At first, I approached two young visitors from Germany. In fact, they were back packers. They came to visit Tokyo via Australia. I asked how they came to visit the city. They answered “Actually, we wanted to see Gothic Lollita Fashion, but there was no one there near the station. So we came here. By the way, the dance was really cool! “ It seemedthat they really enjoyed the dance. It alsoseemed that Gothic-Lollita fashion enthusiastscame to this famous place on Saturday. Theywere exposed to the special fashion through the Internet. They also visited the inside ofYoyogi park. They said with excited voices,“There were also many interesting and unique people in the park! So cool!!”.
Then, I approached another man. He was aphotographer from Brooklyn, NY. He told me about his impression of the Harajuku area. According to him, “I usually take photos of Africa, but I personally think that this Harajuku area is one of the best, unique places in the world. I could take many interesting photos!” He said with calm voice.
Near Harajuku station, I happenned to meet Gothic Lollita fashion enthusiasts from abroad! They came from Spain and Czech. “Where did you buy the cute dress?” I asked. She said that she bought it at a clothing shop in Harajuku! Of course, she looks really happy. I also asked about the key point of their fashion. They said, “We don’t imitate Gothic Lollita fashion perfectly. We coordinate by ourselves.” It was the third time they had visited the Harajuku area during their trip. They do like Japanese Pop Culture, so they study the Japanese language and culture through the Internet and by reading manga. This means that they can speak three languages at least?! Wow!
They are really friendly and cute!
♪ I wanted to speak with more people from abroad. I will try to interview more people next time. I am sure that I can sharewonderful stories. Anyway, what I was shocked about was that one of the interviewee from Czech was wearing the neckless which the character (that I don’t know) was printed. She said that “I am a big fan of ○○○○（the name of the character）!!!”. Funnn…it seems that Japanese pop culture is really deep. When I said good bye to them, they said “Ja-a-ne!”(means, good-bye in casual Japanese) and waved. Cool!
I visited the Harajuku area the other day. Atthe entrance of Yoyogi park, I saw the crowds. Almost all the people there were foreigners, visiting from abroad.
In the middle of the crowd, there were men inblack T-shirts, Black pants and special hair-styles (what we call “Regent Hair”). Also, there were women wearing bright colored one-piece skirts with pony tail hair-styles. When they were circling around, their skirts moved with them.
I asked some questions to one of theperformers, Yosuke-san, who was in charge of the performance that day. I asked him when they usually perform. He asked that performers have their careers, so they gather to dance every Sunday from 9 am to 5 pm. I also asked him how they practice on weekdays. I found out that each performerpractices by themselves on weekdays and perform with the group on Sunday! This means that there is a chance to perform in front of people every weekend so performersmust practice really hard!
I was impressed that those performers were not scouted, but gathered naturally. In the field, there were 3 different dance groups. They were dancing with caring another group so that they would not obstruct another group. In addition, it seemed that they neverforgot to pick up the garbage after the performance. They also remembered to respect older people. Yosuke-san said “We just do really simple things.” When we pointed our camera at him, he posed for us. He’s so cool, isn’t he?
Yosuke-san is leading the team.
Wow, the twist looks so technical!
♪ I was lucky and so happy that I could talk with Yosuke-san. I didn’t know that they havesuch a warm heart and strong spirit. They were promoting Japanese Culture. I was so amazed to know that they take out the garbage to clean up the place and respectsenior people. It seems like a normal thing but it’s part of the Japanese spirit. ;-D
There is a really nice area on the west side of Tokyo. I love it. In this area, there are plenty of spaces to relax, like the library, café, gym and event hall.
A grasssy field. Usually Children are running around.
Beautiful architecture of the Meguro Persimmon Hall and Café!
This is the entrance of the building. Such modern design!
There is a big window that looks like it would reach to the sky in the lobby.
When you enter the building, there is an entrance to the Meguro Persimmon hall. In this hall, you can hear various kinds of music and see a variety of events all year around. Especially on weekends, there are many free music concerts so that everyone can enjoy! On the wall, I found a masterpiece that says“self-other mutual prosperity”. I love that phrase!
On the basement floor, you can see many people taking a break and chatting with friends. The Meguro Central Library is at the back.
♪ Unfortunately it is prohibited to take photos in the library…But this library is really big and new, so many people from children to adults enjoytheir time reading booksand studying You also feel happy to know that there are many old magazines there. What surprised me was that the place was really packed with people. Also, the floor was free of barriers, so that children and the elderly could feel safe walking around. Now I understand why there were so many people! Please visit the library and enjoy the atmosphere!
As I mentioned last time, Kappa bashi is afamous wholesale district. You can findJapanese plates, utensils, cooking devices, galley units (kitchen utilities), samples and so on. After visiting the Japanese craft shop,“SUGAMANI”, I walked around and looked ateach store curiously. Suddenly, I spotted an eye-catching shop far away. Approaching the shop, I could read the name on the board,”The museum of the pan”.
I wandered and found my way into the place.Inside, I discovered knives, frying pans, pressure cookers, heavy-bottomed saucepansand Chinese woks. It seemed to be a cooking device shop. Near the entrance, there was a green tea machine. Very nice service, especially this season!
Looking around the shop, there were pans everywhere!
So much variety. Now you can understand why it’s called a museum, huh?
I said “There’s a lot of pans!” to the shop staff. And he replied, “Isn’t it great?” with an indulgent smile. After that, he talked about cooking using pans. In this shop, the sizes ranged from 15 cm to 60cm by 3cm.
He also told me an interesting story. When he introduces the product, he makes it a rule to ask the customers what they want to cook. And then, he leads them to the appropriate section (of pans) to explain in detail. I thought this sales strategy to be really effective. Customers can visualize a timewhen they are cooking. He showed me the best pan to cook a western dish. The pan wasthicker and heavier than the one I always use at home.
He also told me that it’s really important to sharpen a knife before cooking. Using a well sharpened knife enables the cells of food totake hold so that you can taste the natural flavor of the food. I see!
The color of the new pan is really clear!
Hun. What kind of food would you like to cook with using those pans?
I found a utensil that we usually see at the noodle shop!
One of the staff members tried to imitate the staff at the noodle shop. It was so real that Icould almost hear the sound of boiling water. Funny!
♪ I searched around the shop after. It was the showroom of Nakao Alumi Co. In the shop, there were so many tourists. It came as a fresh reminder that the passion for cooking is common in all countries. And it’s amazing to feel that I would cook anything if I had allthese cooking utensils!
This is the icon robot of Nakao Alumi Co. His name is “F-Robot 72”. The company provides aluminum products so that they can create not only pans but robots! (Of course, their main business is not creating robots though…) This is an icon for the shop, but you can buy this F-Robot 72. It sells for 9,500,000yen! Even if it’s sold, they can produce another one. This means, they know how to have fun!!!
It’s reaching an average of 30 degrees in Tokyo. On one of these hot days, I decided to visit the Kappa bashi area in Asakusa.
Kappa bashi is a famous wholesale district. Just one block away, you’ll find many stores! So…this spot is also a really popular sightseeing destination. When I visited, I saw many people; families and visitors from abroad. While walking through this alluring area of Tokyo, I found a traditional Japanese shop. The name of the shop is SUGANAMI. In this shop, they sell Japanese crafts, traditional furniture and ordered “Noren” (shop curtain).
The Japanese dolls are really adorable.
Looking around the shop, I saw many charming Japanese crafts, ornaments and vases. I felt like I was visiting my grandparents’ house.
According to the owner of the shop, the number of Japanese visitors and visitors from abroad are almost equal. He goes to a special market to choose the products, which have good luck and embody the culture of Japan. It seems there are many unique markets!
Photos of Japanese ladies on Kimono.Really moody!
Kokeshi dolls. So many designs!
In the entrance, there are Hyotan (bottle gourd).
♪ While visiting the shop, a Japanese highschool girl came to buy a lucky charm. In thefront of the shop, there was a traditional hat, which is usually found in the legend books. My friends asked me to put on the hat...but I wonder if it looks good on me. What do you think?!
2-5-2, Nishi Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo
One afternoon, under the heat of the sun, I suddenly heard the music that began flowing (in the French style café) that could be heard whilewalking in Shimokitazawa.
This place is near the entrance of the Azuma shopping street.
Musicians were performing under the shadow of a tree, keeping out of the sunlight. There was a live performance with three musical instruments; the acoustic guitar, accordion and cello!
After the performance, I approached the musiciansto talk. The name of four person group is "Mon Petit(as we pronounce Mon-puchi)". It's a lovely name, isn't it? The group naturally came about, and it was their 2nd performance. Since they have suchbeautiful instruments, I wondered if they werestudents of a music University. I discovered thatthey were all amateurs! Then I realized that theydon’t read the musical score. They revealed that there are images for each song, so they don't need exact scores. I thought of the saying "We tend to be good at those things we like." I thought theperformance of the four members was really cute and chic.
There is a special aura around them!
And this time, I asked them to videotape their performance for you!
In the video, there are a lot of people, cars andbicycles that are passsing. This demonstrates the laid-back mood in Shimokitazawa. The town has a really mellow feel. Now, let's click the YouTubebutton below and enjoy!
♪ They enjoyed their performance because they like music. Guests were also appreciating their performances by smiling from across the road. "Mon Petit" has four members now, but in the near future, the members and the instruments may grow...!? I can't wait to visit Shimokita to check them out again!
In my previous blog post, I introduced: "Afterwords,Mr.Tokimune Hojo washed his money with water, after having prayed for family prosperity."This is the continuation of the story.
At the main shrine, there was a line up of people who were trying to buy bamboo baskets,candles and incense sticks as a symbol of dedication.,I decided to follow the people who bought them and I discovered a big hole in the mountain. Again!? I observed them as they placed the candles onto the special shelf. And then,I also went into the cave.
The incense sticks look beautiful when they are all lined up
(single-unit 100 yen).
The Okumiya shrine was in this cave.In this cave,one of the five famous springs in the Kamakura area is present. It is believed that if you wash your money using the water,the value of the money will increase. So some wash coins and the others wash bills as a sign of worship. ?Everybody really seemed to enjoy washing their money.
Hand-written 「Dipped money...」Yep,that's important to know!
I washed my Ichiman(10,000) yen bill!
Mr.Yukichi Fukuzawa seemed surprised to be sprinkled?!
The atmosphere is so beautiful in the cave.
♪ Within the shrine, there are other shrines. Each shrine is unique and exotic. If you walk around the shrine, it is said to bring you luck.And then, you can also buy special lucky charms at the shrine. They come in such interesting designs that everyone loves them.
It was a really memorable moment for me to wash my money. After washing my money, I noticed that I had to use the money right away. So basically, I washed 10,000 yen so that I had to spend it immediately ...Oh my...
I visited Kamakura (Kanagawa prefecture, which is next to Tokyo) the other day. I’ve visited there many times before but every time I go there, it reminds me that Kamakura is one of the nicest places in Japan. Especially after getting off the train at Kita Kamakura eki (North Kamakura Station), you will notice that there is hardly any noise and you are able to breathe in clear air.
At Kamakura station, I visited Zeniarai Benzaiten (Zeniarai Shrine) which is about a 30 minute walk from the station. I was surprised by the entrance of the shrine. Climbing up the steep slope, I saw an entrance that looked as if the cave was on a slope in the mountain. I wondered whether this was an air-raid shelter or something? Another visitor was also surprised to see the entrance and they were observing for a-while before taking pictures.
Let’s go in!
And we followed the bright light.
In the tunnel, you will find the tunnel of the torii*.
Near the house for incense, there were visitors who were looking up as the smoke blew past them. It was interesting to see everyone's reaction to incense smoke as the reaction is the opposite when seeing people react to cigarette smoke.
The former name of this shrine is Zeniarai Benzaiten Ugafuku Jinja(shrine). The story behind the shrine is that as Mr.Yoshitune Minamoto was sleeping in the day and the year of the Snake(1185), he was taught that "If you hold a mass with this special water, the whole country will be peaceful". Afterwards, Mr.Tokitune Hojo washed money with the water, after having prayed for family prosperity.
*Torii : Torii literally means "a perch for birds." It is said that there were originally perches for the roosters people offered to shrines. A torii is a symbolic Shinto shrine gate which consists of two upright pillars connected by two horizontal beams on top. It marks the entrance to a sacred area.
♪ What is going to happen then? Please enjoy next time!
While viewing artwork being created by children, we heard the announcement, “Kingyo mikoshi* ga hajimarimasu! (A goldfish mikoshi will start!) Oatsumari kudasai---! (Come and join us!)”.
“Goldfish mikoshi?!” I was excited to join the parade. I could see some big, red object in the distance. As we approached, I wondered "Isn't that a goldfish? Yes, it is!” It’s a mikoshi (portable shrine) which is in the shape of a goldfish.
It is really big!!
Looking at the goldfish mikoshi in detail, you can see it has an open mouth. What a charming mikoshi! “Compared to the real size, how much bigger is it?” I wonder. A lot of children began to gather. Some children came by individually to carry the portable shrine, and others *especially really small children) were taken by their parents. There were also children who decided just to watch. Since it was a rainy day, the kingyo mikoshi had a transparent raincoat (means, coated vinyl bag) while the children wore colorful raincoats. It made for a beautiful color contrast!
Not only children, but the staff wore the traditional jacket, called “Hanten”, to look forward to carry the kingyo mikoshi. They taught the children how to carry the mikoshi safely and raise the morale. Dangling a bell around the neck and grasping the bridle, now it’s time to carry the kingyo mikoshi!
They look a little bit nervous, right?
Let’s go, everybody!
They started walking in a shrine, saying "Wa-sshoi! Wa-sshoi!" with an ashamed look. Under the kingyo mikoshi, there was a child who was walking with his mother. He was short enough to touch the mikoshi. He seemed to question “What is going on here? Where’s everyone heading for?", which made me really happy to see.
*mikoshi: A mikoshi is an ornate palanquin-like portable shrine in which the ghost or spirit of a Shinto shrine deity is believed to ride. During shrine festivals, scores of believers wind through the town carrying the mikoshi on their shoulders.
♪ In spite of the rainy weather, a lot of children came to the goldfish festival. As I mentioned in my previous article, I gained many insights as a result of this event. In the future, I definitely want to be a part of these kinds of traditional festivals.
I visited the "Kingyo Matsuri (Goldfish festival) ", an annual event that takes place at the Yoyogi-hachiman shrine. This event was once cancelled at the beginning of the Taisho era, but was revived by local area residents in 2003 and has run every year since.
The path to the shrine. The atmosphere is beautiful.
In front of the main shrine, there were many people.
Although it was a rainy day, many children still came to visit the shrine, wearing colorful raincoats and carrying umbrellas. On the way, the garden lantern was shining. It made the atmosphere unique and memorable.
Many goldfish items were being sold at the main shrine including:lucky charms, key rings, towels, special jackets for the traditional festival called “hanten” and goldfish ornaments made of “Washi(Japanese papers)”. My favorite is the ornament of the goldfish. They are so lovely and come in many different sizes.
A pair of goldfish watch the people that visit the shrine.
How were these ornaments created?
Goldfish scooping. Everyone enjoyed this activity.
She’s got many goldfish. Big smile!
Congratulations! It’s a big catch!
The best part of the festival are the outdoor stalls. In the Yoyogi-hachiman shrine, you could find wata-ame(cotton style candy), ama-zake (sweet sake), popcorn, Barbeque chicken, Okonomiyaki (pan cake), Yakisoba (noodle) , juice and more food. There is also a flea market. The Shibuya area has some popular food called, "Hachiko source". The fruit flavor seems is recommended.
Girls are eating “wata-ame”! Looks yummy!
I tried “yaki-tori”. It was 250 yen for three sticks.
A reasonable price and delicious!
♪ I was so surprised to learn that there were traditional festivals in the middle of Tokyo, in the Yoyogi area. Furthermore, I personally like the name itself, "Goldfish festival". Children of all ages visited there. I think that the environment that surrounds children in present day, such as the development of Personal Computers, studying at cram school on weekends, less family living with grandparents and lacking conversations with seniors, is having strong impact on them. So I originally thought that modern day children wouldn’t appreciate or enjoy these traditional events. But, seeing them, they appeared to be enjoying it a lot! Some kids chatted with the man selling stag beees. I saw another kid asking about catching goldfish. Other kids were excited as they tried to win prizes. Children will naturally grow up thriving on culture if there are such wonderful festivals and opportunities in their cities and villages. This is why I think that shrines might be one of the most important and best places to educate children.