Izu Rhythm

Visit a Japanese Village

Everything about Japanese culture can be traced back to its rural villages. Japanese language, behavior, rituals, and diet can be traced back to a small village tucked away in a remote mountain valley.

How can that be? Let’s look at one lesson from language.

One of the first words a foreigner learns when studying Japanese is “gaijin,” 外人 which means ‘outsider.’ The more polite and socially accepted version of this word is “gaikokujin,” 外国人 which means ‘person from a foreign country.’ The word “gaijin” is strongly connected to the important concepts of “uchi” 内 and “soto” 外 in Japanese.

The Unique History of Ito

Itō has been inhabited since the Jōmon period – roughly 13,000-300 B.C. This era coincides with the Stone Age. The hunter-gatherer Jōmon people are believed to have entered Japan via the Japan Sea and the northern archipelago. They occupied northeastern Japan, and Izu was at the far western boundaries of their range. Archaeological digs here in Itō have produced artifacts from that time including primitive tools and pottery.

Setsubun Day

Today is Setsubun in Japan. It is one of several very old traditions imported from Chinese culture and based on the lunar calendar.

In the West, spring is associated with the vernal equinox (March 21), and rituals in European countries generally take place in early April. In Japan, the beginning of February is seen as the start of a transition from winter to spring. It is a time when the seasonal responsibilities of numerous gods start to shift, and they get restless and move around. To prevent gods of bad luck from wandering into the house, people developed a protective ritual called mamemaki (mah-may-mah-kee) or bean sowing.

Who was Miura Anjin?

Itō’s biggest festival is called Anjin sai and it celebrates the life and accomplishments of Miura Anjin (William Adams). Dancing, a taiko drumming competition and a fireworks show featuring more than 10,000 fireworks are highlights of the festival held in August every year.

Izu Wasabi – Japan’s Best!

Sushi has become very popular throughout the world. Perhaps the most recognizable ingredient in sushi is wasabi. By now, many sushi lovers know that the wasabi they have on their sushi is not actually wasabi. It is a horseradish based mixture of ingredients designed to mimic wasabi.

So what is real wasabi? It is the root of an aquatic plant that grows in cold mountain streams. It is also very sensitive: grated wasabi must be eaten within 5-15 minutes in order to taste its fullest flavor.