Sendai Tanabata Matsuri, Mother of all Tanabata Festivals


The mother of all Tanabata Matsuri festivals in Japan. You haven’t seen a Tanabata festival until you see the one in Sendai held annually on Aug. 6th–8th. The colors, variety, creativity, and intricate designs are breathtaking. Other Tanabata festivals have mostly factory-made plastic decorations, but not in Sendai. Most are handmade and one-of-a-kind. Changes every year too. Commonly called the

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Aomori Nebuta Matsuri and Hirosaki Neputa Matsuri


Aomori Nebuta Matsuri is one of Japan’s most famous summer festivals and one of my all-time favorites. Held for a few days in early August, it’s an evening parade of huge paper lantern floats sculpted and painted as legendary, fierce-looking figures (left photos). They are complemented by a bevy of musicians (lower left photo), taiko drummers, and hopping dancers called

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No more Hakata ningyo doll shops in Hakata Station


The city of Fukuoka’s most famous traditional craft and tourist souvenir is the Hakata ningyo doll. They are fired clay figurines sculpted and painted into a wide variety of traditional Japanese characters including women in kimono, children, geisha, kabuki and Noh characters, samurai, gods of good fortune, sumo wrestlers, and Oriental zodiac animals. Hakata dolls originated over four centuries ago

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What makes Nagara River Ukai Cormorant Fishing in Gifu special


Held in the evening under torchlight on Nagara River, ukai is a traditional fishing method with a master fisherman on a wooden boat using leashed cormorants. The cormorants dive for ayu sweetfish attracted to the surface by the torchlight. The cormorants catch the fish, but a ring around their throats prevent them from swallowing the fish. The master fisherman, called

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Sanriku Fukko National Park, Iwate


The old Rikuchu-Kaigan National Park (陸中海岸国立公園) along the rocky Tohoku coast centered on Iwate Prefecture whose old samurai provincial name was “Rikuchu.” It extended from the city of Kuji (久慈市) in northern Iwate to Kensen-numa (気仙沼市) in northern Miyagi Prefecture. On March 11, 2011, the Tohoku Pacific coast was devastated by the big tsunami. After the area was cleaned up,

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