Dohyo Matsuri ~ a ceremony of a sumo tornament ~ : Sumo is still a Shinto ritual…

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     Now the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament is on at Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium. Sumo is a kind of wrestling and Japanese national sport. In these modern days, sumo is regarded as a sport, but it used to be a Shinto ritual. That is why, there are many Shinto rites in sumo wrestling still now. A ceremony called “dohyo-matsuri” was held last Saturday, and I went to see it with two of my friends. CAM00260

     Dohyo-matsuri is held on the day before the start of the tournament to purify the ring called dohyo and pray for safety of the event. It is opened to the public for free, but many people do not even know of its existence. It is probably because it is not given publicity in a positive manner. It is still a Shinto ritual and they want to hold it in a quiet and respectful manner. So, the entrance door of the gymnasium was closed by 9:50 a.m. to start the ceremony at 10:00.

     CAM00283High-ranking sumo wrestlers and authorized people were seated around the dohyo ring. Three sumo referees called gyoji, in white Shinto priest costumes performed the ceremony. They purified the participants and the place with some holy plants called sakaki, paper streamers named shide, and sake. Then the main referee recited a Shinto prayer. CAM00287

     There was a small hole in the center of the ring. The referees put offerings – some rice, salt, kelp seaweed, dried squid, nuts called kaya, and chestnuts into the hole. And then they poured sake over them. Two drum corps appeared and walked around the ring three times, striking the drum. Then, the hole in the ring was sealed…CAM00302

     While I was watching the ceremony, I realized anew that sumo is not only a sport but also still a Shinto ritual. That is why women cannot enter the dohyo ring today in the 21st century, either… Oh, I am not going to be a sumo wrestler, mind you!

The “Type One” Classes Reunion: Long time no see! We haven’t talked before, though…

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“Umm…Who are they?”
“Check your yearbook!”

CAM00216-a   It was at the beginning of June when I communicated with the organizer of the reunion via text messages. T-chan, the party organizer, planned the meeting this time and invited me. He sent me the list of the prospective participants, but I did not know half of them.

     There was a big high school reunion last year. It was an official one for former students who entered the school in the fifth, fifteenth, twenty-fifth, thirtieth, and thirty-fourth years from the school’s foundation. It seems that about 200 graduates attended the party. I received the invitation, but unfortunately I could not make it. T-chan joined the reunion and had a really good time there. Then he decided to have small reunions every year. So he organized the party at the end of last month, but this time he invited just people who had been in the “Type One” classes.

     The Type One…I had forgotten the word completely until I saw the word in his message. My school used to be separated into four: The Type One, Two, Three, and Four. The Type One was classes for students who were planning to major in liberal arts in private colleges, Type Two, liberal arts in national and public ones, Type Three, math and science in private, and Type Four, math and science in national and public. T-chan and I were in one of the Type One classes. He found out at the big reunion last year that the Type Two people often met after graduation, and wanted to have a party with former students of the Type One, like the Type Two.CAM00229-a

     Okay…the yearbook….the yearbook?! Where is it? I searched my apartment, but could not find it. It may be in my mother’s place… When I found the dusty album with the faded spine in a paper bag in a corner of my mother’s house, I could not help feeling nostalgic. I was very surprised when I opened the photo book. I could not remember my principal at all. Moreover, most of the teachers looked younger than I had thought… “Were they so young?! Actually, my homeroom teacher passed away in his 20s. I was shocked when I heard the news. It was because he departed at such a young age and I had believed he was in his 50s…

     I found my own picture soon, and then T-chan and another boy N-kun on the same page. But I could not find the others easily. At least, I was able to know the others had not been in the same class…It seemed I had never talked to them…

     “Actually I can’t tell the restaurant name because I don’t know how to read the Chinese characters. One represents ‘fish’ and ‘existence’ and the other ‘horse’ and ‘to be’. I hope all of you will find the restaurant. Let’s meet there at 6:00 ! See you tomorrow!”

     I received such a terrible text message from T-chan the night before the party. Great! The party organizer cannot tell the meeting place correctly! I began solving the puzzle, anyway. It must be a character of ‘tuna’ made from ‘fish’ and ‘existence,’ and ‘speedy’ from ‘horse’ and ‘to be.’ But I did not know how to read the restaurant’s name. Nevertheless, I was able to get the answer soon on the Internet. Luckily all the participants came to the sushi restaurant named ‘Ichi’ the next day.

     “Long time no seeeeeeee! Well…we haven’t talked before…right?”

     We graduated from the same high school in the same year. But I did not know half of the participants. So, we started with a self-introduction. T-chan was in Class 1 and belonged to the kendo club, N-kun, Class 1, and the tennis club, M-kun, Class 2, and the badminton club, Y-chan, Class 2, and the swimming club, K-chan, Class 3, and also the swimming club, and I, Class 1, and the chorus club.

     “The chorus club?! Did our school have a chorus club?!” All of them shouted. Yes, it did…it was a small club…and no longer exists, though…After the self-introduction, we had animated conversations looking through a yearbook that T-chan had brought to the party. Lots of forgotten memories were reawakened for us. All of us did not know each other, but spent the same time at the same place. So, we had many things to talk together. I had a wonderful time and made old and new friends!

The Handcraft Fair in Nagoya 2014: No one would recognize it as a UNIQLO product!

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CAM00233     “You buy a cheap hoodie at a UNIQLO store and then add something like Tyrolean trims or something, or change the cord to a fancy one. You see, you can get an original item easily! No one would recognize it as a UNIQLO product! ” Mr. Tomoyuki Tanaka, a fashion designer, explained how to modify old or plain clothing items, showing many examples: T-shirts, hoodies, jackets, hats, bags, shoes…CAM00212

     I was in Fukiage Hall last Friday with two of my friends. There was an annual event called “Handcraft Fair in Nagoya.” I attend the event every year. (The previous articles about the event: 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008) My main purpose is to buy bags from a bag designer called Yukako. She makes bags from used clothes. I like her taste. The two bags in the photo were the ones I bought this year. They are lovely, aren’t they? CAM00214

     That morning, I had an English class, and my friends had a Chinese medicine class. We met at a restaurant for lunch around 1p.m. All of us were tired and sleepy when we arrived at the place at about 3. We bought some coffee and slumped on to chairs in front of the stage. We did not have stamina for walking around. Then, the talk show began. I was able to get many ideas for modifying clothing.

     After the show, we went to the bag designer’s booth. It was difficult to choose one from her works. Every bag was appealing. I bought a big tote for Tai Chi and drum practice. I often need to bring a pair of shoes and extra clothing for Tai Chi and drum sticks and musical scores for playing the drums. The other one is for my usual outings. I met the bag maker with the one I had bought from her last year. She was very pleased to see it, as if she had met her child who was living far away from her. CAM00215

     My friends each bought some automatic needle threaders made in Italy and wooden clogs. All of us were happy to get what we had wanted. Whenever I come to the event, I am surprised and impressed by many fancywork devotees. I have not made anything by myself for a long time, but the event gave me many hints about modifying this year. According to Mr. Tanaka, you can get many items for modifying at 100 yen shops or hobby stores. I cannot make a bag from old clothes like Yukako, but I might be able to decorate my old bags and to perk them up!

The Alphorns in Nagoya: Why don’t you join us? You have a talent!

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SN3T0055     On a Sunday I suddenly wanted to eat ice cream. My husband and I were on our way home from a home improvement store. We dropped by a convenience store and bought ice cream. It was too hot to eat them in our car, which had no air – conditioner. So we went to a park nearby.

     When we were looking for a nice and cool place, we heard something. Some deep sounds. We found out the source when we were looking around. Three men were playing unfamiliar musical instruments. They were wooden horns, more than two meters long. SN3T0056

     I got interested in the instruments, but decided to finish my ice cream first since it began melting. Although it was hot that day, the wind was cool in the park. It was quite nice listening to the music, licking ice cream in the shade. When my husband and I finished our ice cream, the three men just stopped playing the horns. We walked up to them.

     “Hello,” one of the three men greeted us.
     “Hi! What’s this?” I asked him pointing to his horn.
     “It’s an alphorn.”
     “Alp? Does it have something to do with the Alps?”
     “Oh, yes!” He began explaining about the instrument enthusiastically as if he had been waiting to be asked. Actually, he was not the only person talking about the horn passionately, the other two men were also enthusing about the horns. SN3T0058

     They met the instruments first in Nagano Prefecture, not in Switzerland. There is a village which has a workshop for making alphorns by hand there. They heard about the instruments and the village, and went to the place several years ago. Then they fell in love with the horns. So, the three men went to the village for three months running to make their own ones. Each horn had a painting of beautiful flowers. They painted them by themselves. They were talking about their favorite musical instruments with starry eyes. SN3T0059

     “Why don’t you try?” one of them asked us with a smile.
     “Oh, really?”

     First, my husband tried. Amazingly, he made sounds after a few tries. The men’s eyes gleamed. They gathered around him, nodding, and said, “Why don’t you join us? You have a talent!” Next, I did. I tried hard. My face turned red, but no sound came from the horn. It seems that I have no talent for musical instruments…

     My husband and I are lucky because we stumbled across such an interesting instrument and people! According to them, they have more people in their group and are going to have a concert next March in Midori-ku. Why don’t you go to the concert if you can make it?

Kinshachi Plate @ Aichi Gakuin University Meijo Koen Capmus: Why don’t you eat a castle?

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“How was the lunch?”CAM00206
“It was nice.”
“Did you go upstairs?”
“I had lunch on the first floor. I didn’t know there’s another cafeteria on the second floor.”
“There’s a café named Saru-Café on the second floor.”
“Oh, really? Okay, I’ll try the café next time!”

     When a friend of mine and I walked by the information booth of Aichi Gakuin University’s Meijo Koen Campus, a guard came and talked to us. Actually, we had talked before going to the school cafeteria. CAM00207

     I took a Chinese exercise class near Meijo (-Koen) Park last Thursday. After the class, the friend and I went to Aichi Gakuin University’s Meijo Koen Campus nearby. When we were looking at the map on the wall of the information booth, the guard came to tell us how to get to the cafeteria.

     The cafeteria had two types of lunch special: Today’s Lunch and Today’s Domburi. Domburi means a bowl or a bowl of rice with other food on top. My friend decided to have Today’s Lunch, and I, Today’s Domburi.

     I was overwhelmed by the appearance of Today’s Domburi: “Kinshachi Plate.” It was a baguette sandwich with two fried prawns dressed with tartar sauce on top of a rice omelet with demiglace sauce. kinshachi plate

     This dish was a represenation of Nagoya Castle. Kinshachi means golden shachi(-hoko). Shachihoko is a fish-shaped ornament decorating the top of the roof and a kind of charm against fire. Nagoya is famous for the castle and the roof ornament. That is, the rice omelet represents the building of the castle, and the bread the roof, the fried prawns, Kinshachi. Funny!

     It was a little difficult to eat, but the Kinshachi Plate was very nice. The lunch was only 500 yen with a cup of soup and a salad. Today’s Lunch had soup and cost 450 yen. CAM00204

     The Meijo Koen Campus of Aichi Gakuin University just opened this April. The public can use its cafeteria except from 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. According to the guard, there is a café upstairs. How about dropping by the cafeteria when you come to or near Meijo (-Koen) Park or Nagoya Castle? It is a few-minute-walk from the exit 2 of Meijokoen Subway Station.

Ajisai Tea Ceremony ~ Cross-cultural Event in Shirotori Garden : I’m happy that I came to Japan!

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CAM00170-a     “I never teach them in a cursory style just because they are non-Japanese or they are staying here a very short time. I think teaching Japanese culture has nothing to do with the nationality or duration of stay …” Ms. Kato began talking to the audience.

     There was an interesting event named “Ajisai Tea Ceremony” in Shirotori Garden near Atsuta(-Jingu) Shrine last Saturday. Some foreigners who love the Japanese tea ceremony made tea for Japanese people following the oficial protocol, some non-Japanese ladies appeared in yukata, a kind of kimono, which had been made by themselves, and talked about their favorite points of Japanese culture, and several Japanese volunteer guides showed some of us around the garden with English commentary. CAM00172-a

     I took part in the English guided tour and the talk show. (About Shirotori Garden and the English guided tour is HERE.) The tour finished around 11:20. I arrived in time the talk show which was supposed to start at 11:30, but the room was already packed and I had to stand. I saw many people in yukata or kimono among the audience because the people who were wearing traditional Japanese attire were able to enter the garden for free that day. (The regular entrance fee is 300 yen.) In addition, those people were not all Japanese. CAM00173-a

     Ms. Kato is the teacher who taught the performers of the talk show how to make yukata. Actually, she teaches not only making kimonos but also about Japanese tea ceremony, flower arrangement and traditional practices. Moreover, she is a pioneer among licensed interpreter-guides in Nagoya.

     “…I knew they had sewn by hand with effort, but I sometimes drew the thread out when I thought the seams were rough. I’m sure they had a tough time. But I believe they should do good finishing jobs. Besides I didn’t want people to think, “Because they’re not Japanese,” if they found my students’ clumsy sewing. But it might have been my fault that they couldn’t sew well. I’m sorry…” said Ms. Kato, and some performers melted in tears. CAM00195-a

     It took most of the foreign ladies more than one year to complete their yukata. One of them said, “I was very surprised when I knew I had to make yukata without patterns or a sewing machine.” Her words helped me to recall the differences between European and Japanese clothes. When you make Western clothes, you take the person’s size and make the pattern from the measurement. And you cut the materials with the pattern, and then you seam each part to fit together 3-demensionally. On the other hand, kimono is made by sewing rectangler pieces of materials and use sash belts to fit to your body. If the kimono gets too old to wear, you just draw the threads out and take it back to the rectangler pieces. You can make cushion covers or something with them. Then finally the materials finish their life as dusters. It is one of the innovative Japanese ideas to recycle kimono materials. CAM00190

     “I like a sense of tension and concentration when I write Japanese characters in calligraphy.”
     “I think each stroke in calligraphy has its own beauty.”
     “There’s beauty in the unique forms in Japanese flower arrangement.”
     “When I started making yukata, I just thought it would be a good souvenir to my return. But I was able to get something more than that. I learned many things. Japanese materials are good quality and their designs have both boldness and sensibility, and are very beautiful. I was able to learn about Japanese people’s diligence and patience through sewing my yukata by hand.”CAM00191

     All of the performers looked very nice and proud in their original yukata. You can never find another like it. They did not just sew the materials, write letters with a brush, or put flowers in the vase. They have received Ms. Kato’s spirit and have been learning Japanese culture in earnest. “I’m really happy that I came to Japan.” Some of them were in tears. Those ladies’ words were impressive and their works, such as yukata, calligraphies, ceramics, and arranged flowers, were wonderful. The talk show brought the Japanese audience the rediscovery of the brilliance of their own culture, and non-Japanese people the motivation for taking an interest in Japanese culture. I was glad I joined the meeting.

Shirotori Garden English Guided Tour : Shirotori Garden, a hidden scenic point in Nagoya

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       “This garden’s name, Shirotori, means white birds, such as swans. Many birds have found sanctuary in this place and gather. That’s why this place was named Shirotori….” The guide started leading the participants in the park…

     There was an interesting event in Shirotori Garden near Atsuta (-Jingu) Shrine last Saturday. They invited some foreign ladies who live in Nagoya and got them to talk about Japanese culture showing their own art works. Actually, the event had other programs: Tea ceremonies and English guided tours. I decided to take part in a guided tour at 10:30 and then go to the talk show at 11:30. CAM00157

     It was my first time to visit the garden, though I have lived in Nagoya for a long time. One of the reasons is that the park requires an entrance fee: 300 yen for adults, 100 yen for citizens of Nagoya aged 65 or older, and free for children under the age of 14. If you come to the place with a one day ticket for Nagoya City’s public transportation, you can enter for 240 yen (20% off!). CAM00145-a

     The English guided tour was supposed to start at 10:30, but the tour had already started when I arrived at the gate before 10:30. One of the staff members explained that they had made a group depart earlier because more people had gathered than they had expected. According to her, the next group would depart later. But I decided to join the first group because I found two of my friends in it. CAM00153

     This place is located by the Hori-kawa River. The river was canalled to carry building materials for Nagoya Castle in the Edo period (the 17th Century), and the site of this garden used to be a pond for keeping the timber. After the completion of the castle, the place had been used as a lumber port. But Typhoon Vera a.k.a. the Isewan Typhoon in 1959 brought big damage to this area and the timber yards were decentralized. By the beginning of the 1980s, the lumber port was no longer required because of the decentralization and increasing imported materials.CAM00144

     Then, it was reborn as a Japanese garden for the World Design Exposition in 1989. After the event, it was opened to the public. This garden features a path around the pond and is designed to express the landscape features of central Japan. For example, there is an artificial hill near the gate of the garden. It represents Mt. Ontake in Nagano Prefecture. The big pond in the center of the garden represents Ise Bay and the stream the Kiso River. The garden even has a mock spot called “Nezame-no-toko,” which is a famous scenic place in Nagano Prefecture. CAM00161

     The garden has a cypress tree planted by Ms. Wangari Maathai, who was a Kenyan political activist and recipient of the Novel Peace Prize in 2004. She was very popular in Japan because she promoted an environmental protection campaign in 2002 using a Japanese word, “mottainai,” which expresses a sense of regret and concern over waste. It also has a tea house and Suikinkutsu, which is a garden ornament and music device.

     Many flowers and trees are in the garden, and they show you different expressions each season. Hydrangeas and gardenias were in full bloom when I visited the park. The beautiful autumn leaves will welcome you in the fall. Even after snow, you will find breathtaking scenery there. The entrance fee of 300 yen is reasonable for the beautiful site. Why don’t you come by Shirotori Garden when you visit Atsuta (-Jingu) Shrine?