Light displays(Japanese version only):

when and where to see fall foliage (almost Japanese version): (English version)

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Azuma Odori(dance performance by Shinbashi geisha)

On May 17, cherry blossoms reached full bloom in Sapporo, Hokkaido. This is ten days later than usual. In Hokkaido, several areas including wakkanai, abashiri, kushiro are expecting the blossoms to bloom on May 20.
On May 14, the Okinawa Meteorological Observatory announced that this year's rainy season had started in Okinawa area.
  The Azuma Odori(東をどり) is being held in the Shinbashi Enbujo Theater(新橋演舞場) in Tokyo from May 17th to the 20th. It'a Japanese dance performance performed by geisha of Shinbashi.
Their performances were given for an hour and a half three times a day and the admission is between 7,500 and 2,500 yen. Its tickets are available via the Internet, by phone, at the box office.

Azuma Odori website: (Japanese version only)

Visitors who have bought tea tickets can enjoy powdered green tea made by geisha at the lobby before the performances and during the intermission. They also sell souvenirs. Visitors can take photos with them.

It started to show their performance to regular patrons of high-class Japanese-style restaurants called ryotei(料亭) in 1925. "Ryotei" sounds too classy.
Now boxed lunches made by six high-class ryotei are available at the theater. (Reservations are necessary.)

Shinbashi geisha dressed in formal kimono (black kimono marked with the family crests) at Kabuki-za Theater

R0024614 by urasimaru /flickr

 In the Edo Period, Noh actors had been under the aegis of the Tokugawa shogunate. Residences were bestowed on Noh actors of the Konparu school by the shogunate in Ginza. Many masters of Tokiwazu (Theatrical music) also lived around the residences. Shinbashi geisha were said to have started in 1857 when one of them attended drinking parties as a geisha.  Shinbashi was the name of a bridge which existed in Ginza, and the area around the bridge was also called Shinbashi.

There were many ochaya(places where geisha entertain their guests) in Shinbashi. There were residences of samurai around Ginza, but they were regarded as uncouth rustics by geisha in Yanagibashi. Shinbashi geisha greeted them.  Pivotal members of the New Meiji Government who came from rural areas patronized Shinbashi geisha. They used ryotei for confidential talks between important persons and politicians.  Shinbashi geisha entertained them at ryotei. Many of the members married geisha in the Meiji Period.

In recent years, the show has become an introduction to the geisha culture. There were about 1,000 performers including geisha, dancers, singers, shamisen players in the world of the Geisha in Shinbashi at its peak but there are approximately 60 today.

Geisha by wilhelmja /flickr

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Kanda Festival

Kanda Festival(神田祭) is being held at Kanda Myoujin(神田明神, formerly 神田神社 Kanda Shrine) from May 9 to 15. Kanda Festival and Sanno Matsuri Festival(山王祭) at Hie Shrine(日枝神社) are held in alternate years.

about Kanda Myoujin and Taira no Masakado:

The Kanda Festival was cancelled due to the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, so this is its first holding in four years.

Kanda Myoujin Festival website: (Japanese version only)

From 8:30 a.m. on May 12, this festival will be broadcast live at (Japanese version only)

Three deities are enshrined in the shrine.
Its first deity is Onamuchi no Mikoto(大己貴命) who is the deity of marriage. He is also known as Okuninushi no Mikoto(大国主命) or Daikoku(大黒). Kanda Shrine was founded to honor him in 730.
Its second deity is Sukunahiko no Mikoto(少彦名命) who brings good fortune, success in business.  He is also known as Ebisu(恵比寿).
Its third deity is Taira no Masakado no Mikoto(平将門,?–940).

Although Masakado was enshrined in the shrine in 1309, the shrine stopped to worship his spirit in the Meiji Period because he was an enemy of the court. The divided deity Sukunahiko no Mikoto was transferred from an shrine in Ibaraki Prefecture to Kanda Shrine in 1869. Masakado was enshrined in the shrine again in 1984.
They are affectionately called 'Daikoku-sama', 'Ebisu-sama', 'Masakado-sama'.

Horen(鳳輦) is a wheeled portable shrine ornamented on top with a miniature of a Chinese phoenix. Mikoshi(神輿) is a divine palanquin.

Horen for Onamuchi no Mikoto

DSC_0247 by Marufish /flickr

Mikoshi for Sukunahiko no Mikoto

DSC_0233 by Marufish /flickr

Horen for Taira no Masakado no Mikoto

DSC_0248 by Marufish /flickr

In the evening of May 9, the spirits of the three deities were transferred to mikoshi and horen at the shrine.

Each town of shrine parishioners has a mikoshi.
In the evening of May 10, the deities' spirits were transferred to mikoshi at Okariya(the place where a deity takes a rest) or Miki-sho(a station where the sacred sake is dedicated to deity) in the towns of shrine parishioners.

On May 11, the procession including the three deities' mikoshi and horen started from the shrine around 8 a.m. after Shinto rituals and passed through the towns of shrine parishioners. On the way, Shinto rituals took place at Masakado-zuka, the site where there was once an okariya.

               lion head
DSC_0462 by Marufish /flickr

Around 4:30 p.m., Tsuke-matsuri joined the procession in front of Mitsukoshi's flagship store in Nihonbashi.

Around 7 p.m., the large procession returned to the shrine, and five mikoshi were carried into the precincts of Kanda Shrine.

Tsuke-matsuri(附け祭) is a boisterous parade featuring floats, dancers, people dressed in costume.
The parade includes a warrior procession of Soma Nomaoi this year.
about Soma Nomaoi:

Tsuke-matsuri starts from Arima Elementary School at 3:00 p.m.


This float was the main feature of the parade in the Edo Period.  The parade features newly-reconstructed one.  Three legends pertaining to oni(ogre) extermination in Mt. Oe(大江山, Oeyama) have been passed on.


 Oeyama-gaijin, the head of oni

Kaname-ishi(要石, sacred stone) on big catfish

This float was popular in the Edo Period. There was the popular superstition that earthquakes are caused by underground activities of a big catfish. The tradition that a deity seals in a big catfish with Kaname-ishi was widespread.


The float of Hanasaka-jiisan (The Old Man Who Made Flowers Blossom) appeared this year.


Various events are held at the shrine.

Masakado Daiko(Japanese drums)
Masakado-Daiko [ Kanda Maturi / Kanda Shrine ]
by d'n'c /flickr

Kamo Noningyo dashi(加茂能人形山車)

A doll on this float is a deity appearing in a noh play 'Kamo'. A float of the Edo Period has been reproduced.

神田祭 by taken_spc /flickr

On May 12, over 50 mikoshi will be carried into the precincts of the shrine.

DSC_0066 by Marufish /flickr

DSC_0031 by Marufish /flickr

DSC_0447 by Marufish /flickr
DSC_0379 by Marufish /flickr

DSC_0332 by Marufish /flickr




DSC_0370 by Marufish /flickr

DSC_0252 by Marufish /flickr


DSC_0495 by Marufish /flickr

at the shrine

DSC_0296 by Marufish /flickr

DSC_0170 by Marufish /flickr

DSC_0303 by Marufish /flickr

DSC_0179 by Marufish /flickr

DSC_0276 by Marufish /flickr

DSC_0149 by Marufish /flickr

DSC_0191 by Marufish /flickr

DSC_0287 by  Marufish /flickr

DSC_0323 by Marufish /flickr

DSC_0013 by Marufish /flickr

DSC_0282 by Marufish /flickr

  On May 14, there will be a ceremony of Kencha (tea offering to deities), and a noh play will be performed at the shrine.

On May 15, the annual grand festival will be held. This ritual is most important to the shrine.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Tango no Sekku (boys festival)

May 5th is Children's Day(the boys festival) in Japan. The day has long been the celebratory day for boys known as Tango no Sekku. On the days around the celebratory day, families with boys display warrior dolls in their homes and fly carp streamers outdoors.

dolls for Boy's Day that has armour and a helmet at Haneda Airport

羽田空港に五月人形・鎧兜 by kawanet /flickr

old warrior dolls in Takayama City, Gifu Prefecture

warrior dolls at Nakayama-dera Temple in Takarazuka City, Hyogo Prefecture

Nakayama-dera Temple
Nakayama-dera Temple by Hyougushi /flickr

 ornamental helmet, used in the Boy's Festival

兜 KABUTO1 by peachykeen103 /flickr

small armor and helmet

R0010599  by duck75 /flickr

Armor of a SAMURAI warrior
Armor of a SAMURAI warrior by MIKI Yoshihito (´・ω・) /flickr

A man in full armor. He is wearing a replica of the warrior helmet worn by Naoe Kanetsugu (直江 兼続,1559-1620) who served Uesugi clan.

In the Edo Period, samurai families with boys flew their family banners, and commoners with boys hoisted carp streamers(koinobori).

Photo by

banners and carp streamers at Tsuetate Onsen(杖立温泉), Aso-gun, Kumamoto Prefecture

Recently, we can see a troop of streamers in several areas. Lesser people hoist standard-sized carp streamers. The organizers gather many streamers sitting in closets and hoist them over rivers.

Photo by

carp streamers at Tsuetate Onsen(杖立温泉), Aso-gun, Kumamoto Prefecture

 typical koinobori
(a pair of arrow-spoked wheels with a ball-shaped spinning vane, colorful streamer like a windsock, black carp(father), red carp(mother), the other carps(sons))

PhoTones Works #188
PhoTones Works #188 by PhoTones_TAKUMA /flickr

 by ysishikawa /flickr

folded carp streamers and arrow-spoked wheels

 Oyoge Koinobori Sagamigawa(Swimming carp streamers over the Sagami River), from April 29 to May 5, Kanagawa Prefecture

泳げ鯉のぼり相模川/相模原 by Tranpan23 /flickr

泳げ鯉のぼり相模川/相模原 by Tranpan23 /flickr

泳げ鯉のぼり相模川 by ucb /flickr

Koinobori Festa(1000 carp streamers), from April 22 to May 5, Takatsuki City, Osaka

R0013827 : Carp in the sky

Koinobori Festa
FH000032 by sakura_chihaya+ /flickr

Ikari Dam(五十里ダム) in Nikko City, Tochigi Prefecture

五十里ダムの鯉のぼり by kimishowota /flickr

 Swimming carp streamers over the Kamo River(加茂川), from April 13 to May 6, Kamo City, Niigata Prefecture

加茂市の鯉のぼり by kimishowota /flickr

"swimming" carp streamers in the Seto River(瀬戸川), Mochigase-cho, Tottori City, Tottori Prefecture

Lake Ryokusui(緑水湖) in Mochigase-cho, Tottori City, Tottori Prefecture

Swimming carp streamers over the Azuma River in Gunma Prefecture

吾妻川 (1)
吾妻川 (1) by Kuruman /flickr

Anamizu-machi, Ishikawa Prefecture

町@石川県穴水町 by *sii /flickr

Fukuro River(袋川), Tottori City, Tottori Prefecture

Uzuma River, Tochigi City, Tochigi Prefecture

Colorful carp banners / 鯉幟(こいのぼり)
Colorful carp banners / 鯉幟(こいのぼり) by TANAKA Juuyoh (田中十洋) /flickr

Tokyo HDR - 29
Tokyo HDR - 29 by Kabacchi /flickr

 Harumi Pier in Tokyo

 Tokyo Tower

DSCF8655 by Zengame /flickr

Kusu-machi, Oita Prefecture

Bungo-Mori, , Japan
Bungo-Mori, , Japan 
by tkikuchi /flickr
                miniature carp streamers

鯉のぼり by naitokz /flickr

Isezaki Mall(伊勢佐木モール) in Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture

鯉のぼり by naitokz /flickr