Samurai Dave: The Roving Ronin Report

Rambling Narrative of Travels, Thoughts, and Embellishments

Outdoor Sumo at Yasukuni Shrine

In April, sumo gets back to its roots at Yasukuni Shrine with an outdoor event. In olden times, sumo was generally held outdoors at shrines and temples or before gathered assemblies of august groups such as the shogun, daimyo (feudal lord), even the Emperor.

Hono Ozumo is a special ceremonial sumo event held at a shrine such as Yasukuni Shrine. Lower rank wrestlers (maku-shita) and top rank wrestlers (maku-uchi) compete. Even the yokozuna the highest rank in sumo compete at Hono Ozumo. If there is more than one yokozuna, they will compete against each other. Sumo can have several yokozuna at the same time but it is relatively rare to have more than two. Usually to see a yokozuna match between two yokozuna is a rare treat. Only on the last day of a tournament can one see this and it’s very difficult to get tickets for that day.

This year was a chance to see such a yokozuna match, the first in four years as Yokozuna Asashoryu retired in February of 2010. Hakuho has been the only yokozuna until September of 2012 when Harumafuji was promoted. This was their first yokozuna match at Yasukuni.

For more pics – click here

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May 7, 2013 Posted by | japan, sumo, tokyo, yasukuni shrine | , , , , , | 22 Comments

Japanese Devils Beat You For Good Luck on Setsubun

Setsubun is a Japanese Spring Ritual where on the 3rd of February Japanese drive bad luck in the form of devils from their homes. At many temples and shrines throughout Japan, Setsubun activities take place. At Ishite-ji Temple in Matsuyama city on the island of Shikoku they have an interesting twist on the typical Setsubun activity of driving away devils.
 
Usually on Setsubun devils known as Oni are driven away by beans thrown at them. Japanese say at the same time “Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!” which means “devils out, good luck in!” At Ishite-ji Temple, the devils actually bring the good luck to people in the shape of bamboo staffs that they use to beat people lightly in a rhythmic cadence.
 
The staff they use is a variation of a keisaku stick which is used in meditation sessions of Zen Buddhism. Keisaku is a “warning stick” wielded by a Zen priest known as a Jikijitsu who is in charge of the zazen meditation sessions at Zen Temples. If a student is falling asleep the Jikijisu will administer a beating on the student’s back. The keisaku’s bark is actually worse than its bite as it sounds much lounder than it actually feels. In fact, students will often request a “beating” to keep themselves awake and to relieve muscle cramps. Another name for the keisaku stick is called kyosaku which means “encouragement stick.”
 
The “beatings” administered by the Setsubun devils at Ishite-ji Temple are anything but painful and are for the purpose of giving the “beaten” good luck. So instead of driving the devils away like they do at many other Setsubun events, people actually run to the devils and let them beat them for the good luck aspect of Setsubun.
For Photos:
http://therovingroninreport.blogspot.jp/2013/02/japanese-devils-beat-people-for-good.html

 

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February 21, 2013 Posted by | japan, japanese culture, Japanese festival, Setsubun | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Giant Japanese Snake Festival

To honor this year’s Chinese Zodiac animal the Snake, I offer this look at an interesting unique festival from the small town of Sekikawa in Niigata prefecture where they parade an enormous snake made of bamboo and straw. The snake is 82.8 meters long or about 271.6 feet and weighs about 2 tons requiring 500 people to carry it and is in the Guinness Book of World Record as longest snake made of bamboo and straw (wasn’t aware there was such a category).

The festival is a type of Obon celebration – a time when the Japanese remember the spirits of the dead. It also is reminder of a terrible flood which hit Sekikawa in 1967 costing a number of people their lives. The date was August 28th which is why the snake is the exact length of 82.8 to reflect that.

As to why a giant snake, one has to dig further back into the misty past of Sekikawa. Legends say the area was troubled by a giant snake which had been a cursed woodcutter’s wife.

Some centuries ago, a local woodcutter was attacked by a giant snake while he was out gathering woods. Giant snakes have been a common theme in myth and legend and perhaps represent a memory of large snakes which once lived in Japan long ago. The woodcutter killed the snake and deciding on not letting a chance meal go to waste brought it home to eat.

The woodcutter told his wife not to eat any of the snake meat till he returned from gathering more wood. The wife disobeyed him and ate a little of the snake meat. It was so delicious she couldn’t stop eating of it and she ate the entire snake. Then she developed a powerful thirst. No amount of water could quench it. She drained all the water supply at her home and then the village’s supply too. She went to river to slake her unnatural thirst but to no avail. It was there that the wife transformed into a giant snake herself. She left her family and the village forever – or so it seemed.

Some time later after her family had passed away a biwa player was passing through the area. He stopped to rest and while he did so he decided to practice his skills. The snake wife heard his music and was charmed by it. She approached the biwa player and praised his skill. The biwa player being blind as many biwa players were in those days thought he was being addressed by one of the local women. There was a strange musty smell in the air but he thought nothing of it.

The snake wife asked him where he was going and he told her to the village which is now Sekikawa. She warned him not to do so. She revealed to him what she was and that she planned to destroy the village. She only told him this because she was enchanted by his music and wished to spare him. The snake wife then told him not to warn the villagers or he would pay with his life.

The biwa player left very afraid. However, instead of running off he decided to go to Sekikawa and warn them. He told the chief of the village his tale. Some say the biwa player vanished because he was a helpful spirit but others say he died from the snake wife’s magic for having told her secret.

The villagers eventually were able to kill the snake wife and they enshrined the biwa players personal effects in the local temple.

Centuries later in modern times it was thought after the flood that perhaps the old snake wife’s spirit was restless so the festival was held to appease her possibly angry spirit.

The festival began in 1980s and every year they parade two large snakes around the town. A smaller one is carried/dragged by children while the principle snake of 82.8 meters is carried by 500 people.

I was fortunate to bump into a local prominent citizen of the town who told me the story in his own words. He says he remembered the biwa player’s items being on display when he was boy though they aren’t now. I later had dinner with him and wife and several friends of his from Niigata City. Apparently for people of the town there are those who believe the story to be true – to a degree. It is interesting though the number of giant snake stories that abound in the ancient myths and the old legends of times closer to now.

Who knows? But as to the moral of the story with the woman who was changed into a giant snake for eating the snake her husband told her not to, I guess it would be -“Women, don’t eat a man’s snake without his permission” or something to that effect.

For more photos check here

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Giant Japanese Snake of Bamboo
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The woodcutter who killed a giant snake then his wife became one
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February 2, 2013 Posted by | festival, japan, japanese culture, Japanese festival, japanese folklore, matsuri, travel | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Cosplay Halloween 2012 – Tokyo Decadance

http://therovingroninreport.blogspot.com/2012/10/tokyo-decadance-halloween-2012-cosplay.html

Went to Tokyo Decadance’s recent Halloween bash. Here are the pics and video (including last year’s event). I went as a Pirate Samurai as a send-up to the Wako who were actual Japanese pirates many of them samurai 500 years ago.

 

November 28, 2012 Posted by | cosplay, japan, japanese culture, Japanese subculture, tokyo decadance | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Random Halloween Cute Sexiness in Tokyo 2012

Halloween madness in Tokyo with cute sexy Japanese girls on the loose in their wild crazy outfits! Halloween should be made official every other weekend. It practically is anyways.

For more photos go to my other site here.

November 2, 2012 Posted by | cosplay, costumes, halloween, japan | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Japanese Cosplay Halloween – Tokyo Decadance Halloween 2011

 

Here is some footage from last year’s Tokyo Decadance Halloween event that I never got around to editing at the time because I had just got my camera and didn’t know how to use it. I was late anyway to the event and ran out of battery but still some interesting shots.

This year’s event is at Christon Cafe in Shinjuku on October 20th starting at 11.

October 19, 2012 Posted by | cosplay, japan, Japanese subculture, tokyo decadance | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Zombie Japanese Maids and Resident Evil S.T.A.R.S. Girls

Went to a small event in Shibuya promoting Zombies and Resident Evil/Biohazard Cafe. There were several zombie maids – 2 being zombies I had met before – but fortunately the cute Resident Evil/Biohazard girls of S.T.A.R.S. were there to keep them in line.

For more photos go here

 

 

October 18, 2012 Posted by | japan, Japanese girls, Japanese subculture, zombies | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sexy Japanese Zombie Girl – VOTE!!!

 

 

Please vote on my sexy zombie photo at Tokyo Metropolis Magazine’s site: http://metropolis.co.jp/features/photo-of-the-day/oct-18-2012/

For more zombie photos check here and here

October 18, 2012 Posted by | japan, Japanese girls, photography, zombies | , , , , | Leave a comment

Japanese Monks Cutting Bamboo Festival – Takakiri-eshiki

On June 20th, on Mt Kuruma north of Kyoto an interesting ritual is held where Japanese Buddhist monks hack at thick bamboo stalks in order to drive out evil and ensure good harvests. The ritual is known as Takekiri-eshiki and goes back over a thousand years.

The origin of the ritual is said to come from an encounter a monk had with two huge snakes in the 9th Century. The snakes were male and female and they no doubt saw the monk as a meal. The monk, however, was able to kill the male snake with a well-aimed prayer. The female snake pleaded for mercy and promised to guard the waters of the mountain.

In the Takakiri-eshiki ritual, bamboo stalks representing the male snake are cut by sword-wielding monks. There are two teams representing the ancient provinces of Omi and Tamba. It’s believed that whichever team cuts the quicker their represented area will have the better harvest.

For more photos:
Takakiri-eshiki photos

September 21, 2012 Posted by | buddhism, japan, japanese culture, Japanese festival, Kyoto, mt. kurama, travel | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Fuji Fire Festival

At the end of August at the foot of Mt Fuji the town of Fujiyoshida puts on a festival in order to save the inhabitants of Eastern Japan from the wrath of Fuji’s resident goddess. It’s believed that if the Fujiyoshida Himatsuri (fire festival) is not done properly that the mountain goddess will become enraged and Mt Fuji will erupt. 

The festival is over 500 years old but its origins stretch far, far back into a dim and misty age when gods walked the earth and man was but a dream. In those distant times, Ninigi no Mikoto, the grandson of the sun goddess Amaterasu-omikami, came down from the heavens to control the area that would be one day be Japan. He took the daughter of a mountain god as his wife whose name was Konohanasakuya-hime. Konohana became pregnant in one night which made her husband suspicious. She took offense at this and had a doorless hut made which she placed herself in. She claimed if the children were not Ninigi’s they would harmed by the fire she would set. She then had the doorless hut set on fire but delivered three healthy children thus proving her innocence and her children’s divine lineage. 

 At Fujiyoshida’s fire festival one of the main elements of the festival are the taimatsu torches which symbolize the fire Konohana lit to prove her innocence. The other elements are the mikoshi (portable shrine) which carries her spirit and the portable shrine which is shaped like Mt Fuji itself. 

Another name for the festival is Chinka Taisai which means “to  extinguish fire.” The purpose at the end of the festival is to ensure that Mt. Fuji will not erupt for another year.

Despite its serene appearance, Mt Fuji is actually an active volcano. Not active like a Hawaiian volcano but not dormant either. The last time Mt Fuji erupt was 300 years ago. According to the latest research, the pressure in the magma chamber is higher than the last eruption. Whether this means an eruption will occur soon or not remains to be seen.

For more photos:

http://therovingroninreport.blogspot.jp/2012/09/fuji-fire-festival.html

September 21, 2012 Posted by | japan, japanese culture, Japanese festival, japanese folklore, travel | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment