Celebrate August Festivals in Japan

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Many spectacular Japanese festivals or matsuri (祭) usher in the month of August. Here are August exciting festivals to celebrate: Yamagata Hanagasa Matsuri (August 5–7) in Yamagata City, Yamagata Prefecture, is a relatively new festival, first celebrated in 1964. It attracts over a million spectators each year and is one of the major festivals of the Tohoku area (Fukushima, […]

Finding Beauty and Tranquility in Yamadera

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Yamadera (山寺) is a Japanese temple located in the northeast mountains of Yamagata City, Yamagata Prefecture. The picturesque temple is built on a steep mountainside that allows you a spectacular view of the valley below.  Yamadera, literally meaning “mountain temple” in Japanese, is only a 20-minute train ride from the Senzan Line, and the mountain base […]

Kutani Ware: Japanese Ceramic Style

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Kutani ware (九谷焼 Kutani-yaki) is a style of Japanese Gotō Saijirō porcelain known for its colorful, vibrant painted designs.  Kutani ware was established by Gotō Saijirō of the Maeda Clan.  He was responsible for setting up a kiln in the village of Kutani, now part of the city of Kaga, under the orders of Maeda Toshiharu, head of the […]

Reliving the Past in Nara

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Heijō-kyō (平城京), also known as Nara no miyako, was the capital city of Japan during the Nara period (710–794 CE). During this time, Heijō-kyō was the country’s political and cultural center and was modeled  after the most prosperous capital city of China during the Tang Dynasty, Chang’an. Heijō-kyō, or Nara, was 2,500 hectares and measured 5.9 kilometers east […]

The Beautiful Island of Enoshima

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Enoshima (江の島) is an island portion of mainland Fujisawa, Kanagawa Prefecture. The small island is at the mouth of Katase River where it flows into Sagami Bay, and it’s close to Tokyo, where some of the most beautiful beaches accessible from the city are found. The entire island of Enoshima is dedicated to the goddess of music […]

The Story of Tada Kasuke and His Curse

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Japan has its full share of eventful moments and memorable people who have formed the country’s history.  One such person is well remembered in old Japanese stories and lives on in the tale of the curse of Tada Kasuke. Tada Kasuke (多田加助) led an appeal from all the farmers of Azumidaira, part of the Matsumoto Domain, from the […]

Coffee, Tea, Spirits, and Cats

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Cats have been a strong part of Japan’s culture. Japan even has shrines devoted to cats—Nambujinja  in Nagaoka (Niigata Prefecture), Konoshimajinja in Kyotango City (Kyoto), and Neko jinja in Tashirojima (Miyagi Prefecture), also known as Cat Island, a small fishing village with about 100 residents. Local cats outnumber the people four to one. Meanwhile, in Japan’s capital, Tokyo, […]

Shogi: Japanese Chess

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Shogi (将棋), also known as the Generals’ Game, is a two-player strategy board game, probably the most popular native variant of chess in Japan. The Japanese city, Tendo, is known for producing shogi pieces since the Edo period—this is the traditional local craft in the area. The Ningen shogi or human shogi is a popular spring event when […]

Bonsai: An Elevated Art Form

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The art form of bonsai (盆栽) has been a Japanese tradition for centuries. It originated from the Chinese tradition known as penjing (miniature landscapes of trees and rocks). The word bonsai was derived from the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese term for the art, penzai. Bon is a tray-like pot typically used for bonsai culture and sai means […]