Tuesday, August 23, 2016

武道祭; Osaka Martial Arts Festival

The Osaka Martial Arts Festival


The Osaka Martial Arts Festival is an event that started in 1996. It serves as a showcase event where various martial arts federations come together to give demonstrations. Some of different the martial arts represented: kendo, karate, naginata, jukendo, kyudo, iaido, kempo, taekwondo, judo and kobudo. 

なぎなた    Naginata; the Japanese halberd 
This is one martial art where you will see few males. This discipline has, classically, been the preferred martial art for Japanese ladies since the end of the warring states period.
The exhibitions include practice routines, swings, demonstrations of target points, competitive matches in bogu, and demonstrations of rhythmic naginata. The rhythmic naginata portion of naginata has become a growing part of all public naginata demonstrations, where the participants (mostly girls) perform choreographed routines to recording of lively music (often western pop music in English).

銃剣道 Jukendo; Japanese bayonet fighting
Jukendo is a rare martial art and this is one of the few places where you will have a chance to see a public demonstration. Many of the practitioners at this demonstration were association with the military. Jukendo protective has some differences from kendo bogu: a broader throat covering, a thick covering over the left shoulder and gloves that independently articulate trigger fingers. During the jukendo demonstration there were demonstrations of the basic scoring points, kata and a demonstration matches between two fighters with bayonets as well as a match between a bayonet and a short sword.

古武道 Kobudo; ancient martial arts
This group is actually under the umbrella of the Kendo Federation. Kobudo refers to some obscure and rare martial arts. It includes jodo (a straight staff) as well as the sickle and chain.

The event is held on National Foundation Day, around February 11th at the Osaka Municipal Central Gymnasium, near Asashiobashi station and is free for spectators to join. Organizers often give out free promotional merchandise (pens, notebooks, clear file folders...).

Monday, August 22, 2016

Tsubosakadera; the temple of eye health

Tsubosaka Temple, is a mountainside temple in Nara Prefecture near Tsubosakayama station. It was founded in 703 and is formally known as Minami-Hokkeji (南法華時) which is how you may find it on maps. The name of the mountain and the temple, Tsubosaka ( 壷阪 ), meaning  "jar slope," refers to a mystical jar, made of lapis lazuli crystal, that was discovered near there by the founding monk, Benki Shami, when he heard it "singing" out to him. The temple became associated with fantastical healing abilities. Around the year 717, an empress who had become blind from a disease, called upon Benki Shami to treat her. The empress recovered her eyesight and provided funding for the construction of octagonal temple building.

The temple has a huge statue of the Buddhist figure Kanon which stands over 20 meters tall.

Kanon is a renown for mercy and healing. The statues of Kanon, in particular, are known for helping people recover from eye diseases. The construction of the temple For this reason there is a giant pair of eyeglasses sitting in front of the 3 story pagoda. Visitors are encourages to walk laps through the glasses to grant a year of eye health (like a specialized version of the chinowa seen in Japan).
The temple has a strong connection to India. The art style of the stone relief carvings and the stone buildings all show a strong Indian influence from as that was the original home the Buddha. The temple itself still holds an ongoing relationship to India. You can often find vendors from India who sell crafts and curry cuisine. The temple has been involved with charitable missions to India to treat leprosy.

Tsubosakadera, was given the formal imperial name of Minami-Hokkeji, so that is how it is seen on this map: 南法華時. The temple is about 4km from Tsubosakayama, but there are buses which run from the station to the temple.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Shoryoe; Prince Shotoku Memorial

Every year, April 22nd, Shitennoji temple has a special ceremony to memorialize it's founding patron, Prince Shotoku. The ceremony features performances of bugaku, a type of courtly dance that reserved for aristocratic elites from it origin around the year 800 until the post WWII period when performances we brought to the public. You can note the elaborate costumes with Buddhist imagery, the slow paced and precisely choreographed movements in repeating patterns and the distinctive gagaku music, from woodwinds and an enormous drum.

Prince Shotoku is an almost mythical figure in Japanese history with many amazing feats credited to him during his lifetime, 574-622 CE.
Shotoku is mentioned in the Nihon Shoki (a semi mythical account of the founding of Japan). The prince also played a decisive role in military affairs; helping his clan, the Soga, defeat the rival Mononobe. In politics Shotoku is said to have reorganized the imperial court, around a model similar to Confucian China. Even Japan's name, Nihon, was reportedly coined by Shotoku during his correspondence with the Chinese emperor, Yang of Sui, in 607.

Shotoku is best known, however, as a supporter of Buddhism. His annotation of Buddhist sutras, Sangyou Gisho, is regarded to be "the first Japanese text." He supported the founding of Shitennoji, the first state sponsored Buddhist temple in Japan.

Shotoku has a legend assosciated with him which connects the prince to Bodidharma. Bodidharma is known in Japan as Daruma (the origin of the popular decoration). Daruma/Bodhidharma is traditionally credited with transmitting Buddhism to China and Japan (the Chan Buddhism, which emphasizes meditation and formed the precursor of modern day Pure Land Buddhism). In Shotoku's story, Daruma comes to Japan, appearing as a starving beggar but prince Shotoku takes pity on the incognito saint. Sensing the spiritual air of the man, perhaps, Shotoku comforts him with food water and the regal purple robe off his own back while singing a lament for the poor and downtrodden. Later, the beggar passes away, the prince orders the beggar be entombed and after sometime, having sensed something special, the prince returns to the tomb to find the coffin empty and the purple robe folded on top of the tomb, similar to the Shroud of Turin in Christian stories. Shotoku then resumes wearing the robe and is thought of as a spiritual, learned man of the people. "A sage knoweth a sage" is an expression praising Shotoku in his association with the saint. 

Prince Shotoku was noted for his support of Shinto shrines as well as Buddhist temples.

Now Shotoku is respected as a protector of Buddhism, Japan and the imperial family.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Map of Kansai Festivals

I am developing a map of the various annual festivals in the Kansai area. The dates of the events reflect the date that they were previously held, for many events these dates will be changed to coincide with weekends and holidays. However, you can get an idea of when these events occur in a seasonal sense.

The markers on the map indicate which time of year the festivals occurs. So similar icons occur around the same time of year. Please comment and recommend other festivals or ideas for the map.

  • Toshiya - Late January, around Jan 27, morning to afternoon - archery event at Sanjusangendo Temple in Kyoto.
  • Tsunahiki -3rd Sunday of January, morning time - Namba Yasaka Shrine. Giant snake made of rope is paraded around the Namba area.
  • Hoekago - Jan. 10 - A parade in the Dotonbori area.
  • Doya Doya - Boys in loinclothes clamor to get lucky charms at Shitennoji Temple.
  • Tondo bonfire - around Jan. 15 after sunset- at Kamishindenten Shrine near Senri Chuo station.
  • Wild Boar Festival - Jan.25th, 10am-3:30pm - at Sasayama Castle
  • Kayu ura shinji - Around Jan.11 - Red bean prridge is used to predict the fortune for the coming year.
  • Touka Ebisu Festival - 1/9-1/11 - Festival for the god of prosperity.
  • New Year's Firefighters demonstration - Early January - near Trade Center Mae station.

  • Automesse - Around Feb. 14 - A large car show at INTEX, near Nakafuto station inn Osaka.
  • Otaimatsu bonfire - March 16th, after sunset - Huge torches are lit to represent the passing of the Buddha.
  • Ikeda Cherry Blossom Festival - around April 9 - lanterns are placed around the park.
  • Embu Taikai - 5/3-5/5 - Kendo event at the Budo Center in Kyoto.
  • Kamo Kurabe Uma Horse Race Ritual - 5/5 - at Kamigamo shrine in Kyoto
  • Aoi Festival - 5/16 - parade of people in historic costues that marches from the Imperial Palace to Kamigamo Shrine.
  • 1,000,000 Candles - Around 6/10 - Artists set up candle light exhibits around Umeda.
  • Amagawa - 7/7, after sunset - 50,000 LED balls illuminate the river.
  • 7/1- Ice lanterns will be in display at Nara's Himuro Shrine. Near Kintetsu Nara Station.

    7/2. 10:30a-9pm. Tatsuta Shrine handheld fireworks show. Near JR Sango (near Oji) station in Nara Prefecture. Fireworks start at 9pm.

    6/30-7/2. 10a-4p. Kyoto Pulse Plaza Antique Fair.

    7/1-7/2 to about 4:30pm. Tsurumi-Ryokuchi Park Cosplay Day.

    7/1, 7/9. 11a-4p. Farmers Market. Small Farmers Marche near Karasume Oike station in Kyoto.

    7/1-7/2. "Reptiles Fever" exhibit at ATC.

    Tanabata- The Star Festival 7/7
    • Amanogawa- River lit by LED balls near Temmabashi station
    • Shitennoji Tanabata tunnel. Near Shitennoji Yuhigaoka-mae station. 7/6-7/8.
    • Hatamoto Shrine Tanabata. Near Tsuda station.
    • Tezutsu- handheld fireworks. Fireworks at 7p but thr festival starts at 4:30/. Near Konan station.
    • Umeda City Tanabata. Tanabata decorations at Umeda Sky Building until 8/8.
    • Hoshiai (Star Lovers) matsuri at Osaka Tenmangu. Lights and music at the shrine. Near the Ananogawa LED location.
    • Shiramine Jingu Shrine Tanabata Festival- kemari (a ball kicking game) played at 3pm. A group dance will be performed at 4pm. Horikawa Imadegawa bus stop in Kyoto.
    • Kifune Shrine Water Festival. 10a-Noon. You will need to take a bus from Kifunguchi train station. Lanterns on display until 8pm.
    • Kodai-ji Tanabata. Temple light-up until 9:30p. Bamboo tree decorations.

    7/8-7/9. 10a-5p. [6th Annual] Namba Japanese Sword Fair.

    7/8-8/28. 9:30-4:30p. Sumo and Japanese Swords exhibit at the Osaka History Museum. Near Tanimachi-4chome station. ,

    7/11-7/12. 9a-11p. Ikutama Shrine Festival.

    7/11-7/14. Kumata Shrine Summer Festival. A great place to see danjiri in Osaka. Near Hirano station. The main parade of danjiri will be on the 13th at 7pm.

    7/13. 6:30p. Namba Yasaka Shrine to Dotombori river boat ride.

    7/14. Nachi Ogi. Torches paraded to the famous waterfall in Wakayama prefecture.

    7/14-8/16. Fun Fan Festa. The 5th floor of Osaka Station City.
    7/15-17. Sea Shrine Summer Festival near Tarumi station. 7/16. 10a. Matsuno-o Onda Festival. Rice planting girls are paraded around the shrine on men's shoulders.

    7/16-7/17. 10a-8p. Kobe Love Port Minato Matsuri in Meriken Park.

    7/17. Summer Featival at Ofusa Kanon Temple. The temple will also have a wind chine festival from 7/1-8/31. Near JR Unebi station.

    7/17. 10a-3p. Himeji Port Fureai Festival.

    7/17 and 7/24. Gion Matsuri parades in Kyoto. 7/17 is the main event.

    7/22- Cerezo Osaka soccer game against the Urawa Reds at Nagai stadium (near Nagai Station) at 7pm.

    7/22- Shigaraki Fire Festival. Festival from 7pm.  Fireworks at 9pm.

    7/22- Mino Waterfall Candle Road 7p-9p.

    7/22-23. 1pm-8pm. Umeda Yukata Matsuri at Grand Front next to Osaka Station. Look for tourism department surveyers who like to give out gifts to foreigners.

    7/22-7/23. Motomiya and Yoimiya Festival. Hundreds of candles will decorate the hugely popular Fushi Inari shrine in Kyoto. Ceremoies will be 6pm on the 22nd and 9am on the 23rd.

    7/22-7/30. 5:30p-9p. Mitarashi at Shimogamo Shrine. Walk through a stream at this shrine to offer prayer candles. Near Demachiyanagi station in Kyoto.

    7/24. 4pm-10pm. 7/25. 12:30-10pm. Daigakku Festival at Tamane Shrine near Tamade train station. In this festival an array of lanterns resembling the mast of a sailboat is paraded around the park near the shrine.

    7/24-7/25. Noon-8pm. Gochizan Rengenji Cucumber Purification Ritual. People write their names and ages on a cucumber then rub the cucumber over their bodies and bury it in the ground; this is done to ward off illness.

    7/25. 9a-3p. Anraku-ji Temple Shishigatani Pumpkin Service. Cooked pumpkin is served to ward off illness (500 yen for entry and the pumpkin).

    7/25. 9a-3p. Shinnyo-do Temple will display the contents of their treasury and serve tea (500 yen for admission and tea).

    7/24-25. Wakayama Tenjin Matsuri.

    7/25- Tenjin Matsuri. Osaka's largest festival. Parades and fireworks.

    7/28. 7pm-?. Tanukidani Fudo-in Temple. Hi-watari fire-walking ritual.

    7/29. 10a-9:30p. Amanogawa Tanabata Matsuri. Near Kisaichi station. Light up after 7pm.

    7/29. 7:30-8:45p. Himeji Port fireworks.

    7/29. 7:40pm. Kishiwada Port Festival Fireworks.

    7/29-30. Kokawa Matsuri

    7/30-8/1. Sumiyoshi Matsuri. August first there will be a parade in which the portable shrine is carried to the river for special cleansing ceremony. The shrine will have a summer festival from July 30th.

    July 31. 1-9:30p. Sakai Fish Auction. Main event at 7pm. Check the website at yoich.com

    7/31. 10a-7:30p. Anpara Matsuri. There will be fireworks after 7:30pm. Near Miwa station.

    7/31. 9pm. Atago Shrine Sennichi Mairi shrine visit. Prayers for fire protection, with a special fire ceremony at 9pm. Near the Kiyotaki bus stop.

    Late July- Birdman Rally. Engineering students attempt to fly their contraptions over Lake Biwa in Hikone. Shuttle bus from Hikone station.

    Summer (?)- Tennoji night zoo.

    Ukai - Cormorant Fishing. Leashed waterfowl and boats with fiery torches are used to catch river fish in this ancient practice.
    7/1-9/23. 7-8pm. Ukai, cormorant fishing at Arashiyama.
    7/1-9/30. Ukai on Nakanoshima in Uji. Near Uji station.

    7/16-9/14. 9:30-9:45a. Summer Shikayose. Calling in the deer for feeding with French horn music.
  • Floating Obon Candles - 8/16 - Candoes float down the river in honor of the spirits of ancestors. Near Hankyu-Arashiyama station.
  • Yoshitsune Festival - 9/15 - martial arts demonstrations in honor of Yoshitsune, the famous samurai.
  • Akashi Castle Festival - 10/12 - Dancing, music and food the castle near Akashi station.
  • Bellows Ceremony - 11/8 - a small hunk of steel is forged at Ikutama Shrine near Uehonmachi station in Osaka.
  • 47 Ronin Memorial - 12/14 - Martial arts demonstrations and children in costume in honor of the famously vengeful samurai.

If you are having trouble with the embedded map above, please click this link to go directly to the Google Map page.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Nara Tokae 奈良燈花会

Nara Tokae began in 1999 and has been held every summer as a way for the city to attract people to the public spaces near Kintetsu Nara station. Nara Park, Nara Prefectural Office, Todaiji (home of the giant Buddha statue), Kofukuji, Kasuga Grand Shrine (a UN World Heritage Site), the Nara National Museum, Ukimido (a pavillion built over a reflecting pond).
The word "tokae / 燈花会 means "lantern flower meet" referring to the way that the landscape blooms at night with the lights which enhance the natural beauty which Nara has.

Monday, August 15, 2016

World Cosplay Summit 2016

World Cosplay Summit 2016

The World Cosplay Summit is an annual event that atballracts hundreds of costumed participants to the center of Nagoya  each year.
The Oasis 21 shopping center and bus terminal (near Sakae station) is the main venue. There is also a parade near the Osu-Kanon temple and a red carpet event in front of Sunshine Sakae.
In recent years the Kantai Collection (Battleship Girls) series has been a popular subject and has attracted the abilities of the most elaborate costume makers.
Groups of cosplayers could be found gathering for group photos of the source series: Dragon Ball, Sailor Moon, Naruto, Final Fantasy, Yu-Gi-Oh, Studio Ghibli, Pokemon...
Some older and more obscure characters were represented; such as Van from Escaflowne.

Misty cosplay. Using a rubber baseball for a pokeball.

Red, from Pokemon, with a Charizard/Lizardon

Stage performances by cosplayers.
Van from Escaflowne. This is a callback to an Anime from 1996.
A 20 year-old anime that is fairly obscure now.
Sexy nekos
A battleship in the style of Kantai Collection.
Loloipop Chainsaw
Prince Ashitaka from Princess Mononoke, riding his noble elk.
Pikachu playing Pokemon Snap?
A Tachikoma from Ghost in the Shell.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Pokemon Go is prohibited here!!

Shitennoji, built around the year 730 under orders of an imperial prince, making it Japan's first state sponsored Buddhist temple is a large complex with many ancient historic buildings and monuments in the heart of Osaka. 

So naturally, this type of freely open public space is what the Pokemon Go app look for when mapping locations. Shitennoji temple is practically a Pokemon city; with about 27 pokestops and 2 gyms.

However, it seems the monks are not too thrilled about the over enthusiastic groups of pokemon trainers and they have posted this tri-lingual (Japanese, English and Korean) sign to discourage pokemon hunting as the obon holiday approaches.

There are other places that have embrace Pokemon. Ikutama Shrine used their Facebook page to promoted their the landmarks on but simply asked that patrons not interfere with memorial services or block passageways. 

Kaigenji in Kyoto even provided battery charging for Pokemon trainers:

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Kyo No Tanabata

Tanabata (七夕) is the Star Festival held in Japan every year around July 7th (7/7, which is why kanji used are 7七 and night夕). During this time, stalks of bamboo are erected in public places and visitors write wishes on colorful strips of paper (tanzaku 短冊) which are hung on the tree. It makes a beautiful spectacle that is like a summertime Christmas tree.
Also, as this is a nighttime event tou will see many lights and illuminations, especially around shrines and landmarks which makes tanabata an especially romantic and photogenic event.
In Kyoto there is secondary Tanabata that is held in mid-August. The main attraction in this Kyo-no-Tanabata are the artistic light displays along the canal in front of Nijo Castle (Nijojo Mae station on the subway).
The exhibits are free and it takes about 30 mintutes to walk through the length of the exhibits. Some nights during the event there will be performers among the light displays (traditional shamisen players, food vendors, traditional handicrafts vendors, artists, tea ceremonies...). The display is active only during a relatively small window of time (sunset is after 7pm and the display shuts down at 9pm).