Sunday, September 24, 2017

Asuka Corridor of Light

Asuka Corridor of Light

Asuka village's  "Corridor of Light" is an annual project in which organizers decorate the historic streets, temples and landmarks in a section of the town that was once the ancient capital of Japan.
Asuka was the residence of some of Japan's earliest emperors such as Kinmei (509-571) and is the home of the kofun (burial mounds) of Emperor Kinmei and several other nobles.

Because of the town's rich history and archaeological treasures construction has been strictly limited in the area. Today the population of the former capital is only about 5,600.
The area near Asuka station has several bicycle rental shops with which visitors can ride in an area with lots of agricultural land and a park-like atmosphere with long biking trails that are marked with signs indicating historical landmarks (in Japanese and English).

The Corridor of Light event is held in late September around the autumnal equinox when the spider lilies are in bloom. Asuka takes pride in their iconic spider lilies and these plants were the artistic theme for many of this year's illuminations.

Spider lily plants.
The kofun (tomulus) of Emperer Kinmei.
This site still has the characteristic keyhole shaped moat that was typical of the ancient burial mounds though many of the other tombs have lost theirs over the centuries.
The kofun is 140 meters long and is the tomb of Kinmei and his wife, Princess Kitashi.
Flowers in a field near Emperor Tenmu's (and Empress Jito's) tomb.
The mysterious "Stone Monkey" (Saru-ishii) statues that were uncovered in the area during the Edo period (1605-1865).
These statues were moved to their current location as markers on the burial mound which is supposed to belong to Princess Kibihime (643).
"The Demon's Chopping Block" on a hill that is now overgrown with bamboo.

"The Demon's Toilet" overlooking Asuka farmlands.
The "chopping block" and "toilet" were originally two part of one mausoleum.
The chopping block was the base; the "toilet" was the cover. The "toilet" tumbled of the base to a lower point on the hill where it came to rest upside down.
The local legend of tells of a demon that brought a mist down upon these mountains to confuse travellers.
The demon would then take the victims to "the demon's chopping block" for butchering and "pass them" into "the demon's toilet."
Family's admiring the unique artworks that are on each candle cup.
Spider Lily lanterns made of a wire mesh material.
Thousands of these cup lanterns hold candles around the light venues.
There was a pleasant crescent moon in a clear sky with ideal temperatures.
Local children decorated lanterns before the festival.
During the festival visitors were welcome to design their own lanterns.
The twilight sky had beautiful colors.
Cup lanterns, spider lily lamp posts, an LED tunnel and fiberglass light carousels at the central venue at the Ishibutai kofun.
Lamps, candles and moonlight.
A close-up view of the tiger lily lamps.
Spider Lily lamps shot with the soft filter settings on a Fujifilm camera.
Photographers flock to the event to take photos of this artistic spectacle.
You can see the moon in the background over the mountains.

An unusual flower in the foreground.
A one second prolonged exposure taken after nightfall.
The time lapse creates an interesting image of the flowing water in the canal.
Candles lining the old streets in Asuka.
It is dangerous to wander off the street because of the deep canals running between the buildings and the street.
Tradition paper umbrellas with back-lighting serve as decorations.
Okadera Temple pagoda with paper umbrellas for decoration.
Okadera Temple was the highlight of the event for photographers.
The next day there were many similar photos appearing on the Instagram accounts of matsuri fans.
The ruins of the old Kawahara Temple (directly in front of the new Kawahara Temple).
The ancient Asuka Palace was located near here.
Candles and banners illuminate an area with a large model of a phoenix next to a temporary stage for musical performances.
Tachinbana-dera Temple was built around the year 606, commissioned by Prince Shotoku (one of his seven great temples).
Note the crest on the side of the horse statue; the name, "Tachibana" comes from a type of citrus fruit which is represented in the crest.

Bronze lantern at Tachibana-dera Temple.
Tachibana Temple houses a mysterious stone called the Nimenseki (two face stone) which was carved with what appears to be a man's face and a woman's face that is thought to represent the dualities of good and evil.
The Ishibutai Kofun is the largest stone monolith in Japan. The stone cover on top weighs 77 tons.
The tomb was the resting place of Soga no Umako, a nobleman.
The dirt covering of the tomb was later removed as a punishment against the Soga clan.
How the ancient people moved it around the year 600 is a mystery.
Visitors can now pay 250 yen to walk into the chamber beneath the enormous stone.


Friday, September 22, 2017

Japan on Twitter

Big in Japan; Twitter

Japan Twitter (1).png

As a social media platform, Twitter favors people who have broad reach and can provoke interest in audiences who can be reached with the briefest type of content.

Most of the world’s top Twitter users are English speaking individuals with celebrity status who use the platform to candidly share their opinions on current events.

For example here is a list of users who are currently among the most popular in the world:

#1/ 103m followers
Katy Perry

#2/ 100m followers
Justin Bieber

#3/ 94m followers
Barack Obama

#26/ 37m followers
Donald Trump

The global trend here is clearly driven by Americans who already command a lot of attention through traditional media. Most of the major figures are entertainers but politicians also use the platform to post comments.
Trump, in particular has been noted for his inflammatory, unfiltered and impetuous comments which have led to Twitter being cited daily as legitimate source of information on broad topics and political concerns. Entertainers have been known to enter the political fray with Twitter but they generally use it to promote entertainment projects and share light-hearted or trivial matters.

Looking at a list of Japan’s top 100 Twitter accounts adds some insight into Japanese culture.
You can see that Japan has a definite preference for casual materials as singers and comedians are the top personalities.
Official news media sources are much lower on the list in Japan, trailing accounts that promote specific video games.
A large number of the top accounts in Japan are major consumer corporations that heavily use Twitter for marketing and discount promotions.
The adorable,but usually mute, local character mascots even make an appearance on this list which attests to their ubiquitous presence in modern Japan.

Japan #1/ World #483/ 6.8m followers
有吉弘行Hiroiki Ariyoshi. Comedian and singer. The Twitter account is what you would expect of typical social media celebs; lots of selfies and pictures of food.

Japan #2/ 5.06m followers
Kyari Pamyu-Pamyu. A pop music group. The fan base for Japanese idol groups is particularly fervent with a system that encourages fan communication with many small concerts and handshake events. Large casts of singers sell merchandise, inspire tabloid obsessions are a notable subculture in Japan’s youth obsessed music scene. Most people in Japan are already familiar with their hit song "Candy, Candy"

Japan #3/ 4.99m followers
Hitoshi Matsumoto. A comedian from the long running “DownTown” comedy duo who is well known from television.

Japan #5/ 3.98m
Starbucks Japan tweets out promotions for their drinks and announces new menu items with daily photos.

#13/ 2.66m

地震速報This is an automated bot which uses Twitter to publish activity from seismic sensors around Japan to alert people of disasters. No personality, no ego, no slant. Just machine data delivered as quickly and efficiently as possible. The area name, time, longitue/latitude coordinates and affected area are reported.
The tenkijp account is a similar service which provides weather reports (2.65m followers).

#14/ 2.64m
7/11 Stores. This convenience store chain is the most popular of its kind on Twitter. The company promotes goods here. It is also important to note that convenience stores in Japan are a popular place to buy tickets to all sorts of shows which is a major factor in utilizing a time sensitive social media service like Twitter.

#16/ 2.6m
日本経済新聞 電子版Nikkei is a financial publication. It is also the most followed media outlet on Twitter. Publishing stock and business news instantly on Twitter is ideal for the consumers of such media.

#18/ 2.56m
pad_sexy パズル&ドラゴンズ公式This account is dedicated to the popular smartphone game “Puzzle & Dragons” which distributes official game information in the persona of a sexy lady.
“PazuDora” has frequent in-game events, updates and elaborate character artwork which provides a stream of visually appealing content for account followers. This is the most popular account for a specific game (though the Nintendo of America account has 7.9m).

#25/ 2.3m
NHKニュースNHK is a national broadcast company (similar to BBC) for Japan. It is the largest programmer of broadcast news for TV and radio in Japan.

#28/ 2.28m
HIKAKINHikakin. Hikakin is the number one YouTuber in Japan. He does a lot of consumer reviews and shares links to YouTube videos on Twitter. For someone who is known for his beat-boxing, text based media is not his strength.

#30/ 2.13m
HIDEO_KOJIMAHideo Kojima’s English account. Kojima is the flamboyant game designer who is known creating popular games at Konami such as Metal Gear. He is prone to controversy, picking fights and carrying on with public feuds. He is charismatic, abrasive and a popular subject of insider reporting. He has recently left Konami, igniting a new firestorm of Twitter controversy. His is the most popular account to come out of Japan using English.

#43/ 1.75m
Lawson’s convenience stores’ mascot character, Akiko, tweets out promotions for the company. The company promotes point/discount card system called “Ponta.”

#45/ 1.6m
マクドナルドMcDonald’s. The fast food chain offers special seasonal dishes in their menus in Japan (such as the moon burgers in September) and frequent coupons. This Twitter account is made redundant by the popularity of the McDonald's app in Japan which can be used to find coupons and shown to cashiers for discounts.

#53/ 1.44m
ふなっしーFunashi is the most popular local mascot character (yuru kyara) in Japan. This excitable pear represents Funabashi city in Chiba prefecture but leads the country in mascot competitions. Unlike most mascots, Funashi speaks and has released CDs and performed in concerts while promoting Chiba and selling tons of cute merchandise.

#55/ 1.4m
デーブ・スペクターDave Specter. A financial news reporter who tweets in Japanese. He is the only foreigner on this list who is tweeting from Japan.

#64/ 1.38m
「艦これ」開発/運営“Kantai Collection” is a popular browser based, role playing, naval strategy, internet game about battleship girls.
The Kantai collection is a big hit in Japan with recent arcade games, anime and a movie but it has not made much of a splash in foreign markets but you are likely to see the characters represented by cosplayers as the sexy girls in WWII era warship costumes are visually unique.

#77 in Japan/ #1072 Worldwide/ 1.17m
楽天市場Rakuten is an ecommerce site that has a popular points card that is supported by a number of merchants including McDonald’s. Because of this nature it is involved with many cross-promotions with its partners selling small consumer goods and promoting foods.

#86/ 1.09m
阪神タイガースThe Hanshin Tigers are a popular baseball team based in the Kansai area. They are known for having the most rabid fans on the Japanese baseball scene.


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Tempozan World Performance Festival


Tempozan World Performance Festival

The World Performance Festival is an annual event held every year during the 3-day weekend in mid-September (during Respect for the Aged Day).

Kaiyukan is across the bay from USJ, so this is a popular place for tourists. That means that the Tempozan Plaza is a popular place for street performers who vie for that tourist money.

Since about 2010, there has been a formal competition in which audiences vote for performers (with tokens that you must pay for). The top two performers are presented with a prize and prize money.

There are a number of performers who are scheduled to perform at specific times and stages around the market area. Performances usually only last about 20 minutes.

There is a lot of overlap in the variety of performance types; jugglers, balloon artists, acrobats and mimes. But these are types of performances that everyone can enjoy despite language barriers. A number of these performers have appeared on television variety shows and performance events all over Japan.

As a kids' English teacher I think that it is useful to see how professional performers interact with audience and manage crowds and if you can pick up a few balloon art tricks you can make a big splash a school parties.
Balloon dragon by Syan.
Balloon dragon in front of Tempozan ferris wheel and the Tempozan Marketplace.
An elaborate balloon sculpture of a dragon.
The balloons are prepared in a way that initially presents the dragon as an egg.
A fun version of the balloon hat.
Syan presenting his balloon phoenix. Similar to the dragon in that they both start as eggs.
A phoenix, which usually has a rainbow tail in the Japanese tradition.
A performing mime with LED shoes.
Syan wearing a shishimai costume.
A little girl who freaked out when the shishimai came along.
This juggler was one of the rare female performers.
Juggling fire at night.
There were multiple performers using the tall unicycles.
This photo captures the Tempozan ferris wheel in the background.
The Kikyo Brothers juggling as a human tower.
Most performers will call for volunteers from the audience.
The Kikyo Brothers with a type of juggling yo-yo that is popular in Japan.
The performers poses for a group photo after the finale.
First place when to Syan. Second place to Leo.
Kaiyukan Aquarium at night.
Temposan ferris wheel displaying a full assortment of colored LED lights.
Tempozan Ohashi bridge.
A ship that provides brief tours around Osaka Bay.

Syan - a balloon artist

Gonzo- the tambourine master