Most viewed - NAGANO 長野県
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The following photos were taken by photographers from New Brunswick, Canada during a photo trip to Japan in March 2005. Led and guided by pro photographer Mark Hemmings, they were Kevin Halcrow, Jeff and Kim Matheson, and Ashley Hicks.494 views
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Numerous azalea bushes449 views
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Gate to Zenkoji355 views
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Oguchi Taro Statue and Biwako Shuko no Uta Song Monument. On the shore of Lake Suwa, Okaya, Nagano. 歌碑と小口太郎銅像330 viewsThis was where I first heard the song, "Biwako Shuko no Uta." In May 2004, I was in Suwa, Nagano Pref. to see and photograph the Onbashira Festival (held every 6 years). My hotel was in the neighboring city of Okaya on the shores of Lake Suwa.

I walked around the lake and came across this statue of Taro Oguchi and song monument. I was very surprised when I saw the word "Biwako" (Lake Biwa). This was Nagano, not Shiga, so it was most unexpected to see "Biwako" here. I read the song lyrics on the monument and was surprised and delighted to see the names of well-known places in Shiga.

The monument even had music box (seen on left) where you could hear three versions of the song. I immediately found it intriguing.
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But my camera captured the log going down, even though I could hardly see it. Onbashira Festival, Shimosuwa, Nagano. 木落とし坂 春宮一之柱245 views
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The Onbashira Festival's main event takes place at four different times in early April and early May, centering on Chino city and Shimosuwa town. It is the festival of Suwa Taisha Shrine consisting of the Kami-sha Shrine and Shimo-sha Shrine.227 views
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JR Nagano Station festooned with Olympic logos.208 views
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Takashima Castle203 views
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Snow monkeys196 views
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Wet monkey187 views1 comments
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Nagano Winter Olympics women's ice hockey match.187 views
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Lake Suwa181 views
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Scenic view of Lake Suwa from graveyard.180 views
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At the bottom of the slope is a huge crowd watching the spectacle, Ki-otoshi or Log Drop, Onbashira-sai Festival.175 views
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Sculpture172 views
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JR Kami-Suwa Station167 views
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Postcard set (400 yen)166 views
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Lake Suwa162 viewsYou can rent a bicycle at Kami-Suwa Station and ride along the lake shore.
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Castle tower150 views
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Aqua Wing ice hockey rink150 viewsMost of the women's ice hockey matches were held at a stadium called Aqua Wing which is actually an indoor swimming pool with a sliding roof. It seemed like we were in a huge oil drum cut in half.
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Shimosuwa Station on May 8, 2004. Here for the final three days of the Onbashira Matsuri's climax, the Satobiki when they haul the Onbashira logs to the Shimo-sha Shrines (Akimiya and Harumiya) and erect them.148 views
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Erecting Onbashira Log No. 4 for Harumiya Shrine on May 9, 2004. Shimosuwa, Nagano. 春宮四之御柱136 views
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Nagano Winter Olympics women's ice hockey match.134 views
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Japan's goalie takes a break at Nagano Winter Olympics women's ice hockey match.130 viewsHer helmet is dotted with Print Club photo stickers.
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Mall to Zenkoji130 views
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This was Log No. 1 for Shimo-sha's Harunomiya Shrine.129 views
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Then came the log, and a lotta dust which made it difficult to see what was going on.129 views
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Yaesu underground mall: Speed skater outfits made by Mizuno128 viewsMizuno, an official sponsor, set up a nice Olympics exhibition in the Yaesu underground mall at Tokyo Station. There was a nice photo exhibit of past and current Winter Games and a souvenir shop as well. These three photos show part of Mizuno's exhibition.

A few speed skater outfits made by Mizuno. You may recognize the suits for China, Japan, and the USA.
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JR Okaya Station. There is no tourist info office here.124 viewsSmall station, but close to Lake Suwa.
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Map of lake shore area123 views
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Entrance to Snowlets House at Olympic Plaza.122 viewsThe official store for Olympic souvenirs. There were a lot of ticket scalpers (all foreigners) hanging around the entrance. Inside, there was a ticket counter for events which still had seats.
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Mother and child sculpture121 views
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Nagano Shinkansen120 viewsThe Nagano shinkansen has a duckbill snout.
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Oguchi Taro song monument120 views
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Bell tower118 views
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Lingering crowd. Also see photos of Shimo-sha Yamadashi.117 views
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Nagano Station, East Exit to Olympic Plaza114 viewsAt the East Exit of Nagano Station, this bridge, lined with advertising banners, led the way to the Olympic Plaza which featured ten tent pavilions made by official sponsors.
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Lake Suwa and mountains112 views
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Onbashira manhole in Okaya, Nagano.111 views
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Welcome sign at Nagano Station109 views
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Lake Suwa and mountains109 views
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The only woman on the log. After this log-raising, I had seen enough. This No. 1 log offered the best view of all the four Akimiya logs.105 views
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Onbashira Festival. They included one woman.105 views
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Ducks104 views
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103 viewsDuring the Olympics, the morning trains from Tokyo were always crowded. However, the last trains from Nagano to Tokyo were almost empty.
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Lake Suwa103 views
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Hairdo. Also see photos of Shimo-sha Yamadashi.101 views
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Tenryu River at sunset100 views
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Song monument with the entire lyrics of Biwako Shuko no Uta. On the shore of Lake Suwa in Okaya, Nagano. 琵琶湖周航の歌 全歌詞碑100 views
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Oguchi graves.100 views
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Okaya map99 views
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Kami Suwa Onsen (Spa)99 views
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A US player scores and celebrates to the dismay of Japan.99 views
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It was over after a few seconds. We walked for an hour from the train station and waited hours for just a few seconds of mostly dust.99 views
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Sheep sculpture98 views
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The crowd behind me.98 views
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Dept. store97 views
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Jamaica's bobsled team in Kodak Pavilion97 viewsThey introduced Jamaica's bobsled team. They are very popular in Japan, largely due to the comedy movie "Cool Running" which was aired in Japan before the Nagano Games started.
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Kita Nagano Station97 viewsTo get to Aqua Wing, the ice hockey rink, we had to take a local train from Nagano Station for a short ride to the next stop at Kita Nagano Station. This Kita Nagano Station was a tiny little train station certainly not meant for large crowds. It was unbelievably small. It took some minutes before we could get out of the station which was not much larger than a normal living room. The door was also small, enough for only two people to get out at one time.
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The Nippon team huddles.97 viewsThe Nippon team huddle and psych themselves up before the start of the game.
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Kodak's Kodak-yellow pavilion96 viewsOn the day I went in, they introduced Jamaica's bobsled team. They are very popular in Japan, largely due to the comedy movie "Cool Running" which was aired in Japan before the Nagano Games started.
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About Taro Oguchi.96 viewsThe song was written as a collaboration among boatmates, but Taro Oguchi (小口太郎) (1897-1924) is credited as being the main song writer. He was born in 1897 (Meiji 30) in Minato-mura village, now part of Okaya city on the shores of Lake Suwa in Nagano Prefecture.

He grew up in a loving and respected family and demonstrated an early talent for writing, music (violin and shakuhachi), and sports (judo, skiing, skating). Since he was the eldest son expected to take over the family home, there was opposition for him to go away for college. However, his father was persuaded to allow Taro to apply for college at the elite No. 3 High School (later to become Kyoto University). It was one of nine college-level schools in Japan, the No. 3 school being one of the most elite.

Contrary to family expectations, Taro passed the entrance exam, went school in Kyoto in 1914 and joined the rowing and speech clubs. In 1917, he wrote the famous song about Lake Biwa which first went public in 1918.
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Aqua Wing95 views
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Cheering section for Yuiko Satomi94 viewsCollege cheering section for Yuiko Satomi, a defense player for Japan.
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Music box. Three versions of the song can be heard through a speaker by pressing a button. Also see the video at YouTube to hear the song.94 viewsThe monument included a music box where you could listen to three versions of the song through a speaker. I was immediately fascinated by the song when I heard it (together with the wind and waves of Lake Suwa).
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Smaller statue of Oguchi Taro inside Okaya City Hall, next to the entrance.94 views
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Area of the Oguchi Taro monument (seen on left), in winter.94 views
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Hot spring foot bath93 viewsThat's not me in the picture.
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My Japanese and American flags93 viewsI tacked the flags onto the glass and proudly displayed them in front of my seat behind the goal. That's what you do when you love both countries. Since I was sitting at rinkside behind the goal, the flags (and my face and camera) could be seen on the TV broadcast.

On the left of the photo, you can see the goal referee who was sitting in a glass box. She wrapped herself in a blanket. As you can expect, the place was not warm like a coffee shop.
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Olympics auction hosted by Emi Watanabe (left), a former Olympic figure skater.93 views
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A four-man bobsled.93 views
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The Ax Man. He cuts the rope which sets the log loose down the slope.93 views
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川越し92 views
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This river crossing, called Kawa-koshi, is another highlight of the festival. 川越し92 views
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Hot spring foot bath91 views
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Seat backs and ad stickers91 viewsThe train's seat backs had advertising stickers. When the Nagano Shinkansen reaches a terminal station (Tokyo and Nagano), the seats can turn around by itself? One thing less to do by the train's cleaning ladies.
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Start of game90 views
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Banging the glass90 viewsI liked it when the puck slammed into the glass (BOOM!) in front of me. The protective glass, by the way, must have been at least an inch thick.
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The log heading to the Shimekake resting place. If you don't like crowds, don't see this festival. Also see photos of Shimo-sha Satobiki.90 views
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Snowlets House89 viewsIt was packed. This is part of the checkout line. There were four checkout lines and each one was about 30 meters long. The line went pretty fast though. They had all kinds of souvenirs: T-shirts, sweatshirts, flags, postcards, pins, key chains, necklaces, stuffed Snowlets, mugs, and even jewelry. I went on the 6th day of the Games and it still had everything well in stock. But I later heard that the shelves were laid bare well before the Games ended.
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Olympic Plaza88 viewsSnowlets House and Kodak's pavilion behind it.
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Game ends with USA scoring 10 goals and Japan zero.88 viewsThe final score was 10-0. Japan went on to lose all five of their matches and the US team went undefeated for the gold medal. The US and Canadian men's hockey teams were not the only ones who were put to shame at Nagano.

Japan's women's ice hockey team must feel pretty rotten about their pitiful playing on their home turf.
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Billboard depicting Ki-otoshi (Log Drop) at Shimosuwa Station.88 views
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To Olympic Plaza87 views
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Total winners beat the total losers...87 viewsThe U.S. team went on undefeated to win the first Olympic gold medal in women's ice hockey. Japan lost all five of its matches (they scored a total of 2 goals) putting them in last place among the six women's hockey teams.
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Lakeside park87 views
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Kami-Suwa Station platform with hot spring foot bath86 views
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Tokyo Station: Official posters85 viewsThese were painted by Koji Kinutani and plastered everywhere in Tokyo Station. These were being sold to the public for about Y5,000.
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Onbashira-sai, Shimosuwa-machi, Nagano.85 views
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Pavilion by Kirin Brewery.84 viewsNotice the "wrap" bus passing in front.
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Japan team mates try to comfort the goal keeper right after the US scores.84 views
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84 viewsAn elderly couple are among a crowd of people who watched the men's hockey finals on the TV set.
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Snowlets House, ticket availability83 views
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IBM billboard buses83 viewsThe decals covering the window portion of the decals have little holes in them and from the inside of the bus, the decals are transparent. IBM's Olympic pins and jacket were also based on these bus decal designs.
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The road from Nagano Station to Zenkoji Temple.83 viewsLots of Olympics advertising.
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Hot spring foot bath (free)82 views
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Aqua Wing ice hockey rink82 views
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82 viewsFace to face. Japan's goal keeper was busy, busy, busy.
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Amway at Tokyo Station82 viewsAmway shows the way to the Nagano Shinkansen platform for people getting off the Narita Express train which comes from Narita Airport.
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Onbashira Matsuri, Shimosuwa, Nagano. Also see my video at YouTube.82 views
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Onbashira rope on train platform81 views
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Key chain (1,000 yen)81 views
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Birch tree plaque80 views
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IBM pins (my collection)80 viewsThe IBM pins were being sold for 1,000 yen each. Some people were selling them for up to 2,000 yen.
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Olympics logo on official drinks80 viewsBesides Coke, Coca-Cola also makes Aquarius (sports drink) and Georgia canned coffee. The Olympics logo and "Nagano 1998" figure prominently on the limited-edition cans. On the Aquarius can, notice the image of a speed skater. On the back of the Georgia coffee can, see the image of the torch relay runner. Georgia coffee was prominently advertised during the nationwide Olympic torch relay to Nagano.
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Lakeside park80 views
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It's worth visiting Kamikochi, and it's very scenic for Japan, but I think the Swiss Alps are more beautiful.80 views
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Pin seller79 viewsThis American woman was selling pins in Nagano at her seventh Olympics. Olympic pins proved to be very popular among the Japanese.

Apparently there are pin sellers who travel to all the Olympics and major sports events making a living as a pin vendor.
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Tokyo Station Olympics souvenir shop79 viewsThis little space (operated by official sponsor Mizuno) in the Yaesu underground mall at Tokyo Station used to have shelves full of Olympic souvenirs. On the day before the Olympics, I saw that they were selling towels, T-shirts, sweatshirts, jackets, mugs, postcards, Snowlets, key chains, and other things. I visited this place again on the last day of the Olympics (when I took this photo) and found a sign saying that they had sold out of Olympics souvenirs. According to the clerk, most were sold out about a week before.They only had a single rack selling expensive framed Olympic prints. The story was the same for the Snowlets House in Nagano and the Tokyo Branch at Mitsukoshi Dept. Store in Nihonbashi. I'm glad I bought my souvenirs early on.
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Palm-size stuffed Snowlet (official mascot)79 views
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Ad sticker on tray table79 views
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Both the Kami-sha Shrine (in Chino and Suwa cities) and Shimo-sha Shrine (in Shimosuwa town) consist of a pair of shrines. So there are actually a total of four shrines involved in the festival.79 views
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Onbashira rope on train platform78 views
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More billboard buses78 viewsCoca-cola adorned some of the local city buses in Nagano.
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Statue of Oguchi Taro 小口太郎銅像78 views
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Hot spring foot bath77 viewsThe place was covered due to rain.
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A US player scores and celebrates to the dismay of Japan.77 views
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Tokyo Station77 views
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Lake Suwa and mountains77 views
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Carp caught from Lake Suwa77 views
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Ducks fly away on Lake Suwa.77 views
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Now they descend.77 views
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A US player scores and celebrates to the dismay of Japan.76 views
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Frenzy in front of Japan's goal.76 views
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Kids gathered at Nagano Station.76 views
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English programme (1,800 yen)76 views
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Water fountain and azaleas in spring76 views
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Closeup of Taro Oguchi statue76 viewsHe graduated in 1919 and furthered his studies at Tokyo Imperial University (now University of Tokyo) in the science department. In 1921, he invented the wired and wireless multiplex telegraph and telephone system which was patented in eight countries. He was an extremely bright young man with a promising future.

In 1922, he entered the university's aeronautical research institute as a researcher. However, his life soon took a downturn from 1923 when he received a military conscription notice. A love interest for marriage also did not work out as desired. His physical health deteriorated and he terminated his own life the following year in 1924 at age 26.
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Recycle bins by Coca-cola75 views
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I was forced to join this crowd.75 views
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The log pullers split into two.75 views
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Fruit gelato stand74 viewsFruit gelato storefront with national flags and "Welcome to Nagano" signs.
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Okaya City Hall 岡谷市役所74 views
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Biography of Oguchi Taro. 小口太郎顕彰碑74 views
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Local bus73 viewsThis was not a "wrap" bus, but it still had a Kirin ad (made of cloth) on the front.
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Policeman73 viewsPoliceman in special uniform designed just for the Nagano Games. The uniform supposed to make them look more friendly.
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Even official Olympics miso paste73 viewsWould you believe the official miso? Hanamaruki Foods of Nagano was an official supplier for the Nagano Winter Games. Miso soup must have been a staple item for breakfast (and dinner) at the Olympic Village. I found this at my local supermarket.
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Canora Hall, venue for the Okaya International Exchange Association's 15th anniversary festival.73 views
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Boat cruises72 views
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Lakeside park72 views
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Now we walked back together with hundreds of thousands of people...72 views
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The Yamadashi log hauling for the Kami-sha Shrine was held during April 2-4, 2004. Along the hauling route is a slope where the log is slid down while men ride on it.71 views
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Everything is done with great fanfare, with these men riding on the log as it slowly rises by a system of cables and pulleys.71 views
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Net fishing70 views
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Hot spring foot bath70 views
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Oguchi cemetary. This neighborhood is full of Oguchi families, not necessarily related to each other.70 views
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Kamikochi is accessible by bus from the Matsumoto Bus Terminal near JR Matsumoto Station.70 views
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Souvenir shop69 views"Japanese dress Kimono and so on." Awkward or mistaken English is nothing new in Japan. They should've used a Japanese-flag motif instead.
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Kamaguchi Floodgate69 views
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Water fountain69 views
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Side view of Taro Oguchi Statue and Song Monument in spring with azaleas.69 views
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Resurfacing the ice during intermission68 views
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5-0 on scoreboard during 1st period.68 viewsIn the 1st period, the scoreboard shows 5-0 in favor of the US.
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"Official No. 1 Pin Club" Shop68 viewsShop selling Olympic pins. Prices ranged from 500 yen to 4,000 yen.
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Here is where anybody can get on the logs and play.68 views
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Thank goodness for telephoto lenses.68 views
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Held every 6 years (1998, 2004, 2010, etc.), this festival brings new logs from the mountain forest to all four shrines where they are erected. Each shrine receives four logs, so a total of 16 logs are cut and hauled to the shrines.68 viewsOnly a rope keeps the log from going down.
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Resurfacing the ice during intermission67 views
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Olympics logo on official film (not FujiFilm)67 viewsKodak was the official Olympics film in a country where 70 percent of the film market belongs to Fuji Film. It must have been sweet revenge for Kodak because Fuji Film was the official film at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984. Kodak has been the official film sponsor for all Olympic Games since then. It will also be the official film for the Sydney Games in the year 2000.
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Finally, people pulling the log appeared.67 views
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This birch tree is a Natural Monument66 views
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Lake Suwa and bridge66 views
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Bridge with a mountain design, over Tenryu River.66 views
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Path to more azaleas as far as the eye can see.65 views
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Statue of KATAKURA Kanetaro65 viewsHe and his company planted the azaleas in 1935.

片倉兼太郎
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About the castle65 views
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Inside castle tower65 views
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Garden65 views
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So after this log came out, we were allowed to proceed to the giant slope.65 views
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Takashima Castle 高島城64 views
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View of moat from castle tower64 views
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We weren't the only ones there.64 views
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We sat there for hours.64 views
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Also see my video at YouTube.64 views
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Kappabashi Bridge and the Hotaka mountains at Kamikochi, Nagano. 河童橋と穂高連峰64 views
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Side view of Taro Oguchi Statue and Song Monument in winter. 小口太郎顕彰碑62 views
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This is one log about to go down the slope. A total of 8 logs will go down this slope.62 views
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Lake Suwa61 views
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The logs will rest here for about a month until early May when they will be hauled to the shrines for the Satobiki erection.61 views
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After walking for 30 min., we reached this place called Shimekake, a resting place for the logs which had been hauled from the mountains. This is Log No. 2 for Akinomiya Shrine. 注連掛61 views
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"Yoisa! Yoisa!"61 views
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Grand finale dance called Itomachi Ko-uta60 views
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Rear view, looking toward Lake Suwa.60 views
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The Ki-otoshi slope, and one of the icons of the festival. This is the larger slope for Ki-otoshi compared to the one for the Kami-sha Shrine in Chino. 木落とし坂60 views
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