Aug 15

Posted by Benjamin Martin, a JET from 2008-2013 in Okinawa, publisher of the blog MoreThingsJapanese.com and author of the award-winning YA fantasy series Samurai Awakening (Tuttle).

IMG_6904Since the end of the rainy season early this year, the weather on Kume Island has been full of clear sunny days.  While it makes for great sight-seeing and beach-going, it has been a hard year for farmers, with little or no rain to sustain critical crops.  For the first time in 15 years, the island locals returned to their roots, asking for the help of the Chinbei, the name of the high priestess from the old Ryukyu Kingdom to come and pray for rain.

This rare ceremony began early on August 11th.  The Chinbei and other priestesses (noro) met at Chinbei Dunchi on Kume Island.  There, a sacred rock was encircled by rope to signify the presence of a kami.  After offerings of rice, fruit, and sake, the noro poured water onto the rock while the Chinbei and other local representatives prayed.  The Chinbei poured sake from a small cup, repeating the process until she felt the kami was satisfied.

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IMG_6708Afterward, all the attendees were asked to participate in a tug-o-war competition outside the grounds.  In addition to the physical offerings of sake, rice, and fruit, the offering of effort and strength signified by the competition was in offering to local kami. While competing, locals were sprayed and doused with water, and afterward danced in the simulated rain.

IMG_6780From Chinbei Dunchi, the priestesses and local leaders made offerings at two other shrines in the area.  These shrines date back hundreds of years.  One was a natural rock formation where a kami is thought to reside.  The other was hidden away near the airport grounds where a concrete structure enclosed the sacred home of another kami.  At both sites, offerings of rice, sake, fruit and prayers were put forth.

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IMG_6874Immediately after the prayers ended, it began to rain.  A tornado was even spotted, though it did not touch down.  The farmers and local representatives happily returned to Chinebei-dun, the parched ground sated with the first short downpour in a very long time.

For more photos from this special event visit MoreThingsJapanese.com


May 17

Let’s Walking

Posted by Benjamin Martin, a 5th year JET on Kume Island in Okinawa, publisher of the blog MoreThingsJapanese.com and author of the award-winning YA fantasy series Samurai Awakening (Tuttle).

Sanpo is Japanese for a ‘walk,’ and it’s a popular pastime here.  From the bureaucratic samurai of the Tokugawa period who would wander among the cherry trees and write poetry, to modern office workers trying to keep fit, walking is still a much appreciated activity in Japan.

Japan is also a land with a rising elderly population.  It has one of the longest life expectancies in the world.  As communities and towns have ever older populations it is also becoming ever more important to promote fitness in populations that will strain public health services ever more if not kept healthy.  One way municipalities can do this is by hosting events such at the one Kumejima Town hosts every January.

The 久米島のんびりウオーク or Kumejima’s Leisure Walk is a two-day yearly event, part of the larger Okinawa Marching league.  Participants come from all over Japan.  As a resident of Kume Island I attended this event first  in 2011.

The first day offered 32km, 16km, and 5km courses and the second day offered 20km, 10km, and 5km courses.  One participant was a 86-year-old who planned on completing the full 32km course!

Both days featured different courses through the island.  Participants entered with a nominal fee, and were provided maps and completion certificates.  Along the way stickers were awarded at checkpoints, and food stations were set up where walkers could rest and eat.

I did the 16km walk on the first day of the event.  Walkers stretched together  and announcements were made.  As with many events there was an MC tapped for the event who extolled everyone to do a good job.  The 32km group did the same about half an hour before, so everyone in the 16km group set off together.

Each group set off to the sound of a taiko drum performance.  All along the way were supportive Japanese Flags with messages urging the participants on.  These helped guide the walkers through the more remote areas.  There were also tea and water stations along the way, with great views and interesting conversations.

One lady I talked to came all the way from Yokohama to participate.  She said it was a great way to see more of Japan, while keeping in shape.  She talked to me because her children live in the states and wanted to know why I was there. ^_^  All in all, it was a great morning/afternoon spent among Kumejima’s beautiful walkways.  Do you want to visit new places and keep in shape?  Let’s Walking!

This post originally appeared on MoreThingsJapanese.com. To learn more about Kumejima visit KumeGuide.com.


Aug 7

L.M. Zoller (CIR Ishikawa-ken, Anamizu, 2009-11) is the editor of The Ishikawa JET Kitchen: Cooking in Japan Without a Fight. A writer and web administrator for The Art of Travel (formerly The Art of Japan: Kanazawa & Discover Kanazawa), ze also writes I’ll Make It Myself!, a blog about food culture in Japan, and curates The Rice Cooker Chronicles, a series of essays by JETs and JET alumni on the theme of cooking/eating and being alone in Japan.

New Rice Cooker Chronicles submissions always welcome. Just e-mail it to jetwit [at] jetwit.com.

 

The Tanabata Beer Festa Toyama, held the first full weekend of July each year in Toyama City, Toyama, is one of Hokuriku’s only beer festivals. I hopped the train south with a couple of our friends for an afternoon of craft beer. I hadn’t been to a beer festival since I left Michigan three years ago, so I was beyond thrilled.

What does one drink when confronted with 20 breweries’ worth of Japan’s finest craft beer? Make a game plan. When I attended the Michigan Brewers’ Guild Summer Beer Festival, I decided to only drink cherry beers, as those are much harder to get on draft than stouts. This time, after three years of living deprived of regular access to stouts, I circled 5 stouts I’d like to try, got a pizza for lunch, and set to work drinking.

Click HERE for more.


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