Samurai Dave: The Roving Ronin Report

Rambling Narrative of Travels, Thoughts, and Embellishments

2010 Japan World Cup Memories

Here is my compilation of videos watching Japan in the 2010 World Cup in various places in Tokyo. Japanese fans are fun to watch and party with and of course lots of cute genki girls makes for lots of fun!

JAPAN VS CAMEROON

Despite low expectations, Japan beat Cameroon June 14th 1-0. Many expected Japan to lose because they were lower in rank than Cameroon and hadn’t done so hot in the pre-Cup games.

I watched the game at a bar in Tokyo and later walked about and over to a Hub Pub and talked to Japanese and foreigners alike about the game. I forgot my video camera at home so I was forced to rely on the crappy video function of my small digital photo camera so the audio and video are bit rougher than usual.

JAPAN VS NETHERLANDS

Japan put up a valiant effort against Netherlands on June 19th but eventually lost 0-1. Many people thought Japan would lose anyway because Netherlands is such a strong team but they didn’t score their only goal until the second half. Japan came close to a draw but unfortunately not close enough. Now the big game is against Denmark June 24th which will be at 3:30am the next morning here in Japan.

I went to the artistic haunts of the Design Festa Cafe in Harajuku to watch the game and while there I polled some of the spectators on Japan’s chances. I tried to motivate flagging spirits by singing the “Oh, Nippon” song but some of them didn’t know it.

I also ran into fellow youtuber, Tolokyo, there and got his candid opinion on the game.

JAPAN VS DENMARK

Japanese celebrate going to 2nd Round with World Cup Win against Denmark

Japan vs Denmark for the chance to proceed to the 2nd Round of the World Cup. Both had beat Cameroon and both had lost to Netherlands so it was anyone’s game and a lot was riding on it.

I went to Shibuya on the last train and found fans celebrating more than two hours before the game to get themselves pysched up for the coming match.

I caught the first part of the game not too mention Japan’s first goal on a frizzy muted TV in the notorious meat-market club Gaspanic before moving on to a little under-the-tracks bar that was jam-packed spilling out up to the road. I could hardly see the game but the atmosphere was definitely lively especially when Japan scored its second goal before half-time. After half I went to the Irish bar chain Dubliner’s where I could actually see the game for a change. There Denmark scored goal but a few minutes later Japan scored it’s third and final goal winning the game and going to the 2nd Round. At this point win or lose the next game, it doesn’t really matter. It’s just enough to get through especially when many people’s expectations were so low.

Shibuya Crossing was a madhouse. The police had blocked off the main diagonal crossing for fear the street would be choked with partiers and traffic would never get through. I ended my night or rather early morning with a beer in a small bar before getting some shut-eye.

JAPAN VS PARAGUAY

Ah, Japan lost to Paraguay in the Second Round to that bullshite known as PK (Penalty Kicks) but still they played a good game and can hold their heads high this World Cup.

I went to Shibuya again to watch the game and the festivities. Unfortunately there practically more cops than fans this time around (no one was tazzed though so I have to commend the Japanese police there). Also there was no public viewings despite there being huge TV screens at Shibuya crossing.

After the game despite the loss, Japan team fans still celebrated to the wee hours.

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December 31, 2010 Posted by | 2010, Blogroll, event, FIFA, Harajuku, japan, Japanese girls, party, sexy, soccer, Sport, tokyo, Tokyo Design Festa, travel, vlog, World Cup, youtube | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Funekko Nagashi Matsuri – Japanese Boat Burning Festival

Funekko Nagashi Matsuri
Japanese Boat-Burning Festival

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Boats burning on the river in Morioka

Obon is the time for honoring the dead and praying to the ancestral spirits in Japan. Traditionally it is believed that the souls of the departed return to the world of the living and later return at the end of Obon. Many Japanese head to their home towns in mid-August to pray at their ancestors’ graves.

Numerous communities put on dances known as Bon Odori. The most common feature of Obon is the lighted paper lantern floating on the water. People placed lanterns with the names of the departed written on them in waterways. These lanterns represent the souls returning to the underworld, the other world.

The city of Morioka in northern Japan sends the spirits off in style by burning makeshift boats stuffed with fireworks.

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Makeshift boats are created specifically for the festival then burnt

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The boats are packed with fireworks

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Beowulf and the Vikings would have loved this festival

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September 9, 2009 Posted by | culture, event, festival, fire, fireworks, Funekko Nagashi, iwate, japan, japanese culture, matsuri, morioka, Obon, tohoku, travel | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Japanese Devils Scare the Laziness out of Kids

Japanese Devils Scare the Laziness out of Kids
Namahage – Japanese Devils with a Strong Work Ethic

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Namahage – the bane of lazy children

“Twas the night before my skinning…”
Imagine you were a young child living in the Northwestern part of Japan on the small peninsula of Oga. It’s the holiday season and instead of waiting eagerly for fat jolly old elf with a sack full of toys to bring you presents, you’re dreading the arrival of a bunch of hairy scary devils with a handful of butcher knives who threaten to peel off your skin if you’ve have been lazy all year. It makes the lump of coal Santa Claus leaves with naughty children pale in comparison. If you can get your head around that, perhaps you can understand this bizarre bit of psychological child abuse known as the Namahage.

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Part of the Oga Welcoming Committee

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Namahage come in a variety of shapes and colors throughout Oga

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The Namahage are Japanese devils who visit villages on the Oga peninsula every New Year’s Eve. They wear straw coats, carry large kitchen knives, and wooden buckets. They come in the night down from their mountain homes howling and waving torches. The Namahage burst into homes stomping about looking for lazy children. If the children are hiding, the Namahage will flush them out threatening to take them into the mountains.

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Namahage are your childhood nightmares in the flesh

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Namahage stomps around the house looking for hiding children

The head of the household will try to appease the devils with a specially prepared meal accompanied with sake. He assures them that no one has been lazy in his household. Then the Namahage seeing all from their mountaintop look into their secret book which records the doings of every household and challenge that statement. The head of the household again promises that all have been obedient and hard-working and pleads with the devils not to take his wife and children into the mountains. It takes considerable effort to control these devils with their strong work-ethic.

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Hard Negotiations with Namahage

As the negotiations drag on, the head of the household offers more sake and along with mochi – rice cake – while begging that his wife and child not be taken away. Eventually the Namahage relent placated by the offerings and the sincerity of the head of the household. They bless the next year’s harvest and wish good health to all the members of the household. As the Namahage leave, they promise (or rather threaten) to return next year.

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Devils Coming Thru!

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Namahage – Oga’s unofficial ambassador

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For children the whole experience can be rather nerve-wracking. When the Namahage arrive they immediately seek out any hiding children and make as though they will take off with them right then and there. The parents or grandparents make a show of trying to save their child without much luck and only through careful negotiation amply accompanied with sake are they successful. Thus children learn gratitude for being saved from drudgery of working in the mountains for the harsh Namahage.

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In the old days, Namahage terrorized both lazy children and wives

In olden times, communities in areas such as Oga could not afford the luxury of laziness especially with the winters as long and harsh as they are. It’s not difficult to understand why community leaders would have gone to such efforts to instill a strong work ethic in their youth. Today the ritual is traditional. In the past it was a more serious matter – teaching the youth to work hard for their community’s survival and their own.

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Namahage have a strong work ethic

The original legend runs that the Namahage Devils arrived from China and caused the people of Oga much trouble. A deal was struck between the people and the Namahage that if the Namahage could build a thousand-step staircase for the main shrine in a single night, the people would supply them with a young woman every year; but if they failed, they would leave the people alone. The Namahage readily agreed and set to work.

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Namahage working hard to win their wager

The lusty devils were so efficient that by the end of the night they had only one stone left to lay before dawn even hinted in the sky. One fast-thinking person however came to the rescue and mimicked the cry of a rooster thus signaling that dawn had arrived. The Namahage, believing they had lost, left and went into the mountains but they return every year for their pound of flesh.

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A Namahage hears a mimicked rooster and thinks they have lost

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The Namahage go into the mountains but promise to return once a year

There are several theories as to the origins of the Namahage. One theory is that Namahage are derived from an ancient mountain deity. There are many native traditions of gods coming for a visit – though not quite with the fanfare of the Namahage. Another theory is that they are based on Yamabushi – shinto priest who leaved hermit-like existence in the mountain.

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Yamabushi – Shinto Hermit Priest – one suspect for the Namahage origin

Yet another theory hints that the Namahage might be based on shipwrecked sailors from Europe most likely Russia. Given the age of festival, it could be that they were those hardy explorers, the Vikings. It would explain the trouble they caused probably in foraging raids and the bet with the supply of woman.

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Shipwreck Foriegners might be another possible origin of the Namahage

The name “namahage” comes from the local dialect. “Nama” refers to the patch of skin that forms on the skin if someone sits too long at the fire ie being lazy. “Hage” means to scrap away the mark. This is why the Namahage carry their large knives to scrape away the laziness of their victims.

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Namahage carry large knives to scrape the laziness from victims

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For travelers, New Years is not a good time to see Namahage as it’s primarily a private affair. Participating households don’t want a bunch of camera-flashing tourists to ruin the effect of scaring their kids straight. Some of the local hotels arrange Namahage visitations but given it’s the New Years the whole thing can be rather pricey. Fortunately for the Namahage-seeker, there is the Namahage Museum in Oga where year-round, they can see a performance of the New Years’ event sans the crying children.

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Making a Namahage Mask at the Namahage Museum

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Visitors can become a Namahage at the Namahage Museum

In February, there is the Sedo Matsuri or simply the Namahage Festival which takes place next to the Namahage Museum in Oga. In the evening several men come down a hillside wearing straw coats. Near the shrine, two Shinto priests bless Namahage masks then precede to mask the men. Once they are all masked, they begin stomping and howling. Thus the Namahage are born.

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Dancing Devil

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A little while later they come down again with blazing torches. While young children cry and hide, others chase after the Namahage seeking to grasp a straw from their coats for good luck. Some of the Namahage dance, some of them play Taiko drums, and some of those of softer disposition play Rock, Paper, Scissors with children brave enough to match wit and hand with the Namahage.

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Namahage playing Rock, Paper, Scissors

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Drumming Devils

At the end of the festival, a priest presents an offering of mochi – rice cake – burnt black on a fire. The Namahage grudgingly accept the offering then return to their mountain lair. But everyone knows the Namahage keep watch on them and will be back without fail next year.

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Priest offering mochi to Namahage

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The Namahage promise/threaten to return next year

March 4, 2009 Posted by | Akita, culture, devils, drums, event, festival, folklore, japan, japanese culture, music, Namahage, New Years, Oga, Only in Japan, Roving Ronin Report, taiko, tohoku, tradition, travel, video, vlog, winter, youtube | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Japanese Snow Lantern Festival in Hirosaki

Japanese Snow Lantern Festival
Brightening up the Winter Sky

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Snow Lantern Festival of Hirosaki

Winters are long in Tohoku, the northern region of mainland Japan. Snow and ice are common fare there. A skier’s boon but a common man’s burden. In ages past before sports skiing and winter fashion, winter was something to be dreaded and suffered through. It is no wonder that a multitude of snow festivals dot the Tohoku region. These festivals are the locals’ way of making Winter seem little less unfriendly and little less bleak.

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Hirosaki Castle

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One such festival takes place in the city of Hirosaki in the Aomori Prefecture which is the northernmost area of the Japanese mainland. Capitalizing on the beauty of winter, residents of Hirosaki create lanterns made completely made of snow in early February.

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The lanterns for the most part resemble the type of lantern found in Japanese gardens and shrines. There are hundreds of these spread through the grounds of Hirosaki Castle. Some of the snow lanterns however are rather avant-garde shaped with just a hint of the essence of a traditional stone lantern.

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Avant-Garde Snow Lantern

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Mickey Mouse Snow Lantern Shows Off Japanese Obsessive Love for all Things Disney

Where in the stone lanterns there would be empty spaces for the placing of candles, painted portraits are set. The portraits resemble closely that of Hirosaki’s Neputa Festival in Early August. The Neputa Festival consists of large oval shaped floats with painted scenes from Japanese and Chinese stories.

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Snow Lantern with Mt. Iwaki

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The Snow Lantern Festival’s portraits depict the faces of Japanese women, samurai, and legendary Chinese heroes from the works of the Three Kingdoms and the Outlaws of the Marsh. In the evening, they are illuminated from within much in the same way the Neputa floats are.

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While the Neputa Festival goes back centuries, the Snow Lantern Festival goes back only decades – three to be exact. The Festival started in 1977 as a way to bring the community together during the long cold winter. It has since become one of the five biggest snow festivals in the Tohoku area.

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One of the few non-lantern structures to be seen at the festival

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Throughout the Festival, local volunteers patrol the grounds looking to repair the lanterns and clearing the pathways. They place the portraits on the lanterns and fasten them in place with short bamboo sticks. Across the old moat, dozens of small kamakura – or snow huts – are set up each with an individual candle.

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A Volunteer Repairs a Snow Lantern

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Three hundred miniature Kamakura snow huts dot the the bank of the castle moat

Hirosaki’s Snow Lantern Festival may not be a major extravaganza like the Snow Festival a little further north in Sapporo but it has a pleasant charm of its own. The Snow Lantern Festival in this respect represents the Japanese character best – simple but elegant; the quintessential concept of Japanese wabi-sabi.

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The only drawback to all this charm and elegance, however, is the music they choose to play in the background. Instead of playing traditional Japanese music particularly the guitar-like shamisen which Hirosaki is known for, they play less than quality modern music that is a cross between old style enka and modern pop music from mediocre artist without financial clout to sue the city for playing their music.

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Music aside, the illuminated snow lanterns and the miniature kamakura snow huts with Hirosaki Castle as a backdrop make for a winter fairy-tale land.

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February 22, 2009 Posted by | culture, event, festival, hirosaki, history, japan, japanese culture, matsuri, snow, snow festival, snow lantern festival, tohoku, travel, video, vlog, winter, youtube | , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Samurai Festival – Soma Nomaoi 2008 Vlog Account

Soma Nomaoi is a samurai festival in the northern Japan area of Fukushima. It’s a 3-day festival with parades, horse races, mock battles, and wild horse catching.

This is a vlog account of the festival. I plan to get around and making a more indepth one sometime in the future.

The cicadaes are freaking loud in the background so they might drown me out at times.

https://samuraidave.wordpress.com/2007/07/24/a-day-at-the-races-samurai-style/

 

August 13, 2008 Posted by | Blogroll, culture, entertainment, event, festival, fukushima, horse racing, horses, japan, japanese culture, japanese history, life, samurai, soma nomaoi, tohoku, travel, video, vlog, youtube | Leave a comment

The Surreal World of Eyeball Love Globe Group from Tokyo Design Festa

The Eyeball Love Globe Group from Taiwan at the Tokyo Design Festa

The Eyeball Love Globe Group from Taiwan at the Tokyo Design Festa

Take a dip into the surreal and the avant-garde with the Taiwanese performance group – the Eyeball Love Globe group.

The Eyeball Love Globe performed at the Tokyo Design Festa this past May and have done so a few other times before being one of the popular re-occuring performances at the exhibition.

Eyeball Love Globe

the music for two of the segements is from Seven Cycle Theory:

Seven Cycle Theory

It’s also up for votes on Current TV:
Eyeball on Current TV – Register and Vote please!

July 31, 2008 Posted by | art, avant-garde, Blogroll, culture, current tv, dance, electronica, entertainment, event, Eyeball Love Globe, japan, life, taiwan, tokyo, Tokyo Design Festa, travel, video, youtube | Leave a comment

Artistic Chaos – The Tokyo Design Festa Movie!

The Tokyo Design Festa is a semi-annual event where artists, craftsmen, performers, musicians, film-makers, and what-not gather from all over the world to exhibit their creations.

It’s a weekend of artistic chaos!

It’s up for votes on Current TV:
http://current.com/items/89051722_artistic_chaos_the_tokyo_design_festa

Help a Blogger out, why doncha?

July 2, 2008 Posted by | art, avant-garde, cosplay, costumes, culture, current tv, dance, entertainment, event, festival, japan, japanese culture, life, music, tokyo, Tokyo Design Festa, travel, video, vlog, youtube | , , , , | Leave a comment

Artistic Chaos – The Tokyo Design Festa

Artistic Chaos!!!
The Tokyo Design Festa – a chaotic ensemble of art


The Tokyo Design Festa


Anime fan wearing an all handmade costume

As I entered the futuristic-looking Tokyo Big Site building on Odaiba Island, I was greeted by a person with the head of fish. Beyond him/her/it and all about the place wandered a colorful assortment of strange characters which appeared to have been born in fertile imaginations bred on Japanese Anime, Gothic Horror, and Salvador Dali. It was then that I knew I had reached my destination: the Tokyo Design Festa.


Fishhead man advertising


Getting a leg up or two at Tokyo Design Festa


Usagi – Drumming Rabbits – Female Taiko Group

Design Festa is a chaotic showcase of artists, musicians, craftsmen, designers, dancers, and performers – the sublime mixed with the avant garde. The Design Festa takes place twice a year in Tokyo and has been going on for 14 years.


A Wild Wall

Artists come from all over the world to participate. Booths are set up to showcase their creations and crafts. Visitors can look at, handle, and purchase their favorite pieces. In addition they have the chance to talk with the artist to learn more about them and their artwork.


An artist below one of her works


Painter creating art at the Festa

For artists, the Design Festa gives them the opportunity to get their work noticed and possibly sold. The event is a breeding ground for future art as a lot of networking goes on between artists which can lead to potential collabrations.


Pint-size masters at work


Ninja getting down with their badselves


A twirling ghost

There is so much to see, do, and absorb in a weekend at Design Festa. The place is literally a beehive of activity. There are performances to see, workshops to attend, bands to hear, painters to watch, and oddity to puzzle over.


Geisha Gone Godzilla


Panda Man! He eats, shoots, and leaves.

Some of the booths offer short workshops to teach visitors a bit their craft. I tried my hand at the ancient art of Japanese calligraphy. Calligraphy in old Japan was considered an all important skill. In the far off days of the Heian Period (794-1192), a person’s calligraphy was believed to be a mirror of their character. I would have been laughed out of the Heian Court with my paltry attempt at the turtle kanji character. My turtle looked a bit more like a sickly chicken strung up by clumsy anti-poultry vigilantes. My teacher, a ten year old girl, was patient with me and guided me as best as she could.


Me with my Calligrapher Teacher


Anime School Girl Calligrapher

At a makeup special effects booth, visitors were able to get horrific body scars which didn’t hurt a bit. I got myself a nice deep scar running down my arm which later fooled a few drunks at my local bar.


I got scarred at Tokyo Design Festa


A bloody guitarist

There were several fantasical creations from this booth wandering around surprising the unwary and small children. One was tall elegant alien creature frighteningly realistic but fortunately sweetenly demure.


A very realistic alien courtesy of special effects make up

Another creation was a ghastly sculpture of a half-tree half-woman monster with the severed head of a man in her/its hand. Her/Its roots were nourished with the blood and gore of other men. It was a macarbe cocktail of environmentalism and feminism blended horrifically together.


Environmental Feminism at its goriest


A samurai fiercely guarding his booth

Along with the countless booths, there are a variety of showings throughout the day in different sections of the event area. Bands, short films, musicians, eclectic performers can be seen outside, upstairs, and in the main hall. I was able to see rock bands, taiko drum groups, naughty nurses, a gyrating eyeball man, and a dancing ninja troupe.


A band performing at the outdoor stage


Guitarist licks lips as he rips licks


The Bufferins – naughty pain relievers

One of the popular returning performance groups is Mr. Eyeball Love Globe from Taiwan. The group is headed by man with an enormous eyeball as his head. His outfit is covered with a similar pattern. His story from his flyer is that he is an alien here to spread love. The Eyeball group was one of the most out-there groups and attracted a lot of attention. They have been to Design Festa several times before.


Mr Eyeball Love Globe Group from Taiwan


Avant-Garde at its Warholian best

Design Festa takes place twice a year in May and November. For more information please check:

http://www.designfesta.com/index.html

July 2, 2008 Posted by | art, avant-garde, Blogroll, cosplay, costumes, culture, dance, entertainment, event, festival, japan, japanese culture, life, music, ninja, painters, painting, tokyo, Tokyo Design Festa, travel | , , , , | 4 Comments

Video Clips of the Kamogawa Odori Geisha Dance

Here are some short clips of the Kamogawa Odori Geisha Dance 2006. They’re very brief as I shot them with just a digital photo camera and not a video camera.

Kamogawa Odori Geisha Dance

This is from the first story of the performance about a handsome fan maker and his fiance Akane. Here, Akane, the fiance of the Fan Maker, dances.

The story also involves Yuki-Onna, the snow woman spirit, who loves the handsome fan maker. He refuses her love because he loves Akane and so she freezes him.

The Fan Maker is rescued by his fiance and they return to Kyoto as Spring begins.

In the second half of the performance, scenes from the Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon, a court lady of the 10th Century. Maiko (apprentice geisha) dance to represent Spring at Dawn the favorite time for Sei Shonagon:

In spring it is the dawn that is most beautiful. As the light creeps over the hills their outlines are dyed a faint red and wisps of purplish cloud trail over them.”

Two Geisha dance to represent Autumn Evenings from Sei Shonagon’s Pillow Book:

In autumn the evenings … when the sun sets, one’s heart is moved by the sound of the wind and the hum of the insects.”

Geisha dance and throw treats to the audience near the Finale of the show.

April 20, 2008 Posted by | Blogroll, culture, dance, entertainment, event, Geiko, geisha, japan, japanese culture, kamogawa odori, Kyoto, life, maiko, travel, video, youtube | , , , | 1 Comment

The Golden Dragon Dance of Tokyo

The Golden Dragon Dance of Tokyo
Golden Dragon Dance Celebrates Asakusa’s Beginning


The Golden Dragon of Asakusa

Once a year in Asakusa, located in the northeast edge of Tokyo, a special kind of early spring ritual dance is held. The dance — called “Kinryu-no-Mai” in Japanese — is conducted not by people but by a golden dragon.

Naturally, it’s not a real dragon but the dance commemorates the visitation of a “real” dragon of golden hue that appeared over 1,300 years ago.


The golden dragon entertains the crowd.

The golden dragon of today is merely a diminutive representation of the mighty majestic beast that dropped from the heavens one day long ago. The copy is a mere 15 meters long and weighs in at 75 kilos, while the real one was reportedly 30 meters long and weighed who knows what.


The golden dragon at rest

What brought about this unexpected celestial visitation was the discovery of a small golden statuette of a Buddhist deity by two fishermen in the Sumida River on March 18, 628. The statue depicted Kannon, a popular deity known for her compassion in the face of human suffering.


Touching the dragon’s head is thought to bring good fortune.

This small statue was enshrined and the area later became a popular spot for pilgrims. Over time, the village of Asakusa expanded and its temple, Sensoji, where the statue was kept, grew in importance.

Had the visiting dragon been of Western extraction, it no doubt would have devoured the two fishermen on the spot and made off with the golden statue and taken it to its private hoard.


The golden dragon about to devour a photographer

Oriental dragons, however, are generally more benevolent. They’re known for dispensing wisdom and happiness rather than fire and poisonous fumes.

Golden dragons are rarely seen because they are often invisible. They only appear at certain moments to mark auspicious events, as one dragon did when the Kannon statue was found.


Ladies in Geisha costume provide the Golden Dragon with Traditional music to dance to

The golden dragon dance is held in honor of both the dragon’s visit and the statue’s discovery which basically help to create Asakusa. Eight men hold the dragon aloft on poles and twist it about while ladies made up like geishas play music on traditional instruments. The dragon dances three times before it disappears for another year.


A mural of the dragon dance on the wall of Asakusa Station

March 26, 2008 Posted by | buddhism, culture, dance, event, festival, japan, japanese culture, japanese history, tokyo, tradition, travel | 2 Comments