Some observations from travels

Posts tagged “festival

Farewell Summer…Hello Spring!

I’m back! and so glad to be.  Now you might be wondering why it is Spring after Summer.  Well my few weeks of absence have been occupied by transitioning from Japan and back to Australia.  So in the process I bid adieu to Japan, in the northern hemisphere, during summer and entered Australia, in the southern hemisphere, towards the end of winter.

In the last few weeks I spent in Nagoya I got to enjoy some summer festivals – Japanese matsuri style.  So here are some photos of famous summer festivals in Japan.  I hope you enjoy it.

Tanabata in Ichinomiya.  Tanabata, also known as the Star Festival, in Ichinomiya is one of the three biggest Tanabata festivals in Japan.  Celebrated during the last weekend of July (25th-28th) this year.  The festivities builds up from Thursday to the grand climax on Sunday.  Anyone is welcome to celebrate with the locals.  Many come in their beautiful yukatas, enjoy the music and colourful fukinagashi (streamer) decorations, write up their wishes on the tanzaku, and feast on yummy street food!

Bon Odori in Goju Hachiman.  Bon dancing is a traditional dancing that locals do to welcome their departed spirits during the bon week.  When one wants to join in the biggest and best bon dancing, or all night bon dancing, one visits Goju Hachiman.  I was particularly curious about this event in summer.  Bon dancing is so cool, I couldn’t help myself but join in the fun!

Goju Hachiman is well known for it’s small traditional town image maintained since the 17th century.  The town is very easy to walk through and the locals are friendly.  Have you been to a cafe or restaurant and saw your meal displayed on the window?  Plastic replicas of food are very famous around Japan and many asian countries and out here you get to experience making one!  Goju Hachiman is the centre of making food replicas.

What seemed like a sleepy town came to life after dark when suddenly people were walking through the streets, dressed in their yukatas, started making their way to a part of the town where the dancing was happening that night.  After dancing all night you can stay over in one of the many ryokans where, if you haven’t got a yukata, usually lends their guests their very own ryokan-inspired yukata for you to dance in.

So these were two of the many summer festivals in Japan and I am so glad to share them with you.  In my next posts I will show you fun places I visited during my finals weeks in the wonderful country of the rising sun.  I hope to see you again very soon!


12 Chapters of Nagoya Tour: Chapter 8 – Atsuta History Course

Welcome back.  We move on to Chapter 8: Atsuta History Course.  Atsuta Shrine is considered one of the most venerable shrines in Japan  second to Ise Grand Shrine or simply called ‘Jingu’ meaning The Shrine.  This chapter’s course will introduce us not only to Atsuta Shrine and its treasures but some history around its property.  So join me for a bit of a stroll around Atsuta.

1.  Atsuta Jingu (Main Shrine).  I have visited this shrine more than any other shrines in Nagoya.  I am not a shinto believer but do not mind experiencing the many events celebrated in this beautiful temple.  Previous visits included last Christmas day when they replaced the shimenawa and in Chapter 3 of the Nagoya Tour which I have written about.  The other times I have visited were for other reasons but every time it seemed I discover something new about the shrine.

For this chapter I timed to visit Atsuta when they had a special dance festival on the first of May.  The Bugaku Shinji is a ceremonial dance performed with ancient court music since the tenth century during the Heian era.  Present day celebrations are just reminders of the bygone monarchy days of Nagoya.


2.  Atsuta Jungu (Treasure Museum).  Since 1966 the museum collection exceeds 6000 items, of which 95 precious items are designated as national treasures of Nagoya.  The items were donated by people from the imperial families to general philanthropists, including a large number of swords.


3.  Saidanbashi Bridge (Birthplace of Dodoitsu).  This small bridge was a scene of a farewell between a mother and her son on his way to the battle of Odawara, led by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1590.  The young man, unfortunately, died during his military service wherein the mother replaced it as a memorial for her lost son.  The original ornamental cap on the post was engraved with a touching inscription of the mother’s love and is now kept in the Nagoya City museum.  Dodoitsu, a Japanese poetry and a famous ballad played with a three-stringed Japanese instrument-shamisen apparently originated here.   The area later on flourished as a literary centre.


4.  Miya No Watashi Park.  This park was the former site of a ferry crossing along the only sea route on the Tokaido Highway.  Known as Shichiri no Watashi, a Japanese phrase which means crossing on seven ri, which translates to 27 kilometres in current measurement.  The stone night light marked the departure and arrival of night ferries.


5.  Shirotori Garden.  This is a beautiful Japanese garden with a theme called ‘a watery story’ to represent the geographical features of the Chubu region.  Established in 1991 and spreads through 3.7 hectares.  I have visited this garden numerous times as well but never tire of its changing beauty.  I have written about previous visits here and here.  So for this post I would like to show the garden during different colours.


6.  Hoji-ji Temple, Shiratori Tomb.  The shrine was built as a small local shrine where Kobo Daishi worshiped Yamatotakeru-no-Mikoto and protects the treasure of Shiratori Tomb, believed to be the tomb of Yamatotakeru.


7.  Danpusan Tomb.  Danpusan means ‘to be without a husband’ as a reference to Mizuhime, wife of Prince Yamato Takeru, was known for not re-marrying after Takeru died.  This is one of the legends behind this burial mound which has not been excavated.  Known as the largest key-hole shaped mound, whoever was buried there must have been an important figure in history.


8.  Seigan-ji Temple (Birthplace of Minamoto-no Yoritomo).  The shrine contains a stone monument as a birthplace of Minamoto-no Yoritomo in 1147, the founder of the Kamakura Shogunate, a Japanese feudal military government.  He was the third son of Minamoto-no Yoshitomo, the head of the Minamoto clan, a general during the Heian Period of the Japanese history.


This course was a rather interesting walking tour as it contained a number of historical facts that I would never have known just by visiting the shrine.  I hope you enjoyed that as much as I have.

If you would like to trace previous chapters, here they are:

Chapter 1: Nagoya Castle Course

Chapter 2: Course covering region of the Owari Tokugawa family and the Cultural Path

Chapter 3: Oda Nobunaga “Owari’s Foolhardy Youth” Course

Chapter 4: Course Covering the Birthplace of Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Kato Kiyomasa

Chapter 5: Course for Experiencing Nagoya Manufacturing

Chapter 6: Nagoya Stroll Course

Chapter 7: Funtown Osu Course

Weekly Photo Challenge: Culture

This contribution is a bit late for last week’s Photo Challenge.  But, nevertheless, I would like to share this bit of cultural experience I had last week from Toyokawa, Japan.

Toyokawa Inari Shrine Spring Festival

Toyokawa Inari Shrine Spring Festival

These worshipers, mostly men, and a lady which can be seen here in peach dress, help lift this shrine placed on a deck of (heavy-looking) timber from the main shrine and around the temple grounds.  Stopping is main halls and lifting it at least three times.  The great spring festival is for harvest prayer.  Around Japan many spring festivals are celebrated for fertility and harvest.  Last year I also witnessed another Matsuri for fertility during spring time.

12 Chapters of Nagoya Tour: Chapter 7 – Funtown Osu Course

Osu Shopping District is one of the oldest and most popular shopping districts in Nagoya.  Welcome to Chapter 7  of the 12 Chapters of Nagoya Tour.  This course takes us through both history and shopping experiences.  This is in my immediate neighbourhood and a nice place to walk around.  So let’s go for a walk.

1.  Fureai Park.  Central to this park is the huge Maneki-neko, known in Japan as a welcoming cat, good luck or money cat and happy cat.  This small Fureai Park is a famous relaxing area, meeting area or entertainment area.  During weekends and special festival days this little park would be packed with audience enjoying a variety of entertainment.  On quieter days people like to meet up here, have a snack and relax.


2.  Nanatsudera Temple.  In the olden Edo period days this temple was bustling with festivals and many events.  Built in 735 and moved here from Kiyosu and became a place of worship for the Owari Tokugawa family.  Today, the temple is quiet but still popular amongst local residents during market days and Osu festivals.


3.  Osu Kannon Temple.  Built in 1324 at Nagaoka Village and moved to its present location by Tokugawa Ieyasu in 1612 in conjunction with the construction of Nagoya Castle.  Osu is popular amongst local residents and tourists for a traditional Japanese shopping experience, during many festivals and bimonthly flea markets.  The temple is central to these experiences.


4. Osu Entertainment Hall.  Opened in the 1960’s as one of the “Osu 20 Theatres”, but only the Osu Entertainment Hall remains.  Famous for a variety of entertainment including comedic story telling, stand-up comedy and magic.


5.  Akamon Myooden.  A small and quiet temple tucked within one end of the Akamon-dori on the Akamon Myouo-dori.  Akamon means red gate and affectionately nicknamed Temple Myoosan amongst locals.  This small street comes to life on the 28th of each month with stalls during its monthly street fair.


6.  Nagonoyama Park.  The park was Nagoya’s first park way back in 1879 until Tsurumai Park opened in 1909.  What remains of the park is a gentle hill, which is an authentic burial mound, a remnant from a group of burial mounds in Osu.


7.  Bansho-ji Temple.  A former place of worship for the Oda family.  The site had a “famous” event wherein the young Nobunaga threw incense powder during the funeral of his father Nobuhide.  Formerly located near the Nagoya Castle then moved to the current site which occupies the whole of east Osu in the past.


8.  Shintenchi-dori Akamon-dori (Electronics Marketplace.)  Known as one of Japan’s three largest electronic shopping areas.  There is a large concentration of electronics stores along these streets which is frequented by electronics lovers.


If you have missed the previous chapters, here they are again:

Chapter 1: Nagoya Castle Course

Chapter 2: Course covering region of the Owari Tokugawa family and the Cultural Path

Chapter 3: Oda Nobunaga “Owari’s Foolhardy Youth” Course

Chapter 4: Course Covering the Birthplace of Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Kato Kiyomasa

Chapter 5: Course for Experiencing Nagoya Manufacturing

Chapter 6: Nagoya Stroll Course

The Historical Town of Takayama

We had the chance to visit another part of the what is known in Japan as the Central Honshu.  Described by tour books as the region that shows the contrasts of present Japan – with its densely populated coastal cities whilst in the middle the highest and wildest mountains can be found.  Whilst the region is very accessible to travel it has kept its traditional rural lifestyles, architecture and festivals.

Last Sunday, the 14th of April was the first day of Takayama’s world renown Spring Festival – Sanno Matsuri.  The festival is a celebration of the guardian deity of the southern half of the ‘old town’ Takayama to welcome spring as well as pray for good harvest and peace for the year.  The main event of the festival is the parade of 12 yatais (festival floats.)  Later in the year after the hot days of summer Takayama then celebrates the Autumn Festival where there are 11 of these yatais on show.  They are believed to date back as far as the 17th century.  The current Takayama spring festival in the Ishikawa Prefecture have been celebrated for the past 40 years.

Every float has its own unique design with very intricate details.  They were very beautiful!  Here are photos of the floats but I haven’t named them individually as I do not wish to misquote their names.


Walking through the old town we experienced the beautifully preserved Edo period merchant’s businesses and private homes.  Takayama is not only known for these festivals.  The city is also well-known for the numerous sake breweries and gourmet restaurants.  The old town was awarded the highest 3-star Michelin travel award as a destination worth travelling.


Aside from the beautiful festival and old preserved streets, it was the spirit of the locals that I loved the most.  These festival participants were very proud of their heritage.  The police and volunteers were very helpful, considering there were many lost (tourists) souls with their guide books and cameras.  Here is my tribute to the lovely people of Hida Takayama.


We truly enjoyed our brief day in Takayama.  Our only wish was if we could have stayed to watch the night festival when the floats were lit and went around the city streets once more.  But…there’s always next time.  I look forward to visiting the city again to explore the many temples and I can’t wait!

When you do get the chance to visit, It is really worth it!  And stay the night if you can.

Hida Takayama’s detailed website is here.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Future Tense


The other day I stopped by Kosho-ji, a buddhist temple two subway stops away from my work.  This photos shows the initial bloom of cherry trees around the temple – which means Hanami is upon us!  This traditional Japanese custom of viewing cherry blossom (sakura.)  It also indicates that spring has finally arrived and the promise of warmer months and greener trees ahead.

Enjoy your spring! Don’t forget to visit the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge to enjoy more interpretations of this week’s Future Tense theme.

Setsubun at Osu Kannon

Firstly, Kung Hei Fat Choi! to those who celebrate the Lunar New Year.  Whilst here in Japan Spring based on the lunar calendar is welcomed by celebrating Setsubun.  Last Sunday the 3rd of February, according to the lunar calendar, marked the last day of winter and beginning of spring.  I chose to watch the parade and celebration at the Osu Kannon temple.  It kicked off with a Takarabune Dai-gyoretsu, which is a parade of the seven gods (Shichifukujin) and the demons (oni), then followed by the throwing of roasted soybeans (mamemaki.)

One of the gods during the parade

One of the gods during the parade

parade through Osu Kannon shops

Parade through Osu Kannon shops

This was the first parade I’ve seen that went through the shopping mall, and I chose to wait for it there as it was quite cold outside that day.  Then off they went through to the temple for the mamemaki shouting “Oni wa soto, Fuku wa uchi” This is to ward off demons and welcome good luck into the homes.

ladies in colour

ladies in black

gents in red

Several groups came in to throw beans towards the adoring crowds waiting cheerfully to catch the beans.

adults catching


group bowing

Then the gods came and did their share of mamemaki.

seven gods

After which, the main event of the afternoon – when the god of happiness (Fuku no kami), laughing his head off, beats the oni hence the good triumphs over the bad.

fighting the oni



happy god

Setsubun is celebrated similarly in buddhist temples all over the world.   Inherited from the Chinese custom and have been adopted since the eight century here in Japan, as part of the Spring festivals.  Overall, I felt it was quite ritualistic in nature, as do any festivals.  Since the beginning of the year I have visited temples around Nagoya and found that the Japanese community take their cleansing and renewal rituals at the beginning of the year seriously.  It gets very crowded.  Here are some of my people-watching photos of the day.


ladies in kimono

lady selling

lady with dog

wishes on branch

I wish you all had a great start to your spring.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Illuminations

For me, illuminations usually appear when the background lighting is dark = usually night photos.  I like night photos as they express a totally different effect on any subject.  Although I struggle with taking night photos I still attempt to take them (as I do not usually carry a tripod.)  The subjects are endless, from neon lights to garden lights.  Enjoy.

Kabukicho, Tokyo

Kabukicho, Tokyo

Christmas lights, Nagoya

Christmas lights, Nagoya

Ikebana show, Nagoya

Ikebana show, Nagoya

Autumn night show, Nagoya

Autumn night show, Nagoya

Autumn night show, Nagoya

Autumn night show, Nagoya

There are many wonderful expressions of this week’s photo challenge and you should visit and have a look.

Weekly Photo Challenge: My 2012 in Pictures

Twelve pictures to sum up the year that has gone (so quick!)  It had been a pleasure knowing and enjoying everyone’s posts here.  I hope you have enjoyed my journey throughout the year as much as I have.  For sure I have enjoyed reading through everyone’s blogs and learning more each day.

Here’s to the year ahead of more exciting blogging for all of us!!!

Lavender is for lovers true…

Lavender is for lovers true,

Which evermore be faine;

Desiring always for to have Some pleasure for their paine:

And when that they obtained have The love that they require,

Then have they all their perfect joie,

And quenched is the fire. (C Robinson)

My recent posts have been about flowers, I know, what can I do…it’s left over from spring and showing off summer.  My recent visit to the Arakogawa Park and Garden Plaza was during their Lavender Festival.  Lavender is one of my most favourite flowers not only for its perfume but for its many uses – especially settling me during sleepless nights.  Its name comes from the Latin word, Lavare, to wash.  And indeed smelling lavender makes you think of soaps or fresheners, that is why I do not like them so much on food.

Arakogawa Park and Garden Plaza is a short subway ride on the Aonami line from Nagoya station.  The park is not very big and quite easy to walk around.  It features a sunken garden where the gardeners were busy replanting the seasonal flower beds.  There is a small Japanese garden, an adventure playground for the kids, plant and garden exhibition areas as well as gardening consultations and classes available for the enthusiast out there.  The lavender garden is a permanent feature garden and available all year round, except there won’t be as many flowers when it’s not in season.

I have always dreamt of running through fields of lavender, like those ones you see in featured photos.  However, this experience had a small field and I only had to stroll through it to cover the whole ‘field.’  All I could take away from my experience that day was the unforgettable perfume, unlike those that have been dried or processed…it was heavenly!  I hope you enjoy some of the photos I took that day.

Japanese Garden

The exhibition centre featured everything to do with lavender including art work, crafts and the process of making a lavender oil.  They sold seedlings of some common varieties as well as lavender ice cream!  Yes, lavender ice cream…but, I already said my piece about lavender in food.  All around the park there were snippets of my other favourite – Hydrangea.  So you can guess what’s blooming next round this garden theme…