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.501 views
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Numerous azalea bushes463 views
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Ahhh...385 views1 comments
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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371 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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Gate to Zenkoji369 views
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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265 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.233 views
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Takashima Castle218 views
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JR Nagano Station festooned with Olympic logos.215 views
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Wet monkey208 views1 comments
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Snow monkeys203 views
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Nagano Winter Olympics women's ice hockey match.201 views
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Scenic view of Lake Suwa from graveyard.196 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.196 views
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Sculpture188 views
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Lake Suwa187 views
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JR Kami-Suwa Station173 views
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Postcard set (400 yen)172 views
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Lake Suwa168 viewsYou can rent a bicycle at Kami-Suwa Station and ride along the lake shore.
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Aqua Wing ice hockey rink158 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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Castle tower156 views
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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.155 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155 views
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Nagano Winter Olympics women's ice hockey match.148 views
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Japan's goalie takes a break at Nagano Winter Olympics women's ice hockey match.144 viewsHer helmet is dotted with Print Club photo stickers.
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Mother and child sculpture137 views
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Yaesu underground mall: Speed skater outfits made by Mizuno136 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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Mall to Zenkoji136 views
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This was Log No. 1 for Shimo-sha's Harunomiya Shrine.135 views
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Then came the log, and a lotta dust which made it difficult to see what was going on.135 views
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JR Okaya Station. There is no tourist info office here.130 viewsSmall station, but close to Lake Suwa.
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Map of lake shore area129 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129 views
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Entrance to Snowlets House at Olympic Plaza.128 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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Lake Suwa and mountains128 views
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Onbashira manhole in Okaya, Nagano.127 views
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Nagano Shinkansen126 viewsThe Nagano shinkansen has a duckbill snout.
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Oguchi Taro song monument126 views
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Lake Suwa and mountains125 views
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Bell tower124 views
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Onbashira Festival. They included one woman.124 views
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Lingering crowd. Also see photos of Shimo-sha Yamadashi.124 views
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About Taro Oguchi.122 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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Nagano Station, East Exit to Olympic Plaza120 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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Ducks120 views
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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.120 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.120 views
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Area of the Oguchi Taro monument (seen on left), in winter.120 views
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Oguchi graves.116 views
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Welcome sign at Nagano Station115 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.112 views
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109 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 Suwa109 views
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Hairdo. Also see photos of Shimo-sha Yamadashi.107 views
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Tenryu River at sunset106 views
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Okaya map105 views
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Kami Suwa Onsen (Spa)105 views
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The crowd behind me.105 views
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A US player scores and celebrates to the dismay of Japan.105 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.105 views
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Sheep sculpture104 views
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Statue of Oguchi Taro 小口太郎銅像104 views
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Onbashira-sai, Shimosuwa-machi, Nagano.104 views
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Dept. store103 views
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Jamaica's bobsled team in Kodak Pavilion103 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 Station103 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.103 viewsThe Nippon team huddle and psych themselves up before the start of the game.
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Kodak's Kodak-yellow pavilion102 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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Aqua Wing102 views
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My Japanese and American flags102 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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Closeup of Taro Oguchi statue102 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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Onbashira Matsuri, Shimosuwa, Nagano. Also see my video at YouTube.101 views
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Cheering section for Yuiko Satomi100 viewsCollege cheering section for Yuiko Satomi, a defense player for Japan.
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Biography of Oguchi Taro. 小口太郎顕彰碑100 views
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Hot spring foot bath99 viewsThat's not me in the picture.
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Olympics auction hosted by Emi Watanabe (left), a former Olympic figure skater.99 views
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A four-man bobsled.99 views
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The Ax Man. He cuts the rope which sets the log loose down the slope.99 views
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川越し98 views
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This river crossing, called Kawa-koshi, is another highlight of the festival. 川越し98 views
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Hot spring foot bath97 views
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Start of game97 views
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Seat backs and ad stickers97 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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It's worth visiting Kamikochi, and it's very scenic for Japan, but I think the Swiss Alps are more beautiful.97 views
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Banging the glass96 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.96 views
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Snowlets House95 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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Side view of Taro Oguchi Statue and Song Monument in spring with azaleas.95 views
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Olympic Plaza94 viewsSnowlets House and Kodak's pavilion behind it.
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Game ends with USA scoring 10 goals and Japan zero.94 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.94 views
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To Olympic Plaza93 views
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Total winners beat the total losers...93 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 park93 views
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Ducks fly away on Lake Suwa.93 views
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Kami-Suwa Station platform with hot spring foot bath92 views
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Tokyo Station: Official posters91 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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Pavilion by Kirin Brewery.90 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.90 views
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90 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 availability89 views
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IBM billboard buses89 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.89 viewsLots of Olympics advertising.
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Hot spring foot bath (free)88 views
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Aqua Wing ice hockey rink88 views
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88 viewsFace to face. Japan's goal keeper was busy, busy, busy.
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Amway at Tokyo Station88 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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Side view of Taro Oguchi Statue and Song Monument in winter. 小口太郎顕彰碑88 views
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Kamikochi is accessible by bus from the Matsumoto Bus Terminal near JR Matsumoto Station.88 views
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Onbashira rope on train platform87 views
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Key chain (1,000 yen)87 views
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Birch tree plaque86 views
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IBM pins (my collection)86 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 drinks86 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 park86 views
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Rear view, looking toward Lake Suwa.86 views
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Oguchi cemetary. This neighborhood is full of Oguchi families, not necessarily related to each other.86 views
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Pin seller85 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 shop85 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)85 views
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Ad sticker on tray table85 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.85 views
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Onbashira rope on train platform84 views
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More billboard buses84 viewsCoca-cola adorned some of the local city buses in Nagano.
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Now they descend.84 views
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Hot spring foot bath83 viewsThe place was covered due to rain.
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A US player scores and celebrates to the dismay of Japan.83 views
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Tokyo Station83 views
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Lake Suwa and mountains83 views
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Carp caught from Lake Suwa83 views
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A US player scores and celebrates to the dismay of Japan.82 views
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Frenzy in front of Japan's goal.82 views
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Kids gathered at Nagano Station.82 views
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English programme (1,800 yen)82 views
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Water fountain and azaleas in spring82 views
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Recycle bins by Coca-cola81 views
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I was forced to join this crowd.81 views
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The log pullers split into two.81 views
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Kappabashi Bridge and the Hotaka mountains at Kamikochi, Nagano. 河童橋と穂高連峰81 views
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Fruit gelato stand80 viewsFruit gelato storefront with national flags and "Welcome to Nagano" signs.
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Okaya City Hall 岡谷市役所80 views
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Local bus79 viewsThis was not a "wrap" bus, but it still had a Kirin ad (made of cloth) on the front.
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Policeman79 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 paste79 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.79 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.79 views
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Boat cruises78 views
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Lakeside park78 views
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Now we walked back together with hundreds of thousands of people...78 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.77 views
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Kamikochi, Nagano77 views
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Net fishing76 views
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Hot spring foot bath76 views
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Souvenir shop75 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 Floodgate75 views
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Water fountain75 views
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Resurfacing the ice during intermission74 views
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5-0 on scoreboard during 1st period.74 viewsIn the 1st period, the scoreboard shows 5-0 in favor of the US.
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"Official No. 1 Pin Club" Shop74 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.74 views
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Thank goodness for telephoto lenses.74 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.74 viewsOnly a rope keeps the log from going down.
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Resurfacing the ice during intermission73 views
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Olympics logo on official film (not FujiFilm)73 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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Oguchi Taro's gravestone in foreground.73 views
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Finally, people pulling the log appeared.73 views
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This birch tree is a Natural Monument72 views
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Lake Suwa and bridge72 views
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Bridge with a mountain design, over Tenryu River.72 views
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Path to more azaleas as far as the eye can see.71 views
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Statue of KATAKURA Kanetaro71 viewsHe and his company planted the azaleas in 1935.

片倉兼太郎
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About the castle71 views
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Inside castle tower71 views
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Garden71 views
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So after this log came out, we were allowed to proceed to the giant slope.71 views
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Also see my video at YouTube.71 views
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Takashima Castle 高島城70 views
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View of moat from castle tower70 views
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Oguchi Taro's gravestone. He is buried together with his younger brother Sadao.70 views
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We weren't the only ones there.70 views
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We sat there for hours.70 views
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Oguchi Taro's grave on right.69 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.68 views
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"Yoisa! Yoisa!"68 views
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Lake Suwa67 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.67 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67 views
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Koka ninja greets visitors to Matsumoto Castle in Matsumoto, Nagano.67 views
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