Hitakisai at Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine, Kyoto

Several ceremonies were taking place at the Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine on Saturday November 8th.  There were a lot of people at the Shrine.  We wanted to see the Hitakisai (火焚き祭)ceremony (fire ritual) and started to wait on line about one and a half hour before the beginning.  About 20 people were already waiting ahead of us. We’re in the Shichi-Go-San (7-5-3)...

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Participants – Jidai Matsuri, Kyoto

We came back to Japan just on time to see this Jidai Matsuri Festival. This festival (the Festival of the Ages presenting different periods of the history of Kyoto) is held every year on October 22nd.  October 22nd was the day, over 1,200 years ago, when Emperor Kammu decided to move the capital to Kyoto. The festival is symbolic of Kyoto, her people and the city great...

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The Rakans of Otagi Nembutsu Temple, Kyoto

This is about a pretty special place in Kyoto, a temple not often mentioned in guidebooks.  I’ve been several times in Kyoto and I have now lived in for a few months, but it was the first time I visited this place. And what a beautiful surprise it was!         The temple Otagi Nembutsu-ji was originally founded by Empress Shōtoku in the second half of the eighth...

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The Daimonji Fires, Kyoto, Japan

      The Daimonji Gozan Okuribi (Daimonji Bonfire) is an event held on the evening of August 16th, during which gigantic Kanjis (Chinese characters) and other motifs are depicted by fires lit to illuminate the slopes of the mountains surrounding the Kyoto Basin. Although there are several interpretations as to the origins of this event, it is generally regarded as...

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Matsuage Fire Festival in Hanase, Kyoto

          The Summer is the festival period in Japan, and this is specially true in and around Kyoto.  There are so many festivals and events, it is difficult to choose which one to attend. Akiko has chosen a very special one, not well known, and visually quite impressive — the Matsu-age Fire Festival. The location is Hanase, a small village about 25 km up north of...

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Hassaku in Gion, Kyoto, Japan

  “Hassaku” is an event held on August 1st in Gion Kobu, the main Hanamachi (entertainment district) in Kyoto.  Geiko (geisha) and Maiko (apprentice geisha) visit their master as well as all the ochaya (teahouse) in the district to thank the owners for their patronage and support during the year. An incredible number of photographers line up the streets...

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Obon at the Otani Cemetery, Kyoto, Japan

          Obon (お盆) is the Japanese Buddhist custom to honor the spirits of one’s ancestors. This Buddhist custom has evolved into a family reunion holiday during which people return to their family places and visit and clean their ancestors’ graves.  During this time, the ancestor’s spirits are supposed to revisit the household altars. During Obon,...

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Outing to Uji, next to Kyoto, Japan

We had planned to visit Uji yesterday, the day of the famous fireworks which is supposed to be one of the greatest and largest around.  So we went to the city of Uji, which is less than 20 minutes away by train from our place in Kyoto.  Unfortunately, on arrival, we discovered that the show had been canceled due to the typhoon and heavy rain.  Well, that was too bad for...

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Hanagasa Junko, Kyoto, Japan

The Hanagasa Junko (花笠行列) or Hanagasa Parade is, after the main Yamaboko Float Parade held on July 17th, the second largest public event of the Kyoto Gion Matsuri.  It took place on the morning of July 24th, in parallel to the second and smaller Yamaboko parade. The word hanagasa consists of two kanji, two parts: “hana” (花) means “flower” and...

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Nagoshi no Shinji, Shimogamo Jinja, Kyoto

A Shinto ceremony to pray for health This evening ritual took place on August 6th. We arrived a bit early as the ceremony was supposed to start at 6:30.  Well, this enabled us to get a good spot to wait and be ready to see the ceremony, the action, and take pictures.  Some 50 arrow-like talismans were placed in the Mitarashi pond.  It was daylight and we waited.  People...

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Yamaboko Junko, Gion Matsuri, Kyoto

The word Yamaboko refers to the two types of floats used in the procession: the 23 yama and 10 hoko. One of the main reasons the Gion Matsuri is so impressive is the enormity of the hoko, which are up to 25 meters tall, weigh up to 12 tons, and are pulled on wheels as big as people. Both yama and hoko are elaborately decorated and represent unique themes. The procession...

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Yoiyama, Gion Matsuri, Kyoto

  Gion Matsuri is simply the largest festival in Japan.  And this was the first time I had a chance to attend it.  Yes, I’ve lived for over 25 years in Japan, but I was in Tokyo and during all this period, I have spent very little time in Kyoto.  Now that I’m back in Japan and have settled in Kyoto, things are going to be different. I didn’t really know...

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The cherries at the Hirano Shrine, Kyoto

During the cherry blossom season, the Hirano Shrine, with its numerous cherry trees, is definitely one of my favorite spot in Kyoto.  This is the place where I discovered the existence of green cherry flowers!  Yes, this shrine is special.  It is not a mere Jinja, but it is a “Jingu”, title of high class Shrine of Japan designated by the Emperor.  And it was...

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Back from Norway (2/2)

 Our hotel is located right in the harbor of Svolvaer. We wake up early to avoid wasting the little time we have of day light. The day promises to be again beautiful. From our bedroom, we enjoy a new type of sun rise, as there is already light around, when the sun comes up, but the light is what you usually see in the evening, at the so-called Blue Hour, between the sun...

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Back from Norway (1/2)

November 2013. We’ve been discussing this for a while, but here we finally are — we’ll be cruising the North of Norway for the “Hunt of the Northern Light”. Our trip started in Bergen, where we joined the largest and newest Hurtigruten ship, the Trollfjord. Bryggen (the Wharf in Norwegian) is a series of Hanseatic commercial buildings lining...

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