Tag Archives: travel

Yabusame – Women’s Horseback Archery Festival

Photo property of NewinNippon

The history of Japanese horseback archery dates back to the 4th century, however, women mounted archers are a modern innovation.

Photo property of NewinNippon

Photo property of NewinNippon

Yabusame (流鏑馬) is a type of mounted archery in traditional Japanese archery. An archer on a running horse shoots three special “turnip-headed” arrows successively at three wooden targets. A red parasol is displayed if the rider hits the target with the arrow.

Photo property of NewinNippon

Traditionally, women were barred from performing in yabusame, but in 1963 female archers participated in a yabusame demonstration for the first time. Every spring in Towada, women from around the area demonstrate their marksmanship while balancing on a galloping horse!

Photo property of NewinNippon

A yabusame archer gallops down a 255-meter-long track at high speed. The archer mainly uses the knees to control the horse and uses both hands to draw and shoot the bow.

Yabusame was designed as a way to please and entertain the myriad of gods that watch over Japan, thus encouraging their blessings for the prosperity of the land, the people, and the harvest.

Photo property of NewinNippon

An arrow finds it’s mark!

Photo property of NewinNippon

A young archer in training.

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The flame of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

On our last trip to Tokyo, we were walking through Ueno and happened upon the monument to the flame of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Standing in front of this monument is a very moving experience. The marble slab is surrounded by hundreds of paper cranes, a symbol of peace.

The Origin of “the Flame of Hiroshima and Nagasaki”

“On August 6, 1945, US forces dropped the world’s first atomc bomb on Hiroshima, and another on Nagasaki…Sometime later, Tatsuo Yamamoto went to Hiroshima in search of his uncle, and found a flame of the atomic bomb burning in the ruins of his uncle’s house. He brought it back to Hoshino-mura, his hometown in a memento of his uncle and an expression of his resentment. But years went by, the meaning of the flame turned into a symbol of his desire for abolition of nuclear weapons and for peace. Hoshino-mura built and torch and transferred the flame to it on August 6, 1968. It has been keeping the flame ever since as the flame for peace, with the support of the villagers.

 

“The use of nuclear weapons will destroy the whole human race and civilization. …The elimination of nuclear weapons…has become the most urgent and crucial for the very survival for the whole of humanity. There must never be another Hiroshima anywhere on earth. There must never be another Nagasaki anywhere on earth.” – Appeal from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, issued in February 1951.

In 1988, a flame was taken from the torch and was merged with another flame lit by the friction of broken roofing tiles of Nagasaki. Along with 30 million signatures collected in support of the “Appeal from Hiroshima and Nagasaki”, it was carried to the Third Special Session of the UN General Assembly for Disarmament taking place in New York City.

We hereby pledge to keep burning the A-Bomb flame, convinced that this monument should contribute to strengthening the worldwide people’s movement to abolish nuclear weapons and achieve peace, which is the most urgent task for the people across the borders. – August 1990, Association for the Flame of Hiroshima and Nagasaki Lit at Ueno Toshogu”

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Its Festival Time in Nothern Japan!

July and August are the summer festival months in Northern Japan. Every weekend there are multiple festivals nearby making it difficult to choose which one to attend! If you are in the area, here is a list of upcoming festivals

We attended the Neputa festival in Hirosaki last weekend. The parade of floats lasted for three hours while the crowd cheered them on. The floats are pulled by groups of men and women. Each float had drummers and flute players accompanied by groups of children carrying lanterns. The festival was truly a joyous celebration!

 

On a sad note, my Sony Cybershot DSC W-150 died 30 minutes before the parade ended. As you can see, the camera was taking fantastic night shots right up until the last. R.I.P. my dear little Sony Cybershot. You will be mourned…

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Rice field art near Hirosaki, Japan

Tony and I recently headed to Hirosaki for the Neputa festival and decided that we would stop in Inakadate and see the famous rice art recently featured on CNN. From a ground level view it is nearly impossible to determine the artwork. In order to view the subject depicted, you must view the field from atop a four-storied building across the street.

Amazing! I never knew there were so many color variations among rice plants!

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Wild Horses at Cape Shiriya

This weekend, we drove up to Cape Shiriya to view the wild horses.

“Crossbred with the Tanabu and the French Breton breed, Kandachime horses are tolerant of northern Japan’s brutal winters, have great stamina and exist on a simple diet.”

“In 1970, a local elementary school principal composed a tanka, a 31-syllable Japanese poem, that gave the Kandachime their name — literally “to stand in the cold.””

“On clear days, the northernmost Japanese prefecture of Hokkaido can be seen to the north across the Tsugaru Strait.” Well, it wasn’t a clear day….

You can read the full article from stars and stripes at: http://www.stripes.com/military-life/travel/where-wild-horses-roam-in-northern-japan-1.11331

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Shutter Island? Northern Japan!

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What a Big Buddha!

On a recent road trip to Amori, Tony and I took a side trip to view the thrid largest Buddha in Japan. Yes, it is big, really, really big!

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Jizo Statues in Nikko

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Meiji Shrine, Tokyo, Japan

Meiji Shrine (明治神宮, Meiji Jingū), located in Shibuya, Tokyo, is the Shinto shrine that is dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shōken. When Emperor Meiji died in 1912 and Empress Shōken in 1914, the Japanese people wished to pay their respects to the two influential Japanese figures. It was for this reason that Meiji Shrine was constructed and their souls enshrined on November 1, 1920.

The original building was destroyed during the Tokyo air raids of World War II. The present iteration of the shrine was funded through a public fund-raising effort and completed in October, 1958.[5]

Meiji Shrine was brought into the flow of current events with the 2009 visit of United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. After arriving in Tokyo on her first foreign trip representing the newly elected President Barack Obama, she made her way to this shrine in advance of meetings with Japan’s leaders to show her “respect toward history and the culture of Japan.” 

This shrine is one of the most peaceful places I have ever visited. Although it is located in the heart of Tokyo, you feel as if you are miles away from the noise of the crowded city.

When Tony and I visited there in 2009, we were lucky enough to attend a tea ceremony at this traditional tea house.

Traditional wedding ceremonies are also performed at the shrine. Spring seems to be a very popular time for wedding ceremonies. The bride and groom are shielded by a red umbrella as they walk across the courtyard to the area where the ceremony is performed.

There are barrels of wine and sake donated to the shrine from around the world. According to travelblog “Emperor Meiji is known in part for his interest in western culture, and this interest is partially responsible for Japan’s modernism period during his reign. In particular, Emperor Meiji was known to enjoy pairing certain western foods with fine red wine. In his honor, several wineries around France donated barrels of the Emperor’s favorite wine, and these barrels are displayed on the side of the path to the shrine.”

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