Bringing Japan to Italy: episode 07 - Yoko Takada

A few months ago, in conjunction with the Novegro comics festival, we had the opportunity to interview Yoko Takada. For this seventh episode of 『Bringing Japan to Italy』, the artist specializing in Japanese culture, tea ceremonies, Kimono dressing and much more speaks to our microphones.

Yoko Takada has kindly granted this exclusive interview for Japan Italy Bridge to help promote and share more the Japanese culture. Furthermore, we talk about the similarities between Japan and Italy, and why the bow is so important in the land of the rising sun. Did you know that? Enjoy the video!


Yuki-Onna: the mysterious incarnation of the Japanese winter

In the endless world of yokai (supernatural creatures of the Japanese tradition), the figure of Yuki-Onna (雪女) stands out. Legendary snow woman, with her icy and lethal charm, embodies the terrible beauty of winter in the mountains of Japan.
Despite being known by different names and stories in the various prefectures, this character is renowned above all in the coldest and most inaccessible areas of the archipelago.

Yuki-Onna

The Yuki-Onna is described as a beautiful woman with white skin, which appears on mountain trails and in snowstorms. She is dressed in a light white kimono or naked and covered only by very long hair, black or white depending on the legends. Ethereal and floating apparition in the snowy landscape on which it leaves no footprints, it can suddenly disappear turning into a cloud of fog or very fine snow.

Yuki-Onna: the Origins

The origin of this figure, like other yokai, is lost in the most ancient times. The first written trace of its history is found in the Sōgi Shokoku Monogatari, dating back to the Muromachi period (1333-1573). Here the monk Sogi describes the encounter with a woman of extraordinary beauty during his stay in the province of Echigo (current prefecture of Niigata). This mysterious woman was dressed in white, tall and with a very pale complexion and long white hair. From a young appearance, she mysteriously appeared one morning in the frozen garden of the monk. However, it disappeared just as mysteriously under the incredulous gaze of man.

Yuki-Onna

photo credits: smitefire.com

The two faces of winter

Like the winter that can manifest itself with a dazzling and serene splendor or with a cruel and lethal force, so is the Yuki-Onna. Sometimes it appears as a ruthless predator that attracts lost travelers into the storm to feed on them with their life energy. At other times it appears as a benevolent presence or even in its turn seduced by human charm.

In the most ancient stories, the monstrous and destructive aspect prevails. In fact, in these stories, parents who have lost their children in the mountains are approached by a woman. She asks them to pick up a child she can't bring herself. The unwary who accept this invitation are destined to freeze to death, overwhelmed by the fatigue of carrying a heavier burden at every step.

Yuki-Onna Yuki-Onna

photo credits: wikipedia.org

Or in the stories, the Yuki-Onna seduces men subjugated by its otherworldly charm. They end up succumbing to his mortal kiss, able to drain their life force and freeze their hearts. Or again in dramatic stories, in which Yuki-Onna does not simply wait for the passage of bewildered travelers. Here, in fact, it enters the houses forcefully, opening doors and windows in the form of violent snowstorms, killing the unfortunate inhabitants.

In the West, we know a more romantic aspect of this reading. This is mostly thanks to the work of Patrick Lafcadio Hearn, a Ireland-born journalist and writer from Japan, also known as Koizumi Yakumo (小泉八雲).

Yuki-Onna

photo credits: letterboxd.com

The Lafcadio version

"Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things" is a 1904 work containing a collection of popular beliefs and also an interpretation of the culture and customs of Japan. Here the legend narrated by Hearn speaks of two woodcutters, Elder Mosaku and his young apprentice Minokichi, who return home after a day's work on a cold evening. The two characters surprised by a violent snowstorm find shelter in a hut near a river. Afterward, the two men lay on the floor of the hut and, overcome by fatigue, they fall asleep. During the night Minokichi is awakened by an icy wind, which seems to have opened the door and windows of the hut. Still confused by sleep and believing he is dreaming, he sees a woman dressed in white and with long hair, bending over Mosaku, intent on breathing a cold mist like breath over him.

When the woman turns to Minokichi, the young man remains enchanted by her incredible beauty. However, he cannot sustain that look that inspires an unspeakable terror. Softened by the youth and the attractiveness of the boy, the woman decides to spare his life on condition that he never reveals to anyone the existence of such a creature. If he ever spoke to any of those events, his death would be certain.

The following morning a boatman, owner of the hut, finds in his interior the now frozen body of the elderly Mosaku, but manages to rescue Minokichi, now semi-frozen to safety.

A year later...

Having overcome the terror and exhaustion of that terrible night, the young man marries a beautiful young woman named O-Yuki. Suddenly appearing in his village she was immediately well-liked by everyone for her charm and her gentle manner. For many years the two live a happy marriage, blessed by the girl's inexplicable eternal youth, whose beauty seems to endure unchanged over time despite the birth of ten children.

Until one-day Minokichi, forgetting the promise he made, recklessly tells his wife of a supernatural creature he met many years before and that somehow seems to remind him of his charming bride. To his immense surprise, O-Yuki, suddenly transfigured by anger, reveals herself to be the woman he met that night. After having reproached her husband for not having been able to keep the promise of secrecy made so many years before, she decides to spare his life for the sake of their children. So, after warning him to take good care of them, she disappears forever.

Yuki-Onna

photo credits: aminoapps.com

Yuki-Onna in the contemporary age

Like the bride of Minokichi, the legend of Yuki-Onna, cruel and romantic at the same time, seems to preserve its charm over the centuries.
In fact, in contemporary times it has inspired numerous films. We remember in fact Kwaidan (怪怪) of 1965, directed by Masaki Kobayashi, winner of the special prize of the jury at the Cannes Festival. Kwaidan was also in the running for the Academy Awards with a nomination for Best Foreign Language Film.
The success of this film was followed, in 1968, by Kaidan Yukijoro by Tokuzô Tanaka, until 2016 with Yuki-Onna, directed and performed by Kiki Sugino.

The beautiful and lethal snow woman, in her innumerable variations, then appears as a protagonist or leading figure in a vast range of video games, anime and manga. Nurarihyon no Mago or Ranma ½, just to name a few. However, its timeless charm will continue to enchant us for a long time, with its eternal, candid winter.


ARTE SU MARTE Feat "Saskia Battistoni and Federica Menozzi" @ TENOHA

Not only TENOHA, but also TENOHA Ramen has special aperitifs that you can't miss! You already know that TENOHA & | RAMEN is the only place where you can find the real Japanese Ramen, right? Now there's more! Before dinner, here they are two new aperitifs waiting for you!

TENOHA Ramen TENOHA

Gli aperitivi di TENOHA Ramen

OTSUMAMI APERITIVO
10€ | From 7.00pm to 11.00pm

Drink
Edamame
Gyoza or Karaage

LADIES SET
20€ | From 7.00pm to 11.00pm

Drink
Edamame
Gyoza or Karaage
Shoyu Ramen or Poké Don (½ portion)
Water + coffee

TENOHA RAMEN

I would say that it is an excellent excuse to spend an evening not only in good company, not only with the best ramen ever but also with the best aperitif! We are waiting for women to whom the LADIES SET is dedicated, but also men, we are sure they will appreciate it very much!

Obviously, Japan Italy Bridge is always present, let's have an aperitif together!


ARTE SU MARTE Feat "Saskia Battistoni and Federica Menozzi" @ TENOHA

Here we are again with the Thursdays aperitivo at TENOHA! Are you ready for a new appointment with the “Martian artists”? Then don't miss the exclusive Nori Nori aperitif with the last Arte su Marte before the holidays!

As you know, ARTE SU MARTE is a cultural and artistic project that promotes emerging artists and combines art in all its forms, from painting, sculpture to photography and design.

And this time it's the turn of two artists who will really leave you speechless: Saskia Battistoni and Federica Menozzi!

Saskia is a visionary illustrator who tries to express her thoughts by experimenting every in every possible way. For her, illustrating something means to turn a thought into an image, identified with a stroke that a brush can take.

Federica is equally explosive and particular. She will drag you into her world with her unique creations. So let yourself be carried away because everything is a surprise ready for you to be discovered!

And as always we are looking for new artists! There will be white canvases ready to be painted by you!

The premises for a special evening are all there, so we are waiting for you on Thursday 11th July at 6pm for the special aperitivo ARTE SU MARTE! Obviously, everything will be accompanied by the now famous Nori・Nori aperitif that you can find only at TENOHA Milano! Japan Italy Bridge is waiting for you and you really can’t miss it. After this we can start thinking about the holidays.

Where and when

Where: TENOHA Milano, Via Vigevano 18, 20144 Milan
When: Thursday, 11 July

Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/466794160744387/

Saskia Battistoni Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sskbtt.jpg/
Federica Menozzi Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/memaybenotme/
TENOHA website: https://www.tenoha.it/


Giappone, secret beauty with Alex Kerr

Alex Kerr, writer, orientalist and author of the book "The Beauty of secret Japan" will hold a special conference on Thursday 11 July at 18.30 at the Palazzo Reale in Milan.

Published by EDT, "The beauty of secret Japan" arrives in the bookstore where Alex Kerr tells of Japan and its ancient culture that is disappearing today. In this book, the author tells "from within" the millenary culture of Japan, with deep and passionate knowledge. Kerr talks about the sensuality of kabuki theater, the art of calligraphy, the tea ceremony, the rituals of Shintoism and the different Japanese religions. Without failing to talk about Zen monasteries, traditional architecture, the mysteries of everyday life and much more.

In "The beauty of secret Japan" the author describes the surviving natural and landscape beauties, such as the wonderful valley of Iya, on the island of Shikoku. Here, at the end of the seventies, Kerr bought an ancient rural house, Chiiori (the house of the flute). After the restoration where he paid great attention to traditional materials and techniques, Alex Kerr makes it the starting point of personal and passionate research towards the disappearing Japan.

alex kerr

Biography

For those of you who don't know Alex Kerr, we're talking about an American writer living in Japan for over forty years. Kerr is also considered one of the most esteemed orientalists in the world and is the first and only Western writer to have been the recipient of the Scincho Gakugei Literary Award for the best non-fiction work in Japan.

Kerr has dedicated his life to the study of the culture and traditions of ancient Japan. From calligraphy to teaching traditional arts, from collectors to the restoration and architectural restoration of disused traditional houses. Kerr's activities have created a form of sustainable tourism in the most unknown and unspoiled rural areas of Japan.

The Alex Kerr Conference

Of the beauty and secrets of ancient Japan, Alex Kerr will speak at his conference at the Palazzo Reale in Milan, Thursday 11 July 2019. Organized by the EDT publishing house in collaboration with Associazione Culturale Giappone in Italia, Alex Kerr will present us not only his new book but also his life experience in Japan.

At the end of the conference, there will be a tasting of three types of Japanese tea offered by La Teiera Eclettica di Milano.

We at Japan Italy Bridge will be there, and obviously, we are waiting for you!

Information

When: Thursday 11 July, 6.30pm
Where: Palazzo Reale | Sala Conferenze Piazza Duomo 14, Milano
Accreditation: The conference is free with a request for accreditation by mail or telephone to 0115591851 | a.dantoni@edt.it


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


Focus on: Japanese street food

If you love Japan you surely love its culture for food and in particular Japanese street food.

yatai

photo credit: jackwilson

Perfumes, colors and flavors mix on the streets of Japan. Whether it's special events or an ordinary day, the traditional street food stalls, commonly called Yatai, offer culinary wonders. Sweet or savory, these delicacies are not normally found in restaurants or have a much more intense taste cooked by the street vendor.

All the tasty on-the-go dishes are particularly cheap, but always of the highest quality. The selection that the Yatai offer often varies between the seasons and also between the regions of Japan. Despite this, the list of delicacies is so vast that I prefer not to dwell on talk: let's start this special sensory journey immediately!

Some of the most famous street food

street food

photo credits: jmettraux

Okonomiyaki

Especially widespread in Osaka it is also known as "Pizza of Osaka". The お好み焼き literally okonomi = what you want, yaki = grilled, is the Japanese version of a classic pancake. However this dish is not sweet but based on cabbage flakes, flour and eggs, with the addition of ingredients like meat and fish. Everything is cooked on a hot plate. There are variations in Hiroshima and Tokyo, but this sort of "omelette" has become famous also thanks to the anime "Ai shite Naito" (愛してナイト), known by us as "Kiss Me Licia". Do you remember Yaeko's father (Licia), Shige-San (for us Marrabbio)? In fact, he was the owner of the okonomiyaki-ya, the typical okonomiyaki restaurant!

street food

photo credits: favy-jp.com 

Wataame

Imagine being able to eat a soft cloud and you will have Wataame or Watagashi (綿あめ), the sweet Japanese cotton candy. This simple delicacy loved above all by children can be found everywhere. In fact we find them at the Yatai, where you can see their realization, or buy it ready-made and packaged in colorful packages and often decorated with manga characters.

photo credits: jpninfo.com 

Yaki Imo

Yakiimo or Ishi Yaki Imo (焼き芋/石焼き芋) is a small authentic autumnal treasure of the Japanese tradition. Made with satsuma-imo, a Japanese sweet potato with a caramel flavor, it cooks in a wood-fired oven and is served wrapped in brown paper. It is easy to identify the yatai that offers this specialty. In fact, if you prick up your ears, you can hear songs that spread through the streets to attract customers!
Long ago, yaki imo ya san (焼き芋屋さん, as they are called roast potato vendors) crossed the city streets with carts. However, today it is easier to see them moving on small trucks.

japanese street food

photo credits: littlejapanmama.com

Crepes

The crepes, originating from France, soon spread also in the Rising Sun. in fact, towards the end of the 1970s, they became the sweet snack on the go, especially in the Harajuku district. The classic batter is cooked on the hot plate and filled with nama kurimu (delicately sweet whipped cream), chocolate, ice cream and fruit, variegated with various syrups, folded into the typical cone shape and served wrapped in paper for easy consumption.

photo credits: nonilo.com

Imagawayaki

Imagawayaki (今川焼き) is a dessert that is often found for sale at festival stalls. Based on the region its name varies in Ooban yaki (大判焼き) or Kaiten Yaki (転焼き). However, "wagashi" (和菓子) is the original name of this dessert that spread during the Edo period. The batter, made from flour, eggs and water, is poured into a special plate and filled with red beans (azuki). Over time, many variations have become widespread that provide a wide variety of fillings. In fact we can find vanilla cream, cream and fruit jams, curry, meat, vegetables and potatoes.

street food

photo credits: italianfoodacademy.com 

Nikuman

These irresistible round rolls stuffed with meat (niku) usually pork (buta) and steamed, are an institution in Yokohama! Their name however varies from Nikuman (肉まん) in the Kanto region to Butaman (豚まん) in the Kansai region. Savored alone or accompanied by soy sauce, they are a perfect snack, a must try!

photo credits: jetsettingfools.com

Ikayaki

Ikayaki (いか焼き, イカ焼き or 烏賊焼, baked or grilled squid) is one of the Japanese's favorite street snacks! They are usually accompanied with soy sauce, teriyaki or a traditional sauce that typically includes rice wine, miso paste, ginger and soy sauce. What makes these squids tender and plump is their quick preparation and are served immediately off the grill.
Finding ikayaki is quite simple: local markets, shrines and festivals always offer this delicacy!

japanese street food

photo credits: zojirushi.com

Yaki Tomorokoshi

In Japan, Yaki Tomorokoshi (焼きうもろこし) is one of the seasonal street food that can be found at fairs and during festivals. It consists of a grilled panicle, covered with a mixture of sweet soy sauce and spicy pepper.

photo credits: favy-jp.com

Choco Banana

An extremely simple yet unique dessert: choco bananas are a must for Japanese festivals! Delicious frozen bananas covered with any kind of chocolate and decorated with sugar or hazelnut grains. Serve on a stick, the choco bananas can make us westerners smile thanks to their equivocal shape, but once you taste them you won't be able to do without them!

photo credits: matcha-jp.com

Taiyaki

The paradisiacal scent of Taiyaki (たい焼き) is unique and it is impossible to resist it! Their shape is typical "a pesce" ("tai", stuffed with cream of red beans or cream, but also many seasonal variations such as sweet potatoes and chestnuts!

street food

photo credits: Hayley Casarotto

Takoyaki

Takoyaki (たこ焼き fried or grilled octopus) are fried balls of batter filled with octopus, green onions, ginger and pieces of tempura. They are then seasoned with an Otafuku sauce, minced aonori seaweed, mayonnaise and katsuobushi (dried and smoked striated tuna flakes). It is a specialty of Osaka cuisine, but the sellers of these delights can be found in almost every country.

street food

photo credits: hubjapan.io

Yakisoba

Yakisoba (焼きそば, sautéed spaghetti) are one of the quintessential comfort-foods of Japanese cuisine and one of the best-selling snacks from stalls during festivals! The dish consists of stir-fried noodles with pieces of pork. Accompanied by various vegetables such as cabbage, carrots and onions and seasoned with a special sauce that gives them the typical spicy flavor. On the street you can even find them served in a hot-dog style inside a sandwich and seasoned with mayonnaise and pickled ginger!

street food

photo credits: pellgen (@1179_jp)

Ayu No Shioyaki

The Ayu no Shioyaki (鮎の塩焼き) are pieces of typical Japanese fish grilled and seasoned only with salt. These are then impaled on the skewer and represent a summer must that recalls the peace and energy of the rivers.

photo credits: e-sumida.gr.jp

Kare Pan

Kare pan (カレーパン) is an unusual and tasty snack consisting of Japanese curry wrapped in a slightly sweet, breaded and fried dough. The curry used is very different from what we know here in the West. In fact, it is dark in color and has a more delicate flavor that is well suited to this particular recipe.

street food

photo credits: e-sumida.gr.jp

Senbei

A charcoal grill, rice flour, water and a myriad of flavors are the foundations of Senbei (せんべい). Also known as Japanese rice crackers, nobody can resist. Sweet or savory, the crunchy senbei are of various shapes and sizes and for 300 yen. A must try snack!

photo credits: M's photography

Dango

Outside the Shintoist temples, the dango vendors (団子) peep! These firm, round glutinous rice flour and water dumplings are typically served on a skewer and there are different types. An-Dango are the most popular in Japan based on sweetened anko. Instead, Bocchan Dango are the most famous and aesthetic. In fact, we are used to seeing them almost everywhere online and in Anime. They are available in 3 colors: the first is colored by red beans (red), the second by eggs (Yellow), and the third by green tea (green).
The Chichi dango instead are slightly sweet, while the Goma dango have sesame seeds and can be either savory or sweet. Then we pass to the Kinako dango based on toasted soy flour and to the Mitarashi dango covered with a glaze of sweet soy sauce.

street food

photo credits: Justin C.

Kakigōri

It would be a heresy to define kakigōri (き氷) as a granita: it is something more special, with a soft consistency like snow! The chopped ice is flavored with a fruity syrup (strawberry, cherry, lemon, green tea, grapes, melon, sweet plum) and sweetened with condensed milk. There is an original version of Kagoshima, the shirokuma (白熊, literally "polar bear"), flavored with condensed milk, small colored mochi, fruit (mandarin, cherry, pineapple and raisins) and sweet bean paste (azuki).

street food

photo credits: yutaka.london

Candy Fruits

Candied fruit is among the most widespread on the roads of the Rising Sun. Ichigo Ame (candied strawberries), Mikan Ame (candied Japanese mandarin), Ringo Ame (candied apples) and Anzu Ame (candied apricots) are irresistible. If you are a sweet lover you cannot miss it. Juicy fruits dipped in caramelized syrup and skewered by a skewer to be eaten on-the-go while your eyes are filled with the wonders of Japan!

These street foods are only a hint of all that Japan can offer. However, if you get hungry while you are walking down the street because a good smell has tempted you, then do not hesitate! Run to taste these specialties and let us know what you think!


Hakata Gion Yamakasa Matsuri

Every festival in Japan is overly attractive, especially the Hakata Gion Yamakasa Matsuri. Traditions so different and distant from ours that they deserve to be lived at least once. Colors, vivacity, and spirituality are mixed in a vortex of emotions that only the Rising Sun is able to offer.

Hakata Gion Yamakasa Matsuri Hakata Gion Yamakasa Matsuri

photo credits: matcha-jp.com, gaijinpot.com

The intangible cultural heritage of sacred origins

For more than 700 years, Hakata Gion Yamakasa has been celebrated in the Hakata (Fukuoka) district from 1 to 15 July. Designated as "intangible cultural heritage" by the Cultural Affairs Agency, this festival has its origins in the 13th century when a plague epidemic struck the city. The population turned to the Buddhist monk Shoichi Kokusgu to pray for the plague to end. The monk was let up on a platform and was transported throughout the city by sprinkling the streets with sacred water. At the end of the tour, the platform was thrown away and the plague disappeared completely.

Hakata Gion Yamakasa Matsuri

photo credits: Pascal, otsukarekun

Hakata Gion Yamakasa Matsuri: The unmissable demonstration of strength

In the period in which the festival takes place, the frenzy pervades the streets of Hakata discrict. In fact, more than one million people are preparing to attend the celebrations consisting of a chariot race!

Hakata Gion Yamakasa Matsuri

photo credits: japanbullet.com, goodlucktripjapan.com

The participants, who in this case are exclusively men, are organized in 7 Nagare (teams): Daikoku, Higashi, Nakasu, Nishi, Chiyo, Ebisu and Doi. On 1 and 2 July, each district carries its own richly decorated cart, the Kazariyama, which remains on display for a week. Thus the Oshioitori is celebrated, that is the purification of the members of the 7 Nagare. After the prayer, these teams then move from the Kushida temple and go to Hakozakihama beach. Here they take sand to applaud the setting sun. Each of them wears a Mizuhappi (a short jacket), a Shimekomi (the loincloth) and a Tenugui (a band on the head that changes color according to the role played).

Hakata Gion Yamakasa Matsuri

photo credits: shin7d

Training for the Hakata Gion Yamakasa Matsuri

Consisting of a race with wagons in which the winner will be those who have traveled 5 km in the shortest possible time, the participants must be ready for the grand finale. It begins with the Nagaregaki, the moment in which each team raises its wagon for the first time along the streets of its own district.

The next day is the time of the Asayama and the Tanagaregaki: the elderly receive the respect of the youngest and are able to sit on the Kazariyama transported in the opponents' neighborhoods.
The next day it is still the turn of the Oiyama-Narashi which starts precisely at 3.59 pm. This is a sort of general rehearsal in which the race is timed, thus increasing the tension and the spirit of competition that now begins to meander through the Nagare.

Hakata Gion Yamakasa Matsuri Hakata Gion Yamakasa Matsuri

photo credits: shin7d, tak_orange

The last 3 days are the most challenging. During Shudan Yamamise the Kazariyama crosses the Naka river entering Fukuoka. During this event, the mayor and city personalities take a 1.2 km ride on the wagon. The penultimate day is that of Nagaregaki, the last training. Finally, on July 15th at 4.59 am Kushida-iri begins. The first wagon fires fast, followed by the second after 6 minutes and all the others every 5 minutes. The 5 km run will decide the winning team.

Hakata Gion Yamakasa Matsuri

photo credits: tak_orange

Reach Hakata

The festival takes place in the Hakata district of Fukuoka. Kushida Shrine is a five-minute walk from Canal City Hakata or Gion Subway Station. Alternatively, you can reach Hakata station within a 15-20 minute walk. It is convenient to walk 10 minutes from JR Hakata station to the Kushida Shrine. Or you can get there with the Kûkô-sen subway line, get off at "Nakasu Kawabata" station and walk for 5 minutes.

Hakata Gion Yamakasa Matsuri Hakata Gion Yamakasa Matsuri

photo credits: japancheapo.com, otsukarekun