This spring has been incredibly cold, wet, windy and weird. Yesterday we had barely 6 degrees here in Tokyo and in Gunma and Tochigi prefectures there were plenty of snowfall. Something is wrong with the weather! But there has been a handful of good days, like this morning a couple of weeks ago when I happened to pass through the famous Tsurugaoka Hachimangu in Kamakura city south of Tokyo. I didn’t have time to stop but I had my camera ready and just took the things I saw as I hurried through the grand shrine. If you visit Tokyo this shrine about an hour’s train ride away is one of the must sees! I have been here so many times I rarely find anything new these days but I found a new ema design that I hadn’t seen before, one with a ginkgo tree image to commemorate the great gingko tree that blew down in the morning March 10th 2011 (which some people later recognized as a bad omen). The tree was 30m tall and about 1000 years old and it’s going to be awhile until the new tree planted near the old tree stump will grow to be anything like it’s predecessor.
Almost every time I visit the grand shrine in Kamakura, the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu there seems to be a wedding going on. It’s a great opportunity to see the finest kimono and listen to the thousand of years old ceremonial music being played live. I caught this ceremony a couple of days ago, the bride looked really nervous as she was taking instructions from the priest assistants. Since it’s currently Golden Week here in Japan the shrine was packed with tourists and visitors enjoying the great weather and that in itself should be enough to make any bride nervous! The groom looked much more relaxed. It’s not all that common to see these traditional ceremonies performed out in the open, usually they are confined to the inner sanctum of the shrines. At most you can see the traditional wedding parade if you visit places like the Meiji Jingu in central Tokyo, but this shrine in Kamakura (Kanagawa prefecture) is one of the best for seeing traditional weddings!
On the grounds of Kamakura’s beautiful Tsurugaoka Hachimangu I came across this little buddy who was totally fearless when it came to stealing bread crumbs out of the lunch boxes of visiting tourists. Isn’t he adorable? I shot these with my “Bigma”, a 50-500mm monster lens I hardly ever take out of storage (it’s to big to carry around on a casual photo walk). This time I had it with me, lucky!
And blogging about squirrels (which I have done before, here) I couldn’t help adding a photo of Korisu-no-Toto-chan, the old mascot for Omiya city, a young squirrel called Toto-chan. The reason why Omiya is associated with squirrels is a complete mystery to everyone I have asked. Maybe someone reading this can shed some light on this? I do know that the Omiya soccer team, the Japanese National League participants, Omiya Ardija FC, got their name from the Spanish word for squirrel, Ardilla (but since there are no L-sounds in Japanese they had to change to spelling). There is also a squirrel park somewhere in Omiya, I will have to add it to my list of places to visit. The statue itself is near the East exit of Omiya JR station, in front of the Matsumoto Kiyoshi drug store. At night the little square is usually filled up with musicians trying to drum up a little audience while the local police pretend not see or hear a thing. Enjoy!
@ All images copyrighted. Please use only with permission.
For some reason there are a lot of people around the world who seriously hates pigeons. Ever since I was a kid I have loved all kinds of birds and one of my favorite times as a kid (well, it still is) was to go down to the local ponds and lakes and feed the birds. So, I have a confession to make: I like pigeons! I think it’s cool to have at least some sort of wildlife in our cities to remind us that humankind didn’t come into this world in plastic wrapping clutching mobile phones and credit cards. Just a couple of hundred years ago pigeons was food for nobility and they were kept and bread on the finest estates, next to our churches and castles. In Turkey, Egypt and Iran they pretty much singlehandedly kept the local fields and orchards productive by the use of their droppings in replenishing nutrition starved fields and plantations. And can anyone think of any more ecologically friendly meat?
You don’t have to love pigeons, and I don’t think feeding them in public spaces is a really good idea, but I am also certain that these birds are not as bad as most people make them to be. Last year I shot these pictures of a woman feeding a large flock of pigeons at Kamakura’s Hachimangu shrine. I didn’t think she expected quite that much attention!