Jiyugaoka’s Kumano Shrine festival – celebrating the harvest

Jiyugaoka has a reputation for being a trendy area to shop, dine and relax with friends.  Its narrow brick or stone-paved laneways lined with shops and eateries are inviting to pedestrians.  One could spend hours meandering here. This week-end (September 1-2, 2018), however, suburban Jiyugaoka returns to its agrarian roots as its local shrine celebrates … Continue reading Jiyugaoka’s Kumano Shrine festival – celebrating the harvest

Lanterns and dancing: the Anamori Inari Lantern Festival

The moon is full, the night is balmy, and you just wanna kick up your heels and dance!  Maybe that sentiment explains the origins of the Anamori Inari Lantern Festival taking place this weekend at Anamori Inari Shrine near Haneda Airport. There is still time to join the Saturday night portion of the festival, or … Continue reading Lanterns and dancing: the Anamori Inari Lantern Festival

Hagi’s Camellia Festival – a celebration of the Rose of Winter

It's called the "Rose of Winter", and with good reason.  Tsubaki, Japanese camellia, blooms most prolifically from January to early April.   One great place to enjoy these blooms is the Hagi Camellia Festival (February 17, 2018-March 21, 2018). Hagi is an old castle town on the Japan Sea coast of Yamaguchi Prefecture.  It is particularly … Continue reading Hagi’s Camellia Festival – a celebration of the Rose of Winter

Good fortune is child’s play at the Asakusa Hagoita Ichi

In traditional Japan there are many rituals observed relating to seeing out the old year and successfully bringing in the new one.  Sometimes these rituals, most of which occur in December, also involve acquiring “lucky charms” of various sorts. Asakusa, a venerable Tokyo neighbourhood known for its efforts to preserve traditions, is a particularly good … Continue reading Good fortune is child’s play at the Asakusa Hagoita Ichi

An inside look at the O-eshiki commemoration of Saint Nichiren

I find the Ikegami area of Tokyo historically fascinating and generally interesting as a microcosm of residential Tokyo.  I’ve written elsewhere about the neighborhood and about the o-eshiki ceremony that commemorates the life and death of the Buddhist saint, Nichiren (1222-1282) every year on the night of October 12. But this year, I was privileged … Continue reading An inside look at the O-eshiki commemoration of Saint Nichiren

Sekigahara: New movie brings the battle, and the battlefield, to life

This article is a combination movie review and travel piece, looking at both the new release movie "Sekigahara" and the Sekigahara battlefield in Gifu Prefecture.  Both deserve attention.  Readers in Tokyo, note especially the screenings of the movie with English subtitles during the first week of its release. (Archived article - Originally published by Japan … Continue reading Sekigahara: New movie brings the battle, and the battlefield, to life

Haneda Festival: traditional fishermen’s prayers in the shadow of jets

One of the best things about being in Japan in the summer is the various neighborhood festivals.  Depending on the neighborhood and its guardian shrine, the festival can take place any time of the year, but summer seems to be the most popular season. Historically, Haneda, the neighborhood just north of the mouth of the … Continue reading Haneda Festival: traditional fishermen’s prayers in the shadow of jets

Gion Matsuri – centuries-old purification rites (and a great summertime party)

It all started in the middle of the 9th century.  Summer was always the season for increased disasters:  illness, floods, and devastating fires.  So the emperor ordered people to offer prayers for relief at Yasaka Shrine in Kyoto's Gion district. Before long, the prayers were being offered with such regularity that the people made an … Continue reading Gion Matsuri – centuries-old purification rites (and a great summertime party)