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:

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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.

Access:

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

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Festivals, Japan, Photography, Sakura, Tokyo

Sakura madness – Photographs of numerous festivals

The Sakura tree (cherry tree) is one of the strongest symbols in Japan, it can be found in the 100¥ coins, poems, paintings, music, cloths, food, even Starbucks made a Sakura flavored coffee. It is a source of inspiration and a delight for Japanese people. It has been like this for centuries, and it will continue like this for many more generations.

Sakura trees last in full bloom only for a little longer than two weeks. For many it is a symbol of how beautiful and short life is, frequently compared to the life of the samurai (not very sure why the life of a samurai is beautiful though). Sakura season is also a season to say goodbye for students graduating from college who start a new life in their new job.  Parents say goodbye to their sons and daughters as they become independent, many of them get reallocated to different cities as required by their new employers.

Short life and new life calls for celebration and certainly Japanese people know how to do it: drinking, eating and awesome Sakura decorations and illuminations. I call these two weeks the “Sakura madness”. They have a Sakura forecast that people follow very closely to find out when and where are the most beautiful Sakura trees in full bloom. The most popular areas will usually host Sakura festivals with street food stalls, people bring their picnic mat and enjoy the moment drinking and eating with friends and/or family. Many people wake up very early in the morning to “reserve” an space with their picnic mat and wait for their guests. This tradition is called “hanami”.

The famous “hanami” parties and Sakura festivals are definitely a must see and do. There are lots of popular places for hanami, the following are just a few that I covered this year:

Nakameguro Sakura Festival

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Kawazuzakura Festival

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Midtown blossom

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Kasai Rinkai Park

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Sankeien Garden

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Chidori-ga-fuchi

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