Samurai Dave: The Roving Ronin Report

Rambling Narrative of Travels, Thoughts, and Embellishments

2012 New Years Eve Celebrations in Tokyo

Rang in another year in Tokyo. Went to Yasukuni Shrine for the turning of the new year. They beat a drum in the shrine as people make their prayers. From there I took a quick jaunt into Roppongi then onto Tokyo Decadance Bar. Afterwards a number of us went to nearby local shrine.

2012 is the Year of the Dragon and it seems to be off to an auspicious start. Got woken up out of my stupor from a sizable earthquake. Hope there won’t be any repeats like last year!

Happy New Years!

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January 11, 2012 Posted by | 2011, 2012, cosplay, culture, japan, japanese culture, New Year's Eve, New Years, tokyo, tokyo decadance | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Happy New Years 2011 From Tokyo!

Happy New Years from Tokyo! Here are a few scenes of me celebrating the new year in a couple of places from one of my old watering holes when I used to live in Otsuka the Black Sheep in Ikebukuro where I did the countdown. Then I moved on to Shinjuku to Decadance Bar which is like a mini-Tokyo Decadance event every weekend.

At the end of the night I ended up in Roppongi fairly hammered before stumbling back home and missing my connection stop. All in all, a good time! Happy New Years!

From some other New Years Activities in the past:

New Years Eve at Zojo-ji Temple in Hamamatsucho

New Years Day Activities at Yasukuni Shrine

January 2, 2011 Posted by | 2010, 2011, culture, drinking, japan, japanese culture, New Year's Eve, New Years, party, tokyo, tokyo decadance, travel, video, vlog, yasakuni shrine, youtube, zojo-ji | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Happy News Years!!! Welcome 2010!!!

Just a quick Happy New Years message from yours truly, Samurai Dave! Let’s hope the next decade is better than the last one! Happy New Years!!!

January 2, 2010 Posted by | 2010, japan, New Year's Eve, New Years, tokyo, travel, video | , , , | Leave a comment

Remembering the Millenniums (2000&2001)

The first decade of the 21st Century is drawing to a close. 10 years ago the world waited with anticipation for the year 2000. Some with hope, some with dread. Many thought the world would end either by God’s doing or by faulty computers. Remember Y2K? Anyway 2000 came and went as did 2001 for those crusty pedantic people who maintain 2001 was the real first year of the millennium – though all the big soiree were scheduled on New Year’s Eve 1999 (as Prince would have wanted it).

Where were you when the new Millennium dawned? Were you partying it up like there would be no tomorrow as some prophesied or were you at home cleaning the guns waiting for the Apocalypse of civilization?

I was at a New Age Concert thrown at the Pyramids of Giza.
Millennium at the Pyramids

For the 2001 New Years, I was working at a country&western club in Austin, Texas getting my lip chewed on by some tasty fillies.

Post your comments or video responses on your memories of what you were doing when the Millennium(s) dawned.

An account of my 2001 New Years’ experience and my disappointment of not having a hover car.

I threw a bone up into the air, and it still came down a bone

Well the New Year has dawned and still no Apocalypse.
Damn, I was so looking forward to rioting and looting!
I finally had to cancel my subscription to the “Y2K
Survival” Magazine. 

It’s 2001. Where the hell is my hovercar? Wow, hey,
guess all those past predictions about this year have
become pretty disappointing. No moon bases, hover
cars, ray guns, alien invaders, flashy futuristic jump
suits, black monoliths, or world peace (ha! we were so
naive back then). 

[NOTE: I had no idea how bad things were going to get 9 months down the road that year]

I worked security at Dallas, a country/western club
my uncle manages in Austin, TX. I wore a white tux
shirt with a black bow tie, cowboy boots and a black
cowboy hat (and trousers of course). I looked more
like a stripper at Chippendale’s than club security.

It was my job to check IDs and walk around breaking up
any fights. As these Texans tend to be rather big and
my karate a bit rusty, my plan was if a fight broke
out let them beat each other senseless then go over
and kick them in the balls. Granted, it wasn’t much of
a plan but at least I had one.

I drank too many cheap champagne toasts when the New
Year struck so I was buzzing when they put me back on
the door. I tried hiding this but it was hard when new
arrivals showed up and I greeted them with a “What the
hell do you want?” instead of “Hi! Welcome to Dallas
etc…”

Some inebriated young filly gave me a New Year’s kiss
that practically turned into a New Year’s mauling. She
damn near chewed my bottom lip off then tried to
convinced me that I liked it. She couldn’t possibly
have known that I had given S&M up as my New Year’s
Resolution.

She later staggered out of the club with the
assistance of her friends and to assure us at the door
everything was under control she said: “It’s ok, I’m
the designated driver.” Ah, my lips still bleed when I
think of her!

I left Austin Jan 4 heading back to Tennessee. The
miles clicked slowly past as the gene pool drew
steadily shallower while I drove through Louisiana,
Mississippi, and Alabama. Near the Alabama/Mississippi
border around 2 am, I came to the conclusion that
admiring deer while driving was hazardous especially
when they are standing in the middle of the freeway
and you’re doing 75 miles per hour. In trying to avoid
God’s simple yet stupid creature, my car swerved left
and right then completely around. (A Hovercar would
have been helpful at this point) I was now continuing
on my journey which was fine except I was going
backwards at 70-75 m.p.h. In this harrowing near death
experience the only lofty soul-searching thought that
ran through my head at the time was: “Well, this isn’t
good.”

My car must have had the same thought because it went
off the road and crashed into the woods. I actually
was able to drive off minutes later. My driver’s side
mirror had been sheared off but the rest of the car
was fine except for the mashed up front end but that
was from an earlier encounter with an inbred that
couldn’t read Stop signs.

Damn flea-ridden beast! To think I once cried when
they shot Bambi’s mother. Now I wish I had pulled the
trigger myself!

As no one was around when it happened, had I been
forced to shuffle off this mortal coil no one would
have ever known what had happened. If ever I do pass
the way of all flesh in a similar manner you know the
deer are behind my vehicular demise and I hope some of
you will wreck unholy vengeance upon their misbegotten
tasty hides in my name.

At least I lived to tell the tale. For a bit I was
wondering if perhaps I was dead living out some
bizarre Jacob Ladder-like pre-Afterlife until I pulled
over at a truck stop at the next exit. The singing
fish display, the bumper stickers that said “My other
car is also a piece of shit”, and the mud flaps with
naked women silhouettes reassured me I was still in
the land of the living. No self-respecting Afterlife
Limbo dimension would display such vulgar items and
even Hell wouldn’t be so tacky.

I hope no one else had such a close shave from the
Reaper’s scythe.

December 31, 2009 Posted by | 2000, 2001, blog, Blogroll, egypt, great pyramid, humor, Middle East, Millennium, New Year's Eve, New Years, travel, video, vlog | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

2009 New Years at Zojo-ji, A Japanese Temple in Tokyo

With the New Year coming up, I thought I’d dredge up some of my unused footage from this year and show how and where I rang in 2009. For those of you in Tokyo this New Years, Zojo-ji Temple in Hamamatsucho is worth a visit as they have lots of activities going on from Buddhist priests chanting, mochi-making, hatsumode (New Years Prayer), hot sake drinking, burning old New Year charms, ringing the huge bell, and selling charms and food.

December 30, 2009 Posted by | 2009, buddhism, japan, japanese culture, New Year's Eve, New Years, tokyo, Tokyo Tower, travel, video, vlog, zojo-ji | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Fight on New Years in Roppongi, Tokyo

On New Year’s Eve, I first went to Zojo-ji Temple to see the countdown. From there I preceded on foot to Roppongi where the clubs were expensive and packed. Tensions were high. I bumped into a fight between three security guards of Gaspanic’s Club 99 and two patrons. Some bystander leapt in to kick one of the guys but the crowded shouted at him. Another guy got involved but he just tried to break it up.

Actually fights aren’t so common in Roppongi despite what critics might think.

Keep the Peace!
  

January 10, 2008 Posted by | brawl, fight, japan, New Year's Eve, New Years, night out, nightlife, Roppongi, tokyo, travel, video | 1 Comment

Samurai Dave’s 2007 In Review Video

Here’s a video-photo montage of Samurai Dave’s 2007 In Review with music by Seven Cycle Theory:

http://www.myspace.com/sevencycletheory

The song is called “Only Once” which I think appropiate for life and traveling. You’ve only got one life – go somewhere and do something!

January 3, 2008 Posted by | 2007, 47 Ronin, Bavaria, Bayern, beer, belly dancing, biwa, Blogroll, buddhism, culture, entertainment, europe, event, festival, floats, geisha, Germany, japan, Kyoto, matsuri, montage, music, New Year's Eve, ninja, photographs, rock, sakura, seven cycle theory, sumo, taiko, tennessee, tohoku, tokyo, travel, video, vlog, youtube | Leave a comment

Samurai Dave’s 2007 In Review: Travels, Festivals, and Events

Another year has come and gone and in soppy melodramatic fashion, it’s time to look back on all we’ve done and didn’t do. Instead of focusing on love or lack there of or personal growth, I’ve look back through the magic of film and video on all the places and things I saw in 2007.

January
I rang in the New Year between the traditional area of Asakusa and the sleazy area of Roppongi. Needlessly to say the 1st of January did not see me until much later in the day, in fact it was evening. My first activity of the New Year then was the following day after sleeping off an all-nighter in Roppongi. I went to the Imperial Palace on January 2nd to hear the Emperor’s New Year address. Didn’t understand a word he said (my New Year’s Resolution is to fix that problem by next year).

A week later I went to Meiji Shrine for Seijin-no-hi (Coming of Age Day) to see kimono-clad girls strut their stuff.

That weekend I went to Kanda Shrine to watch Shinto adherents prove their mettle by drenching themselves in freezing cold water. However given the unusual warmth that month, the normally chill-inducing spectactle looked rather refreshing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FlFqaUYA_T4

The next week I went out to a temple in east part of Tokyo – Kameido. There they had a type of Noh performance. This was the first time for me to see Noh but by the end of the year while I would be no expert in Noh, I would at least know Noh much better than before.

February
The 3rd of February is one of my favorite times of the year. This is Setsubun which is like a mix of New Years, Groundhog Day, and Halloween rolled up togther. Every year I attend the mami-maki (bean-tossing) at different temples. This time I hit three temples – Senso-ji in Asakusa, Zojo-ji in Hammatscho, and Kichibojin in Ikebukuro. I always enjoy watching old ladies knocking people over for thrown washcloths, beans, and other trinkets.

I mainly stayed in Tokyo and when I wasn’t killing zombies and Nazis on my Playstation I was visiting gardens such as Hama-rikyu.

The end of February brings out the plum blossoms, the heralds of Spring. To see them I took daytrips to Kamakura which due to the warm winter had already shed its plum blossoms and I went to Mito in the Ibaraki Prefecture to see Kairaku-en Garden with its hundreds of plum blossoms.

February was a good month for armor. I got the chance to wear samurai armor twice. Once in Odawara in front of the castle for 200 Yen and another time in Ikebukuro at a store’s opening week for free. My inner geek was pleasantly sated.

I took another daytrip out to Chiba to watch another type of Shinto ritual where half-naked men wrestled in a cold muddy pond to ensure good fortune for all – its a Shinto thing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HeXKz3L6fx8

February-March
The next day I embarked on an ardous journey into the heart of the urban jungle of Tokyo. Along with my comrade, Zen Master Jeff, I hiked around the Yamanote Line for five days. We stayed at an ryokan, an internet cafe, a karaoke box, and a capsule hotel. Our outfits were a mix of samurai, old style Yakuza, pilgrim, and backpacker. We met quite a few people and had several interesting adventures because of these costumes.

March
In March I went to Nagoya where the year before I had attended one of the most amusing festivals – the fertility festival of Tagata Shrine. Once again I saw that huge wooden phallus hove into sight admist the awes and chuckles of the spectators.

The next day I went to reconstructed castle whose original structure once belonged to warlord Oda Nobunaga.

Two days later I celebrated St. Patrick’s Day at an Irish Pub with some co-workers where we listened to a kickass Irish band who were all Japanese.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oq07MT6rYN8

The next day I went to Asakusa’s Senso-ji Temple to watch the Kinryu-no-Mai – Golden Dragon Dance.

Showing the spirit of union solidarity I attended the annual March in March, a gathering of foriegn and japanese union members. It rained during the march but the sun came out at the end – The Man can now control the weather!

April
In April, I made my yearly Cherry Blossom pilgrimage to Kyoto where I enjoyed the Sakura both day and night thanks to nighttime illuminations.

On the second day of my trip, I went to Nara, the first official capital of Japan, to feed the semi-tame persistant deer and see the Diabutsu – Great Buddha.

The third day, I went to Yoshino which was an Imperial capital for some decades when there were two rival Imperial Courts for a time.

As it was there was a Geisha performance going on back in Kyoto at the same time in the Gion Quarter – the Miyako Odori. Luckily I was able to get a last minute ticket on my last day.

Though laden with controversy (and with good reason) Yasakuni Shrine hosts an outdoor sumo event in mid-April. While the blossoms fall, sumo wrestlers toss each other around for our free amusement.

A few days later I went to Kamakura to see Cherry Blossoms and watch a display of Yabusame – mounted archery. I injured my knee scrambling up a small tree for a better view. This injury would come back to haunt later in the summer when I was limping about.

Next Saturday, I went to Sumida Park in Asakusa to see another demonstration of Yabusame. It was here were I first saw it performed years ago and I go back to Sumida almost every year.

I went to Harajuku Park one Sunday to see the goth lolita anime folks. While I was there I was interviewed for a French cable TV channel called French Wave or something like that. It was suppose to air sometime in July but I had no way of seeing it.

That particularly Sunday in Harajuku I stumbled the remnants of the group that used to dominate Harajuku – the dancing rockabilly gangs. Don’t know why the cops drove them off 10 years ago.

May
Usually in May during Japan’s Golden Week, I stay put in Tokyo either working or killing people – on my Playstation, of course. Although I get 3-4 days off and sometimes more depending on my schedule, I don’t like to travel at this time because everyone is traveling. Prices are high and accomodations hard to come by. Still this year, I went up to Yonezawa in Yamagata Prefecture to see the re-enactment of Kawanakajima, one of the famous samurai battles of the Sengoku (Warring States) Period. The re-enactment was more like a high school play with a fair size budget but that was ok as it added a surreal element of watching smiling schoolgirl samurai swinging swords about.

I also try a bit of Yonezawa’s famous beef – which was a damn good (and expensive!) steak.

From Yonezawa I went north to Sendai and then to Hiraizumi where another festival was taking place. I watched Noh performed on a 300 year old outdoor Noh stage and drummers dressed in bizarre deer costumes. As for accomodations, I stayed for three nights in true backpacking style -at the Chateau de Internet Cafe.

The following week I was off again – back to Kyoto for 6 days. In Kyoto I went to the Silver Pavalion – Ginkakuji – named so even though it actually doesn’t have any silver. A grim jest of financial destitution or a tourist scam, you decide. Still, lovely building, silver or no.

I attended this year’s Kamogawa Odori geisha performance in Pontocho which had a story set during the civil war which burnt much of Kyoto and explained why Ginkakuji was silver-less.

That evening I went to Gion Corner to get a crash course in traditonal Japanese arts from Tea Ceremony, kodo playing (japanese harp), gagaku (court music and dance), geisha dancing, ikebana (flower-arranging), kyogen (the amusing plays inbetween the serious Noh dramas) finally to bunraku (puppet drama), All of this in under an hour.

I took the second part of the program and learned a bit on how to do make tea in the traditional tea ceremony way. My tea was a bit strong I’m afraid.

The following day I went outside of Nara to see the site of the oldest Buddhist temple – Horyuji. The current buildings do not date back to the 6th century, though.

In Nara for two nights I watched Noh by torchlight. There’s no Noh like torchlight Noh.

On Sunday I went to Iga-Ueno which was the hometown of some of Japan’s original Ninja. There I saw a short demonstration of Ninja fighting which basically means fighting dirty.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OIEnsOZXKOM

Monday I went to Ise famed for its shrines which are the number one shrines in the Shinto faith. However, instead of going to these cultural meccas since I had been culturing it up anyhow, I went to a samurai theme park. Ise has one of the Edo Wonderland themepark chains this one based on the later half of the Sengoku Period. I watched a samurai stage drama which I didn’t understand but the plot was simple enough to follow – bad samurai wants precious sword that good samurai guards. Good guy won. Dammit! Gave away the ending – sorry!

On Tuesday, I watched one of Japan’s oldest festivals, the Aoi Matsuri which was my main purpose for my trip.

My knee had troubled me a bit at first but by the end of the trip, I was fine. However my knee injury would re-surface during the rainy season next month. Before that occurred I still had some weeks with a trouble-free knee and so two days back from my Kyoto trip off I went to Nikko to catch the tail end of the festival procession honoring Tokugawa Ieyasu.

I caught a bit of Asakusa’s Sanja Matsuri as well. I was really still tired from my Kyoto trip to gave these last two as much time and energy. But I watched people carrying around Mikoshi -portable shrines – and had a good time. I aslo caught another bit of Noh (it was definately becoming a Noh year for me).

I was rested enough towards the end of the month to take in sumo. I was fortunate to be there the day Yokozuna (champion) Asashoryu lost a pivotal match which paved the way for a new Yokozuna. Well, fortunate for me not for him, I guess.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JsowgV50igo

Two days later I was in an area known as Miura, a beach area 2 hours south of Tokyo, where I watched another form of Yabusame – Kasagake. Similar to Yabusame, kasagake has a more military practicality. The targets are placed in front and are lower down at the same height as a dismounted enemy.

June
June is the rainy season so I planned to take it easy for a change and just stay put but as luck would have it during the Sanja Matsuri I chanced upon a poster for a festival in some town I never of before. The festival was honoring a samurai family from long ago who fled to the village of Yunishigawa. I was intrigued so off I went. To my dismay I missed the procession of warriors in 12th century armor by a day but I caught something even better – women in colorful robes dancing in the street and an incredible performance on a biwa – a type of lute.

Biwa Performance

I injured my knee by putting too much stress on it running to work one day. I ended up limping into class. Through mid-June to mid-July I spent most of my days off at home but I did go to Harajuku park again one Sunday to see the inhabitants there.

July
In mid-July, I was back down in Kyoto once again. This time for the Gion Festival. Two-story floats filled with musicians and covered with old tapestries were pulled through the streets. Today the floats are dwarfed by tall modern buildings but back in the day, those floats must have really seemed gigantic.

I also went into the mountains behind Kyoto to Enryaku-ji which was once a huge temple compound with thousands of subtemples until the aforementioned Oda Nobunaga who apparently wasn’t much of a temple-going man burned many of the temples and killed a great number of priests. The priests, however, weren’t terribly temple-going types either has they maintained an army and used it to fight other temples and bully the capital.

There was a sumo tournament in Nagoya so I headed up there and spent the whole day at the sumo tournament where I watched the various ranks of sumo wrestlers from the lowest to the highest compete. I aslo got the chance to visit one of the sumo houses but it was after their dinner so I missed all the “big” sumo wrestlers. Only the “little” guys were there cleaning up.

I basically took it easy this trip though since the weather wasn’t all that great and my knee was bothering me. The last day I went on a type of fishing excursion known as ukai where cormorant birds are used to catch fish. It was dark and rainy and my camera kept fogging up.

Next week I was at it again – this time the Soma Nomaoi, a festival I went to 2 years ago. I saw again the armored samurai in the best historical procession I’ve seen. This time I stayed for the last day’s festivities of the 3-day festival. I watched pensioners round up semi-wild horses at a shrine.

August
August was a crazy month for me which made all the previous months pale in comparison. Starting Aug 2 I went on an 8-day 6-festival trip throughout Tohoku. I started with the drumming festival of Sansa Odori in Morioka.

Then I went to Akita City where I watched people balance huge bamboo poles with lanterns on their palms, hips, and heads.

South of Morioka, I spent two days at a festival where they had all kinds of dance performances but the best one and the one that brought me here in the first place was the Oni Kembai or devil dance.

I spent two refreshing nights in a business hotel during the Oni Kembai festival – this after two nights in two uncomfortable internet cafes – before going to Hirosaki to see Neputa.

then off to Aomori to see the last night of Nebuta in which they put some of the best floats in harbor while fireworks go off overhead.

The last festival was similar to Aomori’s Nebuta except that the floats were much taller – 3 of them clocked in at 22 meters high! This was Tachi Neputa, the tiny town of Goshogowara’s claim to fame. My knee bothered me so much at times I could barely walk.

A week later I was in Niigata on Sado Island to see once again the Kodo Taiko drum group’s 3-day concert. It was here I met with some sexy japanese belly dancers. I finally got myself a knee brace before going out to the island which helped me hobble about a bit better.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3V5v01WaCNE

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A2Tb8pNKhK4

Near the end of the month, I was back in Asakusa to catch the Asakusa Samba Festival. Lots of cameras were clicking away as scantily-clad samba girls pranced about to a Latin beat.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DivGNo0-UQg

The next evening I went to Kameido Temple to see another Noh performance this one by torchlight too.

September
September – typhoon season – I really did take easy though I still went to sumo on one of my days off.

In my neighborhood, I caught a festival. Though I missed the mikoshi, I saw a cool drum band.

During that time there was an Oktoberfest celebration going on near Tokyo station at Hibiya Park. I spent two nights there drinking German and Japanese beers eating sausages and watching German and Japanese girls prance about in leiderhosen – or whatever german girls wear – to German oompah music.

I had meant to go to a festival that month up in Aizu in Fukushima Prefecture but this time my laziness finally said no and I stayed home the whole time and killed zombies on Resident Evil/Biohazard 4.

October
October was another busy month as I took off to Europe to meet up with my parents, my sister and her husband, my cousin, and my uncle in a small family renunion in italy. I headed off first to catch the last two days of Oktoberfest in Munich. The last Saturday of Oktoberfest was so packed I was in mortal danger of going beerless at the world’s largest beer festival. Fortunately, the gods of beer smiled upn me and I was able to partake of the holy elixir.

Then I spent a week beer-guzzling while taking in the castles of Bavaria’s mad king, Ludwig II and listening to some really talented street musicians.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fcsYOhlLBoA

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rhL6rPJlIkg

An overnight bus brought me to Zagreb where I spent the morning wandering around the old town admiring the rampant grafitti. At noon, I had my eardrums shattered by their noonday chime which is delivered by a WWII howitizer cannon.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7VYNIn_Swuo

From Zagreb I proceeded to Ljubjana, the capital of Slovenia, a country which tires of being mistaken for Slovakia.

I spent a night there then spent a day at beautiful Lake Bled.

An overnight train brought me into Venice – well not at first since in my exhaustion I got off at the first station before Venice and had to wait half-an-hour till the next one. I spent the day wandering about the city which was all I could afford to do as admission prices are stupidly high and the lines were stupidly long too. That night I arrived in Florence and spent much of the next day there.

I met my family at a villa that was part of a small castle complex outside of Florence. Wasn’t use to this luxury – I had slept in a locker for two nights in the train station in Munich during Oktoberfest. From then on it was smooth sailing – except when we got lost on the winding roads of the Tuscan Hills which was often.

I went to several medieval walled towns that week in Tuscany and Umbria. Ah, the bloodshed and paranioa of past centuries left some wonderful sites to see throughout the area. My favorite was Monteriggiono outside of Siena.

I returned home to Tokyo just in time to catch a ride on the notorious Yamanote Halloween Train. Little did I know till later of all the controversy that had been swarming around the event. As it was, the killjoys helped to kill one Halloween Train but they knew nothing about the Halloween Train I was on – the killjoys left some amusingly angry comments on the Youtube video I made about the event.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5jVTNyw2BY

After the Halloween Train, I went into Roppongi for a bit fun and sleaze. I also went there on Weds, Halloween proper but it was dead and not int he Halloween sense. However, I did get a bit of grind action from a she-devil and her playboy playmate pal.

November
November was another quiet month. On Culture Day, Nov 3, I went to a small pocket in Tokyo’s urban sprawl to see a small demonstration of a Japanese lord’s procession from several centuries ago and to see one of my student’s samba group perform.

I went home for Thanksgiving where I got fat on some good southern grub such as fried catfish, mashed potatoes and gravy, and cornbread. Also got to pet my doggies.

December
December was also a quiet one for traveling. I went to Sengaku-ji Temple in Shinagawa to see the festival honoring the 47 Ronin who 300 years earlier arrived on a snowy morning with the head of the lord’s enemy to lay at their masters’ grave.

Then on the 23rd I went to the Imperial Palace again. This time to hear the Emperor give a birthday address. Since 2002, I’ve always gone to the Palace on the Emperor’s birthday. Last year I missed the address though I was still able to go inside. This year I got to see and hear some welldressed Japanese rightwingers (and possible yakuza) get really into wishing the Emperor a happy birthday.

And the last 5 minutes of 2007 were spent at Zojo-ji Temple where hundreds of balloons flew off.

Whew! Well that’s that for 2007! Look out 2008! Actually, I think might just take the year off.

January 2, 2008 Posted by | 2007, 47 Ronin, akihito, belly dancing, cosplay, culture, dance, entertainment, event, festival, geisha, Gion, heike monogatari, iwate, japan, japanese emperor, japanese history, Kyoto, life, martial arts, matsuri, misogi, morioka, Mudslinging, Munchen, Munich, music, Naked Festival, nebuta, neputa, New Year's Eve, New Years, ninja, Oktoberfest, parade, party, plum blossom, purification, ronin, Sado Island, sakura, samba, samurai, sansa odori, seijin-no-hi, sengakuji, sengoku, Setsubun, sexy, Shinto, soma nomaoi, Sport, spring, sumo, taiko, tohoku, tokyo, tokyo imperial palace, travel, video, Yabusame, yamanote halloween train, Yamanote Train, yokozuna, youtube | 5 Comments

New Year’s Activities at a Japanese Temple in Tokyo Video

January 2, 2008 Posted by | buddhism, culture, event, festival, New Year's Eve, New Years, tokyo, tradition, travel, video, youtube, zojo-ji | 1 Comment

New Years at a Japanese Temple

New Years at a Japanese Temple
Prayers, Fires, and Rice Cakes ring in the New Year at Zojo-ji in Tokyo
 


Zojo-ji and Tokyo Tower

In the waning minutes of New Year’s Eve, I was able to get to one of the major temples in Tokyo, Zojo-ji, with less than 5 minutes to spare before the clock struck midnight. The place was packed with people and balloons.

Zojo-ji was once the principle temple of the Tokugawa Shoguns and six of them are buried there.


Balloons fly off marking the arrival of 2008

In the last minute of 2007, all the lights went out. Some people started a wrong countdown to the left of me and when they reached zero, nothing happened. (shmucks). When the real countdown hit, the lights popped back on and hundreds of balloons hit the sky.


Tokyo Tower – the Japanese version of the Eiffel Tower

The priests of Zojo-ji began the long ceremony of ringing the temple bell. For New Years, the bell is run 108 times. 108 represents the 108 sins of man according to Buddhist belief – and we Christians thought we had it bad with a measly 7 (granted they are Deadly).


The Bell is almost 400 years old and is rung twice a day

Thousands of people lined up to do their hatsumode – New Years Prayer. Japanese will pray for happiness and health for the new year. Over the next three days, millions of Japanese will visit temples and shrines thoughout the country to do hatsumode.


Buddhists Priests of Zojo-ji doing Prayers

Away from the Temple and its long line of people, I watched Mochi-making. Mochi is a traditional New Years food that is a type of chewy rice cake. Some people die every year from it because it gets lodged in their throat. This usually happens to the elderly and the very young who can’t chew their mochi so well. One resourceful housewife save her mother from choking to death by sticking a vacuum cleaner tube down the poor woman’s throat and sucking the mochi out.


Mochi dough inside wooden steam boxes being prepared for a pounding

The traditional way of making mochi I discovered was to put the doughy substance in a bowl then beat the hell out of it with a wooden hammer. Bits of mochi would fly out and strike the gathered spectators. I had a hard piece hit my cheek rather hard. While one guy wails away, another one kneads the dough inbetween hits. The dough kneader must have a lot of faith in the hammer-wielder’s ability or be on very good terms with him.


Got to beat the mochi to make it nice and chewy

A large fire was blazing and thousands of written prayers and sayings were tossed into it by the box load. This was in order to cut out the middle men and send the messages straight towards the heavens (where they can read smoke apparently).


Prayers and such are sent heavenwards with a large fire

Another year has come and gone but the memories and fun always linger – unless you get hit with that mochi hammer.


Old and New Japan blending together

January 2, 2008 Posted by | buddhism, event, festival, japan, life, New Year's Eve, New Years, tokugawa ieyasu, tokyo, tradition, travel, zojo-ji | 4 Comments