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VJ Day

15 Aug

Today is 「終戦記念日」 (lit. “Anniversary of the end of the war”), or, as it’s referred to in the West, VJ Day.

So today is the 65th anniversary of the end of World War 2. Unfortunately it’s not the anniversary of war completely.

I’m not going to write a lot of this today because last year I wrote a post about the 64th anniversary that included an English translation of part of the Japanese Emperor’s speech to the people of Japan (click here to read it).

And the year before, I wrote a post about the 63rd anniversary that explained a bit about 「靖国神社」 (Yasukuni Shrine) and it’s relevance to this day. (click here to read that post).

This year 「終戦記念日」 (VJ Day) is on a Sunday (today), so I’m sure 「靖国神社」 (Yasukuni Shrine) was crowded today.

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Also today was the last day of this year’s 「深川八幡祭り」 (Fukagawa Hachiman Festival)…also called the 「水かけ祭り」 (“Water Tossing Festival“) because people watching the festival throw water on the people carrying the 神輿 (Miskoshi portable shrines). Even firefighters hose them down.

Two years ago I participated in this festival by helping to carry a 神輿 (portable shrine).

It was fun…but carrying that heavy thing all day and also tossing it up and catching it many times…my arms and legs were aching the next day!

This festival occurs every August in the 門前仲町 (Monzen-Nakachou) area of Tokyo…but the big main festival only occurs every three years.

When I participated two years ago it was a “big, main festival”…and next year when the big festival is scheduled again, I am invited to join again.

Click here to see photos and videos of this festival from two years ago when I was a member of one of the 神輿 (Miskoshi portable shrines) teams.

Yokoso Japan!

14 Jun

「ようこそジャパン」 (Yokoso Japan!) means “Welcome to Japan!“, and is the Japan National Tourism Organization‘s official slogan of their campaign to attract foreign visitors to Japan.

「Yokoso Japan!」 logo

「Yokoso Japan!」 logo

Here are some of their Yokoso Japan! campaign ads.

Most of the scenes in this first one are of Tokyo (there are a few shots of Osaka, etc…but most of it is Tokyo):

These show many parts of Japan:

Do they make you want to visit this beautiful country?

Cell-phone Camera

25 Oct

I was looking at the pictures on my 携帯電話 (Cell-phone) camera.
I have over 600 photos on the phone’s memory disc that I’ve taken at various places (the disc still has alot of memory space left, too!)

So I made a slideshow of some of the photos:


| View Show | Create Your Own

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.

*****************************************************************

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!

Rainy weekend

10 May

I had planned to go to the 神田祭り (Kanda Festival) today…but it was a rainy day today, and my two oldest daughters have First Semester Exams at school next week—so they need to stay home and study this weekend.

So we just stayed at home today and my daughters studied. I helped them with their Math and their English lessons.

If their math assignments get much more difficult, I won’t be able to help them with it anymore! The math they’re studying is hard!

Tomorrow, my youngest daughter’s school is having a Kids Sumo Tournament. My kids aren’t gonna participate, but I’m on the school’s PTA so I’m going there to help set up and clean up when it’s over.

Then my kids and I are gonna take my wife out for Mother’s Day dinner.

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