Festivals, Japan, Photography, Tokyo, travel

Shibuya Kagoshima Ohara Matsuri

Mid May, the weather starts warming up and so the festivals in japan. The Shibuya Kagoshima Ohara matsuri is just a reproduction of its original festival in Kagoshima (more than 1000 km away from Tokyo), but yet it was an enjoyable event where I had the chance learn a little bit about the traditions specific to the Kagoshima prefecture.

Shibuya is famous for its crowded and lively streets, so at first sight I didn’t really notice anything different than usual (it was crowded as always), but then I realized that there was actually a parade about to start. Celebrated on the streets west side of the Shibuya JR station (commonly known as the Hachiko square), thousands of performers get together to dance ohara music, wear traditional Japanese clothes and promote tourism in Kagoshima. In addition to the parade, they also have a taiko concert (Japanese drums), and some Kagoshima street food.

One thing for sure, this festival made me want to travel to Kagoshima to see the original festival in November, which is supposed to last for 2 days and is supposed to be packed with a lot more activities. Of course Kagoshima shines by itself for its amazing onsens (hotsprings) and hot sand bath, all of these combined with an awesome festival could be the perfect formula to a great vacation.

Full details (Where, when and how) can be found here: http://discoverjapan.info/Details/ShibuyaKagoshimaOharaMatsuri

The following are the pictures I took during this festival

Advertisements
Standard
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.

Standard
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:

Standard
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.)

Standard
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)
Standard
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

DSC_0295 DSC_0321 DSC_0329 DSC_0517 DSC_4261 DSC_4262

Kawazuzakura Festival

DSC_2399 DSC_2388 IMG_0188

Midtown blossom

DSC_4393 DSC_4391 DSC_4379 DSC_4343-Edit

Kasai Rinkai Park

DSC_4465 DSC_4484 DSC_4645

Sankeien Garden

DSC_6021 DSC_6018 DSC_6007

Chidori-ga-fuchi

DSC_5356 DSC_5334

Standard
festival, Fire, Japan, travel

Hifuri shinji: Fire ritual

DSC_3896It is an ancient japanese believe that when Kunitatsuno (one of the 12 gods of agriculture) got married, spring was borne, bringing the beautiful Sakura (Cherry blossoms trees) and a good harvest through the season. Every year at the Aso shrine, locals conmemorate this wedding and pray for a good harvest with a unique display of fire.

This is part of the fire festival in Mount Aso in Kyushu during the month of March and celebrated just right outside of the Ichinomiya Aso Shrine.

The celebration starts with an area with food stalls where you can find horse meat traditional from Kumamoto, later on, around 5:00 pm the wedding ceremony starts with a display of Taiko (Traditional Japanese drums). It is a little after dusk when the bride arrives and the worshipers will set bales of straw on fire and swing around in circles to welcome the bride. After the ceremony is performed (a few minutes later) regular people from the crowd are encouraged to join the celebration and grab their own bale of straw to set on fire and swing as well.

Details of the festival: http://discoverjapan.info/Details/HifurishinjiFireritual

Pictures and text : Enrique Moreno

DSC_3667 DSC_3721 DSC_3725 DSC_3893 DSC_3896 DSC_3910 DSC_3955 DSC_3964 DSC_4077 DSC_4104 DSC_4109

Standard