2006/11/07

Culture Day (Bunka no hi)

Friday was a national holiday in Japan - Culture Day. This day is set aside to promote appreciation of culture, freedom, and peace. Originally Meiji Emperor's birthday, it was renamed Culture Day after his reign. Every year on this day the Japanese government gives out Bunka Kunsho (the highest rank of Culture Award) to a few people who devoted their lives to promoting Japanese culture or higher achievements in academic fields.Kashima Jingu, the major Shinto shrine here, had a Sumo Festival in the morning. Additionally, there are chrysanthemum flowers on display at the shrine during the entire month of November.

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K and I headed over there in mid morning and she found a free parking space in her "secret" little parking lot just a block from the Torii which marks the entrance to the shrine. The shrine can become a busy place on holidays such as this.

There were not quite as many flowers on display as there were last year. You can see pictures I took then on my post "Mum's the Word". The displays that were there didn't have as many blossoms yet, so we'll have to check back later in the month.

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The Sumo Festival had just one more round to go by the time we arrived. Two boys faced off with their fathers holding them at the waist. A group of the shrine's priests, in their white robes and very cool hats, looked on at ringside. The match was ruled to be a draw and an enthusiastic audience applauded.

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The momiji (maple) tree in front of the Hondo (main hall of worship) was verdant. I enjoy seeing the changes this tree goes through during each season. You may recall the picture of it posted recently which showed it with autumn tinted leaves which became the cover for "Ya'sou!" online poetry magazine.

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Another annual event in November is celebrated on the 15th. It is called "Shichi Go San", literally "Seven Five Three". Parents bring their children who will turn seven, five, or three years of age in the coming year to the shrine dressed in kimono to pray for their growth and health. Several families took advantage of Culture Day to bring their children a bit early.

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After watching the sumo match we walked the 500 meters down the wide cedar lined path to the inner shrine with its older Hondo. We stopped at the souvenir shop there and enjoyed ocha (green tea) and Zenzai (sweet azuki bean soup with mochi rice cakes) and macha (a strong green tea made from powdered tea used in tea ceremonies) with rice cakes. Azuki beans are sweet whereas macha is slightly bitter, so the two dishes complement each other.

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Waiting for tea across from the 400 year old inner shrine.


We enjoyed Culture Day at the shrine. The weather in the late afternoon was getting cool, but we decided to take a bike ride to lake Kitaura. We spent our day in the spirit of the holiday, celebrating culture, our freedom, and peace.

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14 comments:

Reena said...

The picture of the 2 little girls in the kimonos, are simply adorable. Amazing culture!

Pandabonium said...

Thanks Reena. Japanese culture has a way of integrating art into every aspect of life in a way that is unique. Even modern products bear distinctive Japanese cultural touches.

The different expressions on those two girls' faces (standing together in front of the mums) is cute, I think. The little one looks bewildered, her older sister a bit more confident. Sweet.

The Moody Minstrel said...

I like the scene in which one kimono-clad girl is helping her little sister fix the ornament in her hair. A picture of beauty, culture, and innocence.

How little of that there seems to be in modern Japanese culture...

Martin J Frid said...

Hi moody... allow me to disagree... I think there is a LOT of that in modern Japanese culture...

When I lived in Okayama, there was the "coming-of-age" ceremony each year, when the 20 year old girls and boys dressed up in their best blue and grey hakamas and colourful kimonos.

Can you imagine the power (and pride) that clothes does to a man?

Culture is a lot of things, in my country or yours. But, frankly, I have no right to say what you just said, belittling another country's culture, pretending that I know that "modern Japanese culture" has none of that grace and beauty. I have no right to do that.

http://images.google.com/images?q=Japan%20coming%20of%20age%2020&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&rls=org.mozilla:sv-SE:official&client=firefox-a&sa=N&tab=wi

Reena said...

I saw "Memoirs of a Geisha" a couple of months ago and realised that the Japanese culture is very deep and people respect it greatly. I don't know what modern Japan is about but I think the Japanese would be proud of where they come from.

The Moody Minstrel said...

Martin
I respect and appreciate your opinion, but I beg to differ. I would also like to underscore the fact that you said "livED" (past tense) in Okayama. I STILL LIVE in Japan.

Since Japan has been my home country for the better part of two decades now, my workplace is Japanese, my wife is Japanese, and my kids are being raised Japanese, I think I have every right to judge the place where I live!

As far as "Coming of Age Day" is concerned, are you aware that many municipalities here are considering canceling all further public events connected with it (if they haven't already) because the behavior of new 20-year-olds has gotten to be so bad?

I'm dead serious.

Actually, to some extent I have to sympathize with the 20-year-olds. After all, who really wants to sit and listen to patronizing speeches given by old men who were raised in a totally different era and live in a totally different world? Be that as it may, the last time I went to Kashima Shrine during Coming of Age Day festivities I was shocked by the attitude and behavior of most of the 20-year-olds I saw. Sure, they were still dressed up in beautiful kimonos or suits according to custom, but they were loudmouthed, pushy, rude, obscene, several of them were very drunk and obnoxious, and more than half of them had their cell phones glued to their faces (and were speaking loudly and obnoxiously into them) the entire time (and not watching where they were going...or who they were plowing into).

It was a huge and shocking change even from just ten years ago.

There. I've just made a very harsh cultural judgment. Criticize me if you like, Martin, but I LIVE here now...and HAVE LIVED here for some time now. Therefore, I see no reason to keep my mouth shut. Saying I have no right to judge the culture here is the same as saying I have no right to participate in society, and my response to that would probably be censored by Pandabonium, so I shan't write it here.

Bottom line: if you want me to get off my high horse, first get off your even higher one.

The Moody Minstrel said...

Oops...I guess you do live in Japan. I'm very sorry about that. No, my foot doesn't taste very good.

Don't they celebrate Coming of Age Day in Tokyo?

Anyway, just so you don't think I pulled what I said about CoAD out of my backside:

Japan Today: Is Coming of Age Day Necessary?

Web-Japan: Coming of Age Day

Kyodo: Police to seek prosecution of CoAD pranksters

Sapporo University: A New Ethic to Match a New Epoch

Incidentally, those last three articles date from 2001, which is when I had that disastrous CoAD experience at Kashima Shrine compared to ten years before, in 1991, when I had a wonderful one.

Martin J Frid said...

Thanks Moody, no worries.

The Moody Minstrel said...

Martin, I think I owe both you and Pandabonium an apology. It's clear you and I have a difference of opinion in this matter, but my response was over the top and out of line. I don't think you meant any offense, but I took offense, and now I regret it. I'm really sorry about that.

We're all in this together, right?

Pandabonium said...

Thank you Martin, thank you Moody. I didn't want to touch this exchange with a 3 meter lightening rod, as it was clear that there was, as Bush might say, "misunderestimating" of each other going on.

You gentlemen each seem to have realized that.

We are all in this together. While I have not the time and experience in Japan as either of you, I have visited here for a long time and lived most of my life in a Japanese-American community and religion in Hawaii, so feel I have something to say on the topic. Frankly I can identify with each of your observations. I see Japan's rich cultuarl traditions being carried forward and I also see pressures that are changing them or even working against them.

Anyway, I hope we all continue to communicate our thoughts and reach an understanding of each other's point of view.

Martin J Frid said...

Thanks... I'm sorry too. We are all very far away from home. Yes, we are all in this together.

Pandabonium, I think your Culture Day photos were absolutely fantastic, hoping to see more of that.

Pandabonium said...

Thanks. Kids are always a great subject for pictures - if one can get them hold still for a second. Precious children dressed in beautiful fabrics, can't lose.

K's niece will be featured in her kimono in next January's post about coming of age day.

YD said...

Panda, at first glance at your comment I thought you said "K will be featured in her kimono during her coming of age day". I was happily building up my expectation temporarily. Haha...

(come to think of it, why not? old photos bring back nostalgies...don't worry if you prefer not to. ^_^)

Happysurfer said...

Pandabonium, I love this post - the narration is so vivid as if I was there and the pictures, they are simply fabulous - the wrestling match, the priests, the pretty kimonos (good enough for a fashion parade) and not forgetting the colourful and neat potted plants.

The children look so nice in their traditional outfit - so pretty and cute. I noticed the adult ladies are also in their finery. I have a question though. How is it that the gentlemen are not in their Japanese costume but in a suit instead? Pls enlighten.