Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

Sendai Tanabata

A few years back, I went on a trip to Sendai for the Tanabata Festival. At that time, I was only interested because of the colorful decorations that I heard were so famous. I badgered a Japanese friend to accompany me, and she was so nice she’d even explained everything I thought there was to know about the festival.

The Legend of Tanabata goes something like this…

Ages ago, in the time of the gods and stars and space, there lived the Sky god. He was called Tenkou. Tenkou had a knock-out of a daughter, named Orihime. Orihime was a career weaver. Her line was goddess kimonos. She was too much into her fashion that her dad soon worried about her. So he fixed her up with this guy, Hikoboshi, who lived on the other side of the Amanogawa. Hikoboshi was a workaholic cattle herder himself, and Tenkou thought they’d totally hit it off. And they did.

Orihime and Hikoboshi fell in love and spent each waking hour together. Orihime forgot about her weaving and Hikoboshi let the cows wander. This angered Tenkou so he banished Hikoboshi and forbade the couple from ever meeting again. Orihime went into deep depression and cried all day and all night. Her dad again got all worried and said yeah, maybe they could again see each other. But this time there was a condition: they could only meet on the 7th day of the 7th month of each year.

The thing was, the Amanogawa was difficult to cross, and the only way they could was if magpies helped them cross it. Magpies don’t come out though if it rains. So many Japanese people hope that it doesn’t rain on Tanabata night, else, the star lovers don’t meet again for a whole year.

Since being to Sendai, I’ve been religiously wishing for the rains to stop on Tanabata night. The stars Orihime (Vega) and Hikoboshi (Altair) just have to meet, they just have to. So join me in wishing the skies will be clear tomorrow night…

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Azaleas at dusk

The next week is going to be quite busy (as the past two have been…), so I’m afraid my non-writing streak will continue for a while longer. I apologize, but it is the Golden Week and I hope at the end of it I will be equipped with stories to share and pictures to show.

While there are no particular events or festivals to witness this holiday season, there are tons of places to visit, and things to do in and around Japan. Hiking season is again on and there are flower parks in full bloom. Check out the temples or parks with Wisterias, Peonies, Azaleas and Roses.  I wish everyone a very happy Golden Week!

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I just went to see the grandmommy of shidare-zakuras… it was literally the grandmother of a 150-year-old weeping cherry blossom tree in Fukushima and the parent of another several hundred-year-old cherry tree in the same area. The Takizakura of Miharu is about 1000 years old. According to our tour guide, the hollow trunk of the tree makes it difficult to determine its exact age.

The Takizakura was in half-bloom when we visited. But it made it no less grand. Upon first sight, a sense of humbleness fills you. Incomparable to any other tree I’ve seen so far, it stood in the middle of a sloping hill. As we picnicked on the opposite hill, we couldn’t but admire its grandeur as a cherry blossom tree.

There were a hundred or so people visiting. I’m sure come the weekend, the place will be packed as the best viewing time is on the 19th and 20th of April.

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The Hanami Season is not over yet! For those die-hard cherry blossom fans like me, Tohoku is the place to visit in the coming weeks. I’ve been longingly looking at a poster on my station’s wall featuring the places in the Tohoku and Yamanashi-Nagano area that will be in bloom from the middle of April to the beginning of May, and I couldn’t help but wish that the cherry blossoms lasted longer, and that I had enough time to see all these places. But as it turns out, I can only see a few places a year.

This year, I will be visiting Miharu in Fukushima to see the Takizakura. Other places on the poster were:

Koushinetsu (甲信越, Yamanashi, Nagano and Niigata)

Shinden no Ooitozakura in Yamanashi (mid- to late April)

Takatoo Castle Ruins in Nagano (early to mid-April)

Matsumoto Castle in Nagano (early to mid- April)

Yahiko Shrine in Niigata (early to late April)

Takada Castle in Niigata (early to mid-April), famous for its night lights

Southern Tohoku (南東北, Yamagata, Miyagi and Fukushima)

Okitama Sakura-Kairou in Yamagata (mid- to late April)

Yonezawa in Yamagata (late April to early May)

Hitome Senbon Zakura in Miyagi (mid- to late April)

Hanamiyama Park in Fukushima (early to late April)

Miharu in Fukushima (mid- to late April)

Aizu-Wakamatsu Tsuruga Castle in Fukushima (mid- to late April)

Northern Tohoku (北東北, Aomori, Akita and Iwate)

Hirosaki Park in Aomori (late April to early May)

Kanagi and Ashino Park in Aomori (late April to early May)

Kakunodate in Akita (late April to early May)

Chiaki Park in Akita (mid- to late April)

Kitakami Tenshochi Park in Iwate (mid- to late April)

Koiwai Farm in Iwate (late April to early May)

Tune in again for more information on flower parks and spring events!

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One of my favorite destinations in Tokyo for the Cherry Blossoms is Chidorigafuchi. I know I have a lot of favorites, but if I had to choose between Ueno Park, Sumida Park, Yoyogi Park, etc. etc. I’d choose to go to Chidorigafuchi and Kitanomaru Park. While most parks allow viewers to bring their mats and party under the blossoms, Chidorigafuchi doesn’t allow picnics and only viewing is what people go there for, which is ideal for amateur photography buffs like me…

Chidorigafuchi is the North-Eastern moat of the Imperial Palace. Hanami can be done from the moat on a rowboat. I’m sure a night boat ride would be really romantic but I was there in the late afternoon until early evening, however, and rowing out into the dark waters just gave me chills…

The Chiyoda Tourist Association (I’m not sure what it’s called) did a good job of coordinating the cherry blossom viewing and subsequent night lights. The place was clean and while it was crowded, the crowds were orderly. I got there quite early though, and I was able to get photos before the crowds came. It was crazy on my way back though… the line went all the way up to Kudanshita Station.

After Chidorigafuchi, I headed to Yasukuni Shrine, where there were dozens of food stands offering different kinds of festival food: Yakitori, Okonomiyaki, Jaga-bata, Yakisoba, Oden, Shioyaki Ayu, Crepes, and other really tasty-looking goodies.

There was a Noh play in Yasukuni, which I want to see some other time. The drum rolls and flutes (I think…) could be heard outside, though. For those interested, the lights are still going to be on this weekend.

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Higashiyama in Kyoto is another favorite destination of mine… The first time I visited it was autumn, and it was beautiful but visiting the next spring was even more memorable. Everything was just so fresh. The doors of the Chion-in were open, and I felt like it was a sign of spring.

Higashiyama is in Eastern Kyoto and many of the most popular temples, shrines and parks are located there: Gion, Yasaka Shrine, Kiyomizudera, Chion-in, Tofukuji, Kenninji, and Kodaiji. The Sakura Tree in Maruyama Park is something people from all over go there to see.

A lot of tea houses and shops are also scattered all over Higashiyama. And there are small winding roads that lead up from Kiyomizudera that are lined with cherry blossom trees.

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Philosopher’s Path, known in Japanese as Tetsugaku no Michi (哲学の道), is one of the best places to view Cherry Blossoms in Kyoto. The path connects Kyoto’s Silver Pavillion, otherwise known as Ginkakuji (銀閣寺), with Nanzenji (南禅寺). It is so named for the philosopher Nishida Kitaro, who walked there everyday. It is a three-hour walk.

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