Setsubun Festivals in Shiga Prefecture

February 3 is the Setsubun Festival at many temples and shrines in Japan. It marks the beginning of spring (Feb. 4) according to the lunar calendar. They hold a religious ceremony and then throw fuku-mame lucky beans (dry soybeans) for worshippers to catch. They may also throw beans at ogre (oni) to chase away evil and bad luck (symbolized by the oni) and bring in good fortune (fuku). They usually shout, “Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!” (鬼は外! 福は内! Out with bad luck! In with good fortune!). The bean-throwing is called mame-maki. Like giving New Year’s prayers, Setsubun is a popular event because many people want

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Skiing in Shiga Prefecture

Updated: Dec. 23, 2020 For information about current snow conditions at Shiga Prefecture’s ski slopes, see Snow Japan’s useful Shiga Prefecture ski resort page in English. Shiga is hardly a place I would recommend or brag about for skiing, but I understand that Shiga’s slopes are convenient for many people in Osaka/Kyoto coming to Shiga to ski. It’s better than nothing, and good for kids and beginners who don’t mind slushy snow. But there is actually something to brag about skiing in Shiga. It so happens that Mt. Ibuki in Maibara is one of the first places where skiing started in the Kansai region.

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Winter festivals Jan.-Feb. 2014 in Shiga

Updated: Feb. 27, 2014 After Japan’s biggest celebration called New Year’s, it’s back to work. But there’s still some fun left during this cold or freezing season. Here are some recommended winter festivals (matsuri) and events in Shiga Prefecture during January to February 2014. (Most Web sites are in Japanese only.) This page will be updated with new events as the winter weeks go by. January 9-11, 2014 ♦ Hokoku Shrine Toka Ebisu, Nagahama Dedicated to Toyotomi Hideyoshi, worshipped for succeeding in life and for business prosperity. It holds the Toka Ebisu festival for three days centering on Jan. 10th. Ebisu

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Tundra Swans on Lake Biwa

On the third day of this new year, I drove up to northern Nagahama’s Kohoku-cho shore along the lakeside road. I went looking for migratory Tundra Swans (kohakucho コハクチョウ) on the lake since I had never photographed them on the lake. Every autumn around late October, we always hear about the first arrival of Tundra Swans from Siberia. It’s a harbinger of winter for Shiga and those birds are beloved in Shiga. I’m not really a birdwatcher nor a wildlife photographer, but I decided that I’d better get some swan shots. Fortunately, I spotted a few of them (top photo).

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New Year’s Day 2014 at Taga Taisha

Video link: http://youtu.be/A-m4MmvLVsg Today on Jan. 1, 2014, I visited Taga Taisha Shrine to photograph the crowds and film the sacred dances. It was my second time at Taga Taisha on New Year’s Day. The first time was way back in 2005. The shrine was a lot more crowded today than in 2005. The line to pray in front of the shrine was twice as long as what I photographed in 2005. They said that it takes 1 hour to get to the main shrine to pray. (Update: The shrine announced that 490,000 people visited the shrine during the first

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Hina-matsuri doll festivals in Shiga 2013

Hina-matsuri dolls (雛祭りの雛人形) are being displayed at various locations in Shiga to celebrate Girl’s Day on March 3. On the weekend of Feb. 23-24, 2013, Gokasho in Higashi-Omi is having a unique event of live hina dolls called Ningen Hina-matsuri (にんげん雛まつり). Yes, they are real girls, ten of them, dressed as Hina dolls. They will appear twice on both the 23rd and 24th at 10:00 am to 11:30 am and at 1:30 pm to 3 pm at the Omi-shonin merchant home of Tonomura Shigeru (外村繁邸). Gokasho, Higashi-Omi: Normal hina ningyo dolls are also displayed in the Omi-shonin merchant homes and museums. They are on

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Plum blossoms in Shiga Prefecture

Updated: Jan. 4, 2017 Plum blossoms, called ume (梅) in Japanese, have absolutely the sweetest and most pacifying fragrance of all the flowers in Japan. Whenever you see plum blossoms, put your nose right next to the flower and smell. It will sooth your soul. There are many varieties of plum blossoms, but they basically white, pink, or red and each color smells differently. The white ones have the most dainty smell, while the red ones have a stronger and more concentrated sweet smell. Plum blossoms have been an intricate part of Japanese culture, art, and aesthetics for centuries. The term shochikubai

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Katsube Shrine Fire Festival video by kids

Video link: http://youtu.be/n-SfD9DFxOg This is my cutest video of Shiga so far. I have three Japanese kids from Shiga who appear as my English reporters in this video of Katsube Shrine Fire Festival held on Jan. 12, 2013 in Moriyama. The youngest one is age 4. All three kids are studying English and were eager to speak English as they witnessed the festival. Although I coached their English on the spot, it’s mostly unrehearsed and they were free to say anything in English. I want the kids (and parents) to discover/rediscover and experience their hometowns and become proud and proficient enough

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