Category Archives: Festival

2013 Tokamachi Snow Festival

With its tall mountains and island geography, Japan has areas with heavy rain throughout the year and snowfall in the winter.  Over the years, in many areas the snow has been changed from a hardship to benefit.  The first place in Japan to create a snow festival is Tokamachi in Niigata prefecture. Tokamachi (十日町市) City is located in eastern Niigata prefecture.  The names of that area are interesting in that they refer to the days it used to take to travel

2013 Kumejima Sakura Festival

January 26th marked the beginning of the 2013 Kumejima Sakura Festival.  Sakura (Cherry Blossoms) are an important symbol marking the change of seasons in Japan.  As the weather begins to warm, cherry trees sprout beautiful flowers in a range of colors from white to red.   Since Okinawa is so far south, cherry blossoms begin to arrive in January.  They work their way north through April.  During this time, people flock to areas with cherry trees to picnic, drive, and

Cross Cultures – Holidays in Japan and America

All this month on my radio show Haisai English we’ve been playing Christmas music and talking about the differences and similarities between the American and Japanese holidays.  The overall theme we’ve found is that in many ways, Christmas and New Years are flipped between the two countries. Christmas in Japan In Japan, like many holidays, Christmas is promoted by stores as a way to sell products.  Just as the Japanese version of Valentines’ Day was essentially created by chocolatiers, PR firms promote the

Industrial Fairs (sangyo matsuri)

The industrial Fair, or sangyo matsuri in Japanese, is a fixture in the annual event calendar on my island.  From the English translation you might think of cars, heavy manufacturing, and other well-known industry.  In Japan, though, many products are made by very small local companies rather than in large factories.  Even when big factories are necessary, there are often many small shops acting as suppliers.  Taken to a further level, small rural communities without those major industries often have

2012 Kitadaito Festival Day 2

The 2012 Kitadaito Festival was a two-day event in September marking an important time of community inclusion and tradition. The second day of the Festival was on the 23rd and, as in years past, featured sumo competitions as a traditional Japanese offering to the kami and ancestors of the village. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out my post on day one. Below is a video showing excerpts from the day, with more information and photos farther down.

2012 Kitadaito Festival Day 1

Every year on September 22 and 23 Kitadaito Village celebrates its largest Festival.  These dates mark the beginning of autumn.  Kitadaito also known as north Borodino island is a place of 12sq kilometers 320 kilometers east of the Okinawan mainland.  It is unique in that it was settled by residents of Hachijo Island (near Tokyo) but is part of Okinawa Prefecture.  Over the past 100 years the island has become a unique chanpuru (mix) of both cultures. After graduating from

2012 Kyubon Eisa

This past week was the Kyureki Calendar based obon festival in Okinawa.  On Kumejima, I was able to attend the Gima and Higa festivals which both took place at the same time, on the second day of kyubon.  I found it extremely interesting how different the two festivals were, even though they are on the same small island.  Just as every family that celebrates Christmas does it in slightly different ways, so too, do different families and even neighborhoods celebrate

2012 Nishime Eisa

I’ve talked about Eisa before, but one of the great things about this Okinawan take on dance and drumming is that there are so many ways to do it.  Almost everything is up for grabs when it comes to unique community identity in Eisa performances.  This past weekend, I attended the annual Nishime sumo competition and Eisa on Kumejima.  Nishime is one of nearly 35 aza or neighborhoods on the island. As at the Gima Okinawan Sumo competition, the purpose

An Offering of Sake

The Japanese word for alcohol is known throughout the world.  Sake is not only the name of a specific type of drink, but is as ubiquitous as xerox was for paper copies.  Unlike in the West, where beer began as a food source with longer shelf-life than bread, sake had a higher purpose in Japan.  Like many aspects of Japanese Culture, alcohol was initially part of religious ceremonies.  As hand and mouth washing is still common at temples in Japan,

Kume Island Festival Roundup

This past weekend was the two-day annual Kume Island festival.  Due to a typhoon during its planned weekend, the festival took place on August 10 and 11.  There was a lot to see this year, and since it is the islands largest festival of the year, it provides a lot of unique insights into Japanese and Okinawan culture, along with a fun night for the whole family.  Check out the video blow for a quick look at some of the

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