Tokyobling's Blog

Hachiouji Matsuri Kids and Traditions

Posted in Japanese Traditions, Opinion, People, Places by tokyobling on August 10, 2012

Recently I have been thinking a lot about traditions and the role of culture in our societies. One of the main reasons I love Japan and the Japanese is the fact that they have kept their traditions alive, through technological advancements, industrialization, globalization and wars, the Japanese have retained the traditions and manners throughout the ages. Reading 1000 year old Japanese literature is in essence very similar to reading modern literature. The festivals, mannerism, music, masks and colors you see all over Japan almost daily has remained more or less unchanged for hundreds, sometimes thousands of years. Japanese will happily wear clothes and costumes that would be considered very awkward in western countries, being dated and old fashioned. But in some way the Japanese have kept their culture alive and not locked up in elitist circles were many people feel they need a phd to understand or enjoy it. In Europe, and I guess in many other westernized countries as well, I always felt that people who were interested in culture and tradition were often looked down upon. People who tried to organize festivals and traditional events had to work terribly hard and overcome both disinterest and ridicule to achieve anything. In Europe, the only places you’ll see traditional clothes are open air museums and court ceremonies for example, with the possible exception of British courts.

In short, in most western countries it takes courage and an iron determination to maintain and keep traditions and local culture alive. Many people are afraid to associate with those proud of their heritage or culture for fear of being mistaken for nationalists. Now, nothing bores me more than outright nationalism or the other side of the same card, globalization. I just don’t want to hear about anyone promoting themselves by ridiculing others. At the same time the values and interests of people brainlessly rehashing the globalist mantra makes me sick to my stomach. It takes hundreds of years to create a living tradition, but it takes about five years after a “trade agreement” or the hijacking or traditions by nationalist sheep to kill it. It takes effort, pride and courage to believe in yourself, your community and your traditions, but it takes only one elitist comment, one bully or one snide newspaper comment to kill it all.

You see, the beauty of traditions is that we can only do it together. We can only do it locally. There’s nothing commercial about it. No businesses or local authority will benefit from the traditions of a local community. You can’t tax or market trust and neighborly love. You can’t package and sell respect for other countries. You will never win an election by praising your roots while praising the culture of other countries. What we as people have to understand, what we have to force ourselves to understand, deep below the layers of cultural crap fed to us by corporate media and lying politicians is that value doesn’t equal money, and that anything truly worthwhile can never be found in a shop or on TV or featured in a catalog. We have to un-brainwash ourselves by demanding the genuine and participating in our own lives. The ancients knew this, medieval peasants knew this. Nomads I have lived with in the few remaining genuine cultures on Earth know this. But us modern people have forgotten, with the exception of some local genuinely Temporary Autonomous Zones, as the ones I make a point of visiting as often as possible here in Japan, where people do things for themselves without involving authority or corporations.

It is time we reclaim our lives, our neighborhoods, our fields and streets and revive our culture and traditions with what we have lost and what we can resurrect. I sometimes see glimpses of this in the eyes of parents watching their kids perform, in the smiles of children dressing up and having fun together not because of any arbitrary division of people in classes, schools, districts and groups, but joined in the activity. You can’t tell the kids of the local electrician from the kids of the prime minister in these photos I took at the Hachioji festival. The tradition and the culture temporarily trumps money, globalization, nationalism and consumerism. This is humanity as it should be. Not what we are led to believe by our lying politicians, back stabbing merchants and manipulating media.

Japanese Tea Ceremony

Posted in Japanese Traditions, Places by tokyobling on September 11, 2009

Visiting the wonderful Chinzanso Hotel in Tokyo’s Bunkyo Ward I was invited to see this dry run simulation of a traditional Japanese tea ceremony by one of the very kind staff members of the hotel. Chinzanso Hotel is famous for its lavish wedding ceremonies, complete with a chapel and a gorgeous classic Japanese garden which might well be one of the best private gardens in Tokyo. It is located roughly between JR Mejiro Station and the Edogawabashi station of the Yurakucho line.

For all my years in Japan this was the first and still only time to have been invited to take photos of a tea ceremony so it was quite interesting for me!





Spirited Away – 精霊馬

Posted in Stuff by tokyobling on August 16, 2009

This weekend is the Japanese festival of Obon, the Japanese day of the Dead, Halloween or Dia De Los Muertos, Walpurgis Nacht. The theme is the same all over the world, it is the day when the living welcome the spirits of the dead back to our world. To guide them back we light lanterns, enact festivals and special dances to make sure our ancestor spirits feel welcome. It is a very famous holiday in Japan and is a time when most people try to take time of to visit their families. Hence highways are clogged, city streets are unusually quiet and people who are unable to go back to their hometowns haunt the streets of Tokyo feeling sorry for themselves.

One aspect of the Obon festival are these cleverly designed dolls made out of cucumber and eggplant, the Shouryou-uma (literally Spirit Horse). People build these little figures out of fresh vegetables and leave them near the door of their homes or near the entrances of the cemetery. The two figures represent a horse and a cow, the long leg of the horse will carry the spirits swiftly to their old homes and the short legs of the cow will make them linger for a long slow comfortable journey back. Of course, depending on who you talk to the opposite is held as true: the cow will bring the spirits back to our world, but slowly, and the swift horse will take them back to make sure they don’t linger around after their welcome has worn thin.

My friends have told me of this custom and these figures but I had never seen one until yesterday morning at the gates of the local cemetery. The wood used is broken chop sticks, and a glass of water is offered to appease the thirsty spirits. Japanese summers can be murderously hot.

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