Tag Archive for spring
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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.
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 POTW was originally drafted for Monday the 8th April, but due to technical difficulties it was delayed.
It’s that time of year when the cherry blossoms (sakura) are… were out. They cherry blossoms are usually out in my area now, and would be for the next week or so, at least until the spring breeze blows their fragile petals from their stems. However, due to unseasonally warm weather in the last month, the cherry blossoms bloomed quite early. Also, due to unseasonal weather, most of Japan suffered from high winds, in some areas, classed as strong as typhoon winds, and perhaps more dangerous due to their sustained force. Usually, company groups, community groups, and families go and enjoy picnicing and partying under the gentle pink blossoms in the day or when lit up at night in what’s called ‘hanami’ (cherry blossom viewing) parties. This is also a feature for new recruits to companies who traditionally start in April, as a way of welcoming in the new department employees. This year, I doubt it was much of an event because it was so early, and because of the typhoon like winds on the weekend, which should have been prime cherry blossom viewing party time. Consequently, the best I could do this year is to post a file photo, from 2006 below, and see the gallery for more cherry blossom photos.
My story isn’t as harrowing as those up north, but it is my story. I’m in Nagoya, halfway between Tokyo and Osaka, well south of the Tohoku earthquake.
11th March 2011 was a very cold, but sunny day. At about 2.47pm I felt my building beginning to sway, and then it got violent.For the first ten minutes the NHK broadcast was only the automatic computer system announcing the basic facts in Japanese, English, Portuguese, Mandarin, and may a couple of other languages. Then later we saw confused, hurriedly arranged news anchors starting to pass on info to us, including the first images of the tsunami sweeping across low-lying homes and fields. The earthquake swayed and shook us at various intensities for the next five hours. During that time, I wondered if I should evacuate my building or not, but I stayed glued in front of my TV. I remained standing behind my couch with heavy winter jacket on ready to run, eyes on the TV updates, and all I had was my wallet, keys, and mobile phone in hand. Now, I have a backpack with emergency survival kit, and I’d ensure I have my camera. Looking outside, I saw that water in the nearby canals was slopping side to side, like coffee in my mug as I walk from the kitchen. I slept with my clothes next to my bed for a few days, and always a good pair of shoes ready at the door.
In the following days and weeks, I wondered if the nearby fault, the Nankai fault, might also be triggered. The Nankai fault was the one that was expected to be the next big quake, affecting mainly Nagoya and the central region, and the northernmost limit of affect is Tokyo. There apparently is over 80% chance of it slipping, creating a magnitude 8 earthquake, resulting in a tsunami expected to be over 10 meters in some areas, which will overwhelm many coastal storm surge barriers. It is expected that 10,000’s in my region would die from what is called the Great Nankai Earthquake. Consequently, it was because there seemed the very real possibility that the Nankai earthquake could be triggered, is why I remained in my region and didn’t head north to visually record the devastation. Apparently, experts feel that the Nankai trough is in very real danger or slipping, even more so now the shape of the earth has changed. I also learnt in the months afterwards that the whole earth had sped up, and the earth’s angle of lean changed ever so slightly, as a result of the Tohoku earthquake (Wikipedia).
I know today is significant (the second anniversary of the 11th March 2011, earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster), and so today is a double dose of Photo of the Week (POTW). One photo is a cultural event that is something to now especially look forward to and enjoy, and the other is commemorative.
The Tagata Fertility Festival photo below was taken just days after the actual disaster, and it shows people determined to try and enjoy life, despite the horror witnessed days before. Also on the day the photo was taken one of the nuclear reactors exploded. I didn’t know at the time, so I hoped that the wind was blowing away, and I really did have the feeling that being outside, photographing this event, might have been dangerous. I think I only learnt about the reactor explosion when I got home. I now have Reuters and other news outlets in my Twitter feed.
The Tagata Fertility Festival (or ‘Tagata Penis Festival’) attracts a small gathering of about 100,000 people (the old and the young alike), most of whom hope for good fertile fortunes (they are indeed hoping for children or grandchildren for themselves or on the behalf of friends). I have written a fairly detailed summary of the event including cultural comparison, see the Tagata blog tags for the 15th March 2011 blog post, video, and more. More photos are available at my PhotoShelter portfolio, Tagata Fertility Festival Gallery, and at my agents website, Asian Photo Connection.
For information about the earthquake, tsunami, nuclear crisis, nuclear disaster (15th Mar), Fukushima, contaminated food, and nuclear disaster, click on each of those words for a review of blog posts beginning on the 11th March 2011.
Below is a photo from the Nuclear Spring Collection I made just weeks after the actual disaster, see the Nuclear Spring blog search for previous posts. The title “Nuclear Spring” is significant, in that it amalgamates the concepts of Nuclear Winter, Silent Spring, and the time of year the Fukushima disaster occurred. Nuclear Winter is the supposed effect on the weather systems of the world after a nuclear war. Silent Spring is a book written by Rachel Carson in 1962 that describes the effect on the environment after farmers sprayed and killed all the insects. This book is regarded as the birth of the modern environmental movement. Still today, thousands of people are protesting against the continuance of nuclear power in Japan (Japan Today, Reuters), and there is a wonderful blog that aims to provide information that the media does not, the Fukushima Diary.
Yoro is a great day hiking destination especially in the intermediate seasons like spring and autumn. It’s located in the mountains where it’s nice and cool. To get there, one must take the Kintetsu train (from Nagoya), and change at Kintetsu Kuwana. Then take the yellow train of the Yoro Tetsudo company, which is probably on the same platform, but different track to the train you get off of. Then check with the station guard and maps on how to get to Yoro Park. Find your way to and through the car parks and follow the crowd.
Hiking paths at Yoro are unfortunately asphalted, and so there’s no chance of getting lost or falling down an abandoned gold mine, but you need to watch out for the occasional car. However, there are some short sections that a treacherous for those adventuring in high heels, but thankfully the wilderness sections short. The main attraction of Yoro is the water fall and its water. The water fall is nice to reach, but nothing special to photograph. Local legend is that the water can make you look and feel younger (Wikipedia). The local water is sold sugared, fizzed, and bottled, or just still.
Photos should soon be available on the Asia Photo Connection website.
This Photo of the Week is from the infamous Gion Kyoto. It is a huge tourist attraction, drawing in tens of millions of Japanese and foreign tourists annually. The highlight has been Kinkakuji or “Golden Pavilion”. However, I decided to show something that you can imagine yourself in… Gion and a rickshaw. You and your boyfriend / girlfriend / husband / wife / family / buddies can rent a kimono (each) and stroll around Kyoto as though you were a Gion resident a hundred years ago, take a rickshaw ride to see a blossoming plum tree, go to a restaurant or tea house, before returning to the kimono rental store, before having a night out on the town. See more Kyoto photos on my PhotoShelter portfolio.
This Photo of the Week is for Spring. In southern parts of Japan cherry blossoms, known in Japanese as ‘sakura’, will soon start blooming, and as the warmer temperature clime moves north blomming will reach central Japan early April, and be in Hokkaido at about the end of April early May. Of the many species of cherry blossoms in Japan, the particular ones Japanese most enjoy bloom for just one week. However, some springs are a bit windy which blows the petals away within a few days, and some springs are warm and so the blooming time can be almost two weeks. Whilst the flowers are in bloom, many community groups, groups of friends & families, and companies get together for picnic, barbeques, and to consume lots of Asahi beer. This kind of party is known in Japanese as ‘hanami’, translated as ‘flower viewing’.
The reason why cherry blossoms became so popular for parties is that they are a metaphor for a warrior’s life. It is short lived, beautiful, and ends suddenly. The tradition continues in modern times presumably because it is a convenient narrow-point in the calendar to identify the time for such parties. In spring there are other species of cherry blossoms that bloom for almost a whole month, and the much prettier plum flowers bloom for a month or so as well.