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

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

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)

Kanamara Matsuri: A unique celebration of the pink of spring

Japan is host to a variety of annual festivals, often seasonally driven, and often associated with Shinto shrines. These festivals usually involve music, dancing, fair food and portable shrines that are paraded through the local neighborhood. One of the more unusual of these annual festivals takes place on the first Sunday of April (in 2017: … Continue reading Kanamara Matsuri: A unique celebration of the pink of spring

Hina Dolls at Meguro Gajoen–all kinds of traditions at once

This time of year in Japan, displays of Hina dolls are ubiquitous. Historically the third day of the third month is Girl's Day (while the fifth day of the fifth month--now the Children's Day public holiday--was Boy's Day). The traditional observation of Girl's Day included displays of Hina dolls--dolls depicting a king, queen and courtiers … Continue reading Hina Dolls at Meguro Gajoen–all kinds of traditions at once

Going for gold — Tokyo’s ginkgo trees in their full glory

The ginkgo tree is the official tree of the Tokyo Metropolitan District, having been selected for that honor by popular vote in 1966.  While these trees are ubiquitous across the city--the majority of the half million trees lining Tokyo streets are ginkgo trees--they are at their most stunning during the month of December, when their … Continue reading Going for gold — Tokyo’s ginkgo trees in their full glory

Shintora Matsuri Parade: bringing Tohoku to Tokyo

November 20, 2016, was the culmination of a 3 week long promotion of Tohoku products at the Toranomon Hills complex in the area becoming known as "Shintora" (combining the names of the Shinbashi and Toranomon districts of Tokyo).  The absolute highlight of the day was the Shintora Matsuri Parade, featuring troupes from the six major … Continue reading Shintora Matsuri Parade: bringing Tohoku to Tokyo