JAPAN PHOTOS by Philbert Ono

*Be sure to wear a mask when in crowds.


Most viewed - Yasu 野洲市
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View of Mt. Mikami from Omi-Fuji Karyoku Koen Park in spring.382 views
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Entrance to Kibogaoka Park during the Sports Recreation Shiga 2008 festival during Oct. 18-21, 2008. It's an annual event held in a different prefecture. People from all 47 prefectures and South Korea participate in tournaments for 18 sports.365 views
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The Hyozu Matsuri is held at Hyozu Taisha Shrine during May 3-6, but the 5th is the climax with the mikoshi parade. 232 viewsThis is the shrine's first torii. This is at the front end of a 300-meter pine tree-lined path. Infrequent buses go to the shrine from Yasu Station (North exit). So infrequent that you might need to take a taxi. 一の鳥居
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Mikami Jinja's Honden. This was Shiga's first Shinto shrine building to be designated as a National Treasure. 本殿203 views
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"Dotaku" means bronze bell. This one decorates the entrance of the Dotaku Museum in Yasu. Map197 views
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Rice-planting Festival in Yasu, Shiga Prefecture with Mt. Mikami in the background. Also see my YouTube video here.184 views
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This rice paddy near the foot of Mt. Mikami and next to Mikami Shrine was used to produce the rice offering used for the Showa Emperor Hirohito's accession to the throne in 1928. Such a paddy is called Yuki Saiden. 悠紀斎田171 views
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Large grassy lawn.168 views
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Shallow stream165 views
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Rice-planting festival dancer, Yasu, Shiga Pref.163 views
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Mikami Shrine's Honden in Yasu, a National Treasure. It is a mixture of Shinto shrine and Buddhist temple architecture. It dates from the Kamakura Period, about 700 years ago. 本殿160 views
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Hyozu Taisha Shrine's Japanese garden at night in fall. It's really beautiful. Like someone painted colorful autumn leaves on a black canvas.156 views
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West gate (Nishi Gate) to Kibogaoka Culture Park, a large prefectural park featuring a large grassy lawn, sports facilities, camping facilities, and seminar facilities. MAP152 views
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Rice-planting festival dancer, Yasu, Shiga Pref.152 views
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I often see foreigners participating in Shiga festivals.135 views
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Woman planting rice at the rice-planting festival in Yasu, Shiga Prefecture.133 views
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Osasahara Shrine's Honden Hall, a National Treasure in Yasu, Shiga. The shrine dates from the mid-Heian Period. It is dedicated to a god named Susano-o. 大笹原神社 本殿133 views
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Ayame girls at Hyozu Matsuri.133 views
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Yamanokami mountain god monument127 views
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View of Mt. Mikami-yama amid rice paddies in Yasu. Elevation 432 meters.123 views
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On the fourth Sunday in May, the Yuki Saiden O-taue Matsuri, or Rice-planting Festival is held here. It starts at 10 am with a Shinto ceremony with the planters and local dignitaries in attendance in front of the rice paddy.117 views
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Mold for making a dotaku. Yasu's dotaku found their way to the following overseas museums: Museum of East Asian Art in Cologne (Germany), Asian Art Museum of San Francisco (USA), and Minneapolis Institute of Arts (USA).114 views
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Hyozu Matsuri Festival 兵主祭113 views
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Afterward, they washed their feet in a stream next to Mikami Shrine. Also see photos of the Taga Taisha Rice-Planting Festival.111 views
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View of Mt. Mikami from across Lake Biwa. Famous for the Giant Centipede folktale.109 views
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Almost finished planting the rice in this paddy. The festival was over after 11 am.108 views
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Ayame mikoshi girls at Hyozu Matsuri Festival, Shiga. 兵主祭107 views
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Caffy, the official mascot of Sports Recreation Shiga 2008, is modeled after the Lake Biwa Giant Catfish, a unique species found only in Lake Biwa.105 views
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They wear a sedge hat (suge-kasa すげ笠), red trousers (緋ばかま), wrist covers (手甲), and leggings (脚絆).99 views
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From JR Yasu Station's South exit (Minami-guchi), take a bus going to Karyoku Koen (花緑公園) or Murata Seisakusho (via Nishi Gate 西ゲート経由 村田製作所行き) and get off at Dotaku Hakubutsukan-mae (銅鐸博物館前). Bus ride is 91 views
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My YouTube video of the Ayame mikoshi girls at Hyozu Matsuri in 2010.91 views
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West Gate for car parking. Bus stop on right.90 views
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Rice-planting Festival Shinto ceremony. A torii stands next to the rice paddy. MAP90 views
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This rice paddy was used to produce the rice used for a ritual called the Daijosai as part of the Showa Emperor's accession ceremonies in 1928. Selected by the Imperial Household Agency, the Yuki Saiden sacred rice paddy must be east of Kyoto. 悠89 views
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From Yasu Station, it's a short bus ride to the foot of Mt. Mikami (get off at Yamade-mae 山出前). Then backtrack along the road to see two hiking paths. There are two trails, the Front (Omote, seen on the left)) and Back (Ura, seen on the right).88 views
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First they threw bunches of rice seedlings into the paddy.87 views
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Yasu's official mascot, named Dotaku-kun, is modeled after a dotaku.85 views
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Everyone took off their straw sandals and went into the paddies barefoot.84 views
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The dotaku were nestled inside each other. These bells are dated from around 100 BC to 300 AD. The bells were not really used as bells. They were more for decorative and religious purposes.84 views
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Ready to sink into the paddy.83 views
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Mt. Mikami as seen from JR Yasu Station train platform. The south exit of Yasu Station has a tourist info office where you can get maps and directions to the bus stop.82 views
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Sign shows the way to the "Front Mountain Path" (Omote Tozando). I recommend taking a bottle or two of drinks. There's a vending machine near the bus stop. If you miss the bus from Yasu Station, it's a 40 min. walk. Taxis available. 表81 views
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Map of Mt. Mikami. It says the trail is 1.3 km long, taking 40 min. For normal people, allow 80 min. to reach the peak. I took about 90 min. to reach the top, while taking time to take pictures.81 views
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For the Daijosai, another sacred rice paddy is also selected to the west of Kyoto. That paddy is called Suki Saiden. In 1928, it was located in Fukuoka Pref.81 views
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View of Mt. Mikami from Karasaki, across Lake Biwa.79 views
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A gate with sacred rope77 views
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The rice paddy actually consists of four square paddies divided by cross-shaped ridges. When you see it from above, it looks like the kanji "ta" 田 which means rice paddy.77 views
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At 10:30 am when the ceremony was over, they proceeded to the rice paddies. Four groups of planters and dancers went to the four paddies.75 views
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Dotaku Museum in Yasu, Shiga Prefecture. Opened in Nov. 1988, the museum is near the site where Japan's largest bronze bell was unearthed. It has bronze bell exhibits and research facilities. Open 9 am to 5 pm (closed Mon.). Admission 400 yen.75 views
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Although a Shinto priest from Mikami Shrine conducts the ceremony, the festival is organized by the Yasu Tourist Association. The rice planters and dancers are from a local rice-planting preservation group.74 views
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Satellite view of Yasu.74 views
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Torii and gate at night73 views
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After passing through a bamboo grove, there is a clearing with the Tempo Gimin Monument.73 views
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Their feet are more than ankle deep in the mud. No one lost their balance and fell into the mud.73 views
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It is a great honor to be selected as the sacred rice paddy for an emperor's accession to the throne. The Yuki Saiden paddy for the current Emperor Akihito was in Akita Pref.73 views
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Replica of Japan's largest dotaku found in Yasu.73 views
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Romon Gate at night in fall.72 views
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Rice seedlings in hand.72 views
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This is how the dotaku were buried. 72 views
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They leave here and proceed along the pine tree path to the first torii. Then they will come back here and go back and forth a few times during the festival.72 views
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On the ridges were women dancers.71 views
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Monument marking the site where the dotaku were found. It's frustrating that none of the original dotaku discovered in Yasu are in Yasu. Another case of bungling and ineptness by local officials. Even one original dotaku would make the museum busier.71 views
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The Yuki Saiden rice paddy is in a scenic, rural location, with Mt. Mikami in the background. You can understand why it was selected to be the Yuki Saiden in 1928.70 views
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Adjacent to the Dotaku Museum is a replica of a Yayoi Period village. Yayoi Period (500 BC to 300 AD) is noted as when rice growing started in Japan.70 views
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The "Front Mountain Path" has a gate to prevent monkeys from escaping to the residential area. Be sure to close the gate after entering.68 views
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Young children also joined in the singing.68 views
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Lookout point on Mt. Mikami in Yasu.67 views
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Replica of Japan's largest dotaku found in Yasu.67 views
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It was a beautiful festival day on May 5, 2010. The Ayame girls wore colorful happi coats which really added color to the festival.67 views
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My YouTube video of Hyozu Matsuri in 2010.67 views
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Time capsule to be opened in 2042.66 views
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When the taiko drumming and folk singing started, they started planting the rice seedlings. On the ridge, there were dancers.66 views
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Sign shows the way to the "Back Mountain Path" (Ura Tozando). This is the less steep trail to the summit. Notice the peak on the left. I went on this trail. 裏登山道 MAP65 views
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In the background is cloud-capped Mt. Mikami.65 views
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Ayame girls rehearsing their festival call.65 views
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They also had a short break.64 views
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The mikoshi head home from Hyozu Taisha. That's Mt. Mikami in the background.64 views
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A local troupe of Taiko drummers called "Mukade Taiko." Mukade means centipede. Mt. Mikami is famous for a folk tale about a giant centipede which occupied the mountain. It was later killed by a brave warrior from Otsu.63 views
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On Aug. 20, 1881, two young lads were playing on Mt. Oiwa when they stumbled across three dotaku partially exposed in the ground. The next day, eleven more dotaku were discovered in the same area.63 views
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Hyozu Taisha Shrine at night62 views
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At the foot of Mt. Mikami is Tempo Gimin Monument dedicated to the farmers who were tortured to death after the 1842 Tempo Ikki (天保一揆) uprising against the government's unfair land taxation surveys..62 views
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Great view, but hazy when I was there. Ishibe is toward the left, and the shinkansen tracks toward the right.62 views
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Cherry trees bloom in early April in Omi-Fuji Karyoku Koen Park (also called Omi-Fuji Green Acres), Yasu. MAP62 views
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On the left is Shinohara Shrine dedicated to Ishikoritome, the god of mochi rice cakes. The rice around here was said to be ideal for making mochi.62 views
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There is the 300-meter, pine tree-lined gravel path to the shrine from the first torii. MAP62 views
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View from the dip. There should be a better view on the other side too, but too many trees block the view.61 views
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View from Mt. Mikami, Yasu. Ishibe is toward the left.61 views
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Camping lodge in Karyoku Koen Park. There are more trails within the park and other sights like cherry blossoms. To get back to Yasu Station, walk to Kibogaoka Bunka Koen Park and the bus stop is at the Kibogaoka Nishi Gate next to the parking lot.61 views
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Cherry blossoms61 views
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Gate to the Back Mountain Path. Be sure to close the gate after entering. I don't know how it would prevent monkeys from climbing over the low gate. Between Sept. 23 and Nov. 3 during mushroom season, 500 yen admission is charged for the Front/Back pa60 views
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Two of the dotaku were acquired by the Tokyo National Museum. The remaining dotaku were scattered among various people. Their whereabouts were unknown until an investigation found 12 of them at temples and Japanese and overseas museums.60 views
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Osasahara Shrine's Honden Hall, a National Treasure. 大笹原神社 本殿60 views
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Also see my video at YouTube.59 views
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One feature of this festival is that someone rides on the mikoshi and detaches and raised the phoenix ornament at the top of the mikoshi.59 views
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Sandwiched between the foot of Mt. Mikami and Kibogaoka Bunka Park, Omi-Fuji Karyoku Koen Park (also called Omi-Fuji Green Acres) is about flowers and greenery, including cherry blossoms. 植物園58 views
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Garden of various cherry trees.58 views
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Mt. Mikami in the distance.58 views
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Mini concert at night. They had a few solo musicians playing romantic night songs like Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. Very nice.57 views
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He thanked the girls and asked them to help clean up. He also gave away the iris flowers.57 views
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After the festival is over, the path is deserted. I had to take a taxi back to Yasu Station. No buses running.57 views
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Chain railing is helpful.56 views
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Sato no Ie thatched-roof house now a display space. 里の家56 views
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Inside a Yayoi-Period grass shack.56 views
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Grass slide55 views
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Ayame girls at Hyozu Matsuri in Yasu.55 views
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Two wooden signs pointed in opposite directions both say "To Mt. Mikami summit." Go right to continue on the easier Back Mountain Path. Or go left to get on the steeper Front Mountain Path. The large white sign says "Take home your trash.&q54 views
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Shrine and torii at the summit.54 views
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Sacred rock where the god lives.54 views
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After you get off the bus at Mikami Jinja-mae, you see this small road leading to the rear entrance of the shrine. MAP54 views
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These ancient abode were pretty much a hole in the ground with a roof over it.54 views
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Hiking up the Back Mountain Path. The trail actually goes mainly toward the side of the mountain rather than the back. The back of the mountain has a trail going down toward Kibogaoka Bunka Koen Park.53 views
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Sacred tree. The bark from this tree is used for the roofing of the shrine. Do not scratch or damage it.53 views
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Shrine and torii at the summit.53 views
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Downward slope and trail. This trail is called the Karyoku Koen-gawa Tozando which starts from the Karyoku Koen flower park. 花緑公園側登山道53 views
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Inside Sato no Ie53 views
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Halfway point called Uchikoshi 打越. It's a small clearing and crossroads for multiple trails. Also a good place to harvest matsutake mushrooms during the fall (Sept. 23-Nov. 3).52 views
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I visited this park after coming down from Mt. Mikami which was full of green and brown. So seeing bright colors in this park was a great sight.52 views
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Map of the Dotaku Museum and Yayoi no Mori Park featuring Yayoi Period grass shacks. Dotaku Museum is a short bus ride from JR Yasu Station. Take the bus which goes to Dotaku Hakubutsukan-mae.52 views
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Normally, the largest dotaku is not exhibited here. It is in the Tokyo National Museum.52 views
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"Ayame" means iris flower, in reference to women. Out of the 30+ portable shrines (mikoshi) and taiko drums to be paraded during the festival, two of them, called Ayame, are carried only by women. These women will carry the Ayame mikoshi and tai52 views
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Sometimes log steps are provided.51 views
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View from Mt. Mikami, Yasu.51 views
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Route 8 crossing Yasu River51 views
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Weeping cherry tree in Omi-Fuji Karyoku Koen Park (also called Omi-Fuji Green Acres) in Yasu.51 views
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When I arrived, the Ayame girls were rehearsing their routine for the festival in front of this red Romon Gate. This gate was said to have been donated by Shogun Ashikaga Takauji in the 14th century. 楼門51 views
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Steps50 views
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Roots50 views
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500 meters until the peak.50 views
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Looking toward Ritto50 views
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Beware of snakes (mamushi). Never saw any. Never saw any monkeys either.50 views
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MC Chiho Ono from FM Shiga (e-radio) asks the twins a few questions. Also see the video here. 司会者 小野千穂50 views
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Hiking Rules: No smoking. Do not make fire. Don't break tree branches or damage any trees. Don't take home any rocks, wood, etc. Take home your own trash.49 views
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The trail is rocky and rooty, with lots of tree roots.49 views
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Trail to summit.49 views
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Going down to the lookout point.49 views
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Cherry blossoms and softball field49 views
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Path to shrine48 views
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This trail goes around the side of the mountain. Not recommended.48 views
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Roots48 views
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No sign for this little shrine.48 views
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Steel railing to grab.48 views
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Summit of Mt. Mikami. Only a small clearing with a bench. It was a great day for hiking. It is quite a popular mountain for climbers. Even for families with little kids. Didn't see any monkeys. No bears.48 views
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Large stone walls48 views
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Furusato Yakata for nature workshops48 views
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Mt. Mikami and slide48 views
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Mushrooms48 views
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Small torii and shrine.47 views
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The sign is almost totally unreadable.47 views
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Kokegatani47 views
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Gods here must be happy to see such grand views.47 views
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Sign pointing to a lookout point, slightly below the shrine.47 views
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Prevent forest fires.47 views
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Bridge over the highway47 views
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Jamie and Megan Thompson sing "Lake Biwa Rowing Song" at Sports Recreation Shiga 2008 on Oct. 18, 2008 in Kibogaoka Park, Yasu, Shiga Pref.47 views
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Sports Recreation aerobics tournament awards ceremony. See more photos of the aerobics tournament here.47 views
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Monument marking the site where the dotaku were found. In 1962, ten more dotaku were found in Yasu.46 views
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Sign45 views
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This is almost near the mountain's peak.45 views
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Summit in sight.45 views
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On the right, Route 8 can be seen crossing Yasu River.45 views
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The path on the left leads to the mountain's peak.45 views
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Getting close to civilization.45 views
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In spring, the cherries bloom in the botanical gardens. Lodging facilities, walking trails, playgrounds, and workshops are also provided. Water fountain. 近江富士花緑公園45 views
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Mikoshi portable shrine storehouse45 views
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Some pots inside a hut.45 views
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Kokegatani Valley. There's a small dip in the trail, going down and up again. This is a small valley near the peak. Visible as a small notch next to the peak. 苔が谷44 views
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1.4 km to Karyoku Koen Park44 views
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Hand sculpture.44 views
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Caffy doll44 views
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The ceiling has square beams.44 views
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At the festival start time, the Ayame girls start carrying the taiko drum and mikoshi from this gate.44 views
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Many of the mikoshi are for children. The mikoshi come from smaller shrines in the area related to Hyozu Taisha.44 views
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Also see my video at YouTube.44 views
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Yuba-no-Futokoro43 views
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Going down from the summit.43 views
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Camping lodge43 views
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Softball field43 views
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A Shinto ceremony is held at the shrine in the morning. Then by noon or so, over 30 portable shrines and taiko drums gather here on this path for the annual Hyozu Matsuri on May 5.43 views
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There are several large mikoshi carried by men. All the mikoshi and taiko drums have a name.43 views
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