White Heron Dance in Asakusa 2014

Video link: http://youtu.be/-_DqsWhH-aM
The White Heron Dance (Shirasagi-no-Mai) was very elegant in front of Sensoji temple in Asakusa, Tokyo on April 13, 2014. The Shirasagi-no-Mai White Heron Dance is performed in Asakusa on the second Sunday of April, mid-May for the Sanja Matsuri, and on Nov. 3.

The dance originated at Yasaka Shrine in Kyoto about 1,000 years ago to ward off epidemics and pray for good harvests. The local Asakusa tourist association resurrected the dance in 1968. A picture scroll showed that it was performed in 1652 at Sensoji temple.

More photos here.

Cherry blossoms in Tokyo 2014

Cherry blossoms at the Imperial Palace’s Chidorigafuchi moat was superb.

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Also, for the first time, they allowed the public to enter the Imperial Palace to view cherry blossoms along a short path called Inui-dori during April 4-8, 2014. An insane number of people showed up. On the first day April 4, 2014, over 55,000 people came to see the Inui-dori sakura. Although it was open until 3 pm, they closed it by 1:30 pm due to the huge crowds.

Visitors went through a body search at the Imperial Palace.

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I couldn’t get in when I arrived at 2 pm. Too late. People waited for 2-3 hours to get in.

Click on the images above to see more images.

 

Final plum blossoms in Ome

Yoshino Baigo

Yoshino Baigo Plum Blossom Garden, Ome, Tokyo

Very sad to hear that all the plum trees in Ome, Tokyo’s Yoshino Baigo will be cut down in an attempt to stop the spread of the plum pox virus. The virus has infected the trees since 2009. They’ve been cutting down the infected trees and surrounding trees every year since then. However, even after destroying hundreds of plum trees, the virus has not been eradicated. After this year’s plum blossom festival ends on March 31, 2014, they will cut down all the trees.

We won’t see another plum blossom festival in Ome for at least several years until they replant. Now is the time to see it if you can. More photos here.

Tokyo Marathon 2014

Tokyo Marathon was held on Feb. 23, 2014. Here’s a collection of the most outstanding and incredulous costumes. I was near Suitengu Station which was about 10 km from the finish line.

Monkey head

Monkey head

This guy was running with his bride with heart-shaped balloons.

This guy was running with his bride with heart-shaped balloons.

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Japan mailbox. Painted on his face is the symbol of the Japan post office: 〒

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Jesus Christ, barefoot!

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Well coordinated.

From another planet.

From another planet.

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Carrying a surfboard while wearing rubber slippers.

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The biggest costume I saw. Couldn’t get a clear shot though.

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Very popular mascot named Funasshi, from Funabashi, Chiba.

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Ouch!

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Santa Claus with a big bag of presents.

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Geta clogs matching his monk costume.

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Kabuki

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Cross dressers galore

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Tuba player

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Monja

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Yep, these costumes can get hot.

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Golden frog. The note from his mouth says, “Feed me” (as in money).

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Man named Joseph. He’s got a small camera on his head as well as a smartphone rigged in front of him.

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At the end, a few buses carried runners who had to give up. The buses were quite empty though. The 36,000 runners had 7 hours to complete the marathon. Some 96% finished it.

Yushima Tenjin Shrine Plum Blossom Festival 2014

Two videos of some stage entertainment held during the Yushima Tenjin Shrine’s annual plum blossom festival (湯島天神梅まつり) in Feb.-March 2014.

Belly dancers from the Haruna Aki & Arabina troupe 春奈あき&アラビーナのベリーダンス:

All-female Shiraume Taiko drummers were fantastic as usual 白梅太鼓 :

Japan’s largest lake

Video link: http://youtu.be/WKvSP9zmnb8

If you like lakes (especially very old ones), fish, plankton, endemic species, or fermented fish, this video is for you. It’s quite long at 1 hr. 6 min., but you can pause/resume at anytime. Or just watch the first 5 min. and then decide whether to watch it to till the end. Within 5 min., you’ll know if you want to continue watching it or not. It’s pretty educational.

Happy New Year 2014!

Wishing you all the best in the Year of the Horse!

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Tokyo Motor Show 2013

The 43rd Tokyo Motor Show was held at Tokyo Big Sight during Nov. 23-Dec. 1, 2013. No American car makers were there. No Lamborghini, Rolls Royce, Ferrari either.

Tokyo Motor Show 2013

Bridgestone airless tires

Old bus

Commercial vehicles also exhibited.

 

Convenient for old and handicapped people.

Honda

 

Old Formula 1

 

A sit-down Segway-type vehicle from Honda.

 

More my speed. Go-karts

Display of license plates.

More Tokyo Motor Show 2013 photos here.

Shinjuku Gyoen in autumn

Went to Shinjuku Gyoen Garden in Tokyo in Nov. 2013 to shoot autumn leaves.

Large gingko tree in autumn,

Cherry blossom that blooms in autumn.

More Shinjuku Gyoen fall photos here.

Caroline Kennedy at Imperial Palace

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On Nov. 19, 2013, I took a friend from Hawaii around Tokyo and when we headed for the Imperial Palace, we saw this large crowd on the streets. Most were middle-aged and older people. The palace was closed off to tourists as well. Couldn’t see the famous Nijubashi Bridge.

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I asked a bystander what was going on. She said they were waiting for “Caroline.” No mention of the last name. “Caroline” in Japan automatically means “Kennedy.” Although I always think of Neil Diamond’s song which coincidentally is about the Caroline they were waiting to see.

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So I stuck around for about 15 min. and sure enough, at around 4 pm, her horse-drawn carriage appeared after she had shown her credentials to the emperor. I whipped out my camcorder and still camera and started shooting.

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There were two horse-drawn carriages and I correctly assumed she was riding in the first one. No one waved Japanese and American flags though.

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Fortunately, she was sitting on the right side of the carriage facing my side of the street. You can see her in this photo. Wish she waved to us. As soon as she passed, the crowd dissipated.

We haven’t had such a star ambassador to Japan in a long time, not perhaps since Edwin Reischauer in 1960s or the beloved Mike Mansfield in the 1980s. Welcome to Japan, Sweet Caroline!

Read more about her in Japan here: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/25/world/asia/a-star-envoys-frankness-puts-kennedy-mystique-to-test-in-japan.html?hpw&rref=world&_r=1