Japan Travel: Ginza

Ginza: expensive, elegant and luxurious

Located in Chuō, Ginza (銀座) is Tokyo's most famous shopping area. This luxurious district was once part of the ancient Kyobashi district, which, together with Nihonbashi and Kanda, formed the core of Shitamachi, the original center of Edo-Tokyo. Built on an ancient reclaimed swamp during the 16th century, Ginza owes its name (Silver Mint) to the establishment of a silver coin mint (Silver Coin Mint) on this land in 1612.

photo credit: wikimedia.org

A devastating fire destroyed much of the area in 1872. Following this incident, the government decided that reconstruction was to use fireproof bricks to erect new buildings, and the roads should be improved and enlarged. At the same time, they should be able to connect Shimbashi station to Tsukiji. This new version of Ginza was designated as a "model of modernization" and the Irish architect Thomas Waters was given the responsibility of designing the area. In the following year, a long western-style shopping street rose with two- and three-storey Georgian brick buildings reaching from the Shinbashi bridge to the Kyōbashi bridge.

However, the high cost for both the purchase and the lease of these new buildings prevented their long-term occupations and at the same time, an issue regarding the climate arose; such buildings were not suitable for the weather conditions unique to Tokyo. To add to the issues, the design of this area contrasted with the traditional Japanese style, and as such it was not quite appreciated by visitors who were much more interested in an Edo-style town and rather than something "similar to Broadway", as described in the words of the English tour guide writer, Philip Terry.

Despite stylistic problems, Ginza managed to flourish as a symbol of "civilization and enlightenment", becoming famous for its rich shop windows. In the period between the two world wars, the habit of spending time and walking through Ginza, even with no purpose, grew very popular. As time passed, most of the European-style buildings have disappeared. Among those remaining is the Wakō building, originally built by Kintarō Hattori, with its iconic Hattori Clock Tower and its luxurious gold objects inside.

photo credits: japantimes.co.jp

Not only shopping

A key stop for shoppers in Ginza is definitely Ginza Six. Opened in the spring of 2017, it is the largest shopping complex in the district. In addition to numerous cosmetic and fashion floors, there are floors dedicated to food and interior design, a large Tsutaya bookstore specializing in art publications, a pleasant rooftop garden and a Noh theater in the basement.

No less famous is the store of the chain Mitsukoshi. While this store opened in 1930, its history dates back to 1673, when it was first established. It offers products and services on twelve floors. Fans of the brand Uniqlo will find satisfaction in this 12-storey building which offers the widest range of products in the world of this brand.

Ginza, however, is not just limited shopping. For Kabuki representations, the best place is found in this part of town. It is the Kabukiza Theater. Do not miss a trip to the Yurakucho Gado-shita Dining as well. It is one of Tokyo's most interesting dining options, located under the sky train tracks, north and south of the Yurakucho station (In Japanese: Gado-shita, "under beam"). Dozens of restaurants are integrated into the brick arches below the Yamanote line which extend for over 700m. Here you can taste world-famous Japanese cuisine, or sip special wines in the luxurious French wine shops.

photo credits: harv.world


Japan Folklore: Nippombashi Street Festa

photo credits: jnto.go.jp

In Osaka, anime and manga come to life

Every year since 2005, between early days and mid-March, the streets of Den Den Town located between Ebisucho Station and Nihonbashi are closed to car traffic for the biggest cosplay event in all of Japan: the Nippombashi Street Festa (日本橋ストリートフェスタ).

Den Den Town is the electronic district of Osaka that, thanks to its toy stores, video games stores and computer stores, has begun to attract a large number of manga and anime fans, soon turning into one of the "sacred" destinations for Otaku. Each year the festival is enhanced by attracting not only the local but also a more international audience!

photo credits: reddit.com

The Festival begins!

Preparations for the event start around 11:00 am with the roads closing to traffic. Here, above the street the main stage on which guests, cosplayers and sponsors alternate throughout the day is built.
The opening ceremony begins at 12.00 pm when a road is created for the parade of the 1,000 best cosplayers from around the world. After the show, cosplayers perform and pose for all those wishing to approach their favorite character. Many of them take advantage of the event to promote their socials accounts, writing their address on whiteboards or signs placed next to them while they are immortalized in the poses studied in advance.

Obviously the event is not open only to professionals, but hundreds and hundreds of people wear their own costume. It doesn’t matter if this belongs to pop culture, anime, manga, video games or even cartoons and characters from American comics (especially Marvel, Adventure Time and Star Wars), almost 10,000 people a year turn into their own hero! Of course, the festival is free, but if you want to participate in the parade, an entry fee of around 1,500 yen is needed.

The event is also the perfect opportunity to find unique designs by Nippombashi Street Festa and exclusive goods.

photo credits: nippombashi.jp

The cultural exchange project between Japan and France and an exceptional ambassador

From 2018, year of the 160th anniversary of friendship between France and Japan, the 「Japan-France pop culture Exchange project」was promoted in order to deepen the cultural exchange between manga, animation, music and other aspects of Japanese pop culture with the France in collaboration with the「Japan Expo」.

To disseminate the event and make it even more alive, KAMIJO, the talented Japanese artist who became particularly famous in France, was chosen as the project's ambassador.

This year the Nippombashi Street Festival will be held on March 9th and will be the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself not only in the magical world of fantasy, but also in the musical world!


Japan Tradition: Hinamatsuri

photo credits: mcasiwakuni.marines.mil

Doll’s Day

There is a special celebration held annually on the third day of the third month in Japan known as Hina-matsuri (雛 祭 り), also known as Doll’s Day or Girl’s Day. During this celebration, the misfortunes of girls are transferred to the dolls and the family members pray to the gods for their daughters’ good health and beauty.
This festival dates back to the Heian period (1650) and in Japanese culture, dolls have always been believed to have the capacity to contain evil spirits. During the Hina-Nagashi (雛 流 し, The floating doll) ceremonies, straw dolls will be placed along the course of a river to take the evil spirits away with them. This ritual is still carried out in some parts of Japan.

photo credit: monchhichi.net

The Dolls of Hina-dan (雛 壇)

The hina-dan is a platform of 7 steps covered by a red carpet with a rainbow stripe at the bottom, called hi-mōsen. The hina ningyo, ornamental dolls passed from generation to generation, are placed on this hina-dan.
On the first step, the highest step, are the dolls representing the imperial court of the Heian period, the position of emperor and the empress, behind them a small golden screen and two lanterns of paper or silk on the sides.
On the second step there are three court ladies serving sake and separated by two small round tables (takatsuki), on which seasonal sweets are displayed.
On the third step there are five male musicians who are arranged from right to left and based on the instrument they hold in this order: a musician seated with a small drum, a standing musician with a large drum, a standing musician with percussion, a sitting player with the flute and, finally, a singer seated with a fan in his hands.
On the fourth step there are two ministers: the younger is placed on the right, the elder on the left. Both of them are equipped with bows and arrows while separated by takatsuki.
Three samurai, protectors of the emperor and the empress, are placed on the fifth step. They each hold a rake, a shovel, and a broom with respective expressions of weeping, of laughter, and of rage.
On the sixth step there are the objects that the court uses inside the building.
On the seventh and final step, the lowest tier, are the objects the court uses when they are far from the building.

photo credit: trend-blog-site.com

Between kimoni, hishi-mochi and amazake

During the festival, girls wear their most beautiful kimonos or dress up like dolls. There are numerous themed parties where shirozake, a special sweet and non-alcoholic sake based on amazake (甘 酒, a sweetener obtained from the fermentation of rice), arare (あ ら れ, crackers composed by glutinous rice and flavored with soy sauce) and the traditional sweet of Hina-matsuri, hishi-mochi (菱 餅 ひ し も ち) are served.
Hishi-mochi is a cube-shaped glutinous rice mixture made up of three colored layers. Each layer holds special meanings. Green represents the grass and symbolizes health; white represents snow, a symbol of purity; and finally, rose represents the plum blossoms fighting malignancy. Together these three colors indicate the arrival of spring, when the snow melts, the grass grows and the plum blossoms start to bloom.


Bringing Japan to Italy: episode 01 - Alberto Moro

Here we are with the first episode of our new series『Bringing Japan to Italy』dedicated to Alberto Moro, Giappone in Italia Association's President.

Some weeks ago we met him during the finissage of his exhibition "Il mio Giappone" that, as he said himself, it's a great act of love towards this Nation, the Japanese culture and people.

With this first video, we are launching our new series dedicated to all those people that promot the Japanese culture and the world surrounding Japan in our Nation. Japan Italy Bridge, wants to promote this Nation on an even deeper level, together with its companies and all that concernes the land of the Rising Sun.

Enjoy!


Japan Folklore: Versailles no bara, the best-selling manga

photo credit: nefariousreviews.com

In 1972, Riyoko Ikeda created what became the manga and, later, the most famous anime of all time: "Versailles no Bara" (ベルサイユのばら, The Roses of Versailles, known in Italy as Lady Oscar). The talented mangaka, whose meticulous and elegant style has come to stand out and be considered the Shōjo Teacher, had to face her own publisher before seeing her published idea. The publisher was in fact convinced that a biographical manga starring Marie Antoinette could bore readers. Riyoko Ikeda undertook to prove otherwise and in May 1972 the first instalment of "Versailles no Bara" appeared on Shukan Margaret issue number 21, published by Shūeisha, on a weekly basis for a total of 82 episodes ended in 1973.

Between 1972 and 1974, 15 million copies were sold, thus electing Riyoko Ikeda as the queen of the historical manga.

photo credit: supereva.it

The history of the roses of Versailles and the wind that swept over them

In the last years of the Ancien Régime, the young Marie Antoinette of Austria was promised to marry the French dolphin, Luigi Augusto, nephew of Louis XV but his cousin, the Duke of Orleans plotted to kill him and usurp the throne. At the head of the Royal Guard was Oscar François de Jarjayes, a young noblewoman raised by her father, General De Jarjayes, as if she were a boy because he wanted a male heir. Alongside Oscar was a young attendant, André Grandier, nephew of the housekeeper of the Jarjayes family, to whom the General had entrusted the task of serving and protecting her. Covering her role, Oscar foiled many plots that aimed to kill the two princes, thus leading to being esteemed and considered a friend by Marie Antoinette. The capricious future queen, escorted by Oscar at a ball court, met the Swedish count Hans Axel von Fersen, of whom both women fall in love.

At the death of the King, Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI became sovereigns of France and, since the slander on a presumed relationship between Fersen and the Queen did not take long to spread, the count abandoned the country to avoid scandal and enlisted in support of the revolutionaries of America. Marie Antoinette, more and more unhappy and lonely, allowed herself to be influenced by the Countess of Polignac, an ambitious woman who became her favourite and urged the queen to squander money in frivolity. After a few years, the Count of Fersen returned to France and inevitably went back to Marie Antoinette, who, unable to control her feelings, was on the verge of a scandal. Once again the count left the country and the queen, following the birth of the heirs to the throne, decided to move away from the life of the court and retire with her children in the Petit Trianon, arousing the hatred of the high nobility. In the meantime, the famous "Deal of the Necklace" broke out, which threw the first shadows on the public reputation of the queen. Shortly after, Fersen returned from America and during a court ball, Oscar showed up in disguise dressed for the first and only time as a woman but, dancing with Fersen, realized that she could never replace the queen in the heart of the Swedish count and she decided it was probably better to live forever like a man. Following the case of the Black Knight and the further attempt to discredit the royal family in the eyes of the nobility, Oscar abandoned the command of the Royal Guard obtaining from the queen the post of commander of the French Guards regiment of Paris. André, despite being rejected by Oscar after declaring her love, he remained by her side anyway.

General Jarjayes realized that he had made a mistake in allocating his daughter to a military career and began to wish that she would marry, so the second of Oscar in the Royal Guard, Girondel, made her a marriage proposal, but Oscar did not accept, preferring her new soldiers and attempts to earn their respect. The French revolution was at the door: Oscar, who understood to love Andrè, sided with him on the side of the people and together died during the riots of the storming of the Bastille July 14, 1789. The years of the revolution lasted until Marie Antoinette’s execution on the guillotine on October 16, 1793.

photo credit: romaspettacolo.net

One series is not enough!

Twelve years after the mother series, Riyoko Ikeda decided to publish a 4-episode miniseries entitled Versailles no bara gaiden (The Roses of Versailles - Gothic Stories) whose protagonists are Oscar, Andrè and the little Loulou de La Lorencie, Oscar's niece. The episodes narrated are placed between volumes 7 and 8 of the original manga. In 1987 Eikō no Napoleon-Eroika (栄光のナポレオン-エロイカ, The glorious Napoleon - Heroic) also appeared as the official sequel, whose title "Eroika" refers to the third symphony of Ludwig van Beethoven, dedicated to Napoleon. These 12 volumes narrate the events of Napoleon immediately after the French Revolution: his empire, the Italian campaign, the campaign of Egypt, the battle of the Nile, the coup d'etat of the 18th Brumaire and the French invasion of Russia. in the course of the narration, some of the already known characters will reappear, but only through flashbacks.

In 2006, Riyoko Ikeda decided to take the pencil again to create "Berubara Kids": an amusing reinterpretation in coloured stripes in which the characters of Versailles no Bara reappear in "chibi" version in key scenes. The small parody was published weekly on "Be", a supplement of the newspaper "Asahi Shimbun".

photo credit: pinterest.it

Roses die in beauty

The fascination of Versailles no Bara pushed many musicians to reinterpret the famous "Bara wa utsukushiku chiru" original song of the anime, but Riyoko Ikeda recognized the LAREINE version with license. The first CD came out on October 1, 1998 and in limited number of copies: only 500 with serial number of which the first 4 were owned by the members of the group. Fortunately, in 1998 it was re-edited and Bara wa utsukushiku chiru officially became the fourth single of the band. On February 9th 2000 the most valuable CD edition was released, containing only two audio tracks in which Riyoko Ikeda herself participated as a soprano singer and took care of the graphic design, also designing the costumes of the band for the music video.


Japan Folklore: Setsubun, how to drive away the demons of winter to welcome spring


photo credits: pinterest.it

Traditional Japanese culture has always been characterized by a constant and loving observation of the natural world, its manifestations and its seasonal cycles. Therefore, the attention given to spring, the special moment when nature awakens in all its creatures the necessity of renewal, must not marvel.

This season is celebrated in Japan with the haru matsuri (春祭, spring festival), a set of events whose beginning is marked by the occurrence of Setsubun (節 分). In the traditional Japanese lunisolar calendar, in fact, every change of season is introduced by a day called, indeed, setsubun (literally "division of the seasons"). Spring setsubun, which falls on 3 February, represents the last day of winter and the day before the start of the new season. It marks the transition from "Taikan" (大寒, big cold) to "Risshun" (立春, first day of spring) and is therefore the most favorable moment for a special "cleaning" from winter burdens, which will drive away evil spirits and favor the entrance of the new life-giving energy. This is the meaning of the traditional "demon expulsion" that takes place on this day through different rituals and customs.


photo credits: pinimg.com

Ancient rituals and family fun

The most famous ritual is undoubtedly the mamemaki (豆 撒 き), which is the launch of soy beans. In the domestic sphere it is entrusted to Toshi Otoko (年 男, man of the year), that is the man of the family of the zodiacal sign of the lunar year entering or in his absence the oldest of the house. He has the task of driving out the harmful spirits and negativities from the house and the new year that is about to start by throwing around irimame (炒 り 豆, toasted soy beans) to the cry of "Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi! (鬼は外! 福は内, "Outside the demons! Inside fortune!"). In alternative, he can hurl the beans at another member of the family who plays the part of the demon wearing a mask of oni (Japanese folklore ogres). Subsequently, each member of the family must collect and eat a number of beans corresponding to their age plus one to ensure a year of success and good health (in the popular tradition, in fact, the demons are considered carriers of natural disasters and diseases).
When the oni is expelled, it is necessary to keep the evil spirits away from the house. For this reason it is possible to see in this period of the year some very special amulets, the Hiiragi Iwashi (柊 鰯), exposed at the entrance of the houses. These are holly branches that have the head of a dried sardine skewered on the end, sometimes complemented by pieces of garlic or onion, which have the purpose of keeping demons away, scared by the thorns and the pungent odor emanating from these talismans.

In both cases it is a tradition that has its roots in antiquity. Nowadays it is possible to buy "Setsubun sets" - made of oni masks and roasted beans - in any combini, but in reality the mamemaki custom would have originated in the Muromachi period (1392-1573) and seems to be inspired to an ancient legend, whose plot is still represented in the form of pantomime in the temple of Mibu-dera in Kyoto. Here the kyogen (ancient Japanese theatrical form) titled "Setsubun" is repeated several times during the day and it is said that it is sufficient to watch it to be purified by any negative or evil spirit. Its plot follows the folk tale that tells of an ogre who, in human form, goes one day to visit a widow. Thanks to its magic hammer, the ogre makes a beautiful kimono, which attracts the widow's attention. Eager to take possession not only of the kimono but also of the magic hammer, she decides to get him drunk to be able to steal them both. The ogre, however, aware of the theft, reveals his demonic nature and attacks the woman, who defends herself with the first thing that is within reach: a handful of soy beans. The oni, wounded but again in possession of his goods, flees leaving the widow safe and sound and perhaps a little wiser.


photo credits: toyokeizai.net

Knowing how to look in the right direction

A tradition of more recent origins, born in Osaka but later spread to the rest of the country, is instead linked to the ehōmaki (恵 方 巻, scroll of lucky direction). In this case, to ensure that the good luck is on our side in the year that is about to begin, it is necessary to eat a special sushi roll in a single solution, without interruptions and in silence, facing the lucky direction of the year. The act is less simple than it may seem, considering that the ehōmaki is much more often than a common sushi roll (having to contain seven ingredients to propitiate the seven gods of luck) and is 20 centimeters long. It is not worth eating it cut into pieces, because doing so would also cut luck. To perform the ritual correctly, it is therefore necessary to arm yourself with concentration, determination and a precise compass. For those interested in experimenting with this custom, the most common ingredients to obtain for the filling are cucumber, surimi, salmon, tuna, anago (sea eel), tamagoyaki (Japanese omelette), dried kanpyo strips and seasoned (Japanese pumpkin) and shiitake mushrooms, as well as rice and nori seaweed, while the lucky direction for 2019 is East-North East.

photo credits: shinsenhino.com

Festive temples

The Setsubun can be celebrated in a domestic environment or at least in a private dimension, with relatives and friends, but it is also and above all a recurrence to be lived in community. For example, schools often organize moments of recreation for children, who wear oni masks or have fun chasing adults dressed as demons while hurling beans against them. But it is especially in the temples that it is possible to experience the collective dimension of the party, participating in the events specially created for this day. First of all, of course, the mamemaki, carried out by the monks who throw soy beans from the top of the stages on the crowd gathered for the event. In some temples more shifts are organized for this ritual, reserving some special ones for children, who in addition to the beans receive sweets or small gifts. In addition to the monks, celebrities are often present, such as sports champions, personalities of the entertainment world, actors of the kabuki theater, geisha and maiko, television celebrities, who add a note of attractive glamor to traditional festivities. Among the latter we must remember the theatrical performances, the various purification ceremonies or even the striking archery performances, in which the archers throw their arrows at targets that have demon-like features.

In short, Setsubun is the ideal day for those who wish to live in company a start of the year that helps to renew their energies and for families who have the opportunity to spend a moment of joy together, something that always remains the best talisman against all evil at every latitude.


Japan Italy: Next stop: Japan! Interview with Stefania Sabia

"An Italian in Japan" the series - Stefania Sabia

The brotherhood between Italy and Japan in recent years has become increasingly close and supportive. It is not rare to find our compatriots wishing to move to the land of the Rising Sun, but few succeed in realizing this dream. Today we want to share with you the experience of Stefania Sabia, a very Italian girl who has been living and working in Japan for about two years!

JIB: Hi Stefania, first of all thank you for agreeing to have this interview with us.
S: Thank you for contacting me and thinking about my blog!

JIB: Tell us a little about yourself and what you do in life.
S: My name is Stefania, I graduated in Japanese language and literature and I have been living and working in Tokyo for about 2 years.
I'm the creator of the Prossima fermata Giappone (Next Stop Japan) blog, which I opened together with the Facebook page 4 years ago, during my first study trip to Tokyo, followed by Instagram and Youtube about a year ago, which I update daily.
Since then I continue to share my travels and my daily life in Japan through articles, photos, videos, with all the love that I have.
I have a particular passion for the Shitamachi of the capital, the ancient places of Tokyo mixed with the modern urban fabric, but which retain a unique atmosphere, often accompanied by incredible small cafes.
I love the explosion of colors of the Japanese blooms, and the cute themed restaurants that invariably snatch you a smile and, when I have the chance, I love to wear the kimono.
Exploring and sharing this wonderful country always fills me with an immense joy.

JIB: How and from what your passion of Japan was born?
S: The passion for Japan arises as a result of the curiosity about the culture of this country. I have always found fascinating its history, folklore, literature and even the language. I could spend hours listening to the smooth sound of Japanese, relaxing as gurgling water.
One of the first legends to have enchanted me, I still remember that now, was that of the Tanabata.
As a child I dreamed of being able to participate in the festivities one day, to wear the yukata and see the sea of shimmering decorations above my head, typical of this occasion.

JIB: And in the end you made it! You have been living in Japan for a few years now, tell us something about your experience and how you got to today.
S: Living here in Tokyo is an incredible experience, sometimes difficult, but that in any case I would not change with anything else in the world. It can be a challenge, a trial, a surprise.
Living so far away from home there are many first times, you learn so many things about yourself and others, and what perhaps in Italy I had never done alone I found myself having to face it.
The part that I love most is undoubtedly the exploration, having the opportunity to know Tokyo deeply and calmly, to reveal the layers of the city first hand, all his anaba // the small locations, the secret corners, the places of heart. I love this city with all of myself.
I came to Japan for the first time 4 years ago, during my second year of university, thinking that a study period could help me with the language and the following exams. So I enrolled in a 3 month course at a language school in Nippori (one of the areas of Shitamachi I mentioned above) and have literally been struck by the capital.
With a heart full of feelings, I returned to Italy knowing that once I graduated I would have absolutely wanted to come back.
After graduation I left again as a student, with the intention of improving my Japanese as much as possible and try to get a job visa.
I got my 3-year work visa about 3 months ago and now I work in a Japanese company, I especially take care of helping other Westerners find jobs in Japan.

 

JIB: Which Japanese city has captured your heart?
S: Maybe you can already understand that from other answers, but I love Tokyo with all my heart. I think it's a unique city. A “patchwork” city, made of rainbow remnants of every kind and shape. An extraordinary interlocking of modern and ancient. It doesn’t have the typical beauty of traditional Kyoto, it has more the charm of the places that you live at the fullest. those places that are able to tell you a story at every corner, to amaze you again and again without ever failing. This city is a whole universe, you never stop understanding it, learning it.
If we talk about extraordinary places for beauty and memories, then I must mention Takaragawa Onsen, one of the most magical places I've ever been in Japan. I have wonderful memories of this ryokan with onsen, which seems to come from another era, lying in the middle of the forests of Gunma, very far from the city, next on the course of the river Takara. I also talked about it on the blog. It’s just pure marvel.

JIB: Your story is really exciting and we are sure that you can have unique experiences every day and create many memories that will always be in your heart. Would you like to share with us one of the most amusing or significant moments that have happened to you since you live in Japan?
S: One of my favorite experiences was to bring the mikoshi during the matsuri o my neighborhood. The feeling of community cohesion and the meaning of festivals is something fantastic.
It was incredible to be able to see a matsuri in its life, from the gathering of the participants, to the toast and prayers and have the opportunity to bring the divinity, inside the mikoshi, so that it could be thanked by everyone and therefore guarantee luck and prosperity to the district and its inhabitants.

 

JIB: It must have been a really intense experience. Also, from what was our blog born, prossimafermatagiappone.com, and how did you develop the concept until you got to what it is today?
S: The blog was born from the desire to put into words the boundless love I feel for Japan.
I have always loved to write since I was a child, and I thought that telling stories about this country could connect and help many other lovers of Japan.
It's a travel blog, but it's often the feelings for places that dominate, a genuine and total enthusiasm for what I see or what I do.
The sincere affection for certain districts, the fascination that the ancient and the traditions exert over me, the places that sing to my heart. One thing, which I think and hope can be understood by reading the blog, is that I don’t write just for the journeys themselves, but for the emotions and the paths that I share.
I actually think that often, even a day-to-day and less visited or less famous place can reserve great discoveries and a lot of wonder.
The blog was born like this, from the sincerity of my feelings for Japan, for 4 years, almost every day I published stories, photos, itineraries, tips for those who are preparing to leave for a trip, to study or to live in Japan .

 

JIB: This feeling that moved you to create your blog is really beautiful, and that's another thing we have in common. So many people like us dream of living in Japan and walking the same path you followed. However, as we all know, all that glitters is not always gold, and even Japan, like any other country, has its ups and downs. What are the difficulties you encountered in the early days in the Land of the Rising Sun?
S: I have to say that I have never encountered enormous difficulties since I moved. Or rather, nothing that I could never overcome with a little commitment or anything that I consider particularly negative.
It's funny and of uncertain result the first times you find yourself having to do things that in Italy would have been considered normal and easy, but which instead represent the unknown here. For example going for the first time to the doctor, making a phone contract and later embarking alone in the contract for the house and having to call the services to connect the utilities.
The most difficult moment was the search for a job, those were really tough and challenging months, made even by many “no thanks” and many "Will I be able to do this? I won’t give up! ". The job market for a foreigner is not always easy.
Last but so obvious was the distance from home, I would certainly love to have the opportunity to see more often my family.

JIB: What are your plans for the future?
S: Even if time is scarce at the moment, I would like to work more with the blog. Collaborate more with local companies, propose more activities to do on holiday.
It would be nice to be able to show Japan more and more and I hope to have the opportunity to do this.
Another dream would be to write a guide, particularly on Shitamachi, the ancient preserved areas of Tokyo, survivors of fires, earthquakes and bombings, these areas still not very famous are of a unique richness. They are my favorite part of the city and I would like to talk more in depth if I ever have the chance.
Work wise, in future I would like to do more tourism experiences in Japan, I would really like to work in this direction.

 

photo credits: @georgeyajima

JIB: It's really very interesting what you're sharing with us, and we too from Italy are convinced that we need more information about these particular areas of Japan, which are very often put aside by the masses . What do you think are the strongest connections you can find between Italy and Japan?
S: I think we are dealing with two deeply different countries, but surely both of them carry a thousand-year-old history, culture and traditions that are very great and fascinating. In both countries there is a great love for food, a great love for their artistic and historical background.

JIB: Do you think there is a future for an even closer collaboration between the two nations?
S: I hope so, especially from a tourism point of view, I think there is an increasing interest in Japan.
Italian tourists have been increasing for a couple of years and I hope that this mutual interest, this curiosity of travel, will open the door to new possibilities.
It would also be nice to have the working holiday for Italians in the future.

JIB: Do you ever miss Italy? Do you plan to come back here permanently?
S: As I said before, I miss Italy, my family, Italian friendships. If I didn’t have good Italian friends here it would be doubly difficult.
The other serious missing is the cured meats and cheeses (more than pasta and pizza that are very well done here), there is a very scarce and expensive selection for the most part. The sadness of not being able to make a mega salami sandwich!
Perhaps sooner or later I will return to Italy or Europe anyway, but for now it is difficult to say what the future holds for me. For the moment I would like to stay in Japan.

JIB: And we too hope you can stay in Japan! Thank you so much for your time and for the beautiful words and moments you shared with us. One last thing, send some greetings and advice to all our readers.
S: I thank you first for the interview, you were very nice to host me and it was amazing to have the chance to talk with you.
I would be really happy if more people could read the blog and find ideas, whether they are traveling or living in Japan, I am always available to help anyone who is looking for answers on the subject.
To those who would like to study or live in Japan I say not to abandon your dream, it can be a difficult country in some aspects, but if you love it and want to try, why not?
The only suggestion is to come here ready, Japan gives a lot but also asks a lot. And if the life of a student can be quite calm, that of a full-time worker has often a very hectic pace.
A work visa also requires a degree in 99% of cases, without that immigration is unlikely to issue a visa. Many office or tourism related jobs also often require a spoken ability that is business / N2. Come to Japan with these things in mind and persevere until you have achieved what makes you happy!
A hug to all readers!

 

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Japan Traditions: Wakakusa Yamayaki Matsuri

One of Japan's most famous matsuri is the Wakakusa Yamayaki Matsuri held in the city of Nara on the fourth Saturday of January.

photo credits: matsuritracker on flickr

Le Origini

On the top of the third hill of Mount Wakakusa we find the Uguisuzuka Kofun, a keyhole-shaped tombstone.
Legends say that in the past if the mountain was burned by the end of January in the new year, it was possible to repel deaths returning from their graves. On the contrary, if the mountain was not burned by the end of January, a big period of misfortune layed before the city of Nara. As a result, the stories tell that people passing by Mount Wakakusa began to ignite the mountain without permission.

 

photo credits: smartus & matsuritracker on flickr

Following this, there were some incidents where the fire from Mount Wakakusa came to approach the boundaries of the Todaiji and Kohfukuji temple repeatedly. Because of this, in December 1738, the Nara magistrate's office (Bugyosho) prohibited people from burning the mountain. However, the arson fires continued at the hands of anonymous people and on some occasions approached the nearby cities and temples. To avoid similar dangers, the city of Nara established a rule to allow people to burn the mountain with the participation of representatives of the Todaiji and Kohfukuji temples along with the Nara Bugyosho at the end of the Edo period.

photo credits: toshimo1123 on flickr

The Yamayaki festival (burning mountain) comes from superstitions to calm the spirits of the dead at the Uguisuzuka Kofun located at the top of the mountain, so the Yamayaki could also be considered as a moment of service in memory of the dead.

Modern history and present day

Since 1900, there have been a series of changes related to Wakakusa Yamayaki Matsuri. Firstly, the time was shifted from day to night and even its date moved to 11 February (Day of the Empire), although during the period of World War II, the celebrations were held during the afternoon. Later, in 1910, the organization passed into the hands of the prefecture of Nara.

 

photo credits: karihaugsdal on flickr

After the end of the war, the Yamayaki once again became an evening event together with a fireworks display of over one hundred fireworks.
During the fifties, the date of the Yamayaki was moved to January 15, the "Coming of Age day", while in 1999, due to the implementation of the so-called "Happy Monday System Act" (law that moved some public holidays on Mondays) , the festival was celebrated on the Sunday before the "Coming of Age day".

photo credits: toshimo1123 & nwhitely on flickr

Since 2009 we find the combination that still exists today, where the event is held on the fourth Saturday in January with a fireworks display of hundreds of fireworks.
On this matter, this is the only event in Nara that uses the Shakudama fireworks that have a diameter of over 30cm. An absolutely magical fireworks display that we guarantee will always remain engraved in your memories.

Mount Wakakusa

Mount Wakakusa is 342 meters high and 33 hectares wide and is covered with grass with delicate slopes. Here you can see deers, seasonal flowers and plants, like the traditional Japanese cherry trees in spring and the fantastic autumn colors typical of Japan. Also from its top, it is possible to see the whole panorama of the city of Nara with all its historical part.

 

photo credits: 158175735@N03 & mashipooh on flickr

Mount Wakakusa is surrounded by many UNESCO world heritage sites such as the temples Todaiji and Kohfukuji and the spring forest of Mount Kasuga, so be very careful to avoid accidents such as spreading the fire.

The parade

Led by the sound of shell horns played by the mountain priests of the Kinpusenji Temple, more than 40 people face the solemn parade through the park, wearing the traditional costumes of the representatives of the temples of Kasugataisha, Todaiji and Kohfukuji and of the officers of the judiciary office of Nara in the Edo period.

 

photo credits: toshimo1123 & katiefujiapple on flickr

The event begins with the Gojinkahotaisai, the sacred fire acceptance ceremony held at the Tobohino park, on the site of the Great Round Bonfire. In this ceremony, the sacred fire is transferred from the Great Round Bonfire to the torches. Following this, the parade will take the sacred fire to the Nogami temple. Once arrived at the Mizuya temple, the sacred fire brought by time Kasugataisha will be transferred to a series of torches. Once at the Nogami Temple, at the base of Mount Wakakusa, the sacred fire forms another great bonfire.

 

photo credits: katiefujiapple on flickr

During the parade, the fire is accompanied by constant prayers in the first place for the safety of the Yamayaki. The fire is then transferred back to the torches, accompanied by the songs of the priests of the temples Todaji, Kohfukuji and Kinpusenji. At this point, the parade moves towards the big bonfire in the center at the base of the mountain where it is lit, thus giving birth to the spectacle of light and heat.

photo credits: nara-park.com

Access

Mount Wakakusa is about a 10 - 15 minute walk from the Todaiji temple and Kasuga Taisha. The mountain can also be reached on foot from Kintetsu Nara station in about 35 minutes or from JR Nara station in about 50 minutes. Alternatively, you can use buses departing from both the station and Kasuga Taisha for a small fee.
If you are in Japan during this period, the next Yamamaki will take place in a few days, January 26, 2019. Do not miss it and we’ll wait for your stories!

photo credits: ks_photograph