Tag Archives: festivals

Dancing Center Stage

August Abandon Afoot

More midsummer fireworks lie loaded on the launchpad, if that’s your thing – Mizunami has their display tonight, as part of their 54th annual Mino Genji Tanabata Festival (a month after most other observances), featuring teams of dancers and taiko drummers on stage for the 16th year now. It takes place Friday through Sunday in front of Mizunami Station. Everyone is invited to hop into the frenzy of the parade. There’s also a “clay objêt” Toudo Festa competition, in which teams have a frenetic 48 hours to sculpt clay into whatever their imaginations can conjur up.

You could consider Mizunami’s Tanabata fest with its dancing a warmup for Nagoya’s 15th annual Nippon Domannaka Matsuri, or Domatsuri for short, to be held from August 23rd to 25th. Some 23,000 dancers on over 200 teams from all over Japan and the world will carouse and compete for championship original folk dance honors.

The only rules, according to the official website, are “each dancer must hold a naruko, or clapper, and … a melody from a local folk tune of the participants’ home area must be incorporated in the music.” As with Mizunami’s revelry, they encourage the audience to join in the dancing as a means of cross-cultural communication, and welcome last-minute entries without reservation, so to speak.

And as long as we’re on the subject of Nippon Domannaka (the very center of Japan), it’s not just figurative talk when people speak of our central location, or the logistical benefits of relocating the national capital to Gifu to help alleviate congestion in Tokyo.

20130810-142544.jpg

Here’s a picture of Yasaka Station, the centralmost station in Japan, on the Nagaragawa Railway Etsumi-Nan Line. The diesel-powered single-car line, which you can use to get from Mino Ota on the Taita Line to Gujo (station photo below), also stops at the centralmost hot spring in the country, accessible directly from Manthatsamouthful Minamikodakaraonsen Station (station and spa are under the same roof). Of course the all-night trance-like dances at Gujo are for many a must-see, gotta-groove to thing this time of year as well…

20130810-180040.jpg

…as is, for those who can bear to watch, the bridge-jumping, river-plunging tradition on the river you may be able to view from this walkway. I think they jump from the bridge just a few steps to the left of where I took this photo.

20130810-212150.jpg

Points of Light

Toki has Bon dancing on Chuo Dori before and during its fireworks. Many people watching the dancing tonight seemed hardly interested in the skypoppers in the background. Among the various colorful yukata of both dancers and watchers were these robes I though depicted the swoopdown swallows I recently wrote about, until I realized they were great blue herons flying upward. Kind of Escherian, especially considering they both frequent the Toki River.

20130803-224340.jpg

Music for the dancing was performed by shamisen, shakuhachi bamboo flute and taiko players on a stage in the middle of the street, and emceed by a professional announcer.

20130803-224351.jpg

Rounded domes of fireworks patterns, lanterns, ceramic fuurin wind chimes, and, here, even a passing older gentleman’s white hair populated the evening’s floating world.

20130803-224427.jpg

On the subject of flashing points of light, I was hoping to show you photos of fireflies this summer, but they are even more elusive than I thought. Maybe next year.

And this is probably as appropriate a place as there’ll ever be for this indispensible nugget: After years of fruitless furtive roadbound glancing to see if anyone’s blinkers were in sync with mine (which futility led me to wonder if car manufacturers deliberately set every single car’s blinker timing differently so as to ensure each one stood out; two in synch and stacked in parallax could look like one, for instance), like a slap-happy syncopated lightning bug, I recently finally found visual harmony: a Suzuki Cervo ahead of me was flashing in unqualified perfect unison with my turn signal. Not some alternating in-phase, out-of-phase approximation. A lockstepped, serendipitous synchronicity, an amber alignment perchance mined from the same hunk of quartz somewhere in Brazil or backwoods Arkansas. It was sublime.

20130803-224459.jpg

And then, as the traffic light changed, like a fleeting fireworks trail or a fuurin bell’s fading ring, or summer itself, our do-si-do dance of light was gone.

Lots to Do

In case you’ve lost track, the weekend has an impressive lineup of events including:

  • The first of three live music Saturday beergardens tomorrow evening at the Sakazuki Art Museum in Ichinokura
  • A “machikon” beergarden atop a two-storey public parking lot in Tajimi to view the fireworks there on Sunday
  • A similar konkatsu (mixer) type affair at Secret Time Cafe on Saturday, where if you bring a date, there’ll be a special chance to enjoy Toki’s fireworks festival (not sure if it’s in their parking lot, but that would definitely be a nice spot); by reservation only. They’re still looking for takers last I heard
  • Something called Kokeizan Dining on Sunday, which sounds like a beergarden from one of Tajimi’s most scenic spots (advance purchase tickets required)
  • Neu Cafe, while itself closed after lunch Sunday, will be offering outside the shop draft beer, Okinawan food, curry, tandoori chicken sandwiches and more in the buildup to the fireworks
  • And of course Toki’s (Saturday) and Tajimi’s (Sunday) fireworks festivals with stalls set up all along the river (and Chuo Dori in Toki; Nagase Dori in Tajimi) all afternoon and evening; Tajimi’s festival is part of its Gozasse Natsu Matsuri

20130802-152521.jpg

These are just goings on I happen to be aware of. I’m sure there are plenty of others as well.

Quick Response

20130728-160256.jpg

This event took place on the banks of the Toki River in Tamiji Friday morning. From what I could see, it seemed to be a demonstration of the fire department’s typhoon/flood rescue capabilities, with people entering a mobile rain(bow?) simulator with umbrellas, rides in inflatable rafts, a cookout and Unagappa encounters.

20130728-160304.jpg

No sooner had they done this than Mother Nature obliged with a thunder-boomer deluge of her own. We do seem to have had more storms this summer.

Good Turnout for Touki Fest

20130413-200654.jpg

Some late afternoon shots (top and bottom indulging in vintage effects) from today’s Tajimi Touki Matsuri, which will continue tomorrow.

20130413-200709.jpg

No Japanese festival would be complete without a chance to fish for goldfish.

20130413-200722.jpg

I happened to click the shutter just as someone knocking over a milk crate full of ceramics for sale turned heads. We all dread that sort of thing happening. I didn’t stay long enough to see how the responsibility was sorted out. That domburi restaurant on the left with the tan sign is one I’ve been planning to blog about sometime.

Festivals on Tap

The Tajimi Creators’ Market has events coming up the next two weekends.

This weekend, as part of the 61st annual Tajimi Touki Matsuri, ceramic and other artists will be showing and selling their wares in the Tajimi Ginza arcade. Stalls will be selling all kinds of festival food, and a variety of performers will entertain.

20130411-172533.jpg

Next Sunday, the same Creators’ Market artists will be on hand at the Tono Fes(tival) at Ceramics Park Mino. Popular recording artists Nobody Knows, and other performers, will play as well. Entry to both festivals is free.

Update: Toki’s Touki Matsuri’s dates this year: April 20th and 21st. At and around Ceratopia. Also an exhibition of modern teaware (I think), from April 13th to the 21st. And one more ongoing exhibition (couldn’t read the kanji) at Ceratopia until May 12th.

The Thin Red Line

Yes in My Front Yard

20130113-180851.jpg

This fire brigade is impossible to miss, being right near work on the second Sunday of every year (yeah, I’m at work when most people are off, or really because they’re off), so no matter how much each year looks like the last, it’s hard to resist taking a picture. The tall cranes on the Toki River bank on the left were at the center of this morning’s firefighting ceremony. For a few hours, the frigid riverside that’s normally relatively desolate in the middle of winter comes to life, a welcome punctuation to the quiescent ellipsis that is winter on the Toki river.

As always seems to coincide with the fire line, young adults turning twenty this year were out to mark Coming-of-Age Day. I did see one young lady in a kimono.

Korankei Leaves the Best for Last

After years of only hearing about Korankei Gorge Momiji Matsuri in Asuke Town in Toyota City, I finally had a chance to see the fall fest for myself.

20121201-231649.jpg

As you approach the illuminated hill, it looks as if it’s lit from the inside, like a glowing jack-o-lantern.

20121202-133224.jpg

The smell of carnival food grilling, steaming, drizzling and frying away fills the air as couples stroll past the stalls and stands whose lighting emits an inviting warmth in the cold night. Some stalls are permanent, while others are only there for the festival. Above, the moon rises above the proceedings.

20121202-075624.jpg

From the iconic red bridge, you can see the sprawling, rounded, water-worn bedrock of the riverbed. It shows up pretty dark below.

20121201-231755.jpg

The river often affords picturesque reflections of the lit foliage, though not so this time. Dark of night notwithstanding, many people were actually roaming the riverbed – some girls were even frolicking barefoot in the icy water with nary a care.

20121201-231923.jpg

Tiny leaves carpet and dress the topography of concave and convex slopes.

20121202-004544.jpg

The obligatory oriental roof inclusion shot.

20121201-232000.jpg

Looking up one of the bigger trees.

20121202-075648.jpg

Another wide shot. There are plenty of spots along the network of winding paths to take out your camera. At the base are many more food stands to look forward to after descending. Among other things, there was a generous-sized, savory-sauced goheimochi. It looked like it could do double duty as a handball racket or such.

20121201-232055.jpg

Nestled in this sacred corner was a ritual cleansing pool and ladle.

20121201-232111.jpg

A scrolling view with the moonrise to the left.

20121202-082905.jpg

Turning

The fall colors are starting to show, and a day off combined with yesterday’s typically fall weather made for good leaf-peeping.

20121108-175954.jpg

Missed

These emptied chestnut husks were the only things parked in the sloping lot outside a bakery and cafe in Yamaoka known as Hoyara. I was disappointed to find they closed for good in August. Too bad. It couldn’t have been for lack of popularity. They must still sell bread somewhere (either that or it’s the beginning of a true Japanese-style ghost story), because several loaves were visible through the window, and their fresh-baked aroma was seeping out.

20121108-175935.jpg

Mist

Next stop was the nearby Obaachan Ichi, a Michi no Eki-style farmer’s market featuring a huge antique waterwheel. Here, a mini-rainbow arcs through its radial spokes and droplets. Among the rarer items at the market were quince for ¥250 for a bag of six or eight.

Upon huddling for a bit of shelter from the chilly wind behind the goheimochi stand, the charbroiled smell of the grilled rice-on-a-stick snack proved irresistible. The seared sauce had at least walnuts and sesame, and probably some subtler secret ingredients. Nom nyom nyom, as they’ve come to say.

20121108-180214.jpg

Further on down the road (route 363 in this case), a different kind of rainbow stretched across the sky as Sogi Park gets ready for its Momiji Matsuri, at which food stalls will be set up to accommodate folks strolling through the illuminated maple leaf show amid reflecting ponds.

In the daytime, when viewing is less crowded but still nice, especially before they’ve set up the lighting, you can really see there is a wide variety of trees, some species dating way back in prehistory.

20121108-180136.jpg

Among them are ginkgo trees of very different sized leaves. Be careful of picking up their foul smell on you.

20121108-180055.jpg

Even among the momiji, there are trees with different sized leaves. These are some of the smaller ones.

20121108-184450.jpg