Feb 062013
Asuka Onda Matsuri - rice, fertility and ...spanking

Onda Matsuri and Ta-asobi—literally playing in the field—are one of the oldest festivals in Japan. They are being held in winter or early spring.

They are a way to preserve and passing the knowledge of rice cultivation from generation to gemeration. During such festival in shrine a pantomime of planting rice on the field is performed with the active participation of children.

Feb 032013
Setsubun – more burning in Nara

Charms sold in shrines and temples have their “best before” date. And much like cheese or meat, if charms pass that mark, they might start to stink. Not literally, but they might turn into the source of bad luck.

So you have to dispose them somehow…

Jan 302013
Japanese archery ceremony in Kashihara Jingu

Momoteshiki is a ceremony performed by Ogasawara school of Japanese archery, usually in religious places as an offering.

In theory 10 archers shoot 10 series of arrows which sums up to 100 series which the ceremony draws its name from, but nowadays the exact number differs.

Japanese archery with a long bow and beautiful ceremonial costumes is definitely worth seeing.

Jan 232013
Drinking to health (for free) – Nara Daianji Kounin-e

Daianji is one of the Seven Great Temples of Nara. It attracts followers with the promise of protection from cancer. Buddhist rites for the healing are held at the temple and a healing sake is being sold.

Twice a year, the temple hosts a festival when the alcohol is poured for free to the pilgrims.

Jan 222013
Nara's burning (Wakakusa Yamayaki)

There is a hill in Nara, where a nice grove could grow. It might give shelter to the deers, birds, and human beings in hot summer days.

It might… if not some crazy Buddhist monks and Shinto priests burning it to the ground every year in January.

As a result, only grass grows on the hill, and that’s why it is called Wakakusa-yama (若草山) – a Young Grass Mountain.

Dec 182012
On Matsuri in Nara

There are very few festivals held in Japan in December, if you count out the Christmas shopping decorations and city light-ups. One remarkable exception is On Matsuri in Nara.

Held every year for almost 900 years, the festival is a peculiar storehouse for old customs and traditions. It is one of a few places where you can see the old forms of art like dengaku or sarugaku – predecessor of noh theater.

Aug 272012
Basara Matsuri – yosakoi odori in Nara

Basara Matsuri is a festival of modern dance organized in Nara since 1999.

Genres change at the speed of light. Folk dances through modern disco, turn into Arabian tunes, to finish with Chinese court dance in hip-hop style.

Young and old, men and women, in big and small groups, in diverse multicolor attires and face-paintings, sway and bend their bodies to the music from squawking speakers powered by Diesel engines.

From this hotchpotch, often crossing the boundaries of kitsch, only joy, effort, and expression of participants remain in memory.