Tokyobling's Blog

Omiya Samba Carnival

Posted in People, Places by tokyobling on August 20, 2015

A couple of weekend I visited Omiya City in Saitama Prefecture just north of Tokyo for their annual summer festival. It is a newish, huge, city festival (so no properly traditional or religious significance to it as yet), where they show a little bit of everything the city has to offer in terms of culture. One of these being a proper samba carnival! Having never seen a samba carnival in Brazil I can not vouch for how authentic it feels, but it sure looks spectacular! The outlandish costumes, the music (and not least the ladies) are huge attractions for locals and the streets were lined ten deep along the parade route.

August has been very very hot in Japan, with few days under 35 degrees celsius and temperatures hitting 40 even in Saitama Prefecture on several days. To dance for a two hours more or less nonstop in this heat is a feat in itself. The men and women did a great job.

Brazilians make up one of Japan biggest ethnic minorities, and there are currently about 300 000 of them in Japan, mostly concentrated in the factory towns on the southern coast of Japan, stretching between Shizuoka Prefecture and Osaka. Most famously in the city of Hamamatsu where most street signs used to be bilingual in Japanese and Portuguese.


Omiya Hakimono Shop

Posted in Places, Shops, Stuff by tokyobling on February 4, 2012

One of the things you see a lot of in Japan are the old tiny stores selling traditional things. Here’s one gloriously over stocked hakimonoya, a traditional foot wear store that I passed in Omiya city in Saitama prefecture north of Tokyo. The Japanese merchant custom of putting a lot of their wares on the street is naturally due to small spaces and the fact that Japanese shops, restaurants and cafes love having huge menus, lots of choices to pick from. All kinds of Japanese stores have huge choices! I have never been in the market for these kinds of traditional footwear so I wouldn’t be able to identify half of these items or the prices, but it’s great to see these hold out stores in local neighborhoods.

Hikawa Shrine – Omiya

Posted in Places by tokyobling on January 30, 2012

Last week I was in Omiya, the center of Saitama prefecture just north of Tokyo. Saitama prefecture has a population of only 7.2 million people but if it was a country it would be about the 40th biggest economy in the world, just above the UAE in the Middle East, but it is much smaller even than the territory of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. Amazing. Every time I visit Omiya (which is famous among Tokyoites for the great railway museum) I try to visit the large Hikawa Shrine, the mother shrine of all the Hikawa related shrines across Japan. In Tokyo most wards have one of these shrines. Naturally they also had one of the giant ema (votive plates) to celebrate the year of the dragon, but when I took a closer look at the regular ema I noticed a large proportion of ema that had been decorated with little drawings and anime characters! I’ve never seen this at any other shrine and the reason turns out to be very simple, Omiya city is the home of a major anime business college and it’s also one of the centers of the Japanese anime industry. The stuff you learn from just being curious about ema!

Omiya Flamingoes

Posted in Animals, Places by tokyobling on January 23, 2012

Around Tokyo there’s a score of small and relatively unknown places to see animals. Behind the huge Hikawa Shrine in Saitama prefecture’s Omiya, there’s a tiny zoo barely known even to locals and yesterday I was in the area so I went there to have a look at the flamingoes. It was biting cold and just a few days earlier I had seen ice along the rivers of western Saitama prefecture so I was hoping to see something I have always imagines: flamingoes hanging out in snow! Sadly enough for me but lucky enough for them there was no snow nor ice yesterday, but I still enjoyed seeing these gorgeous birds. The zoo itself is really old and run down but they have some interesting animals, a trio of Hyena for example, and until a couple of weeks ago, a talking crow who showed his temper by greeting visitors to his cage with a hoarse “bye-bye”! Sadly though, the crow recently passed away.

Best of all the zoo is free to visit! If you are in Omiya with nothing to do, you can impress your Japanese friends by taking them to a double treat of the beautiful Hikawa Shrine and the mini-zoo!

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