Tag Archive for matsuri
I only heard about the Tejikara Fire Festival just a few days before it was held. I couldn’t find much information on it, and didn’t really know what to expect. It seemed to be one of those small local festivals that get passed over by the big inner city events. The mystery and the festival had to be explored. In short, I had minimal directions, and minimal info, and a camera. Here is my experience.
When: Annually, on the second Saturday of April.
Time: Officially: 6.30pm to 9.10pm. Actually: Get there a lot earlier to enjoy the festival foods and atmosphere, and to find a good viewing point in the shrine. When I got there just after 6pm, things seemed to already be in full swing.
Where: Tejikara, Gifu. See Google Maps.
Transport: Take the Meitetsu train from Gifu (city) station bound for Inuyama, for about 8mins, ¥230 (Hypedia.com, 2016), then follow the crowd. Be sure to get two tickets, as there is only one ticket machine at Tejikara station, and the line up for it at 9pm will be crazy. Also, for your return be sure to get on the platform closest to the shrine for your return to Gifu city.
History: Apparently, it’s been a small local festival running for about 300 years, and seems to have a little or unknown origin.
What: I’m still unclear as to what goes on. There are lots of fire fighters, and some fire trucks around the shrine. There’s lots of guys dressed in regular shinto festival outfits, sometimes topless. There are small shrines carried on the shoulders of groups of men from particular districts around the shrine. Each portable shrine has a different display. They stop at certain intervals in their approach to the shrine and set off firecrackers. I know from my Taiwan experiences that firecrackers supposedly scare off ghosts, so this might be related. There are loud bells being struck with hammers making a racket. The portable shrines are taken into the shrine for some sort of event, that I couldn’t see. You really need to get there early and stake out a spot.
Then when it’s dark large overhead lanterns are lit with fireworks running up guide ropes. Some of these fail, and it seems to be a challenge that the crowd cheer and applaud for. There are firework canons lit to create a vertical cascade of sparks, and some sort of story or performance of a traditional nature performed at the Shrine. I really need to go back, meet a local there and learn more. Usually, I’m on top of this sort of event, but I could not find a local to ask because I wasn’t in a position to this time. I’ll probably go back next year.
Advice: Festival food is a little expensive, but the whole point is for it to be a social event, and have food that you normally can’t have. Take a fist full of change, and enjoy a range of snacks like curried french fries, fairy floss, toffee apples, deep fried chicken, mixed fruit drinks, and more.
Are you thinking of what to do in Japan these Spring holidays? Look no further. Of course I talk mainly of Nagoya in central Japan. In case you don’t know. Nagoya is the major city in between Tokyo and Osaka. It is the home of the Toyota Motor Corporation, and the famous blue Central JR bullet trains. Land prices here rival that of Tokyo and London, and it’s one of the richest cities in the world. It’s also a convenient base for travellers. So, if you’re going to be in Japan and looking for travel ideas, start with these. Oh, and here’s one little trivial point to mention. The Spring holidays start mid-Winter (end of January), and finish in early Spring (early April). Don’t ask me why, just go with it.
For each below, there are links that include How to Get There information.
1. Plum blossoms
Plum flowers typically bloom in about the last week of February and last until about mid-March (depending on the species and the weather). These flowers have more petals than cherry blossoms, last longer, and have more vibrant colours. These flowers used to be the most revered until a Kyoto poet captured Japanese hearts for the cherry blossoms. Plum flowers can be enjoyed at many major parks, including private botanic gardens like Nabana no Sato, the Nagoya Agricultural Centre, and Higashiyama Park (at Higashiyama Koen Station, Higashiyama Line).
2. Osaka Sumo Tournament
The Osaka Sumo Tournament is a little unique. It’s the only sumo tournament where the wrestlers need to walk through the public areas between the fighting mound in the centre of the stadium, to the changing rooms out back. So you can get close enough to get clear photos of the wrestlers just before and after their bouts. The tournament runs from the second Sunday of March for fifteen days until the fourth Sunday. Tickets are available online and can be picked up at the venue from special machines; don’t forget your purchase code and info. Learn more about the sumo here at the Going to a Sumo Tournament post.
3. The Naked Man Festival
Don’t worry, they’re not all men; they’re not completely naked; and it’s not so much a festival that you have to take part in… unless you really want. It’s held annually on the 15th of January in the lunar calendar (usually between mid February to early March). In 2015 it was held on the 3rd March (Gregorian Calendar). The festival attracts about 13,000 participants (males from about 6 or 7yo, to those about 70 or 80. You’ll even see tattooed gangsters playing their part as members of the community, too. You’ll have to bump your way through a crowd of perhaps 150,000 to 200,000 spectators of mainly excited women and girls. The festival is also known as the Hadaka Matsuri (“hadaka” is ‘naked’, and “matsuri” is ‘festival’).
4. The Fertility Festival
Like the Naked Man Festival, this festival traces it’s roots to ancient Japan and is held with strong religious connections. It basically is a large wooden phallus being joyously carried through the Tagata township. On the internet it’s also known as the penis festival. It’s held on the 15th March each year (Gregorian Calendar). See here for specific info on the Tagata Fertility Festival.
5. Cherry blossoms / Sakura
Of course, no mention of Spring and Japan is complete without mentioning the delicate and fleeting petals of a tree that bears no fruit, yet covers almost every temple and shrine and park in the country for about one week. The image below was taken at Nagoya Castle. You can get there via the subway Meijo Line, at the Shyakusho-mae Station in downtown or central Nagoya. The castle is also a museum and has the Nagoya gymnasium which hosts the July summer sumo tournament. There are some specific things you can do in this fleeting time, typically one week, and it involves friends, alcohol, bad decisions, and can be day or night. Learn five things about hanami here (hanami literally means “flowers-see”).
Bonus: Tado Horse Festival
The Tado Horse Festival is held in the Golden Week holidays, the end of April and early May. It’s held in Tado, a small township just outside of Kuwana city, which itself is outside of Nagoya. The festival typically attracts about 120,000 spectators. It’s major.
I try to make these monthly lists unique, and without repeating what others have already said to ad nauseam. So, here are 5 things you might not know already about Japan.
There’s lots of them. They’re everywhere. Even if you live here, you don’t really need to own a car at all. I know a family who rents a car two or three times a year, whilst most people don’t bother buying one; otherwise they’re an unnecessary expense. Cities are connected usually by city government-owned subway trains and buses, as well as some private train and bus companies. Then, satellite cities that feed into major metropolitan cities like Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, and Yokohama have mainly private train companies and Japan Rail (JR). Then cities are linked mainly by JR East, JR Central, JR West, or JR Hokkaido companies. This includes the infamous bullet train (see 5 Things about Bullet Trains).
A local train that services rural towns and feeds to a satellite city of Nagoya. To see this image, and others like it, see the Transport gallery.
2. Unique festivals
How many other countries or communities you know has a penis festival, and can be very open about it? Well, to be more descriptively precise, a fertility festival, the video below shows the male fertility festival, and there’s also a female one held some weeks later (no pun intended). There’s also a Naked Man Festival, a Stone Bringing Festival, Doll Festival, dance festivals, and many other festivals.
Yep, how often do you see someone in a wooden boat, with a huge fire, catch fish with birds. Yes, I really do mean they use cormorants tied to rice hemp lines to dive into the river water, catch some fish, and then come up and cough them up into the boat. The lines keep the birds from getting away and from swallowing the fish. After watching the fish catching display, you can retire to a nearby restaurant to sample these fine hacked up aquatic cuisine. Cormorant fishing is done in various places including Inuyama, and is a summer thing that usually runs from May to October. The trip costs about ¥2,500 for basically an hour wait and a 20 minute one-run along the river, and then it’s over.
For this photo of cormorant fishing at Inuyama, and others like it, see the Night in Japan gallery.
4. Convenience stores
Convenience stores are everywhere. I heard that at any time (usually) you’re never more than 300 meters from a convenience store. Which is better than what I hear about not being more than 3 meters from a rat in New York. Anyway, in some small towns these small modern general stores serve as pseudo supermarkets, and for everyone a refuge from the winter cold or summer heat. They have a huge selection of drinks, snacks, and even lunch sets, and even hygiene supplies for office staff who were either too busy to go home, or too drunk to catch the last train. Lawsons (pictured) is starting to offer space with tables and chairs, too. Though this is coming 15 years after similar companies were doing the same in South Korea.
For this photo see see it in my PhotoShelter portfolio, and other convenience store photos see my agent’s website via search: “Japanese convenience store”.
5. People leave you alone
Basically, you’re left alone and people don’t bother you. The police are hard to find, mainly because they don’t need to come out of their police stations, unless they really have to. I cannot think of a lazier police force. People don’t pass judgements of you, and so you get an illusion of total freedom. Of course, some travellers and expats mistake this as a license to horse around and behave like juveniles, so please don’t. Tourists and expats have been banned from the famous Tokyo fish markets already. If you have tatoos, cover them with plasters or t-shirts. Don’t wear tracks suits or sports suits in public, people usually wear these as pyjamas. When my family came to visit, people somehow sensed they were tourists and were very warm and welcoming, and helpful. For me? Maybe I look like a local now, and so nobody cares.
For this photo of a naked guy giving a pink ribbon to a high school girl, as a policeman watches on, and others like it, see the Naked Man Festival gallery.
There’s of course many more things, but this is just a taste. You’ll have to come and see the rest for yourself. There are thousands more photos at my PhotoShelter portfolio, and my agent’s website. Also, 5 Ill Conceived Things in Japan coming next month.
Welcome to Spring. Japanese people go crazy over cherry blossom viewing, I guess because it’s the first sign that the winter cold is breaking, and warmer days are clearly ahead. However, the plum flowers are already blooming, and have been for most species for about a month, but the cherry blossoms (or “sakura”) bloom for a week before the Spring breezes blows the petals away. Also, even though there are hundreds of thousands of these trees across the country in various species and varieties, most of these bear no edible fruit.
A young Japanese lady admiring the cherry blossoms. For this model released photo, and others like it, see my PhotoShelter Seasons gallery.
1. Weather and when
The cherry trees blossoming is triggered by warmer weather, beginning in Okinawa in the south in February, to central Japan where they typically blossom in the second week of April, to Hokkaido in June (I think). The trees typically remain in bloom for seven or eight days. If there’s heavy rain, the petals are out for a very short time, but if the weather remains mild, the cherry blossom parties, or “Hanami Matsuri” can go on for nearly two weeks. Japanese Meteorological Agency used to provide blooming forecasts for nearly fifty years, but a few years ago they ended this service. Too many tour companies have tried to sue the JMA for inaccurate forecasting, costing the tour companies lots of money because of their own inflexibility and understanding of weather and nature. Now there are websites that make their own predictions that you can use like JNTO.
For this cherry blossom (sakura) photo, and others like it, see my PhotoShelter Cherry Blossoms gallery.
2. Language point
The following contains both Roman, Chinese and Hiragana characters. “Hanami” (花見、はなみ), literally means ‘flower viewing’ (Wikipedia), but what Japanese people really mean is just hanging out and enjoying cherry blossom trees. “Sakura” (桜、さくら) means ‘cherry trees’ and ‘cherry blossoms’, and “ume” (梅、うめ) means ‘plum’, ‘plum tree’, and ‘plum flowers’.
Flowers on a Japanese plum tree. For this photo, and others like it, see my PhotoShelter Cherry Blossoms gallery.
3. How it’s celebrated
Usually cherry blossom parties are held by groups of people. Usually work colleagues, community groups (typically neighbourhood groups), university clubs, groups of friends, and some times families get together for this. For evening parties, one or two poor sods have to get a tarp and some basic supplies and stake out a good spot until the evening when the others arrive. Usually its the young office staff or secretaries job to do this. Otherwise, most folks have their party in the day time. I think it’s still quite uncomfortably cool even in the day time, so day time parties are more common. They usually have a small bar-be-cue, have sake and beer, and relax and enjoy themselves without any loud frivolities.
For this Hanami (cherry blossom party) photo, and others like it, see my PhotoShelter Cherry Blossoms gallery.
4. Why cherry blossoms and not plum flowers?
Good question. The plum flowers are out much longer, they start earlier, and some species are out in the warmer part of spring, too. Also, plum flowers are usually much nicer or prettier. In fact, in the Nara period (710-794AD), it was the plum flowers that were revered, and to some extent the cherry blossoms and wisteria. Later, because of famous literary works focusing on cherry blossoms, the other options fell to the wayside (Wikipedia/Hanami History). Cherry blossoms are out for only a week typically at the start of April in central Japan. This timing, and brevity, seems to act as a convenient demarcation in time for Japanese people. School and university calendars start in April, companies have their new recruits start in April, companies transfer their staff to start in April, so March-April is also the moving season. The end of March marks the end of storage and tax-thingamy time, so major electronics stores have sales before new models are shipped and put on display. It seems the start of April is the time when Japan hits the reset button and lots of things starts fresh.
For this cherry blossom school sports photo, and others like it, see my PhotoShelter Cherry Blossoms gallery.
Continuing on from point 4 above, it is said by Japanese people that the life of a samurai is short lived, with the sudden start and end as the cherry blossoms themselves. A good for a samurai is to have a quick sudden end, rather than a gradual fade to nothing, much like the sudden fall of petals from a cherry tree.
Nagoya castle in the Spring. For this photo, and others like it, see my PhotoShelter Cherry Blossoms gallery.
This Photo of the Week (POTW) is from the recent Nara Lantern Festival (in Japanese, “Tokae”). English language information about this event is quite hard to find. I’ve seen tourists in Nara, right where the event was set to occur that night wonder what was being set up. So what can be found? Nara is attributed as the first permanent capital of Japan over 1,300 years ago, until a revolt by senior Shinto priests who moved to Kyoto and successfully set up their new capital (the current imperial lineage comes from the renegade priest). Nara is also the sister city of Canberra Australia, Gyeong-ju Sth Korea, Toledo Spain, Versailles France, and two Chinese cities. See the blog tag ‘Nara’ or a friend’s website Kyoto and Nara Dream Trips for more info.
The Lantern Festival began in 1999, and is situated in the main tourist areas of the city, including Nara Park (where the infamous deer roam), Kofukuji Temple, Todaiji Temple, and other major places. The lanterns are mainly small plastic tubes with candles in them, of which there’s about 20,000 set up (Kyoto and Nara Dream Trips). There are also bamboo art-work frames set up, and only on the final night was Todaiji and Kasugataisha Shrine open with their own lanterns, too. See the official map for more info. Also, it seems the event runs annually from 5th to 14th August, but double check the official website before committing to the trip.
If you plan to visit for the festival, you’d need at least a couple of nights, as there is no way you can see it all and at a comfortable pace. When I went, it was 37°C, one of the highest temperatures recorded for not just the 2013 summer, but for that area on record. Spend the morning seeing the sights, the afternoon avoiding the heat and recuperating in air conditioning, and the evening enjoying the night time stroll, with several tens of thousands of people spread out through the town. And, don’t forget to take your camera…
This image, and more, are available at my agent’s website: Henry Westheim / Asia Photo Connection. (Thanks to Kyoto and Nara Dream Trips for alerting me to this event).
Earlier, the BBC News website reported that there was a fireworks explosion, injuring and seriously injuring about 50 people including children in Kyoto, and of which caused the cancellation of a fireworks display (BBC News). It was later revealed that it was a food stall or similar (like shown below) was using a generator and possibly was refilling the generator fuel tank when some fuel splashed onto the generator itself, causing a fire and explosion of the fuel tank. Then later a second fuel tank exploded, of which was recorded and released on the internet. Stalls like these below are typical scenes seen all over Japan for all festival and cultural events. See the Japan Today article for more information. These images, and others like them are available at my portfolio and my agent’s website.
Both images are typical stalls found at all Japanese festivals. The lights are typically powered by fuel generators.
Images like these are available at http://ablyth.photoshelter.com.
This Photo of the Week is from the Tenjin Festival (Tenjin Matsuri; JNTO). The festival began over a thousand years ago, and it seems the start date has been lost in time. However, the Tenmangu Shrine that hosts the event is known to have been founded in 949AD (Wikipedia). Today, the event is held on the 24th and 25th of July each year according to the Gregorian calendar, so it is assumed that it once followed the Lunar Calendar, as most Far East events were once pegged to. Some regard this as one of the top three festivals in Japan; I guess if judged by visitor numbers alone. I have been to “small” and “local” events like the Tado Horse Festival and the Naked Man Festival, which attracts about 100,000 to 120,000 people; just looking at one street loaded with people, it appeared that there were many, many more than 100,000 people (perhaps double), and that was just one of the many streets that were closed to traffic. Then at night time the street closures and police crowd control becomes a major event to itself. Unfortunately, and unusually, there is no Wikipedia page on the event and so finding crowd figures is difficult. However, my guestimate would be that perhaps close to a million of the 19 million Osakan inhabitants would be attending, including families with babies in prams, teenagers hanging out with their friends, elderly also hanging out with their friends. It’s a real chance to get out and relax before the summer really begins.
The parade through town event starts at about 3.30pm and winds up back at the Tenmangu Shrine at 6pm. Many of the parade participants and others continue on barges and boats from 6pm to 10pm. There’s not many people out to see the actual parade, but most come out in the evening afterwards. In the area there are food and toy stalls selling the regular festival food like bar-be-qued corn on the cob, grilled meats including beef, pork, squid, and lots more. Since it is summer, and most people have spent the day in air conditioning, you’ll hear the wailing of ambulances probably whisking away heatstroke victims.
This photo, in high resolution, and others like it is available at my agent’s website for licencing. See Henry Westheim / Asia Photo Connection, or via the search link: “Tenjin Osaka“. Also, the Tenjin Festival video is live on my YouTube Channel. For more on summer festivals in Japan, click on the tags for this post. Also note, that the Japanese word for festival is “matsuri” or まつり.
I’ve finally had the chance to play with photo borders a little, and here are two of the results.
A film border. Though I’m not sure about the picture peering through the sprocket holes. 😉
And a ‘grunge’ border.
It was announced on the NHK TV news this evening that the Japanese Ministry of Culture and Trade plans to organise the first international “export” of the Tagata Fertility Festival to San Francisco, and then to Dallas later in the same summer. Depending on the success of the event, it may also be exported to other cities around the world in 2014, including Salt Lake City, Rome, and possibly Beijing and Pyongyang.
The Ministry of Culture and Trade spokesman, Yuki Wakabashi, hopes the festival can include local men from Tagata, a town near Nagoya city, as well as local men in San Francisco, Dallas, Salt Lake City, the Vatican, and other cities to assist in lifting the one tonne phallus.