snow and winter festivals(Japanese version only):

1-30 April Miyako Odori(Cherry Dance), Kyoto

Maiko and geiko dance performances

Advance tickets are available from overseas

19-22 May Azuma Odori, Tokyo (sorry, Japanese version only)

Geisha dance performances

Tickets will be available after April 13

Onbashira-sai festival, Suwa Taisha Shrine, Nagano Prefecture (Japanese version only)

Suwa Taisha comprises the following two shrines

2-4 April, 3-5 May, 15 June Kami-sha (upper shrine)

8-10 April, 14-16 May, 13 May Shimo-sha (lower shrine)

seasonal flowers:

cherry blossom forecast (Japanese version only):

Japan Meteorological Corporation


Saturday, April 16, 2016

2016 Kumamoto earthquakes

Real time media distribution (Japan TV stations):

My sisiter's husband is from Kumamoto City. His family are safe but not all his relatives are confirmed as safe. His sister is a nurse and has been working at her hospital since the first quake.

Most foreign media such as BBC refer only to magnitude. Most of them have yet to experience an earthquake. Seismic damage depends on many factors including the length of the fault, magnitude, the depth of the quake, the distance from the epicentre, the duration, the frequency of the quake, and foundation strength.

Seismic intensity scales vary in different countries or areas. The Japan Meteorological Agency seismic intensity scale runs from 0 to 7, with 7 being the strongest.  When an earthquake with a seismic intensity of a lower 5 or greater on the seven-point Japanese scale is predicted, a warning is given to the affected areas.

5-lower  Most unstable items fall
5-upper  heavy furniture fall
6-lower  Less earthquake-resistant buildings easily receive heavy damage
6-upper  Many walls collapse, or at least are severely damaged
7           Most or all buildings (even earthquake-resistant ones) suffer severe damage

Seismic intensity 3 or upper earthquakes hit Kumamoto area 105 times.

Earthquakes have caused massive damage to roads, an airport, railroad. Thirty four people are confirmed dead and more than 1,000 injured.  A lot of buildings collapsed. Mudslides were triggered by the earthquakes. A bridge collapsed. Kumamoto Castle, Aso Shrine suffered severe damage.

In the area heavy rain and wind gusts are expected later tonight.

date(Japan time)        area                                                      magnitude     seismic intensity(lower 5 or greater)

April 14, 2016 21:26 Kumamoto area, Kumamoto Prefecure 6.4      7
April 14, 2016 22:07 Kumamoto area, Kumamoto Prefecure 5.7      6-lower
April 14, 2016 22:38 Kumamoto area, Kumamoto Prefecure 5.0      5-lower
April 15, 2016 0:03 Kumamoto area, Kumamoto Prefecure 6.4      6-upper
April 15, 2016 1:53       Kumamoto area, Kumamoto Prefecure 4.8      5-lower
April 16, 2016 1:25 Kumamoto area, Kumamoto Prefecure 7.1      6-upper
April 16, 2016 1:44 Kumamoto area, Kumamoto Prefecure 5.3      6-lower
April 16, 2016 1:46 Kumamoto area, Kumamoto Prefecure 6.0      6-lower
April 16, 2016 3:03 Aso area, Kumamoto Prefecure             5.8      5-upper
April 16, 2016 3:55 Aso area, Kumamoto Prefecure             5.8      6-upper
April 16, 2016 7:11      central Oita Prefecture                         5.3      5-lower
April 16, 2016 7:23 Kumamoto area, Kumamoto Prefecure 4.8      5-lower
April 16, 2016 9:48 Kumamoto area, Kumamoto Prefecure 5.4      6-lower
April 16, 2016 16:02 Kumamoto area, Kumamoto Prefecure 5.3      5-lower

Friday, January 1, 2016

New Year's Day 2016

Happy New Year!

May the New Year bring many good things to you.

According to the Chinese zodiac, 2016 is the Year of the Monkey.
Each of the 12 Chinese zodiac signs is related to a characteristic animal.

New Year's card

Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.
(three wise monkeys)

Its origin is not clear.

New Year's card

snow monkeys soak in their onsen bath

New Year's card

During the New Year holidays, boys used to enjoy kite-flying or top-spinning.
Girls used to enjoy Hanetsuki which is a game similar to badminton. It is played with a wooden battledore and a hard black seed with feathers like a shuttlecock. This girl's play is said to have started to wish to protect children from mosquito bites at New Year's.

New Year's card

*Dezome-shiki is an firefighters' event on the first work day of the new year. It began in the Edo Period.
Firefighters perform acrobatic feats on a ladder.

*lion dance as a thing doing epidemic extermination

*New Year's pine and bamboo decorations

New Year's card

Red sea bream is an auspicious fish because of play on words linking "Tai(red sea bream)" and "Mede-tai(happy)."

New Year's card

Ozoni is soup containing vegetables and rice cakes for New Year's Day.

Nanten(heavenly bamboo) is an auspicious plant because ancient people associated a phrase "Nan wo Ten-zuru(難を転ずる)" which means to overcome difficulties or to get out of trouble with its name "Nanten."

Ready-made New Year's dishes including many traditional ingredients are set in three-tiered boxes.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The 62nd Japan Traditional Art Crafts Exhibition

The 62nd Japan Traditional Art Crafts Exhibition(日本伝統工芸展) will be held at Mitsukoshi department store in Tokyo from September 16 to 28.

The exhibition requires the applicants to create sophisticated design based on high degree of professional skill in Japanese traditional techniques.

See the Japan Kogei Association site for further information: (Japanese version only)

The Exhibition will travel through the following venues:

Mitsukoshi Nihonbashi Main Store, Tokyo
September 16-28, 2015
Mitsukoshi Nihonbashi Main Store:
Mitsukoshi Nagoya Sakae Store, Nagoya City, Aichi Prefecture
September 30 - October 5, 2015
Mitsukoshi Nagoya Sakae Store: (Japanese version only)

Takashimaya Kyoto Store, Kyoto Prefecture
October 7-12, 2015
Takashimaya Kyoto Store:

Sakishima Hall, Osaka Prefectural Government Sakishima Building(Cosmo Tower)(2F), Osaka City, Osaka Prefecture
October 17-23, 2015
Cosmo Tower: (Japanese version only)

Ishikawa Prefectural Museum of Art, Kanazawa City, Ishikawa Prefecure
October 30 - November 8, 2015
Ishikawa Prefectural Museum of Art:

Okayama Prefectural Museum of Art, Okayama City, Okayama Prefecture
November 12-29, 2015
The Okayama Prefectural Museum of Art:

Shimane Art Museum, Matsue City, Shimane Prefecture
December 2-23, 2015
Shimane Art Museum:

Kagawa Museum, Takamatsu City, Kagawa Prefecture
January 2-17, 2016
The Kagawa Museum:

Mitsukoshi Sendai Store, Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecure
January 21-26, 2016
Mitsukoshi Sendai Store: (Japanese version only)
Mitsukoshi Fukuoka Store, Fukuoka City, Fukuoka Prefecture
February 2-7, 2016
Mitsukoshi Fukuoka Store:

Mitsukoshi Matsuyama Store, Matsuyama City, Ehime Prefecture
February 16-21, 2016
Mitsukoshi Matsuyama Store: (Japanese version only)

Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum, Hiroshima City, Hiroshima Prefecture
February 24-March 13, 2016
Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum:

Friday, July 31, 2015

Osorezan, border between this world and the underworld (2)

Mmmm, fresh sulfur by Joe Jones /flickr

The smell of sulfur wafted over its ground.

Hell at Osore-zan, Honshu
Hell at Osore-zan, Honshu by shirokazan /flickr

The temple has 136 hells and a paradise. In Japan, there are a lot of hells(jigoku) such as Owakudani(Great Boiling Valley) in Kanagawa, jigoku of Beppu in Oita. People in the past thought the view of a volcanic area resembled a hellish picture in Japanese Buddhism.

Blood Pond Hell is said to be a pond located in Hell. It is said the water looks red due to color change in algae. It doesn't always look red.

IMG_3113.jpg by vera46 /flickr

Jizo(Ksitigarbha) is one of Buddhist bodhisattvas. His mission is to save people between Buddha's death and the appearance of Maitreya(弥勒菩薩, Miroku-bosatsu). Yama(閻魔大王, Enma Daio) is the lord of death and give sentence on the dead. Jizo and Yama are opposite sides to the same coin. Ancient people associated Jizo with a belief in a travelers' guardian deity, so its statues were located to hornor it by roadsides around Japan.

He is also regarded as the guardian of children because he saves children who have to pile stones eternally  like Sisyphus at Sai-no-kawara, the banks of the Sanzu River. The children can't cross the Sanzu River because  they predeceased their parents. They are bullied by ogres at Sai-no-kawara.

Stone piles were build by the bereaved to console the spirits of their deceased family members. Leave them alone.

Osorezan #6
Osorezan #6 by tsuda /flickr

Fear Mountain - Osorezan
Fear Mountain - Osorezan /

  Lake Usori-ko and Sai-no-kawara

photo by APTINET Aomori Sightseeing Guide

photo by APTINET Aomori Sightseeing Guide

photo by APTINET Aomori Sightseeing Guide

photo by APTINET Aomori Sightseeing Guide

photo by APTINET Aomori Sightseeing Guide

Osorezan by macchi /flickr

Straw sandals and white cloth tied to trees were also done by the bereaved. Leave them alone.

Osorezan by macchi /flickr

Lake Usori-ko(or Lake Usoriyama-ko)

This is an acid lake in Japan with the water pH of 3.4 -3.8, but Japanese dace live in the water.

Lake Usori
Lake Usori  by blueskyfantasie /flickr
Lake Usori-ko and Sai-no-kawara

Osorezan by Joe Jones /flickr

Osorezan by blueskyfantasie /flickr

photo by APTINET Aomori Sightseeing Guide


Gokuraku-hama is the Lake Usori-ko's beach. It means the beach of the Buddhists' paradise filled with happiness. Gokuraku' and 'sukhaavatii' are Sanskrit words used to refer to Amitabha's pure land. This white sand beach is reminiscent of the pure land.

Osorezan by blueskyfantasie /flickr

The bereaved also burn incense and offer flowers there.

Osorezan by blueskyfantasie /flickr

The use of fire is limited on the temple's ground because Osorezan is a volcanic area with active sulphur vents.

Osorezan #1
Osorezan #1 by tsuda /flickr

The reverse side of the Earthquake Memorial Monument (jizo for the victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011)

This monument was build on Gokuraku-hama beach in 2012 because the temple's worshippers include the earthquake and tsunami victims. The temple hopes each of visitors will commemorate the victims by putting one's hand into one of 60 different handprints that fits one's size.

Osorezan by blueskyfantasie /flickr

Hiyamizu(spring located on the way to Osorezan)

It is about 4 kirometers away from Osorezan. Legend has it that eating a cup of the water will take off 10 years, two cups wil do 20 years. Many visitors get spring water.

Hiyamizu by tsuda /flickr

Osorezan by HerryLawford /flickr

Osorezan, border between this world and the underworld (1)

Pinwheels are offered to aborted and miscarried babies, deceased babies and infants as substitute for flowers. 
Some people say pinwheels symbolize a cycle of reincarnation.

photo by APTINET Aomori Sightseeing Guide

Osorezan(恐山, Mt. Osore), also known as Usoriyama, is a stratovolcano with a caldera lake(Lake Usori-ko) and hot springs located the centre of Shimokita Peninsula in Aomori Prefecture. Osorezan Taisai Festival(Osorezan Grand Festival) was held at Osorezan-Bodaiji temple(恐山菩提寺) located in Osorezan from July 20 to 24. The temple hold annual festivals in July and October. Tradition says buddhist monk Jikakutaishi established the temple in 862. Osorezan has been considered as a sacred ground.

Osorezan Taisai Festival
photo by APTINET Aomori Sightseeing Guide

Osorezan Taisai Festival
photo by APTINET Aomori Sightseeing Guide

Osorezan Taisai Festival

Osorezan Taisai Festival
photo by APTINET Aomori Sightseeing Guide


Osorezan Taisai Festival
photo by APTINET Aomori Sightseeing Guide

Through a ritual process known as "kuchiyose", blind mediums known as itako claim to communicate with the dead and deliver messages in their voices during annual festivals in July and October. Some poeple say they speak this region's dialect too fast and it's hard to catch words in it. Kuchiyose in the temple started after the WW2. The temple has no part in it.

Osorezan Taisai Festival

Osorezan Taisai Festival

Osorezan Taisai Festival

Taiko-bashi Bridge
photo by APTINET Aomori Sightseeing Guide

Taiko-bashi Bridge

The bridge is the entrance to the hallowed ground, Osorezan. But the bridge is a little way off the temple.
The Sanzu River(Sanzu-no-kawa), officially known as Shozu-gawa River(正津川),  is similar to the Styx. The bridge over the Sanzu River straddles the border between this world and the underworld. It is said the bad can't go over this bridge and visitors must not look back on the bridge on return route.

Taiko-bashi Bridge
photo by APTINET Aomori Sightseeing Guide

Somon Gate(front gate)
Osorezan is a sacred place, but it attracts a lot of tourists. There are a restaurant and a souvenir shop near its front gate. Tourists can take a taxi and many tour buses stop there.

Somon Gate, reception place,  souvenir shop
Osorezan by HerryLawford /flickr

Six Ksitigarbha statues stands near the front gate. The Ksitigarbhas protect all beings in the Six Realms(the human realm, the demi-god realm, the god realm, the animal realm, the hungry ghost realm, the hell realm) of Karmic Rebirth. All living beings are born into one of the six states of existence among Buddhists.

IMG_3096.jpg by vera46 /flickr

Sanmon Gate(main gate)

photo by APTINET Aomori Sightseeing Guide

Osorezan by blueskyfantasie /flickr

The smell of sulfur wafted over its ground.

Four hot springs cabins are located on the ground. Visitors can take a bath in these hot springs, but the cabins are visible through a window. Worshippers used to purify themselves before offering prayers.

Osorezan / spa
Osorezan / spa "Hanazome" by tsuda /flickr

Osorezan / onsen
Osorezan / onsen by macchi /flickr

Temple lodging is available. It's an air-conditioned accommodation. A night's lodging costs 12,000 yen(one night and two meals per day). In principle, lodgers have to attend the morning religious service.

Toba Hall
Sotobas with a height of three meters. Sotoba(toba) is a tall wooden tablet to pray for the repose of souls. Sotoba derives from the Sanskrit word stupa.

Osorezan by HerryLawford /flickr

Jizoden Hall
This hall was built to enshrine Enmei Jizo Bosatsu (literally, Apothanasia Ksitigarbha), the temple's principal image of Buddha.

Osorezan by HerryLawford /flickr

interior of Jizoden Hall
Osorezan by HerryLawford /flickr

Osorezan by HerryLawford /flickr

Jizoden Hall, Sanmon Gate and Lake Usori-ko

Osorezan by macchi /flickr

Osorezan #7
Osorezan #7 by tsuda /flickr

White cloth were tied by worshippers.

photo by APTINET Aomori Sightseeing Guide

Jizo for aborted and miscarried babies

Osorezan by blueskyfantasie /flickr

IMG_3112.jpg by vera46 /flickr


Enmei Jizo (literally, Apothanasia Ksitigarbha)

Osorezan by blueskyfantasie /flickr

Osorezan by HerryLawford /flickr

                war memorial

Osorezan by HerryLawford /flickr

stone Buddha statue for the souls with no living relatives

Fear Mountain - Osorezan
Fear Mountain - Osorezan /

little statue of Senju Kannon(Thousand Armed Avalokiteshwara)

Zen Meditation
Zen Meditation by /flickr

stone Buddha statues

Stone piles were build by the bereaved to console the spirits of their deceased family members.

Osorezan by tsuda /flickr

Fear Mountain - Osorezan
Fear Mountain - Osorezan by /flickr

IMG_3101.jpg by vera46 /flickr

Datsueba and Ken-eo

An old woman called Datsueba plunders the clothes of the dead, and an old man called Ken-eo hangs the clothes on a riverside tree branch to measure the weight of guilt. They stay in the Sanzu River.

Osorezan by blueskyfantasie /flickr