Japan’s Future Imagined 300 Years Ago

In her essay entitled “Ichinichi Edojin”,  Hinako Sugiura introduced the future of Japan imagined more than 300 years ago. She summarizes the predictions as follows.

(1) A sense of the season will disappear. (Food of season will come very early.)

(2) People will like what’s expensive in everything. After they enjoyed the lavish things, they will fall in love with geeky hobbies. (Unique outfits will be very popular. Retrospect of classics will attract lots of attention.)

(3) Women play active roles in many areas. (The areas dominated by males will disappear.)

(4) Nature destruction. (People build houses deep in the mountains. Even sacred mountains get vulgar.)

(5) There will be no difference between professionals and amateurs. (Especially in entertainment industry.)

(6) Hand-made stuff will be replaced with cheap packaged products. (e.g. Tanabata package, New Year’s package etc.)

(7) Adults will read comic books and more children read difficult books.

(8) Children come to enjoy spicy food.

(9) Japanese language will be corrupted and jargons will get popular. At last, enigmatic katakana  words will spread.

(10) Professional prostitutes will get rich and enter the business world.

(11) Old people try to look young and old love will be popular. Young people will enjoy old people’s taste and hobbies.

(12) Bon and New Year will come together. (Events will get popular.)

It’s interesting that most of them have come true more or less. What kind of future can we envision now?

North Japan for Summer Travel: Experience Magical Nights, Mistique and Nature

According to statistics published by Japan Tourism Agency, the top six destinations for foreign visitors from January to March, 2014 are Tokyo (48.7%), Osaka(24.7%), Kyoto (18.0%), Kanagawa (11.0%), Hokkaido(10.5%) and Fukuoka (10.5%).  Although these places – most of them are urban areas – offer lots of attractions, you should not miss Japanese countryside where poetic sceneries, traditions and mysteries are still alive, especially if you expect something really Japanese, like things described in Kurosawa’s films or Miyazaki’s animation world. If you’re looking for summer destinations where you can feel deep Japan, I would recommend the Tohoku region (north part of mainland Japan) consisting of 6 prefectures – Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi, Akita, Yamagata and Fukushima. Not only because you can escape from the heat, but you can experience the best part of Japanese summer festivals. There are three great festival in Tohoku, namely Aomori Nebuta Festival, Akita Kanto Festival and Sendai Tanabata Festival, all of which take place in early August. In addition, you can enjoy the dynamic nature and high quality hot springs.

Above all, my favorite destination is Aomori prefecture where I used to live for two years.


Charms of Aomori

Aomori Prefecture is located in the very north of mainland Japan. It takes a bit more than three hours by bullet train from Tokyo.  Aomori is not small like Tokyo, so it’s impossible to make one day trip. I would recommend at least 3 days to fully enjoy this area. And what attracts me is its state of chaos: There is beautiful nature as represented by Shirakami-sanchi, world natural heritage site as well as traditional festivals and events,  interesting folk beliefs. On the other hand, there exist military facilities and rare energy related facilities such as nuclear reprocessing plant, which are still controversial. It’s one of the best places to learn what’s hidden behind Japan’s buoyant image of developed country. I try to introduce some of their charms in this article.

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(Big tree in Shirakami-Sanchi)

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(Lake Towada)

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(Beautiful Sunset in Asamushi)

IMGP1734(Rokkasho Village, where energy facilities are concentrated.)



Festivals

Don’t miss it if you come to this area in summer. Festivals in Aomori is like an explosion of passion in a very short summer in the north. You’ll be dazzled by fever, lights and music – It’s just like a dream. Among lots of festivals (e.g. Hachinohe Sansha Taisai, Kuroishi Yosare etc.), the most famous one is Nebuta. Nebuta has lots of variations in themselves, but the followings are well-known. It’s interesting to compare three different Nebuta, to see how their style and atmosphere is different from each other.

Aomori Nebuta Festival
http://www.atca.info/nebuta_en/
Date: August 2-7
Place: Aomori City
Huge lantern dolls Nebuta parade on the street with ‘haneto‘ jumping dancers, ‘baketo‘ performers and musicians, shouting “rassera, rassera, rasse rasse rasse ra…” originating from ‘dase‘ meaning ‘hand over’  to request candles, sake or candies.  You’ll notice lots of bells on haneto’s outfits. As they jump so hard, these bells easily fall out. It is said that you’ll be happy if you can catch or pick them. You can rent an outfit and join as a dancer as well!

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On the last day, they will float their Nebuta on the sea. Then we will realize this festival are related with the custom of lantern floating which will send the dead spirits and our impurity to another world.

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Hirosaki Neputa Festival
https://www.city.hirosaki.aomori.jp/kanko/matsuri/neputa_1.html
Date: August 1-7
Place: Hirosaki City

Fan-shaped Neputa (here, it’s called ne’pu’ta) parade along the Iwaki River, with the slow shout ‘yah-ya-doh’ in the old castle city, Hirosaki. While Aomori nebuta is dynamic and cheerful, Hirosaki Neputa conveys dignity and elegance.

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Tachineputa Festival
http://www.tachineputa.jp/ (Japanese)
Date: August 4-8
Place: Goshogawara City
Tachineputa means ‘standing Nebuta’. You’ll be amazed to see that Neputa in Goshogawara  is gigantic. They shout provocatively, Yattemare! Yattemare!’ (beat them! or go for it!) with masculine dance and music, which creates cool impression compared to other two.

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Planet of the Apes?

Wakinosawa Village in Shimokita Peninsula is famous for Japanese monkeys and deer. They come down to the village to find food due to deforestation. The damage caused by monkeys are serious. They eat what the villagers grew and even what’s stored in their house. When I visited there, I felt as if it was a real life version of Planet of the Apes. The number of monkeys on the street were apparently bigger than that of villagers. In the village, like a weather forecast, the village announces the information on where monkey appear several times a day.

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Hot springs

Aomori has a variety of hot springs. My favorites are Sukayu, Furo-fushi Onsen and Asamushi Onsen.  In addition, Aoni Onsen is a romantic place as shown below…

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However, the most striking and coolest hot spring I ever visited in my life is the one which is located in Osorezan (Mt. Osore) in Shimokita Peninsula. Osorezan is famous as a spiritual place. In this area, it has been said that people go to this mountain after their death. Many people visit itako (necromancers) to communicate with the dead people while they gather in the festival seasons in July and October. It is not really well-known that there is a hot spring in this place. So, it is not crowded and the quality of hot spring is just nice. If you are planning to visit this mountain, don’t forget amenities and towels!

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They have so many other attractions that I can’t mention all at once. I will try to introduce more some other time 🙂

Mt. Fuji Trekking Season Has Come

“A wise man climbs Fuji once, but only a fool does it twice.” If this saying holds true, I am a super fool as I did it thrice. That aside, it’s July – Mt. Fuji’s trekking season has come. –  So let me share some tips and my experiences.


How I climbed Mt. Fuji

My first trial was more than 10 years ago.  Although it wasn’t registered as the World Heritage that time, Mt. Fuji was already crowded. There are 4 main routes, namely Yoshida, Fujinomiya, Subashiri and Gotenba. So far, I chose Yoshida route every time, as I bought the bus tour which included transportation between Shinjuku and the Yoshida route 5th Station.  Instead of multi-day trekking, but I climbed it through the night. This night trekking is recently called ‘dangan tozan’ (literally bullet climbing, meaning climbing in a very short time). In my case, I used to start around 10:00 PM and returned back around 13:00 PM on the following day. I chose this style of trekking mainly because I didn’t want to stay overnight at mountain huts. From last year, however, Yamanashi and Shizuoka prefectures are requesting Japan Tourism Agency to ask the tourists to refrain from doing this style of trekking, concerning that it will increase the risk of injury and altitude sickness. Reflecting this movement, the number of buses arriving at night is decreasing.


What I brought

  • Clothes: Trekking jacket, fleece jacket, leggings, long-sleeve shirt, t-shirts, spare socks, spare underwear, rain wear. We prefered changing our clothes after trekking as we sweated a lot.
  • Head light: Necessary if you trek during the night.
  • Water: We brought plenty of tap water in a foldable water bottle. Water is extremely expensive on Mt. Fuji!
  • Hat and sun glasses: It’s hard to get out of the sun on Mt. Fuji.
  • Gloves: Useful when climbing the rocky road.
  • Towels, tissue, wet wipes
  • Trekking poles: For the first and second trials, I didn’t use them. But when I tried using them at the third trial, I found it really helpful.
  • Portable hot pack: Above Hon 8th Station, it’s extremely cold!
  • Food and snacks
  • Portable Stove: To boil water for coffee and noodles.
  • Coffee: For us, it was mandatory to refresh!
  • Cup Noodles:  It’s not romantic at all, but cup noodles taste tasted awesome when we wanted to warm ourselves.

What was great

  • A sense of achievement: Feeling really great when we did it.
  • Bond with companions:  It surely gets stronger after trekking.
  • Fantastic view: It is mysterious to see the clouds under us. At night, the sky was full of stars. Lots of shooting stars in 360 degree view. It was like a planetarium in nature!

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What was disappointing

  • Too crowded.
  • Toilets.
  • Going downhill is just boring and awful.
  • Everything is expensive.

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General Tips

You can find the most updated general info from the below link.

Official Web Site for Mt. Fuji Climbing
http://www.fujisan-climb.jp/en/index.html