Posts Tagged ‘festival’

Finally Kyushu

2013年 1月 10日

My first desires to visit Kyushu (九州・きゅうしゅう) arose in 1989 after hearing personal tales of Kagoshima (鹿児島・かごしま) from a native. Since moving to Japan in 2004, additional tales of Kumamoto (熊本・くまもと) and other Kyushu regions trickling in have given me a longing feeling, or more accurately – a lacking feeling. More recently, receiving foods and hearing of Nagasaki (長崎・ながさき) from one of the officiants at our wedding has planted another reason drawing me there.

We have visited her many times; however, she lives in Chiba (千葉・ちば) which is in the opposite direction. We joked about taking a trip together to her hometown, but getting everyone together never seemed practical and it just remained a dream. Japanese tradition has provided us with opportunity. Our friend got pregnant and still, in many households, the pregnant daughter returns to her family home to have the baby. On New Years Day she delivered her son after almost two full days of labor and they are both resting and recuperating now.

My wife is busily checking ways to get to Nagasaki during the three-day weekend in February. We have been surprised at the expense, but there is some hope of finding cheaper options. It will be a struggle for us as we have some financial difficulties and we are trying to fly to America in June as well after a three year absence; however, it looks like our chance so we must find a way.

It would be nice to see the Sakurajima volcano in the south, or the wild forests of Kumamoto, or remote Saga, but those dreams will have to wait as we will probably be bound to Nagasaki for our brief stay. Ancient new year celebrations will be held at that time though, so we are interested to view customs from another region.

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Banner Day

2012年 8月 8日

Today is a banner day – that is to say, I updated the banner image today. Previously I had used an image of rotting fishing ropes, but was constantly troubled with how to make the text legible over that image. The new image is from the photo trip to Shinojima for their Gion festival.

I pulled a lot of the color and contrast out of the background using GIMP; hoping that this would make it easier to view the blog title. Also, for visual reasons I wanted the strong lines in the image to be nearly horizontal. Someone with a sharp eye will notice that flags rarely flutter horizontally and the image is rotated 25 degrees counter-clockwise.

Shinojima JK

2012年 7月 17日

Two photo societies took a joint trip to Shinojima (篠島) for their Gion Festival (ぎおん祭り) on the 14th and 15th. While shooting at the beach these seven high school girls made me promise to upload their photos to the internet. They were attempting to do a “jump” photo. Here they are:

Shinojima JK four jump

Shinojima JK seven jump 4

Shinojima JK seven jump 3

Shinojima JK seven jump 2

Shinojima JK seven jump 1

Sunday Soundcheck 63

2010年 1月 10日

Next up is yu, pronounced not too differently to the English word ‘you’. We write it in hiragana as ゆ and katakana as ユ. For our katakana words today there is a sort of ‘r’ theme, as unconnected as that seems.

Yuutaan (ユーターン) comes from the English word ‘U-turn’ and generally has the same meaning; although, additionally it can refer to returning. For example: to return to work in ones hometown after having moved to the big city for a career; or, the rush of people returning from the O-Bon travel season.

Yuumoa (ユーモア) comes from the English word ‘humor’. Generally, I would say the meaning is the same, but one thing you learn quickly in another culture, is that humor is not the same. I love to make people laugh, and sometimes I think I’m good at it but, particularly in Japan, I find myself in situations where people are just staring at me wondering what I meant.

So, why the ‘r’ theme? Notice that the approximation of the ‘r’ sounds in these words includes no ‘r’ sound. Many of the ‘r’ related sounds in English prove difficult for Japanese speakers. The final ‘r’ in humor is not altogether horrid. When Japanese people approximate words like ‘more’, the final sound reminds me of many British friends and gives me little trouble to understand. The vowel and ‘r’ in turn is another story altogether. Because this sound uses muscles in the throat, it is completely foreign to Japanese speakers; however, it is probably the most common sound in English particularly because we add it to the end of verbs to make them nouns (e.g., refrigerator, rice cooker, murderer). I love teaching primary classes to make this sound. They start out sounded like they are reversing their lunch, but very quickly adjust because they aren’t carrying decades of bad learning around.

Yuusuzumi (ゆうすずみ・夕涼み) is a word that is used in the summer, particularly in the heat of summer. It refers to the practice of cooling oneself in the evening, since there is no escape from the sweltering August heat during the day. Most kindergardens will have some kind of yuusuzumi festival for the families and neighbors. Everyone will wear yukata or jinbee – lightweight summer clothing – and eat cool foods, play games, and watch fireworks. Not the most fitting word for January, but it should help me appreciate the cold now.

Yuuhan (ゆうはん・夕飯), yuumeshi (ゆうめし・夕飯), and yuushoku (ゆうしょく・夕食) all mean dinner and are fairly commonly used. This was one of my surprises when I first arrived because every textbook I had read, said: bangohan (ばんごはん・晩御飯) meant dinner.

Next week, the second out-of-use sound ye.

Grinding Away

2009年 10月 10日

Met my sweetie’s dad at the Tsu Festival (津祭り) today. We watched the large dance groups (よさこい) for awhile before we left. He invited me back to the house for a rest, but along the way the plan changed to me cooking for him. I gathered this was because mom was out for the day, but she came home for my culinary attempts as well. Naturally she also whipped up several tasty dishes.

Coffee GrinderGreens from the sweet potato plant, dehydrated and pickled, were probably the best treat today. Something I had never eaten before and an interesting flavor as well.

Before cooking we took a nice rest and made dad’s special coffee. My assignment was to grind the beans using an old cast iron grinder which he received as a present around 30 years ago. An online friend is visiting Chiba (千葉) and was disappointed with the hand grinder he used there, so I was pleased that this one worked smoothly. I’m not a big coffee drinker, but the flavor was quite fresh and rich.

Surviving the Fun and Festivities

2008年 10月 15日

How old does one get before they learn not to overdo it? I can’t answer that question just yet because I’m nowhere near figuring it out. Friday night I headed to Hatsu Warai, a local bar and grill which seats about 12, to check in on festival preparations. I let them know that I had found white shorts and a sarashi (晒). Several other volunteers for Sunday’s activities also showed up, so I was obliged to stay longer (read that: eat and drink more) than I had planned.

Saturday I went to calligraphy class and practiced the cursive shuji model. I cut out a little early, rushed home to wash out my brushes, and headed back toward city hall for the festival (津祭り・Tsu Matsuri). Every year a dance group from Hokkaido comes and they also set up a large food booth. Grilled scallops and miso soup with salmon, potatoes, and other Fall flavors really hit the spot. A friend insisted I should visit their bazaar, but when I got there they were gone, she invited me to a “home party”. I went, but it was one of those situations I refer to as “kidnapping”: basically I was taken to a place away from train stations with no method of escape for 7 hours. We had a good time drinking wines and eating imported cheeses, and I hooked up with a couple teachers I’ve been wanting to chat with for awhile.

Sunday morning I got up a little sleep deprived and headed for my main activity this weekend. I put on white tabi (足袋) and white shorts. Then someone wrapped my lower torso in my sarashi, which is basically a 9.3 meter long swath of bleached white cotton fabric. It is the 1300 year old version of a weight belt. Over that I wore a white happi (法被) and a nice old lady wrapped a long red swath of cotton, criss-crossed around my shoulders and tied a big bow in the back. I looked like a big Christmas present. We split into two teams of about 30 people and tied hachimaki (鉢巻) with red or blue polka dots around our foreheads. A priest gave us each a large cup of sake (酒) and we took turns carrying a 300kg portable shrine around a 10km course, stopping several places to dance around while shouldering this burden. At each stop we were offered drinks and snack foods. I don’t get drunk easily but, starting at 8:40am and finishing around 5pm, I was a bit loopy. After carrying the shrine, several of us were invited to a complimentary sushi dinner at Hatsu Warai, but I didn’t stay long before excusing myself to an early slumber.

Monday morning I headed to Ise for some shopping with my girlfriend and then we headed North for lunch and then back to the shrine to watch a friend play in a shamisen concert. Serious housecleaning followed at my house. It was nice having help, but my girlfriend takes the whole process a lot more seriously than I do. By the time this was all done I was totally run down and settled for a simple dinner of okayu with egg.

My right calf and throat still hurt from the activity and lack of rest (and drinking everyday), but it was a blast and I learned a lot. I will probably carry the shrine next year, but I will buy tabi with air soles; and I will try to drink tea at several of the stops. Coincidentally my health check results came back today: other than bad cholesterol and BMI (which I ignore anyhow), it’s all good news.

Toting Spirits Around

2008年 10月 8日

I hope this doesn’t get me in trouble with my more conservative friends, but I’m going to carry a portable shrine on Sunday. About 77 people from the neighborhood will don happi (法被), sarashi (晒し), shorts, and tabi (足袋) and gather at the Kunitama shrine (國魂神社) at 8am. From there we will take turns in groups of 10 or 12, carrying a small (~300kg) shrine around town on our shoulders. Our course will be about 10km.

We will be provided with food and beverage. For some, it is a serious religious responsibility; however, for others, I think it is a socially acceptable way to start drinking sake (酒・日本酒) at 8 on a Sunday morning. We are supposed to be festive, so they don’t mind us being a little loopy. I will try not to disappoint them.

I kept telling people I was going to “carry” or “move” the omikoshi (御神輿), but I found both of these verbs aren’t appropriate here: we will “shoulder” or “hump” the shrine around. I think we use this verb (katsugu, 担ぐ) because the “portable” shrine is heavy – much like the original “portable” computers. Yay! I learned a new word. Gotta run to photo society or I would explain more about my decision to participate.