Monday, February 24, 2014
Sabishii no Tabi part 8
- Hatsumode -
(New Year celebration)
Hatsumode is japanese new year celebration/festival where Japanese visit temples on the 1st to 3rd of January to pray. To experience this, I went to probably the most symbolic temple of Kyoto; Fushimi Inari.
Just after disembarking the train - there's a sea of people heading to the temple
At the entrace... police controlling traffic
There's shops as well
First main temple building
Guradian diety of Fushimi Inari - Fox -
This is what makes Fushimi Inari symbolic - thousands of vermilion Torii Gate
Its hard to get a good spot for picture as there are endless wave of people crossing
View from outside
There's a bamboo groove nearby
Fushimi Inari is located on Mt. Inari - one of the checkpoint offers a scenic observatory point of Kyoto.
At the tallest temple peak
After I descended from the mountain top - there's still a lot of people who just arrived. It doesn't stop!!
The journey to the top of Fushimi Inari probably take close to 1 hour that day as they were a lot of people so hiking speed was a bit slow. However, I was impressed seeing so many elderly probably around 60-70's maybe still managed to climb all the way to the top. Maji respect! Keep up the active lifestyle!
Fushimi Inari is really an interesting place. Not just a place of worship, but also as a scenic and recreational place with its mountain course.
So on Hatsumode (1st to 3rd of January) - just know that there's a lot of people!! And if you hate walking slow in a sea of people - avoid these dates :)
There's also a lot of people in the cities shopping from 1st to 3rd... as Japanese new year sale is really awesome! Plus, they have fukubukurou! (Read it up!)
I bought a digital camera which was around 100$ cheaper then the lowest price on internet!
Olympus SH-60 that I bought from Yodabashi Camera
The next post will be about Yama!
Sunday, February 23, 2014
Sabishii no Tabi part 7
- 平成 26 -
- Heisei 26 -
Heisei 26 is the japanese calendar equivalent of 2014. Heisei refers to the reigning emperor, reflecting 26 years he has been in the emperor of Japan.
Its a bit late to talk about 2014 celebration since its already close to March haha... but it can't be helped I guess... So, I decided to spend new year in Kansai area instead of Tokyo. Before that, I asked my japanese friend...
Q: what's the best place to celebrate new year's eve?
A: Err... at home?
Q: Anywhere with awesome fireworks, maybe tokyo tower?
A: There's no fireworks...
Q: Do people go anywhere then?
A: Some go to temple, mostly stayed at home...
Jejeje!! Boring nye!!!!!!!
I thought I could see some awesome fireworks or crazy celebration or something... I mean cmon! Its Japan!! Apparently Japanese new year celebration is really modest or rather family-oriented rather then having a big party like the rest of the world... But for someone who came to Japan ALONE... It was a huge disappointment for me...
So I decided to visit Kansai from the 28th December until 2nd January since there isn't any big celebration in Tokyo worth staying over.
**NOTICE to FUTURE JAPAN TRAVELLERS: DO NOT TRAVEL DURING 28th to 3rd JANUARY LIKE I DID!!!**
Because.... majority of places are closed!!! So make sure you research before hand whether the places you wanted to visit is open during new years holiday!
Anyway, as bad as it sound, I did get to visit many places in Kansai like Osaka, Nara, Koyasan, Takihata, Kyoto etc during those days.
On the 30th, I rode a boat and managed to watch a beautiful sunset. Its not the last, rather the 2nd last sunset of 2013 but I guess that's special enough...
The 2nd last sunset of 2013
It was really beautiful, unfortunately it was quite cloudy
Then on the 31st I went to Koyasan - which I will talk about it another post.
Koyasan - one the best place I've visited in Japan
Then, I went to Nara in the evening to see some cute deer!
When it got dark... I returned to my hotel... whilst thinking, am I really just spending new year eve's in Japan watching television alone in my hotel!?! So I Googled and Googled and found this temple holding a "small" celebration in Osaka close to my hotel.
But it was still quite early so I opened the TV and saw two show I recognized; Kouhaku and Gaki no Tsukai 24 Hour Batsu Game.
Kouhaku is a singing "competition" - not really actual competition with prize, more just for fun and pride I guess between famous japanese artists. This year it was hosted by Arashi and Ayase Haruka.
Arashi and Ayase Haruka
Well, I knew Kouhaku existed even before this but I never took any interest in it. This time, I decided to watch (since there's nothing to do..) and because this year there's something special. Its the year of the Asadora (morning drama) Amachan! So Amachan's cast was invited to participate! I will talk about Amachan in another post but just know that I'm a huge fan!
Special appearance - Amano Aki aka Amachan
The whole cast performed a special medley - ending with a "Jeh" pose
I also realized that day that Kouhaku is not just about singing. Its about relieving the year 2013 where they tell many inspirational stories from Japanese ranging from sportsperson, austronauts, children, teachers etc etc. Something I really applaud them for doing so every year.
In one particular segment, Ayase Haruka was brought to tears as she remember the children in Fukushima she interviewed
Kouhaku was surprisingly entertaining that I almost forgot about the celebration at the temple I planned to go. Around 11.30pm, I rushed out to the eki and DASH! to the temple MAX SPEED!
Luckily I was in time, I arrived there around 11.50pm with this gorgeous sight awaits me...
They have lined up candles in a cup on the steps.
The cups were written with new year message by the temple visitors
Inside the temple the head monk is giving a speech which I walked out after 1 minute because I could not understand a thing and I decided to savour the nice atmosphere outside while looking at the candles. I'm not good at describing, but it's really a nice feeling. While waiting, they played music by Joe Hisaishi, one particular music I remember was Kikujiro (Summer) which gives off this romantic and nice atmosphere.
As the clock gets closer to 12, more people started to gradually arrive and gather in front of the candle... and finally the countdown...
After the countdown, some visitors que up to get a chance to ring the giant bell for new year, some lights up their candle cup with their personal wish for new year and some have a refreshing new year "hot soup".
Lighting up the candle in the cup for visitors wishing to put them on the stairs
The main lantern I supposed... not really sure what this is for
Some enjoying the new year hot soup
What I've felt throughout the celebration was...
Surprisingly simple, yet inspiring...
Without any high-budget gimmick like fireworks or light shows or concerts...
Just with candles and some nice feeling music..
And turning off the temple light then turning it on again...
I never knew such simple celebration could be so satisfying...
My hats off to the organizers...
Just as a note, this is a not the norm of new year celebration in Japan. When I posted about this to my japanese friend, none of them knew this kind of celebration existed. Thats why I really respect the organizers for coming up with this idea~
This year several celebrations like Merdeka and New Year in Malaysia I heard was not held as big as previously because of being criticized as wasting people's money with fireworks and all... Even I once had the same opinion that celebrations like those are a waste of money.
Upon seeing how they celebrate new year at this temple... I realize now that it is possible to celebrate without excessive wasting of money, but still has a very satisfactory effect! Kenapa tidak masjid2 di Malaysia buat sambutan sebegini? Kalau tidak suka duit dibazirkan atau tak suka budaya berparty sakan... this is a very good alternative! Simple & inspiring!
And Kouhaku as well...
For being not just a singing competition, but also used as a platform to inspire people. This is something special about Japanese new year celebration that I think we should learn from. Setahu saya, rancangan tahun baru atau concert2 tahun baru di Malaysia hanyalah nyanyian semata2.... kalau ada pon berkongsi kisah2 for inspiration, tak pernah perasan~
Anyway this year 2014 will be a hectic year for me! My final year in Australia! InsyaAllah I pray that everything will go well!
Next part will be Hatsumode~
Friday, February 21, 2014
Sabishii no Tabi part 6
- 夜 -
- Yoru -
I've mentioned previously how the timing of my visit (december to mid january) is not the best time for both Autumn and Winter scenery. The autumn leaves have fallen while snow hasn't piled up yet. However, fortunately in December, machi no yoru sugoi kirei! (night view in town is beautiful) because in big cities like Tokyo and Osaka, they have christmas illumination!
So let's look at some Christmas illumination !!
Illuminated train in front of Shimbashi eki
The front of Yurakucho eki is decorated with green coloured illumination
Shinjuku was one the most beautifully illuminated place during this period.
This place is not really well-known but the main river was beautifully line by purple coloured lights. Nice place to enjoy illumination without many people around.
The reflections of the purple light on the river is spectacular
Christmas tree in the Gate City plaza
There's only one street in Roppongi where I found Christmas illumination, but I think the trees in Roppongi have the largest number of light bulbs put on them.
This is my favourite spot for night view in Tokyo. This place at night just took my breath away! There isn't any massive illuminated trees or streets but the view of rainbow bridge is superb!!
Beautiful rainbow bridge with the boats further contributing to the rainbow colour!
Shopping complex shined in bright blue lights
Gundam surrounded by Christmas illumination
Inside one of the shopping complex
The best thing about Odaiba during Christmas is that every saturday during December at 8.00pm there will be fireworks! Watching the fireworks with rainbow bridge as the backdrop is awesome!
The view is much more beautiful then what my phone's camera portrays!
Kaiyukan in Osaka
Kaiyukan is a large aquarium - definitely worth a visit! But the sea-themed illuminations at night is beautiful as well
I love this, just throw a net with light bulb on trees and it creates a unique sea-like shape!
The ferris wheel nearby Kaiyukan
A lot of Japanese town retain their castle site whether with actual castle or just the building site. Osaka castle is one of the most famous. When I visited they had this beautiful 3D projection mapping but I didn't see it from the proper spot because the que is insanely long.
Nothing really special - just the only illumination I managed to see under snow backdrop because when I visited the snowy part of Japan - Christmas illumination event is practically over.
Well, during December when you cant see autumn leaves nor snow yet (in Tokyo) - at least there's illumination event that creates a beautiful and romantic night scenery in the big cities!