JAPAN PHOTOS by Philbert Ono

*Be sure to wear a mask when in crowds.


Most viewed - MIE 三重県
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Kunoichi female ninja guide1892 views
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Ninja disguises1605 views
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Ninja costumes1585 views
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An altar in the Iga-ryu Ninja House.1248 views
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Lets you escape to the next room instantly, or climb up or down the ladder on the right wall.1199 views
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Pepper bombs to blind you.1163 views
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What would a ninja museum be without a display of shuriken?1112 views
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The first demo is this swinging wall.1094 views
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This is a staircase concealed as a shelf.1014 views
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Meoto-Iwa Wedded Rocks off the coast of Futami-cho, Ise city, Mie Prefecture. 夫婦岩988 views
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Ninja swords are short and straight with no curvature.969 views
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863 views
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Sword hidden in the floor.841 views
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Another wall door that leads to the basement tunnel.838 views
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827 views
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Now a shelf. It leads to the attic.822 views
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Emergency escape hatch whose lock can be quickly released with a sheet of paper.809 views
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Entrance to the basement.805 views
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Ueno-shi Station has ninja dolls to greet you.804 views
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Hidden floor compartment where they hid their valuables outside the house.791 views
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Ninja swords.780 views
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When you push in the end of this floor plank, it opens up to reveal a sword.776 views
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756 views
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Iga-Ueno is very successful in promoting its ninja past and drawing tourists. Also see the Koga-ryu Ninja House in Shiga.724 views
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Lock picks723 views
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Another swinging wall door.713 views
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There she goes.672 views
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Bamboo sticks concealing a sword.672 views
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Inside the Iga-ryu Ninja House670 views
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Ninjas in the kitchen. We could not go up into the attic as we can in Koka's ninja house in Shiga.669 views
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Inside the Iga-ryu Ninja House.668 views
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Flipper-like clogs to walk through swamps663 views
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658 views
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Nakayama Emiri, a TV personality, tries to throw shuriken.645 views
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Storefront shutter with ninja drawings.642 views
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Iron claws641 views
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Female ninja climbing over a wall.610 views
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Sword demo604 views
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602 views
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599 views
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Kitchen in Iga-ryu Ninja House.598 views
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595 views
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Iga-ryu Ninja Museum 591 views
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588 views
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587 views
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587 views
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Juggling sickles. Having a sickle did not arouse suspicion as it was a common farming tool. But for the ninja, it was an effective weapon.586 views
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575 views
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Iga-ryu Ninja House ninja show.559 views
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Kitchen area in Iga-ryu Ninja House.556 views
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Revolving door of Iga-ryu Ninja House 549 views
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545 views
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Duel to the death.543 views
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Making medicine.540 views
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Once a group gets large enough, they take you all in and a female ninja guide explains the house's ninja trickery. Admission charged. Recommended is the set of tickets that admit you to the ninja house, castle, and Danjiri Museum.539 views
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Shuruken takes skill to throw.537 views
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532 views
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Ninja shop526 views
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Five-colored rice grains used for secret communication.525 views
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Five-colored rice grains used for secret communication.523 views
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Kitchen516 views
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For an extra 200 yen, you can watch the ninja show right next to the ninja house.514 views
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Female ninja511 views
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Cushion510 views
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501 views
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Iga-ryu Ninja House is in Ueno Park which includes Iga-Ueno Castle nearby.495 views
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More secret ninja language.495 views
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Inside ninja museum which is in a former rice warehouse.494 views
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Thatched-roof of Iga-ryu Ninja House.493 views
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Iga-ryu Ninja House is a thatched-roof house whose roof once caught fire in the 1990s. It was rebuilt.491 views
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Ninja doll on a pole.490 views
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489 views
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489 views
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Throwing sickles and shuriken.485 views
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479 views
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You have to applaud once in a while.478 views
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Even ninja get thirsty.469 views
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Rope knots hung on roof eaves, etc., were also used for communication.462 views
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458 views
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Veranda of Iga-ryu Ninja House 457 views
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Shuriken throwing.450 views
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Iga-ryu Ninja House garden. They take you in groups, so you may have to wait a while before you can go in.439 views
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Everywhere you go in Iga-Ueno, you see a ninja motif.437 views
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428 views
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Iga-Ueno Ninja Festa poster427 views
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Another ninja museum.424 views
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The shrine is dedicated to Sarutahiko and Ukano-mitama. Sarutahiko is a god which serves as a pathfinder guide. Deities for land/sea transportation safety. 二見418 views
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Ninjas under cherry blossoms.413 views
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Where you can rent a ninja costume.406 views
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See many people wearing ninja costumes during the ninja festa.404 views
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Even the trains have a ninja (female) paint job.394 views
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Futami Okitama Shrine does not have a main hall (Honden) like most other shrines. It worships the Okitama Sacred Stone in the ocean beyond the Wedded Rocks. 二見興玉神社383 views
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During April and early May, they hold the annual ninja festa.361 views
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The Wedded Rocks are part of Futami Okitama Shrine known for frog sculptures. 二見興玉神社353 views
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Tsu Castle, Ushitora turret342 views
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Iga-Ueno really plays up its ninja past. 342 views
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Statue of Lord Takatora Todo, who became the 11th lord of the castle in 1608. He is revered for revamping the castle and developing the castle town of Tsu. He was originally from Inugami, Shiga Pref. This statue was built in 1998.329 views
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The Wedded Rocks are actually a type of torii gate for worshipping the Okitama Sacred Stone in the ocean.323 views1 comments
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Ninja paint job on a train.306 views
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Map of Ise Jingu's Naiku Shrine. First you cross Uji Bridge.292 views
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Wedded Rocks with a new rope. Japan has numerous other Wedded Rocks and stones, but this is by far the most famous.277 views
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Map of Naiku at Ise Jingu Shrine and adjacent area.274 views
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Five ropes are being positioned and made taut.270 views
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Iga-Ueno Castle is one of three major tourist attractions in the city of Iga. It is a short walk from Ueno-shi Station on the Kintetsu Iga Line.266 views
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All the while, the cheering section chants and wave streamers.263 views
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The frog is Sarutahiko's messenger. Frog is called "kaeru" in Japanese, which is a homonym for the another word meaning "return home." If you travel a lot, pray here for a safe return. 夫婦岩252 views
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Replacing the rope for the Wedded Rocks, Mie Pref.250 views
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Close up map of Naiku. An adjacent plot next the shrine is for the next rebuilding of the shrine. The current, 20-year-old Naiku shrine is on an adjacent plot of land.242 views It takes 8 years to rebuild the Naiku shrine. So 12 years from now, they will start the rebuilding process all over again. Numerous ceremonies are held for this rebuilding, but only a few of them can be seen by the public.
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Inabe Shrine, where the Oyashiro Matsuri or Ageuma festival is held on the first Sat. and Sun. of April (if it falls on the 1st and 2nd, the festival is held on the 8th and 9th) in Toin, Mie Prefecture. A 15-min. walk from Toin Station on the Sangi Line.236 views
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The ropes are now completely cut, breaking the bond between the two rocks.232 views
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The job is finished.231 views
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The torii on the larger rock is quite small. The sacred rope is replaced three times a year on May 5, September 5, and at the end of December.226 views
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The rope installers return to shore.222 views
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Men carry spanking-new shimenawa ropes to the rocks.215 views
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The men begin to cut off the old rope. Those sharp sickles soon made short work of the old sacred ropes which were brought ashore in small pieces.213 views
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The new ropes are strung across the two rocks. A small rope tied to the end of the large rope is used to pull the large rope up the rock.208 views
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Iga-Ueno's Ueno Park includes this beautiful building called the Haisei-den (俳聖殿), a hall dedicated to Haiku poet Matsuo Basho who was from Iga-Ueno.203 views
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5月5日、9月5日と12月下旬には夫婦岩の大注連縄の張り替え神事が行われる。これらの写真は5月5日に撮影された。202 views
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Ueno-shi Station200 views
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Ise Jingu Shrine's Naiku (Inner Shrine) is the main and most popular shrine at Ise. The shrine is rebuilt every 20 years and 2013 will mark the completion of the new shrine to replace the old one built in 1993.197 views
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The ceremony attracts a large crowd.192 views
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The shimenawa rope actually consists of five smaller ropes. They cut the ropes one by one.188 views
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185 views
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The shimenawa rope bonding the Wedded Rocks is replaced three times a year. May 5, when these photos were taken, is one of the days when they replace the rope. First, they gathered at the shrine at 10 am for a 30-min. prayer ceremony.181 views
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Pieces of the old rope. Anyone could take home the pieces of old sacred rope if they wanted.179 views
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Lantern and sunset at Futami Okitama Shrine174 views
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Ise Jingu shrine maidens look the same as any other shrine maidens. They are likely college students hired just for New Year's to sell goods.174 views
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Castle wall facing the street170 viewsWhen you walk to Tsu Castle from the bus stop, this is what you first see. It is obviously a flatland-type castle. Tsu Castle was first built in 1580 by Oda Nobukane, the younger brother of warlord Oda Nobunaga.
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Iga-Ueno Castle and cherry blossoms, Mie Prefecture.162 views
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Noted for cherry blossoms, Kyuka Park is on the site of Kuwana Castle which was occupied by Honda Tadakatsu.160 viewsAdjacent to the park is the Kuwana-juku post town on the Tokaido Road that welcomed visitors after they crossed the ocean (Shichiri-no-watashi) from Miya-juku in Aichi. Photo: Kuwana sign at Kuwana Station.
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One by one, the men carefully positioned the new sacred ropes on the two Rocks. All the while, young children and young men are chanting on the shore.159 views
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Making sure that the rope is aligned and positioned correctly.159 views
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Iga-Ueno Castle and cherry blossoms, Mie Prefecture. During the Meiji Restoration, Ueno Castle's structures were dismantled as with many other castles.159 views
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157 views
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Sunset at Futami Okitama Shrine. In the old days when traveling was a hazardous undertaking in Japan, pilgrims who traveled to worship at the Ise Grand Shrines prayed here for a safe return home.153 views
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The second rope is installed.153 views
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Nyutoku-mon Gate150 views
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Moat149 views
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The first rope is wound around both rocks.141 views
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The old rope is taken away.140 views
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Ushitora turret entrance (not open)138 views
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Three-story Ushitora turret, reconstructed in 1958.137 viewsThis is the only significant building remaining of the castle.
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Garden in Nishinomaru137 views
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Statue of Basho at Ueno-shi Station.135 views
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The bottleneck at Naiku was this little torii which most people wanted to walk through at the top of the steps. People like me who didn't have time opted to go up the steps on the right side in no time. 133 views
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Entering Geku shrine at Ise.131 views
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128 views
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Map of Toin town, Mie. Many thanks to my friends Tomoyo and Shunji in Toin-cho for taking me to see this festival.126 views
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126 views
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Todo Takatora's helmet125 views
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Look how small the offertory box is at Ise Jingu's Naiku. The one at Meiji Shrine in Tokyo is like half the size of a football field. Of course, Ise Jingu just doesn't have the space for it.124 views
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About 300-400 meters to the Naiku shrine, it got congested. It took about an hour to reach the foot of the steps going up to the shrine.123 views
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I wondered how much I should donate for this sake. I just dropped a 100 yen coin and probably got 20 yen worth of sake. At Atsuta Shrine (one of Japan's Big Three shrines) in Nagoya, they have a nice big hall where they serve hot tea and sweets for 123 viewsNothing like that here.
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Naiku shrine and torii are in sight at the top of the steps ahead. We were told that it would take more than an hour just to get up these steps. However, we could walk up the steps quickly on the right edge of the steps.118 views
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The narrow gauge makes the trains narrower too.117 views
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The line's train tracks has an extra narrow gauge.115 views
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Ushitora turret114 views
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Ushitora turret and stone wall114 views
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Statue of Lord Honda Tadakatsu at Kyuka Park. 本多忠勝113 views
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Kyuka Park moat near Shichiri-no-watashi.113 views
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Moat110 views
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Hiroshige's woodblock print of Kuwana (43rd post town on the Tokaido) from his "Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido Road" series. People traveling by boat to Kuwana from Miya.110 views
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Ise manhole depicting Ise Jingu pilgrims. Mie Pref.108 views
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Collecting coins at Taka-no-miya Shrine 多賀宮.107 views
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Roof horns at Ise Jingu's Naiku.105 views
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Moat104 views
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Tokaido Road in Kuwana-juku.104 views
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Look how small the offertory box is at Geku.104 views
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It takes 8 years to rebuild the Naiku shrine. So 12 years from now, they will start the rebuilding process all over again. Numerous ceremonies are held for this rebuilding, but only a few of them can be seen by the public.104 views
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High walls prevent us from seeing the sacred shrine buildings of Naiku. Photography is not allowed inside these walls so don't try to use a long pole with a camera attached to take pictures. There are guards everywhere. 102 views
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Geku Outer Shrine at Ise Jingu.99 views
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Collecting coins.99 views
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Samurai armor96 views
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95 views
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Park fountain in the castle grounds93 views
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Foundation of the castle tower (rear)93 views
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Castle wall88 viewsThe stone wall is long, and the entrance to the castle grounds is on the far end, in front of the three-story Ushitora turret.
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A short walk from Ueno Park is the Basho Oseika (芭蕉翁生家) or Basho's childhood home. Iga is the birthplace of Matsuo Basho (1644-1694), and the house where he grew up in still stands.87 views
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87 views
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Foundation of the castle tower86 viewsThe 5-story castle tower was destroyed in 1600 during the Battle of Sekigahara. It was never rebuilt.
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Uji Bridge is made of hinoki cypress wood. The bridge columns are made of keyaki.86 views
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Ise-shi Station platform upon arrival on Jan. 1, 2013. Ise Jingu's Geku Outer Shrine is a short walk from this station.85 views
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Inner stone wall82 views
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Foundation of the castle tower (side view)82 views
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The moment after this shot was taken, this baton hit my camera lens and bounced off. A kid nearby quickly picked up the dropped baton. That's okay, I let him have it. My gift to the local people.82 views
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The festival's main event is the Ageuma (Leaping or Rising Horse) ceremony held 12 times on Sat. and six times on Sun. One of the horses to be used. The Ageuma is unique to Mie and started here at Inabe Shrine.81 views
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Inside Iga Ueno Danjiri Museum.81 views
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This earthen wall looks like 2 or 3 meters high. This festival is unique to Mie Prefecture. A similar and much more crowded Ageuma ceremony is held at Tado Shrine also in Mie and not far from Inabe Shrine.80 views
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After a few hind-leg kicks, the horse manages to go over. When the horse goes over, it is an omen that this year's harvest will be abundant. Imagine the enormous pressure on the rider to go over the top.80 views
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Oyashiro Festival poster.80 views
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My camera was fine. Nothing broken, but the edge of my lens filter had a slight dent...79 views
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Iga-yaki ceramic statue of Basho inside the Haisei-den.77 views
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The end of the slope where the horse is to leap over the steep earthen wall. Cherry trees accent the steep incline. The horse gallops and full speed for about 500 meters before encountering this steep incline.77 views
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There are six jockeys, all local teenage boys, chosen by lottery. They have to be quite brave to undertake the Ageuma ceremony since accidents and injuries do happen. Some parents refuse to allow their sons to be chosen.77 views
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Toin Station on the Sangi Railway Hokusei Line.77 views
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Stone wall in the Honmaru76 views
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The study is a very simple, yet aesthetic and meditative-looking room.76 views
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This is what the steep incline looks like from the other side. The galloping horse must manage to leap up and over the steep wall called the Agezaka (上げ坂).76 views
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One end of the riding course.76 views
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Iga Ueno Danjiri Museum76 views
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Bust of Kawasaki Katsu.75 views
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The Ageuma or Leaping Horse ceremony is only one of the religious ceremonies held during the Oyashiro Festival. The god of wooden architecture is one of the gods Inabe Shrine worships. Carpenters from this area built Horyuji and Todaiji in Nara.75 views
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Next horse up. In the past, they spiked the horse with stimulants to make it more excited, but they discontinued that practice.75 views
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The rider looks relieved, and proud to have a lifetime memory.75 views
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The victorious rider holds out a fan and sings a victory song. People celebrate the imminent abundant harvest.75 views
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Iga-Ueno Castle and cherry blossoms, Mie Prefecture.74 views
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On both sides are special spectator seating (decorated in red/white) for the shrine priests and VIPs. These photos were taken on April 5, 2009.74 views
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Inside the castle tower is the Iga Museum of Culture and Industry. This is the first floor.73 views
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The horse gets stuck as its hind legs cannot push off from any surface. It kept kicking its hind legs as it desperately tried to get over the embankment and it finally did. This was the first run of the day on Sunday.73 views
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Next to the Waki-Honjin was the Honjin whose site is now occupied by this building.73 views
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In 1611, Todo Takatora took over Ueno Castle. Iga-Ueno Castle is also a major cherry blossom spot in early April.72 views
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In 1980, Ueno Castle served as a backdrop for Kurosawa Akira's movie, Kagemusha.72 views
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Top floor72 views
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Kitchen area with a well on the left and stoves toward the right.72 views
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The house is open to the public as a tourist attraction (admission 300 yen). The house was rebuilt after it being damaged by a large earthquake in 1854.72 views
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Before the festival, the six riders undergo a period of purification in the morning and evening in the river. On the day of the festival, they bathe in the river. This one is getting on the horse.72 views
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Noted for cherry blossoms, Kyuka Park is on the site of Kuwana Castle which was occupied by Honda Tadakatsu. 72 views
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Torii gate at Uji Bridge. Very crowded with New Year's worshippers going for hatsumode prayers.72 views
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Iga-Ueno Castle was first built by Takigawa Katsutoshi, a vassal of Kitabatake Nobuaki (Oda Nobuo, Nobunaga's second son). In 1585, Tsutsui Sadatsugu took over.71 views initiated construction of Iga Ueno Castle in 1585. He was followed by Tsutsui Sadatsugu
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One of the tallest castle walls in Japan.71 views
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A short walk from Iga-Ueno Castle and almost next to the ninja house, the Haisei-den was built in 1942 to mark the 300th anniversary of Basho's birth. 71 views
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The back of the house is Basho's study called Chogetsuken (釣月軒) where he wrote the Kai-ooi (貝おほい) series of poems.71 views
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The jockeys wera a colorful costume, the hanagasa hat has a different decoration (pine tree, peony, iris, etc.) for each jockey. Each jockey represents a local district in Toin town.71 views
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71 views
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The running course is quite short, maybe 100-150 meters. It cannot be too long or else the horse will get too tired to make the final leap.71 views
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Ise-shi Station with kadomatsu New Year's decorations.71 views
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70 views
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View from atop Iga-Ueno Castle.70 views
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The wall has a notch in the middle for the horse to leap up and over. Inabe Shrine's Ageuma ceremony is older than Tado Shrine's. The festival was started in 1192 by the local castle lord and shrine priest to strengthen the spirit of the youth.70 views
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Stairs to the bleachers which are actually compartments of sitting areas. The bleachers line both sides of the course leading to the steep incline. 70 views
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And there he is.70 views
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Statue of Lord Honda Tadakatsu at Kyuka Park, site of his Kuwana Castle.70 views
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Building on the site of Kuwana-juku's Waki-Honjin. It is a ryokan inn.70 views
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Map of Kyuka Park on the site of Kuwana Castle.70 views
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Stone marker for Ueno Castle located in Ueno Park. Officially called Ueno Castle and nicknamed Hakuho Castle or Iga-Ueno Castle. Noted for cherry blossoms in April and the highest castle walls in Japan.69 views
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Room inside Basho's childhood home.69 views
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Men await for the horse on the incline. They help to get the horse over the top and prevent injury to the rider.69 views
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The horse makes it over the top. On Sat., the first day of the festival, there are 12 Ageuma runs. On Sunday, the second day, there are six Ageuma runs starting at 1 pm. In the morning, they have a few practice runs, but do not try to go over the top.69 views
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The next rider is prepared. He sits in a sacred compartment, gets his hanagasa hat adjusted, and waits for his horse to arrive. He was stern-faced. There's a 15-20 min. break between each Ageuma run.69 views
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Riders make a "victory lap" within the shrine grounds.69 views
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This is one end of the riding course. 69 views
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Sign explaining Kuwana's Honjin and Waki-Honjin.69 views
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Hiroshige's woodblock print of Iga-Ueno from his "Famous Views of the 60 Provinces" series. The castle can be seen in the distance.69 views
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