Today is Joma Shinji
The Joma Shinji Japanese New Year archery ritual is based on the Japanese belief that arrows have the power to banish evil – the word Joma translates as “keep evil spirits away”.
The ceremony takes place at the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine in Kamakura and dates back to between 1185 and 1333, when Kamakura was the military capital of Japan. Archers dressed as samurais shoot at circular targets 27 metres (88½ feet) away. On the back of a target is painted an upside-down kanji character (a Japanese writing symbol) for "oni", which means "devil". Every arrow which hits the 60cm target is thought to drive the devil away a little bit further. [More on Joma Shinji.]
It all seems like a good excuse for us to mix a Japanese-inspired drink, so we're suggesting a Japanese Cocktail. This particular recipe is an adaptation of one first published in Jerry Thomas's 1862 book, Bar-tender's Guide.
Tallest basketball player ever died this day
This day in 2012, the Soviet pro basketball player, Alexander Sizonenko, died in hospital in Saint Petersburg, aged 52, and most likely over 8 feet tall.
Officially the world's tallest man in 1991 (he was superseded by the Libyan Suleiman Ali Nashnush), he was also the world's tallest ever pro basketball player. Sizonenko never stopped growing throughout his life. His bones continued to expand as his frame bent to cope with them: when he died he was over 2.5m tall, if incapable of standing up straight, and wore size 62 shoes.
During his life, he took roles in films, but rejected an offer by 'Doctor Death', the German "plastinator" Gunther von Hagens, to cover his medical treatment in exchange for preserving and displaying his flayed corpse after death. Mr Size, we salute you with a Highlander.
It's also the first day of the Harbin Ice Festival
Up in the chilly north of China, not far from North Korea, where the winter temperature averages a shrivelling -17 degrees, the Harbin Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival begins today, illuminating a city about the size of London in a blaze of light and ice.
What can you expect? Snow sculptures, ice lanterns, ice castles, plus skiing, figure skating, snow football, and, of course, everything from buildings to animals carved out of illuminated ice, many of them complete with slides. Like everything in China, Harbin tends to the large. Some of its ice buildings are as much as 50 metres high, and some of the snow sculptures are as long as two football pitches.
The Harbin ice festival apparently began with local fishermen, who would make their own ice lanterns to take out ice-fishing. We are getting in the icy spirit with an Iced Sake Martini, based on, ahem, Japanese sake and Canadian ice wine.
It's also the day The Daily Mail went international
The British expat's favourite newspaper, the Daily Mail, went international - transoceanic, in fact - on this day in 1944. The Transatlantic Daily Mail, targeting American readers, would last an impressive two years. Published (despite its name) weekly, it became the first ever newspaper to cross an ocean.
Since its establishment in 1896, the Daily Mail has had what we might politely call a chequered history. Owner Viscount Rothermere praised Hitler in 1933, remarking, "I urge all British young men and women to study closely the progress of the Nazi regime in Germany. They must not be misled by the misrepresentations of its opponents..." A now-infamous page supported Britain's homegrown fascists with the headline "Hurrah for the Blackshirts!", while Rothermere wrote to Hitler, who he'd met, to congratulate him on invading the Sudetenland, as late as 1938.
We're not entirely sure the Daily Mail's continued existence is something to celebrate - addictive though its sidebar may be - but we're marking today with an Air Mail, or you might prefer Dave Wondrich's You've Got Mail, his adaptation of the classic cocktail.