July 19, 2011

Hottest Day in Kyoto

July 17th is always  the hottest day in Kyoto. The thirty two floats are paraded through the city. The excitement of the people seems to accelerate the increase in temperature.  This parade  is part of one-month-long Gion Festival, one of the three greatest festivals in Japan.

Before 9 o'clock,  the floats are waiting for the start. The biggest floats are 25 meters in height and 12 tons in weight.  Mid-summer heat and the festive spree  are soaring up.

This young boy is the icon of the festival of this year. He plays an important role as the divine starter of the festival. For 10 days before the parade, he has not be allowed to stand directly on the ground.

 The floats are decorated with gorgeously embroidered or woven  tapestries and carpets, and beautifully painted cloths. No wonder, they are nicknamed  "Moving Art Museum".
This is a 10cm deep embroidery.

Every float has a high pole attached on the top
where the deity is believed to descend.


Many children are joining the festival. How wonderful it is that through participation, they learn the tradition handed down from generation to generation, and nurture the love toward their local communities.

The Musicians play rhythmical music in drums, Japanese flutes and small gongs. Each float has each special music.  A long strand with a tassel at the end is attached to a small drumstick to hit the gong.  So, every time the musician hits  the gong,  the strand  dances together. I love these lovely dances very much.

The high mid-summer sky is over a  float in the shape of a ship. This float is my favorite.

They use such simple pieces of wood to correct direction of the float or stop it.  No float has a brake or a helm.

Hot, hot, hot. In the scorching summer heat, I feel as if I were melting. 

For three days before July 17th, some houses exhibit  the  folding screens which they have preserved as family treasures. Also we can see the wisdom to withstand notorious Japanese summer in  the traditional Japanese houses. They have exchanged some windows with bamboo blinds and put down  summer carpets.

This time also, I used another camera. 

About the origin of the festival,  please read my former blog, "1200 Year Old Pride of Kyoto People, Gion Festival"

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July 16, 2011

1200 Year Old Pride of Kyoto People, Gion Festival

Rehearsal in a narrow street.
The parade of 32 floats are held on July 17th on the main roads.

The climax of Gion Festival is the parade of 32 floats held on July 17th. Before the festival, people in a community is rehearsing the parade.  The float is being pulled through such a narrow street where the buildings, houses and even electric poles with the  heavy electric wires  are lined with on both sides . The tall poll on the top of the float swings slowly from right to left, left to right. Often it almost touches the wall of a building or electric wires.
A yellow net covering a transformer is to protect a float.

 Each float is carefully preserved and maintained  by each local community. To have a float and join Gion Festival is the greatest honor for the Kyoto people.

Gion Festival is the 1200 year old  pride of Kyoto People. Every year on July 17th , 32 floats  are paraded through Gion Area in Kyoto. 32 floats are  decorated with gorgeously embroidered tapestries or carpets, exquisite paintings and more. Some of them are from foreign countries, such as China, Korea, India, Persia and  Belgium.  No wonder, they are nicknamed  "Moving Art Museum". This paraded is only part of Gion Festival. The festival continues one month long from July 1st through 31st.
At night floats displayed on a main street are illuminated by paper lanterns.

The origin of the festival dating back to the 9th century when a bad plague prevailed Kyoto and tormented people. This time of  year in those days, the outbreak of the plague occurred often. Because heavy rain caused floods and the severe summer heat rotted water. The rotten water caused the plague and tormented people.  At that time, they believed that natural disasters and diseases were caused by evil spirit. To appease or drive away evil spirit,  66 pikes were hoisted in the holy garden of Imperial Palace to pray to the deity for help. Some of the floats have well kept the legacy of these 66 pikes. But, why 66?? Because in those days, there were 66 provinces in Japan. Still now Japan is the country which has suffered from terrible natural disasters. The great earthquake which hit Tohoku area on March 11th is too vivid in our memory. Now, we do badly need Gion Festival.


July 11, 2011

Milky Way on Earth

July 7th is Tanabata or Star Festival,  based on  the Chinese legend which is the sad story about two star-crossed lovers. Only once a year on July 7th, the two lovers  are allowed to meet,  crossing the Milky Way  if the weather is fine.

On the night of July 7th, Milky Way appeared in Nakanoshima, Osaka. About fifty thousand blue LED bulbs were thrown into the river and filled it with ephemeral subtle twinkling.

This event was held also to pray for the recovery of Tohoku Area hit by hideous earthquake on March 11th.

Some of my former high-school classmates and I had a reunion to enjoy this Milky Way together.  Unfortunately for the two lovers,  the night was rainy.   But the blue Milky Way gave us even more fantastic coolness because of rain. We were so enchanted that we forgot to make a wish. But we noticed that we have not seen the real Milky Way for a long time. Our cities are too bright to allow us to see the stars. We wondered when was the last time we had seen Milky Way in the sky.  It was so long ago that we could not remember. Oh, no! How about you?
After 9 o'clock, they started to collect LED bulbs.
Too soon!

Before the event, we had dinner together.
Chatting, chatting, chatting! This is a typical Japanese cuisine;
raw fish, Tempura, cooked vegetables, sesame Tofu, noodle, rice and more.

Lotus flowers and water lilies are blooming. Perhaps now is the best time
 to enjoy their beauty. A breeze over a pond gently makes ripples.

Five swallow chicks left the nest one day before Star Festival, on July 6th.
Near the nest, their Mom is feeding them.

My camera has been my best friend, but she has not been well. So now she is in a camera hospital. The last two photos were taken by her, but the photos of Milky Way were taken with another camera which I 'm not yet  used to. I don't know when she will be back.  Meanwhile, I may use old photos or just slow down and take fewer photos, because I may not be able to take satisfactory photos or not such good ones with another camera. I miss my old camera・・・・・

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July 05, 2011

Paradise Flowers Come Out of 2000-Year Sleep

These lotus flowers have an amazing history. Their seeds  had been latent for more than 2000 years and then one of them wakened in 1951.  Now the flowers are blooming one after another.
 A tinny creature is attracted by fragrance of a lotus flower and helping pollination.

  Dr. Ohga ,who was dedicated all his life to the study of lotus flowers, found three seeds of ancient lotus flowers dating back to 2000 years ago in 1950. He succeeded in making one of them bud.  The lotus bore flowers next year and was  named Ohga Hasu( Ohga Lotus ) after him. Since then, they have come back every  summer.

How exciting it is to admire the beauty of  the flowers which the ancient people enjoyed viewing.

A small pond, where Ohga Lotus flowers are growing, is at the botanical garden in Kasuga Grand Shrine .

Early June, I saw many tadpoles and infant frogs with tails in the pond.

The baby leave, curling from the both sides, looked like  tiny joining hands.
 " What a cute leave it is!" 

This is the first bud I found on June 13th. A gardener pointed at other tinny buds for me. And we shared the joy! There were five buds! I could not wait for the blooming of the flowers!

I wanted to see the blossoms at the best time,  so I went to a library to do some homework on lotus flowers.  I got to know how short the life of the blossom is. They live only four days.

The first day,
Around 4 am, a bud starts to burst and opens about 3 to 5cms wide. Around 8 am, it starts to close.

The second day,
At midnight, the bud starts to burst, and around 7 to 9 am the flower comes into full bloom. Till  noon, it closes again and returns to the bud.  For these two hours from 7 to 9 am, we can enjoy the most beautiful flower. Its fragrance gets the strongest to attract insects for pollination as pollens start to be released.


 The third day,
The same with the second day, but it closes loosely and does not return to the complete bud.

 The forth day,
After noon, it starts to fall.

I love not only the beauty of the lotus flowers but also the leaves.
The surface of a leave is water-shedding. Oh, can you see how gracefully drops of dew are rolling on the leave and exquisitely reflect the light! I won't be tired of viewing them.

Don't you think the leaves look like the placentas? The leaves with netlike leaf veins are similar to the placentas with netlike blood vessels in the appearance and both of them are symbolizing the vital life force.

The lotus flower is symbolic and divine in Buddhism. Even though lotus flowers grow in muddy ponds, the stalks rise high above the ponds and the flowers bloom beautifully, purely. Taking lessons from the lotus flowers, we can remain pure and unspoiled even though we live in the murky world.
Great Buddha in Todai-ji temple sits on the lotus flower pedestal.
In front of the Buddha, bronze lotus flowers are placed.

 According to what I read, in Hinduism also the lotus flowers are sacred. Brahma(the creator) was born from the lotus flower growing from the navel of Vishnu( one of  the Supreme gods) .

 Water lilies and lotuses have been often mixed up in many cultures and symbolism. 

I am getting more and more interested in lotus flowers and enchanted by them! How about you?

参考図書: 「ハスを語る」 大賀一郎著、 「蓮」 阪本祐二著

Five chicks are growing as big as their mom. The nest is too small for them.

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