Category Archives: Events

Upcoming and Past Events in Japan

The Aomori Nebuta Festival kicks off this weekend

One of Japan’s biggest summer festivals has kicked off in the northeastern city of Aomori.

The Aomori Nebuta Festival is known for its spectacular floats that parade through the city.

The floats, called “Nebuta”, carry huge illuminated paper lanterns shaped like legendary heroes and ancient warriors.

The parade started on Saturday night with 15 floats, each about 5 meters high and 10 meters wide. They were accompanied by dancers known as “Haneto” wearing matching traditional summer kimonos.

Japan Emperor’s New Years Message

Japan’s Emperor Akihito released his New Year’s message on Wednesday. He reveals deep concern for people affected by the 2011 disaster.

The Emperor cited those who cannot return home due to radioactive contamination. He also mentions evacuees spending the severe winter in temporary housing.

The Emperor says many Japanese have faced difficulties and hardships in 2013. He hopes people will help each other. He adds that Japanese should work with others around the world to pursue peace and a better future.

The Emperor and Empress plan to work on strengthening relations between Japan and other nations this year.

Vietnam’s head of state will visit Japan in March. Arrangements are being made for US President Barack Obama to come to Japan in April.

The Emperor and Empress and other Imperial family members will make a New Years appearance before well-wishers at the Imperial Palace on Thursday.

Read the rest of the story: Emperor expresses concern about disaster victims.

Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visiting Yasukuni WW2 shrine

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is to visit a controversial shrine to World War Two dead, local media report.

The visit later in the day to Tokyo’s Yasukuni memorial comes one year after Mr Abe took office.

The move is likely to further inflame already tense relations with neighbouring China and South Korea.

The shrine honours several convicted Japanese war criminals. Beijing and Seoul see it as a symbol of Tokyo’s war-time aggression.

This will be the first visit to Yasukuni by a serving prime minister since 2006.

Read the rest of the story: Japan PM Abe to visit Yasukuni WW2 shrine.

Japan’s Emperor Akihito is 80

Japan’s Emperor Akihito, marking his 80th birthday Monday, expressed gratitude to people working hard on the country’s development.

Speaking at a press conference, the Emperor said he is “happy to spend every day with a sense of gratitude” to those who have been so far supporting Japan and are now working in various ways for the country’s improvement and development.

He said what strikes him most over the past 80 years is World War II. The tremendous loss of lives is “very painful,” he said, while expressing gratitude to those who worked hard for postwar reconstruction.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=JillY-4DJBA

2020 Olympic Games to be hosted by Tokyo

Tokyo will host the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics after being picked ahead of Istanbul and Madrid following a vote in Buenos Aires.

The Japanese city has been selected to stage the most prestigious event in sport by a secret ballot among International Olympic Committee IOC members, with the result revealed in the capital of Argentina on Saturday.

Tokyo previously held the Olympic Games in 1964, while Istanbul and Madrid were striving to host the event for the first time.

Read the rest of the story: Tokyo to host 2020 Olympic Games.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=MQzcMfndus4

Conductor Seiji Ozawa applauded by Japan’s Emperor and Empress

The Japanese Emperor and Empress have applauded a performance of conductor Seiji Ozawa at a concert in Matsumoto City, central Japan.

The imperial couple enjoyed the performance of Maruice Ravel’s opera “The Child and the Magic Spells” conducted by Ozawa at the annual Saito Kinen Festival Matsumoto on Friday evening.

This marks Ozawa’s full return to musical activities. It was his first appearance on the stage since January last year.

Deadly Landslides and Floods Strike Across Northern Japan

At least six people are dead following severe flooding and landslides that struck the northern part of the country Friday.
The English-language Japan Times reports four people were found dead Saturday in Senboku city, Akita Prefecture, after a landslide destroyed several homes.
The Japan Meteorological Agency said nearly 5 inches of rain fell Friday at the Lake Tazawa meteorological station in Senboku, much of it falling in just four hours.

To the east in neighboring Iwate Prefecture, Japanese television network FNN reported a 91-year-old woman was killed in a landslide and a 62-year-old man was swept to his death by a raging river.

The intense thunderstorms occurred at the northern edge of a major heat wave that has spread from China into Japan in recent days.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=24a_RfFBQtw

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=7aUWkIbZj0I

Before the Festival

there is an expression in Japanese, `ato no matsuri`(after the festival)…but what happens before the festival?

Scene 1

This year I wanted to get to the summer festival early.
I recently found out that the festival is a time when the gods are let out to play and that is why they are paraded about on the o-mikoshi , or portable shrines. I was curious to see how it started, and feel the anticipation of those moments just before the gods are set free…

All the years I saw the summer festivals in the past, I never thought much of that beginning point. I enjoyed watching the elaborate portable shrines that are carried by a team of men in hapi coats with matsuri (festival) motifs or patterns…shouting heave, ho, and other expressive grunts that give the festival its lively air to the sound of taiko drums. It was always fun to hear the vendors along the sidelines shout out Welcome and announce their wares. From tako yaki to ringo ame to all things grilled on skewers or fried, the festival smells, colored streamers and tanabata decorations make it a joyful time.

Why this year did I feel called to watch the `start`? I am not really sure, but it was a new feeling to be there before the festival. I stood in the middle of the shrine grounds while the majority of those around me were busily getting ready . Young men and women in white hapi coats, older men in purple and young men in red, priests in silk robes, and kagura performers holding their masks, all clearly each with a specific `purpose` for the festivities. It was like watching behind the scenes at a grand spectacle as the cast of characters were taking their places and getting ready to perform their roles. I wasn`t thinking about the omikoshi  or when it would be brought out, rather I just felt the energy around me and watched and listened to the anticipation in the air.

I stayed in one place as the movement all around me seemed to take more and more of a `shape`, and at one point I could just feel it… the gods were being let out!

I got so excited, almost like a childlike feeling to see that all the energy mounted into the moment where it was happening, the portable shrine was being taken from the main shrine! I turned to where the `action` was…the omikoshi  being brought forth into the shrine grounds—carried by the team of men who were not yet screaming their shouts, but ceremoniously performing the sacred act of bringing out the gods!

I hope you  enjoy watching the scene in the video below and feel the meditative quality of those moments …the sense of not knowing what was to happen next…in the entrancing energy of the first moments before the festival!

Scene 2

Now that I had seen and felt these first moments, I was ready to dance through the still empty streets while the vendors were setting up their stalls!
Dance? You may ask!
Yes, this is a year for me of dance walking through Japan!

I was sitting in front of a mask-vendor`s stall, thinking about whether to buy an anime mask to get into the matsuri mood.

But the festive price of 1000yen made me stall.  My video collaborator and I sat in a shady spot waiting for the right moment,when a friend passed by and offered me a cape.

That was the signal! I put it on and was ready to dive into the empty streets, to greet the moments before the festival.  To get a hit of intoxication from the gods who were just starting their wild three days of being let loose in these streets!

Please enjoy `Before the Matsuri Dance Walk` video below,

**There is a Japanese expression, `Ato no matsuri` which means `After the festival`, or `too late!`. You can find a related post on BB here
`Mae no matsuri` could be a new expression to describe this feeling of anticipation `before the matsuri`.  We could coin it here.

There`s still time.
Don`t be late!** Zehi (by all means!) get to your summer festival early!

Video credit:
presented by Joanne G. Yoshida
filmed by Utsu-shin
location: Nagahama Shrine, Oita, Japan

Joanne G. Yoshida

Tenjin Festival in Osaka

An annual summer festival has climaxed in Osaka City with a grand boat procession and display of fireworks.

The Tenjin Matsuri, one of Japan’s top 3 festivals, began in the 10th century. It originated as a ceremony to welcome the principal deity of the Osaka Tenmangu shrine, who legend said would make an annual appearance at this time of year.

One of the highlights of the 2-day festival, a land procession, took place on Thursday.

Led by a traditional drum team, about 3,000 people dressed in traditional costumes paraded from the shrine beside floats and portable shrines.

They proceeded along a 3-kilometer route for about 2 and half hours.

Japan’s Emperor and Empress Invited to India in November

Japan’s Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko will visit India as state guests for about a week from Nov. 30.

The trip plan for the Imperial couple was decided at a cabinet meeting Tuesday.

The Indian government has invited the Emperor and the Empress as the two countries marked the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties last year.

This will be the first trip to India for the couple since the Emperor’s accession to the throne in 1989.

Under their provisional schedule, the Emperor and the Empress will leave Tokyo for Delhi on Nov. 30 and move to Chennai, southern India, on Dec. 4 before returning home on Dec. 6.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=8TijivrLp_g