Yokaichi Shotoku Matsuri Goshu Ondo

Video link: http://youtu.be/U6vSoyvD2Sw This is my video of the Yokaichi Shotoku Matsuri (八日市聖徳まつり) festival in Higashi-Omi, Shiga Prefecture on the evening of July 27, 2013. It’s an annual bon dance held for the 44th time on the Ekimae road perpendicular to Yokaichi Station. A bon dance is a Buddhist tradition to welcome ancestral spirits visiting in summer. It was my first time to see one of Shiga’s biggest bon dances. The evening started with the Saturday Night Market (本町土曜夜市) at the Honmachi shopping arcade from 5 pm to 9 pm. The arcade was crowded with games, food, and knickknacks. It got quite hot in there being a

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Hikone Castle video

Video link: http://youtu.be/X2uMzVDwe5I Another video hosted by English-speaking kids. Since two of them were from Hikone, I decided to make a video of Hikone Castle, which I call one of Shiga’s Top Three tourist sights. (The other two being Lake Biwa and Enryakuji temple.) I tried to make the video as short as possible, but even so, it turned out to be 34 min. Goes to show how much there is to see at Hikone Castle. There’s quite a bit of English text which, if you read, will give you a good primer on what the castle and Hikone lords are

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Higashi-Omi Giant Kite Festival 2013


Video link: http://youtu.be/Y6DMpluPV9k Here’s my video of the Higashi-Omi Giant Kite Festival (東近江大凧まつり Higashi-Omi Odako Matsuri) held on Sunday, May 26, 2013 in Higashi-Omi. Another one of my ongoing video series with local kids introducing the sights in English. We took three Japanese kids from Higashi-Omi who had never seen the kite festival (neither did their parents). The video also has a few cameo appearances by other local folks. It was a nice day, somewhat hot under the sun, but cool in the shade with good winds. There were all kinds of kites in the air, many of them quite

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Hikone Byobu National Treasure folding screen

The Hikone Castle Museum exhibits the Hikone Byobu folding screen (彦根屏風), a National Treasure, on a regular basis every year. When I saw it in spring 2013, it was being exhibited until May 7, 2013. Shiga Prefecture has only four paintings that are National Treasures, and this is one of them and the only non-religious one. The others are all religious paintings owned by temples like Miidera. (Japan has 158 paintings designated as National Treasures as of this writing.) The byobu shows a pleasure quarters scene in Kyoto. It’s painted on a gold-leaf paper background. The six-panel byobu is dated to be

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Shiga’s Top 10 festivals in April-May

April is a great month. Soon after the onslaught of cherry blossoms, we have an onslaught of festivals (matsuri). This is the time to go out and celebrate the coming of spring, pray for good harvests, and see the traditional splendor of Shiga. The highest number of matsuri are held during these two months, especially during the string of national holidays in late April and early May called Golden Week. During the Golden Week holidays, Shiga has multiple festivals on the same day. To make it easier to decide which ones to see, I’ve picked Shiga Prefecture’s Top 10 Festivals for April-May. I

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Shiga’s Top 5 cherry blossom spots


Here are my Top 5 favorite sakura spots in Shiga (click on the links or image to see more photos). Note that cherry blossoms bloom later in northern Shiga (Takashima and Nagahama) than in southern Shiga (Kusatsu, Otsu, etc.). *Tip: To see the current blooming condition, see the Weather News Sakura page for Shiga. Starting with brown that indicates buds, the markers show warmer colors until it becomes red (full bloom) indicating how far the flowers have bloomed. 1. Hikone Castle – Coming at No. 1 is Hikone Castle. Although Hikone Castle is not one of the 100 Famous Cherry Blossom Spots of Japan (according

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Kongorinji temple installs new Mandala

Kongorinji temple (金剛輪寺), one of the Koto Sanzan temple trio of Tendai Buddhist temples (National Treasures) in Aisho, eastern Shiga, lost its precious Mandala about 140 years ago during the Meiji Era (it is now owned by Nezu Art Museum in Tokyo and designated as an Important Cultural Property). They tried to get it back from the museum but to no avail. So in April 2005, they set out to create a duplicate Mandala and it was recently completed after four years of painstaking art work. A service was held on May 10, 2009 at the temple to transfer a

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Koka Ninja House (Yashiki)

I finally visited the Koka Ninja House 甲賀流忍術屋敷 in Koka. I highly recommend taking your foreign friends here. Most foreigners are very interested in ninja. The Koga (Koka) ninja and Iga ninja are the two most famous ninja, but most foreigners do not know that Koga is in Shiga. We have to tell them it’s in Shiga. The Koka Ninja House is unique because it is still in its original location. Other ninja houses in Japan (like in Iga-Ueno) were moved to the present location. Unfortunately, there’s no bus stop near the Ninja House. You have to go by car

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