In the city of Kamakura, in Kanagawa Prefecture south of Tokyo I was exiting the Hase Station of the Enoden line when I noticed an odd looking post box almost hidden next to the station. It was one of several Haiku Post boxes, set up by the Haiku Appreciation group of Kamakura around the city of Kamakura, Haiku & Haiku (俳句＆ハイク, a play on words as Haiku means both the poem and the activity of hiking). Haiku are the most famous form of Japanese poetry, and always follow the same pattern of three lines of 5, 7, 5 syllables and should contain a keyword that shows or denotes one of the four seasons. I sometimes write haiku in Japanese while on the trains and subways of Tokyo. It is a good way to pass the time and exercise your brain and I think it is at least as effective as the sudoku number puzzles you see people with all the time.
The Haiku post boxes (there are about 20 of them and there are maps showing their locations but oddly enough not the one in these photos) are used to encourage people to submit their own haiku, either prepared ones or ones they write on the spot, as paper forms are available. I had no idea how popular something like this could be, but according to their homepage these very few haiku post boxes almost hidden away in a small town on the coat of Japan amassed an amazing 2621 poems during the summer of 2014 alone! You can read the best of them at their official site here.
There are rules for writing haiku in English and other languages as well, but I have never tried. Have you written one? Please share!
I love harbors and I love big ships and if there is one place to really see them up close it is at the International Port of Yokohama, the Osanbashi Pier. Last year I saw the gigantic MS Asuka II (飛鳥II) at port. It is the largest passenger vessel in Japan right now, at 241m. It has a crew of 545 and can take 960 passengers. I usually use this site to track the position of large ships but I already knew that the Asuka II is currently in port at Hakata/Fukuoka on the north coast of the island of Kyushu, in southern Japan, where it arrived about half a day ago.
The ship was launched in 1989 and is currently sailing under Japanese flag (which is unusual in this day and age of “Flag of Convenience” maritime traffic.
Although the big awaodori festival season here in Tokyo is over there are still a few festivals outside of Tokyo, like last Saturday’s Kawasaki Awaodori in neighboring Kanagawa Prefecture. I arrived very late but managed to enjoy about half of the teams. Either I was lucky or the festival management has really managed to get a lot of good teams together. The quality was quite high and unlike most Awaodori festivals where the parade is the main even the festival in Kawasaki as all about each team’s set piece performance. The biggest new discovery of this year’s festival was the Nansuiren, a very small team that only started in 2009 in neighboring Machida City, which is part of Tokyo. The team has a good homepage here, and has even put up an mp3 recording of the classical music piece around which all awaodori centers. I recommend listening to it or downloading it! This is one team I will definitively be keeping an eye out for!
Possibly one of the greatest Awaodori festivals in Kanagawa Prefecture took place a couple of weeks ago in the city of Yamato. Unlike the shopping street dominated festivals of Tokyo this takes place on the wide roads and streets surrounding the main station, similar in feel to the mighty Minamikoshigaya Awaodori festival in Saitama Prefecture. The festival start was severely delayed by massive rains that managed to soak more than one team. Fortunately in this kind of summer heat even a complete soaking is not likely be more than an inconvenience and the festival finished without a problem.
One of my favorite teams was the local Shinbashiren (新橋連) who put on a massive performance and were one of the big crowd pleasers with some very talented younger dancers. If you are in Tokyo or the Yokohama area this time next year, do not miss this great festival!