two albums, but none of them reached the sales they expected. Even so, it gave them the opportunity to play with big international artists like Bon Jovi and Gun. It wasn’t until 1999 when they finally made a big step in their career with the album “Usar y tirar”, which brought them the MTV award for best Latin group in the year 2000. In the same year, they released their most well-known song today, “Carolina”.
Juan Esteban Aristizábal Vásquez was born in the 70’s in Colombia. His family loved music and taught him how to play the guitar at an early age. That’s why, at the age of 15, he decided to create a band, which gained a lot of success, releasing five albums in eight years. The success of the group encouraged him to make the big step into starting a solo career when the band split up, recording his first album “Fíjate bien” in Los Angeles. It was a great success and got him 3 nominations at the Latin Grammys. Singing, writing, producing and playing the guitar all of his songs, Juanes’ career has only gone upwards, winning him a lot of awards like the MTV awards, Grammys, the Spanish “Premio Ondas” and more.
This duo was formed by two Spanish brothers from Cornellá (Barcelona). Born in the late 70’s, they didn’t complete their studies and started working in one of the factories of what today is SEAT. It was there, during the monotonous work in the factory, where the idea for their first song came. After playing in a few bars around their hometown, and seeing that the audience liked their music, they decided to record a song. The record company they sent it to liked their music style – a mix of rumba, flamenco and rock – and so the group were able to release their first album, “Estopa”, in 1999. After this, the number of sold records grew quickly, especially in the year 2000, when they received a lot of awards. Today, the group has still as much energy as when they began, especially since their last album, “Rumba a lo desconocido”, is from the year 2015 and they are still giving concerts.
This is a Mexican band, created in Guadalajara and initially called “The Spies of the Green Hat” in 1976 and later “Sombrero verde” (Green hat). Under the latter name, they released their first two records, but in 1987 they changed record company and also the name of the group to the current one, Maná, and which has since sold 50,000 records. The following year was not as good as the first, so they decided to change to Warner Music, and released “Falta amor” which sold over 750,000 copies. However, it was in 1991 when they really achieved fame all around the world with their album “¿Dónde jugarán los niños?” which sold over 1 million copies. Today Maná is one of the best known groups of Latin music in the world.
11. Efecto Pasillo
This group is a special choice of mine, since they come from the Canary Islands, where I also come from. The group had their first appearance in 2007 in a local music contest which they won by a landslide. Their first song was played on the radio stations of the Canary Islands and, during a concert, a producer from Barcelona liked their music and decided to represent the group. In 2010, they became famous throughout the country with their album, “Efecto Pasillo” and performed as support acts for other famous groups like “Hombre G”. In 2012, they published their most well-known song: “Pan y mantequilla”, which won the “40 principales” award for best song in 2012.
Of course, there are many more Spanish groups and musicians and this list represents only a small number. If you are looking for more music, here are some lists that you can check out. Enjoy learning Spanish!