Kinjo Town surrounds the Shuri Castle area in Okinawa. While Shuri is impressive in its own right, there is much to see outside the Castle grounds. During this past Golden Week, I took a trip to the Okinawan Mainland, and a friend was kind enough to show me a few out-of-the-way spots. Through Kinjo Town runs the ‘Ishidatami’ or Rock Road, a walkway paved in history and adorned with interesting and beautiful flowers along the way. Follow along for a taste of Kinjo Town.
On the way to to our start, we passed one of Shuri Castle’s side gates. The area is full of steep roads and interesting places.
We also stopped at a nearby soba shop for lunch before beginning our walk. This Shisa is a traditional statue on Okinawan homes used to protect against evil spirits and bad luck.
The place we ate was very busy so we sat outside in an almost garden-like area where I found this purple flower.
For Lunch, I had soki soba, or noodles in broth topped with rib meat. It is another traditional Okinawan food.
Right at the start of our walk, we found these Hanging Heliconias. Conveniently there was a nearby sign that labeled the flowers along the route in English and Japanese.
This is the first of two springs we saw along the route. These were used for drinking and washing by the people of Kinjo Town. Spots like these were marked by small tiles with maps of the area.
These white and pink flowers were labeled as Sokei-Nozen, and hung above a wall.
The second spring was below the road level and had a pool in which crabs lived. In the second photo you can see where the water flows out at times.
About half-way along the path, right before a rather steep slope (or just after if you go the other way) there is a small rest house with tatami mats where you can take a load off.
Here’s a map of the area in Japanese with the various sites around Shuri marked. Check out part 2 for the walk north through the grounds along the rock road to the pond above Shuri. This article was originally posted on More Things Japanese.
Himeji Castle in Hyogo Prefecture is hailed as the most fabulous of Japan’s many castles. It is definitely the largest. I had the opportunity to visit Himeji for a half-day at the start of March in 2013. Himeji Castle is a UNESCO World Hertiage site.
Over the past several years, the main keep of Himeji Castle has been covered by a giant scaffolding that is essentially a building that encircles the high roof. The internal structure has been reinforced to prevent earthquake damage, while the plaster and roofing tiles have been replaced or reworked for water and fire proofing.
The last major restoration of the castle was completed in 1964. This new reconstruction is similar to the first. When I visited the restoration work was nearly complete. I had the opportunity to travel to the top of the scaffolding and view the roof from the outside, a view that will disappear in 2014 as the scaffolding is disassembled and the main keep re-opened. Despite the construction work, I found the grounds beautiful and interesting. Though the inner keep is not accessible, much of the rest of the grounds were, including the West Bailey. It was a great way to spend a few hours strolling through the castle grounds and trying to snap a few photos.
Throughout the grounds there are multilingual plaques describing many aspects of the history and culture of the castle including its reconstruction and maintenance. Many crests of past lords who reigned at the castle, many worked into the roofing tiles. In the Egret’s Eye View, I was even able to observe a live demonstration of the tiling work. I’ve always found Japanese style tile roofs to be interesting, so it was great to see how they and the walls were actually put together.
Himeji Castle is located in Hyo prefecture at 68 hon-machi, Himeji, Hyogo. Hours of operation are 9 am to 4 pm (September through April) and 9 am to 5 pm (May to August). Closed December 29 and 30. The Egrets Eye closes a bit earlier.
For more pictures from Himeji Castle please checkout my post at www.MoreThingsJapanese.com
January 26th marked the beginning of the 2013 Kumejima Sakura Festival. Sakura (Cherry Blossoms) are an important symbol marking the change of seasons in Japan. As the weather begins to warm, cherry trees sprout beautiful flowers in a range of colors from white to red. Since Okinawa is so far south, cherry blossoms begin to arrive in January. They work their way north through April. During this time, people flock to areas with cherry trees to picnic, drive, and see the beautiful flowers and wildlife.You might have noticed the new header, a compilation of 3 shots taken of a Mejiro (Japanese white-eye) in cherry trees I caught the Friday before the festival along the Ara Forest path.
As part of the sakura season, many locals often have festivals to support tourism, create entertainment for locals, and to simply celebrate the beautiful surroundings. This year the Kumejima Sakura Festival took place on January 26th, a day of sun and generally great weather (I got sunburned in January. It was also a little windy.)
On Kume Island, the festival takes place at Daruma Mountain Park in the western/central part of the island. The festival was set up in a clearing surrounded by cherry trees. After an opening ceremony, new cherry trees were planted for the future. Arrayed around the clearing were many tents with local restaurants serving specialty foods. This year, the restaurants competed in a competition to see which one had brought the most popular item.
There were several live performances from local groups including Nankuru Sanshin and the “Super Bridal Band,” as well as karate demonstrations and other entertainment. The band I play with (Super Bridal Band started up a few years ago to play at my boss’s wedding, I joined a bit after moving here) just after the opening ceremony. There’s a compilation video below of our set.
After we finished our set, I quickly jumped over to the 89.7 FM Kumejima radio booth to do my weekly Haisai English! show live from the event. It was a lot of fun despite a few technical snafus from going on location.
For more on Sakura and this year’s Festival, visit MoreThingsJapanese.com
Exclusive this year, JETAA Chicago is showcasing the amazing photos submitted by the community for our charity event, “Daily Life in Japan – Photos for Soma,” in a 12-month wall calendar. Every image is a celebration of Japan’s natural beauty and rich culture. Share your love of Japan with friends and family while supporting a great cause; all proceeds benefit the Soma City Tsunami Orphan Scholarship Fund.
Here’s the link to purchase a calendar: https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=SLGJQUHFXYPU6
On November 20, 2012 The Emperor of Japan Akihito and Empress Michiko visited Kumejima as part of a four-day visit to Okinawa. Preparations were long in the making, but it was still extraordinary to see the spectacle of a visit lasting less than 5 hours. Luckily, I was asked to help photograph on behalf of Kumejima Town and was able to stand with television and newspaper camera people in designated media areas.
The Emperor and his wife arrived around 10:30 JST on a plane from Okinawa-honto. Since Kume Island has only a small airport, they used a JAL Express plane instead of the usual flying fortress. There they greeted a group of students and dignitaries and then drove to the Deep Sea Water Research Institute to tour its grounds. One of the major reasons for the visit is the proposed OTEC power plant. Along the way Kumejima Townspeople greeted the Emperor by waving Japanese flags (a rarity in Okinawa), shouting “Thank you for coming” and “banzai!” After the tour, the motorcade arrived at the Town Hall just before 13:00 to rest and talk with Mayor Taira. There they discussed Kumejima’s many natural resources such as Kuruma-ebi, Umi-budo, and Deep Sea Water while eating lunch. They talked so much they didn’t have time to finish!
For more on the Emperor’s visit and plenty of pictures visit More Thing Japanese!
Churaumi Aquarium (美ら海 beautiful ocean aquarium) is one of the premiere tourist attractions in Okinawa prefecture. The large aquarium is located within the even larger and interesting Ocean Expo Park on the Motobu Peninsula. Boasting one of the worlds largest indoor tanks, the stars of the complex are three whale sharks housed with many other fish of varying sizes.
Though I’ve lived in Okinawa for over five years, I had my first opportunity to visit Churaumi only this past weekend. The aquarium is very easy to find since there are easy-to-read signs pointing the way on major streets from Naha. For a scenic route, take route 58 north and follow the signs. For a quicker trip try the expressway (its a toll road).
The surprising thing about the Ocean Expo park is the sheer size of it. We went in November which was after the peak season so we had little trouble with traffic or even finding a parking space. Other friends noted that they’ve had problems with that during the summer months. We met the first designated parking lot quite far from the actual aquarium, though there are many attractions along the way, and a tram car you can hire for 200yen/day. If you’re going during non-peak seasons, just drive up to the closest parking lot!
The whole complex is cunningly designed for the efficient flow of attendees. From the entry there are wide walkways, pavilions, stairs, fountains, and play areas that allow people to move at their own pace without blocking others’ way. Once you make it past various information booths, restaurants, and flowering sea life you’ll find escalators that will take you down to the entrance of the aquarium itself.
…Read more on Churami Aquarium at MoreThingsJapanese.com
The 2012 Kitadaito Festival was a two-day event in September marking an important time of community inclusion and tradition. The second day of the Festival was on the 23rd and, as in years past, featured sumo competitions as a traditional Japanese offering to the kami and ancestors of the village. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out my post on day one. Below is a video showing excerpts from the day, with more information and photos farther down. Enjoy!
The second day began in the morning on Sunday around 9:00. Villagers gathered again before the Daito-gu shrine. There, a Shinto priest led a ceremony blessing both the sumo ground and the people. New babies were also brought before the shrine by their parents so that the adults could ask for safe and prosperous lives for their children.
After the ceremonies were complete, the villagers settled in to watch Edo and Okinawan Sumo competitions. Although Kitadaito is in Okinawan Prefecture, it was originally settled by people from Hachijo Island, which means the traditions of the island are a unique mix of mainland Japan and Okinawa. At the Daitogusai festival, both types of sumo take place. Pre-school through junior high students take part in edo style sumo.
… Read the rest and see more photos on MoreThingsJapanese.com!.
LET YOUR VOICE BE HEARD – CAST YOUR VOTE!!!
Pick your favorite photos, one from each of the six categories. A big thanks to all our participants so far who have submitted photos! ELIGIBILITY: Anyone with a valid email address is welcome to cast a vote. JETs and non-JETs alike are encouraged to participate. One voting session per person is allowed. Voting ends Sept 19th!!
Note: While this is a JETAA Chicago photo contest, they welcome submissions from everyone.
Join the Chicago Chapter of JETAA in celebrating our 30-year anniversary of cultural exchange with the country of Japan. Daily Life in Japan is a one-night only exhibition that will feature a wide array of photography from those who have experienced Japan and are invested in rebuilding it.
Hobby to professional photographers are invited to submit their digital photos. You can submit up to one photo per category. You can find instructions to submit photos atwww.jetaachicago.com/contest.
Juried by a panel of two community leaders and by you in an online vote, this exhibition highlights the essence of Japanese life with an emphasis on culture, education, and community outreach.
You’re invited to the opening reception to view the winning photographs on Saturday, October 6, 2012, 6-9pm at Studio 24 hosted by Chicago’s Brian Sorg.
All proceeds from the exhibition and reception will go to the Soma City Tsunami Orphan fund.
Aug 28 Deadline for submission
Sept 19 Online voting ends
Sept 20 Winners notified
Oct 6 Opening reception, 6-9pm
1. Best 80s/90s
2. Best nature scene
3. Best cityscape
4. Community engagement
5. Historic traditions
6. Did that really just happen?
For more information, email Shannon Copp at email@example.com.
Here’s a unique and compelling short documentary–an academic non-profit venture–by JET alum Janak Bhimani (who has been studying at the Keio Graduate School of Media Design after hosting an online Japanese TV show in New York a few years ago) made with some of his Keio classmates. The film is about Tohoku post 3.11 from the point of view of the people who took photographs and was shown at a special session of the 2011 Tokyo International Film Festival. It was originally shown in 4K (which was part of Janak’s research).
Here’s the link: http://vimeo.com/31093347
Janak says feel free to share with others as they’d like to get it shown in more places in Japan and elsewhere.
Thanks to Andy Anderson (father of Taylor Anderson) for sharing a link to the photos (below) of JETs and others volunteering with the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan’s (BCCJ) efforts in Ishinomaki, where Taylor served as a JET.
Photos aren’t tagged, but two of the JETs pictured are Jane Suh and Kat Sheu in photos 69, 70 and 72. Also apparently the people in photo #40 are JETs.
Here’s text accompanying the photos from the BCCJ:
“From July 15-18 we travelled back to Ishinomaki, this time to support Peaceboat’s recovery activities as well as follow up with key contacts we met in June. We also had the opportunity to meet a politician from Miyagi Prefecture and the Japanese Ambassador to the USA.”
“Standing as a complement to larger relief and recovery organisations, the BCCJ will continue to work with the people of Tohoku to build an ever-expanding open network of supporters that will allow us to boost the rejuvenation of north eastern Japan.”
“Setsuden,” or conserving electricity, has become a huge buzzword in Japan as the weather heats up and many nuclear power plants remain shut down. Many businesses have put up signs explaining their own setsuden activities and asking the public to join in.
Recently I have been been photographing setsuden signs around the Tokyo area for my blog.
Some of the signs are very simple and functional, like the message seen here on a closed escalator at a train station, which simply says, “Setsuden-chuu.”
Others are clever pieces of writing and/or graphic design.
Posted at the request of CLAIR New York:
WE ARE HERE – Little voice and art 311 JAPAN is an exhibition of messages from Japanese children of areas affected by the disaster as well as photos of the area. The exhibition is being held at the AIGA Gallery in New York on 22nd St and 5th Avenue in Manhattan from today through May 20. They are also collecting messages from visitors to those children.
Has your JETAA chapter had its hanami gathering yet? If so, please send a couple photos (or link to photos) to Gail Meadows at gail [at] jetwit.com so we can start sharing some of them with the alumni community on JETwit.
Thanks to Ed Snook of JETAA Tokyo for sharing this information:
JETAA Tokyo member Wes Cheek is planning on visiting the Tohoku region beginning Friday for a photojournalism assignment. He has expressed an interest in trying to get in touch with JETs who may have been displaced by the recent earthquake/tsunami. Additionally, Wes welcomes contact from any family or friends of JETs in Tohoku who would like him to try and get in touch with JETs.
- To contact Wes, you can e-mail Ed Snook at career [at] jetaa-tokyo.org.
- For updates on Wes and more information about his trip, go to Wes’ blog where you can find details and updates about his trip.