Showing posts from April, 2012

Cherry Blossom Festival at a Japanese Castle - Matsumoto Castle

Although built for war, Japanese castles were also built with an eye for beauty. It would be a boorish samurai castle owner not to have certain trees and flowers planted on the grounds of his castle for their aesthetic quality.

Matsumoto Castle in Nagano Prefecture is a beautiful castle in its own right. It's black color stands starkly contrast to the colors around in the form of mountains, rivers, and trees. Before the modern era and its ugly functional buildings, Matsumoto Castle must have been a sight to beyond especially during cherry blossom season.

Once a year for one weak during the peak blooming time of the cherry blossoms, the city of Matsumoto opens up the castle grounds from 6pm to 9pm. The castle and the cherry blossom trees are all illuminated and as visitors stroll about they can listen to live music performances.

One of the aesthetic aspects of Matsumoto Castle is the tsukimi yagura or moon-viewing tower. One wing of the castle is a two-story tower whose walls open…

Miyamoto Musashi Festival - Duel at Ganryujima (Samurai Duel Festival)

An Epic Samurai Duel Frozen In Stone
On the southern tip of Japan's main island, Honshu, lies the small city of Shimonoseki. It's a small place physically but historically it has seen some big historical events. During Golden Week (May 3-5) a pair of festivals are held to honor two of those events. One festival is a larger spectacle which celebrates a great battle that was fought there over 800 years ago between two rival samurai clans. The other festival is much smaller but in fame, it is almost equal.
Miyamoto Musashi and Sasaki Kojiro - Ganryujima 1612
The smaller festival is held to honor a famous duel fought between two legendary swordsmen the likes of which will probably never be seen again. One of the duelists was Miyamoto Musashi one of the most famous swordsmen who ever lived. His opponent was Sasaki Kojiro known as "The Demon of the West" for his feared prowess with a blade. Nearly everyone in Japan knows of this duel as well as many outside of Japan who pract…

Visiting the Grave of Jesus Christ in Northern Japan

According to popular belief, Jesus Christ was crucified and buried in Jerusalem in the early to mid First Century A.D. But in actuality (cough! bullcrap!) Jesus escaped and made His made through Siberia to Aomori in northern Japan where He lived out His days to the ripe old age of 106 with wife and kids and was later buried in the village of Shingo.
One summer while I was visiting Aomori's festivals in August, I decided to stop in to see this auspicious grave for myself. 
On a small hill sit two mounds from which two wooden crosses (obviously later additions) stand. These are the graves of Jesus and His brother or at least His brother's ears (it's a long story).
Jesus's grave in the foreground and the grave of His brother's ears in the background
Supposedly the story goes that Jesus was not crucified at all but that it was His brother known as Isukuri in Japanese who took the fall. Jesus took His brother's ears with Him and He left Israel far behind crossing over S…