Monday, June 25, 2018

July 2018; Upcoming Kansai Events

6/30-7/3. Aizen Matsuri. Near Shitennoji-Mae Yuhigaoka station.

6/29-7/1. 10a-4p. Kyoto Pulse Plaza Antique Fair.

7/1- Ice lanterns will be in display at Nara's Himuro Shrine. This event happens on the first night of each month. Near Kintetsu Nara Station.

7/1-9/23. 19:00-20:00. Cormorant (ukai) fishing at Arashiyama on the Oi River. Near Hankyu Arashiyama station.

7/1 (1st Sunday of July every year). 10:30a-9pm. Tatsuta Shrine handheld fireworks show. Near JR Sango (near Oji) station in Nara Prefecture. Fireworks start at 9pm.

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

7/7-8. 20:00-16:00. Handmade goods market at Shimogamo Shrine near Demachiyanagi station.
7/7-7/8. "Reptiles Fever" exhibit at ATC.

7/8. Swap Meet at Tsurumi-Ryokuchi Park.

Tanabata- The Star Festival 7/7
7/9. 10:00-12:00. Kifune Water Festival.
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.

7/13-20. 5p-10p. Kobe, Sammomiya Gion Festival. Gion Shrine.

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

7/14. 16:00-20:30. Yume Narie lightup event at Rokkomichi Minami Park near Rokkomichi station.

7/13-8/5. Fun Fan Festa. The 5th floor of Osaka Station City.

7/14-15. 10:00-15:30. Cosplay Day(s) at Tsurumi-Ryokuchi Park.

7/14-15. Summer Festival, portable shrine (and danjiri parade?) around Yae Shrine. Near Momodani Station.

7/15-17. Sea Shrine Summer Festival near Tarumi station.

7/15. 10a. Matsuno-o Onda Festival. Rice planting girls are paraded around the shrine on men's shoulders.

7/15-7/16. 10a-8p. Kobe Love Port Minato Matsuri in Meriken Park.

7/16. Himeji Port Local Festival.

7/17. Summer Featival at Ofusa Kanon Temple. The temple will also have a wind chime 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.

  • 7/14-16, 7/21-23. Two days before the opening and closing parades the YamaHoko floats will be parked on the streets with lanterns and there will be festival vendor stalls set up on the streets.
  • 7/24. 10:00. Hanagasa parade. A parade of floral parasols and people in swan costumes.
  • 7/10-14. Assembling the YamaHoko floats.
  • 7/17. 09:10. Kuji Aratame. The mayor of Kyoto draws a fortune predicting the luck of the festival and city.
  • 7/16. 16:30. Iwami Kagura. Dance performance on the stage of Gion Yasaka shrine
  • 7/10. 16:30-21:00. Omukai Chouchin. A portable shrine and paper lanterns will be paraded from Yasaka shrine along Shijo-Dori street and Kawaramachi-Dori street.
  • 7/17 and 7/24. 09:00-12:00. The opening and closing parades of the YamaHoko floats.

7/21. 15:00-19:00. Hikone Yukata matsuri. Near Hikone Station.

7/22? 19:00-21:00.- Mino Waterfall Candle Road

7/22. 10:00-17:00. Yushinkan swordsmanship demonstration at Shudokan. Near Morinomiya station.

7/22-7/23?. Motomiya and Yoimiya Festival. Hundreds of candles will decorate the hugely popular Fushimi 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. The action takes place from 20:00-22:00 as the smaller floats are carried around the neighboring park. In this festival an array of lanterns resembling the mast of a sailboat is paraded around the park near the shrine. At Ikune Shrine near Tamada station.

7/22-23. 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.

7/23-24. Ohara Gion Festival at Otori  shrine near Koka station.
Ohara Gion Festival

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.

7/24-9/2. Giant Body Exhibit at ATC. 1500 yen.

7/24-25 Tenjin Matsuri. Osaka's largest festival. Parades and fireworks.

  • 7/24. 08:50. Hikonagashi ritual. Opening ceremonies at Hokonagashi Bridge where priests board a boat and purify a talisman symbolically washing away sins.
  • 7/24. 16:00-19:00. Moyooshi drum float parade from Osaka Tenmangu.
  • 7/24. 18:40. Floating performance of Takigi Noh theater. A stage will be set up on a barge in front of OAP port and viewers can watch from the riverfront.
  • 7/25. 19:30-20:50. Hounou Hanabi fireworks show. 5000 explosions.
  • 7/25. 15:30-18:00. Rikutogyo. Portable shrines are maneuvered around Tenjin Shrine then loaded onto boats for the Funatogyo river procession.
  • 7/25. 18:00-21:00. Funatogyo. A procession of some 100 boats on the Ogawa river. Between Kitahama and Sakuranomiya stations.

7/26. 9a-noon. Beetle fighting tournament at Takasago shrine. 20 minite walk from Suminoe station.

7/30?. 8-8:40p. Shirahama beach fireworks.

7/27. 19:30-20:30. Nagahama Port Northern Lake Biwa Fireworks Show. Near Nagahama station.

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

7/28. 10a-9:30p. Amanogawa Tanabata Matsuri. Near Kisaichi station. Light up after 7pm.

7/28. Osaka Station. Miss Yukata Contest.

7/28- Shigaraki Fire Festival. Festival from 7pm.  Fireworks at 9pm.

7/28. 20:30-. Temposan fireworks show. There will also be a stage show from 17:00.

7/28. 19:40. Himeji Minato Fireworks Show.

7/28. 7:30-8:45p. Himeji Port fireworks.

7/28. 7:40pm. Kishiwada Port Festival Fireworks. Near Himeji Station or Shikama Station.

7/28-29. 13:00-20:00. Umeda Yukata Matsuri.

7/29. Maizuru fireworks, in the far northern part of Kyoto prefecture.

7/29. 4p-9p. Moriyama Summer Festival.

7/29, 8/4-5. 11:00-18:00. Odorunya Yosakoi dance festival. At Wakayama Marina City near Kainan Station.

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. 13:00-21:30p. Sakai Fish Auction. Main event at 7pm.

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.

7/28-29. Birdman Rally. Engineering students attempt to fly their contraptions over Lake Biwa in Hikone. Shuttle bus from Hikone station.

7/31. 10:00-19:30. Onpara Matsuri at Tsunakoshi Shrine (also called "Onpara Shrine.") Near JR Miwa 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.

8/1- Saitobi: high diving monks jump from a cliff into Lake Biwa.

8/1. 7:30pm. Hikone and Kita-Biwako Fireworks Festival. Near Hikone Station.

8/5-8/14. Nara Tokae. Candle event in Nara.

8/6-7. World Cosplay Summit in Nagoya near Sakae station and Osu Kanon.

The Pokemon anniversary is coming up, so I anticipate some sort of bonus event. So save your silver eggs; maybe you can get 4x experience!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Takatsuki 1000 Koinobori


The koinobori (carp streamer) festival is held every year along the river in Takatsuki, which is about a 15 minute walk from Takatsuki station.
The event is held on the last Sunday of April.

A few days before the festival (and about a month afterwards) the city strings large streamers over the Akutagawa river using steel cables and special masts.

During the main day of the festival is stage is set up for musical performers (karaoke, drummers, dancers and local performers) while there are also vendors stalls along the river banks.

The event is called the "1000 koinobori Festival" but there are probably fewer streamers than 1000.

The following photo journal is from April 29th, 2018: 

Here you can see the koinobori over a large crowd and an inflatible version of the local mascot, hani-tan.

Drummers performing under the koinobori.

A flutist.



This mural is also a good slide.

Drummer in a colorful coat


This koinobori reflects the legend of Kintaro and the giant carp.

Various carp designs.

Koinobori decorated by local school children.

Scales with designs from different students.

A large drum squad

The koinobori festival.

Umeda Candle Night; Summer of 2018


The Candle Night events in Osaka are held in two rounds each year; the Summer and Winter.
The following photo journal is of the June 7th, 2018 event in Umeda (which is held between the summer's Chayamachi and the Osakako events).

Glass jars with floating candles are the main feature of the candle night.

A large display.

Using a snow-cross filter for light effects.

The focal point of the candle event.

Using a lower brightness setting.

A vendors' stall with colored glass.
Low angle

A single candle.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Talking with a Temple Keeper


Shanain Temple in Nagahama

While visiting Nagahama for the Castle Town Festival I had a chance to speak with the temple keeper at a temple that is near the parade route.
Below are some of the interesting points which I would like to recall.

History of Shanain Temple
The Temple was built in 814 during the Heian period. The shrine has burned down, most notably during the Genpei War (around 1180).
The temple has some signposts indicating the significance of buildings that have various designations of cultural value.
The temple keep shares a story about how Minamoto no Yoshitsune, a famous hero from the Genpei War (familiar to people from the famous book, "The Tale of Heike"), escaped from the burning of Mt. Hiei, crossed Lake Biwa and stopped at Shanain Temple. At the temple, the temple keeper of the time showed Yoshitsune a concealed exit saving him from pursuers who were patrolling the major thoroughfares along the main entrance.
This story is an interesting example interesting stories that get buried in history without a good way of presenting it to passersby.

Family Business
The temple keeper talks freely about how reluctant he was to follow in his father's footsteps and take over the role of temple keeper. He also talks about how reluctant his son-in-law is about taking up the role as the next temple keeper.
Being a temple keeper / priest in the Shingon sect of Buddhism does not prevent people from marrying; the temple keep lives in a residence on the temple grounds.
The Shingon sect is a relatively relaxed form of Buddhism (like Tendai or Zen) which are not so strict and it seems that being especially religious is not a requirement. The complex ceremonies and significance of various offerings involve a long period of study for certification of new priest. The temple keeper explains that his job involves a lot of practical knowledge and not so much dogmatic faith.

Climate Change
Nagahama is located on the shore of a large lake between the northern and southern coasts of Honshu, so the weather in the area is quite different from Osaka (which is 100km away). Snow is quite rare in Osaka (I have only seen one "snow man day" is Osaka in the last 6 years) but the temple talks about the heavy snowfall that the area has known in the past and the relationship between the weather and the difficulty of maintaining the buildings. Pointing out the mound-shaped roof of an older temple building (and an improvised snow ridge installed on the roof slope). The temple keeper indicated that as a child the snow drifts around the temple were neck high while in the modern age the snow is only about 30cm deep. An alarming indication of climate change.

International Study
The 80-year-old temple keeper went to America to study economics at a university in Chicago in 1965 with a scholarship from the Japanese government (a bit surprising to hear of a 27-year-old getting a scholarship). The temple keeper was a member of a group of only about 8 scholars from a group of about 60 applicants; the low acceptance rate was due to the difficulty of passing the English requirements for international students. I wonder about the challenges of Japanese students going to America in the turbulent civil rights era.
An interesting point about the man's English ability was that he had been learning from a Christian missionary (senkyoushi) although he was was on track to become a Buddhist priest; apparently his aloof religious attitudes helped him with capitalize on the fluid situation

Seperation of Temples and Shrine
During much of history temples and shrines were freely mingles together with popular observances drifting between the two but in the Meiji period a proclamation was passed which order a seperation of the two; this edict was called the "Shinbutsu Bunri" in 1868 which was delivered in the form of several specific orders regarding specific practices. Before this separation Shanain Temple and the neighboring Hachiman shrine were collectively called Hachiman-ji (a combination name of a Shinto god and a "temple" suffix). After the Shinbutsu Bunri buildings were moved, so the shrine had one side of the property and the Buddhist buildings were on the smaller side.

In Japan, there are about  17,700 Shingon temples (9,300 Tendai temples) and the saturation of temples means that there is declining revenue for temples while shrines (with their festivals and charms) can be quite lucrative (as revealed in Japan Times story this year covering a scandal with a shrine keeper family). Temples are arranged under a central authority (like a franchise business) so they enjoy a greater safety network while also generating more income. Meanwhile temples are relatively isolated with uncertain means of income for the expensive maintenance of aging buildings, despite the fact that those buildings have received recognition as being important parts of the city, prefecture or country.

The hall of Shanain Temple.

The onigawara (roof crown tile) of the old temple building. The sign to the sign designates the temple as an important cultural property.

A (5-7-5) kirimon crest, harkening to the patronage of Hideyoshi Toyotomi who rebuilt the temple around the year 1600.

A kikumon crest.

A "mitesaki" (三手先, three tier roof bracket) is the cultural properties symbol mark.

Different are described on this sign which lists the different buildings that are registered as "bunkazai" (cultural properties).

A temple belfry next to a stone lantern and a stone monument that indicates the border between the shrine area and the temple area.


Saturday, June 16, 2018

Sumiyoshi Otaue Shinji


Across Japan there are a number of shrines that have special rice planting ceremonies.
In Osaka, the best known of these ceremonies is the Otaue Shinji (Rice Planting Ceremony) at Sumiyoshi Shrine. The ancient shrine complex still retains a rice field. The Otaue Shinji is held every year on June 14th from 1pm.

The ceremony starts with religious ceremonies in the main hall of the inner shrine with shrine priests and ceremony participants. The ceremonial procession leaves the inner shrine and proceeds to the rice field where volunteers plant rice seedlings into the flooded field as special performers take to a special platform stage in the center of the field and other performers move around the field to perform dances and martial arts demonstrations.

Below is a photo journal from June 14th 2018.

Armored samurai performing a dance with a folding fan and a naginata.
You can see shrine staff inside the building.

Note the imperial kikumon seal on the shrine curtain.
Also note the tall, two-tooth tengu-geta sandals.

A procession through the shrine complex.
This performance is a type of porters dance, the tall horse hair banners are spun and tossed from one man to the next in this dance.

Note the shrine crest on the boxes.

This shrine is the prototype of the Sumiyoshi-zukuri form.
Note the okichigi cross shaped ornaments on the roof and the perpendicular bars, katsuogi, on the roof.

Note the kikumon crest on his chest.
His helmet has decorations (datemono) of a dragon and long vertical pieces.

Two banners, the Sumiyoshi crest and the mitsu-domoe crest which is typical of Shinto shrines.

Floral headgear.

Small girls in makeup.

Large red parasols and a veiled hat.

The paper charms (of red, yellow and green triangles) are a recurring motif of the Otaue Shinji.

Sacred water drawn from a shrine well and blessed/purified in the opening ceremonies will be poured into the waters irrigating the rice field.

Girls who perform a symbolic dance imitating rice planting.

住吉踊り. The traditional "Sumiyoshi Dance" is performed by girls in wide flat hats with paper fans.

The large parasol around which the dancers gather.

Sumiyoshi Odori dancers.

Sumiyoshi Odori dancers.

Sumiyoshi Odori dancers passing the stone lanterns (ishi torou).

A traditional instrument being played as the field is prepared.

Working plowing the field with an oxen.
Note the mitsu-domoe crest on the oxen's blanket.

Preparing to work the field.

Similar costumes are seen at other agricultural rituals (such as the one at Otori shrine which is located just south of Sumiyoshi).

The oxen plowing the field.

Dancer on the field stage.
Note the dragon head-dress

A traditional fan dance.

Another dancer takes the stage with a more masculine display.
It seems one of the datemono pieces has fallen off of his helmet.

Boys dressed as samurai.

They perform a ritualistic dance around the field.

Some of the boys have elaborate armor (yoroi with decorated kabuto and sode shoulder pieces).

A wooden staff and simpler armor.

Audience members can pay a feet for seats in the shade.

The two groups enter from opposite sides and run around the field.

The Sumiyoshi Odori dance.

The Sumiyoshi Odori dance involves skipping and slapping a paper fan.