Tokyobling's Blog

Kakitagawa Yuusui – Spring Water Fun

Posted in Nature, Places by tokyobling on August 21, 2015

One of my favorite places in the beautiful Kakitagawa Park in Shizuoka Prefecture’s Mishima City is this gorgeous natural spring water river feature. Even though we had 39 degrees celsius in the air this day, the water, being exposed to the first light in over 10 years after traveling underground from the peak of Mount Fuji, was icy cold and wonderfully fresh. Naturally the tiny spot was crowded with families and kids taking the opportunity to cool down a little. I think Mishima City is blessed to have water like this. Delicious and free. A true gift from nature!






Kifunejinja – Kakitagawa Yuusui – Forest Shrine

Posted in Nature, Places by tokyobling on August 19, 2015

At the Kakitagawa Yuusui park in Shizuoka Prefecture’s Mishima City you can visit the tiny Kifune Shrine (貴船神社). It is a shrine dedicated to the God Takaoka-no-kami, who is the Inoame and Tomeame God, or the God who can start and stop rain at his will. The Shrine is a tributary of the much larger and more famous Kifunejinja in Kyoto far to the west. The shrine itself is located on the highest spot in the river and spring valley, on the spot of a castle which was first destroyed in the 1570s, rebuilt and finally destroyed again sometime in the 1610s. The lack of remains of any castle structures might mean that it was a wooden castle, more like a fort. The nature around the shrine is very beautiful, and there were plenty of insect, lizards, fish and birds around. I saw one semi sit quietly on the trunk of a tree. In summer the swarms of semi can be quite deafening, almost like a motorcycle constantly revving its engine!







Hamamatsu Matsuri – Kite Festival

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on May 8, 2014

Hamamtsu Matsuri is truly one of the grand festivals of Japan, attracting between a million and a million and half participants and visitors for a three day period in the beginning of May every year. The festival is mostly famous for its epic kite battles but there is so much more going on!

The history of the festival is unusually murky (this being Japan) but it is said to have its origin in the later half of the 16th century as a lord of the local castle celebrated the birth of his first son together with the townspeople. This later merged with a local tradition of throwing a celebration for firstborn sons and by the late 18th century it was customary to fly special kites in the neighborhood of the family. By the Meiji era the custom was considered quaint and too old fashioned but by then it had been picked up by local firefighting teams and the kites started flying the emblems of the firefighters who would compete with their kites in a friendly rivalry. The local firefighters also picked up drums, banners and bugles to use in signaling a commentator in 1883 mentions that it looked like miniature war.

By the end of War World 2 the firefighter’s kite battles had been picked up by the locals themselves and there were now 50 teams taking part (these being from the Old Neighborhoods). In 1975 the city government decided to sponsor the inclusion of the New Neighborhoods and in just a few years 112 neighborhoods were taking part in the kite battles. On the last count there were 174 neighborhoods represented in the festival.

The Kite part of the festival takes place outside the city near the ocean on a large open field. There are special shuttle busses taking tourists and locals from Hamamatsu station to the Kite field and the whole festival is probably one of the best organized in Japan. I visited on the second day of the event when the winds were unusually weak and the kite teams were struggling to launch their huge kites in the air. It is a fantastic team effort and although I do not know how many people it would take to launch and operate a kite most teams I saw had everything from a dozen to nearly a hundred participants. Townspeople not directly involved in the operating of the kite do their best spur the men on with drums and bugles and enthusiastic cheering. I will post more about this fantastic festival in the days to come so stay tuned!





















Kakegawa Festival Ritual Dance

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on March 14, 2011

This is a post I wanted to write a long time ago but I never felt I had enough material to cover this subject, and since I don’t think I will find any more hidden photos on my hard disks, it might be time to post this now, return to normalcy and get back to business!

Do you remember the many posts I did on the festival i visited in the lovely city of Kakegawa in Shizuoka prefecture a couple of years ago? Well, here’s a few more, about a ritual dance that is quite special to that city. Every neighborhood has their own team that maintains one of the giant festival floats as well as musical instruments and costumes necessary to perform in this important festival. I think this is a fantastic way of tying the community together and instill a sense of pride and belonging in society as a whole. I think one of the reasons behind the low crime rate in this country is just because of festivals like these. It’s hard to neglect the people around you if you have taken part in these festivals for as long as you can remember!

In this ritual dance, the local teams follow a carefully laid route with their giant festival floats, just like in many other Japanese towns and villages, but in Kakagawa they make stops at certain houses and businesses in their area to perform a ritual dance that blesses and safeguards the recipients of this ritual. The children line up and perform a complicated dance lasting about 10 minutes involving chanting, music and ritual batons. Naturally, the best way to get a dance is to sponsor the teams, the festival floats alone costs about 300 000 USD to make new, but even maintenance can be pretty expensive and time consuming. In this way the local teams and the local children tie valuable relationships with local businesses and wealthier citizens, which in term is extremely valuable when it comes for them to find jobs, raise their own families or in case of fires or earthquakes. In this way people in these cities cement their senses of belonging, especially since these festivals have remained unchanged for hundreds of years, and the youngsters can enjoy the stories of their grand parents taking part, and in turn the stories their grand parents told them of these festivals.

It is times like this I’m extremely proud and happy to live in this fantastic country and with these fantastic people.

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