The city of Narita in Chiba Prefecture, Japan is usually associated with the international airport that is there.
People not so familiar with Japan may think that Japan’s “Narita International Airport is in Tokyo…but Narita is a part of Chiba, which is near Tokyo.
(There is an international airport in Tokyo…it’s “Haneda International Airport“.)
The airport isn’t the only reason to go to Narita City though.
“成田山新勝寺 (Narita-san-Shinsho-ji)“ is a beautiful famous temple that has many wonderful festivals and events.
The area near the temple has many traditional Japanese shops and restaurants.
Narita is known for ウナギ (freshwater eel). There are a number of restaurants there that serve it…it’s delicious! If you visit Narita, you should try it!
Anyways, it had been awhile since we’ve visited Narita…so we went there yesterday. Here are some photos I took:
Japanese children’s cartoon character “Baikin-man”.
It says that Narita is “a traditional Japanese hospitality town”.
These are “Daruma”…a traditional Japanese ornament most commonly seen at New Year’s time.
A 「たこやき」 (Grilled octopus dumplings) stand.
The entrance to 「成田山新勝寺」 (“Narita-san-Shinsho-ji”) temple.
A lion guard at the entrance to 「成田山新勝寺」 (“Narita-san-Shinsho-ji”) .
A 「招き猫」 (Maneki-Neko lucky cat).
The 7-Eleven store there has a brown sign to keep with the style of the area.
Every December, a kanji (Japanese (Chinese) written character) is chosen that represents the biggest news of the year that is just ending. It’s called 「今年の漢字」 (“The Kanji of the Year“).
Last Friday, the kanji of the year for 2014 was chosen. It’s 「税」 (zei) which means “tax“.
Every year, when the 「今年の漢字」 (“Kanji of the Year”) is chosen, it’s presented to the public at a special ceremony at a temple in Kyoto where the head monk writes the character and it’s broadcast on TV, newspapers and the internet.
The Kanji of the Year (今年の漢字) for 2014 is 「税」 (“tax”).
The reason that this character was chosen to represent 2014 is because the sales tax in Japan was increased this year for the first time in years.
When I came to Japan in 1990, the sales tax here was 3%. (Until just a couple of years before I came to Japan there was no sales tax here at all!)
It stayed at 3% until 1997 when it was raised to 5% (that year, a law was also passed that the “after-tax” price must be shown on all products).
Japan’s sales tax was 5% for seventeen years. It was increased to it’s current 8% last spring (thus the Kanji of the Year is “tax”).
The Japanese government plans to increase the sales tax again next year (in 2015) to 10%!
Last weekend we went to the Tokyo Sky Tree.
(We didn’t go inside the tower. I have done that before).
The Sky Tree is illuminated at night in various colors every evening.
When we went it was lit up orange for the start of autumn.
We did go in the adjacent 「空町」 (“Sola-machi“) (lit. “Sky City“) shopping center.
Drinks in a traditional Japanese candy store.
Retro Japanese toys.
Japan’s “Hello Kitty” meets American rock band “KISS”.
From there, we walked to the nearby neighborhood of Asakusa.
「みくじ 百円」 (“Fortunes, ¥100”)
Last weekend, we went to a 藤祭り (Wisteria Festival) in Tokyo.
藤 (Wisteria) is a type of flower that is purple and blooms around this time of year.
Here are some photos that I took:
We also saw the new Tokyo Sky Duck bus.
Here’s a photo that I took of it:
The Tokyo Sky Duck is a new bus service that just started in Tokyo last March.
It gives passengers a tour of Tokyo both by street…and then by river cruise because it’s both a bus and a boat!
Here is a video of the Tokyo Sky Duck bus getting into the river:
Today is February 3rd … in Japan, it’s a holiday called 節分 (Setsubun).
On this day, fathers wear a demon mask and the children throw beans at him and shout 「鬼は外！福は内！」 (“Demon (bad luck) go out! Good fortune come in!”) until he runs away.
Then everyone eats the number of beans corresponding to their age (one bean for each year of their age).
Also, there is a special sushi people eat on this day.
And, at major temples in Japan, there is a ceremony in which celebrities who were born in the current Chinese zodiac year throw beans at the crowd.
We went to the famous 浅草寺 (Sensouji Temple) in 浅草 (Asakusa, Tokyo) and caught some beans that were thrown by famous people there. The celebrity that I was most looking forward to seeing was 「アニマル浜口)」 (“Animal” Hamaguchi)!
Animal Hamaguchi was a professional wrestler in Japan and then he became the trainer / coach of his daughter, Kyoko, who was a female wrestler that represented Japan at the Olympics and other games.
Animal Hamaguchi is well-known for his loud, animated and humorous support and cheering of his daughter!
I like him!
The charismatic “Animal” Hamaguchi throwing beans at the crowd.
It’s now 2013 January 1st in Japan.
明けましておめでとう！(Happy New Year!) ♪
On the Japanese calender, 2013 is 平和25年 (Heisei 25) … the “Year of the Snake” (巳年).
New Years is the biggest holiday in Japan.
It would take a lot to explain Japanese New Year in detail … New Years postcards, TV specials, relatives coming together for a special meal, temple visits, lucky charms and New Years decorations, and many other things.
I’ll just briefly introduce you to Daruma.
Daruma is a round doll that people buy at New Years in Japan.
He has a funny face … and no eyes!
If you get a Daruma, you’re supposed to make a wish for the new year and paint one of his eyes in.
If the wish comes true, you paint in the other eye.
Regardless of whether the wish comes true or not, at the end of the year, you’re supposed to bring the Daruma (and any other New Years decorations you have) to a temple to be burned … and then get a new one for the next year.
It’s bad luck to keep a Daruma for over one year.