Saturday, March 19, 2011

Learning more about Japan

Currently and over the last few weeks the world has been tracking the devastating news in Japan. As I have been following the relief efforts and day-by-day coverage I have been praying for all those directly and indirectly effected. In situations like these I feel it is just as important to know about the current events, but also to remind your self what wonderful features a person, in this case a country, has to offer.

Being a 23 year old student from Canada with little money to travel I have realized I know very little about Japan, other then the basics. Personally I have felt an incline to rapidly learn more about the country behind what is being covered in the news. In this blog I would like to educate others on three interesting facts I have found while researching more about the country of Japan.

“Japanese celebrate Christmas, but it is more like Valentine's Day in the western world” Facts. “About .5% of the Japanese population is estimated to be Christian, with the majority of Japanese being tolerant of all faiths: Buddhism, Christianity, Shinto, etc.” They are embrasures of several different festivals and celebrations and tend to celebrate Christmas on more of a commercial level. Dec. 23 is there national holiday for the present emperor’s birthday and Jan. 1 is the most important holiday in Japan for New Years (shogatsu of oshogatsu). Many businesses will remain closed until Jan. 3. If only Canada would set a three-day holiday and we could spend more time with the family like Japan does. Part of the reason why Jan. 1 is a major holiday is because Japanese traditionally view each year as completely separate, providing a fresh start. They have a belief that all duties should be completed before the New Year and the parties are called “bonenkai parties” meaning “year forgetting parties”.

“Sometimes the trains are so crowded railway staff are employed to cram passengers inside” Facts. This is not surprising since Japan has over 127 million people, making them the tenth-largest population in the world. The Yamanote line in Tokyo carries between three to four million passengers everyday. During rush hour “tushy pushers” shove people into trains. So if you go to Japan remind yourself this is normal someone may touch your tushy while on a subway if your close to the door.

“Vending machines in Japan sell beer, hot and cold canned coffee, cigarettes, and other items” Facts. Japan has one of the world’s highest vending machine densities. Many of the machines will only sell your typical pop, juice, vitamin or energy drinks, while others sell alcoholic beverages and cigarettes. On a smaller scale it is possible to find ice cream, rice, disposable cameras, instant noodles in a vending machine.

I hope some of these facts have enticed people to learn more about Japan.
My heart goes out to all those have been affected by the disasters happening in Japan. 

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Monday, March 7, 2011

I could be the next great baker

Over the past month I have been fascinated with professional cake decorating. I have spent countless hours in front of the television watching Ace of Cakes on the Food Network and Cake Boss on TLC. I thought to myself, “that doesn’t look so hard. I could make a cake like that in no time.”
This was the final product

I figured this was a perfect time because a friend of mine was celebrating his 23rd
 birthday. I started my list and headed out to the store to grab all the supplies I would need. Now in the past I have done some simple cake decorating with butter cream icing but never used fondant before. Let me tell you boys and girls, it’s a lot of work.
In total I spent about three days making a cake and that included all the preparing, baking, decorating, and cleaning. With all that time spent alone in the kitchen I started thinking to myself, “why did I even start this? and where did the tradition of birthday cakes come from?"

Many historians have their different opinions of where the birthday cake originated. It is believed that the Ancient Greeks were the first to start this tradition. The story goes, “the Greeks offered round shaped cakes to the Goddess of Moon called Artmis. It is for this reason that even candles were placed on the cake to make it glow like the moon.” (source)

Some other interesting cake facts I found were:

  • Millions of years ago Celtic people used ago cakes in a ritual. When celebrating a festival called Beltane, they lit bonfires at the top of a hill and rolled cakes down the hill. If the cake didn’t break, they believed it would bring good fortune.
  • In England during the 17th century people believed keeping fruitcakes under the pillows of those who were unmarried would give that individual sweet dreams about a fiancĂ©e.
  • During the medieval times in England people would place objects like coins, rings, and thimbles in the cake batter. It was believed that those who found the coins in the cake would become wealthy and those who found the thimble would never marry. The lucky individual who found a ring in the cake would soon be married.

Today cakes have become apart of so many different traditions it’s hard to keep track of the original purpose. Either way i'll eat a nice piece of cake if you make it next time. 

External Links:
History of Cakes
Birthday History

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Road Trip

Over the past week I have been on a road trip through Northern Ontario. I began my adventure in Burlington, Ont. with the final destination of Sudbury, Ont. programmed into my G.P.S.

While I was driving I started talking to myself, “I really don’t know much about the province of Ontario. I mean I’ve grown up here, but never really learned about my surrounding.” It was a long drive.

After some digging, these are the most interesting tidbits of information I have found:
  • Ontario is the second largest province in Eastern Canada, only Quebec is larger. If Ontario could be its own country it would be larger than France and Spain combined.
  • Some cities in Ontario are actually south of places in the United States. As a Canada I have always thought of Canada as North of the U.S., even if I can clearly see on a map that Toronto and much of the Niagara Region is south of Seattle, North Dakota and parts of Maine, I never really put that much thought into it.
  • This summer, if you haven’t already been, take a trip out to the world’s largest freshwater beach, Wasaga Beach. Along Georgian Bay you can enjoy 14 km of sand and sun.

#500 locomotive on preserve.
  • In Gananoque, Ont. (north, east of Kingston, Ont.) used to have North American’s shortest running railway: The Thousand Island Railway was only 5.43 km long. The service ran for 111 years from 1884 to 1995, and in October 1997 the rails were removed. Today you can visit the unique locomotive #500 preserved at Sculpture Park, where King Street crosses the Gananoque River and go for a hike along the old track.

At my final destination, Greater Sudbury, I was able to visit the world’s largest coin: the Big Nickel, a giant reproduction of a 1951 Canadian Nickel, measuring 30ft in diameter.

As you have travelled across Ontario, short or long distances, is there anything interesting you have learned about Ontario?

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