Samurai Dave: The Roving Ronin Report

Rambling Narrative of Travels, Thoughts, and Embellishments

Yabusame – Gunslingin’ Samurai (Japanese Mounted Archery)

Yabusame is a Japanese Shinto ritual involving mounted archery. Archers ride at a full gallop and shoot at three targets set up at certain intervals. Hitting all three, an archer is considered to be very skillful. The ritual is purpose is to bring prosperity and peace.

The video is a complilation of Yabusame events I have been to over the last two years. There are two different schools of Yabusame – Ogasawara Ryu who perform at Asakusa (here 2007&2008) and Takeda Ryu who perform at Meiji Shrine (2006), Miura (2007), and Kamakura (Spring 2007 & Fall 2008)

The song is called “Gunslinger Man” and it fits with the old tradition of samurai on horseback using bows rather than spears and swords as they did later. The Yabusame costume looks rather cowboy-ish.

The music is by the Exotic Ones:
http://www.myspace.com/exoticones

This also a tribute to the memory of a friend of mine who passed away a few years ago:
Jack Hunter Dave, Jr who wrote and sung the song “Gunslinger Man.”
http://my.att.net/p/s/community.dll?ep=87&subpageid=150399&ck=

November 28, 2008 Posted by | Archery, Blogroll, culture, entertainment, festival, japan, japanese archery, japanese culture, life, martial arts, mounted archery, tokyo, travel, video, Yabusame, youtube, zen | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Tribute to Autumn

A Tribute to Autumn
Photographic montage celebrating the season


Red Autumn Leaves

Autumn – the season of change where the world gives forth one glorious burst of life and color before succumbing to the long sleep of Winter. Autumn is a season of reflection and poets throughout the ages all over the world have given into this poetic self-indulgence.


Chinese Zodiac draped by Autumn Leaves at Mt. Takao near Tokyo


Fall foliage at a lake in Bavaria, Germany

“No Spring nor Summer Beauty hath such grace
As I have seen in one Autumnal face.”
– John Donne (17th Century England)

“…the end of Autumn is in the color of the last leaves”
– Jaukuren (12th Century Japan)


Autumn leaves at night at Rikiguen Garden in Tokyo

“I cannot endure to waste anything as precious as autumn sunshine”
– Nathaniel Hawthorne (19th Century United States)


Autumn sunshine falls on a golden floor


Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria

“Everyone hates to see the Autumn go by
This feeling would seemed to be shared by the Heavens”
– Tayasu Munetaka (18th Century Japan)


Fallen Autumn leaves as seen from an English church door

 


Painter paints an Autumn scene at Tokyo Station

“Every leaf speaks bliss to me,
Fluttering from the autumn tree.”
– Emily Bronte (19th Century England)


Pagoda at Sensoji Temple in Asakusa, Tokyo

“Autumn is a second spring where every leaf is a flower.”
– Albert Camus (20th Century France)


Chuzen-ji Lake, Japan


Watch Tower of old Edo Castle in Tokyo


A Church in Jonesborough, Tennessee

“Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold,
Her early leaf’s a flower
But only so an hour.”
– Robert Frost (20th Century United States)

“The autumn wind!
The mountain’s shadow
Trembles before it.”
– Issa (18th Century Japan)


Fall leaves frame Kegon Falls in Nikko, Japan

“Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it”
– George Eliot (19th Century England)


Cornfield in the Autumn morning mist – Tennessee


Old farm equipment amongst the fallen autumn leaves


A Hint of Autumn at Hikone Castle


View from Hikone Castle

“Ah, it was the Autumn Wind
Not she that I was waiting for”
– Socho (15th Century Japan)

 


View from Neuschwanstein Castle

“So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.”
– Robert Frost (20th Century United States)


Fallen golden leaves


The sun sets at the end of Autumn

November 22, 2008 Posted by | autumn, Bavaria, Blogroll, castle, culture, Deutschland, England, entertainment, fall, Germany, japan, leaves, life, music, nature, photographs, poetry, tennessee, tokyo, travel, video, youtube | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Rain Fails to Dampen Japanese Fire Festival Spirit

Rain Fails to Dampen Japanese Fire Festival Spirit
Kurama Fire Festival in Northern Kyoto


Rain fails to douse giant torches at Kurama’s Fire Festival

Fire and water as a rule generally do not mix as the saying goes. One usually overcomes the other in abundance. Rain has often been the bane of many outdoor-related fire activities from barbeques, to camp fires, to bonfires but the Fire Festival of Mt. Kurama in northern Kyoto refused to be doused despite downpours.


Some of the torches can reach 5-6 meters (15-18 feet) in length


A portable shrine – mikoshi

The Kurama-no-Himatsuri is an ancient festival ritual going back to the late 8th century that come rain or starshine (it’s always at night) is performed every year on Oct. 22. The purpose of the festival is to guide spirits and gods by torchlight along their way through the human world to the spiritual realm. Wayward spirits might remain to cause mischief in our world so the festival served to clear the mountain and the capital below of potentially evil spirits.

Torches of all sizes are carried about the mountain. They range in size from one-handed deals to gargantuan ones that require four or five stout men to carry them. The large torches put off a lot of heat and periodically their bearers are doused with water to keep them from overheating.


A Family’s Treasure on Display

This was my second time at the festival. The first time the mountaintop was crowded with milling residents, tourists, and guiding police. This time the guiding police were still in force but they practically outnumbered the visiting spectators. The reason for this was the rain. For most of the day leading up to the festival, it had been raining quite steadily thus casting a wet blanket over the enthusiasm for visitors to make the journey up the mountain.


An impressive old family heirloom

I almost gave into the suffocating effect of the wet blanket preferring a warm cafe to a cold wet mountain. Fortunately, I was able to cast the blanket off and force myself to make the journey. Not long afterwards, I was quite happy that I had made the effort. Absent were the throngs of visitors that cluttered up the train and mountaintop the last time I had visited. The spirit of the festival, however, was undampened being still “fiery” as ever and this time I could be closer to the action.

Adding to the fun and the surrealness of it all were the number of attending Tengu – Japanese goblins. Kurama’s famous mythical denizen is the Tengu which come in two shapes – redskinned long nose goblins or winged crow-headed goblins. The long-nose goblins make for popular masks and quite a few people were sporting these.


A Tengu Goblin on the way back from Kurama’s Fire Festival

As for the rain, from time to time it did come down but it was only a minor inconvenience. The great torches sputtered and crackled but did not go out. The amount of smoke was considerable though due to this.


Koff! Koff! Must be in the the smoking section!

After the torches reached the shrine, a large bonfire was constructed. Then two large mikoshi – portable shrines – were brought down the steep path from the temple. On their backs rode two men in samurai armor sans helmet. The mikoshi bearers rocked the shrines up and down seemingly trying to knock the fellows off. All around them carrying regular-sized torches were men, women, and children singing the festival’s age-old chant of “sei-rei, sei-ryo!” which means something like “festival, good festival!”

And indeed despite the weather, it was a good festival and I was glad I had made it.


shouldering a hot heavy load

https://samuraidave.wordpress.com/2007/03/20/japanese-fire-festival-on-kyotos-mt-kurama/

November 18, 2008 Posted by | Blogroll, culture, entertainment, festival, fire, fire festival, japan, japanese culture, kurama-no-himatsuri, Kyoto, life, mt. kurama, travel, video, vlog, weird, youtube | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Decadent Halloween at Tokyo Decadance – Vid and Photos

Decadent Halloween at Tokyo Decadance

Here are some photos from Tokyo Decadance’s big halloween party shindig.


God, I love Japan!

Tokyo Decadance is a semi-monthly club event that serves as an eclectic gathering for goth, lolita, cyber, fetish, and what-not. Really it’s practically Halloween everytime you go.


This is her usual get-up

The Halloween event was held in Christon Cafe which is a church-themed restaurant.

One can do some soul searching while waiting for bread rolls.


She wears this to the office – the S&M office where she works


Just Chillin’ Out!


This was Tokyo’s Decadance’s 3rd Anniversary – yes, those are dicks on the cake.


A little light lesbianism at Tokyo Decadance


Tokyo Decadance Founder – Adrien Le Danois (on the left)


When Angels and Ewoks mate…


Somewhere over the rainbow…


Too much Decadance


Alas, poor Yorick! We ate him well!


Hey, now!


Tempted by the devil


A trio of sleeping beauties


Is that a wand in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?


Tengu Goblin is a hit with the ladies for some reason

A look at Tokyo Decadance

November 6, 2008 Posted by | Blogroll, culture, dance, entertainment, japan, life, music, Rolly Teranishi, S&M, sexy, tokyo, tokyo decadance, travel, video, youtube | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Samurai Dave, JR, 2channel, and Japanprobe get Halloween RickRolled!

Well, I was out and about looking for yet another Halloween Train set for Halloween itself. I had some misgivings about this one though because:

1) I had already ridden on one on the 25th and made a video on it. I didn’t really feel like making another one though naturally I would have been compelled to do so.

2) It was set on a Friday. Normally in most countries at 9 such a halloween party would not run into much problem but in Tokyo it means commuters going home after late hours. I find that worse than any halloween train party!

Turns out it was a hoax or it’s a hoax of hoax designed to save face because no one showed up. I got a video response by someone claiming they organized the hoax who then put up a video claiming to have footage of the 31st Halloween Train along with complilations of other people’s halloween train videos including mine.

The intro lures the viewer into thinking you’re going to see the “carnage” as the video states then suddenly it switches to – you guessed it! That Rick Astley video – what is up with that BTW? I still don’t understand rickrolling but this one was funny because bits of video from different people’s halloween train videos are put within the video dancing along with the music.

November 3, 2008 Posted by | Blogroll, entertainment, halloween, japan, life, never gonna give you up, rick astley, rick roll, tokyo, travel, video, yamanote halloween train, Yamanote Train, youtube | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Cops, Nerds, and Halloween Trains

Cops, Nerds, and Halloween Trains
The Tokyo Yamanote Halloween Train serves up another saucy bit of fun


The Joker is a scream at the Yamanote Halloween Train party

The infamous Tokyo Yamanote Halloween Train rode yet once more this year despite fears of police crackdowns and potential violence from frustrated internet nerds. The Tokyo Yamanote Halloween Train is an unofficial semi-traditional event going back over 20 years where foreigners and Japanese in costume party on the Yamanote Train Line which loops through Tokyo.

Now, I’ve ridden this notorious public transportation menace a fair few times (four times as of now), and I must say this time was as nerve-wracking as it was exhilarating. Each time I’ve ridden the Halloween Train, it’s been fun but this time things were a bit more tense than before.


The few, the proud, the loud

Looming over the party atmosphere was the specter of the Akihabara murder-spree this past summer where a deranged man killed seven people with his vehicle and knife. Prior to doing so, he had posted on the internet that he would do so. Akihabara is a mecca for the anime otaku or Japanese animation nerd.

Otaku (nerds/geeks/dorks) are the pariah of Japan. They have been scapegoated for social ills sometimes unfairly and sometimes not. Many are just harmless individuals who just like anime and manga while indulging in a bit of cosplay now and then. These types lack the anger and alienation of other otaku whose behavior rather than their particular obsession sets them apart. The killer Kato Tomohiro is seen as one of these types who finally gave into his dark twisted inner nature.


Tengu – Japanese long-nosed Goblin

Our gathering was small for several reasons. One, there was little advance warning; two, it was rather early for Halloween being the 25th; three, there was worry the police would shut it down and arrest participants; and four, there was fear of violence from 2channel people.


Japan Man takes a Swig

2channel or Nichannel/Nichan is a Japanese internet community that is known for its outspoken members. Because of its complete anonymous nature, it attracts a certain number of individuals who slander and defame businesses, political figures, and celebrities. These individuals are often described as extremely conservative, angry, xenophobic, vindictive, and incapable of functioning in the real world.

In 2007 when certain 2channel members learned about the Halloween Train event, they saw red and plastered websites which mentioned the event with obscenities and violent threats. Japanprobe was hit especially hard as someone had posted an invite there to the Halloween Train and 2chan people assumed Japanprobe was sponsoring the event. Two commentators stood out at the time – one who threaten to blow away the trains and one who said he would go there with a knife.

After the Akihabara tragedy, such threats are no longer passed off as empty threats made by internet nerds who never leave their computer. There is a dark side to the otaku culture of frustrated young men angry at society, with their lives, and with their lack of human contact. Generally lashing out through their online personas is enough for many of them but for some it hasn’t and what Japan may experience is more internet-fueled rages in the real world.


We can’t reach our Beer!

The Halloween Train was packed with police most of them undercover while at the major stations a dozen uniformed police stood waiting. Some of us began to worry our night of merry mayhem would end in a Japanese jail cell and possible deportation. As it turns out, the police were less there because of us but more there because of the potential threat the 2channel users posed.


A Japanese maid chants station names

Due to their hatred for the Halloween Train event some 2channel members actually made the ultimate sacrifice of prying themselves away from their cyber fantasy worlds and entering the cold harsh realm called the real world. They came to our event but they certainly weren’t there to partake in the festivities. One of them tried to make off my bottle of Campari when I offered to him in a gesture of good will. I had to wrestle it out of his hand to get it back.


A police sign telling us not to … do something

The 2channel members were easy to spot as while other passengers just ignored the event going on around them, the 2channel people defiantly ignored the event going on around them. Some of them though harassed Japanese participants of the Halloween Train questioning their love of their home country and other nationalistic jingoism.


The Joker during a serious moment

Heath Ledger’s Joker is a frightening psychotic character and we had a Joker on our train complete with knife (fake). However, one regular-looking 2channel member proved to be far more frightening than our lovable clown-face psycho. When asked by a Halloween Train participant if he liked peace, he replied that he liked war and that he wanted to kill the participant. Immediately, in this packed train, that 2channel fellow found ample space around him as people recoiled in horror. Flashes of AKihabara went through many minds and through it all the placid expression on his face did not change – all the more frightening.

An undercover policeman inquired about the incident and let it be known that they were more here to protect the party participants from the 2channel members. This may strike one as strange that the police would willingly protect an event what some have condemned as hooliganism and even terrorism but one has to understand that this event has been going on for well over 20 years. It happens once a year (usually) and in recent times lasts only an hour or so. The worse that happens is some lights are turned off and some people get on the luggage rack.


Hey, Mom! I’m on the Tokyo Yamanote Halloween Train!

On the other side of the equation we have this subculture of embittered socially-awkward young men with chips on their shoulders who after the Akihabara incident are capable of doing far worse than turn off a few lights. Reportedly in 2007 after the Halloween Train event which started in Shinjuku and had police and otaku alike some party participants were beaten afterwards.

As for the Halloween Train, it was a bit more low key than previous ones but we did our usual station chanting. Hamamatsucho Station, however, defeated our best efforts. It’s hard getting a group of inebriates to chant multi-syllabic words. We ran into a slight snag at Osaki station. Although the Yamanote Line loops around Tokyo, not all its trains do. Some stop in Osaki and are switched out. We happened to be on one such train though we didn’t know it. We thought at first they were shutting down the train like they did with the Shinjuku Halloween Train last year.

Fortunately, it was a routine shutdown. We simply crossed over to the other side and grabbed another train going the same direction. Half of the group went over to the other platform and took a train in the direction we had just came no doubt surprising the police at the stations we had already left. Once again two Halloween Trains were on the loose and chaos reigned.

Another amusing note to the evening was the presence of a vocal foreign critic to our soiree. Buried beneath the press of passengers, photographers, and nerds, was our moral compass. Periodically we would hear over the din, the shrill nasally cry of “you shouldn’t be drinking on the train!” and “you shouldn’t be shouting!” even though he himself was shouting. I’m not sure what he got out of it but if it made him happy, good for him.

Our train party decided to exit at Ueno despite originally stating we would do so at Ikebukuro. This was to throw off any unwanted welcoming parties that might been waiting for us in the shadows outside the station. We received a celebrity sendoff by a mob of photographers. They formed a semi-circle and snapped away like we were rock stars. With the police protection, stalkers, and photographers and our larger-than-life behavior we kind of were rock stars.


Yamanote Halloween Train Paparazzi – “No Autographs!”

We finally got out of the station after having hundreds of photos taken of us by reporters and passerbys and celebrated out success (and survival) over a few cold ones. Scarily enough, we still had a few 2channel members tailing us. Two undercover cops were there though to make sure they didn’t try anything.

So another successful and highly interesting Yamanote Halloween Train went down in the annals of Tokyo lore. I cannot say truthfully if this was the proverbial “the” Tokyo Yamanote Halloween Train as another may still run in the near future but I can say this was definitely “A” Tokyo Yamanote Halloween Train and I was glad not to have missed it.


October 30, 2008 Posted by | Blogroll, culture, entertainment, festival, halloween, japan, life, party, tokyo, travel, WTF, yamanote halloween train, Yamanote Train | , , , , | 21 Comments

Hello Kitty Samurai!

Hello Kitty Samurai!!!

Hello Kitty Samurai

I was visiting Hikone which lies an hour north of Kyoto when I chanced upon a unusual figure in samurai armor. What struck me immediately as odd was that it didn’t have the typical scowl I had usually come to associate with statues and the like depicting samurai. On closer inspection I realized it was Japan’s official tourism ambassador, Hello Kitty, all decked out like a samurai warrior of bygone ages.


Hikone Castle is one Japan’s few preserved castles

Hikone was home to Ii clan. The land was given to their first lord Ii Naomasa whose scowling visage can be seen frozen in bronze outside of the train station.


The fierce Ii Naomasa scowls welcomingly to visitors

Naomasa served Tokugawa Ieyasu who became Shogun or military ruler over all of Japan in 1603. Naomasa fought in numerous battles and was wounded scores of times. His men were famous for painting their armor red. They were known as the Red Devils and the sight of them brought out screams of terror from their enemies.


Red Devil Armor

Now the Red Devils are tastefully emasculated with this lovely recreation of them in Hello Kitty dolls and the sight of them brings out squeals of delight from Japanese schoolgirls.


The Hello Kitty Red Devils


Off to storm the castle


Only in Japan!

October 24, 2008 Posted by | Blogroll, cute, entertainment, Hello Kitty, Hikone, Ii Naomasa, japan, japanese culture, life, Only in Japan, travel, weird, WTF | , , , , | 2 Comments

Hot Wet Sexy Japanese Samba Video

Hot Wet Sexy Japanese Samba Video

Highlights from the 2008 Asakusa Samba Carnival in Tokyo.

The event started off hot and sweaty then the clouds opened up and the rain poured down. The samba performers kept going though they were soaked to the bone. The Samba girls looked none the worse for it though.

September 6, 2008 Posted by | Asakusa, Blogroll, brazil, culture, dance, entertainment, festival, japan, japanese culture, life, samba, sexy, tokyo, travel, video, youtube | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hot Wet Sexy Japanese Samba!!!

Rain makes for Slippery Samba in Tokyo
Tokyo’s Asakusa Samba Carnival dances on despite showers


A Rain-soaked Samba Dancer defies downpour

Tokyo’s traditional Asakusa district once more swayed and bopped to the exotic strains of Brazilian samba music. Asakusa’s annual Samba Carnival festival took place this past Saturday, August 30th. Asakusa has been holding this event on the last Saturday of August for over twenty years and it never fails to draw a huge crowd.


Samba dancers in front of Senso-ji Temple’s gate


Nigh-naked be-feathered dancing samba girls move to the beat of Brazilian music and the feverish whirl and click of thousands of cameras held sweatily in hand by overly-enthusiastic photographers.



Every year, the samba groups choose a theme for their presentation. The nigh-naked samba girls are nearly always the same with feathers, tiara, and sequins but their companions sport different costumes every year based on a chosen theme.


Jesus makes a guest appearance



One group’s theme was based on sumo. Two performers twirled bows similar to the way that sumo wrestlers do at the end of each day of a sumo tournament. A large float was made out to depict a Yokozuna – sumo champion. The strangest part of the group by far were four golden gals wearing masks and very little else.





A Golden Duo

This year saw a bit of Akihabara otaku (nerd) culture mixed with saucy samba. Scantily-clad girls in outlandish sci-fi outfit pretended to fire space age cannons in rhythm to the music. The musicians were dressed like the bug-eyed abducting type aliens who appear in all those UFO documentaries and redneck nightmares. There were no probes to be seen, however.


Otaku (nerd) Samba – space age cuties fire imaginary rockets

Another odd ensemble was a group of pink haired heavy metal guys pulling a float from which hung suspended in air a black pig with large pink polka dots and skull and crossbones. My favorite one that summed up Japanese cutesy-ness was the midriff-baring girls wearing polar bear paws as gloves and a polar bear head as a hat.


Pink haired Heavy Metal Rockers with their pink polka-dotted pig


Polar bear girls?

The weather in Tokyo has been strange recently and it’s dubious presence was felt at this year’s Samba event. At the beginning, it was sunny, hot, and very humid. Sweat rolled down performers and spectators alike. Then suddenly the skies darkened and shortly afterwards rain began cascading downward.


Unfeathered wet dancing samba girls


Spectators either opened umbrellas or fled under awnings. The samba performers did not have either option. Surprisingly they didn’t call off or postpone the event. Undaunted by the pouring rain and the potential for electrocution by their sound systems, the samba performers wiped the rain from their brows and resolutely carried on.


Damp fairies flitter about

The samba dancing girls discarded their feathers weighed down as they were with rainwater. On the bright side, the nigh-naked once-befeathered dancing samba girls were now unfeathered wet dancing samba girls – a silver lining to our rain cloud.



Rain can’t stop a samba girl from having a good time

September 6, 2008 Posted by | Asakusa, Blogroll, brazil, carnaval, carnival, culture, dance, entertainment, festival, japan, japanese culture, life, samba, sexy, tokyo, travel | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A Japanese Beer Trilogy

Here’s a trilogy of videos on Japanese beer – one on beer vending machines in Kyoto, another one on a draft beer vending machine in Tokyo, and a final one on historical beers – beers with labels of famous people in Japanese history with short bios.

This first video is from BusanKevin in Kyoto talking about the wonders of outdoor beer vending machines in Kyoto on a hot day:

In response, I did a video on a draft beer vending machine I discovered in a pool hall in Tokyo a few nights ago.

Taste was not to bad but it gave me a huge head of foam which is quite common anyway even with live servers:

background music by Super Girl Juice

Later that same night I came across some “Historalicious” Japanese beer which were beer bottles with labels depicting famous people from Japanese history. Get your drink on while learning some Japanese history with Historalicious Japanese Beer – if you can read the bloody small cursive writing on the label:

Crack open a cold one and enjoy the Japanese Beer Trilogy!

August 17, 2008 Posted by | beer, Blogroll, culture, drinking, entertainment, japan, japanese beer, japanese beer vending machine, japanese culture, japanese history, life, shinsengumi, tokyo, travel, video, vlog, youtube | , , , , , , | 2 Comments