Tag Archives: temple

Jazz Concert at a Buddhist Temple



saikoji1     A Jazz concert at a TEMPLE?

     I was very surprised to hear from the deputy head priest of Saikoji Temple in Toyohashi that he was organizing a Jazz concert at the temple, but decided right away to join it because it is rare to have opportunities to listen to Jazz music at temples in Japan. saikoji2

   Incidentally, Saikoji Temple is famous in Mikawa area for an event called Tori-no-ichi. Tori-no-ichi’s literal meaning is the Rooster Fair and a market selling lucky charms for business, especially decorative rakes called Kumade. Actually, the day before the concert was Tori-no-ichi. So, a big Kumade rake was displayed at the temple.

     The concert was held on November 23rd. I was very surprised again when I entered the temple because the room was packed with little children. saikoji3

     This is the right place, isn’t it?

     A Jazz concert was certainly held at the temple. It started solemnly with the priest’s greeting to the audience under gorgeous golden decorations. It was a concert indeed, but it was different from others I have experienced. saikoji6

     First of all, there were no seats in the room. The audience could sit down on the floor anywhere they liked. Actually, they did not need to sit down. If they wanted to stand up, they could. Secondly, they were able to do anything they liked, for example, dancing, running around, and even making sounds! So many of the children were holding something to make a sound, such as maracas made from milk cartons, percussion instruments made from empty boxes, or rolled-up newspaper. Actually, I did not know until that day that the purpose of the concert was to cultivate children’s artistic expression.saikoji5

      The musicians were Minoru Yoshiki, the bassist, Noriyuki “Knocky” Nakahashi, the pianist, and Syuji Mori, the tenor saxophonist. Once the music began, the children got excited and started to express their feelings freely. Some clapped their hands, some ran around, some hit the floor with rolled-up newspaper, and some played their handmade instruments. I think this freedom of expression was because children are not bound or fixed by rules. But meanwhile, adults like me are limited by many restrictions. I would need gallons of alcohol if I needed to let my real self out…saikoji4

     Interestingly, the bassist and the saxophonist moved around in the room while playing, though, keyboardist could not move around. The concert had no separation between the stage and the audience, but had a free atmosphere. I had a great time at the temple!

Woderful Japan Tour in Chita Peninsula: Make a toast with sake of Chita!


“What does Ikuji mean?”

     I was in a sake brewery. I had seen the word of “Ikuji” many times on my way to the place, and the man standing in front me was also wearing a coat on which the same word was printed. I was curious about it.

     There was an interesting tour visiting around Chita Peninsula on November 16. The participants looked on a Japanese sake brewery, tasted many kinds of sake there, went to an agricultural establishment, studied about vegetables produced in the area and had a healthy lunch set made from some of the products there, and then visited a temple related to Tokugawa Ieyasu, who had established the Edo Shogunate. Actually, the tour was guided in English. I took part in it with some of my friends.

     The man I asked is the president of the brewery named Harada Shuzo in Higashiura. He introduced an interesting episode: Long time ago, when Prince Yamatotakeru passed by this area, he got thirsty and he drove an arrow into the ground. Then water started gushing. Local people still use the spring and the well is called Ikuji. Nowadays no one knows the derivation of the name.

     His brewery also uses the water and sells sake named Ikuji. The place is suitable for sake making because of the climate and good quality of water.

     The building was filled with sweet sake flavor. The participants were able to look into a big tank in which sake was fermenting and to taste many kinds of sake. CAM01666Interestingly, they have collaborated with Meijo University for creating new sake with yeast from carnations. The carnation sake was sweet and smelt like flowers. Actually, the university has also made ice cream from the sake lees. You can try it in a cafeteria of the collage.

     Next we headed to an agricultural establishment in Obu for lunch half drunk. The place is called “Genki-no-sato” with many facilities, such as a farmers’ market, a spa, a bakery, and lots of cafeterias and so on. We went to a restaurant named “Dan-ran-tei”, where a man was waiting for us. He was a kind of vegetable geek… According to him, he can keep on talking about just tomatoes at least three hours…

     We enjoyed the meal, hearing his lecture on vegetables. All of the foods were made from vegetables produced in the area: boiled sweet potatoes with tangerines, boiled crams and daikon- radish leaves, boiled garland chrysanthemums, boiled mushrooms with ginger roots, crabs with vinaigrette, grilled salmon with beans paste, fuki or boiled giant rhubarb with soy sauce, steamed egg custard, fried mushrooms, tomato-nabe (fish, crams, mushrooms, Chinese cabbages, garland chrysanthemums, tomatoes, and leeks), and sushi (shrimp, sea eel, fig, bell pepper, wasabi leaf)…Those were delicious!

     After lunch, each of the participants spent free time there for a while. For example, I went to the farmers’ market and bought some fresh vegetables, dropped in the fish shop and the bakery, and bought some foods in the souvenir store. Then all of us head over to a temple named “Uchu-zan Kenkon-in”. Uchu means cosmos or space. Strange name…

     This temple was built in the 15th Century and is related to the mother of one of the most famous feudal lords, Tokugawa Ieyasu. She was from a powerful family, the Mizunos. The temple was located southwest of a castle of the family. Both of “ken” and “kon” mean southwest, and “kenkon” means massive universe. That’s why, the temple has the name of cosmos or space as well.

     We strolled around the temple with some local guides. The participants and the guides got along well and we had animated conversations during the tour of the historic site.

     Delicious sake and food, interesting stories, sites, and people…I had a wonderful time!

The Spring Festival at Kakuozan: Happy Birthday Buddha!


TS3N1682      Do you know when Buddha’s birthday is? Do I know it? Of course not. Ha ha. But in Japan his birthday is celebrated mainly on April 8th every year. According to Wikipedia, in other East Asian countries it is held on the 8th day of the 4th month in Chinese Lunar calendar, though.   TS3N1677

     There is a big temple named Nittai-ji in Nagoya. It celebrated Buddha’s birthday and its town called Kakuozan also had a big festival on April 8th, and I went there with a friend of mine, Yuko. It was a lovely day for walking and going cheery blossoms viewing that day, and she and I enjoyed the festival.  TS3N1679

     Nittai-ji is a quite new temple as compared to others in Japan. It was built as a repository for some remains of Buddha given from Thailand in 1904. That’s why the temple was named Nittai-ji ― “Nittai” means Japan and Thailand, and “ji” a temple. The temple is non-sectarian unlike others, and many people visited there for celebrating Buddha’s birthday on that day.  TS3N1701

     The way to celebrate is pouring a kind of tea called amacha with a small dipper on a miniature statue of baby Buddha surrounded by lots of beautiful flowers. According to the flier I got at the temple, it derives from a legend that gods rained flowers from heaven, and two dragons spewed hot and cold water for his first bath, and people gave incense and a number of flowers when Buddha was born. After pouring water on the Buddha’s image, people were enjoying amachaTS3N1697

     Actually I didn’t pour amacha on the statue because many people were queuing. But I got the tea somehow. It was my first time to try that amber colored liquid. I was surprised at the taste when I sipped at it and stared at Yuko with a wrinkled forehead. She didn’t understand why I created the expression, and stared me back. But she opened her eyes widely when she sipped at it. Yeah, I understood her. Amacha is not a usual Japanese green tea. It is made from another leaves and tastes very sweet and very bitter. TS3N1674

     There were many stalls and people in the approach for the temple at the festival, which had also a lot of performances. It was difficult to walk through the crowd. Unlike typical festivals in Japan, there were various stands by artists and creators, and unusual food stalls, such as cheese fondue or French cuisine. The event was really interesting.  TS3N1675

     Behind the event area, there is a cultural asset called Yokiso, which used to be a leisure home for Suketami Ito, the founder of an old-line department store chains Matsuzakaya. TS3N1692

     As it is now, Nagoya City manages the site, and you can visit it for free. That’s why Yuko and I went there, too. It has a unique building and a beautiful garden, where there sometimes are performances like concerts. I had a really wonderful holiday in Kakuozan area with my friend. Happy Birthday, Buddha!