Cultural Day November 3rd

Cultural Day is actually the birthday of emperor Meji and is also celebrated on this day. Last years Culture Day experience was joining my Aikido club for their annual potato dig followed by a BBQ, no ordinary fare of sangas and chops! This year we went Meji jingu (shrine and park surrounds) and got a flavour of what the Meji birthday celebrations are. There were many sporting demonstrations, martial arts, yabusame, etc though with significant emphasis on rituals to cleanse the grounds. At the shrine there were some other ceremonies with the receiving of offerings from the Imperial envoy - in the past the Emperor was considered a god. We particularly enjoyed seeing the traditional dress or the young boys and girls that often go to the shrine on this day.
Young boy watching sporting demonstrationsYoung boy watching sporting demonstrations
Yabusame rider in the pre event ritualYabusame rider in the pre event ritual
Young girl at Meji shrineYoung girl at Meji shrine

Yabusame without the crowds

Simon has become somewhat of a yabusame fan, so we took a daytrip to Mishima (out as far west as Mt Fuji) to see an event. Last time he saw it, in Tokyo, the crowds were thick. But here we could relax and freely move around and get great positions. There are three targets that the rider must attempt to hit, set at an even spacing along the flat, straight course. While riding at a flat out gallop, they msut retrieve each arrow, and get positioned again in time for the next target.
In flightIn flight Post event ceremonyPost event ceremony Receiving sakeReceiving sake
RiderRider Red bridge to tiny island shrineRed bridge to tiny island shrine

Tohoku Festivals

We've just returned from a 10day trip to the Northern regions of the main (Honshu) island. As always there was not enough time. On this trip we lined up a number of the regional festivals, including the "Nebuta Matsuri" in Aomori which is considered the largest festival in Japan.

"Kanto Matsuri" in Akita"Kanto Matsuri" in Akita This festival was not so much a parade but a display of stength and balance. It starts by lifting the bamboo pole with lit lanterns with outstretch arm above their head. After balancing it is slide down to the forehead, shoulder and hip.
"Sansa Matsuri" in Morioka"Sansa Matsuri" in Morioka Really amazing sound of drums, reverberating and filling the entire street.
"Nebuta Mastsuri" in Aomori"Nebuta Mastsuri" in Aomori The floats in this parade were dramatic being 3D with wire supports holding their shape. Fully illuminated in the evening made for a spectacular albeit rather scary sight.
To balance all the activity and crowds we visited some beautiful and revitalising nature.
Oirase Valley by Towada LakeOirase Valley by Towada Lake Hotokegaura cliffs of Shimokita PennisulaHotokegaura cliffs of Shimokita Pennisula

Kite festival

On Childrens Day, 5th of May we went to the Great Kite festival at Sagami.

Azalas, Weddings and Noh

We found some fantastic places for viewing azaleas, the only problems was we visited them about a week too late!
We also went to Meji-jingu to see the festive activities, particularly the Noh performance which to our un-training eyes was a slow and labourious performance. We were greatly indebted to a visiting Assistant Professor (a chance meeting) who explained more of the Noh style and later sent us a copy of the play script.
A traditional wedding procession, often seen at the shrine.


Simon went to see a Yabusame festival which features archery on horse back.

Crowds and processionsCrowds and processions Rider with weaponRider with weapon
Releasing the arrowReleasing the arrow Judges sitting perilously next to the target!Judges sitting perilously next to the target!

Ready...Ready... Aim...Aim... Fire......Scored!Fire......Scored!

Mid flightMid flight DepartureDeparture
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