Japan, Photography, travel

Spirit Boat Procession – Nagasaki

Details: http://discoverjapan.info/Details/SpiritBoatProcessionNagasaki

Every year on August 15 Nagasaki citizens mourn the loved ones who passed away during the past year in a very uniqueDSC_0751-Edit and spiritual way. Float boats parade around the streets while firecrackers are lit and gongs make the loudest noise. It was believed that the boats carried the spirit of the deceased, the firecrackers scares the evil spirits away from them as they are walked to the ocean where they will be sent off.

This procession is part of the Bon season in Japan, where people honor the spirits of their ancestors in a tradition with a history longer than 500 years and celebrated in different ways all around Japan, including the popular Bon-odori dance. The procession is conducted in slightly different ways in different cities across the Nagasaki prefecture, but in essence they are the same. There is un-spoken rivalry among the different cities about which procession is the best, although I attended to the one in Nagasaki city and the one in Shimabara city, I won’t say which one I liked more. Lately this festival became a touristic attraction, it is estimated that in 2010 around 180,000 people attended to see the procession.

Knowing the context of this festival, I decided to be a little discrete while taking pictures of the event as a symbol of respect DSC_0765and empathy to the families who suffered the loss of a loved one. However, after some time, I spotted a family who built a boat dedicated to their pet dog. At the moment I thought it was disrespectful from their part to those praying for the loss of a family member, but sometime later I was explained that actually commemorating a deceased pet dogs is a common practice as families become so attached to them, and to some extent they are considered part of the family.

Nagasaki’s procession reminds me the “day of death” in Mexico, in the sense that families get together to remember and pray for the ancestors, the boats had some resemblance to the Mexican altars. Specially the one in Shimabara city, where the last boat in the procession is shaped like a red dragon with red lights and throwing smoke making of this the highlight of the night.

The following are some of the pictures I took during the procession in both, Nagasaki city and Shimbara city.

Art, Culture, Festivals, Japan, Outdoors, Photography, travel

Tama Genryu matsuri (Headstream Festival) Kosuge, Yamanashi

Drums being played in front of a fire with a flame taller than 5 meters next to the river, prayers for clean water and fire. A ritual I thought I could only see in movies is the highlight of the Genryu festival.

This is a daylong festival loaded with many events and performances. This area is known for its fish and wasabi which is sold at the event by many food stalls during the performances. However, the highlight of the day starts around 6:00 pm with a taiko performance (Japanese drums) as they start lighting the torches. After a few words, they proceed to burn 3 big piles of straw while the drums continue to play. The ritual ends with a display of fireworks.

Although it was a difficult transportation, I rate this as one of my top favorite fire festivals in Japan. Surprisingly not very well known by many tourist, I was literally the only foreigner in the crowd. The following are just a few pictures I took during this trip.

Art, festival, Japan, Nature, Photography, Tourism, travel

Mino festival : Hana Mikoshi (花みこし)

Mino City is known for its history of more than 1,300 years of making washi (Japanese paper) characteristic for its fine texture, strength, softness, and its endurance of centuries. It is commonly used in traditional crafts such as lanterns, umbrellas, fans, etc.

Despite its great success with the paper industry, Mino city remains relatively unknown to tourists (even for domestic tourism). It required a little extra skills to travel all the way there, as most of the signs were written in Japanese only, people don’t speak a second language and I had to make an extra effort to ask for directions using my very limited Japanese.

However, the effort paid off when I found a city rich in Japanese traditions, extremely friendly people that were not shy at all to approach fascinated by the fact that I was the only foreigner who showed up to see their festival. They were even more surprised to find out that I’m from Mexico. Their international influence is so limited that many people asked where Mexico is and what the spoken language is.

Being a major paper manufacturer, is not a surprise that the Mino Festival involves paper in some way. People decorate the mikoshis (portable shrines) with sakura flowers made of paper. Thousands of paper flowers standing meters tall in top of each of 30 mikoshis that people carried around the city while dancing and celebrating in a very cheerful and energetic way.

This time, I noticed that people were passing around a wooden bucket where everybody drinks during the celebration. I was approached multiple times and was asked to drink from the bucket as well, and for my surprise the bucket was full of sake (rise wine). Such a good quality sake and so much of it that I actually got a bit tipsy even though I was just an observant of the celebration.

The following are just a few pictures that I captured of this festival:

Japan, Nature, Photography, travel

Mount Fuji from the Tanukiko lake. (田貫湖)

If your image of Japan is the Mount Fuji, reflected in a lake, and framed by Sakura trees (Cherry blossoms), that’s exactly what Tanukiko lake is. An amazing escape to forget about the busy life of the city, and just a few hours away from Tokyo.

It isn’t for the hardcore outdoor traveler, but more for the type of trip where all you are looking for is for a place where to do camping with some facilities available, have a barbecue, rent a bicycle and ride it around the lake, do some fishing, or just seat down to enjoy the magnificence of Mount Fuji.

In my case, I decided to stay awake the entire night moving from place to place around the lake to do some night photography. While moving around I was approached by a group of bickers and shared some whiskey and chat until late in the night.

it also happens to be very popular photography enthusiast who want to take a picture of the Mount Fuji exactly when the sun is at the very top of the mountain. This phenomena happens only very few times a year and it they call it the Diamond Fuji.


At Fuji St.
– take JR Minobu line to Fujinomiya (20 min.)
– take bus to Lake Tanuki (55 min.)