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Archive for the ‘Special Events’ Category

Tokyo-Asakusa-Senso-ji-Nitenmon-yukizuri-Reffert Of the many special events that are taking place in Asakusa, one is going on these days on the grounds of Senso-ji: the year-end market Toshi no Ichi (歳の市), where traditionally New Year’s decorations were sold. It coincides and with the Hagoita Ichi (羽子板市), where decorated wooden rackets (battledores) are on sale.

Decorated hagoita and other traditional crafts.

Decorated hagoita and other traditional crafts.

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Entrance to Kodai-ji

Entrance to Kodai-ji at night

Giving in to the magical pull of Japan’s old capital also during our current stay, we spent once more a (too short!) weekend in Kyoto. If my counting is not off, this has been our tenth visit! (And no, you cannot go too many times.)
Something not to be missed are the various night visits, special openings and Light-ups of Kyoto gardens during spring and autumn time. In spring, most of them are Sakura Light-ups, however the illuminations of Kodai-ji (高台時) and Entoku-in (圓徳院) last until early May.
Dry landscape garden of Entoku-in at night

Dry landscape garden of Entoku-in at night

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Asakusa Yabusame On the third Saturday in April, traditional Japanese archery demonstrations are held in Asakusa. The road along the Sumida river in the Sumida River Park is roped off, benches for paid seats are put up and in the center of the road, a track is prepared with sand for the horses to run on. Three targets are placed along the road. Japanese archers in Asakusa (more…)

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The decorated Kappabashi-hondori, with the Sky Tree behind

Around the 7th of July, Kappabashi-hondori, a street lined with small shops leading up to Kappabashi-dori bursts into vivid colors with floating paper streamers and all sorts of decorations. The Tanabata (七夕), or Star Festival is approaching.
It is based on an old Chinese tale of two stars being able to meet only once per year, on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month. In modern Japan, people write their wishes on small colored strips of paper (the tanzaku) which are attached to bamboo stalks which are erected along with the other decorations. Like other summer festivals such as obon and the summer fireworks, it is a good occasion to dress up in a summer kimono (the yukata) and take a stroll through the decorated streets.

Tanzaku paper strips

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Until I picked up a flier for its Azalea Festival (Tsutsuji Matsuri, つつじ祭), I never even knew about the existence of Nezu Shrine (根津神社), which is not far from the main campus of the University of Tokyo in Tokyo’s Bunkyo-ku. (more…)

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Central Shidare-Sakura in Maruyama Park

Cherry blossom viewing is not restricted to the daylight hours. A number of places in Kyoto have special Light-ups for this purpose. Some of them, like Maruyama Park and the Shirakawa River are publicly accessible, while for the Light-ups on the grounds of Kiyomizudera, Kodaiji, or Nijo Castle, you have to buy a ticket. The Sakura Light-ups are often spectacular and afford a different view of the Sakura. In short, they are not to be missed!

Lit gate at Kiyomizudera

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Another Japanese New Year’s tradition is going to see the emperor. The Imperial Palace in Tokyo is closed to the public 363 days per year, but on the Emperor’s birthday (Dec. 23) and on January 2nd, the public is allowed into the grounds to see the Tenno and his family. On January 2nd, the emperor makes five appearances every 50 minutes to say a few words for the New Year. Of course we couldn’t miss it! (more…)

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