Kitsunebi Matsuri, when folklore comes to life

In ancient Japanese folklore, the Kitsunebi (狐火, foxfire) was a yōkai that, overnight, suddenly appeared as a glowing red-orange and sometimes blue light. The Kitsunebi gradually increased to cover vast areas, reaching even 4km! It was believed that they were torches of a procession of foxes marching for their wedding. The lights were sighted by farmers in the mountains and were considered a good harbinger for the harvest. In fact, the greater the number of lights seen, the more fruitful was the harvest. However, no human was allowed to approach: those who tried were condemned to vanish.

Kitsune

photo credits: tradurreilgiappone.com

In particular, the stories tell of the marriage between Otonosama, the king who lived in Furukawa, and Okon, the daughter of the fox God. This fascinating image is the origin of the Hida Furukawa Kitsunebi Matsuri (騨古川きつね火まつり). This festival is celebrated every year, on the fourth Saturday of September in Hida Furukawa, a picturesque and rural town full of beautiful landscapes, where even today you can breathe a life far from the frenzy of the metropolis.

Kitsunebi Matsuri

photo credits: tradurreilgiappone.com

Happiness and prosperity!

Like almost all the festivals we are used to now, the Kitsunebi Matsuri also aims to bless the harvest, happiness and prosperity for families.

Kitsunebi Matsuri

photo credits: myjapantravels.wordpress.com

But what exactly does the Kitsunebi Matsuri consist of??

First of all, all the participants have fox mustaches drawn on their faces, be they children or elderly, shopkeepers on the road or tourists. It begins with the blessing of local businesses: the dancers carry a dongamaki, a 5 meter long snake, door to door.

Kitsunebi Matsuri

photo credits: myjapantravels.wordpress.com

After that the main event begins. We could say that it is a marriage, but not a common one, but a solemn procession in which the foxes' wedding is celebrated, the Kitsune no Yomeiri.

photo credits: myjapantravels.wordpress.com

The future spouses, a couple bound in real life, are chosen by a pool of candidates at the national level in the town where the wedding ceremony will be held. The long march will lead the bride to the groom as night falls when the Kistunebi begins (a torchlight procession). Those who attend the whole procession will be blessed and can make a wish like a good harvest, or happiness for their family or prosperity in business.

photo credits: tokyopic.com

A romantic curiosity

From 1392, throughout the Muromachi period until the end of the nineteenth century, when Western wedding ceremonies replaced traditional Japanese ceremonies, weddings were held at night and the bride was escorted to her new home by a parade of lights.


Japan History: Kusunoki Masashige

Shimazu Takahisa was born May 28, 1514, son of Shimazu Sagami no kami Tadayoshi (1492-1568), adopted by Shimazu Katsuhisa. He became the lord of Kagoshima after Katsuhisa's escape in 1526. He conquered the aforementioned city in 1536 and extended his authority throughout the province of Satsuma.

photo credits: wikipedia.org

He was one of the first daimyō to employ firearms in battle during the siege of Kajiki in the province of Ōsumi in 1549. In that same year, he welcomed Francis Xavier to Kagoshima. He granted Jesuit protection to spread Christianity in his domain, later withdrawn under pressure from local Buddhist monks. Takahisa also had diplomatic relations with the Ryūkyu Kingdom.

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15th head of the Shimazu clan, he supervised the transfer of the clan's headquarters from Shimizu castle to Uchi castle in 1550 when he sent Ijūin Tadaaki to Shimizu to suppress the rebellions and secure control of the Shimazu over the province. In 1554 his troops won against the Hishikari, Kamō and Ketō clans during the siege of Iwatsurugi. His son Shimazu Yoshihisa later completed the defeat of these clans and secured control of the Shimazu over the rest of the Satsuma province.

photo credits: global.rakuten.com

He officially retired in favor of Yoshihisa in 1566 and in 1569 the Iriki-in and Tōgō clans were defeated and he secured control over Satsuma. The following year he rejected a naval attack by members of the Kimotsuki, Ijiki and Nejime clans. He died on 15 July 1571.

His idea of ​​promoting relations with foreign people and countries is very important.

His sons were Yoshihisa, Yoshihiro, Iehisa and Toshihisa.

photo credits: wikipedia.org


The Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri and the rampant euphoria

Let's return to talk about Japanese festivals and today we talk about the Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri.

Every year, generally during a weekend in mid-September, the streets of Kishiwada, a small town near Osaka, are invaded by the fervor and euphoria for the Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri (岸和田だんじ祭).

Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri

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The celebrations originated in 1703, by the daimyō Okabe Nagayasu (部長泰). He prayed to the Shintoist gods for a bountiful harvest and this is still the meaning of the festival. However, what makes this celebration special is that it is a speed race pulling the danjiri.

Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri

photo credits: Justin Yoshida

Danjiri are traditional wooden structures, carved and finely decorated by skilled carpenters and local sculptors. These wagons have the form of small shrines containing the deities and, during the days of the festival, they are precisely dragged through the streets of the neighborhood. Given their weight (they can exceed 3 quintals), the festival is also considered a moment to demonstrate one's courage. In fact, these structures must be towed with only the help of ropes and at full speed!

Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri

Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri

Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri

photo credits: Justin Yoshida, Justin Yoshida, japan-magazine.jnto.go.jp, MJY-shogun, Justin Yoshida

Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri celebrations

During the festival celebrations, there are 35 danjiri involved, each of them being pulled by a team, representing the respective district of the city. At the control of the structure, on its top, there is the daiku-gata (大工方, master craftsman) whose wild dance serves as encouragement for his team and the crowd. Given the stunts in which he engages, the master craftsman risks his life constantly, but not only this! As we can easily imagine, this festival is also dangerous for all other participants due to the danjiri's dizzying speed. The wood splinters left behind and the fact that you have to elbow your way in to follow them is a danger to the crowd. Four hours of breathless running that ends with a big drinking moment around this wagon, to which dozens of paper lanterns are hung.

Kishiwada Danjiri Matsuri

photo credits: rove.me, Gavin Kealy

More than 500,000 visitors come to Kishiwada to experience the thrill of this celebration, what do you think? Do you find this parade electrifying?


Japan History: Kusunoki Masashige

Kusunoki Masashige, (1294 - 4 July 1336) was born in Minato-gawa, province of Settsu, and was a 14th century samurai who fought for the Emperor Go-Daigo in the Genkō war.

Kusunoki Masashige

photo credit: ninja.fandom.com

Much of his early education took place in the Kanshin-ji temple in Kawachinagano, in the south of Osaka, where he later organized major restoration work.

Legend has it that the emperor Go-Daigo had a dream in which he was taking refuge under a camphor tree (the "kusunoki"). This dream brought him to the surname of the warrior who would support him. Indeed, in 1331 Kusunoki joined the emperor Go-Daigo in a revolt to wrest government power from the shogunate, the military dictatorship that had dominated Japan since 1192. Although numerically stronger shogunate troops captured the emperor, Kusunoki fled continuing to use guerrilla tactics.

The capture of Kusunoki near Nara in 1332 proved to be a serious threat to the government. The shogun then concentrated all his forces against Kusunoki. In one of the most famous battles in Japanese history, Kusunoki successfully defended the fortress of Chihaya against the upper shogunal forces.

Kusunoki Masashige

photo credit: davtov2000.blogspot.com

From 1333 to 1335

In 1333, Go-Daigo rewarded Masashige with the governorate of the province of Settsu and the province of Kawachi and promoted him to the fifth degree. Subsequently, he received the appointment on the Records Office and Settlement Board. However, one of the loyalist generals, Ashikaga Takauji, betrayed Go-Daigo and led an army against Kusunoki. Takauji took possession of Kyoto, but only temporarily before Nitta Yoshisada and Masashige forced Takauji to flee. In 1336 Takauji was again a threat to Kyoto.

During the short period following the imperial rule, Kusunoki was governor of the central Japanese provinces of Settsu. The real power in the countryside, however, continued to be held by the great hereditary lords, Ashikaga Takauji and Nitta Yoshisada. The latter openly challenged themselves to obtain the loyalty of minor feudal leaders.

Kusunoki suggested to the Emperor to take refuge on the sacred Mount Hiei and allow Takauji to take Kyoto. This is to allow him to descend from the mountain and, with the help of the monks of Mount Hiei, trap Takauji.

Go-Daigo was not willing to leave the capital and insisted that Kusunoki meet Takauji's forces on the field. Kusunoki, in what would later be seen as the last act of samurai loyalty, accepted obediently. The battle, which took place in Minatogawa, in present-day Chūō-ku, Kobe, was a tactical disaster. There are two reports of the proposal made by Kusunoki Masashige to the emperor Go-Daigo, the Taiheiki and the Baisho Ron, entbe ingorati. One was that they would group together and attack from two sides, the other was that they would take General Takauji back on their side.

Kusunoki's army was only 50 of the 700 knights. According to legend, the last words of his brother Masasue were Shichisei Hōkoku! ("I wish I had seven lives to give to my emperor!") Obviously Kusunoki Masashige agreed.
At his death, his head was sent to Kanshin-ji and buried in a tomb known as Kubi-zuka.

Eboshigata Castle and Ishibotoke Castle were both built along the route of the Koya Kaido, a famous pilgrimage route that stretches between Kyoto and Koyasan. Designed not only to protect the path from bandits, these were also an important source of income as travelers were forced to pay a toll.

From 1335 to the Meiji restoration

In 1335 Go-Daigo sided with Nitta Yoshisada against Ashikaga Takauji. As head of the imperial forces, Kusunoki defeated Takauji's troops in January 1336 and forced him to flee the capital. A few months later, however, Takauji returned to the head of a large army. Kusunoki suggested temporarily withdrawing so he could fight Takauji's forces at a point where the terrain was more favorable. The emperor insisted that Kusunoki meet enemy forces before occupying the capital. In the final battle on the Minato River, near the modern Kobe, Kusunoki fought bravely for many hours. His troops were finally overwhelmed and committed suicide rather than face capture.

His son, Kusunoki Masatsura, served as the emperor's successor, 12-year-old Go-Murakami, in a relationship of mutual trust that reflected the figure of his father Kusunoki and kept the flame of loyal resistance alive.

After the imperial restoration in 1868, a splendid sanctuary was erected on the site of Kusunoki's death. His loyalty to the emperor and his being one of the greatest military strategists in Japanese history, made him a legendary figure. He also received the highest decoration from the Japanese Meiji government in 1880.

photo credit: wikipedia.org

Legend

After the introduction of Neoconfucianism as a state philosophy by the Tokugawa shogunate, Kusunoki Masashige was declared with the emperor Go-Daigo forerunner of the synocentric absolutists. During the Edo period, scholars and samurai who were influenced by neoconfucian theories created the legend of Kusunoki. They consecrated him patriotic hero, with the name of Nankō or Dai-Nankō, incarnation of loyalty, courage and devotion to the Emperor. Kusunoki later became a sort of patron saint of the WWII suicide bombers. His spiritual heirs were those who sacrificed their lives for the emperor.


Japan Tradition: Akita Kantō

The Akita Kantō (秋田竿燈まつり) is the Akita city festival. It is celebrated from 3 to 7 August with the aim of praying for a good harvest. This festival is very special, and to participate there is a need for special skills.

Akita Kantō

photo credits: Zamboni.

The peculiarity of the Akita Kantō

If you have never had the chance to attend this particular matsuri, surely today you will be surprised. In fact, the festivities consist of taking bamboo poles around the city by night. And so far it could even be simple, except that these poles have a length that varies from five to twelve meters. Furthermore, on top of these, there are twenty-four or twenty-six lanterns with gohei (wooden sticks) attached. The total weight of these poles can reach 50 kilos. They are transported through the city streets on the palms, foreheads, shoulders or backs of the participants.

The Akita Kantō is one of the main festivals in the Tōhoku region together with the Tanabata, the Aomori Nebuta Matsuri and the Hanagasa Matsuri. In fact, in 1980 it was defined as an important and intact property of folk culture.

Akita Kantō

photo credits: Laura Tomàs Avellana, hitoyam

The origins

The festival originates from Neburi Nagashi, a celebration that was intended to free from illness and negativity during the summer. Already present during the Horeki period, in the middle of the Edo era, evidence can be found in various historical documents. One of these is "Yuki no huru michi" (written by Soan Tsumura in 1789). This is indeed the oldest documentation describing Neburi Nagashi, which says that the festival was held on 6 July according to the lunar calendar and it's defined as the original Akita tradition.

During Neburi Nagashi, people decorated bamboo trees and plants with pieces of paper where they wrote their wishes. Later, the participants walked around the city with these plants along with candles and lanterns. Later, Neburi Nagashi took the name of Kanto.

photo credits: foxeight 

The history of the Akita Kantō

The current name of the event was used for the first time by Tetsusaku Okubo in 1881. In this period, in fact, the emperor Meiji visited Akita. Here Okubo suggested entertaining the emperor with the Kanto performance.

Due to the change of the lunar-to-solar calendar in 1872 and given the smaller number of Kanto participating in the festival, the realization of the latter began to be uncertain.
However, in 1908 the emperor Taisho visited Akita and fell in love with the Kanto performance. The following year, a soft drink company printed its products' names on the Kanto lanterns. These two events led to the restoration of the Kanto festival and its change of dates, to avoid the rainy season.

Akita Kantō Akita Kantō

photo credits: Laura Tomàs Avellana

As a result, the number of visitors increased and the Kanto Society was established in 1931 was in charge of managing the festival.

Afterwards, the festival was canceled during the Second World War, and then after the end of the conflict, the Executive Committee of the Kanto Festival was created.

In 1976, after a successful performance in San Diego, USA, Kanto became popular in various countries.

Cos’è il Kantō

Literally, Kantō means "a pole with lanterns" and is made from bamboo poles and rice paper lanterns hung on horizontal bars.
The main bamboo pole is called "Oyatake" and they are of rather thick features and all produced in Japan. There are even very strict rules on the thickness and the spaces of junction from the root for these poles.
Therefore, people who choose the pole must be very demanding on the type of bamboo used to produce Kantō.

photo credits: Laura Tomàs Avellana, Choo Yut Shing

The horizontal branches are called "Yokotake" and it is here that lanterns are hung. The pieces of bamboo used to make the Oyatake even longer are called "Tsugidake".

The Kantō are divided into four categories with regulated length: Oowaka, Chuwaka, Kowaka and Youkawa.

Kantō techniques

There are various techniques for using Kantō from the name "Myogi" and divided into 5 categories.

Akita Kantō Akita Kantō

photo credits: Laura Tomàs Avellana

Nagashi
The artists hold the Kantō in the palm of their hands and balance it with their fingers. In this way, other artists can add Tsugitake

Hirate (hand)
The artists hold the Kantō still higher in the palm of his hand

Koshi (hips)
Kantō is held by the fingers. Later moved to the palm of the hand and then to the side. The artist bends sideways and balances with his own legs.

Akita Kantō

photo credits: Laura Tomàs Avellana

Kata (shoulder)
The artists hold the Kantō in the palm of their dominant hand and form a starting line from the leg to the Kantō, raising it even higher.

Hitai (forehead)
The artist holds the Kantō with his fingers and then moves it to the palm, then on the forehead.

During the day there are also competitions to test these skills, the Myogikai. The aim is not only to show their skills but also to study those of the other participants to learn new techniques.

Akita Kantō

photo credits: foxeight

The Akita Kantō today

The date of the festival has been changed three times. It is currently held from 3 to 6 August each year.

The evening performance of the Akita Kantō is the main one and is held at the Kanto Oodori, one of the main streets of Akita. Here the purpose of the performers is not to compete with each other, but to entertain visitors by showing their skills and illuminating Kanto. More than 230 are raised at the same time to the sound of taiko music and flutes.

Akita Kantō

photo credits: foxeight

A unique experience of its kind that is worth living in full, as soon as you have the chance.


Japan History: Takeda Shingen

Takeda Shingen (Takeda Harunobu December 1, 1521 - May 13, 1573), firstborn of warlord Takeda Nobutora, was born in the powerful Takeda clan. He was Shugo Daimyo (military governors) of the then province of Kai, present-day Yamanashi prefecture.

Takeda Shingen played a very important role in the battle of Un no Kuchi in 1536, he was only 15 years old. When his father designated his second son as heir, Shingen conducted a coup without bloodshed. This forced his father to retire as head of the clan. Later, Shingen began to expand his family's domains northward into the province of Shinano (present-day Nagano prefecture) and into lands adjacent to Kai.

As the undisputed leader of the Takeda clan, he began his expansionist policy starting with the Battle of Sezawa. He then continued with the sieges of Uehara, Kuwabara and Fukuyo, the battles of Ankokuji, Odaihara, Shiojiritoge, and the Kawanakajima battles series against Uesugi Kenshin.
Shingen decided to have all the warriors in the first lines of his armies wear red lacquered armor to intimidate the enemy psychologically. This idea was also later copied by the Tokugawa army clan.

Shingen

photo credits: japantimes.co.jp

The life of Takeda Shingen

In 1548 Takeda Shingen defeated Ogasawara Nagatoki in the battle of Shiojiritōge and took Fukashi in 1550. Uesugi Kenshin took the field at that time because the Takeda had now reached the borders of his province.
What began was a rivalry that became legendary and that led them to clash in the battles of Kawanakajima. These battles were generally skirmishes, in fact, none of the two daimyō wanted to discover themselves in an all-out battle.

The fiercest battle between the two was the fourth one, during which, according to legend, Uesugi Kenshin managed to break through the Takeda lines and faced Shingen. It is said that Kenshin attacked Shingen with his sword defending himself with his fan (or tessen). Both lost numerous men during the battle. In particular, Shingen lost two important generals, Yamamoto Kansuke and his younger brother Takeda Nobushige.

Takeda Shingen entered the priesthood in 1551, at which time he assumed the Buddhist name Shingen. However, taking religious vows in no way prevented his participation in worldly affairs.

After the fourth battle, Shingen discovered two plots against his life. The first by his cousin Suwa Shigemasa, who was ordered to commit seppuku. While the second, a few years later by his son Takeda Yoshinobu. The latter was exiled to the Toko temple, where he died two years later perhaps by order of his father. After this incident, Shingen appointed his fourth child, Katsuyori as successor to the leadership of the clan.

After conquering Katsurao, Wada, Takashima and Fukuda, in 1554 he returned as many victories in the sieges of Fukushima, Kannomine, Matsuo and Yoshioka.

In 1563, together with Hōjō Ujiyasu, Takeda Shingen conquered Matsuyama Castle in the province of Musashi. Subsequently it obtained the possession of Kuragano in 1565 and of the castle of Minowa. Then he moved against the Hōjō attacking Hachigata castle.
He retired successfully after Hōjō Ujiteru and Hōjō Ujikuni failed to stop him in the battle of Mimasetōge.

Takeda Shingen

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Harunobu's main ambition was the submission of Shinano. However, the resistance in that neighborhood was fierce. A number of Shinano warlords, including Murakami Yoshikiyo, Ogasawara Nagatoki, Suwa Yorishige and Kiso Yoshiyasu, made a move designed with the hope to cut off further Takeda aggressions.

The march towards the Kai borders

In April 1542 the four daimyo combined forces and marched towards the Kai border, encouraged by the news that Harunobu was strengthening his defenses and was preparing to take a stand in Fuchu. In fact, Harunobu's activities were a ploy. Far from passively waiting in Kai, Harunobu led his men and took the Shinano warriors by surprise, defeating them at Sezawa.

Encouraged by Sezawa's findings, Harunobu made a trip to Shinano focusing on the territory of the Suwa clan. He first took Uehara in a surprise attack and then moved to Suwa headquarters in Kuwahara, located 2 kilometers to the east. Suwa Yorishige had no choice but to surrender following Harunobu's promise of safe conduct. Yorishige and his brother were taken to Kai where General Takeda, Itagaki Nobutaka, organized their death. Both of them committed suicide.

Takeda Shingen

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Harunobu, with the help of Yamamoto Kansuke's strategies, further expanded his territory through the defeat of Tozawa Yorichika and Takato Yoritsugu. The acquisition of the castle of Takato was of particular value. Indeed, it provided a safe stopping area in the south of Shinano, as well as a buffer against any southern aggression.

In 1544 the Takeda marched towards Suruga in support of Imagawa and confronted Hōjō Ujiyasu. No real conflict occurred following this confrontation. Harunobu was in fact forced to enter into a peace treaty between Hōjō and Imagawa.

Over the next decade, Harunobu continued to exert incessant pressure on the Shinano warlords. In 1548 Murakami Yoshikiyo, perhaps the most formidable Shinano enemy of Harunobu, moved to Ueda and defeated the Takeda clan in a bitter battle. Here a number of Chinese arquebuses were used, the first weapons of the genre ever deployed in a Japanese battle. While Uehara's defeat left two of his best generals dead, Harunobu quickly bounced back. In fact, in 1552 the Murakami and Ogasawara clans fled from Shinano to Echigo.

Takeda Shingen vs Uesugi Kenshin

In June and October 1553 the Takeda and Uesugi armies clashed near the Kawanakajima plain in northern Shinano. A clash lasted five times but only the fourth battle produced a wide-ranging race. Both sides suffered heavy losses that slowed both warlords for a few years. In particular, Shingen must have suffered from the loss of Nobushige and Yamamoto Kansuke, both of whom died in the battle.

In 1560 Shingen had discovered a plot against him led by his cousin Katanuma Nobumoto and in 1565 the one organized by his son Yoshinobu and Obu Toramasa. Two years later Yoshinbou died. Legend says that death is due either to illness or, as many believe, because Shingen had forced him to commit suicide. The event left Takeda's servants uneasy.

photo credits: wikipedia.org

In 1564, Shingen had subdued all of Shinano and turned his attention to Kōzuke, where he took a number of castles from the Uesugi clan. For the next five years, he limited himself to raids and local conquests, focusing on internal affairs.
In 1560, Shingen's greatest achievement was the Damji River Damming project. The benefit of the Fuji river project is considered one of the greatest national initiatives of the sixteenth century.

In 1568, Takeda's army was on the move again, this time south against Imagawa. The daimyo of that clan was Ujizane, the incompetent son of the late Imagawa Yoshimoto (killed in 1560 by Oda Nobunaga). Yoshinobu, son of Shingen, had married Ujizane's sister, but after her suicide in 1567, relations between the families had increased. It would appear that Shingen and Tokugawa Ieyasu had entered into an agreement under which the two would divide the remaining lands of Imagawa (Tōtōmi and Suruga). However, this agreement was never completed. Furthermore, Sagami's Hōjō did not see this shift in the balance of power. Because of this, he sent troops to challenge Shingen. In 1569 Shingen responded by invading Sagami and besieging Odawara (the capital of Hōjō). However, on the way back to Kai, the Takeda army managed to crush an attempted ambush by Mimasetoge of Hōjō.

Thus, in 1570, the lands of Takeda included Kai, Shinano, Suruga and pieces of Kozuke, Tōtōmi, and Hida. Shingen, at 49, was now more than a regional power. Takeda Shingen was in fact the most important warlord east of Mino. Moreover, he was the only one able to derail Oda Nobunaga's march to national hegemony. Only Shingen had the strategic position and the armed forces to stop it.

In 1570 the formidable Hōjō Ujiyasu died and his heir, Ujimasa, made peace with Shingen. This was an act that could have ensured Tokugawa Ieyasu final destruction. However, Shingen died in 1573 sending the plans into smoke.

The Takeda clan allies with the Oda clan

Meanwhile, the Takeda and Oda, aimed at controlling the Uesugi clan. After a failed diplomatic courtship, they started a war of words with the shogun Ashikaga Yoshiaki.
Shingen intensified the pressure against Tokugawa and in 1572 launched an attack on Tōtōmi which led to the capture of Futamata. The following January, Shingen returned to the province and attracted Tokugawa Ieyasu at the Battle of Mikatagahara. Conducted on January 6 north of Hamamatsu, it ended with an almost complete defeat for Ieyasu.

Although they were often presented as initial moves in a march on Kyoto, Shingen's intentions were undoubtedly more conservative. Probably, Takeda Shingen aimed to test the answers of both Ieyasu and Nobunaga and, if possible, inflict a defeat on the two. In any case, within a few days of winning the battle, he received the news that Asakura Yoshikage had chosen not to oppose to Nobunaga. Shingen was sorry and could count on Yoshikage to maintain the tension on Nobunaga. This may have played a part in his decision to return to Kai, thus granting a truce to the bloody Tokugawa.

The figure of Takeda Shingen

Shingen was a complicated figure, sometimes absolutely cruel. At the beginning of his life, he had forced Suwa Yorishige to commit suicide (or murdered him) after the two warlords had signed a peace treaty. He then took Suwa's daughter as a lover, ignoring the fact that she was technically his own niece.

Apparently, Shingen created Shingen Tsuba, (sword guard) also known as Takeda Tsuba. The story goes that while waiting for a battle to begin, Shingen wrapped the brass wire around a large iron sukashi to keep himself focused and able to think until the battle began. Because of this, many of his vassals followed Shingen's leadership throughout the Edo period.

He is also credited with inventing the toilet drain, bathroom hygiene, apparently, was important to Shingen. He also built the vast dams known as Shingen Zutsumi along the Kamanashi segments of the Fuji river. These walls prevented flooding and were one of the largest and most ambitious national public works initiatives of the sixteenth century.

The well-considered laws of Shingen were not considered particularly severe. He suspended corporal punishment for most minor crimes. In fact, he adopted a system of financial fines, which earned him the respect and praise of the peasants and citizens of the province of Kai.
It is interesting to note that Shingen also had two large iron cauldrons in which to boil criminals still alive. Tokugawa Ieyasu, thinking that the punishment was excessively cruel, destroyed the cauldrons years later.

His economic reform was also innovative at the time. Indeed, Takeda Shingen taxed most of its subjects uniformly and allowed them the option of payments in gold or rice.

Takeda Shingen had planned on the districts of Mikawa and Owari (now both Aichi Prefecture). In 1571 he entered the territories of the Okudaira clan (later Tokugawa) and captured the castle of Noda.
In 1573, he invaded Mikawa and again attacked the castle of Noda. However, this time, the fortifications of the castle had been strengthened, allowing it to stand for several weeks.

photo credits: wikimedia.org

The death

On May 13, 1573, towards the end of the siege, just before the defenders of Noda Castle capitulated, Takeda Shingen was shot by a marksman. Shingen died during the escape.

The death of Takeda Shingen at the age of 49 remained a secret. The remains of the gun that was used to shoot Shingen are kept in the Shitagahara Museum in Nagashino, Aichi Prefecture. His son and successor, Takeda Katsuyori, was defeated by Oda and Tokugawa in the early 1580s, thus ending the power of the Takeda family.

Instead of a poem of death, he left the following words, borrowed from Zen literature: "It is largely left to its natural bodily perfection, and has no special need to resort to artificial coloring and powder to look beautiful. "


Japan Tradition: Tenjin Matsuri

The Japanese summer is characterized by the famous matsuri, including the Tenjin Matsuri (天神祭) of which we speak today.

photo credits: Pic tures, jtabn99

Ranked as one of the three largest Matsuri in Japan, Tenjin Matsuri takes place in Osaka. It started in the 10th century, but today it takes place between 24 and 25 July each year. However, the major celebrations take place on the second day, including the procession along the river together with the fireworks display.

This particular festival is dedicated to the Tenmangu Temple and its main deity Sugawara Michizane, God of scolars. Like other famous matsuri (Gion Matsuri di Kyoto and Kanda Matsuri di Tokyo) also here the festivities begin in the temple.

Le festività

photo credits: hyossie,Sonali

It all starts with the opening ceremony. Here the deity is invited to leave the temple and then a parade begins. The inhabitants of Osaka entertain the divinity with exuberant festivities, before bringing it back to the temple.
This becomes an opportunity for everyone to fully enjoy the hot days of summer. In fact, you can see people wearing traditional costumes and spectacular parades.

The Tenjin Matsuri in detail

As we have said, the Tenjin Matsuri takes place over two days. The first day, on the morning of July 24th, the festival begins at the Tenmangu Temple. Here people gather for a traditional ritual and then move on to pray by the river. The inhabitants of Osaka in this way in fact ask for prosperity and security for their city.
In the afternoon of the same day, the drums are played by men with big red hats. This serves to inform the population that preparations for the festival are complete.

However, the culmination of the celebrations takes place at 3.30 pm on the second day, July 25th. At this time, the drum players with red hats lead the procession.

photo credits: hyossie

Starting from the Tenmangu Temple, the parade crosses the streets of Osaka. In this long procession, we find characteristic masks. We cannot fail to mention the Sarutahiko, a long-nosed goblin riding a horse. These masks are accompanied by inflatables, festival music, dancers of various kinds and other attractions.

An hour after the procession begins it is time for the mikoshi to leave the temple. This "portable temple" contains within it the deity Sugawara Michizane. On this occasion, the mikoshi follows a girl and a boy who have the task of guiding a sacred ox, the messenger of Michizane. During the parade other mikoshi appear, but if you want to see the one dedicated to Michizane, keep your eyes open for the temple with the phoenix.

At 6 pm, the parade arrives at the Okawa river. Here the people and the mikoshi are loaded onto the boats to continue the parade on the river.

photo credits: jtabn99pasteis de nata

The Tenjin Matsuri and the "stage boats"

It is also possible to find "stage boats". In fact, on some of these boats, it is possible to watch performances of the traditional Noh and Bunraku theater. Moreover, in the midst of all these boats, you can also see the Dondoko, small boats that easily navigate the river thanks to young rowers.

 

photo credits: elmimmowolf4max

We cannot then forget the endless delights of street food in Osaka, an extremely famous city for its food.

The procession continues while the celebrations go on during the evening. The climax is reached again from 19:30 to 21:00 when the fireworks show begins. Japan is known, it is famous for its fireworks show. However, those of the Tenjin Matsuri along with its illuminated ships reflecting on the river, offer a unique show of its kind.

After the end of the fireworks, the mikoshi land and return to the temple at 22:00, marking the end of the festival.

photo credits: Ced'ceenoei 

The turnout

Tenjin Matsuri is usually one of the busiest times of the year, especially along the banks of the river during the evening show. In fact, to watch the fireworks show it's really hard to find the right place to fully enjoy the show.
However, there is the possibility of purchasing tickets for seating located near Temmanbashi station. The cost is about ¥6000 and requires reservations in advance. This will allow you to have a good view of the procession but not a perfect view of the fireworks.

photo credits: japannewbie, Mi-Shin Shinoyama

The bridges along the Okawa River are closed during the parade and offer a privileged place as a viewing spot. However, visitors cannot stay long to ensure smooth traffic for all those present. Instead, the Kawasaki bridge is also closed to the public also because common people are not allowed to look at the temple deity from above.

The town decorated

During the Tenjin Matsuri, Osaka is decorated with thousands of colors, lights, torches, and lanterns all along the city center. A show not to be missed for both locals and tourists!

If you have witnessed past matsuri or are planning to attend the next one coming, let us know what you think!

photo credits: Laura Barrio


Tanabata, the legend and modern times

Tanabata: on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month we celebrate one of the five gosekku (五節), the most important festivals of the year. This is also one of my favorite parties because it is extremely romantic.

Tanabata

The Seventh Night

The legend tells of Princess Orihime (the star Vega), devoted daughter of Tentei (the King of the sky) who spent her day weaving on the shores of the celestial river Amanogawa (the Milky Way). However, her heart was sad because she had not yet known love. Then Tentei introduced her to Hikoboshi (the Altair star), a young herder of the heavenly planes who lived across the river. The love between the two exploded immediately, but the passion distracted them from their duties by unleashing the wrath of Tentei.

He divided them by returning his daughter to the opposite bank of the river. Orihime, destroyed by pain, wept a thousand tears. Tentei, struck by his daughter's great love, allowed the two lovers to meet on the seventh night of the seventh month only if they worked diligently throughout the year. The sky, in this special night, must be clear, otherwise crossing the silvery river would be impossible. In fact, if it rained it would swell and the vigor of its waters would prevent the flock of magpies from creating a bridge with their wings to allow the two lovers to hug again.

Tanabata Tanabata

photo credits: Daisuke, せんと

From Shichiseki to Tanabata and the customs of the festival

Tanabata was not the original name of this holiday. In ancient times it was known as Shichiseki, deriving from the reading of the Chinese kanji, from which it originates. In fact, the festival was imported from China by Empress Koken in the Kyoko Imperial Palace in the Heian period. It then spread throughout Japan in the Edo Period and has since become one of the most popular festivals.

Tanabata tanzaku

photo credits: Mark, tototti 

The decorations of the Tanabata

Between July 6 and August 8, according to the region, the streets are filled with zen-washi (paper lanterns) and people wear yukata (浴衣). The latter is a very informal kimono with wide sleeves and flat seams, made of cotton, without lining and therefore suitable for the summer. But the tanzaku (短冊) are the real protagonists of this enchanted night. Strips of colored paper that symbolize the silk threads woven by Orihime and on which prayers or wishes are written. Later these are tied to bamboo branches, considered the main symbol of the Tanabata. In this way, the wind, blowing through the leaves, brings with it the desires and realizes them!

Tanabata Tanabata

photo credits: savvytokyo.com, Hiroshi

As many auspicious decorations appear in the parades during the matsuri. There are Kamigorono (special paper kimonos) that protect against illness and accidents. We can also find toami, fishing nets whose exposure would bring good luck in fishing and in crops. Not to mention the fukinagashi, colored stripes like the fabric that Orihime wove. We then continue with the beautiful orizuru (origami) especially in the shape of a crane, bringing health, protection and long life to families. The kinchaku, small bags that bring good business and wealth. We also have the famous kusudama, oval-shaped ornaments composed of a series of origami sewn and glued together. Then we come to the kuzukagos, garbage bags that symbolize "cleanliness" (understood as purity) and prosperity.

photo credits: savvytokyo.com, Naomi Nakagawa

To each region its date

As we said, the date of the Tanabata varies according to the region. In the Kanto region, The Tanabata of Hiratsuka, in Kanagawa prefecture, takes place between 4 and 6 July. In the region of Chūbu in Ichinomiya, in the Aichi prefecture, it is celebrated between 24 and 27 July. finally, in the region of Tōhoku, in Sendai, in the prefecture of Miyagi, it takes place between 6 and 8 August.

Tanabata tanzaku

photo credits: japancheapo.comEriTes Photo

Even if love is a feeling that always deserves to prevail, during this time of the year the idea of ​​raising one's eyes to the sky and desiring with all one's heart something with the hope that it will come true, is always exciting. Each Tanzaku is special and it is wonderful to read people's dreams and wish them to be heard. This, in fact, is one of the many moments of altruism that can only be shared in Japan.

And you? What dream do you keep in your heart? Whatever it is, find the way to come true! And if you are around Milan, we recommend you to come and celebrate the Tanabata from TENOHA Milan. Ready to hang your tanzaku? We have already done it!

Tanabata

photo credits: timeout.com