The age-old question of “Ninja vs Samurai – who would win?” was tackled recently at Nagoya Matsuri in a fight between a blue-clad ninja (a Smurf ninja?) and an armor-wearing samurai. The results may surprise you; however with Ninja, things are not always as they seem…
I was in Kyoto recently and came across a ninja merchant selling his trick knife. Ah, those crafty ninja – you got to love them (or they’ll kill you)!
The samurai were Japan’s elite warrior class of long ago – masters of many deadly weapons and stern possessors of martial fighting skills.
In Tokyo’s modern mecca of electronics and anime, Akihabara, the samurai have re-emerged as masters of a new deadly art.
Also check out my earlier video on the secret desire of the ninja:
These stealthy assassins of yore…what lurks deep in their hearts?
Their whole lives are dedicated to their craft…to stealth, to sabotage, to espionage, to theft, and to assassination.
But what do they dream of when they allow themselves to succumb to sleep’s gentle embrace?
What is it that they secretly yearn to do?
Watch this video and learn “The Secret Desire of the Ninja”
Hey, folks, it’s July 5th, so that means it’s once again (or first to begin) National Run Like a Ninja Day. Time to show our support to our Ninja brethern and sisteren who provide us with so much entertainment at the cost of their own lives and limbs.
Run Like a Ninja Day is the bastard brainchild of Youtube Guru Andy McGaffican who created the concept as a shameless publicity stunt in order to get featured on Youtube and raise enough movie to send the entire cast of High School Musical into the sun.
Watch and learn how you can help the Ninja and get featured on Youtube.
The Secret Desire of the Ninja
These stealthy assassins of yore…what lurks deep in their hearts?
Their whole lives are dedicated to their craft…to stealth, to sabotage, to espionage, to theft, and to assassination.
But what do they dream of when they allow themselves to succumb to sleep’s gentle embrace?
What is it that they secretly yearn to do?
Watch this short documentary or “ninjumentary” and learn “The Secret Desire of the Ninja.”
It’s also up for votes on Current TV but some pretentious little snots have voted negative on it because they’ve got no love for the Ninja. Go over there and show your support for the Ninja and vote green:
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:
Komuso – Japanese Zen Priest
A chance encounter with a vision from Japan’s past
A vision from the past – A Komuso Zen Priest
While I was in Nagoya last month, I was walking to my temporary home for the night (i.e. an internet cafe) when I encountered a vision out of Japan’s past – a Buddhist priest playing a Japanese flute known as a Shakuhachi.
The Shakuhachi player was dressed as a Komuso, a type of Zen Buddhist priest who once wandered throughout Old Japan playing their flutes for alms and meditation. Like some kind of ghost, the komuso just stood there playing his flute while people walked around the him practically ignoring him as he ignored them. It seemed a thing unreal.
Komuso used to play the Shakuhachi (Japanese Bamboo flute) for alms and meditation
Centuries ago in Old Japan the streets of cities and villages were accustomed to the sight of a Buddhist priest playing a bamboo flute with his head completely covered by a straw hat. This was the Komuso. Komuso were Zen Buddhists priests who wandered about Japan playing the Shakuhachi for both meditation and alms.
Komuso belonged to the Fuke sect of Japanese Zen Buddhism. Fuke Zen comes from the teachings of Linji Yixuan, a Zen teacher from China in the 9th Century. Fuke however is the Japanese name for Pahua one of Linji’s peers and co-founders of his sect. Pahua would walk around ringing a bell to summon others to enlightenment. In Japan, it was thought the Shakuhachi could serve this purpose.
Komuso means “Priest of Nothingness”
Fuke Zen came to Japan in the 13th Century. The priest were known first as komoso which means “straw-mat monk.” Later they became known as Komuso which means “priest of nothingness” or “monk of emptiness.” Fuke Zen emphasized pilgrimage and so the sight of wandering Komuso was a familiar one in Old Japan.
Komuso practiced saizen which is meditation through blowing on the Shakuhachi as opposed to the sazen which is meditation through sitting as practiced by most Zen followers.
Komuso wore straw hats which hid their ego and their identity
The shakuhachi flute was the instrument used to achieve this desired state. Shakuhachi derives its name from its size. Shaku is an old unit of measure close to an American measurement of a foot. Hachi is eight which in this case represents the measurement of eight-tenths of a shaku. True Shakuhachi are made of bamboo and can be quite expensive going upwards to $5,000 in modern times.
Komuso wore a woven straw hat which covered their head completely looking like an overturned basket. The concept was that by wearing such a hat they removed their ego. What the hat also did was remove their identity from prying eyes. It’s no wonder that komuso was a popular disguise for spies and supposedly the deadly ninja.
Old and New Japan blending together
When the Tokugawa Shogunate came into power over a unified Japan at the beginning of the 17th Century, the komuso came under the government’s wary eyes. Many komuso had formerly been samurai during the Sengoku (Warring States) Period (16th Century) and were now lay clergy. The potential for trouble was there because many of them had turned ronin when their masters were defeated – most likely by the Shogunate and their allies.
The Shogunate instead of destroying this potential menace instead turned the komuso into a positive force, at least from their perspective. Therefore komuso were granted the rare privilege of traveling through the country without hindrance. The reason for this special permission was that many komuso had been co-opted into becoming spies for the Shogunate. And some were outright spies in komuso disguise.
Many Komuso were former samurai
Only true Komuso, though, could play the honkyoku which were musical pieces of such complexity that only those adept with the Shakuhachi could perform them. Sometimes komuso were asked to perform these pieces to see if they were true komuso or the Shogun’s spies in disguise. However, it mattered little as some of the true komuso were also on the Shogunate’s payroll.
Komuso could move freely throughout Old Japan unlike Ronin (masterless samurai)
In 1868 when power was relinquished by the Shogunate to the Emperor, the komuso bore a significant brunt of the animosity from Imperial forces. Komuso were so synonymous with spies for the Shogunate that the Komuso were utterly abolished in 1871 and even the playing of the shakuhachi as a solo instrument was prohibited for several years.
The komuso had meddled in the affairs of the secular world and ultimately paid the price for it. The practice of the Komuso did not die out entirely though and shakuhachi continues to be played for both entertainment and meditation.
Modern Komuso are faint echoes of their past
Sneak attack by Setsubun Devils?
Setsubun Devils enjoying the sudden snowstorm in Tokyo
A sudden snowstorm swept in silently and swiftly during the early morning hours in Tokyo this Feb. 3. Three centimeters of snow covered the capital in a fairly heavy snowfall. Train services were disrupted, traffic backed up, flights were cancelled, and at least 100 people were injured. Although snow is not unusual in Tokyo, these days, however, snow has become less common over the years. Last year it only snowed once and very briefly at that.
Sudden snowfall in Tokyo at Senso-ji Temple
Shrine attendants work to clear a path
What makes this snowfall particularly significant if not ominously suspicious was the date. Feb. 3 is the Japanese holiday of Setsubun, a day when Japanese seek to drive bad luck out of their homes and bring in happiness. Setsubun is a more active version of Groundhog Day where Japanese take matters into their own hands to try and bring an earlier end to winter. On the old Japanese calendar, Setsubun was considered the day before Spring – despite the real Spring being a few more weeks away.
Praying to a snowy Buddha for perhaps warmer weather
The bad luck is represented by Oni – Japanese devils. There are many devils in Japanese folklore which can be good, bad, or neutral. The Setsubun Devils are known for being one of the bad ones. They are typically believed to be invisible intangible spirits that will inhabit places to bring misfortunate to all if they are not driven out. Their visible appearance is that of a shirtless devil with horns, shaggy hair, sharp claws and teeth, and wearing tiger pants. They come in red, green, and blue colors. If their sharp teeth and claws aren’t enough, they have heavy iron-studded clubs as well. This fierce creature is partially based on the Chinese Zodiac signs of the ox (ushi in Japanese) and tiger (tora in Japanese). Ushitora is related to “North Gate.” North was considered a very unlucky direction in Ancient China (probably because so many invaders came from that way) and this belief was adopted by the Japanese in the 8th and 9th Centuries.
A Snow-covered Kabuki Star
Snow at Senso-ji Temple is Asakusa, Tokyo
Along with bad luck, Setsubun Devils represent Winter and the old year too. The ceremony of driving the devils out symbolizes the ending of Winter and the coming of Spring while making everything new for the New Years. Setsubun is close to the Chinese New Years and before Japan switched to the Western calendar system, Setsubun was the day before the Chinese New Year. Japanese want their homes to be free of all the old bad feelings of the previous year. Setsubun is a bit of “out with the old; in with the new” of New Years, spring cleaning, and exorcism at the same time.
Zojo-ji Temple in Tokyo
This Setsubun if one were inclined to see the supernatural in everything and believe in omens as people did in olden times this, they might believe the sudden snowfall to be devil-wrought. Perhaps the snow was a diabolical sneak attack by the devils in the early morning hours to thrawt the Setsubun exorcism activities at shrines and temples. In these places, beans and other such items are thrown “to” not “at” gathered crowds. This is known as mame-maki. It is believed that to catch such items, a person will have good luck all year.
Some Ninja and a walking bag of chips prepare to do Mame-Maki at Zojo-ji
Ninja Chips – crunchy and deadly snackfood for the assassin in all of us
Although the devils threw quite a bit of snow which caused a number of train delays, there were still crowds of people at temples and shrines, their hands outstretched looking for a bit of luck. I went to my favorite temple for mame-maki: Zojo-ji in Hamamatsucho. Zojo-ji always has a few celebrities and a sumo wrestler doing mame-maki. Their mame-maki has more than just a handful of tossed beans. I got several bags of snack food, two wash clothes, nine packets of bean, and six health bars. the health bars were dangerous! I got hit in the head twice and once right smack in my face.
Snowfall at Kanda Myojin Shrine
Decorations at Kanda Myojin Shrine
After that I went to Kanda Myojin Shrine where I saw two Setsubun devils prance about on a catwalk seeming to enjoy the mayhem the weather had caused. At Kanda Myojin Shrine they do a traditional mame-maki where they throw handfuls of individual beans rather than packets. The beans were rather difficult to pick out from the heavy snow flakes that were coming down. No one bothered to pick any of the beans up that had fallen on the ground. At Zojo-ji because everying is in a package, you have people going up and down for mame-maki. This makes for a writhing crowd as some people are jumping up to catch packages while others are diving down to get the fallen ones and getting bumped heads in the process.
A Devil revels in the mayhem of an unexpectant snowstorm
A Kimono-clad girl indulging in mame-maki at Kanda Myojin shrine
After Kanda Myojin’s mame-maki, we were lead into a room where we could choose small packages of beans, candy, and oranges. All in all I had a decent Setsubun mame-maki haul by the end of the day.
A decent Setsubun Mame-Maki haul
In the end despite the weather, the Setsubun exorcism ritual must have worked. The next morning the sun came out and melted the snow away. Better luck next year, devils!
Here’s a video-photo montage of Samurai Dave’s 2007 In Review with music by Seven Cycle Theory:
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
The next evening I went to Kameido Temple to see another Noh performance this one by torchlight too.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
- Japanese Bowing Deer of Nara
- Outdoor Sumo at Yasukuni Shrine
- Samurai Girls Do Battle!!!
- Sumo – Hakuho vs Harumafuji at Outdoor Sumo Event at Yasukuni Shrine
- Samurai Warlord’s Kyoto Cherry Blossom Festival – Taiko Hanami Gyoretsu
- Samurai Battle Festival – Battle of Sekigahara Festival
- Japanese St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Harajuku, Tokyo
- Japanese Devils Beat You For Good Luck on Setsubun
- Wakakusayama Yaki – Japanese Mountain Fire Festival in Nara
- Giant Japanese Snake Festival
- Happy New Years 2013 From Tokyo!!!
- Merry Christmas from Japanese Girls!
- 2008 Presidential Race
- 47 Ronin
- action figures
- air combat
- ako gishi
- ako roshi
- american pop culture
- Amy Fisher
- ancient egypt
- Aoba Matsuri
- aomori prefecture
- armistice day
- Ashikaga Yoshimasa
- Battle of Hastings
- beautiful girls
- belly dancing
- Bill Murray
- blowing bubbles
- Bon Odori
- bull fighting
- Burger King
- california energy crisis
- celtic music
- Charles Schultz
- Charlie Brown
- cherry blossoms
- chinese food
- Christmas in the Trenches
- Christmas Truce
- chuck norris
- classical music
- clock tower
- Coming of Age Day
- culture day
- current tv
- Current TV Promo
- Dairokuten-no-Hadaka Matsuri
- Date Masamune
- design festa
- Don't Know Why
- drift ice
- Earth Celebration
- easter bunny
- easter eggs
- Eastern Europe
- eine kleine nachtmusik
- english teacher
- english teaching
- enron scandal
- Ernest Hemingway
- european history
- extreme sports
- Eyeball Love Globe
- fertility festival
- Festival of Ages
- fire dancing
- Fire Department
- fire festival
- fire twirling
- Fire Walking
- flying saucers
- Funekko Nagashi
- Geisha Dance
- Gempei War
- Genghis Khan
- Ghost Stories
- GI Joe
- girls kissing
- global warming
- Golden Dragon
- Golden Dragon Dance
- Golden Fleece
- Golden Week
- Goth Girls
- goth lolita
- government cover-up
- Graham Hancock
- Great Pumpkin
- great pyramid
- Groundhog Day
- gun control
- Harold Godwinson
- heavy metal
- heike monogatari
- Hello Kitty
- High School Musical
- horse racing
- Hosokawa Sansai
- ice sculptures
- Ii Naomasa
- Iwate Swan
- Japan Earthquake
- Japan Vlogger
- Japanese Anime
- japanese archery
- japanese beer
- japanese beer vending machine
- japanese culture
- japanese emperor
- Japanese festival
- japanese folklore
- japanese ghost stories
- Japanese Ghosts
- Japanese girls
- japanese goldfish scooping
- japanese history
- Japanese Horror
- japanese imperial palace
- Japanese martial arts
- Japanese subculture
- Japanese Tea Ceremony
- Jean-Michel Jarre
- Jidai Matsuri
- job searching
- John McCutcheon
- Kamakura Matsuri
- kamogawa odori
- kenneth lay
- kingyo sukui
- Lafcadio Hearn
- Lee Van Cleef
- light saber
- Lost in Translation
- marine life
- Mark Twain
- martial arts
- Master Ninja
- meiji shrine
- Metropolis Magazine
- Middle Ages
- Middle East
- moira cameron
- momote shiki
- Monica Lewinsky
- monster trees
- mounted archery
- movie review
- mt. kurama
- Mt. Zao
- music concert
- music videos
- musicians in Japan
- Mystery Science Theater 3000
- Naked Festival
- never gonna give you up
- New Age
- New Age music
- New Year's Eve
- New Years
- Nick Zappetti
- night out
- Ninja movies
- Nishimonai Bon Odori
- Norah Jones
- November 11th
- octopus garden
- ogasawara ryu
- OJ Simpson
- Only in Japan
- Osu Kannon
- penis festival
- plum blossom
- pop culture
- Power Rangers
- Presidential Debate
- Project Blue Book
- red baron
- remembrance day
- rick astley
- rick roll
- Ringo Starr
- rio de janeiro
- rock band
- Rodger Swan
- Roller Derby
- Rolly Teranishi
- Roving Ronin Report
- Sado Island
- San Fermin
- San-San-Ku Tebasami Shiki
- sansa odori
- santa claus
- sapporo beer
- Sarah Michelle Gellar
- Scarlett Johansson
- Science Fiction/Double Feature
- Sea of Okhotsk
- sea shepard
- secret commonwealth
- Sen no Rikyu
- seven cycle theory
- seven patty Whopper
- sho kosugi
- snow festival
- snow gleaming
- snow lantern festival
- snow monkey
- sofia coppola
- soma nomaoi
- Spanish Culture
- Sports News
- St. Patrick's Day
- star wars
- street musicians
- sugawara no michizane
- Suzume Odori
- tachi neputa
- tall tales
- terrorism. WTC
- The Beatles
- The Grudge
- The Ring
- The Rocky Horror Picture Show
- The Sushi Cabaret Club
- three kingoms
- tokugawa ieyasu
- tokyo decadance
- Tokyo Design Festa
- tokyo imperial palace
- Tokyo Kuyo-Kai
- Tokyo Swan
- Tokyo Tower
- Tonya Harding
- tower of london
- toyotomi hideyoshi
- traditional art
- true ghost stories
- Umm Khulthum
- Umm Kulthum
- Urban Tap
- veterans day
- virginia tech
- Vlad Tepes
- William the Conqueror
- Windows 7
- World Cup
- World Trade Center
- world war I
- xmas. holidays
- yamanote halloween train
- Yamanote Train
- yasakuni shrine
- yasukuni shrine
- yeoman warder
- Youtube Gathering
- yuki matsuri
- Yuki Onna
- yukiakari no michi
- yushima tenjin
- Zao Onsen