This blog is for family and friends, to share my feelings and photos with and for myself, to support my fading memory and improve my Japanese. I intend to do some writing in kanji, but am not getting very far without a Japanese computer. So for the moment I say "konnichi wa". Aisatsu dake - just saying hello.

Friday, 31 January 2014

鷹栖観音の火祭り Takasu Kannon Fire Festival

On January 4th , after seeing the macaques and an aquarium in Beppu we went to a small town in Oita prefecture to see this festival. It was a cold evening and while waiting around I decided to buy a good winter coat that week. (I did). However, once the action was on, fires burned left right and center and I was happy with my old one. 

Men in loincloth (it seems to be the traditional dress code at winter festivals) carried burning torches across a river which must have been freezing cold. 

A huge bonfire was lit on the river bank and further up near the shrine the bamboo torches were beat in a way that they produced as many sparkles as possible, an exhilarating kind of fireworks that had me running for shelter a few times. I managed to squeeze a few shots though and even succeeded to safe that old jacket. 

The fire is meant to destroy evil, represented by this mask of a red demon, called ‘oni’.
An exciting fire festival, very different from the one at Atago in  December, worth the long wait and my cold hands and feet.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

ホンザル, Japanese Macaque

Takasaki yama (Mt. Takasaki) is a forested mountain just south of Beppu and home to more than 1500 wild Japanese macaque monkeys.

When local macaques began laying waste to farmer’s fields and foraging for food in neighborhood trash cans, a city official decided to alleviate the problem by luring the monkeys to the mountain with a wistle and food. His plan worked and Takasaki yama has been home to the Japanese macaques ever since.

The monkey park doesn’t function like a zoo. There are no fences or bounderies, no off-limits areas for the macaques. Visitors are cautioned to keep their distance, avoid aggressive behavior and refrain from touching and feeding the monkeys. In return they get the opportunity to observe these animals up close.

Three troupes of monkeys populate the mountain and descend from the summit to eat, groom and play on the equipment the park staff has constructed.


Sunday, 19 January 2014

Tamaseseri 2014 玉せせり

A yearly tradition.

Every year on January 3rd the fishermen in Meinohama go wild. They fight over a huge wooden ball, dressed in loincloth and get drenched in ice-cold water. And they love it! We spectators are shivering and huddle together for warmth, but our men are tough.
For Jaap this was the 15th time and it had me thinking about our first winter in Fukuoka, in 1990.
What was different? Not the festival, not at all. But the surroundings, yes. There was no bridge across the river, there were no wide roads, no high apartment buildings. Many of the houses of the fishermen had corrugated iron roofs. The people, well they had less wrinkles and their hair used to have different colors (- except for some!) and many of them have been replaced by their sons or grandsons.
And another thing that was definitely different: there were a lot less camaras

We start at the little shrine next to the kumiai's office and work our way to Sumiyoshi shrine in Meinohama. I will let the photos tell the story


Who has the ball??!!

The traditional interview with Jaap    

This is what it looked like in 1997 and 1998:

Friday, 17 January 2014