Category Archives: Opinion

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

Dance Walk Japan!

We rented bicycles to tour the island, stopped in front of the torii...
We rented bicycles to tour the island, stopped in front of the torii…

This year I discovered the pleasures of `dance walk` as a way to travel in Japan. It has become my favorite means of transportation and has taken me to visit one of Japan`s World Heritage sites, as well as to explore the area around where I live in southern Japan, and to see things with a new sense of discovery.

I would like to share a mini-`how to` manual with you so that you might try it too in Japan or wherever you are! I will also show you a few of the sites in Japan I have visited through this combined means of exercise and expression.

For dance walk travel, you don`t need much. I recommend these basics:
1. a backpack with easy-to-move-in light clothes for dancing,
2. an i-pod with music you might like to choose in advance to go with the mood of the site and what you wish to express
3. a video camera so you can share the experience
4. a friend or collaborator who shares your enthusiasm and openness, who is not shy to be with you as you will be dancing through the trip!

camera ready

5. (optional) Yoga Mat for stretches in your room and a small overnight kit if you will be staying overnight

take some time to stretch in your room...
take some time to stretch in your room…

As the idea of dance walk is discovery, it is best to travel with an empty mind and an open heart. Every site has its own special nature, so the first thing to do when you arrive at the site is to `greet it` with your movement. Breathe in the sights, the architecture, the sky, the trees, the flowers. If the moon is out, what luck you are in! Greet the moon with your gestures, connect with the sun…feel into your breath, and whenever you are ready turn on the music, begin to listen and feel your own rhythms, listen to your body, and let yourself move–in all directions— from the heart!

I learned in a dance workshop about `greeting` a site and asking its permission. Just as you would to a dance partner, when you dance walk in a site, it is a beautiful thing to `ask` if it is o.k. for you to enter. This can be done through gesture, breath, a short meditation or a simple offering of something you bring from nature or from your heart.

I recently went to Miyajima, one of Japans National Treasure sites located a ferry ride from Hiroshima, to do a dance walk by the famous orange torii gate and Itsukushima Shrine. You may know of this site famous for the shrine that appears to float in the sea at high tide.

The video of the dance walk became seven segments, starting in the morning hours before sunrise (the ocean tide and tide and travellers had not yet come in) where me and my video collaborator were the only ones in the site; to the sunset hours where we met some travelers who shared a dance with me in front of the Itsukushima Shrine

I also had a chance to dance with deer who roam the island, but as enthusiastic as I was for the chance to meet them through my dance, they showed indifference. Still those moments when I sat on the grass face to face with a deer were amazing memories for me!! They are part of the dance too. You can see the segment that has my `dance` with the deer here:

Part one starts with greeting the famous torii here and continues here as its power and the power of the tides bring me into both backwards and spinning movements that brought me a deep reverence for the site.

Whether it is a famous site, or a backstreets road, allow yourself to connect with the surroundings and be open to new movements and experience. Don`t hold back! Enjoy the movement! People might think you are a little strange, but the beauty is, people might think that anyway so it gives you a little freedom to go the extra step, to add a little shimmy or sway into your walk, and hopefully to connect with people heart to heart on your travels.

Other dance walks I have done this year include a Cherry Blossoms Dance Walk, and most recently a Rainy Season Dance Walk to dance by a pond of lotus flowers but it rained so hard I just got a short scene! My dream is to go to a dance walk on Mt. Fuji! And little by little to have others join with me in the dance through Japan…
Next time won`t you dance with me!

My dance walk in Miyajima begins here:

and you can find an assortment of dance walks here

Joanne G. Yoshida teaches Shake Your Soul/Kripalu Yoga Dance in Oita, Japan, where she has lived with her husband and daughter for fourteen years.
Feel free to share your comments and questions about her Dance Walk Japan or any of your dance walk plans!! Like Joanne`s Yoga Dance Walk on Facebook HERE.

miyajima peace statue

Shinzo Abe: Japan’s True PM for the People – Going Where no PM has Gone Before – Finally

Shinzo Abe in his second round as Prime Minister of Japan, has drawn a line in the sand, grown a backbone, and turned around a pathetically apologetic image of Japan. He’s taken the prosperity of Japan and but it back into the hands of its people and its government. He’s also taken pride in what it is to be Japanese. He’s done this all in the name of the Japanese people, who have needed in the wake of increasing aggression and slanderous misinformation from both Korea and China to once again take pride in themselves and in their country. The values of the people of Japan today have not anything to do with the apologies of the past, despite the fuel that is leading to continued hostility — see the latest missteps of the New York State Senate passing laws on comfort women for Korea to the latest actions of both China and Korea to still try to extract and more importantly expect money and apologies for war crimes of WWII that are over 70 years past all while questioning claims to territory and testing boundaries.

What a wondrous Prime Minister to bring pride to his country once again and to stand up to ridiculous ridicule. There is no more time for apologies or for compensation for past accusations or aggressions. The time is now, and now is hostile and abusive carelessness in it’s recurring and regressive nature. Peace should be what these countries should be offering future generations. Change should be what matters, not the past. Abe is delivering this. He’s delivering great change.

However, there’s no reason for Japan to ever doubt its ability to change or it’s place in the world. They are a major player on the world stage and can have top billing, if they so care to take the role. Shinzo Abe has spoken for the people of Japan and has cast himself into a new era of change that Japan and its people will have to recognize. May the people of Japan be with him as he continues to lead them into the future.

If the rest of asia wishes to continue down the road they are paving, then what of tomorrow? Are they doomed to repeat the past since they seem to not be able to move past it?

Will Abe end the cycle of 1-year PM’s in Japan? Will his support and the new found strength of Japan continue and last?

Abe’s Done It! Japan PM Demands Apology from China Over Weapons-locked Radar

Shinzo Abe, the prime minister, angrily rejected Chinese denials that it had engaged military radars in the area as the escalating dispute between Tokyo and Beijing forced the Japanese foreign ministry call in the Chinese ambassador for a dressing down.

Statements issued in Beijing flatly denied its forces had engaged the offensive radar systems, dismissing the Japanese claims about the incident, which took place last month, as “against the facts”.

“We wish China to acknowledge it, apologise for it and make efforts to prevent it from recurring,” he said. “We have confirmed visually and by photographs and other means such details as whether the radar was directed this way.”

Mr Abe told parliament that China’s increasing aggression in the East China Sea around the Senkakus was forcing his government to adopt a “robust diplomatic response”.

Read the rest of the story: Japan demands apology from China over weapons-linked radar.

Japan’s New Monetary Policies to be Disastrous for U.S. Economy

In less than two weeks the Bank of Japan will consider extending its easy monetary policy for the second meeting in a row—something it hasn’t done since 2003.

Under pressure from Japan’s newly elected Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the BOJ is expected to expand its purchases of government bonds and double its inflation target to 2%. This move is expected to devalue the yen in an effort to boost exports and the broader Japanese economy.

Japan’s monetary policies will hurt Japan’s economy and the U.S. economy, says Peter Schiff, CEO of Euro Pacific Precious Metals.

“Japan doesn’t need more inflation,” he says. “They actually need a stronger yen, higher interest rates. They need to allow their economy to restructure…to shrink government. Instead they’re simply going to do more of what’s been failing for the past two decades.”

He tells The Daily Ticker that if inflation rises in Japan, Japanese citizens will likely unload low-yielding Japanese bonds in favor of higher yielding precious metals and other assets. That could force the BOJ to buy more Japanese government debt instead of U.S. government debt, says Schiff.

Read the rest of the story: Japan’s Monetary Policies Are Disastrous for U.S. Economy.

Aggressive Easing Wrong Medicine for Japan According to Stephen Roach

If Japans opposition the Liberal Democratic Party LDP headed by Shinzo Abe wins the December 16 polls, it is widely expected that an era of aggressive monetary easing will be unleashed in the country. But one expert says this will do little to prop up growth in the worlds third largest economy which is reeling under its fifth recession in 15 years.

“I dont think its going to work. QE quantitative easing is good at containing the downside, addressing crisis and disruptive markets, but it definitely doesnt give you traction in regenerating demand in the real economy,” Yale University senior fellow Stephen Roach told CNBC on Friday.

Read the rest of the story: Aggressive Easing Wrong Medicine for Japan: Roach.

Decline of Entrepreneurship Blamed for Japan Woes

Worn out and resigned to its dwindling status, Japan Inc. is said to be quietly shuffling off the world stage. But dont tell that to Kenji Hasegawa, who is ready to conquer the global auto market with his nifty innovation, a bolt that doesnt need a nut. Or Chiaki Hayashi, who makes millions teaching big-name companies to be creative again.

As different as they seem — Hasegawa runs auto-parts supplier Lockn Bolt Corp. and Hayashi is a rare woman to help found a Tokyo startup — both highlight the potential of innovation and entrepreneurship in a nation that is often typecast as facing an unrelenting decline.

Read the rest of the story: Decline of entrepreneurship blamed for Japan woes.

Osaka Mayor Hashimoto’s “Restoration” Movement And The Need for Change in Japanese Politics

Japanese political parties are assemblies of special interest-representing hacks, combined in factions headed by big money commanding scions of political dynasties who accept power as a birthright (or, rather the “family business”) and have no new ideas for resolving Japan’s problems.  The parties are without clear or (especially) consistent policy platforms, defining themselves almost exclusively (issue-by-issue) in opposition to whatever the ruling or other opposition parties are proposing.

Thus, the Japanese national political scene is shifting, unpredictable, largely unproductive, and hugely (for citizens) frustrating circus-like affair, a kind of diversionary entertainment, but only for people of the mind that likes riddles, puzzles, and the occasional histrionic protest.

Read the rest of the story: Osaka Mayor Hashimoto’s “Restoration” Movement Auguring Change in Japan’s National Politics.

Should Nomura Scandal Taint Japan?

Bad news out of Japan including the resignation of Nomura’s CEO following an insider trading scandal and a sharp drop in profits at Nissan, investors should not shy away from Japan, Ed Rogers, chief executive officer at Rogers Investment Advisors K.K. told CNBC.

Rogers remains bullish on the prospects for Japan’s economy, and expressed confidence in the Japanese auto sector.

“We’ve already been through our lost decade and we’re still in great shape,” Rogers told CNBC.

Read the rest of the story: Don’t Let Nomura Scandal Taint Japan.

A Land Without Guns: How Japan Has Virtually Eliminated Shooting Deaths

I’ve heard it said that, if you take a walk around Waikiki, it’s only a matter of time until someone hands you a flyer of scantily clad women clutching handguns, overlaid with English and maybe Japanese text advertising one of the many local shooting ranges. The city’s largest, the Royal Hawaiian Shooting Club, advertises instructors fluent in Japanese, which is also the default language of its website. For years, this peculiar Hawaiian industry has explicitly targeted Japanese tourists, drawing them away from beaches and resorts into shopping malls, to do things that are forbidden in their own country.

Waikiki’s Japanese-filled ranges are the sort of quirk you might find in any major tourist town, but they’re also an intersection of two societies with wildly different approaches to guns and their role in society. Friday’s horrific shooting at an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater has been a reminder that America’s gun control laws are the loosest in the developed world and its rate of gun-related homicide is the highest. Of the world’s 23 “rich” countries, the U.S. gun-related murder rate is almost 20 times that of the other 22. With almost one privately owned firearm per person, America’s ownership rate is the highest in the world; tribal-conflict-torn Yemen is ranked second, with a rate about half of America’s.

But what about the country at the other end of the spectrum? What is the role of guns in Japan, the developed world’s least firearm-filled nation and perhaps its strictest controller? In 2008, the U.S. had over 12 thousand firearm-related homicides. All of Japan experienced only 11, fewer than were killed at the Aurora shooting alone. And that was a big year: 2006 saw an astounding two, and when that number jumped to 22 in 2007, it became a national scandal. By comparison, also in 2008, 587 Americans were killed just by guns that had discharged accidentally.

Read the rest of the story: A Land Without Guns: How Japan Has Virtually Eliminated Shooting Deaths.