Samurai Dave: The Roving Ronin Report

Rambling Narrative of Travels, Thoughts, and Embellishments

Sumo: Asashoryu vs Hakuho – Yokozuna (Sumo Champion) Match at an outdoor sumo event

This is a little blast from the past – I was going thru some of my old archive footage and came across footage of an outdoor sumo exhibit from 2009 at Yasukuni Shrine that they do every April. I’ve gone to it a few times but only once got to see the two Yokozuna at that time face off against each other.

Usually you can only see Yokozuna fight each other on the last day of the tournament, a day which it is quite difficult to get tickets for so this was quite a treat. Yokozuna is a difficult position to reach and only a few ever reach it. There has been up to four Yokozuna at one time and there has been times when there has been none.

Asashoryu was Yokozuna from 2003-2010 and Hakuho has been one since 2007 so for only a short period of time could you see two Yokozuna compete since 2003.

For more sumo, check out this link to photos of Day 13 of the January 2012 tournament:

Sumo Photos

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January 22, 2012 Posted by | 2009, asashoryu, japan, japanese culture, Sport, sumo, tokyo, yasukuni shrine, yokozuna, youtube | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Roller Derby Girls – Nashville Roller Girls: Heart-Takers & Ball-Breakers

Heart-Takers&Ball-Breakers – Nashville RollerGirls are an all-female roller derby flat track league based in Nashville, Tennessee. While I was home in Nashville, I took in a game and though at the time I didn’t have a clue how the game was played I had a good time with all the energy coming from the players and from the fans.

I was surprised to learn that today’s Roller Derby is actually a sport unlike its earlier predecessor which was more like WWF wrestling on roller skates. Since its recent revival, it’s one of the fastest growing female sports. I can’t wait till Japanese girls start doing it!

Nashville RollerGirls

Music by: Meant To Bleed

Meant To Bleed

I also made a video on Meant To Bleed at their live show at the Hard Rock Cafe in Nashville in June 2011

While I was in Nashville, I saw some of my friends play at the HardRock in Nashville so I decided to do a video on them.

From their Facebook: “Meant to Bleed is best described as a Rock band layered with elements of Rock, Metal, Punk and Pop.”

Basically they’re a fun group and I enjoyed the show. The rhythm (yeah I misspelled it in the video! sue me!) guitarist may seem familiar to those who have seen my Blackwood Fields video.

July 29, 2011 Posted by | music, musicians, nashville, rock, rock band, Roller Derby, Sport, Sports News, tennessee, vlog, WTF | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2010 Japan World Cup Memories

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

JAPAN VS CAMEROON

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

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

JAPAN VS NETHERLANDS

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

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

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

JAPAN VS DENMARK

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

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

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

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

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

JAPAN VS PARAGUAY

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

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

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

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

Japanese Fans Reacting to World Cup Win 6/14

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

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

June 16, 2010 Posted by | 2010, FIFA, japan, soccer, Sport, video, vlog, World Cup | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Asashoryu Retires from Sumo Video Discussion

Long video discussing the retirement of Asashoryu, the yokozuna (sumo champion) of Sumo in Japan.

Asashoryu announced his retirement recently.

February 9, 2010 Posted by | asashoryu, Givemeabreakman, japan, news, Sport, Sports News, sumo, video, vlog, yokozuna, youtube | , , , , , | 1 Comment

San-San-Ku Tebasami Shiki (Japanese Archery Ritual) and Horseless Yabusame

Over the New Years holidays, Yasukuni Shrine holds an archery ritual known as San-San-Ku Tebasami Shiki. Two teams of archers shoot at targets whose measurements relate to the principle of ying yang. The ritual is held at the beginning of the year and it in olden times, it was the first archery event of the new year.

After the ritual, yabusame was performed. Yabusame is mounted archery where an archer rides a horse and shoots at the three targets. Yasukuni, however, doesn’t have the ground for such an event so they improvised using a fake horse and turning in around in a circle.

January 29, 2010 Posted by | Archery, japan, japanese archery, kyudo, martial arts, San-San-Ku Tebasami Shiki, Sport, tokyo, video, Yabusame, yasakuni shrine | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Aikido Demo at a Tokyo Garden

During the New Years holiday, I was at Hamarikyu Garden in east Tokyo to look at Japanese falconry when I came across a brief demonstration of Aikido. Aikido is as many people know a Japanese martial arts which is about redirecting an attacker’s energy and neutralizing them without causing them physical injury.

Though it doesn’t look like it, it was freaking cold being January 3rd!

January 4, 2010 Posted by | aikido, japan, japanese culture, Japanese martial arts, karate, martial arts, Sport, tokyo, video | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sumo Falls – A Video Compilation of Sumo Falls, Tumbles, & Throws

If you thought sumo a sport of slow moving fat guys in thongs engaged in an aggressive shoving match, guess again.

As any follower of Sumo knows, Sumo wrestlers are fast, strong, and agile. They also know how to take a fall real well. And they get tossed around a lot.

The following is a series of falls, tumbles, and throws from several tournaments: Sept ’06, May ’07, July ’07 in Nagoya, and Sept ’07. There’s also scenes from an outdoor exhibition in April ’07.

I went early in the day for the Nagoya Basho and caught some of the junior wrestlers so this vid has wrestlers from the very top to the very bottom of the sumo hierachry.
 

Music by Seven Cycle Theory:
http://www.myspace.com/sevencycletheory

It’s up for votes on current tv:
http://current.com/items/88824331_sumo_falls_a_compilation_of_sumo_falls_tumbles_and_throws
Sign up and vote!

January 27, 2008 Posted by | asashoryu, Blogroll, heavy metal, japan, life, metal, music, rock, seven cycle theory, Sport, sumo, tokyo, travel, TV, video, vlog, wrestling, yokozuna, youtube | Leave a comment

Sumo – More Than Just Big Guys in Thongs

Sumo – More Than Just Big Guys in Thongs
On gaining respect for Japan’s oldest sport


Two titans squaring off

Sumo — quivering mounds of flesh set into sudden motion that is at once jarring and engaging. It’s the sport of gods, literally. However, it took me some time to appreciate sumo. Long before I made my way over to Japan, my image of sumo was not a very flattering one. To me sumo was a match where two nigh-immobile mountains of flab come together with all the speed of erosion to push one or the other slowly out of the small ring they were in. In short, fat guys in diapers having a shoving match — not exactly my cup of tea.


Impact!

The erosion of my entrenched stereotype began with my first encounter with sumo. This encounter came from the TV broadcasts of the January tournament during my first month in Japan. At that time I was waiting for my new job to start up so I was lean on funds. My entertainment was limited to cheap beer, Doritos and whatever was on TV in my cramped little gaijin house. I just happened to stumble upon the broadcasts of the sumo tournament in mid-January. I couldn’t understand anything on Japanese TV at this point (and I still don’t; but for different reasons). Sumo, though, was simple enough to follow.


A great handful of salt tossed high to purify the ring

What surprised me right away was the speed of these seemingly slow behemoths. They were shockingly fast and agile. Their speed dispelled the notion I once held that overweight Americans could compete in sumo tournaments. I used to think there was no reason to go to Japan to see a sumo match when similar sport could be had by throwing a free bag of potato chips on the floor of the local Wal-Mart. How wrong I was.


Sumo Wrestlers despite their bulk are remarkably flexible at times

For one thing, despite appearance, most sumo wrestlers actually have less fat than their average working countrymen. What lurks under the deceptive rolls of flab is muscle — a lot of muscle. Sumo wrestlers “work” hard to get big, unlike my rotund countrymen who accidentally get big by eating cheese doodles all day on the sofa while watching TV. The wrestlers want this bulk for two reasons — (1) to give their thrusts more power and (2) to cushion the impact of their opponent’s blows.

To achieve their dual goal of fat and muscle, sumo wrestlers keep to a strict regimen of exercise and eating. They start exercising early in the morning between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. and do this for several hours. The wrestlers only eat twice a day but these are large meals after which they sleep. Lunch is the biggest meal and they sleep for two hours afterwards.

Chanko-nambe is one of the main staples of a sumo wrestler’s diet. Chanko-nambe is a stew with no rigid ingredient list but a little bit of everything. It’s high in protein and consumed in great quantities to add the necessary girth a sumo wrestler needs.


Ahem! ….well, now!

Not all sumo wrestlers though are the gargantuan titans of blubber that may spring to mind. In the 1990s, this type of image was enforced by Akebono (235 kilograms/520 pounds) and Konishiki (264 kilograms /580 pounds) both huge wrestlers in their own right but not Japanese. The current yokozuna (champion) are two relatively lightweight Mongolians — Asashoryu and Hakuho. Both of them have put on the necessary weight and tip the scales at over 300 pounds but their bodies still look relatively in proportion.


David and Goliath Sumo-style

The strength of these portly wrestlers is not to be underestimated. Over the long history of sumo, there has been tales of incredible strength by these stout giants from lifting huge heavy bales of rice to cannon balls weighing several hundred pounds. It’s no wonder that for many Japanese at a time when the average body build was smaller than today that they looked upon sumo wrestlers as superhuman.


Getting rolled in the ring

Agility is another surprising aspect of sumo wrestlers. Anyone who follows sumo knows these wrestlers will not only use their bulk and strength to win a match but their agility as well. Sometimes, this can be simply moving out of the way at the last moment and letting their opponent go sailing out of the ring on their own steam. Other times, an agile wrestler will quickly move to the side at the moment of contact and bring his opponent crashing down to the ground with one quick thrust.


Falls, tumbles, and throws are quite common in Sumo

Sumo falls — this is another surprising element of sumo matches. The big guys tumble, fall or are thrown down quite a lot. Despite their weight and the force of their fall, the wrestlers usually get back up rather quickly. Back home, if a large fellow went down, they wouldn’t be getting up so readily. An ambulance and possibly a crane would be needed to get them back up. Sumo wrestlers train in falling because the frequency of falls and tumbles are rather high. It’s part of what makes the matches so exciting. The matches aren’t the slow-moving shoving matches I once ignorantly assumed they were.

From my first initiation into the world that is sumo, I have since acquired a great appreciation for this sport that is not only a sport but a religious ritual as well. I try to catch at least one day of sumo whenever the tournaments come to Tokyo, which is three times a year. As interesting as it is to catch sumo on TV, nothing beats the excitement of watching it live.


Ooooffff!!!!

January 27, 2008 Posted by | asashoryu, Blogroll, extreme sports, japan, Shinto, Sport, sumo, tokyo, travel, wrestling, yokozuna | 1 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