Monthly Archives: June 2007

Saiku Historical Museum

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      I went to Saiku Historical Museum in Mie prefecture last Tuesday on 19th. What’s Saiku? Saiku is the palace of Saio, who was also called “Itsuki-no-himemiko”. What’s Saio then? Saio was unmarried Emperor’s daughter who served at the Grand Shrine of Ise (Ise Jingu), which is the most important shrine for Japanese Shinto.

     A new Saio was selected among those unmarried Emperor’s daughters by the fortune-telling whenever the Emperor changed. The appointed Saio had to go to Saiku, the palace and serve God, and couldn’t go back to the capital until the Emperor changed.

      Usually changing Emperor means hid dead. That’s why, being appointed Saiku means that she and her father Emperor couldn’t see each other for ever.

       The Saio system started in the 7th century and had continued for about 660 years until 11th century. And 64 princesses became Saio during the period. 

     As I mentioned, each Saio was chosen by the fortune-telling called Bokujo. A small piece of a sea turtle shell was cast into a fire built by a cheery twig, and when it was cracked, an oracle was told by a diviner.

      A diviner’s telling with the crack of a turtle shell determined girls’ lives! The youngest Saio was just 5 years old. She was chosen by the crack of a small piece of a turtle shell and had to spend most of her life at the Saiku palace far removed from the capital!

      The journey from the capital to Saiku was called gunko or mass procession, about 500 servants accompanied her. It seems that the mass procession meant not only going to Saiku but also showing people the Emperor’s authority. But the journey was not just gorgeous and beautiful, but hard and tough. It took 5 nights from the capital to Saiku palace.

      Saio was able to ride on a litter, but it must have been really tough to keep sitting for such a long time in a small box! And for his servants, the journey must have been hard. There’s a famous pass called Suzuka on the way to the palace from the capital.

       Anyway, I saw and did many things at the museum: seeing many excavated exhibits and the replicas, trying food cooked in the then style, wearing ancient wears, for example. The museum’s building itself was built by the then method of construction, and it has no nails. It interested me very much.  

     I had a nice time studying many things about an ancient system and thinking those 64 ladies’ checkered lives there. You can find many things and enjoy at the museum, I think. How about visiting there once? http://www.pref.mie.jp/saiku/hp/index.htm

.      Finally, I’ll introduce an ancient fiction on Saio. I try to translate it into English.

      There is a man long time ago. One day he goes to Ise on duty, he is treated very kindly by Saio. Since he is very pleased and next day sends a message to her, which says “I’d love to see you”. She doesn’t refuse it. But there are many people around the palace and it’s very hard to see each other for them.

     At midnight, he sees a figure in the darkness outside since he can’t fall asleep because he thinks of her. The figure is the Saio. The man is very excited and invites her to his room. But they cannot spend a long time together. She goes back after a while, and it makes him very sad.

     Next morning, he wants to get in touch with her, but he cannot. After a while, he gets a message. It’s not a letter but a poem.

You came to me or
I go to you just before
I can’t remember
Did I see you in my dream?
Did I go to you indeed?

 

      The man cries when he reads her poem, and sends a poem to her as well.

My heart seems to break
I’m lost and I have an ache
I’m not sure what happened
How about coming to me tonight
And finding what’s the real world?

     He goes out for his business, but he can’t concentrate at all. He wants to meet the Saio that night again, but he has to stay at a party. At last she sents a message. It is half of a poem.

 

The stream is shallow
It looks like our relations
For me it’s sorrow

      The man makes half the poem and completes it.

I’ll come through the place ‘cause it
Means to see someone again

     And then he leaves for another place. They never meet again.

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Monkeys!

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     “Monkeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeey!”

     I shouted and started running at that time when I turned around.

     I was in a small village in Mugi, Gifu prefecture, where I had visited and written about the other day, on Sunday of the 17th. That was a peaceful afternoon. Some people were indulging in a nap, some were strolling in the village, and I was about to practice tai chi outside after lunch.

     I heard some snaps behind me when I went outside. I saw something gray crouch and eating something when I turned around.

     A dog? I thought that first. The next instant, however, it clicked with me that it was not a dog but another animal; a monkey!

       It was the first time for me to see a wild monkey. It was eating something in a leisurely manner showing its back to us. With my information, some of us came out and saw it, but the monkey didn’t look unaffected at all and kept eating something.

     Another big monkey, however, suddenly appeared from nowhere and squealed. And the monkey who was eating something swung round to us and then started running away to the mountain.

     The next moment, there was an unbelievable thing. All of a sudden, other three monkeys appeared behind us and dashed to the mountain, too. Scary! We didn’t know that they were lurking in the underbrush at all!

     For a while, the monkeys and we had been staring at each other across the mountain side. Then the monkeys might give up something and started going home (maybe). After they were gone, we checked the fields. Ah, yes. As we imagined, a row of potatoes were dug up.

    

        There’s a word “saru-mane” in Japanese, but it means mimicking something without thinking anything. Monkey can copy movements of human beings. That’s why if someone threatens a monkey with something, the monkey mimics the movement next time.

      I heard from a villager an interesting but scary story after our encounter with monkeys. A man found a monkey sit on a plum tree and he threw some stones at it to drive it off. Afterwards, monkeys started climbing up to the plum trees and throwing plums to humans! If monkeys are getting fiercer and fiercer, the root might be our behaviors… Learn wisdom by the follies of others…

Furimukeba Neko: There’s a cat whenever I look around.

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      Last Saturday on 16th I met a friend of mine. We hadn’t seen for a long time.  Since she lives in Ogaki and basically cannot have a weekend day off, she and I can hardly meet each other.

     She and I used to be co-workers. Although the both of us quit the company, we maintain our friendship still now. It may be since I love cats and so she does too!

     Strangely there’re many cat lovers around me. I’m wondering if cat-lovers may attract each other. I don’t know. Although I love dogs and other animals too, I take to cats because they look nobly, dignified and free.

     There was just an exhibition of cats’ photos entitled “Furimukeba neko” or “There’s a cat whenever I look around.” at Matsuzakaya in Sakae on the day when I met my friend. That’s why we went and saw it together after lunch.

     The cats’ photos were taken by Mitsuaki Iwago, who is an animal photographer. He takes not only cats’ photos but also many wild animals’ all over the world, wild giant pandas in China, for example. http://www.digitaliwago.com/gallery/index.html I like his photos because I can find wild animals’ expressions I’ve never seen in his works.

     The hall was swarming with many people when we arrived. I was amused to think that most of them loved cats. And I heard this word many times there indeed. “Cute!”

     Oh, yes. Those cats on the photos were really adorable. For non-cat lovers, however, some of the photos might not cute at all, though. You know, as for cat lovers, cats look cute even when they are browbeating something by opening their eyes and mouths wide and baring their fangs. And there were many funny photos included in Mr. Iwago’s works, the moment that a cat failed in a jump, for example. They were also nice.

     Anyway, my friend and I were softened by the cute cats’ photos!

Fresh Air

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      I went to Mugi, Gifu prefecture last Sunday. It’s located near Heisei village, which became famous for the name when the name of the present era was decided to be Heisei 19 years ago.

     There’s wildness still now around the area in spite of the trend toward development. The wildness is not primitive, however, people use natural resources and live together wild animals. Since there’s no factory around there, the streams are clean and you can enjoy fishing and seeing fireflies. 

     Although wild bores or bears sometimes cause damage to the villages, they’re blessed in the meat if they can catch them. But they never try to catch them excessively. They control the numbers of the wild animals.

      Such peaceful villages have been losing population rapidly, and the fields have tended to be wasted recently.

     That’s why people, mainly young generation, try to revive their villages by attracting tourists, selling fresh vegetables, advertising heir special products and inviting people from other towns and so on.

      The place I visited is interesting. Many people get together and do many things freely; pottery, dyeing, producing and selling vegetables to tourists, for instance. They enjoy their hobbies and having big lunch almost every Sunday.

     I was able to take a deep breath in fresh air in the forest and to relax by seeing many wildflowers there. And of course, I enjoyed the wonderful lunch with friends!

Les Ballets Grandiva

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     “Aren’t all of them women?”
     “No. They’re all men!”

     The beautiful dancers in bright dresses and high heels before my eyes looked like sensual women to me. But no, they were not women. They were men certainly. And what I thought that they were high heels were toe shoes…

     I was in a theater last Sunday with some of my friends. People who were performing gorgeously were members of Les Ballet Grandiva.

     Les Ballets Grandiva is a ballet company, and all of the members are men. Their ballet is a kind of comedy, but their performances are authentic. Their technique is on a high level.

      

   Strangely enough they looked like beautiful ballerinas to me  when some of them wore tutus even after knowing they’re all men.

     Yet, their muscles peeped from the costumes and strong jumps and steps indicated that they were men obviously. 

     Their performances were not only classical and typical but also modern and creative. The result of their everyday trainings and efforts were staged before me. I was really touched and excited. I’m wondering if it’s necessary for me to do some exercises…

 

Photos from: http://www.newyorkcool.com/archives/2007/May/feature2.htm

http://www.balletsgrandiva.com/

Arimatsu Shibori Matsuri: Japanese Tie-Dyeing Festival in Arimatsu

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      I went to Arimatsu yesterday. There was a festival named Arimatsu Shibori Matsuri in the town. Shibori means Japanese tie-dyeing, and Arimatsu is famous for it. The town has a festival of the tie-dyeing for only two days a year; the first Saturday and Sunday of June.

     Since I’ve heard an old street of stores and houses remains in Arimatsu and I’ve known it’s very famous for Shobori tie-dyeing, I’d have liked to visit the town once for a long time. I like seeing Japanese old towns and am interested in materials. At last I had an opportunity to visit there.

     A few days ago, a friend of mine informed me about the festival by email. I checked my schedule and replied her, “I’ll come!” And she and I decided to meet each other at Arimatsu Station in the morning of that day.

      Arimatsu is in Midori Ward located in the southeast of Nagoya. I took the highway bus to Nagoya Station and the local train in Meitetsu line to the town yesterday morning. It was my first time to use the line and the scenery seen from the train window excited me. The train was going through small and narrow areas. I was very surprised to find out what I was looking at was not the wall of a station, was the wall of an apartment house! It’s possible that the residents take the train from their windows!

     The train began slowing down for stopping at Arimatsu Station, and all of the passengers groaned. We saw many tourists overflowed around the street from the train windows. It was around 10:00 in the morning and many people already came to the festival.

      I saw a cute girl in yukata, summer cotton kimono or Japanese traditional wear in front of the station. She was coming closer and closer. Oh! That girl was my friend! She was wearing a beautiful yukata of Arimatsu Shibori tie-dyeing. According to her, she bought it at the festival last year. It was really nice on her.

     She and I saw many Shibori works there. Shibori has many methods of dyeing cloth with patterns by binding, stitching, folding, twisting, or compressing it. I was really impressed by the artistic handicrafts. 

      The local people are trying to preserve and invigorate the town at the same time with their specialty, Shibori. It’s wonderful that not only seniors but also young people take an active part in the project. And I thought I was going to come there again next year.