Samurai Dave: The Roving Ronin Report

Rambling Narrative of Travels, Thoughts, and Embellishments

Samurai Dave’s 2008 In Review Video

2008 was a busy year for this wayward wanderer though I didn’t travel much abroad due to the high fuel surcharge. I did however travel a fair bit around Japan going to a number of festivals. This is a photo montage of my experiences.
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January 13, 2009 Posted by | 2008, culture, festival, japan, japanese culture, Kyoto, life, music, music videos, photographs, photography, tennessee, tohoku, tokyo, travel, video, youtube | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Samurai Dave’s 2008 In Review: Travels, Events, and Festivals

Samurai Dave’s 2008 In Review – Travels, Events, & Festivals

Another year has come and gone and it’s time to look forward to next year while reflecting on the last. This year I stayed in Japan save for two trips home. Fuel surcharges increased to ridiculous amounts sometimes more than the flight cost itself. Fortunately in Japan there’s always festivals going on year round to keep one occupied.

JANUARY
The first of the year saw me checking out the acrobatics of old Japanese firefighters, kimono-clad cuties at Meiji Shrine, Momote Shiki – an archery ritual for new adults, and a bit of sumo.

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Old Style Meets New Style

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FEBRUARY
February brought in a surprise snow storm on Setsubun, a day when Japanese drive devils from their homes in a kind of spring cleaning to symbolically end winter. It’s kind of like a pro-active GroundHog Day with devils. Later, I headed up north to the Tohoku region to face off against the deadly monster trees the Juhyo and hairy devils known as Namahage. I also saw a snow lantern festival and snow festival dedicated to the clever Akita dog. Later in the month, I went to Nikko to see the half frozen Kegon Falls then to Nagano, to see the snow monkeys again.

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Setsubun Devils Survery the Wintry Carnage

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Hirosaki Castle

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Snow Lantern Festival

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Namahage – the bane of lazy children

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Snow Festival for Dogs

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MARCH
Plum blossoms, Japanese St. Paddy’s Parades, Swordsmen, an Anime Con, Sumo in Osaka, and a Giant Penis made for a interesting third month.

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Hands up! Who wants pizza?

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I have no idea who she is supposed to be and I don’t care

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My first encounter with Tokyo Decadance – a risque subculture melting pot

APRIL
April offered up yet another penis festival – this one with a very graphic erect to the sky penis carried by some unconvincing drag queens. I went back to Nikko where old style priests forced people to eat large quantities of rice – unfortunately this was all behind close doors. We only got to see them posing before and after so I don’t know if they actually ate any huge bowls of rice. At one of Tokyo’s major temples, I caught a display of Gagaku which is ancient dance style. A few days later I took in some free outdoor sumo at the controversial Yasukuni shrine. Nearby Yamanashi Prefecture had two festivals to honor their hometown here – Takeda Shingen. One had a parade with armored warriors and the other a re-enactment of his most famous battle – Kawanakajima.

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Festival Sponsored by Viagra

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Damn, that’s one big pipe!

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Ancient Court Dance – Gagaku at Zojo-ji Temple

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Shingenko Matsuri

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Japanese and Foriegners duke it out at a re-enactment of a famous samurai battle

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Samurai swimsuits while protective weren’t terribly comfortable

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Takayama Spring Festival

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Gifu Castle

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Traditional Japanese Wedding at Meiji Shrine

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Yabusame Archer Scores a Hit

MAY
The first week of May is Golden Week – a time when just about the whole country goes traveling. I used to stay in Tokyo to avoid the troubles but after learning about the wonders of overnight internet cafes I started venturing out more. I went back up to Tohoku to see the Uesugi Matsuri which I saw the year before. Here too they re-enact the Kawanakajima Battle but from the other side’s perspective, Uesugi Kenshin, Takeda’s greatest rival. Since the battle was basically a draw both sides can celebrate it and pretend they won. Afterwards I went to Hiraizumi which in ages past was a rival of Kyoto and its replica Fujiwara-no-Sato. Back in Tokyo I saw the artistic chaos known Tokyo Design Festa for the first time. The last part of the month I went to Fukui Prefecture to see a festival with big warrior floats.

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Uesugi Matsuri

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Ancient Dance performed at Hiraizumi

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Kaminoyama Castle in Yamagata

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Playing Old Games at Fujiwara-no-Sato in Period Clothing

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A Ghostly Figure from Tokyo Design Festa

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A Warrior Float from the Mikuni Festival in Fukui

JUNE
June is the rainy season so not as much goes on then so I tend to stay indoors to avoid the rain and humidity. I did take a trip to Yunishigawa to see a festival celebrating the Heike exiles who founded the town. I caught the last day of the festival last year so this year I came to see both main days. I saw again my Biwa Player from last year who surprisingly remembered me. At the end of the month I went to a Tokyo Decadance event.

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JULY
Went out to Chiba to see two new festivals I hadn’t seen before. One was a Gion Festival (Gion is one Kyoto’s big Festivals) at Narita City, the place many people zoom past on their way to Tokyo. The other festival only got an hour of my time due to work and inconvenient train schedules. Still it was an hour wellspent at the Sawara Matsuri with its floats of Japanese gods and heroes. Later in the month I went once again to Soma Nomaoi, the samurai horse racing festival. Can’t get enough of horse racing samurai! Maybe next year I’ll start placing bets.

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Noh at Narita Gion Festival

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Ota Dokan, original founder of Tokyo (then Edo) at the Sawara Matsuri

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Coming around the bend at Soma Nomaoi

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Female riders ride after semi-wild horses on the third day of Soma Nomaoi

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Odaiba in Tokyo all lit up

AUGUST
As it was with last year, August was a busy month for both work and travel. Like last year I took the first week of the month off to travel north around Tohoku to all the different festivals in the region. I went again to the drumming festival of Sansa Odori, the somber but artistic Neputa Festival of Hirosaki, the 3D floats of Nebuta with their scary faces, the Tachi Neputa Matsuri of Goshogawara with its towering floats clocking in at 22 meters, and the bamboo balancing Kanto Matsuri in Akita. In between this I went to some new festivals – the Sansha Taisai in Hachinohe which also gave a display of polo lacrosse, the dancing festival of Hanagasa in Yamagata, and the decorative (but boring) Tanabata Festival in Sendai.

That should have been enough for me but no! I returned to Tokyo via night bus, work the same day then caught another night bus to Nagoya in order to catch a fire festival in Gifu which was pretty freakin’ awesome!

Later in the month I went to Niigata where I saw my third Kawanakajima Battle re-enactment! This time there was celebrity presence. The part of Uesugi Kenshin was played by Gackt. Yes, Gackt! Ok, I never really heard of him before either but he’s big in Japan and there were tons of girls there who normally wouldn’t be caught dead at a samurai festival. The next day despite the rainy morning I went to Sado Island to catch the last day of the Kodo drum concert festival. The rest of the month I stayed in Tokyo where I saw street performances in my old neighborhood Otsuka and Samba which got poured on.

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Sansa Odori in Morioka

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Polo Lacrosse in Hachinohe

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Ornate Float from the Sansha Taisai Matsuri

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Fan-shaped float from the Neputa Matsuri of Hirosaki

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Ghostly Girls from Neputa

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Samurai Float from Nebuta

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Towering 18-meter float at Tachi Neputa in Goshogawara

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Kanto Matsuri in Akita

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Hanagasa in Yamagata

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Tanabata Matsuri in Sendai

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Samurai Dave at Inuyama Castle – oldest intact castle in Japan

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Fire Festival in Gifu

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Yasukuni Shrine on Aug 15th the date of Japan’s WWII surrender

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Gackt is Uesugi Kenshin!

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A Samurai Fights Deer on Sado Island

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Otsuka Awa Odori

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Wet Slippery Samba Girl

SEPTEMBER
I had an old college buddy stay over with his GF in September so the first part of the month found me cleaning my dump of a shoebox of an apartment in prepartion for their arrival. I gave them the nickel&dime tour of Tokyo and took them down to Kamakura to see Yabusame and Diabutsu – the Great Buddha. One day we did a Triple Play – caught Kabuki in the morning, saw sumo in the afternoon, and watch a baseball game in the evening. The fans with their little plastic bats and choreographed cheering was most entertaining!

At the end of the month I flew home for my father’s 60th birthday. Damn fuel charge was more than the damn flight cost! While there I went to Nashville’s very own Parthenon. Yep, we got us one just like Greece except ours is concrete and it ain’t broke!

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Kamakura Sake – they wouldn’t let us have any

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Diabutsu and Diadavidsu

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Japanese baseball fans

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Nashville Parthenon – it ain’t broke!

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Golden Athena

OCTOBER
After my father’s birthday I went to the East Tennessean town of Jonesborough to see a storytelling festival. Storytellers from all over the world go there to tell stories of all sorts. It’s a great event!

On the way back home I stopped at two caves – one, the Lost Sea which has the second largest underground lake in the world and is about to become really LOST if they don’t get more rain in the future. The other cave was Ruby Falls whose billboards I had seen for years and years all over the southeast which perhaps made me avoid it for so long. As it was, it was pretty darn neat. The last night in Tennessee Obama and McCain had one of their debates in Nashville which of course I couldn’t get near.

Back in Japan I was lucky to bump into a street dance festival in Ikebukuro and archery demonstration. I went to Kyoto to see the Jidai Matsuri (Festival of Ages) and the Fire Festival on Mt. Kurama despite the pouring rain. Back in Tokyo I rode once more the infamous Yamanote Halloween Train this time with cops and angry internet nerds.

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A Cowpoke tells it like it is at the Jonesborough Storytelling Festival

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The Lost Sea

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Ruby Falls

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A cat in a sink

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Obama supporters on the night of the Debate

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Bambi, no!!!

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Procession of 1000 Warriors in Nikko

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Samurai Street Dancers

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Golden Pavilion of Kyoto

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Kyoto’s Jidai Matsuri – Festival of Ages

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Fire Festival of Mt. Kurama

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The Joker having fun at the infamous Tokyo Yamanote Halloween Train Event

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Enjoying Tokyo Decadance’s Halloween Bash

NOVEMBER
November 3rd is Culture Day, a national holiday where there’s culture galore to be had. I got up late that day so I missed some of the culture but I did see Tokyo’s version of Jidai Matsuri and later a bit of Kendo at Budokan where the Beatles played many moons ago. Later that week I went out past the airport in Narita to see a festival which celebrated Japan’s history from over 1500 years ago. Young people dressed like the figures known as haniwa which were clay figurines buried or placed around earthern mounds known as kofun.

I went yet again to Kyoto to see a Geisha performance known as Kitano Odori then I went to the costume museum to try on some quite fetching 1000 year old threads. At the end of the month I flew home again for Thanksgiving because I love me some T-day turkey!

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Swan dancers at Tokyo Jidai Matsuri

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A hit, a palpable hit!

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Haniwa Matsuri

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Geisha dances a Wintry Fan Dance at Kitano Odori

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Does this make me look fat?[

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Komaki Castle

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Hikone Castle

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Mt. Takao

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A relic from the mysterious Old Stone Fort in Tennessee

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TURKEY!!!

DECEMBER
The last month! Whew! Long year! While still at home I went over to Lynchburg, home of Jack Daniels to have a bit of southern cooking lovingly laced with whiskey. On my last night in Nashville, I saw a kickass show with Nashville Pussy and rockabilly legend the Reverend Horton Heat.

Once again in Japan, I did a little firewalking at one festival – ok, actually the coals were lukewarm before I strode over them! I went to the 47 Ronin festival again and a fair for selling New Years decorations known as hagoita. Tokyo Decadance had a Christmas event and I was able to see decadent cuties in scanty XMAS attire plus girls were making out together – thank you, Santa!

The last night of the year saw me in the same place where I had rung in the the year – Zojo-ji Temple. Couldn’t believe another year had raced by! It had its ups and downs, its thrills and chills but all in all another fine year. I say that because I didn’t have any stock investments.

I hope 2009 is as equally as interesting and exciting and more importantly sees everyone in much better spirits at the end!

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A sign in Lynchburg – no drunken tomfoolery allowed

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Nashville Pussy

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The Reverend Horton Heat

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Come Firewalking with Me

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The 47 Ronin with their enemy’s head

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Hagoita – decorative New Year’s Paddles

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Tokyo Decadance

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Hello, 2009! Don’t disappoint!

January 13, 2009 Posted by | 2008, culture, festival, japan, japanese culture, Kyoto, life, photographs, photography, tennessee, tohoku, tokyo, travel | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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

Remembering the Great War – November 11th

Remembering the ‘Great War’
Nov. 11 marks 90th anniversary of WWI’s end


Trench warfare – static and deadly – became the norm for most of World War I

“Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.”
Wilfred Owen – died 1918

Ninety years ago at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month the great guns fell silent and Europe experienced a silence it had not known in years. It was the end of the “Great War,” the War to end all Wars. Today, we know that was a hopeful but futile sentiment as the War to end all Wars is now known as World War I.

Two bullets and a lost driver set off a powder keg whose explosion engulfed Europe. In the summer of 1914, a driver made a wrong turn and ended up in the path of a young assassin who had actually given up trying find his intended target and was just finishing off a sandwich. The young assassin was a Serbian belonging to a radical group known as the Black Hand. Their target was the Arch-Duke Ferdinand of the Austro-Hungarian Empire who was touring Sarajevo. They had tried earlier that day to assassinate him but failed. Now Fate through the hands of a lost driver delivered the Arch-Duke into one of the assassin’s hands who took full advantage of his good luck and fired his pistol killing Ferdinand.

The assassination caused the collapse of the house of cards that were the national alliances of the day. Austria-Hungary with German support declared war on Serbia. Russia was allied with Serbia so they entered the war. France was allied with Russia and so they entered the war. Germany in order to swiftly attack France violated Belgium’s borders by crossing it with their troops. Britain had an alliance with Belgium and so they entered the war. Eventually other nations would enter the war as well including the United States.

World War I in many ways was the “War to end all Wars” in that it was every war past and future rolled up into one. There were Napoleonic charges, aerial bombardment, a few misguided cavalry charges with actual horses, tanks, machine guns, artillery barrages, air combat, poison gas attacks, flamethrowers, submarine warfare, and primitive hand-to-hand fighting that came down to knives, sharpened spades, and clubs. The future met the past in a brutal collision.


Soldiers dehumanized by their gas masks

While fighting took place in Africa, the Middle East, the Balkans, Russia, and the borders of Italy and Austria, the bulk of the fighting took place in the area known as the Western Front. The Western Front was a long series of extensive trenches between France and Germany stretching into Belgium where most of the intensive fighting of the war took place. So many men died in such a concentrated place.

While WWII has a far higher casualty rate, this was widespread throughout the globe. The majority of WWI casualties, however, occurred along the several hundred kilometers of the Western Front from the North Sea to the Swiss border. On the first day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916, the British lost over 50,000 dead and wounded in the space of a few kilometers.


Stretcher-bearers trudge through the mud with a wounded victim

The trenches were hell on earth – mud, water, snipers, artillery barrages, barbed wire, machine gun fire, and the rotting corpses of those who fell in No-Man’s Land, the deadly area between the opposing armies’ trenches. Plus there was rampant disease, lice, and rats grown fat from feeding off of corpses.

“In winter trenches, cowed and glum,
With crumps and lice and lack of rum,
He put a bullet through his brain.
No one spoke of him again.”
Siegfried Sassoon – 1918

The Second World War often gets more attention in the popular imagination. Countless movies, books, comic books, documentaries, TV shows, magazines and so on focus on the many aspects of the war. Battles, generals, strategies, policies, ideologies get constantly battered about from academic circles to office water coolers. It’s a subject many have some knowledge of whereas World War I only brings to mind to some (particularly Americans) the Red Baron, the imaginary nemesis of the Peanut’s comic strip character, Snoopy.


Manfred von Richthofen – the Red Baron – Germany’s Flying Ace

And there’s a good reason for that. With World War II there was a clear reason to fight. For the Allies, it was to defeat the conquering Nazis and Imperialist Japanese. For the Germans, it was to revenge their humiliation with the Treaty of Versailles at the end of the First World War. For the Japanese, it was believed they were saving Asia (though they didn’t bother to ask the rest of Asia). It is easier for modern day audiences to understand the rationales and motivations of those who fought in that war.

The reasons for fighting the First World War, however, are rather vague. The motivations for the soldiers fighting are also vague. It’s hard to understand the patriotic fever which led to so many men signing up to fight a war that appeared to have been fought for the sheer hell of it and no other reason. In modern academia, the “isms” of nationalism, militarism, imperialism are blamed for causing the war.

For war enthusiasts, World War I is a hard one to get enthusiastic about. Most of the literature and films on the subject have been anti-war save for a few on WWI pilots and Sergeant York which was released when America was entering WWII.

Then there’s strategy. With WWII battles there was often a lot of planning and logistics that went into major battles on both sides. Armchair military historians can easily while away the hours discussing the many stratagems of WWII generals.

The battles of WWI on the other hand appear to have been planned by generals who were either appallingly stupid or monstrously callous to causalities that their battles produced. At the Battle of the Somme, soldiers were ordered to advance at a walking pace. This was to keep the lines orderly and lower the chances of friendly fire – it also made the British soldiers perfect targets for German machine gunners.


Soldiers make their way on catwalks over flooded trenches

The whole war in retrospect seems a comic-tragedy of epic proportions. Men died in the thousands for a few yards of earth. The British comedy series Black Adder brilliantly showed the insanity of WWI strategy in its fourth season – “Black Adder Goes Forth.” In one episode, a general is looking at a scale map of the last battle and asks his aide for the scale. His aid answers “one to one, sir!” and the general shows no surprise but is glad that 17 square feet of mud is no longer in German hands.

The Great War ended over 90 years ago but the consequences still live with us to this day. The war changed the maps, changed class systems, changed the way in which wars are fought, and changed technology. Iraq is one of those changes having been created out of the territory of the old Ottoman Empire.

Ultimately, Nov. 11 is a bittersweet day to remember the end of a terrible war and all those who died in it. Nov. 11 is also a day to reflect on the futile hope of the time that there would be no other wars to follow. If we truly wish to honor veterans, we must pledge to rid ourselves of the thing that took so many of their comrades’ lives.

World War One Airmen
Heroes of the Skies


Air technology changed drastically throughout the war

The patriotic fever that led so many to enlist to fight in the Great War soon died in the mud of the trenches. The mud tended to swallow up heroes and with men dying in droves in the matter of minutes, the glory of war faded in the wake of grim reality.

However, there was one area in which war romanticism found a new home. The Great War ushered in the age of aerial combat and it was here that heroes could be found or made. Flight was still in its infancy at the beginning of the war but it became caught up in the technological race. Planes went from observation scouts to reconnaissance observers to bombers to fighters. Fighter pilots were a new breed of soldier and they quickly became the apple of the public eye.

The best of the pilots became celebrities and were wined and dined by the rich and famous. Canadian Fighter Ace William “Billy” Bishop had an audience with Britain’s monarch even.

But fame could not ward off the spectre of death and even the best went down in flames. The difference though between the death of the landlocked soldier and the pilot was that the former often died anonymously while the other could reap headlines and a formal funeral. The death of aces, though, could also shock an entire nation as it did with the deaths of the famous Red Baron and the beloved French ace Georges Guynemer.

November 11, 2008 Posted by | air combat, airplanes, armistice day, Blogroll, culture, europe, european history, history, life, November 11th, peace, red baron, remembrance day, tradition, tragedy, veterans day, world war I | , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

A Tribute to WWI Airmen

In honor of November 11th – Veteran’sDay/Armistice Day this video is a tribute to the airmen of World War I using photographs, paintings, and prints.

90 years ago at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the Great War (WWI) came to an end but its consequences live with us to this day.

WWI produced the first fighter pilots and their names live on to this day most notably Manfred von Richthofen – the Red Baron. They were the national celebrities of their day and their deaths could shock a nation.

Music by the Secret Commonwealth
The Secret CommonWealth

November 10, 2008 Posted by | air combat, airplanes, armistice day, Blogroll, history, life, November 11th, red baron, veterans day, video, world war I, youtube | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Q&A with Samurai Dave on the Tokyo Yamanote Halloween Train

I was in the Kansai/Nagoya area recently to take in a geisha performance in Kyoto and to tour a castle or two in the Nagoya area.

While I was there I met Maggie and her owner Gimmeabreakman from Youtube. Gimmeabreakman interviewed me on the controversial Tokyo Yamanote Halloween Train which caused quite a bit of furor on the internet. Internet denizens were either up in arms against it or that they missed it.

Here I discuss how overly-demonized the event is and how many people are just experiencing internet faux rage over something that they probably never heard before they saw it on youtube or some other forum

November 8, 2008 Posted by | Blogroll, halloween, japan, life, party, tokyo, travel, video, yamanote halloween train, Yamanote Train, 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