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A Mandala is a Cosmic Diagram that is Symbolic of the Universe

Mandala is a ritual diagram symbolic of the universe---object of meditation in Tantra and Vajrayana Buddhism.

A mandala is a ritual diagram that serves as an object of meditation in Tantra and Vajrayana Buddhism. It is symbolic of the universe.

Around the eleventh century, mandala meditation was initiated in Tibet from India and even today, lamas pass on their knowledge to initiates in the same way.

Mandalas are fabricated at the beginning of a puja, out of grains of colored sand watchfully placed on a specially prepared platform. They are momentary structures and in a instruction of impermanence, are deliberately destroyed at the end of the ritual, their sand swept up and dispensed into a nearby stream or river.

Mandala Denotes the Mind and the Body of the Buddha

The word Mandala is derived from the root manda, essence; and la, container. Thus, a mandala is a container of essence. As an image, it may denote both the mind and the body of the Buddha. The origin of the mandala is the center, the bindu, a dot—a symbol free of dimensions. Bindu also means seed, sperm or drop—the salient starting point. It is the congregation center into which outside energies are drawn, and in the act of drawing in the forces, the devotee’s own energies unfold. In the process, the mandala is sanctified to a deity.

Monks carefully construing a mandala, mystical diagram, with colored sand

Monks carefully construing a mandala, mystical diagram, with colored sand. As is apparent, the making of a mandala is a mind-numbing process, requiring great concentration and attention to every intricate detail of color, line and form. Once the ritualistic purpose is over, the sand is swept away—one more teaching in the impermanence of things. For desire meditate on impurity, for hatred kindness, and for ignorance interdependent arising.

In its creation, a line materializes out of a dot. Other lines are drawn until they intersect, creating triangular geometrical patterns. The circle drawn around stands for the dynamic consciousness of the initiated. The outlying square symbolizes the physical world bound in four directions, and characterized by the four gates; and the central area is the deity. Appearance does not bind, attachment binds. The center being visualized as the essence, and the circumference, as clasping, a mandala thus connotes a grasping of the essence.

Mandala— The Essence of One’s Own Buddha Nature

A Buddha figure in a Tibetan temple, with a mandala on the roof overhead. The figure of the Buddha can be seen in the center of the mandala, which might be supposed to exemplify the being of the Buddha and his nirvana. Examination of such a mandala would be intended to help the practitioner grasp the essence of his own Buddha nature by following the diagram of spiritual experience laid out in the mandala.

Monks in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries are required to learn how to construct mandalas

All monks in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries are required to learn how to construct mandalas. They have to memories texts that specify names, lengths and positions of the primary lines outlining the basic structure of mandalas, as well as the techniques of drawing and pouring sand. By this unfavorable conditions are pacified. These texts, though, do not describe every detail of each mandala, but rather serve as mnemonic guides to the complete forms that must be learned from the repeated practice of construction under the guidance of proficient monks. However, most of us seldom recognize the karmic or ritualistic nature of our actions. Knowing only verbally, such people never accomplish anything very beneficial.

Carl Jung’s Mandala and Its Relationship to Art Psychotherapy

Carl Jung's Mandala And Its Relationship To Art Psychotherapy The Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung asserted that the mandala, or, more generally, a circular art form, had a comforting and centering effect upon its maker or observer. He wrote in 1973,

The pictures differ widely, according to the stage of the therapeutic process; but certain important stages correspond to definite motifs. Without going into therapeutic details, I would only like to say that a rearranging of the personality is involved. A kind of new centering. That is why mandalas most appear in connection with chaotic, psychic states of disorientation or panic. Then they have the purpose of reducing the confusion to order, though this is never the conscious intention of the patients. At all events, they express order, balance, and wholeness. Patients themselves often emphasize the beneticial or soothing effect of such pictures.

Jung applied the mandala in his own personal therapy too and thought it to be a visible statement of his psychic state at the moment it was created. As Jung considered the course of producing a mandala to be healing, he would also often construe symbolism appearing within the mandala. He used such descriptions as a bridge from the unconscious to the conscious. He stimulated his patients at the appropriate time in their therapy to learn to decode their own symbols, and thus used the mandala as a channel from dependency on himself, the therapist, to greater autonomy for the patient. Art psychotherapists these days often make use of the mandala as an essential instrument for self-awareness, conflict resolution, and as a foundation for various other art psychotherapeutic techniques in a variety of situations.

Art therapist Joan Kellogg describes the mandala as a still picture taken out of context from a moving picture of the life process of the person. She expounded the process of making a mandala:

Because of the intense focusing when working with the mandala, an altered state of consciousness, an almost hypnotic state may ensue. The mandala then works itself differently than one’s conscious desires. In a sort of biofeedback manner, one gives reign to that part of one’s self that is able to express the contents of consciousness. Then, on reflecting on the finished product, one participates critically.

Cognitively-oriented psychoanalysts occasionally shrink back from Jungian theory asserting that it is too complicated and difficult to understand and accordingly better left to the artistic and religious. Jung every so often has not gained the admiration he warrants among the more scientific schools of thought. The predicament of art psychotherapy has been to some extent similar to that of Jungian theory by reason of the limited amount of scientific research currently existing in such a moderately new field.

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Posted in Faith and Religion Music, Arts, and Culture

Southeast Asia: The Best Sights, Destinations, and Experiences (ASEAN Travel)

SOUTHEAST ASIA: The Best Sights, Destinations, and Experiences (ASEAN Travel)

No longer seen merely as an exotic counterpart to the Occident, South-East Asia has developed an identity all its own over the past few years. You will find very little homogeneity in ASEAN, with every country priding itself on a distant identity concerning culture, religion, cuisine, and traditions.

This vast region is an overwhelming mix of landscapes, from verdant, rolling hills, and isolated islands with white-sand beaches to thick forests and intriguing caves. You can enjoy a range of diverse experiences, and no matter what type of traveler you are, you will find that one special place that will have you returning repeatedly. There are beaches to bum about on, temples, and architectural marvels to visit, hills aplenty to hike, tea estates to unwind at and a whole lot of truly incredible foods to experiment with.

Because we know that you could spend your entire life trying to uncover all of South-East Asia’s treats and not make much headway, we have brought together a collection of the best, unique experiences on offer in the ASEAN countries.

Get off the highway and wander down little, hidden by-lanes where you will discover everything from forgotten tribes, to a mosque built of pure gold, and a swimming pool on top of the world.

Best Travel Ideas for Southeast Asia

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Posted in Music, Arts, and Culture Travels and Journeys

When Crisis Hits Corporate Culture

When Crisis Hits Corporate Culture

Corporate culture, defined as “how we do things around here,” powerfully influences people.

There are four core cultures: control, collaboration, competence, and cultivation. The “competence” culture creates a perception of distinction by offering one-of-a-kind products and services. They pursue excellence and capitalize on high capability. Filled with high achievers, they are highly competitive, and intensely focused on winning.

The power of culture derives from implementation and identity. With success (perceived or real), “how we do things” becomes the equivalent of “who we are” (identity). Now the motivation to keep doing things the same way subtly shifts to a motivation to preserve identity. Culture grows so powerful precisely because it becomes the identity of the firm and its leaders.

Strengths taken to extremes turn into liabilities. When leaders fail to keep behavior in balance, problems emerge. These loom large because they are, in fact, identity problems. Out-of-balance behaviors unique to competence cultures include: mistrust, secrecy, arrogance, fear of making or revealing mistakes, excessive financial incentives, emphasis on winning, refusing to consider odds of losing, selfishness, and ethics that take a back seat to cashing in quickly.

Leaders must monitor their cultures, the strengths and potential liabilities, keeping both in balance and preventing strengths from running to the extreme. Indeed, when an extreme is allowed to “mature,” the company will have a serious problem borne of its strengths but characterized by great weakness.

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Posted in Business and Strategy Management and Leadership

The Indispensable Guide to Sake and Japanese Culture

Sake Ceremony in Japan

An Introduction to Sake and Japan

The Japanese archipelago stretches over 3,000 km from north to south. Therefore, there are various lifestyles and customs. In addition, Honshu (the main island) is divided into the Pacific Ocean side and Japan Sea side by it’s over 1,000-meter elevation backbone ridge. This further results in different lifestyles and customs.

Therefore, the various cultures such as food and drink, festival rites, and folk entertainment have developed according to the climate of the plains, basins, mountains, and seasides. Since there had been almost no historical influence of politics and religion, the cultures of each small local community have been well preserved.

Despite this history, the pursuit of higher-quality sake has progressively evolved.

For example, in ancient times, it was the custom for the people in each region to brew and drink sake with Shinto deities after offering it to those deities at festivals and events. The main sake was called doburoku (unrefined sake). However, such a tradition has declined these days.

More ancient sake, such as kuchinokami-no-sake (sake made from rice or other cereal which is chewed to promote fermentation) and shitogi-zake (sake made from powdered rice which is also chewed) were recorded but the details have not been confirmed.

Seishu (refined sake) is the symbol of present-day sake. In the urban areas, this dates back to the Edo period (17th to 19th century). However, for the farming, mountain, and fishing villages, it was after the Meiji era (19th to 20th century) with the development of brewing techniques and distribution channels.

Present-day sake is made with high-quality standards for a refined taste and is easily available.

However, this standardization does not necessarily mean the decline of the cultural aspects of sake. The relationships of festival rites and sake, appetizers and sake, and containers and sake pass on the unique Japanese tradition, although the differences of the regions are declining.

By striving for the excellent taste and recounting the history of sake, we hope to pass on this part of Japanese culture to future generations and the international community.

History of Sake

History of Sake

Sake is made from rice. In Japan, sake has been consumed since ancient times. Of course, it is not exactly the same sake as what we have these days. The technique has advanced over time to the present day. Considering that the common ingredient, rice, is both the staple of Japanese food and the main ingredient of sake, this history goes back about 2,000 years.

The brewing of sake is a complex process. First, the rice starch needs to be converted into sugar. Then sugar is converted by kobo (yeast) into alcohol. The present, established method of converting starch into sugar is by koji-kin (aspergillus mold), the same process used since the fourth century. Until that time, sake was brewed by a method such as kuchikami-sake (sake made from rice or other cereal, which is chewed to promote fermentation.)

The organization called Miki-no-Tsukasa (sake brewery office) was established by the Imperial Court and started brewing sake for the ceremonies during the Heian period (eighth to 12th century). During the Muromachi period (15th century), hundreds of small-scale sake shops were born in Kyoto and sake came to be brewed throughout the year. At the same time, the brewers of soboshu, sake brewed in temples in Nara and other places, came to lead the development of brewing techniques.

Since then, the technical development with consistent quality has progressed and from the middle of the Edo period (around 18th century), the brewing technique was established and is similar to the technique used today.

First, koji-kin (aspergillus mold) is carefully grown over the steamed rice to make komekoji (malted rice). Then, to komekoji, steamed rice and water are added to make the fermentation starter, shubo (yeast mash). After that, the fermentation is promoted by the method called danjikomi (three-step fermentation process) by adding steamed rice, komekoji, and water three times. After the fermentation, sake is filtered, pasteurized at low temperature, stored, and matured. This production method requires very complex, advanced skill.

At around this time, it became popular to concentrate brewing sake in the best season, winter. This technical development gave rise to the special professional group of sake brewing consisting of toji (chief sake brewer) and kurabito (a worker at a sake brewery.) Migrant workers mainly from farming villages during agricultural off-season became the professional group.

It was also discovered that the quality of water used in brewing had an effect on the brewing of sake. It was the development of the breeding of rice, brewery science, and manufacturing facilities after the Meiji era (19th to 20th century), which marked the beginning of modern Japan, that established the modern brewing process. However, the skill involved with the multiple parallel fermentation process, which converts rice starch into sugar by koji-kin (aspergillus mold) and converts sugar into alcohol by the power of kobo (yeast) simultaneously, has not changed even today.

The fermentation method, which performs simultaneous saccharification of rice and alcoholic fermentation of sugar. With this method, the putrefaction risk becomes lower and alcohol content becomes higher than saccharifying and fermenting alcohol separately.

Various Sake Produced in Climate Conditions of Japan

Japan, which is situated off the northeast portion of the Eurasian continent is a long arc-shaped island country, surrounded by the Kuroshio (warm current) flowing from south to north and the Oyashio (cold current) flowing from north to southwest. The climate varies greatly from north to south and from the Pacific Ocean side to the Japan Sea side. Japan also belongs to the temperate monsoon region and experiences four seasons. However, due to the central mountain range that divides the archipelago, the character of the climate, even at the same latitude, is quite different from the Pacific Ocean side to the Japan Sea side.

As a result, the farm and marine products are very different in each region. Although food from all over the country is available these days, it was in the past the custom for the Japanese to eat local food using local recipes. Therefore, traditional Japanese cuisine is as diverse in flavor, seasoning, and cooking methods as each region.

As a result, the basics of brewing sake in over the 1,000 breweries in Japan are to match the sake to the local diet. For example, there is many red fish caught from the Pacific Ocean, white fish from the Seto Inland Sea, and fatty fish from the Sea of Japan because of the extremely cold winters. Food preservation developed in the inland provinces. In addition, some breweries brewed sake for Edo (present-day Tokyo), which was the world’s largest consumer city during the Edo period (17th to 19th century). Brewing sake for each lifestyle and diet was developed and refined for each region.

Even now, the Japanese cultural sensitivity to the four seasons is reflected in how sake is consumed. Each season brings us a different type of sake and a different way to drink it. In autumn, we have hiyaoroshi, which is sake well matured over the summer; in the winter to early spring, shiboritate (fresh sake) with a fresh flavor; in the hot summer, namazake (unpasteurized sake), which is cooled in the refrigerator. Some prefer to drink sake cold or at room temperature called hiya (unwarmed sake). On the other hand, even these days, others prefer the traditional drinking custom of kanzake (warmed sake) from autumn to spring.

Sake and Japanese Cuisine

Recently, a technical approach to sake brewing has developed. There are the traditional kimoto and yamahai with a sour and thick taste; and daiginjo (very special brew) with the fruity taste using highly polished rice and brewing at a low temperature. Recently, sparkling sake is being produced.

The traditional method of growing of active kobo (yeast) through the action of lactic acid produced by natural lactic acid bacterium while preventing other bacteria activity.

Yamahai operates kimoto-type shubo (yeast mash) growing method which cut the operation procedure called yamaoroshi, grinding rice during the process of active kobo.

Most importantly, the quality control of sake after shipping is essential for enjoying the delicate taste and different flavors. The reason for the sake containers to have lightproof brown or UV-cut bottles is to reduce the sunlight, the most dangerous factor for preserving sake. For drinking delicious sake, it is important to store it in a cool, dark place.

Three Reasons Why Sake Goes Well with Japanese Cuisine

A distinct flavor produced from the brewing of sake is called umami, or savory good taste. These days, sake is consumed with a variety of delicious foods. However, traditionally, it was consumed with a simple appetizer called sakana. The variety of conditions spanning east to west in Japan has produced a diversity of flavors complimentary to the local sake.

  1. Sake contrasts well with salty foods. Because the Japanese summers are hot and humid, salted seafood evolved as a preservative over smoked foods. Therefore, many appetizers that are consumed with sake are high in salt content. Shiokara (salted and fermented fish innards) and naresushi are such examples. It was also common to have sake with salt and miso (fermented soybean paste) only. The umami character of sake goes well with the salty taste of these appetizers.
  2. Sake complements fermented foods. The variety of ingredients used in Japanese cuisine results in unique seasonings. Common seasonings such as shoyu (soy sauce), miso, komesu (rice vinegar), and mirin (sweet sake for cooking) are all fermented using koji (malted rice). In particular, shoyu and miso, like sake, are uniquely developed in each region and have become the main taste of the local cuisine. The predominant use of fermented foods and almost no use of oils and fats are the features of “Washoku: Traditional Japanese Dietary Cultures” listed on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list.
  3. Sake is good in recipes for cooking. The variety of fish, which Japanese people prefer to eat, is rich in minerals and calcium, more than that of Western food. Sake goes well with these flavors. Additionally, it has a good masking effect to remove the odor of raw fish. Therefore, sake is often used, not only as a drink, but also as a cooking ingredient. For these reasons, sake goes well with Japanese cuisine.

The good taste and the variety of qualities of present-day sake have not only become popular over a wide range of Japanese cuisine. It has also become popular with international dishes including fatty meats.

Sake Strongly Connected with Traditional Ceremonies

Shinto is a polytheistic belief system based on nature and ancestor worship. As such, there are many Shinto deities throughout Japan. Based on farming culture, Japan cultivates rice in the northernmost possible location of the world. Rice produced under these severe weather conditions has become the most precious staple food for the Japanese. It has been ancient tradition to celebrate the good harvest and express gratitude by offering sake to the deities. The food and sake offerings to the deities are called shinsen. Although there are various offerings for each region, the essential ones are as follows: miki (sake made from fermented rice), mike (washed rice or boiled white rice), and mikagami (round rice cake made from pounded steamed rice).

These days, the Japanese people eat rice throughout the year as a staple food. However, in the older days, people used to eat katemeshi, rice mixed with crops such as millet as a staple food, eating pure rice only on honored days such as ceremonies. In addition, sake made from the abundance of valuable rice and through much effort has become the most important part of these offerings.

Drinking sake with the deities and offering gifts to them on festival days are traditions passed on to today. Even today, the summoning of the Shinto deities is a tradition that is preserved throughout Japan.

For example, the ceremony jichinsai, for the construction of the new buildings, is performed by sprinkling sake over the property and offering it to the owners. Furthermore, Japan celebrates four distinct seasons with a festival called Sekku, performed at the turning point of each season. Although it has been simplified in recent years, it used to be the custom to float seasonal flower petals on sake, admire the flowers, and drink sake. For example, peach sake in March, sweet-flag sake in May, and chrysanthemum sake in September. People drink it to ward off evil spirits and wish for a long life. Also, on New Year’s Day, there is a custom by which people wish the peace for the new year by drinking sake called toso, a mixture of about ten kinds of herbs mixed with seishu (refined sake).

While feeling the change of each season, we Japanese hope to cherish those events by celebrating with sake and strengthen the ties now and forever.

Sake in Japanese Wedding Ceremony

Sake Necessary for Social Bonding

Since ancient times, Japanese have used sake as a way to create special bonds with each other. Sakazukigoto is a ceremony meaning the exchanging of sake cups. San-san-kudo is the most popular type of ceremony. After pouring sake, each person takes three sips of sake from each of three kinds of cups: large, middle, and small. It is important to sip three times as the number three is considered lucky. Especially in wedding ceremonies, san-san-kudo is usually performed while making vows before Shinto deities.

Outside of weddings, a custom called katame-no-sakazuki (ceremony of exchanging sake cups as a pledge of friendship) is used when people with no blood relationship become sworn brothers or a parent and a child. The phrase, “exchanging sake cups,” has a similar meaning as “contract” in Western societies. The phrases “drink sake together” and “eat out of the same pot,” mean closer relationships without any special contracts.

During present-day Japanese banquets, we often hear the phrase like “let’s do without the formalities and make ourselves at home today.” This means that there is no distinction between social statuses for developing relationships. Usually organizers and guests of honor give the opening speech to propose the toast saying, “kampai” at the beginning of the banquet. Kampai means to dry or empty a glass. It is a Japanese word to express not only a toast, but also a feeling of cultural bonding.

After this reiko (formal ceremony) people start bureiko, an informal party. The phrase, “we wish you continued success and prosperity …,” is usually used to propose a toast of kampai.

The word kinen means, “praying to the deities” In short, the original traditional ceremony sakazukigoto (ceremony of exchanging sake cups) is symbolized in the act of the toast, kampai, as the simplified confirmation of the purpose of the gathering. Therefore, we make a toast, kampai, with sake to pray to the deities.

Originally, it was common that people drank sake not only for auspicious occasions but also for funerals and Buddhist services. People drank sake to bid farewell and to remember the deceased. For important emotions in Japanese life, sake was indispensable.

Sake in Gift Exchange Culture

Gift Exchange Culture and Sake

It is ancient tradition and customary for people to exchange sake as gifts. First, sake is indispensable as the offering to the deities.

People bring sake as the celebration gift on New Year’s holidays and at festivals saying the words such as “we offer this to Shinto deities” or “we offer this to Buddha.” After offering sake to the deities, people commenced with osagari, consuming sake with the deities. Therefore, sake is indispensable as the gift on festival days.

Also since ancient times, sake has been used as the expression of sympathy and condolences. It was especially important to give sake as an expression of sympathy in the case of fires and disasters. It was custom for neighbors to help clear debris of fires and disasters. It was also custom to bring sake to encourage good feelings and restore good luck. As such, the custom of bringing sake as the expression of sympathy after fire and accidents was established.

There are other Japanese unique gifts called o-chugen in summer and o-seibo at the end of the year. These are gifts from one person to another to express gratitude for their help. The gift-giving custom of o-chugen and o-seibo started during the Edo period (17th to 19th century) when subordinates gave gifts to superiors as a token of their gratitude. In return, the superiors would give back a gift, twice of value, called baigaeshi. Soon after, this custom became popular regardless of social rank. The main gift was sake.

Although modern society has a variety of items for gift giving, the custom of giving gifts as religious offerings, expressing sympathy, and o-chugen and o-seibo are deeply rooted in Japanese society. Sake still shows its presence as one of the main gift items.

Development of Sake and Its Distribution

Originally, sake was brewed in each region throughout Japan as local production for local consumption. From the late Muromachi period (16th century) to the early Edo period (17th century), the brewing industry was concentrated in the Kinki region such as Nara, Fushimi, and Itami.

This changed during the Edo period (17th to 19th century) because of a peaceful 300-year reign of the Tokugawa shogunate and a developing economy. Since the population of Edo (present-day Tokyo), the center of politics, was already over one million, there was a strong demand for sake there. In addition, the shogunate and related domains strictly controlled the licensing system for production and sales of sake.

Present-day Nada in Hyogo Prefecture, the largest sake-producing district, grew as the largest sake supplier for Edo. Originally, the Kansai region had the concentration of sake brewing techniques from the Nara period (eighth century). Also, the extremely cold winter climate was suitable for brewing sake. In addition, an abundant supply of hard water called miyamizu, suitable for brewing sake, was discovered there.

As it was located near Osaka, the center of the nation’s economy, a special sea route using a ship called tarukaisen was established for shipping the sake to Edo. Although it had several sea routes surrounding the Japanese archipelago, throughout the Edo period, the original purpose was for the transport of sake.

The sake wholesale district in Edo, Shinkawa, which was established as the shipping discharge base in Edo, became the largest base of sake distribution in eastern Japan. Sake brewing in Nada was developed to the taste of urban residents of Edo. Nada thus grew as the representative sake-producing district in Japan. Because of the abundance of sake shipped to Edo, it was easily available to the population.

Since the main distribution system moved from maritime to railroad in the Meiji era (19th to 20th century), several sake brewery districts were established mainly for selling outside of their own area: Fushimi in Kyoto Prefecture, Saijo in Hiroshima Prefecture, and Jojima in Fukuoka Prefecture.

Nowadays, people can drink various locally brewed sake quite easily throughout Japan owing to the development of reliable logistics systems. Presently, the most productive districts of sake are Hyogo Prefecture, Kyoto Prefecture, Niigata Prefecture, Saitama Prefecture, Akita Prefecture, and Aichi Prefecture.

Sake as the National Alcoholic Drink of Japan

Presently in Japan, people can drink various types of alcohol such as beer, wine, and whiskey along with various foods from all over the world. It was important for us to understand and respect the cultural backgrounds of each country as we consume a variety of traditional food and drink of each of those countries.

Although the Japanese diet has undergone many changes, the conventional Japanese cuisine and sake are being seen in a new light. At the same time, the cultural and historical significance of Japanese cuisine and sake have come to attract people’s attention as well.

The reasons why sake qualifies as “the national alcoholic drink of Japan” are the followings: it is made from rice and water, the blessings of Japanese climate; it has the unique technique of using koji-kin (aspergillus mold) grown by the blessed climate of Japan; it has the history that people have consumed it for a long time throughout Japan; it has the strong connection with Japanese native beliefs, traditional annual events, and lifestyle; and it is brewed all over Japan.

Therefore, cherishing “the national alcoholic drink of Japan” is none other than being proud of Japanese culture. Of course, it is also important to deepen the mutual understanding by respecting foreign cultures, histories, foods, and alcoholic drinks. Japanese sake has been recognized overseas as the word, “sake.” Furthermore, recently the words such as ginjo (special brew sake) and junmai (pure rice sake) have become popular as well. In recent years, the export volume of sake for overseas has increased favorably.

The Japanese have promoted sake overseas as the representative of Japan, in other words, “the national alcoholic drink of Japan.”

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Posted in Music, Arts, and Culture Travels and Journeys

Football Graffiti Walls in Rio de Janeiro

Football Graffiti Walls in Rio de Janeiro

Brazilian football has a richer history than any other country in the world. A wall littered with graffiti related to football fever in Brazil is a five-minute drive from the Maracana stadium, the principal host to the 2014 World Cup Soccer, and one of the key stadiums for the 2016 Summer Olympics, and the 2016 Summer Paralympics.

The graffiti wall is devoted to some of the greatest names in Brazilian football, all portrayed very craftily in contrast to the yellow and green of the national colors. Zico is on the left, Pele in the middle and, on the right, with his famous bow legs, is Garrincha, a team-mate of Pele’s and one of the eminent dribblers in history of the game.

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Posted in Music, Arts, and Culture Travels and Journeys

China’s Relexed One-Child Policy: Baby Boom in China?

China's Relexed One-Child Policy: Baby Boom in China?

China’s implemented a much-criticized state-mandated family planning policy in 1979 to control the swelling population of a then-poor nation. The stipulated that every couple may have just one child. Ethnic minorities were allowed to have two children. Couples in rural areas were allowed have a second child if their first child was a girl.

Over three decades, the one-child policy worked too well and has produced a gender imbalance and a shrinking work force. Sex ratio in China is now 117 males for every 100 females. The policy has also resulted in an elderly population that rivals Japan’s in percentages and costs for caring for the elderly.

Under the latest change to the policy, urban couples will also be allowed to have two children, if at least one spouse is an only child. This change is estimated to produce ten million additional babies over the next five years.

'China, Inc.: How the Rise of the Next Superpower Challenges America and the World' by Ted Fishman (ISBN 0743257359) The trend of more babies, however, doesn’t look enduring. Most forecasts only account for an increase in births over the next five years. After that, as China gets richer, birth rates are likely to continue dwindling.

Wealthier countries simply have fewer kids. This trend has been corroborated with similar demographic developments in Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia. Consider South Korea, where fertility rates continued its four-decade downward trend after the government abolished the family planning program in 1996.

The United Nations estimates China’s population aged 64 and under will fall dramatically over the next 20 years because of lower birth rates.

Some estimate that there’s even an actual upside if China’s birth rate continues falling. Ted Fishman, author of ‘China, Inc.: How the Rise of the Next Superpower Challenges America and the World’, estimates that China will, nonetheless, remains competitive: “you get more and more resources pushed into children and education, and productivity will go up enormously as a result”

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Posted in Global Business

PHILIPPINES: The Best Sights, Destinations, and Experiences (ASEAN Travel)

Best Destinations in Philippines

This is a cocktail of a country, potent and heady. The Philippines does not believe in leaving anything out, so its 7,000-plus islands boast Malay, Chinese, Spanish and indigenous influences, not to mention religious traditions rooted in Islam. Catholicism, animism and everything in between. This country crams as much on its plate as it possibly can, so you will need a clear head to take it all in.

Philippines: At a Glance

Experience the Best Attractions of Philippines

  1. Intramuros, Spanish Walled City within Manila A Shot of Culture: Intramuros, the Spanish walled city within Manila, has a history and culture all its own, and is worth spending a day or two exploring. Start at the Intramuros Visitors Centre, located right by the entrance to Fort Santiago, and wander about the lanes lined with lovely casas until you reach San Augustin, Manila’s oldest stone church. You can also tour Intramuros on a kalesa—a horse-drawn carriage, though walking has its own charm.
  2. Surfing in Siargao, Mindanao, Philippines Surf’s Up: If your beach bum-turn-surfer self is calling out to you, head to Siargao, in the northeast of Mindanao. Time seems to stand still here, as you hitch rides on the famous Cloud 9 break and gaze, over chilled beer, upon skies softening into sunsets. In October, crowds descend on the sleepy island for the Siargao Cup surf competition, one of the Philippines’s largest sporting events.
  3. Puerto Princesa Subterranean River, Philippines A Whole New World: The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River is a marvel of limestone stalactites and stalagmites, and can be accessed on a kayak tour. As you drift into the cave, take in the weird formations sculpted out of the rock over the centuries. You will spot a melting candle by one side, or a rampaging dinosaur on the other!
  4. Apo Reef Island, Philippines Fall Off the Grid: Apo Reef is off the tourist map, which means that you will have the secluded Apo Reef Island and its surrounding reef pretty much all to yourself. You will have a great time being one with the fish as you swim, snorkel, and dive to your heart’s content, emerging only for meals of fresh seafood.
  5. Taal Volcano in Talisay, Philippines An Active Getaway: Climb to the top of the overwhelming Taal Volcano in Talisay, where the bubbling green waters of the Taal Lake await. Within the lake sits yet another volcano, steaming away gently. The trip to the top can be tiring but there are horses available for the less active, and the views from up there are well worth the journey.
  6. Makati City, Metro Manila's financial heart, Philippines Retail Therapy: Indulge yourself in Metro Manila’s financial heart, Makati City, and its Greenbelt mall. You will find a range of treats here—the mall has both open-air and enclosed areas, sit-down as well as fast food eateries, and big international brands (think Calvin Klein, Hermes, and the like) along with high-end and Filipino designer boutiques.
  7. Pristine Islands off the coast at El Nido, Philippines Hop About: Head to the pristine islands off the coast at gorgeous El Nido. There are multiple islands to choose from, each of which is prettier than the other. You can spend your days lazing about on white sands, exploring the area on kayaks and snorkeling among the many colorful fish that call these waters home. If you are lucky you may spot a hawksbill turtle or two, and you may come across dolphins, whale sharks, dugongs, and mantra rays.
  8. Banaue's Rice Terraces, UNESCO-listed World Heritage site Be Bucolic: Get a taste of the Filipino countryside and spend some time amid Banaue’s rice terraces. These rice terraces are a UNESCO-listed World Heritage site, gracefully sculpted into the hillside by the Ifugao people of this quiet little farming community.
  9. Rolling green hills in Batanes, Philippines Get High: You could be forgiven for thinking you are in Scotland when you visit Batanes, the country’s northernmost province. Expect rolling green hills, towering fortresses and the like among the ten islands here.
  10. Slow-roasted Suckling Pig, Philippines Life’s a Feast: You will have a great time going on an eating binge in the Philippines, especially if you love meat. Pork, in particular, plays a big role in the cuisine here, and a slow-roasted suckling pig is the best treat to be had. Even if you are not a big pork-eater, Manila is where you should aim to experiment with your eats and get an introduction to the many flavors that make up Filipino food.
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Of Nagas and Naginis: Serpent Figures in Hinduism and Buddhism

Vishnu and Ananta-Shesha

Nagas and the feminine Naginis are serpent figures who play a role in the Hindu and Buddhist mythologies. The source of the Nagas may possibly be attributed to the pre-Aryan fertility cults of ancient India.

Nagaraja Mucilinda protects Gautama Buddha as he attains enlightenment In the Hindu mythology, the nagas reside within the earth in an aquatic underworld. They are embodiments of terrestrial waters as well as door-and gate-custodians. In terms of significance, the nagas are creatures of abundant power who defend the underworld and confer fertility and prosperity upon those with which they are individually associated in the worldy realm—a meadow, a shrine, a temple, or even a whole kingdom.

If a naga is suitably worshipped, prosperity can result. If ignored, snubbed, or affronted, the naga can cause debacle and cataclysm.

Nagas in Buddhism

In the Buddhist tradition, when Gautama Buddha attains enlightenment, he is said to have been protected by the hood of hood of Nagaraja Mucilinda, symbolizing the principle that the nagas can place their natural powers in the service of a Buddha.

Krishna conquers Naga Kaliya

Nagas in Hinduism

In the Hindu tradition, Vishnu and his avatar Krishna are both portrayed as vanquishers of serpents, indicating their power over the realm of waters. In the middle of the dissolution of one epoch and the beginning of another epoch, Vishnu sleeps on what is left of the old world, a remainder of the cosmic sacrifice represented by the serpent Ananta-Shesha. Krishna conquers the poisonous Naga Kaliya living in the Yamuna river. And Shiva is portrayed adorned with the “Nagendra Haara,” the garland of a serpent. A naga also covers the linga—the iconic representation of Shiva.

Naga Panchami

The Hindu festival Naga Panchami centers around the traditional worship of snakes or serpents throughout India and also in Nepal.

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MYANMAR: The Best Sights, Destinations, and Experiences (ASEAN Travel)

Best Sights of Myanmar

Mandalay, Bagan, Inle, and Yangon—these names all conjure up the wonder that is Myanmar, at least in a traveler’s mind. Now, you have the freedom to venture a little farther as well. With recent reforms easing restrictions in this proud country, it is finally time to see what Myanmar has been hiding away all these years.

Myanmar: At a Glance

Experience the Best Attractions of Myanmar

  1. Chauk Htat Gyi Pagoda, Yangon Architecture 101: Former capitals are full of old glory and great architecture, and Yangon is not far behind. Spend the day marveling at the colossal reclining Buddha at Chauk Htat Gyi Pagoda, the gold-hued Botataung Pagoda and Sule Pagoda, the Burmese Yangon City and the colonial-styled Supreme Court.
  2. Bogyoke Aung San Market, Yangon Hunt for Bargains: The Bogyoke Aung San Market (sometimes known by its British name, Scott’s Market) is a sprawling old handicrafts bazaar of around 2,000 shops. Spend the day alongside locals, haggling for colorful Shan shoulder bags, and interesting bits of local arts and crafts, jewelry, ancient antiques, and lacquer ware.
  3. Mohinga, Rice noodles served with fish soup It’s All Rice: Rice, in all its forms, is a staple in the distinctive cuisine of Myanmar. Rice noodles served with fish soup, known locally as mohinga, are a favorite breakfast dish, and are usually eaten on special occasions.
  4. Mandalay Hill, Myanmar Get a Bird’s Eye View: Climb up Mandalay Hill for an all-encompassing view of how flat Mandalay really is. You will see the Irrawaddy twisting across the land from up here, while you help a local monk brush up his English. This hallowed spot is where Buddha once prophesied the founding of a great city.
  5. Inle Lake Boating, Myanmar Row, Row, Row Your Boat: Surrounded by greenery and marshes, cool morning mists, villages of houses on stilts and floating gardens, the Inle Lake is usually pretty. You can get around the lake on a motorized canoe, or ask around if you want to float about on a traditional flat-bottomed Intha skiff.
  6. Myinkaba Age-old lacquer, Myanmar Art Lessons: Bagan, in the Mandalay region, brims with graceful ruins of old temples, pagodas, and stupas. Between Old and New Bagan, the village of Myinkaba boasts an age-old lacquer ware tradition; you can spend hours rummaging through excellently crafted cups, plates, and boxes, wondering just how many you can fit into your luggage.
  7. Bawbawgyi Pagoda, Thayekhittaya Wander through Ruins: Thayekhittaya or the ‘Fabulous City’ a Pyu capital of long ago, was destroyed almost as long ago by Chinese invaders, and today, it has been nominated for a UNESCO World Heritage listing. Rumble through the ruins among the overgrown bush on an ox cart, and explore the Bawbawgyi Pagoda, one of the oldest in the city, and the Leimyethna Pagoda, with Buddhist relief carvings.
  8. Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon Pagoda Sunsets: Make your way up to the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon as the sun begins to set, the golden spires of the temple light up, monks glide past and local residents trickle in to pay their respects as the sky takes on various colors of pink, oranges and blues. Look for a quiet spot, settle down, and enjoy the peace of the evening.
  9. Mount Popa, Myanmar Find Your Spiritual Side: Go forth and find your holy spirit at Mount Popa, an extinct volcano and the abode of 37 nats or local spirits, once so important that the early kings were rumored to consult them on crucial matters. The solitary peak is covered in stupas; the statues at the base are of the spirits.
  10. Irrawaddy River, Myanmar I am with Stupa: Sagaing lies along the Irrawaddy River, across the only bridge that spans it. It is dotted with white and gold pagodas that shimmer away in the sun, and if you clamber up the tree-hung stairways past ancient monasteries that lead up to various viewpoints, the spectacle of stupas is something else.
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INDONESIA: The Best Sights, Destinations, and Experiences (ASEAN Travel)

Sights and Sounds of Indonesia

The Indonesian archipelago is a incredible blend of exceptional cultures, adventure experiences, and indigenous wildlife that goes way beyond the much-explored realms of Bali. There is no better way to step off the tourist trail and have a assortment of holiday stories that no one else will than with a trip through these 17,000 islands

Indonesia: At a Glance

Experience the Best Attractions of Indonesia

  1. Indonesia Wayang Puppets Get Your Cocoa On: ‘Monggo’ is Javanese for ‘please, go ahead’ and when you taste these scrumptious Indonesian chocolates, you will definitely want to go ahead and eat them by the handful. If Willy Wonka lived outside our heads, we are sure that these scrumptious, dark, locally made treats would be his trademark. Leave room in your bag for them!
  2. Emerald Green Waters of Gill Islands, Lombok Dive into the Deep: Far away and remote, the sparkling clear emerald green waters of the Gill Islands off Lombok are stunning, and diving heaven. Get your scuba gear on—there are hawksbill and Olive Ridley turtles, manta rays, reef sharks, lionfish and many funny looking parrotfish to rub fins with swimming amid all the colorful coral.
  3. Borobudur Buddhist Temple Truly In-spired: Huge temples in rice fields seem to be South East Asia’s thing, and, just like Angkor War, Borobudur is spectacular in itself. An enigmatic Buddhist temple complex rising out of too-green-to-be-true rice paddies, surrounded by volcanic peaks reaching for the skies, it looks like it arrived at the beginning of time. There are monasteries around at which visitors are welcome; you can even join the monks in the prayer chanting.
  4. Komodo Island Tail Tales: Watch out for forked, snake-like tongues on Komodo Island, notable because its home to the world’s largest lizard, the unique and badass Komodo dragon. The largest island in Komodo National Park, surrounded by pink shores and red coral, it is also where you can trek and walk through rural fishing villages on stilts.
  5. Seminyak, Bali Boutiques Shop Your Way through Seminyak: Glitzy Seminyak, home to galleries, local Balinese boutiques, restaurants and excellent hotels lining the beaches, is a whole other world. Go window-shopping on Abhimanyu Street, famous for its exclusive boutiques.
  6. Smoky volcanic hills of Berastagi Misty Mountaintops: Climb up the smoky volcanic hills of Berastagi, where it is always cool and green. Gunung Sibayak and Gunung Sinabung each take a day to hike, and are very easy to get to.
  7. Ubud, Bali Art it Up: As you saw in Eat, Pray, Love was very real— Ubud is serene, impossibly green, and full of art and character. Spend your days soaking in the culture, browsing through local artisans’ shops and whiling the afternoons away in a cafe.
  8. Nasi Goreng, Indonesian Fried Rice Eat Your Heart Out: If you will come back missing something, all bets are on the food. Indonesian cuisine is mouth-watering, colorful and for lack of a better word, delicious. Snack on lightly spiced nasi goreng topped with a fried egg for breakfast, lap up fiery curries and banana-wrapped fish, and enjoy that staple, spicy chili-flavored sambal.
  9. Nusa Tenggara Islands, Indonesia Go Local: Just east of Bali, the islands of Nusa Tenggara are diverse. Discover native animistic rituals and long-running tribal traditions that co-exist alongside Islamic Lombok and Catholic Bores.
  10. Javan Rhinoceros Of Coffee and Rhinos: Java has a fair bit going for it. Surrounded by the aquamarine waters of the Indian Ocean, there are temples, tropical islands, and brilliant surf breaks. Glug down some of that world famous Javan coffee, and go looking for the Javan rhino, one of the rarest mammals in the world.
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