Sunday, March 31, 2019

Osaka Castle Night Photos

Photo journal from 3/22/2019

A gray sky. The castle in the background and cherry blossoms in the foreground. 

Cherry blossom tree near Morinomiya station.

A dark setting which highlights the lights in the windows.

A longer eposure with a loew f/stop setting. Making the picture bright enough to define the stones in the wall.

Higher f/stop setting to give more definition to the brightly lit white wall of Osaka Castle.

Another mixture of exposure settings.

A small electric vehicle that serves as a roving garden party, complete with a shamisen player.
There is also a "sake bar" car.

The inner moat of the castle.


Saturday, March 30, 2019

Koka City Ninja Decorations

Koka City Ninja Decorations

The City of Koka in a remote part of Shiga prefecture is one of the Japanese cities capitalizing on their historic connection to ninjas to attract tourist (Iga-Ueno is another good example).
As part of the tourism promotion Koka has ninja decorations all over their town. While on a long 25 km hike through the town I collected photos of a variety of diffirent decorations.

Photo journal taken during the recent Saio Procession photo expedition on 3/24:

Manhole covers with a pair of ninjas and three different types of shuriken (ninja stars).

A Mobil gas station with plywood ninja. A kunoichi here in pink ...
...and another ninja in blue. Both of them have headbands which read "Koka"

A neighborhood name sign for Iwamuro Koka-cho town.

Route 24 (toward Koka station) has a serious ninja on one side...

...and this derpy ninja on the other side.

This road sign pointing to the Museum of Medicine and Health.
The town also has two pharmecuetucal companies, which is interesting as ninja were renown for their skills in concocting herbal remedies from local plants.

A ninja figure on a roadsign for Koka City.
Ninja diretions to The Museum of Medicine and Health.

A red ninja for the local PTA

A sign for one of the local pharmaceutical companies; Bayer

Another colorful ninja put up by the local PTA.

A fiberglass ninja holding a phone;
oddly enough, this type of phone now seems more out of date than the ninja.

A ninja statue outside of Koka station.

A ninja tanuki. This statues are typical fixtures outside of restaurants, this one is modified to suit the ninja theme.

A sideways piece of art at Koka stationl I suppose a person statnding in front of this is to look like they are swimming the stream?

Kibukawa station has ninja character art covering this stairway.

Ninjas and yamabushi monk riding a train. Note the castle and the tea fields in the background.

Local mascots Ponpoko-chan and Ninjaemon riding this train.

A bus covered with ninja art.

Another bus in front of Kibukawa station.

The bus stop signs have ninja bus drivers.

This park has ninja decorations.

The Aino Tsuchiyama Marathon has this sign which combines the characters for "Tsuchoiyama" city to take the shape of running ninja with a tea leaf.

The entrance sign for another pharmaceutical company.

Ninjas hiding on the ceiling of Koka station.

Ninja coin lockers and a ninja tanuki at Kibukawa station.

Ninjas scaling a local city bus.

The seven lucky gods painted on the sign of this farm building.

A road sign pointing to Koka Ninja Village.

Ninja figure in front of Ootori shrine.

I sign post at Ootori shrine serves as a photo-op point with a ninja theme.

Shuriken floor tiling at Koka station.

Art at Kibukawa station.



Thursday, March 28, 2019

Komuroyama Kofun


Komuroyama Kofun is a burial mound located near Domyoji station in the town of Fujidera in Osaka prefecture. Fujidera actually has a large cluster of kofun. . This cluster of kofun is known as the "Furuichi Tumulus Group" (Furuichi Kofun-gun). "Kofun" can also be translated as burial mound, tumulus, mausoleum, tomb or grave and they are often constructed keyhole shaped moat.

When viewing the kofun in person, they often just look like small hills. Even the best examples just look like a hill next to a pond. However, when you look at the kofun on a map you realize that many of them are laid out with careful geometric design and some of them still have the moats around them, which gives them their distinct keyhole shape.

The Komuroyama kofun is 150 meters long and 15 meters tall. It is unclear who the tomb was built for but it has been dated back to the 4th or 5th century and excavations have unearthed pieces of haniwa (clay doll figures that typical of the kofun period).

Photo journal from 3/25/2019:

The Kofun. You can start to make out the shape from ground level;
note the circular head of the kofun which has a higher elevation and the elongated lower section.
This kofun does not have a surviving moat around it.

A sign providing information in English and Japanese.
The title is given in Japanese and English as well as Chinese and Korean.

A nice view of the Osaka skyline from the top of the kofun.
You can see Abeno Harukasu in the background, a Sharp plant in the center and an expressway in the foreground.

Standing on top of the 15 meter kofun elevates you slightly about the nearby raised expressway, giving you a nice view of the passing traffic.

A wider shot of the view. You can see the skyline, local neighborhood, major expressways, a raised roadway and a raised railroad track.

There are a few cherry trees and some recreational space on the kofun land.


Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Tsuchiyama Saio Princess Procession


Tsuchiyama Saio Princess Procession

Ai no Saio Gunko, the Princess Procession is the recreation of formal court procession which took place in the Heian period (7th-14th centuries), when Kyoto was the capital of Japan. Ise Grand Shrine, perhaps the most sacred of shrines in Japan, was staffed by a special priestess representing the imperial family. These special princess/priestesses were selected through a special divination ceremony, but were often one of the daughters of the reigning emperor.

The princess would travel with a procession of servants, porters and guardians. The path from Kyoto to Ise, part of the old Tokaido roadway, took six days and five nights to traverse, so there were five palaces stationed along the path to accommodate the princess. One of those palaces (for the third night) was located in the remote town of Koka, which is otherwise famous for tea growers and ninjas.

Today there site of the ruins where that villa once stood is now a small shrine and a memorial stone, known as the Tarumi Tongu. During the days when the Saio system was practiced; there were 66 women who served as Saio and, of those, 31 Saio lodged at the Tarumi Tongu palace (886-1264). To honor this tradition, the town of Koka celebrates each year by electing a local girl to play the role of the Saio princess and arrange for volunteers to play the roles of various servants as well as people to help organize the event and direct traffic. In the historical period, it is reported that as many as 500 people would travel with the procession, but for the recreation that are about 39 credited roles (the organizers print a program with the roles, names and hometowns of the volunteers).

The procession re-enactment in Tsuchiyama (an eastern section of Koka city) starts at 11am at Oono Elementary School where staging takes place and some performances are staged, then there is a ritualistic washing ceremony in a stream in a park near the school (Yume no Ogawa). The procession then passes by several shrines, temples and historic buildings with a few stops (11:00-15:20) with the final ceremonies taking place at the Tarumi Tongu site.
At Tarumi Tongu the final ceremonies include a reading of event history, a courtly dance to traditional gagaku music and a small tea ceremony (the venue itself is surrounded by tea growing farms).

When the ceremony concludes at Tarumi Tongu, the participants board buses to go back to the elementary school (where the changing rooms, parking lot and staging areas are).

The following photo journal from 3/24/2019:

An uneme (courtly servant) returning from serving tea to her mistress.

The site of the Tarumi Tongu ruins are on a wooded hillside, overlooking tea fields.

The procession coming off of the final stretch of the main road.

The lead banner of the procession with smaller boards indicating the character roles.

The banner herald and an archer.

Nobles from the capital and the Saio.

The Saio on a palanquin (that is actually supported on a modern, wheeled frame).

A large parasol.

The procession passing by tea bushes.

An uneme (serving maiden) in the procession.
You may recognize the term "uneme" from the Uneme Festival in Nara, which celebrates a woman who served in that role in the very ancient capital of Nara.

The Saio in her palanquin.

The tea ceremony mistress is helping to adjust the crown of the Saio.

A red only shot of a nyoju servant.

The kachou with his bow.

An uneme with several other servants.

A line of young girls who serve as Warawame.

The uneme with a folding fan in front of her.

Long hair was the fashion in the Heian period.

A dance being performed by court ladies. The woman in purple is playing a Myoubu and the woman in gold/green is playing an "onna betto."

Courtly gagku musicians.

A red only shot of the Saio.

A high contrast black and white shot of the Saio.

Youchou, palanquin bearers. 

The Saio being coached through tea ceremony formalities.

Uneme carrying a tea bowl over a temporary tatami mat path.

Uneme slowly navigating a turn.

Side view of the uneme.

Uneme holding tea dishes.


Saio with a red only filter.

Warawame girl inspecting her props.

Reading a scroll with information about the ceremony.
I like the colorful representation of the event printed on the back of his script.

Note how the people remove their shoes before walking on the mat area.


Saio leaving the event.

The ladies of the procession posing for a photo.

An uneme posing in front of the memorial stone of Tarumi Tongu.

A nearby cherry trea with a tea covered hill in the background.
Note the fan towers (bousou fan, frost-defense fan), these are installed to prevent frost on the low lying tea leaves.