Christmas lights :
https://sp.jorudan.co.jp/illumi/rank.html (Japanese version only)
http://www.rurubu.com/season/winter/illumination/ (Japanese version only)
snow and ice festivals (Japanese version only):
fall foliage forecast for 2019 (Japanese version only):
cherry blossom forecasts for 2020 (Japanese version only):
Friday, April 30, 2010
The closing ceremony of Kabuki-za (歌舞伎座), which is the theater for kabuki plays built 60 years ago at Ginza(銀座), was held today. It will be rebuild because of aging, lack of earthquake resistance and backward barrier-free environment. Every seismic damage from the earthquakes led to amendments to the Building Standard Law that stipulates seismic capacity of buildings.
It will be completed in the spring of 2013. Until then, kabuki performances will take place at The Shinbashi Enbujō (新橋演舞場). Its appearance will be left in its original state, but a high-rise building will tower behind it.
Some theaters for kabuki performances used to be located at Ginza about 1660. Successful Edo Period businessmen of the fish market were patrons of kabuki players such as the Ichikawa family. The Ichikawa family is still connected to the fish market at Tsukiji.
Kabuki-za is close to Tsukiji. The audience at Kabuki-za can enjoy shoppings or dinner at Ginza, which is lined with prestigious shops or restaurants. This is part of the fun of viewing a play.
Meanwhile, National Theatre of Japan, at which bunraku performances take place, is located next to … the Supreme Court of Japan!
This is the Supreme Court of Japan.
It looks like a fort. U.S. Army Camp used to be there.
National Diet Library and The Diet Building are situated nearby. Nagata-cho(永田町), one of the nearest stations to the theater, is synonymous with the political world.
The home of bunraku is Osaka, and there National Bunraku Theatre stands.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
By including weekends and taking a vacation on April 30th, many people have a week of holidays this year. Many Japanese go somewhere during Golden Week holidays.
Decades ago, I went to China during Golden Week holidays. Then, I saw some women in red suits. I heard that they were brides and many Chinese couples got married around the time of May Day. I don't know whether it's different now. Even in China, the holiday-studded week including May Day is called "Golden Week(黄金週)" now.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Although some ochaya provide an opportunity for ordinary people to be entertained at ochaya, most ochaya are like an exclusive club and anyone needs an introduction from a club member to gain admittance into them.
However, we have an opportunity to see many geiko and maiko once a year. It's a spring dance performance called MIYAKO ODORI, which is also known as the Cherry Dance and features all the geiko and maiko in Gion, Kyoto. It started after the capital was moved to Tokyo to liven up Kyoto.
It's being held in Gion from April 1st to the 30th. Their performances were given for an hour four times a day and the admission is between 4,000 and 2,000 yen. You can make a reservation by phone or fax for reservations. The official site of MIYAKO ODORI presents information in English and Japanese.
"MAIKOSAN" designed by Katsumi Yumioka.
An apprentice geisha is called hangyoku(半玉) in Kanto region, but maiko(舞妓) and hangyoku differ from each other in appearance and many ways. Similarly, geiko(芸妓) and geisha(芸者) are different. Only maiko leaves a trail of obi(sash).
Katsumi Yumioka, Colors of Japanese Spirits (Tokyo:NIHON VOGUE-SHA.Co,Ltd.,2005),P.44.
Maiko wear a hair ornament called hana kanzashi(花簪) in her hair. The ornament is created by a technique known as tsumami(つまみ). A square of silk is repeated twice to be fold in half diagonally, is shaped into a petal and is attached to backings on the base of kanzashi.
Maiko and hangyoku wear hana kanzashi in their hairs, but geiko and geisha don't it. Girls used to wear it at the Shichi-go-san festival, which is the event to celebrate children's growth and pray for their future good health.
Maiko wear different hana kanzashi every month. Its motif is associated with each month such as cherry blossoms in April, wisteria or iris in May.
an original work using tsumami.
In rivalry with the Miyako Odori, geisha in Shimbashi of Tokyo started the dance performance called the Azuma Odori(東をどり) which is being held in The Shinbashi Enbujō (新橋演舞場) from April 26th to the 29th. Their performances were given for an hour and a half three times a day and the admission is between 7,500 and 2,000 yen. you can buy its ticket via the Internet or by phone, but advance tickets are sold out this year.
This is a baked confection topped with pieces of walnuts and was given out as a souvenir when the Azuma Odori was premiered.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
「季節の花 ３００」(flowers of four seasons)
http://www.hana300.com (Japanese version only)
simple-shaped confection named ichihatsu. They are the same only in color.
It is said that the word "ichihatsu(一初)" means "first" and its name comes from the fact that ichihatsu blooms earlier than any other iris. The name of "the roof iris" is derived from the fact that one saw it growing on the roofs in Japan in the 1860s.
As the reason for it, an English site states that a Japanese emperor prohibited farmers from planting flowers on arable land. I searched Japanese sites about the roof iris on the net, but I was not able to confirm the fact.
Kaibara Ekken (貝原 益軒,1630-1714), who was a Japanese Neo-Confucianist philosopher and botanist, pointed out the superstition that they prevented houses from strong winds as the main reason in one of his books. At that time, irises on the roofs were common mainly throughout the Kanto region.
Some cites tell that Japanese women used the dried and powdered rhizomes as a face powder. The powdered rhizomes of roof iris were used as the oriental medicine at that time. It seems unlikely that the expensive medicine was used as a face powder.
Roof iris has often been confused with Florentine iris. The roof iris is native to China and it seems to have reached Japan in 1563. Florentine iris (orris) is native to Southern Europe and Southeast Asia and was introduced into Japan in the middle of the 19th century.
The powdered rhizomes of Florentine iris are ingredients for high-grade perfume. I guess they were used as a face powder.
I've ever seen the irises on the roof only once.
Friday, April 23, 2010
green bamboos and a bamboo shoot,
designed by Kazuko Togami
Kazuko Togami, Kisetsu-wo-Tanoshimu-Washi-no-Etegami 220（Tokyo：Nihon Vogue-sha,1999, p.39
Kazuko Togami, Washi-de-Tsukuru-Etegami 220（Tokyo：Boutique-sha.co.,1999), p.7
Bamboo shoots are seasonal food and are becoming out of season. It is difficult to find a bamboo shoot in a bamboo grove. Experts can find out a bamboo shoot when its tip slightly pokes up through the ground. Overgrown shoots are hard to eat.
Freshly dug bamboo shoots are good without acrid taste. we parboil a bamboo shoot in its skin, strip and cook it.
Bamboo shoots in Kyoto are made painstakingly.
Meanwhile, many withered leaveas of bamboo are on the ground now. It's called "autumn of bamboo(竹の秋)" in Japan.
Green bamboo logs are often used as tableware at the Japanese restaurants. Freshly-cut bamboo logs are vivid, but they're nonreusable as containers. By being dried for several years after oil content is removed, bamboo logs can be used as material for bamboo ware or utensils. Bamboo is withy, light and accessible in Japan.
bamboo utensils for the tea ceremony:
chasen(茶筅:bamboo whisk) and its case
chashaku(茶杓:bamboo teaspoon(short type))
We can get bamboo leaves during young bamboo's development. They are used to wrap food such as rice balls. Because they control the level of humidity by absorbing and releasing moisture.
Bamboos spread widely underground through their rhizomes. neglected bamboos invade adjacent areas. So eating their shoots and cutting to use have restrained bamboos from spreading widely. Fewer people utilize bamboos for various uses, so neglected bamboo groves has become a serious problem.
It was hot like summer the day before, but it's been very cold like midwinter yesterday and today. We've got to worry about what to wear every morning. Vegetables, expecially leaf ones have been very expensive.
Friday, April 16, 2010
Today is the third day of the third month on the lunar calendar.
The Japanese Doll Festival is celebrated on March 3rd in most areas, but it's done in some areas today.
"The festival in peach blossom season" is another name for the festival. Peach trees usually start to bloom at the same time as cherry trees do. Peach blossoms has started to fall.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Cherry Blossom Lane on the site of Japan Mint in Osaka is opened to the public for cherry blossom viewing from April 14th to 20th. On either side of the lane, 354 trees and 127 varieties are blooming.
I'm going to show you a waka poem featuring cherry blossoms.
花の色は 移りにけりな いたづらに わが身世にふる ながめせし間に(小野小町)
"The color of cherry blossoms has faded while I was stranded because of rain. Likewise, my appearance has faded while I languished over love troubles", written by Ono no Komachi.
Ono no Komachi (小野小町, c.825—c.900) was a famous waka poet. She was also selected as one of the six most well known Waka poets (六歌仙 Rokkasen).
According to legend, she was a celestial beauty and beloved by many men.(Therefore "komachi" is used synonymously with a beauty.) A man was hopelessly devoted to her. She gave in to his persistence on condition that he had to come see her for 100 days in succession. On the 100th day, he suddenly died because of heavy snowfall.
In a noh play "Sotoba-komach(卒都婆小町)", Ono no Komachi comes on stage as an old beggar. The play depicts how she is haunted and tormented by the man's spirit.
Yukio Mishima (三島 由紀夫), a famous novelist in Japan, wrote a play with the same title "Sotoba-komach(卒塔婆小町)" based on the noh play. However, this story depicts beauty, love and death.
Everybody who tells her that she is beautiful is destined to die. Although she tried not to make her lover say so, he can't help but do it. She is destined to wait for him for 100 years.
The play is now on at a theater in Tokyo.
あだなりと 名にこそたてれ 桜花 年にまれなる 人も待ちけり(よみ人しらず)
"cherry blossoms last for few days. Some people say they are similar to an inconstant lover. But they are waitng for even one who rarely comes during a one-year period", author unknown.
Monday, April 12, 2010
Nevertheless, tree hunting for temples or castles has been a killer assignment that can take years since early times.
The central pillar of Horyu-ji Temple Five-storied Pagoda(法隆寺五重塔) is estimated to be over 2,000 years old. It was made of hinoki(Japanese cypress) that produces increased intensity after being cut.
The restoration of the donjon tower of Himeji Castle began in 1956.
Because one of two main pillars that hold up the tower was determined to be nonreusable, builders had to look for a successor tree to the pillar. The first hinoki tree found in 1259 had broken during being cut. The second tree, 780-year-old hinoki, had also broken during being carried. After all, they grafted a pillar made of a 670-year-old hinoki found in Kasagata Shrine(笠形神社) onto a pillar made of the second tree.
Goei-do(御影堂) of Nishi Hongan-ji Temple(西本願寺) is the hall that was established in 1636, and there the wooden figure of Shinran(親鸞), who is the founder of the Jodo Shinshu sect of Buddhism in Japan, is enshrined and important events are held.
It is the world's largest wooden structure that is about 29 meters tall, 62 meters wide and 48 meters long. Its roof covers with about 115,000 roof tiles, and the total weight of the entire roof is about 3,000 tons.
Each of 36 pine tree girders have held 200 roof tiles weighing two tons, but 32 out of the 36 griders was broken. The pine trees were crooked at the foot. It produced increased intensity of the girders. Their bending angles vary delicately with the trees.
Builders gave up searching for pine trees and decided to substitute hinoki cypress for them. Planted trees have been grown upright, so they had to hunt for wild large trees that were hard to find.
Koukei(公慶,1648-1705) was a monk who was dedicated to reconstruction of the Great Image of Buddha (rebuilt in 1691) and the Colossal Hall of the Great Buddha in Todai-ji.
Rebuilding of the hall started in 1696, but it took eight years to find out two large trees using for the hall's beams. The trees had been cherished at a shrine as "sacred tree".
Common peoples who worked for free carried the two logs to Nara 1,200 kilometers away from Miyazaki by ship and land. The completion of the hall was celebrated in 1709. However, Koukei could not attend the celebration because he had died in 1705. He planted Japanese cedars for use in next rebuilding on the site of the temple. Now, they are 300 years old.
Friday, April 9, 2010
As part of the festival called Onbashira-sai (御柱祭), the event named yamadashi(山出し) lasts for three days from today at Shimosya(下社) of Suwa Taisha Shrine(諏訪大社). Yamadashi of Kamisha shrines have already ended last week.
Eight huge logs for Shimosya shrines are cut down from a mountain, run down the steep slope with shrine parishioners aboard and cross over a river in three days.
The route of Shimosya's yamadashi includes a sharper inclination than that of Kamisha's. So the event has a much higher risk of injury.
while pulling the logs, carriers sing a chant called kiyariuta(木遣り唄) to coordinate their movement. Although Edo-kiyari(江戸木遣り) is a famous kiyariuta, it has a different tune from that of Onbashira-sai.
●Sanjusangendo munagi no yurai(卅三間堂棟由来)
premiered as a bunraku play in 1760, written by Wakatake Fuemi and Nakamura Akei.
In this story, there is a scene of chanting a kiyariuta.
Sanjusangendo (三十三間堂,thirty-three ken hall) is a Buddhist temple in Kyoto. This story is based on the legend of the hall.
The spirit of a willow changed itself into a woman and married a man who had stopped the cutting of the willow. they had a child.
One day The emperor send an envoy to him on the grounds that the emperor was troubled with headaches because his skull in his previous life remained inside a willow, and his headache would go away by building Sanjusangendo using the willow and placing the skull in the hall.
She opposed the cutting of the willow, but its cutting started. She reveald herself and handed the skull to her son. She disappeared from the moment it was cut down.
people tried to move the log, but it didn't budge an inch. Her son pulled a tow rope, and it moved.They dragged the log to Kyoto, chanting kiyariuta.
Thursday, April 8, 2010
On April 8th or May 8th, most Buddhist temples in Japan hold Buddha's birthday Festival, which is named Kanbutsu-e (灌仏会) or Hana-matsuri(花祭:Flower Festival). Originally, Buddha's birthday is the 8th day of the fouth month according to the lunisolar calendar.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
久方の 光のどけき 春の日に しづ心なく 花の散るらむ（古今集・紀友則）
"On such a tranquil sunny day, why are cherry blossoms fluttering down in such a rush?", written by Ki no Tomonori (紀友則,850–904).
confection named Hanafubuki(花吹雪:a flurry of falling cherry blossoms)
I threw the fallen petals high in the air when I took a walk with my dog under the cherry trees. while petals drifted down like confetti, she yelped with delight in her puppyhood.
She was given less than a year to live during the cherry blossom season a few years ago. While walking with my dog under the cherry trees, I came home to my bosom that we were not abele to see cherry blossoms together in the next spring.
Can I see cherry blossoms next spring? - I often hear that in Japanese classics, movies or TVdrams.
The petal floating on the water is called Hanaikada(花筏:petal raft). Because a petal of cherry blossoms floating down the river looks like a raft.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
At the beginning of April, during the cherry blossom season, entrance ceremonies are held in most schools. At this time of the year, you see blooming cherry blossoms everywhere. However, cherry trees are not often planted in the yard of a private home because the cherry trees are very often infested with insects.
A randoseru (ランドセル) is a backpack made of firm leather or synthetic leather, and most elementary students go to school with them on their backs.
When I was a child, randoseru was heavy and it comes in only two colors of black and red. Although most girls chose red ones, I chose black one and went to elementary school while carrying it for six years. However, I've never gotten razzed or been bullied because of it. A classmate asked me why I used the black randoseru for boys only once in six years.
Now the school bag is available in a variety of colours and designs.
The scene of Japanese family life around 1970 is reproduced here.
Parents buy desks come with a book rack for their children at elementary school entry. Pencils and a pencil sharpener are placed on the rack and an illustrated vinyl mat is on the desk.
On the short-legged table called chabudai(卓袱台) are plastic cups with characters, a tin of hard candy appear to be Sakuma Drops (サクマ式ドロップス), a box of caramel appear to be Morinaga Milk Caramel(森永ミルクキャラメル) and so forth.
Sakuma Drops was originally launched in 1908 and it appears in the anime Hotaru no Haka(火垂るの墓:Grave of the Fireflies). Morinaga Milk Caramel come in a yellow package in 1913. You can buy both of them even now.
Monday, April 5, 2010
covered soup bowl,covered rice bowl and a dish of assortment
rice, soup and a dish of sashimi (slices of raw fish)
a dish of assortment
At the end of lunch, a confection associated with a cherry blossom and matcha(green powdered tea) were served. The cherry trees in full bloom are depicted inside the bowl.
As in the tea ceremony, guest numbers of confections are dished up in the bowl, and each of guests takes one confection at a time with chopsticks attached to the bowl. Sharpened thin branches are used as chopsticks.
Sunday, April 4, 2010
The highlight of this bunraku play is transformation in an eye's blink from beautiful Kiyohime to a demon with horns, the mouth stretched from ear to ear and gold round eyes.
A puppeteer operates the mechanical head called "gabu(ガブ)". In an eye's blink, the transformed demon is back to Kiyohime's usual self by operating the head with fingers.
The play was premiered as a bunraku play in 1759 and written by Takeda Koizumo(竹田小出雲),Chikamatsu Hanji(近松半二),Kitamado Goichi(北窓後一),Takemomoto Saburubei(竹本三郎兵衛) and Nifudou(二歩堂).
This story is based on the famous legend of "Anchin Kiyohime(安珍 清姫)" set in Dojoji(道成寺), which is located in the town of Hidakagawa, Wakayama Prefecture.
Legend has it that priest Anchin(安珍) escaped from his lover Kiyohime(清姫) into Dojoji across the Hidaka river and hid inside the bell of the temple. A boatman refused to take her on board at his request, so she junped into the river. While swimming across the river, she turned into a huge serpent in a towering rage. However, the serpent found out that he was inside the bell. It twisted itself around the bell and burned him to death.
Various traditional Japanese performing arts in the motif of a sequel to the legend were made as the noh play titled "Dojoji(道成寺)", as the kabuki dance and Japanese dance titled "Musume-Dojoji(娘道成寺)".
Now women practice Japanese dancing as a pastime.
These are Makimono-gashi(蒔物菓子) on the subject of Dojoji, cherry blossoms and the bell of the temple. It is a confection that is handed to invited guests to Japanese dance or koto recital as a souvenir. It's made to the design associated with the recital's program.
Iriaizakura(入相桜), which is a kind of cherry cultivars named Edohigan, and another kinds of cherry trees are planted on the temple grounds of Dojoji. Today Iriaizakura has begun to fall, but yoshino cherry trees are in full bloom.
●Yoshitsune Senbon Zakura (義経千本桜:Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees)
The scene, "Michiyuki Hatsune no Tabi(道行初音旅)", began with music and chants by an array of narrators(named tayu) and shamisen players. On the stage, a pale blue vast cloth was suspended from above the stage as a stage curtain.
In the middle of chanting, the cloth had fallen in on the stage.
Just then, my eyes were glued to the vivid scenery of cherry-blossomed Yoshino on the stage.
It was the great dramatic production that I've never seen.
The play was premiered as a bunraku play in 1747, as a kabuki play in 1748. The main character is Minamoto no Yoshitsune who is pursued by his brother. In the scene, his retainer Sato Tadanobu accompanied his mistress Shizuka to Yoshino where Yoshitsune hid himself.
Despite they are taking refuge in Yoshino, the scene looks brilliant.
●Sakurano mori no mankai no shita(桜の森の満開の下:In the Forest, Under Cherries in Full Bloom)written by Ango Sakaguchi (坂口 安吾, 1906 - 1955)
Having parties under the cherry blossoms is common sight in the spring. However, by taking humans off the sight, it becomes horrifying one.
●Sakura no ki no shita niwa(桜の樹の下には:Under the Cherry Trees)written by Motojiro Kajii (梶井 基次郎, 1901-1932)
" Dead bodies are buried under the cherry trees! …
How else would cherry blossoms have come out in a wonderful degree."
"cherry blossoms" designed by Kazuko Togami
Kazuko Togami, Washi-de-Tsukuru-Etegami 220（Tokyo：Boutique-sha.co.,1999), p.12
Friday, April 2, 2010
Most cherry trees have sustained their blossoms. Today, the cherry blossoms have become in full bloom in Yokohama. This weekend cherry blossom viewing spots in Japan will be crowded with people who come to see the flowers.
The Great Ginkgo(大銀杏) at Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu of Kamakura has ratooned.
In heavy rain, Onbashira-sai (御柱祭) has begun today.
It's a festival held every six years(every seven years) at Suwa Taisha Shrine(諏訪大社,Suwa Grand Shrine) in the Lake Suwa area of Nagano Prefecture. The festival continues at an uninterrupted pace for 1,200 years.
Suwa Taisha Shrine consists of Kamisya(上社) and Shimosya(下社). Each of them has two shrines.
Eight huge logs for Kamisya(or Shimosya) shrines are cut down from a mountain, run down the steep hill with people aboard and cross over a river in three days.
The logs are manhandled in the whole process. Logs' runnning down is the highlight of the festival, but it's very dangerous. So it sometimes happens that the festival results in injury and loss of life.
In another three days, four of the logs are brought into each shrine and are set up in the four corners of the shrine as pillars. Onbashira means "the sacred pillars".
It's believed that divinities dwell inside the pillars, and it's also said that the shrine parishioners reaffirm their beliefs by holding the festival.
According to one prevailing opinion, raising pillars came to be used as a substitute for rebuilding shrines such as a case of The Grand Shrine of Ise(伊勢神宮). It is thought that the Ise shrine has come to be rebuilt every 20 years because of perishability.
Thursday, April 1, 2010
We associate April with cherry blossom viewing party.
Tokugawa Yoshimune(1684-1751), the eighth shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate, ordered to plant yoshino cherry trees for cherry-blossom viewing so people in Edo(old Tokyo) went on a cherry viewing picnic. Many people from commoners to aristocrats enjoyed having parties under the cherry blossoms and drinking sake. Now places where the trees were planted are known for the magnificent cherry trees.
Today, the cherry blossoms have become in full bloom in Tokyo.
Various dishes are set in tiered lacquer boxes and tokkuri(徳利:liquor bottle) is on the bottom of the end table. People went cherry viewing picnic with a portable wooden case containing tiered boxes and a liquor flask like picnic hamper. The rich took gorgeous lacquer cases and common people did plain ones.
This year, many people prepared homemade dishes for the picnic in an effort to cut corners.
Koto is a traditional Japanese stringed instrument and is played with plectrums. Playing koto was an accomplishment for women. One of my junior high friends had learned koto, and her mother bought her a kimono dress at every koto recital.
An incense burner in the shape of the Japanese pheasant(雉, kiji) which is the Japanese national bird. It's also edible in some areas.
In Japanese folk tale "Momotaro," it went with the hero Momotarou. There is a a well-known proverb, "If a pheasant doesn't sing a song, it would not be shot by a hunter".
Hanging scroll with a painting of the cherry-blossomed Yoshino-yama mountain(吉野山) that have long been known for the cherry blossoms.
On April 1, many companies in Japan held ceremonies to welcome their new employees. However, About 20 percent of university graduates were not able to get jobs lined up.
In Japan, new employees used to hold a good place for the cherry-blossom viewing party during working hours. In recent years, the cherry blossoms have fallen before the assignment of new employees because the cherry blossoms flower earlier than before.