Sep 232012
Hounou Taiko at Dazaifu Tenjin Matsuri

Hounou (奉納) means “offering” or “sacrifice” in Japanese. Most shrines and temples have lanterns, sculptures, or torii gates that were funded by followers.

Offerings do not have to be material, however. Artists and artisans often present their skill during religious festivals.

In 2010, on the premises of Dazaifu Tenman-gu Shrine, we could see a kagura ritual dance, shishi-mai—lion’s dance, and a spectacular taiko (Japanese drum) concert.

Sep 102012
Futondaiko drum festival in Sakai (Hassaku Matsuri)

Huge, colorful platforms with drum typical for the city of Sakai, south of Osaka. They are called futondaiko and used during festivals.

During Hassaku Matsuri, early in September, participants carry the platforms on their shoulders through the city center, to the hypnotic beat of children orchestra.

Aug 242012
Tsumago-juku - Old post town on Nakasendo road

Though Japan is full of historical places, it is difficult to find whole towns preserving old character—without traffic, cobweb of electrical cables or cheap prefabricated buildings.

One of places saved from such an excessive development is a small section of old Nakasendo road in Kiso Valley with two small post-towns of Magome-juku and Tsumago-juku.

Jul 252012
Osaka Tenjin Matsuri - one of the three biggest Japanese festivals

What I have found distinctive in Tenjin Matsuri, in Osaka, is its drummers’ performance. Despite colorful attire, the rhythm and chants are gloomy and dark. Like other similar activities, they originally were intended to fend off calamities and illnesses.

In the evening, the taiko drum, portable shrine mikoshi, and festival car danjiri are all placed on boats and take part a ship parade.