Happy New Year, and best of wishes for 2010. Below are some Japanese New Year related images.
Among other themes, sunrises are used to symbolise the New Year and a new start. So, many Japanese use the sunrise theme as well as Chinese Zodiac animals for New Year’s cards that they send to friends and family. Increasingly, young families are sending cards that include pictures of themselves on it. This sunrise image unfortunately also includes industrial emissions from factories in Nagoya Port. The foreground is of the roller-coaster and ferris wheel of Nagashima Spa Land.
Sunrises are often used on New Year cards in Japan
The Naked Man Festival (Hadaka Matsuri) is an annual even held at Kounomiya, just outside of Nagoya City in central Japan. It’s held in the depths of winter and is a weekend-long event. The part that the public sees (and is shown in my portfolios) is held in the afternoon. The event date varies from year to year, according to the Chinese lunar calendar, but is held during the lunar New Year.
It began over 1,200 years ago, in the year 767, when Nara was the capital of Japan. At that time, there were plagues affecting the Japanese people, so Emperor Shotoku ordered special prayers to be said nation wide. The governor of Owari Province (now Aichi Prefecture) asked the shrine at Kounomiya to do something about this, and to remove the bad luck. So, the Naked Man Festival, held in the coldest time in winter was formulated (first published by me at Winjeel.Com, Feb 2009).
A few weeks ago I saw a wonderful performance. Tado Gagaku is a traditional Shinto-related performance troupe. They have both actor-dancers and musicians. The Tado Gagaku performs two or three times a year. This time, they performed at Kuwana Mansion, known locally as Roka-En (Roka Park).The performances are done outdoors on a temporary stage. On this particular day, it was cold, rain threatened, miserable, and the lighting was less than par. But, the people were really nice. I was fortunate enough to get some model releases.
There are several performances done in the course of two hours. Some are solo performances, some were group performances, in some the performers wore masks, but they all wore wonderful costumes. The musicians played all Japanese court instruments.
The current homepage picture was taken in the Kuwana City Ishidori. “Ishidori” literally means ‘stone-bringing’ festival. It’s an all weekend Shinto religious festival held annually in Kuwana City in mid summer at night.
It’s history is a little uncertain, but probably dates back about two or three hundred years. Each town or ward in Kuwana City has a portable shrine. Each portable shrine has a large drum and Japanese style cymbals. They beat out a traditional rhythm non-stop, for the entire duration of the procession, lasting for about six hours on Saturday and Sunday evenings. They follow a set route around the town. This route can vary from year to year, as it is said that it is lucky for the businesses to have the festival pass by their shop fronts. So, in consideration of these businesses, the route is varied each year. Along the route there are intersections, where there can be four portable shrines that meet. In concert with each other they would play the traditional drum and cymbal rhythm with extra energy and zest. This can last for up to 10 minutes, before they quieten down slightly, and move on, allowing the next shrines behind to have their moot. The Kuwana City festival is said to be the loudest in Japan.
Eventually, at somepoint in the night, they portable shrines make their way to a local Shinto shrine and hand over a white stone. These stones were previously gathered from a nearby river perhaps some weeks before hand. It is uncertain as to why the Kuwana City festival is unique in that they bring white stones to the shrine, instead of rice-balls, which is the norm in other places in Japan. It is thought by a local high school teacher and Ishidori enthusiast, that at one time rice might have been quite scarce, and the local people might not have been able to bring their annual rice-ball offerings to the shrine. So, it is possible that white stones were accepted in place of rice-balls.
Once these portable shrines make their way to the front of the Shinto shrine, they perform the drum and cymbal rhythm in earnest for the Shinto priests. Once the priests are satisfied, they give their blessings to that town or ward which is represented by the portable shrine.
I have many photos of this event on both film and some in digital. It is a night festival, held in the humidity of summer. Consequently, the quality of some images is a little compromised. However, other images can be made available upon request under Rights Managed licensing.
What on earth does one say in their inaugural blog post. There will be just two readers, me and of course my dear mother. I would of course expect all of the other posts to be read by everyone else. So, what is this about?
This blog is basically an updating service. I shoot photos of Japan, and Japanese life and culture. There are people out there who need exactly these photos. However, they would find it hard to keep up with what I’m doing. So, please subscribe to the RSS Feeds so that you can be kept up-to-date, and know what’s new in my portfolios. Many people do enjoy my work, I hope you do, too. So, I hope that this is a new and easier way to allow you to follow my work. Thanks for your support in the past, and I hope to continue to receive your support into the future. Cheers.