Red 赤 Aka

LAST year, in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day and to kick start more blog posts, I did a post every day leading up to St. Patrick’s Day, each one featuring a different green smoothie.

Find the first one here: St Patrick’s Day green smoothie countdown– The Green Julius- one of the best! It was challenging for me to write a post every day, but I did it, enjoyed it,  but of course stopped immediately after the week was done– going back to feeling successful it if I got even one post done in a month!

THIS year, I had a few ideas, most of which involved food, however I haven’t been able to do the preparation for any of that this year. So I am going to attempt to do something a little bit easier. I’m just going to feature a color every day and hopefully in that way be able to share little bits and pieces of our current life and also share some pictures from the past. In my Japanese class last week the colors were introduced, so I also hope that this will help me memorize them!

Today, I am celebrating RED:



In February, Rita, one of my oldest friends (dating back to 6th grade) and I visited Kiyomizu-dera (dating back to 778). On bike, foot and by bus we traveled to the eastern side of Kyoto and walked halfway up the Otowa mountain to reach this Buddhist Temple.  Alongside Japanese school groups and young Tokyo women dressed in Kimono, I turned around to enjoy the view and took a picture of the three-storied pagoda framing the cityscape of modern Kyoto.


Remember the “on bike” part of our day in Kyoto? They were red. Provided free by the Shunkoin Temple where we lodged for two days.


Shunkoin Temple Bikes

And yes, we did actually ride them, we weren’t just posing with them- and I do have a picture of Rita to prove it….for a later post perhaps.

When I posted this picture in real-time on Facebook, Joan teased us about being in a red-light district.


It was actually a red-lantern district.  Aka-chouchin 赤提灯 literally means “red lantern” and refers to restaurants/bars which have red lanterns hanging outside of them. They are often located on a side street of a busy downtown area. We were starving and had indeed found this side street called Pontocho. It was very narrow and lined with lots of restaurants. We had a hard time deciding but finally picked this one:


We picked it for the fresh leeks and onions set outside however, not the red lantern. Please note the excited cook inside the restaurant. More on him later hopefully!  According to Wikipedia though, Pontocho does have Geisha houses and brothels along with restaurants and bars. I guess we did notice something like that when I came across this bar:

This one is for Leif (nursing mom humor, sorry).

This one is for Leif (nursing mom humor, sorry).

More interesting to me though, is that Pontocho sounded a little more European than Japanese. Again according to Wikipedia, the name comes from the English “point” and Portuguese “ponto” (also meaning point” and the Japanese word “cho” meaning street or block.

Speaking of Europe and red light districts, here is one of my favorite pictures from Amsterdam:


Melinda and I were taken by these bold shutters when we visited Amsterdam in April, 2010.

Another picture I love from our time in Europe is this one, taken in Calabria Italy, August 2010.


We were staying with Sara’s in-laws at their beach house in southern Italy & while we were playing in the ocean these mussels were cooking in preparation for our dinner. To see Fiona eating these like candy, go here: Mangiare

  “Aka” reminds me of the trick I was taught (thanks Sister Eddington) to roll my “r’s” in German: to train myself to roll at the back of the throat, not the front. You say “Aka Ara” over and over again and focus on how you said the “K” in Aka, and THAT is where you roll your German “R.” That also brings me to my favorite picture ever taken of Steffan and Polly or, as Fiona called them at the time, “Steffananpolly.”


They are looking out over the river Elbe, in Dresden, Germany.

Since I know there would be a little bit of disappointment for me to have a post with no pictures of my kids, I include a comparison here.  Fiona and Leif are roughly the same age in these photos. (Fiona a few months older).

Churaumi Aquarium, Okinawa

Churaumi Aquarium, Okinawa


Fiona guarding the Tower of London

Those red boots also were part of one of my favorite pictures from North Carolina:

Gary & Fiona's boots, respectively.

Gary & Fiona’s boots, respectively.

“Aka” isn’t the only way to describe red in Japanese. There is akaneiro (madder red), enji (dark red), karakurenai (crimson) and hiiro (scarlet). My favorite shades tend to be crimson or scarlet, however in any shade of red, I just love the color  for its contrast. Too much red feels to me a bit overpowering.


Real Geisha we followed happened to be walking next to in the Gion district of Kyoto.

A little further along our walk, and after the Geisha vanished mysteriously into a side street, we came across these wooden placards hung with red thread. From what we could gather, since a few of them were written in English and German, they were wishes of people who also walked along the Philosopher’s path.  By the time we got there, it was closed, but it seemed as though you could buy these little wooden boards, write your wish upon it and hang yours alongside the hopes and dreams of other travelers. Unsurprisingly and yet not un-poetically,  the Germans wished for good health for their family.


I have no idea if it is related or not, but there is a Chinese legend which also came to Japan which involves a “red string of fate.” The gods tie the red string around the little finger of those who are supposed to influence the lives of each other in a positive and/or a romantic way. Somewhat like the western idea of “soulmates.” The cord may stretch or tangle but will not break. So….I guess my red wedding cake wasn’t that strange after all!

When I looked back on these pictures I took on the trip Rita and I took to Tokyo, I noticed how the woman on the bridge really stood out against the neutrality of the Imperial Palace Garden’s winter hues.



Even from afar you can spot it.

No action shot of this one, but blushing from shame or embarrassment and using “red” in an idiomatic way to describe that emotion is cross-cultural:

akahaji o kaku 赤恥をかく — Be put to shame in public, be humiliated.

akaku naru 赤くなる — To blush, to turn red with embarrassment.

If you were to take a box of crayons and draw a picture of a sunny day, what crayon would you grab when you wanted to draw the sun? Supposedly, Japanese children draw the sun as a big red circle. Hopefully I can get Fiona into a Japanese preschool sometime soon so I can verify this. In the meantime, I better start coaching her.

 It makes sense though- there is the Japanese flag of course, and then today as I was driving off base as the sun set, I turned left directly into the sun. It was huge, a gorgeous reddish-orange.   Unfortunately no picture of it, but now I understand why “Nihon,” “Japan” in japanese means “land of the rising sun.” And I get to enjoy it just a little bit earlier than most of you!





2 responses to “Red 赤 Aka

  1. Pingback: ╭ ( o‿ o#)ᕗ100th Post Celebration Pt.II ! | RIJ & MEG·

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