Saturday, November 29, 2008

Black Friday and shopping in Japan

The day after Thanksgiving in the United States has been dubbed by some as Black Friday. This is in reference to the heavy shopping traffic on that day, a comparison to the extremely stressful and chaotic experience of the 1929 stock market crash called Black Tuesday. This is not a holiday, rather it is a big day for shopping with many stores opening early offering special deals for the Christmas season. Which if you go by when they started putting Christmas stuff up, began two weeks before Halloween. This practice of putting Christmas stuff up a long time before Christmas is not unique to the USA. Japan, for example, does it as well with some places selling Christmas cakes so early that they would spoil if you kept them until Christmas.

I dislike shopping with a passion, yet I commonly shop on Black Friday. The reason for this is because even with the crowds you can actually get some very good deals and occasionally free stuff. I do not spend the night camping outside of a store in the hopes of getting a deal on a big electric product like a television or a computer. I never really got why people did that. The items are not in my opinion worth waiting hours in the cold for. This happens at other times besides Black Friday and is also not limited to the United States. It happens in Japan as well with people sitting outside for days for a new gaming system or video game. The Dragon Quest RPG games, the most popular Role Playing game series in Japan (in the USA the Final Fantasy series is most popular - I like Dragon Quest, the first four of which were called Dragon Warrior in the USA, much more than Final Fantasy), have had long lines and people staking out outside the stores for every release of the series. I show up after the stores open and grab some of the lesser wanted and higher supplied deals. For example, I purchased blank media and a computer flash drive for discounted prices, the stores order many of these unlike the computers or TV's that are on sale.

This years turn out at the stores I went to was much less than last years, though I do not go to the most crowded stores like Wal-mart (I never shop Wal-mart). The stores I went to were very well organized and had many lines open. I was lucky and did not have to wait more than a few minutes in line at any of the stores I went to. My best purchase of the day was at a book store called Half-Price Books. The store sells used books for half the manufactures listed prices. This being a book store there was not a very long line. I was given upon entering the store a five dollar off coupon and a reusable bag (the type many places sell for around a dollar to use instead of plastic bags). They had a Black Friday special of 20% off their normal prices so I bought 19 books and two video games. I really like that store. They even occasionally have manga in the original Japanese at extremely low prices, most of it is Shōjo (manga for girls) though. One of my purchase was a volume of Sailormoon, in Japanese, for 80 cents.

-Some trivia on shopping in Tokyo Japan:
  • Many Japanese people do not store up a lot of food, rather they go to buy food everyday.
  • Large shopping carts filled with groceries is not a common site in Japan instead you see people carrying small baskets.
  • The average Japanese house does not have a large freezer or a pantry for storing food long term.
  • While indoor malls are pretty much dying out in the USA (a new one hasn't been built in years), they are common in Japan in part because they take up a lot less room and land is expensive in many parts of Japan.
  • Walmart is not very successful in Japan like it is pretty much everywhere else (besides Germany).
  • Akihabara, in the Kanda district near central Tokyo , is known as electronics town. There are many stores where you can buy or sell computers, electronics, anime and otaku (person with obsessive interests, particularly anime, manga, and video games) goods.
  • Jimbocho, a district near Akihabara, is the place to buy books in Japan with many book stores. It is also near Ochanomizu which is where around fifty percent of Japan's student population studies in Tokyo.
  • Ikebukuro has massive, amongst the worlds largest, department stores.
  • Tsukiji has one of the biggest fish markets in the world.
  • More about places to shop in Japan can be found on many websites like this one: Tokyo Essentials.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Day - USA

Here is some trivia/facts about Thanksgiving Day.
  • The fourth Thursday in November is Thanksgiving Day in the United States.
  • This holiday is a harvest feast/festival.
  • Thanksgiving Day was first was declared an official holiday by Abraham Lincoln on October 3 1863.
  • Thanksgiving was originally a religious observance for all the members of the community to give thanks to God for a common purpose.
  • The National Turkey Federation estimated that 46 million turkeys were consumed in the United States on Thanksgiving Day in 2007.
  • Every year Macy's holds a Thanksgiving Day Parade, the first one took place in New York City in 1924.
  • The first recorded Thanksgiving ceremony took place on September 8, 1565, when 600 Spanish settlers landed at what is now St. Augustine, Florida, and held a Mass of Thanksgiving for their safe delivery to the New World, followed by a feast and celebration.
  • The more commonly thought of one, held in 1621 by the pilgrims off the Mayflower, occurred sometime between September 21 and November 11 and was three days long.
  • What is generally thought off as pilgrim clothing is not what the pilgrims actually wore. For example: Buckles did not come into fashion until late in the seventeenth century and black and white were only commonly worn on Sunday and formal occasions.
  • Watching football on Thanksgiving has become a common custom for many people. The National Football League and the (no longer in existence) American Football League have played games on Thanksgiving every year since their creation. - I do not watch football.
  • Watching television specials like a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is also a custom many people follow. - including me.
  • Thanksgivings Day is also held by the Native Americans as National Day of Mourning. They annually hold protests and view it as a day of remembrance for the Democide (term used to include forms of government murder that are not covered by the legal definition of genocide) of the Native Americans.
  • Turkeys are the most commonly eaten food on Thanksgiving Day.
  • The first presidential pardon of a turkey was by George H.W. Bush in 1989. Since then every Thanksgiving a turkey is pardoned by the current president.
  • Wild Turkeys are not very easy to catch since they have excellent visual acuity, a wide field of vision, very good hearing, can reach speeds of 25 miles per hour on the ground, perch in trees on occasion, and can fly for short distances at speeds up to 55 miles per hour.
  • Turkey's are omnivores.
  • Turkey's on factory farms have truly appalling existences. Videos can be found on animal welfare sites like Peta but I wouldn't recommend watching them unless you like seeing birds in misery and being mistreated. Peta has a petition to be sent to turkey breeders asking that they take steps to prevent cruelty to the birds. The petition and video can be found here: Breaking Investigation Reveals Holiday Horrors for Turkeys
Here is a site for further information about Thanksgiving myths: Deconstructing the Myths of “The First Thanksgiving”

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Wal-Mart: The High Cost Of Low Price

The book Wal-mart: the High Cost of Low Price is a behind the scenes/making of the documentary with the same name. I generally do not watch making of video's and I am even less likely to read a making of book for a film. Which probably makes a person wonder why did I read it. I read it because I wanted to see the differences in how the documentary was made in comparison to a major motion picture (I have watched a few making of videos), wanted to see if it included some more facts that did not make the film, and because it was short.

The book gives a break down on how the research was done and talks about the shooting and editing a bit. It mentions problems that were encountered making the documentary like insufficient funding (mainly because no one wanted to go against a company as big as Wal-mart), trying to keep the fact that they were making a documentary about Wal-mart secret (so as to not allow Wal-mart to spin the facts or attempt to shut down production), and not scheduling enough time. The most interesting thing, at least I think so, was that there was a deluge of information on the bad things that Wal-mart does. A lot of times people who make documentaries have to spend a lot of time gathering up and searching for information, this movie had the opposite problem, there was so much information that they didn't know how to add anywhere near all of it.

While I did kind of like the pointers that are interspersed through out the book on how to make a politically motivated documentary and connect with grass roots organizations to get the message out; I would have liked it if they had added more information on Wal-marts practices. It is highly unlikely that I will make a film of my own, though not entirely unfeasible since I do know how to use a digital video camera and can edit video on a computer (though not at a professional level), so most of the information is basically useless. Considering the amount of information he claims was available on Wal-mart, he could have put a chapter or two just on facts not included in the movie or added them into the making of part.

Overall it was an okay, but not a great book. It feels as if the author rushed while writing the book and could have done a better job, at least that's the impression I got while reading it. I did find the process of making the documentary interesting enough to finish the book but I really think it should have included more on the subject of the movie as well as the making of the documentary (that and I would like to know more about the acquiring information for the China segment). If you just want the information on Wal-mart the book does, at the end, include a list of links to get more information on Wal-mart via the internet. The documentary was much better than the book.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Underrated: The Yankee Pot Roast Book of Awesome, Underappreciated Stuff

I was at the library the other day and I saw the book: Underrated: The Yankee Pot Roast Book of Awesome, Underappreciated Stuff. It looked interesting, so I decided to take it out. I am kind of glad that I did. The book uses a rating system derived from commercial success, critical success, cultural success, and how cool the thing is to determine how underrated a thing is. While it makes an attempt to categorize how underrated something is, it really is subjective.

I agree with the book on somethings, for example: I really like the movies Angus, Gross Pointe Blank, and Mallrats. I find Puffins (the birds) to be underrated, at least when compared to Penguins. Tecmo Super Ball was my favorite of all video football games even though latter games had better graphics, more choices of plays, and are more challenging.

The majority of the things brought up in the book I had no opinion on or didn't even know about in the first place. It good to learn about new things, even if they are just popular culture (or in this case not as popular as the authors thinks these things should be). I learned several things from this book for example that there was new episodes of Futurama. Some examples of things that I do/did not know enough about to form an opinion or know about at all are:

Some television shows on cable like The Jon Stewart Show and Lucky Louie. I do not have cable and even if I did it is unlikely that I would pay extra for premium channels like HBO. I have seen some cable television shows though via other peoples house's, DVD, and the internet on occasion.

Some of the foods mentioned: Diet Dr Pepper - I do not drink or eat 'diet' things and I do not like carbonated beverages so have not tried diet Dr Pepper. McDonald's sweet and sour sauce - I don't go to McDonalds and even when I did I wouldn't get this since I don't eat chicken. Have never seen or heard of Ellio's Frozen Pizza's. et cetra.

Other things were before my time, or in the case of many of them, at a time when I was too young to be interested in them. For example, Good Times which aired before I was born.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Kinrō kansha no hi - Labor Thanksgiving Day

November 23 is a holiday in Japan called Kinrō kansha no hi (Labor Thanksgiving Day). It was made a national holiday in 1948. The purpose of this holiday is to praise labor, celebrate production and give one another thanks.

Prior to 1948 this holiday was a holiday to celebrate the yearly rice harvest. The imperial harvest festival was called Niiname-sai. Niiname-sai was made a holiday during the Meiji period but was celebrated before the Meiji period as early as 678 AD. During this festival, at the end of each years rice harvest, the emperor would offer newly harvested rice to the Shinto divinities of the Sky and Earth and taste the rice for the first time. Niiname-Sai is still held privately by the Imperial Family.

In 1948, the holiday was renamed and changes were made in how it was celebrated. The reason for the changes were to get away from religion (it was viewed as a Shinto celebration) and to mark changes brought about by the postwar constitution of Japan. It became a day to both honor those people who's daily work ensures the country's economic prosperity and to recognize and give thanks for fundamental human rights. For this reason events are held throughout Japan, that encourage thinking about the environment, peace, and human rights.

As well as being Labor Thanksgiving day and a day to celebrate the rice harvest festival, November 23 is also Nogyosai. Nogyosai is an unofficial holiday for farm hands established in 1962. Nogyosai is celebrated by displaying exhibitions of agricultural output (things like machines, tools, fertilizers and technical literature) through out the country.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Did not do the research

I was reading some fiction and found quite a bit of it to be funny, not because it was meant to be funny, but because the authors clearly did not do the research on the subject matter. This is fairly common in fiction and some so called non-fiction. Some recently encountered examples:

Statement:two characters being adults. Setting Japan. Stated age of characters: 18.
Reason it's wrong: Age of adulthood is 20 in Japan. Update 3/11/2009: There has been debate in Japan to lower the age of adulthood from 20 (which it has been since 1876) to 18, though according to Japan Times a government poll shows that 70% of people polled are against the change.

Statement:Person makes statement indicating that they do not have freedom of speech in that country.
Reason it's wrong: Country was Japan and Article 21 of the Japanese constitution grants freedom of speech.

Statement: Mobile phones don't exist. Setting: Japan. Year: 1994
Reason it's wrong: Mobile phones have been around in one form or another for a long time. Radio phones were used in World War 2. Car phones have been around since at least the 1950's. The funniest thing about this though is that 1994 was a huge year for cell phones in Japan. In 1994 regulatory reform allowed for cellular phones to be purchased rather than rented in Japan and people bought a lot of them.

Statement: Don't worry I'm on the pill (birth control pill). Setting: Japan Year:1994
Reason it's wrong: Birth control pills were not legalized in Japan until June 1999. Even now people in Japan rarely use birth control pills (around 1.3 percent of Japanese females between 15 and 49 years old use it).

Statement: Safest place in the jungle is on a lions back.
Reason it's wrong: Lions don't live in the jungle they live in the Savannah.

Thing shown: Dinosaur eating grass.
Reason it's wrong: Grass did not evolve until around 55 million years ago, long after the dinosaurs died out. Update: 3/11/2009 there have been recent findings of 65-million-year-old phytoliths resembling grass phytoliths in some dinosaur feces, so some dinosaurs may in fact have eaten some plants very similar to grass.

Thing mentioned: Hunting animal in someway makes a noise announcing it's presence.
Reason it's wrong: Animals that are hunting attempt to be as stealthy as possible to avoid notifying it's prey.

Thing shown: A device is used that can see into the infrared spectrum will see pictures through walls.
Reason it is wrong: Heat simply doesn't go through walls in such a way to form a picture. An episode of mythbusters even showed the inability of infrared to look through glass.

Statement/thing shown: Asteroid belts are extremely difficult to traverse and require great skill.
Reason it's wrong: They are very easy to traverse, unmanned probes have no trouble, they are not that close to one another.

Statement: Mentions of Salem witch burnings.
Reason it's wrong: no witches were burned in Salem, they preferred to hang people.

Thing shown: Gun has no recoil
Reason it is wrong: Guns have recoil.

Superpower: Ability to use 100% of brain power.
Reason it is wrong: Mostly redundant, people already use 100% of their brain power. Many things like CAT, PET, and MRI scans have proven that there are no inactive regions of the brain.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Answer to ranma related keywords used

As I have stated in a previous post, the best thing about a counter is finding out the keywords used to find the site. Some are really interesting, most are asking a question, and some I have no clue as to why the search engine would direct the keyword to my blog in the first place. They also tell me what readers, or potential readers, of this blog are looking for, sadly according to statcounter 87% of the people who come to this blog are looking for porn of one type or another. I will now answer some of the questions that the keywords used imply.

Keyword: meaning of ranma in japanese
The name Ranma can actually mean a variety of things; Ran can mean disordered, confused, chaotic, boisterous, abusive, reckless, random, excessive, indiscriminate, extravagant, inordinate, haphazard, reckless, social disorder, disturbance, rebellion, civil war, war, riot, revolt, be corrupt, be demoralized, and used to in the past but no longer mean ulceration and decomposition as well.
Ma in compounds simply means horse. Outside of compounds it can mean other things but I won't go into that. -source few online dictionaries and the defunct Wotclub Faq

Keyword: nickname shampoo calls ranma
Shampoo calls Ranma Airen which isn't so much a nickname as a term of endearment. Airen is mandarin chinese and literally means love person Ai=love Ren=Person. It was for a long time the predominate word used when referring to your spouse.

Keyword: weapon ranma used the most
Ranma frequently uses weapons, generally improvised objects laying around. Personally the weapon I think he uses the most is a staff/polearm, since he has grabbed up sticks/brooms/poles etc.,on a number of occasions and used them in combat.

Keyword: Kasumi love Dr Tofu
There is no evidence that she loves him and the Ranma ½ memorial book/Art of Ranma ½ written by Takahashi has a love chart that states his love is an unrequited love.

Keyword: Ranma fight all out
I'm not sure where the idea that Ranma doesn't hold back or fights all out comes from. Ranma, baring the battle with Saffron and possibly Happosai, has held back his abilities the majority of the time. The reason I say this is because he clearly did not hit many of his opponents as hard as he could (Ukyo, Konatsu, etc.). He did not kill or maim his opponents which he would have had he not been holding back. He generally tests his opponents, fighting at what he perceives to be their level, and he clearly plays with some of them for example Kuno (once he decided to get a bit serious Kuno was taken out faster than anyone could see). He does not use ki blasts or the majority of his techniques every time (he rarely uses ki blasts). He is perfectly willing to fight many of his opponents on their terms (limiting himself to their styles and rules of combat). Many of his opponents he didn't even hit once for example Miss Hinako and the french guy. et cetra

Keyword: Ranma wear make-up
Ranma does wear make-up while in disguise. Wore make up during Orachi arc, wore lipstick on date with Kuno to get wishing sword (Genma even suggested it), can be seen applying powder to face while getting ready to trick Ryoga, etc.

There were more that would take longer to answer, or I refuse to on principle such as the ones asking where to get the Ranma hentai doujinshi that have to be purchased for free, and some non-ranma related ones I might answer later (if I feel like it).

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Shichi-Go-San (Seven-Five-Three)

On November 15, or the nearest weekend, people across Japan take their three and seven year old girls and their three and five year old boys to visit the local Shinto shrine. Most girls are dressed in kimonos, while the boys don haori jackets and hakama trousers. Though in recent years an increasing number of children are wearing western-style dresses and suits. The reason people take their children to the shrine on this day is because November 15 is Shichi-go-san, which means seven-five-three. The numbers three, five, and seven are considered to be lucky according to Japanese numerology. This is a Shinto festival, not a recognized holiday.

This festival is said to have been celebrated as far back as the Heian period (794-1185) where nobles celebrated the growth of their children on a lucky day in November. The festival was subsequently set on the fifteenth of that month during the Kamakura period (1185-1333), because the fifteenth was considered one of the most auspicious days of the year in the Japanese almanac. Shogun Tsunayoshi Tokugawa was said to be celebrating the growth of his son, Tokumatsu, on that day.

As time passed, this tradition passed to the samurai class who added a number of rituals. Children, who up until the age of three were required by custom to have shaven heads, were allowed to grow out their hair. Boys of age five could wear hakama for the first time, while girls of age seven replaced the simple cords they used to tie their kimono with the traditional obi. By the Edo period (1603-1868), this practice spread to commoners, who began visiting shrines to have prayers offered by priests.

The customs for this day have changed very little. The only real changes are that the custom of children having shaved heads no longer exists and people like to take a lot of photographs of their little kids all dressed up.

Children are given Chitoseame (thousand year candy) on Shichi-Go-San. Chitoseame is long, thin, red and white candy. It is given in a bag with a crane and a turtle on it. Chitoseame is wrapped in an edible thin clear rice paper film that resembles plastic. The crane and the turtle traditionally symbolise longevity in Japan. The candy and the bag are expressions of parents' wish that their children lead long and prosperous lives.

Onna-Ranma hit Akane?

I was recently wondering something, some Akane fans defend her hitting him because he insults her. Which is not a good argument, hitting people is not, or rather should not be, acceptable behavior in retaliation for an insult. Though our society does have the double standard in which it is deemed acceptable for a girl to hit a guy but not for a guy to hit a girl. In fact a girl hitting a guy is often viewed as being both humorous and empowering for women. This double standard is common in all types of fiction, not limited to comedy, or even limited to fiction.

The argument doesn't really work even if you do view that as acceptable, Ranma doesn't insult or belittle her anywhere near as often as some fan fiction portrays him to (and she doesn't hit him as often as fan fiction portrays). It also doesn't work since Akane has hit Ranma for other reasons, unconnected in anyway with his words or actions, or regardless of them. I can list some examples but I don't feel the need to since most people who have read the manga will probably remember an instance of her hitting him for another reasons like the actions of others, for example Nabiki and Shampoo. Though Ranma on occasion did do jerkish things, like sneaking up on Akane - which interestingly enough was rarely something she hit him for.

I was wondering would people find it humorous/acceptable if Ranma had splashed himself, so as to utilize female form, and then hit Akane in retaliation for her insults and actions (Akane has done many jerkish things as well, like insulting him, dating Ryoga to make him jealous, or using/making fun of his cat phobia - which was very often the reason Ranma insulted her that resulted in her hitting him)? In other words, if he had hit her as a male people would not find it funny but would it have been acceptable/funny if Ranma did so in female form?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Five random things on Japan 2

1. Japanese people, and Asians in general, drink from smaller cups and bottles than westerners do; partly because they have smaller bladders. This might also be part of the reason that Asians have the lowest rate of bladder cancer. Example: Japanese people purchase coffee in cans often. The common sizes for canned coffee is 250 or 190 ml, though iced coffee cans tend to be short and fat and contain 280 ml. The standard size in the USA for a canned beverage is 12 U.S. fluid ounces which is 355 ml (Europe standard cans are 330 ml, Australia the standard can size is 375 ml, etc..). Though one brand named American Coffee sells it in a US sized can.

2. A voluntary program is to start, in the beginning of 2009, in which labels breaking down the carbon emitted in production, packaging, transportation, and disposal will appear on many of Japan's consumer goods. The reason this is being implemented is to persuade companies and consumers to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. More info: Japan to launch carbon footprint labeling scheme I think this is a good idea and may cause some consumers to think about the amount of carbon that is released in producing the items they purchase.

3. Since bottled water is so popular, some companies in Japan have decided to sell cans of air. Need Fresh Air? Japan Sells Oxygen-to-Go When I first heard of this I thought about the movie Spaceballs in which they also have canned air. I probably would not buy this since I think of it as being silly and I don't even purchase bottled water (for a variety of reasons).

4.Biwa Lake is the largest lake in Japan. It shows up in Japanese literature often, particularly in poetry and in historical accounts of battles, because of it's proximity to Kyoto (which used to be the capital of Japan). It's nearly 4 million years old and has a very diverse ecosystem (more than 1100 kinds of living things in the lake, including at least 58 endemic species). The musical instrument called a biwa (a Japanese short-necked fretted lute) is shaped like the lake. The biwa is also the chosen instrument of Benten, Goddess of music, eloquence, poetry, and education in Japanese Buddhism. The character Monron in the Ranma movie Big Trouble in Nekoron, China is based on Benten and plays a biwa.

5. The numbers 4 and 9 are considered to be bad luck in Japan. The reason for this is because the number 4 is a homophone for death and the number 9 is a homophone for suffering. Therefore, one should not make presents that consist of four pieces, etc. In some buildings, particularly hotels and hospitals, the room number four is skipped, similar to how in the USA and Canada many tall buildings do not have a floor labeled 13, because the number 13 is considered an unlucky number in the USA and Canada.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

What animals are known to eat kittens?

I have seen this particular question, or a variation of it, show up multiple times in keywords used to find this blog and I figure I might as well answer it.

Many animals will eat kittens if the opportunity presents itself but kittens really do not have animals that generally prey on them. For instance, a raccoon will on occasion eat a kitten (raccoon's are capable of killing things bigger than kittens like small dogs) but generally prefer fruits, insects, small mammals and human left overs. A hawk will on occasion eat a small kitten if it can but generally prefers small mammals less likely to be defended and other birds. Wild dogs will on occasion eat kittens. Human beings will occasionally eat them, an example that I heard about is that in Switzerland farmers would sometimes eat kittens if the cat had an excess number of them using the logic that if they are going to kill them anyways they may as well eat them, I do not know if this practice is still done though.

The animal that kittens are most likely to be killed and eaten by though is other cats. It is not uncommon for cats to eat stillborn kittens and placentas, to regain energy/nutrients from birthing them. Some first time mother cats will eat non-stillborn kittens but it isn't really all that common.

Some reasons mother cats will kill and sometimes eat kittens are:
*can't "switch off" hunting behavior during play and kills the kitten
*thinks kitten is defective
*thinks kittens have poor chance of survival anyway (due to food shortage or external threat)
*Handling by others obscures mother's scent on kittens, so she doesn't recognize them as her own
*Feels odds are insurmountable and can't protect kitten
*To increase the chances of successfully rearing their surviving kittens
*Territory, will on occasion kill rival female cats kittens
*eat it if it died of natural causes to not attract other predators and for food

Male cats will kill kittens:
*for food
*smells the scent of a rival tomcat and decides that the kittens have been fathered by the visiting tomcat
*takes over or inherits a territory may be driven to destroy any kittens in order to spread his genetics
*in attempting dominance over a kitten may accidentally kill the kitten
*from being repelled while trying to mate with mother cat might take frustration out on kitten.

Information about Swiss eating kittens comes from this blog Hello Cute Animals and I looked up the Swiss Society for Animal Welfare/ProTier as well.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Religion in Ranma ½

Whether or not you are a religious person, religion has affected you in some way. For example, if you live in a Christian country it is very likely that you have developed some Christian morals and/or habits. If nothing else you likely know of some religious holidays for example, Christmas and Easter.

Religion and myth appears in fiction often; most of the time it is not really noticed. The Ranma ½ manga has a lot of religious symbols and references that most people don't really notice unless someone points them out. In fact if you know Ranma ½ mostly through fan fiction, Ranma (the character) does not seem like a religious person at all.

While Ranma's religion is unknown, I find it most likely that his religion is a mix of Shinto and Buddhism given what is seen in the manga. Ranma can be seen praying in a few story arcs. Most visible example is his praying during the Koi-rod story line, though he can be seen praying on a few other occasions as well (praying at his family grave comes to mind). Ranma believes in both the Kami and in there being an after life. Though unlike most people his belief is not based solely on faith. He has seen the power of the Kami (Shinto wards have actual effects) and met the Kami (the Oni is a type of Kami and so was the divine horse - of the 8 million or so Kami animal types are the most common). He has met spirits and ghosts, seen the shores of Sanzu (the Buddhist river of the dead), and seen a ghost enter into heaven.

Some of the other religious imagery seen in the manga:
-Kasumi wears a crucifix.
-Nabiki wears a crucifix during the initial date in the ten yen date arc.
-The Tendo dojo has a Kamidana (small Shinto shrine that is hung on a wall).
-The Tendo's have a Butsudan (a Buddhist shrine for in the house).
-The person that waters her front yard, getting Ranma wet, is practicing a form of misogi - a Shinto purification ritual.
-Kodachi goes to a Catholic School.
-One of the competing plays during the Romeo and Juliet story arc was doing a play involving Jesus Christ.
-Shinto and Buddhist priests are seen several times in the manga, as well as Taoist Monks.
-Ranma goes to both Shinto and Buddhist Shrines.
-Religious holidays are shown in the manga for example, Christmas and New Years (New Years is a religious holiday because the 108 bell ring during the ghost cat storyline is a Buddhist celebration with each bell rings represent 108 elements of bonno, defilements, or Kilesa in Sanskrit, which is said people have in their mind).
-Volume 37 and 38 both show aspects of Shinto and Christian weddings (Akane is dressed in Shinto wedding garb and Christian style wedding dress respectively).
-The battle versus Herb takes place at and destroys Mount Horai which is a mythical mountain similar in nature to Mount Olympus of Greek Mythology.
-Akane in a dream sequence chases Happosai with a cross.
-Sanzu the Buddhist river to the afterlife shows up a few times (Noodles of strength arc, Herb arc, etc.)
-Rouge cursed form is a goddess/demoness in Buddhism, Shinto, Hindu.
-Tea Ceremony has origins involving Zen Buddhism and Confucianism.
-Martial arts has many ties with religion including: Hinduism, Buddhism, Daoism, Confucianism and/or Shinto.
-Ikebana (Flower arranging) has roots in Shinto and Buddhism.
-et cetera

Two religion inspired things that deserve singling out:

The Orachi arc is a retelling of the Susano (high ranking Shinto wind god) battle versus the Orachi. The Ranma characters play the part of the god, the broom being used as a stand in for Kusanagi (legendary sword), and the cross dressing is used as the trick.

The second thing that deserves singling out is Saffron. Mainly whether he is a god or not. Going by a monotheistic religion such as Christianity, Judaism, and Islam; no Saffron is not a god. Going by polytheistic religions such as Shinto, Voodoo, and ancient religions (Greek, Roman, etc.); then yes Saffron could count as a god. So really it is entirely up to the readers interpretation and can be taken either way, though by Shinto, the predominate religion of Japan, he would be considered a Kami. Saffron's comments are about ascension and rebirth which is what happens when a being transcends from mortality to either demi or full blown godhood and his pagoda has symbols of divinity on it. Though Saffron more resembles the western phoenix than he does the Japanese type.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Bunka no hi - Culture Day

November 3, is Culture Day (Bunka no hi 文化の日) a national holiday in Japan. This holiday was first held in 1948, to commemorate the announcement of the post-war Japanese constitution on November 3, 1946. The purpose of this holiday is to promote culture, the arts, and academic endeavors. As Culture Day exists to promote the arts and various fields of academic endeavor, local and prefectural governments typically choose this day to hold art exhibits, culture festivals, and parades.

Every year on this day the Emperor of Japan hands out Bunka Kunsho (Order of Culture - the highest rank of Culture Award) to a few people who devoted their lives to promoting Japanese culture or higher achievements in academic fields. The Order of Culture award was established on February 11, 1937. Many other awards are also given to thousands of people who made distinguished contributions to Japanese society. Many institutions of higher education such as Japanese universities and high schools hold Culture Day to display their research projects, hold debate sessions, etc.

Prior to being Culture day, November 3 was called Tenchōsetsu. Tenchōsetsu was first celebrated as a national holiday in 1868 (before the calendar was changed to Gregorian was September 22), in honor of the Meiji Emperor. With the death of the Meiji Emperor in 1912, November 3 ceased to be a holiday until 1927, when his birthday was given its own specific holiday, known as Meiji-setsu.

This day was a religious holiday from the early Meiji era to just after World War II. The ceremony performed at the Three Sacred Halls (kyūchū sanden) is called the tenchōsai, or Rite for the Longevity of Heaven and Earth. On the day of the celebration, the tenchōsai was performed in the Three Sacred Halls, and the Rituals for the Day of Celebration for the Longevity of Heaven and Earth (tenchōsetsu no gi) was performed at the palace. The emperor received felicitations from the imperial family then goes to the Toyo-no-akari Hall where he received felicitations from high-level ministers and ambassadors or representatives from each country. Following this, there was a celebratory banquet.