Tag Archives: matsuri

2009年夏の「みたままつり」

14 Jul

Yesterday (2009 July 13), we went to the first day of the 2009 「みたま祭」 (Mitama Festival).

This year this festival is from Monday, July 13 until Thursday, July 16. So, if you’re currently in the Tokyo area you can go to this festival. It’s at the 靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine).

靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine) is where Japan enshrines all who have died in battle defending Japan. I wrote a bit about it in another post…click here.

We have been to 靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine) many times, and we go to the 「みたま祭」 (Mitama Festival) nearly every year.
I wrote a post about this festival last year…click here to see it. That post has videos and a slideshow of photos.

In the summertime in Japan, there are many Obon festivals…which are festivals to honor the deceased. And, as I wrote above, 靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine) is Japan’s shrine for the war-dead. So the 「みたま祭」 (Mitama Festival) is a festival to honor the war-dead.

They were heading to the festival.

They were heading to the festival.

They say: "Mitama Festival, July 13-16. Yasukuni Shrine"

They say: "Mitama Festival, July 13-16. Yasukuni Shrine"

At the festival many people wear ゆかた and じんべい (Japanese traditional summer outfits).

At the festival many people wear ゆかた and じんべい (Japanese traditional summer outfits).

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At many summer festivals in Japan, there are haunted house attractions. These have been popular at summer festivals since long ago in Japan because it’s said that the chills from the fright help cool you off in the summer heat. (Horror movies are also popular in the summertime in Japan for the same reason).

Here’s the outside of the Haunted House attraction at 「みたま祭」 (Mitama Festival):

「ろくろ首」 ("Long neck Geisha Ghost") is a old traditional ghost story.

「ろくろ首」 ("Long neck Geisha Ghost") is a old traditional ghost story.

As usual, we had a good time at the 「みたま祭」 (Mitama Festival) even though it was a hot day. We had 焼きそば (Grilled Noodles) and beer, watched the ねぶた (Nebuta) float parade, and our kids played festival stall games.

Japanese Festivals in America

12 May

It seems that there are a number of Japanese festivals in America at various times of the year and in various cities around America.

I’d like to attend a Japanese festival in America and see how similar or different it is from a real Japanese festival!

Have you ever been to a Japanese festival in America (or another country)? How was it?

I found information online about a few Japanese festivals in different U.S. cities:

  • Japan Fest, Atlanta (Georgia, USA)

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    2009年9月19日(土曜日)から9月20日(日曜日)まで。 (Saturday, 19 September 2009 – Sunday. 20 September).

    All of the Japanese festivals in America that I found online have already finished this year…except this one.
    If you’re in Atlanta, Georgia USA this September 19 -20, you should consider checking out this festival.

    They have scheduled martial arts shows, 盆栽 (bonsai), 生花 (ikebana), アニメ (anime), Japanese food, etc.

  • The Japan-America Society Of Houston (Texas, USA)

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    This festival was held in Texas, USA on 2009年4月25日から4月26日まで。 (2009 April 25-26).

    Do you go to it?

  • National Cherry Blossom Festival, Washington D.C. (USA)

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    This year’s festival in Washington D.C. was held on 2009年3月28日から4月12日まで。 (2009 March 28 – April 12).

    Next year’s will be 2010年3月27日から4月11日まで。 (2010 March 27 – April 11).

    Did you go to this festival? Are you planning to go next year?

    I heard about this festival on the TV news here in Japan because Jero performed at it this year (I wrote a post about it last March. Click here to read it).

  • Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival of Greater Philadelphia (USA)

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    This year’s festival was on 2009年4月5日。 (2009 April 5).

There are many international festivals in Tokyo…

But I never knew there were so many Japanese festivals in America before. When I lived in America, I never heard about any Japan festivals. Are they a fairly recent* occurence? (* by recent, I mean since 1990.)
Is it because there’s currently a “Japan boom” in America?
Have you been to a Japan festival?

縁日祭

29 Apr

今日は「昭和の日」 (Today is “Showa Day“).

Until 1989, April 29th was 天の誕生日 (the (Showa) Emperor’s birthday), but when the (Showa) Emperor died in 1989 his son became the (current) Emperor…so in honor of the Showa Emperor’s love of nature, his birthday became the Japanese holiday 緑の日 (Greenery Day).
But a few years ago, 緑の日 (Greenery Day) was changed to May 4th and April 29th became known as 昭和の日 (Showa Day).

You can read about Japanese holidays on my FAQ page by clicking here…and you can read about 昭和の日 (Showa Day) in particular by clicking here.

At a 神社 (shrine) near our house, our town had a 縁日祭 (Neighborhood Festival).
We usually go to this festival every year.
In past years at this festival, my youngest daughter has played the Koto* with her Koto class, my oldest daughter played the trumpet with her brass band when she was in Junior High, and I volunteered once to help at one of the booths.
(*Koto is a traditional Japanese instrument).
Even though this festival is small, I enjoy it alot because I have lived in this neighborhood for many years so I know many people and it’s enjoyable to have a beer and talk with friends and neighbors and enjoy the festival.

This year, my wife volunteered in help at one of the booths. She helped at the booth selling かき氷 (shaved ice).

Today is Wednesday but it’s a day off. It was nice to have a day off in the middle of the week. A nice break.
We all had a good time at the festival. Each of my daughters went to the festival with their friends.
I saw my father-in-law there talking with some neighbors…I sat with them and had some beer and food and small talk.
I saw my daughters and their friends walking around, so I bought them all some イカ焼き (grilled squid).

We all had a good time.

Here are some photos I took:

「こいのぼり」 (Carp streamers). It's a traditional 子供の日 (Children's Day (May 5)) decoration.

「こいのぼり」 (Carp streamers). It's a traditional 子供の日 (Children's Day (May 5)) decoration.

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お好み焼き (Okonomiyaki)

お好み焼き (Okonomiyaki)

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What types of neighborhood festivals do you have where you live?

さ・く・ら・ま・つ・り

5 Apr

Today we went to a nearby 桜祭り (Cherry Blossom Festival) and enjoyed a 花見 (Cherry Blossom Viewing) picnic that my wife and daughters made.

Our lunch was おにぎり (rice balls), 卵焼き (Japanese grilled eggs), broccoli, chicken, (strawberries), cookies, and beer*!
It was an excellent picnic lunch!

(*Of course, only my wife and I had beer. Our daughters had tea. ;) )

Here are some photos we took:

Many people were enjoying 花見 (Cherry Blossom Viewing)

Many people were enjoying 花見 (Cherry Blossom Viewing)

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There are many turtles, ducks and carp in the pond.

There are many turtles, ducks and carp in the pond.

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Drying in the sun

Drying in the sun

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Cherry Blossom tree next to a bus stop

Cherry Blossom tree next to a bus stop

「かき氷」 (Shaved Ice) vendor

「かき氷」 (Shaved Ice) vendor

渋谷フェスタ

4 Nov

This was a three-day weekend that just ended. Monday (November 3) was 文化の日 (Culture Day).

There were are always a number of festivals on Culture Day weekend.

On Sunday, we went to 原宿 (Harajuku) because my kids like to go shopping there (just like all teenagers in Tokyo do!) and from there we went to the 渋谷フェスタ (Shibuya Festival).

Harajuku is very crowded…especially 竹下通り (Takeshita Street):

Outside the World-famous Laforet store, I noticed that they already have their X-mas tree up!

We stopped by 明治神宮 (Meiji Grand Shrine). They were celebrating the 50th anniversary of the shrine’s being restored after the damage from WW2.

They were having a festival in the evening…but we didn’t stay for it.
At the shrine, we saw little girls aged 3 and 7 and little boys aged 5 who were there dressed up in 着物 (kimono) for their 七五三 (7-5-3 Festival). (You can read my short FAQ about that holiday by clicking here )

From there, we walked to 代々木公園 (Yoyogi Park). Every Sunday, many people gather in groups in or near the park and some groups are dressed as Cosplay and some are rock bands practicing and others are dancing groups, etc.
These are their hobbies and they like to meet at Yoyogi Park on Sundays and relax. But visitors to Tokyo might be surprised by some of them. (Until about ten years ago, there used to be alot more groups there on Sundays. The street outside the park would be closed to traffic on Sundays to accommodate them all!)

One of the most famous groups (beside the Cosplay) are the Rockabillies. “Rockabilly” is an early style of rock ‘n roll from the 1950′s that is basically a combination of rock and country (which was sometimes called “hillbilly music” back then).
The Stray Cats are probably the most famous rockabilly band…and they still have many fans in Japan.
Rockabilly style is leather, ’50s style tattoos, greased hair and hot rod cars…and ’50s rock music.

The Rockabilly groups in Yoyogi Park gather on Sundays and listen to their old rock music and dance. Many foreigners mistake them for Elvis impersonators. They listen to Elvis style music…but they’re not impersonating him.

Here’s a couple of videos of them:

Elvis is in 原宿 (Harajuku), though:

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This statue of Elvis Presley is outside the Rock N Roll Museum store. They have sections devoted to Elvis, The Stray Cats, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, KISS, etc.

From there, we walked to the 渋谷フェスタ (Shibuya Festival).
There were lots of booths where you could buy food and beer, or crafts and goods, or play a game, etc. It was similar to 区民祭り (Residents Festivals).

At one booth they were making mochi, which is pulverized rice. And they gave it away until they ran out. We were able to get some each. It was quite good.

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Here’s a video of them making the mochi. It’s called 「もちつき」 (“Mochi-tsuki”):

It was a fun day.

Here are some other pictures I took:

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Here’s the CC Lemon Hall. (I hate that name. It used to be called 渋谷公会堂 (Shibuya Koukaidou) since it was built in 1964 for the ’64 Tokyo Olympics…until they sold the naming rights to a beverage company).
I saw my first concert in Japan here (Death Angel in 1991):

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And we were surprised by the size of these cabbages:

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And finally, we went home from 渋谷駅 (Shibuya Train Station). The intersection in front of this station is said to be the busiest intersection in the world.
Here are a couple videos of it that I took:

Open House

13 Sep

Today was my daughters’ 学校公開 (Open School) at their Junior High School.

Today is Saturday, and there’s usually no school on Saturdays…but the school’s open on Saturdays when parents are expected to come (運動会 (Sports Day), concerts, Open School, etc), and then the school is closed the following regular school day (usually the following Monday).

But this Monday is a holiday (敬老の日 (“Respect For The Aged Day” (click here to read my FAQ about it))…so my daughters’ school will be closed on Tuesday, so they can have a three-day weekend like everyone else in Japan (Sunday-Tuesday instead of Saturday-Monday).

I watched my daughters’ English and Art classes. They did very well.

One the way home, my wife and I saw a stray cat with an unusual coat…all brown except for the black fur on his head.

He was a bit mangy…but we still liked him.

Anyways, there are a number of 秋祭 (Autumn Festivals) around Tokyo this weekend, but I probably won’t be going to any of them…we’re pretty busy this weekend. Anyhow, I’ve seen them all at least once each before.

深川八幡祭り

18 Aug

Yesterday was the day for the annual 深川八幡祭り (Fukagawa-Hachiman Festival).
Not only that, it was also the big, full festival that occurs every three years!

You can read a little more about this festival on my Festivals page by Clicking here.

I didn’t mention it before but two years ago I was invited to participate in this year’s festival.

I carried a 神輿 (portable shrine) in this festival nine years ago…and the next day, I swore that I’d never do it again!
It was a unique, fun experience…but my body ached so bad that I decided that I only wanted to experience 神輿 (portable shrine) festivals as a spectator from then on.

But carrying a 神輿 (portable shrine) can be compared to drinking in excess…you enjoy it while you’re doing it, but the next day you’re in pain and tell yourself that you’ll never do that again. But when the memory of the pain fades, you’ll happily agree to join in again!

That’s what happened in 2006 when I was invited to join in the 2008 festival. I gladly agreed.
I’m not saying that I regret my decision. Not at all.
My muscles ache…but it’s not so bad. And I really enjoyed it.

At the end of yesterday’s festival, I was invited to join in the next big, full version of the festival again in 2011! I agreed again.

Anyways, yesterday, I got to the meeting place at 7:30AM and changed into the clothes worn by 神輿 (portable shrine) carriers.
This festival is centuries old and little has changed…including the clothes.

There are over 50 神輿 (portable shrine) carried by different groups in this festival. Each group wears a different 反転 (light jacket).

At 8:00 our leader gave us a few encouraging words and then we picked up our 神輿 (portable shrine) and it began!

Each group has about 70 people (I’d estimate) and only 30 or so can fit around the 神輿 (portable shrine) at a time. So the remaining people who aren’t actually carrying it follow behind and change out with the carriers as they become tired.

What makes this festival different from most 神輿 (portable shrine) festivals is that the people in the crowd throw water on the people carrying the 神輿 (portable shrines)!

Many people stand in trucks with the beds full of water and use buckets to throw the water, some people use garden hoses…and the Tokyo Volunteer Fire Department was there—spraying us with fire hoses!
We got soaked!

At noon, we put the 神輿 (portable shrine) down and all of us (nearly 4000 people, I guess) were given お弁当 (Japanese box lunches).

At that point, we were pretty sore…and cold. Usually getting soaked is a blessing for the people carrying the 神輿 (portable shrines) at this festival since August in Tokyo is sweltering. And it has been extremely hot every day this month…but the day before this festival, there was a storm in Tokyo and I guess it brought a bit of a cold-front. In addition, it was overcast all day.
But we weren’t done yet…only halfway.

After lunch, it began to lightly rain. Noone would’ve noticed since we were already very wet. But that didn’t make the weather any warmer.

At the end, we didn’t just put the 神輿 (portable shrine) away. It was done extravagantly! Turning around and around, throwing it up and catching it. 神輿 (portable shrine) aren’t light…about 2 tons!) with lots of water being sprayed at us!
It was quite a show.

I enjoyed it alot! And I’ll be back for more in 2011!

It was over at 5:30PM…over nine hours! We were given some beer and we had a toast to our success.

Since I was busy carrying the 神輿 (portable shrine) and getting soaked, my wife took all of the photos and videos!
She took some excellent pictures and videos! Better than I do.

Here’s a slideshow of some of the photos of my 神輿 (portable shrine) group:


| View Show | Create Your Own

And here are twelve (!) videos that she took:

(If you enjoyed this post, you can vote for it on digg.com by clicking the “Digg it” button below:)

Festivals Page

4 Aug

I just finished my Festivals In Tokyo page.

You can click the link at the top of this page…or click here to see it.

ミタマ祭

17 Jul

The day before yesterday, I had to go up to Saitama for a few hours.

Do you know what station this lion statue is near?

Here’s a short video I took of a Game Center (video game arcade) in Saitama:

And here’s a video I took while walking into the train station:

And this is on the platform, waiting for the train:

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Then, that evening, I met my family at the 靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine) for the annual みたま祭 (Mitama Festival).

This festival takes place during お盆 (O-bon) (click here to read my FAQ about O-bon). Most of Japan has Obon in August…but it’s often celebrated in July in Tokyo.

Here’s a video of the outside of the Haunted House attraction at the Mitama Festival:

And all around Japan during the summer there are many festivals big and small that have 盆踊り (Bon Dancing) to remember the deceased. Here’s a video of the Bon Dance at the Mitama Festival:

青森県 (Aomori Prefecture) in Northern Japan has a cool festival called ねぶた祭り (Nebuta Festival).

At the Mitama Festival in Tokyo, a group of Nebuta Festival dancers come and do a show.
Here are two videos that I took of them:

Finally, here’s a slideshow that I made of some photos I took at the festival:


| View Show | Create Your Own

三社祭

19 May

I added a new FAQ entry to my website.
Click here to see it.

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Yesterday we went to the 三社祭 (Sanja Festival) in Asakusa, Tokyo.

This is one of the three biggest festivals in Japan. It goes for three days…this year it was from Friday, May 16 til Sunday, May 18. Saturday was the biggest day. It gets real crowded.

I’ve been to the Sanja Festival a number of times over the years, so I wasn’t going to go to it this year. But yesterday (Sunday) was a nice day, so we decided to go to it.

Sanja Matsuri means “Three Shrines Festival” and it’s called this because of the three お神輿 (Mikoshi…or “Portable Shrines”) that are carried in the festival.

Japan has many “Mikoshi Festivals” like this one in the Spring and Summer. They are elaborately decorated and quite heavy and are carried enthusiastically by a large group who at times will lift it up and down while they are carrying it…and sometimes even toss it up and catch it!

(I’ve participated in carrying Mikoshi a couple times at a local festival. They’re very heavy and carried for hours! It’s quite a workout!)

The Yakuza (Japanese mafia) will often participate in larger festivals like this one; often carrying a Mikoshi and bearing their signature full-body tattoos (which are almost never shown in public)…and sometimes getting up and standing on the Mikoshi itself!

Standing on the Mikoshi is not only unsafe, but it also offends the Shinto priests who own the Mikoshi.

So last year, the police warned the mafia not to stand on the shrines, but they did it anyways…and one of them broke (Mikoshi…not mafia)!

One reason I decided that I wanted to go (besides the nice weather) was that I heard that the two larger Mikoshi weren’t going to be included in this year’s Sanja Festival, and that there would be a large police presence to insure order because of last year’s antics…so I wanted to see if this year’s festival was much different than previous years.

The only major difference that I noticed was that there wasn’t anyone standing on the shrines this year.

Festivals in Japan are always a time to relax and have fun…but the Sanja Matsuri has a bit of a “rough” image.

Maybe that’s part of it’s appeal.

Anyways, we walked along the Sumida River to the festival and we saw some Sumo Wrestlers and I took their picture and I also took pictures of the river and the building and boats along the river, and a picture of the Asahi Beer Building and then some pictures at the festival including the Children’s Mikoshi.

I also took some videos and uploaded them to my YouTube page.

It’s late now and I’m too tired to comment on each picture and movie…so I’ll just put them all here (if you have a question about them…please post it in the Comments section).

Anyways…it was a fun day. I really like festivals in Japan!

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