JAPAN PHOTOS by Philbert Ono

*Due to COVID-19, traveling to and within Japan is currently being discouraged.

Image search results - "suwa"
01-131_3174.jpg
JR Kami-Suwa Station
01-131_3175.jpg
Castle tower
01-132_3235.jpg
Lake SuwaYou can rent a bicycle at Kami-Suwa Station and ride along the lake shore.
010-120_2035.jpg
Billboard depicting Ki-otoshi (Log Drop) at Shimosuwa Station.
010-126_2607.jpg
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.
011-120_2037.jpg
Shimosuwa Station 下諏訪駅
011-126_2606.jpg
Onbashira monument in front of Shimosuwa Station. This Onbashira log was used in the opening ceremony of the Nagano Winter Olympics in 1998.
012-120_2036.jpg
Store your luggage here. Not enough lockers at the train station so they provide this service. 400 yen/day.
012-126_2604.jpg
Entertainment stage in front of Shimosuwa Station.
013-120_2038.jpg
Go straight on this road in front of the station.
013-126_2609.jpg
In front of Shimosuwa Station.
014-120_2039.jpg
There are no buses nor taxis to where we want to go.
014-126_2612.jpg
Parade of Nagamochi which are long chests. 長持
015-120_2040.jpg
We had to walk it. This was April 10, 2004, one of the days for Shimo-sha Shrine's Yamadashi when they hauled the logs from the mountain forest.
015-126_2610.jpg
016-120_2042.jpg
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
016-126_2617.jpg
017-120_2043.jpg
The logs will rest here for about a month until early May when they will be hauled to the shrines for the Satobiki erection.
017-126_2619.jpg
018-120_2048.jpg
Here is where anybody can get on the logs and play.
018-126_2622.jpg
019-120_2049.jpg
019-126_2623.jpg
02-126_2630.jpg
Kami-Suwa Station platform with hot spring foot bath
02-131_3181.jpg
02-132_3242.jpg
Net fishing
020-120_2051.jpg
After the Shimekake, we walked further.
020-126_2651.jpg
Crowded street
021-120_2052.jpg
Until we were stopped here. Sign says that only people with tickets can proceed further. Yeah, we walked all this way only to be told we cannot go further. Our destination was the Ki-otoshi slope where the huge logs slide down for the Yamadashi.
021-126_2653.jpg
Nagamochi. Also see my video at YouTube.
022-120_2057.jpg
We had to wait until the Ki-otoshi at 1pm was over. That's the one we wanted to see. But the place was already too full.
022-126_2657.jpg
023-120_2059.jpg
We had to wait until the 1pm Ki-otoshi log came out.
023-126_2659.jpg
024-120_2062.jpg
024-126_2661.jpg
Nagamochi chest decorations
025-120_2067.jpg
Log No. 4 for Shimo-sha Shrine's Akinomiya Shrine which already went down the big slope for Ki-otoshi (Log Drop) comes out at 1:30 pm. 秋宮四之柱
025-126_2662.jpg
026-120_2071.jpg
Log No. 4 for Shimo-sha Shrine's Akinomiya Shrine. 秋宮四之柱
026-126_2663.jpg
Umbrella dance
027-120_2075.jpg
So after this log came out, we were allowed to proceed to the giant slope.
027-127_2725.jpg
028-120_2078.jpg
There it is, the slope.
028-126_2627.jpg
Shimo-sha Akimiya Shrine torii
029-120_2081.jpg
We weren't the only ones there.
029-126_2628.jpg
Shimo-sha Akimiya Shrine. That's a support pole for erecting the No. 1 Akimiya Onbashira log. 秋宮
03-126_2625.jpg
Hot spring foot bath
03-131_3183.jpg
Takashima Castle
03-132_3236.jpg
030-120_2085.jpg
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
030-126_2632.jpg
Shimo-sha Akimiya Shrine 秋宮 幣拝殿
031-120_2090.jpg
The Ki-otoshi slope up close. Very rough-looking. 木落とし坂
031-126_2633.jpg
Hole for the No. 4 Akimiya Onbashira log
032-120_2091.jpg
People everywhere along the edge of the slope.
032-126_2634.jpg
Small support poles.
033-120_2093.jpg
The numerous people and trees made it impossible to see the slope itself.
033-126_2638.jpg
Hole for the No. 2 Akimiya Onbashira log
034-120_2095.jpg
It was very steep and uncomfortable to sit on, so I decided to leave this place.
034-126_2639.jpg
Hole for the No. 2 Akimiya Onbashira log
035-120_2097.jpg
035-126_2636.jpg
Hole for the No. 2 Akimiya Onbashira log
036-121_2105.jpg
I was forced to join this crowd.
036-126_2641.jpg
037-121_2103.jpg
The crowd extended all the way to the rear. All to see the 3pm Ki-otoshi log drop.
037-126_2642.jpg
Shimo-sha Akimiya Shrine priests 秋宮
038-121_2106.jpg
This was my view of the slope.
038-126_2645.jpg
Taiko performance at Shimo-sha Akimiya Shrine's Kaguraden
039-121_2115.jpg
Thank goodness for telephoto lenses.
039-126_2644.jpg
Shimenawa sacred rope on Kaguraden
04-126_2628.jpg
Hot spring foot bathThat's not me in the picture.
04-131_3188.jpg
04-132_3237.jpg
040-121_2117.jpg
We waited for the log scheduled to come down at 3 pm, but it was delayed by 2 hours...
040-126_2650.jpg
Onbashira Grand Park
040-86augAsuwayama.jpg
Statue of Emperor Keitai in Asuwayama Park 継体天皇像The 26th Emperor of Japan is said to have hailed from Echizen Province.
041-121_2118.jpg
We sat there for hours.
041-126_2666.jpg
Harumiya torii 春宮大門
042-121_2128.jpg
Finally, people pulling the log appeared.
042-126_2668.jpg
On the way to Harumiya Shrine, you see this bridge. It is a rest stop for the Akimiya Onbashira log procession. 下馬橋
043-121_2132.jpg
043-126_2673.jpg
The bridge is normally closed to the public. In the old days, this bridge marked Harumiya Shrine's sacred area where even warlords had to get out of their palanquin or get off their horse out of respect before proceeding further. 下馬橋
044-121_2137.jpg
The log pullers split into two.
044-126_2675.jpg
Harumiya Shrine ahead.
045-121_2150.jpg
045-127_2710.jpg
Harumiya Shrine torii 春宮
046-121_2157.jpg
Then came the log, and a lotta dust which made it difficult to see what was going on.
046-126_2679.jpg
Harumiya has a little slope where the logs are slid down.
047-121_2160.jpg
This was Log No. 1 for Shimo-sha's Harunomiya Shrine.
047-126_2689.jpg
People everywhere.
048-121_2161.jpg
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
048-126_2695.jpg
People along the small slope.
049-121_2162.jpg
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.
049-128_2815.jpg
This is May 9, 2004, the second day of Shimo-sha Shrine's Satobiki. Shimo-sha Shrine consists of two separate shrines called Akimiya and Harumiya.
05-126_2624.jpg
Onbashira rope on train platform
05-131_3182.jpg
05-132_3241.jpg
View from cycling road
050-121_2166.jpg
Now we walked back together with hundreds of thousands of people...
050-128_2819.jpg
Ropes to pull the Onbashira log from Harumiya Shrine.
050-IMG_3549.jpg
Lake Suwa
051-121_2170.jpg
The Ax Man. He cuts the rope which sets the log loose down the slope.
051-128_2823.jpg
Log in Harumiya Shrine.
051-IMG_3828.jpg
Lake Suwa
052-121_2172.jpg
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.
052-128_2833.jpg
Onbashira Log No. 1 already erected for Harumiya Shrine on May 8, 2004.
052-IMG_3565.jpg
Lake Suwa and mountains
053-128_2843.jpg
Erecting Onbashira Log No. 4 for Harumiya Shrine on May 9, 2004. 春宮四之御柱
053-IMG_3557.jpg
Lake Suwa and mountains
054-128_2849.jpg
Erecting Onbashira Log No. 4 for Harumiya Shrine on May 9, 2004. Shimosuwa, Nagano. 春宮四之御柱
054-IMG_3562.jpg
Lake Suwa and mountains
055-128_2852.jpg
Everything is done with great fanfare, with these men riding on the log as it slowly rises by a system of cables and pulleys.
055-IMG_3561.jpg
056-128_2855.jpg
"Yoisa! Yoisa!"
056-IMG_3660.jpg
057-128_2858.jpg
Also see my video at YouTube.
057-IMG_3662.jpg
058-128_2859.jpg
058-IMG_3552.jpg
Lakeside park
059-128_2862.jpg
059-IMG_3555.jpg
Lakeside park
06-126_2623.jpg
Onbashira rope on train platform
06-131_3187.jpg
06-132_3245.jpg
060-128_2869.jpg
When the log is erected, a banner is unrolled.
060-IMG_3829.jpg
Lakeside park
061-128_2870.jpg
The banner reads, "Thank you everyone for your cooperation."
061-IMG_3830.jpg
Lake Suwa
062-128_2878.jpg
062-IMG_3831.jpg
Lake Suwa
063-128_2888.jpg
063-IMG_3547.jpg
Lake Suwa and bridge
064-128_2891.jpg
Sake is given for free.
064-IMG_3573.jpg
065-128_2896.jpg
065-IMG_3548.jpg
Bridge across Kamaguchi Floodgate
066-129_2901.jpg
066-IMG_3569.jpg
Bridge across Kamaguchi Floodgate
067-129_2903.jpg
The men now descend from the log.
067-IMG_3570.jpg
068-129_2910.jpg
A few of them are acrobats. Also see my video at YouTube.
068-95-127_2735.jpg
Kamaguchi Floodgate
069-129_2915.jpg
Onbashira Log No. 3 for Harumiya Shrine.
069-IMG_3826.jpg
Carp caught from Lake Suwa
07-126_2622.jpg
Dept. store
07-131_3185.jpg
Takashima Castle 高島城
07-132_3246.jpg
070-129_2921.jpg
The base of the Onbashira log is reinforced by these smaller logs.
070-IMG_3608.jpg
Lake Suwa during a warm winter.
071-129_2945.jpg
Music Box Museum
071-IMG_3619.jpg
072-129_2944.jpg
Parade
072-IMG_3621.jpg
073-129_2928.jpg
One Onbashira log at a rest stop.
073-IMG_3666.jpg
074-129_2931.jpg
Ropes at rest
074-IMG_3624.jpg
Oguchi Taro monument
075-129_2936.jpg
The logs are pulled by people from various districts or parishes in the Suwa region including Chino, Shimosuwa, Okaya, and Suwa.
075-IMG_3822.jpg
076-129_2947.jpg
Another Onbashira log makes its way through.
076-IMG_3821.jpg
Locomotive from Ohio, USA used in the 1930s.
077-129_2951.jpg
All the Onbashira logs are hauled manually by human hands from when it is cut in the mountain forest. No motor vehicles of any kind is used to haul the logs.
077-IMG_3631.jpg
Sculpture in lakeside park
078-129_2952.jpg
078-92-127_2761.jpg
079-129_2957.jpg
Onbashira Matsuri, Shimosuwa, Nagano. Also see my video at YouTube.
079-91-127_2754.jpg
Water fountain
08-126_2620.jpg
Kami Suwa Onsen (Spa)
08-131_3179.jpg
Bridge to castle park
08-132_3247.jpg
Boat cruises
080-129_2960.jpg
The log can move quite fast, even with all those people riding it.
080-IMG_3686.jpg
081-129_2961.jpg
081-IMG_3632.jpg
Lakeside park
082-129_2969.jpg
082-IMG_3646.jpg
Ducks
083-129_2973.jpg
This looks like Log No. 2 for Akimiya Shrine.
083-IMG_3649.jpg
Ducks fly away on Lake Suwa.
084-129_2975.jpg
These people are from Suwa city.
084-IMG_3650.jpg
Ducks fly to safety.
085-129_2982.jpg
Ax man
085-IMG_3634.jpg
Sculpture
086-129_2992.jpg
086-IMG_3638.jpg
Mother and child sculpture
087-129_2999.jpg
Log standing by in front of Akimiya Shrine.
087-IMG_3640.jpg
088-129_3000.jpg
Onbashira-sai, Shimosuwa-machi, Nagano.
088-IMG_3641.jpg
Lakeside park
089-130_3009.jpg
Log standing by in front of Akimiya Shrine.
089-IMG_3669.jpg
Playground
09-131_3192.jpg
09-132_3248.jpg
090-130_3015.jpg
090-IMG_3668.jpg
Lakeside park
091-130_3020.jpg
Parade continues even in the rain.
091-IMG_3657.jpg
092-130_3024.jpg
Also see my video at YouTube.
092-93-127_2759.jpg
Water fountain and azaleas in spring
093-130_3028.jpg
093-94-127_2766.jpg
Water fountain and azaleas in spring
094-130_3034.jpg
094-96-127_2751.jpg
Map of lake shore area
095-130_3037.jpg
095-97-127_2784.jpg
Tenryu River at sunset
096-125_2591.jpg
Now it's May 10, 2004, the last day of the Shimo-sha Satobiki. All four logs will erected at Akimiya Shrine on this day.
097-130_3091.jpg
We waited in the rain for Onbashira Log No. 1 to be erected first at Akimiya Shrine at 10:00 am. However, we had to wait, standing up in the rain and in the crowd, for 2.5 hours before they finally started to raise the log.
098-125_2569.jpg
Finally, something to photograph.
099-125_2579.jpg
10-131_3191.jpg
10-132_3251.jpg
100-125_2589.jpg
They threw out free streamers and I caught one. "Yoisa! Yoisa!"
101-125_2598.jpg
102-131_3101.jpg
103-131_3118.jpg
They waved their pom-poms and cheered all the while.
104-131_3122.jpg
Also see my video at YouTube.
105-131_3124.jpg
Onbashira Festival. They included one woman.
106-131_3145.jpg
Banners unfurled.
107-131_3159.jpg
Now they descend.
108-131_3163.jpg
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.
109-131_3171.jpg
Lingering crowd. Also see photos of Shimo-sha Yamadashi.
11-131_3194.jpg
11-132_3255.jpg
12-132_3201.jpg
About the castle
12-132_3254.jpg
13-131_3200.jpg
Stairs to castle tower
13-132_3249.jpg
14-132_3211.jpg
Inside castle tower
14-132_3250.jpg
15-132_3209.jpg
Inside castle tower
15-132_3257.jpg
Hot spring foot bath (free)
16-126_2614.jpg
Hot spring foot bathThe place was covered due to rain.
16-132_3203.jpg
View from castle tower
17-126_2615.jpg
Hot spring foot bath
17-132_3202.jpg
View from castle tower
18-132_3204.jpg
View from castle tower
18-132_3258.jpg
Hot spring foot bath
19-126_2617.jpg
19-132_3206.jpg
View of moat from castle tower
20-126_2618.jpg
20-132_3208.jpg
View of garden from castle tower
200-127_2778.jpg
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This 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.
202-IMG_3586.jpg
Taro Oguchi Statue and Song Monument in winter.
204-127_2775.jpg
About Taro Oguchi.The 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.
206-IMG_3590.jpg
Statue of Oguchi Taro
208-IMG_3601.jpg
Statue of Oguchi Taro 小口太郎銅像Short walk from JR Okaya Station. Walk toward the shore of Lake Suwa. The monument is near the mouth of Tenryu River.
21-126_2621.jpg
Sheep sculpture
21-132_3225.jpg
Garden
210-IMG_3603.jpg
Closeup of Taro Oguchi statueHe 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.
211-IMG_3583.jpg
Rear view, looking toward Lake Suwa.
214-127_2781.jpg
Side view of Taro Oguchi Statue and Song Monument in spring with azaleas.
216-IMG_3592.jpg
Side view of Taro Oguchi Statue and Song Monument in winter. 小口太郎顕彰碑
218-127_2779.jpg
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.The 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).
22-132_3230.jpg
220-127_2776.jpg
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
451 files on 2 page(s) 1