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.

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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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festival, Fire, Japan, Photography, travel

Tejikara Fire Festival

The Tejikara fire festival is one of those hidden gems not many people know about. It falls somewhere between eccentric and awesome festival. It makes it even more special that it is celebrated just a few weeks after the Sakura festivals near Kyoto and Nagoya, making April one of my favorite months to visit Japan.
This is a celebration with 300 years of history, where groups of people carry small shrines around and dance under a cascade of sparkles of fire and firecrackers and make noise hammering big bells. Most of the participants are naked from the waist up while dancing under the fire. It is believe that this practice will grant the participants with good health.

This year (2015), during the introduction, they made a mistake and some of the sparkles of fire made it all the way to the regular public, and I was lucky (or unlucky) to be one of the few people who reached the sparkles of fire, and trust me … those things burn … I’m not sure how these people can handle so many sparkles of fire for so long.

When and where?

  • Second Saturday of April, 6:30 PM to 9:00 PM approximately
  • Tejikarao Shrine (Kuranomae, Gifu city)
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