Steiff Toys

You could pay over a million dollars for a Steiff stuffed animal if you wanted one of the very rare ones but the story of the first Steiff toys is what makes them so interesting to me.  It was started in 1880 by Margarete Steiff.  Margarete had an illness when she wasn’t even two years old that left her with paralyzed legs and painful right arm.  She was a fearless little girl, taken to school by her family and neighborhood friends in a hay cart.  She had to be carried upstairs to the classroom.

Her sisters had a tailoring business and Margarete worked there after receiving her training as a seamstress.  When her sisters left the business, her father converted the home into a shop for her.  She purchased her first sewing machine with her first profits and had it altered so she could use it with her less painful arm.  She ran her own business that eventually had several other seamstresses.  She made clothing and items for the home.  One day she made her first pin cushion shaped like an elephant.

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Children loved the pincushions shaped like elephants, making them the world’s first plush toys.  Soon she had sold over 5,000 of them and made other types of stuffed animals as well. Her nephews eventually entered her business and helped to develop the company further. Her big breakthrough came with a large order of her stuffed bears to an American company who dubbed them Teddy Bears, named after Theodore ”Teddy“ Roosevelt, one of our presidents.

The Steiff toys were created with fine materials and with a focus on high-quality construction. As other companies began to make similar products, the Steiff company developed the Steiff – button in the ear to distinguish it from others. New Steiff toys are cherished by children worldwide today but some of the older ones are sold for thousands and hundreds of thousands of dollars. Check out this site to see some of the most expensive ones.

The museum for the Steiff company is in Germany.  If you want to see what a visit to this museum would be like check this out.

 

German Born Christmas Traditions

I found a site that helps you to explore the Christmas traditions of different countries. It is a fun site and I hope you will take a look at it. It is called whychristmas.com.

I learned that many of the traditions I have heard of started in Germany.  The Advent calendar originates from Germany.  I never had one growing up but I have seen them before. The ones I have seen are paper with little windows on the dates that open revealing a small prize/gift. In Germany, the gifts are sometimes in small boxes on a wreath.  One is opened each day of Advent, a 24-day period leading to Christmas.  The wreaths have four candles, a candle representing each week of Advent.

Germany is credited with the origin of the decorated Christmas tree (Tannenbaum) and with bringing them inside the home, usually on Christmas Eve.  Hans Greiner, of a glassworks established in Lauscha in the late 1500s, made the first ornaments in 1847.  I still remember when our Christmas trees were decorated primarily with glass ornaments and tinsel.

tinsel-christmas-tree

The Christmas Market is an important part of the holiday season in Germany.  Most of the towns have one of these events. There are many that have become tourist-worthy.  Here is a list of the best Christmas Markets in Germany.  I love the picture of the market near the Black Forest.

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The atmosphere at the festivals is festive and filled with nostalgia for traditions of days gone by.

 

 

It is Germany!

We end our year of virtual travel in Germany, known as Bundesrepublik Deutschland or Deutschland by the people who live there. (I found it interesting that the name of the country is so different from the formal name outside of Germany.  Mental Floss produced a video to explain the reasons for this.)

The Federal Republic of Germany is the second largest country in the European Union with a population about 1/3 of the USA.  The world’s second-largest exporter, Germany is powerful due to the size of the economy.  The country shares a border with nine other countries and has coastline along the Northern Sea and Baltic Sea.  Located in Europe and a strong member of the European Union, you need only look at a map to see the importance of strong relationships with neighboring countries.

Countries are filled with a diversity of landscapes and city skylines and like most of the countries we have visited, the landscape of Germany ranges from big beautiful cities like Berlin, Munich, Cologne, and Hamburg to large forests and mountains. We learn that Germany is the home of the original Gummy Bears, the Steiff Toy company, the Ravensburger puzzle company, and some famous car companies -Mercedes Benz, BMW, Audi, Volkswagen, and Porsche.  We visit the salt mines, the castles, and iconic landmarks.  As with every country, we leave with an appreciation of the great diversity of culture in our world.

Japanese Bamboo Forest

A beautiful Sangono bamboo forest is found in Arashiyama on the outskirts of Kyoto. There are 4 Shinto temples in close proximity to the bamboo forest. One of the temples very close to the forest is Tenryu-ji temple.  The forest is believed to provide protection from evil and represents strength for those practicing Shinto.  Here is a site about this forest.  It covers 16 square kilometers.

It is a wonder place to use Shinrin-yoku, forest bathing. Forest Bathing refers to sitting, walking – just being inside a forest. The sounds, smells and views experienced in a forest can serve as a calming and healing experience. I am sure my mom would agree with the benefits of exposure to nature.  She used to canoe from Ely in upper Minnesota, where you can spend days and days alone in the wilderness. I am lucky. I have a large stand of trees that begins in my backyard and extends into a forested swampy area that supports a variety of wildlife.

Bamboo is actually a tall grass. Its scientific name is Bambusoideae and is part of the Poaceae grass family. This Article tells you more about bamboo than you could ever wish to know. The type of bamboo in the Sangono Forest is Moso.  It can grow 20 meters high in only a month. The largest grow to 40 meters and are 35 cm in diameter.  It reproduces by putting out rhizomes (undergrown stems) and shoots come up called culms. The culms grow very fast and when they have reached their 40-50 feet height, they stop growing.  The Moso bamboo can also flower but does so rarely, only every 50-100 years.

 

The culms of the bamboo (see picture on the right)  are the shoots that people gather to eat but are harvestable for only a very short time. Please take a look at this site to see how very fast they grow, growing beyond an edible stage in a month.

Bamboo is very strong and is used in wide variety of ways. Time to do some research! – Look on the internet to see if you can find at least 10 ways to use bamboo.

Fun Fact:  Sugar cane is in the same family of plant as the Bamboo but the “twisted” bamboo you buy to decorate the house, the “lucky bamboo”, is not really bamboo.  It is related to the spider plant. It is called the Lucky Bamboo, however, and is incorporated in decorating for Feng Sui.

 

Japanese Writing

Researching Japanese writing was a little hard for me.  It seems I just kept running into descriptions that I didn’t understand or that would be hard to convey for this article.  I had to chase down the descriptions to the most basic level.  First, the description of Japanese writing mentions that Idiograms are used.  I went to a description of Idiograms and learned that Idiograms were Logograms. Logograms are characters that represent a whole word or phrase.  Idiograms may express a whole idea instead of just a word.

Let’s say a caveman draws a picture of a cow on the wall.  At first, this is just a unique picture.  Let’s say another man comes along and simplifies that a little by not drawing all aspects of the picture but just a line and horns to convey the same thing.  The two agree that they will use a line with two horns to represent cow for future communications (makes it faster).  Now let’s say they decide instead of drawing a bunch of lines with horns to representing more than one cow, they agree that a line with 3 horns will represent the plural form of cow.  They have invented a Logogram.  Now let’s say they want to say they are going to hunt cows and they decide to draw a spear over the line with the 3 horns when this is the idea they want to convey.  They have now created an Idiogram.  (If someone reads this and feels I have misunderstood this, please let me know as I want my grandchildren to have the correct understanding. Just use the comments section of the Blog. – Thank you)

The Japanese Idiograms are called Kanji symbols.  They were adopted from the Chinese Logograms called hànzì. There are thousands of Kanji and the students in Japan learn over 2,000 during their education. I found a list of 100 of the most common ones used.

Writing in Japanese also uses two other forms of script called: Hiragana and Katakana.  Please look at this article to learn about these.

Japanese writing can also be vertical (written in a line from top to bottom) or horizontal (written from left to right).  See this article to explain when they choose to use vertical vs horizontal.

I found a site on the internet where you can type in your name and see how your name would be written in Japanese.

Here are yours:

Brianna  =brianna in Japanese

It is pronounced “BURIANNA”. (Consonants are pronounced more or less the same way as in English. “A” sounds like a in father, but shorter. “I” sounds like ee in meet, but shorter. “U” sounds like oo in hook, but with less rounding of the lips.) * taken from this link.

 

Damien = DAmien

It is pronounced “DEIMIAN”. (Consonants are pronounced more or less the same way as in English. “A” sounds like a in father, but shorter. “I” sounds like ee in meet, but shorter. “E” sounds like e in met.) * taken from this link.

 

Elias = Elias

It is pronounced “ERIASU”. (Consonants are pronounced more or less the same way as in English. “A” sounds like a in father, but shorter. “I” sounds like ee in meet, but shorter. “U” sounds like oo in hook, but with less rounding of the lips. “E” sounds like ein met.) * taken from this link.

Check out Kids Web Japan website!

There is a fun website called Kids Web Japan  Please  go to their site and explore.

I became curious about Jump Rope in Japan while looking at the site and, of course, had to find out more.  Watch this fun video to see a whole bunch of kids completing a jump rope challenge.  You might think this is simple but just imagine how the person closest to the people holding the jump rope must have the perfect alignment to complete this.

The Kids Web Japan is part of a larger web site called Web Japan and this main site has lots of awesome stuff as well.  The entire platform of information is created by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

I have found that there are lots of blogs/pages created by individuals in Japan that share information about life in the country.   Like individuals here, it is possible to begin a career in an industry by posting talent on youtube.  Kenshi Yonezu is a pop star currently high on the music charts who began by producing and posting his music on youtube under the name Hachi.  Here is a link to his current high ranking song “Peace Sign”.

Have fun exploring the internet about Japan.  Travel is fun but exploring from home can be a blast too. 

Kyoto Aquarium

I began working on the article for the Kyoto Aquarium to share with you the wonderful design and beauty of this inland aquarium (not anywhere close to the ocean and its saltwater).  I found many sites that did a very good job of sharing the excitement of visiting this large facility that focuses on water and how it cycles in our world.  The museum has all the normal types of exhibits but some extra special ones too.  One exhibit I bet you won’t see anywhere near here (USA) is the giant salamander found in the mountainous rivers of Japan.  This salamander is HUGE, like small pony size huge!  Please see this blog site for a very nice summary of an experience at the aquarium.

I found myself so excited by another feature of this aquarium that I could not keep this to myself for selfish reasons.  I am a physical therapist and have had the added experience of living with a disability, even if the greatest effects were short-lived.  When my children were very young, I performed a survey of 100 restaurants in Hot Springs, AR with regard to accessibility for someone with weakness and poor endurance.  I measured how far a person had to be able to walk to use the restaurant at a most basic level.  I measured door opening pressures so I could relate how difficult it would be to open the doors. I measured toilet seat height, looked for grab bars and looked for barriers that someone might need to be aware of while planning a trip to the facility. I envisioned the use of this type of information in a citywide campaign to make Hot Springs “accessible to the world” through information and education within the business community.  A catalog of this information was published and made available but the idea of accessibility as a marketing tool did not take off.

You can imagine my joy when I found a guide on the Kyoto Aquarium website that spoke of accessibility.  The information was given in a way that a person could envision what their own challenges might be and make decisions based on that knowledge.  Not only that, there was a link to a Universal Tourism Concierge that had been developed for the city of Kyoto to make the city more inviting to someone with a disability.  This was exactly the vision I had for my old hometown and it was realized by wonderful people of Kyoto.

Accessibility is something most people don’t think about.  I believe every young person should be exposed to the concept of what having a disability can be like and to what accessibility can mean to people who have difficulties with more traditional environmental designs.  What are some physical difficulties that you can imagine someone having that might affect their ability to enjoy traveling around the world?  How might you design areas for tourists so that they could enjoy traveling even if they have greater mobility challenges?  Please see this article in Lonely Planet by Ashley Lyn Olson about her experience traveling Japan in a wheelchair.

Take a look at the websites to see the types of modifications that were made to make mobility and use more functional for everyone.  Usually, you find new buildings and attractions built with a concept of Universal Design. The goal is to design something so it is easier to use by everyone.  The design is such that it is often not even obvious that it has been purposely engineered for greater accessibility.

Please explore the wonderful Kyoto Aquarium.  It is a beautiful place for a whole lot of reasons.