Samurai Dave: The Roving Ronin Report

Rambling Narrative of Travels, Thoughts, and Embellishments

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

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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

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

Setsubun – Japanese Spring Cleaning Exorcism (Vlog Video)

https://samuraidave.wordpress.com/2007/02/06/setsubun-devils-driven-out-in-japanese-spring-ritual/
Setsubun is February 3rd and it’s kind of like Groundhog Day, New Years, and Halloween all rolled up into one. It’s a day where Japanese seek to drive Oni or Devils from their homes by throwing beans at them. Oni don’t like beans – makes them go blind apparently.

Also many temples and shrines have mami-maki which is where people throw beans and other items at gathered crowds. To catch these items is to bring you good luck all year.

This Setsubun a sudden snowstorm struck in Tokyo. A rather ominious sign as the Setsubun is a Spring Ritual and exorcising the devils is like driving Winter out. I think it was a sneak attack by the Setsubun Devils myself. However the ritual must have worked because the next morning the sun was out.
Background music by Super Girl Juice:
http://www.sgchannel.com

February 7, 2008 Posted by | culture, demons, devils, event, festival, folklore, japan, japanese culture, life, oni, Setsubun, snow, spring, tokyo, tradition, travel, video, vlog, winter, youtube, zojo-ji | Leave a comment

Devils Make Sneak Attack on Japanese Spring Ritual – Setsubun

Sudden Snowstorm Interrupts Japanese Spring Ritual
Sneak attack by Setsubun Devils?

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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.

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Sudden snowfall in Tokyo at Senso-ji Temple

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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.

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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.

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A Snow-covered Kabuki Star

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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.

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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.

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Some Ninja and a walking bag of chips prepare to do Mame-Maki at Zojo-ji

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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.

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Snowfall at Kanda Myojin Shrine

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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.

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A Devil revels in the mayhem of an unexpectant snowstorm

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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.

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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!

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February 7, 2008 Posted by | Blogroll, culture, demons, devils, event, folklore, japan, japanese culture, life, ninja, oni, Setsubun, snow, spring, tokyo, tradition, travel, winter, zojo-ji | 1 Comment

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