Showing posts from February, 2010

Japanese Igloo Festival - Kamakura Matsuri

Japanese Igloo Festival
Kamakura Matsuri

Kamakura Matsuri - Japanese Igloo Festival in the northern Japanese city of Yokote

In the small city of Yokote in northern Japan, the citizens eschew the modern conveniences of warm homes in the middle of February and pile into small snow huts known as Kamakura. It's the Kamakura Matsuri and they've been doing this for over 400 years.

Sori - old fashion sled for transporting toddlers and supplies

Kamakura occupants wearing old fashion hanten coats or donbuku in the Akita dialect

These Kamamura-style igloos are two meters in diameter made of piled-up snow which is then later hollowed out. Inside is a charcoal brazier in the middle to keep the place warm. The temporary inhabitants of these Kamakura sit on cushions while cooking sweet mochi which is a type of a chewy rice cake and heating up a type of non-alcoholic sweet-tasting type of sake known as amazake.

On the far side wall is a makeshift altar to Suijin-sama, the Shinto god of water. One o…

Modern Japanese Ghouls Hold a ‘Grudge’ – film review

“The Grudge,” based on the more distinguished Japanese film “Ju-on,” is light on plot but garners a 4 out of 5 on the Scare-O-Meter.©2005 SonyJapan has a long, ghostly tradition with beings from beyond the grave. Many of the ghosts that appear in plays and stories are females seeking revenge for wrongs done to them during their lifetimes, typically by cruel, heartless husbands. In the old ghost stories, vengeful Japanese ghosts would continue to haunt their victims until they went insane, died, or at least made some form of restitution to appease the angry spirits. Some Japanese ghosts were born out of tragedy or sorrow and would haunt any person who came near. These spirits were particularly feared because they represented a danger to all unless they were somehow put to rest.Although I knew about the horrific nature of old Japanese ghosts, I had thought modern Japanese ghosts would be more polite and demur. I had imagined a modern Japanese ghost timidly coming up to someone and sayin…

Gods, Devils, and Geisha - Setsubun in Kyoto

Gods, Devils, and Geisha
Setsubun in Kyoto and Nara

A Devil arrives with sword and torch at a Buddhist Temple in Kyoto

Setsubun (Feb 3rd) is a Japanese Spring ritual where Japanese drive bad luck in the form of Oni (devils) out of their homes with a handful of tossed beans. At temples and shrines, they do mame maki which is throwing beans and other things to gathered crowds.

Mame Maki (bean-throwing) with Geisha

Setsubun is one of my favorite Japanese holidays and I've been celebrating it for the past 6 years or more. In the past I always celebrated it at temples and shrines in or around Tokyo. This year I headed for Kyoto taking in Nara in the evening as well. I started Setsubun on the 2nd with some Geisha mame maki (geisha were throwing beans that is, not that they were throwing geisha).

On February 2nd, while Americans watch groundhogs watching for their shadows, Japanese, or at least those in Kyoto, watch Geisha throw beans to gathered crowds at Yasaka Shrine. The Geisha actually ar…