Selected highlights from our travels in Japan

Some of the Miyagi crew (one of the crews that pulls the large shrines in the parade) at the Chichibu festival.  They spotted Jeff, Sheryl, and I walking by and came out with their sake bottles, inviting us to have a drink.  Then another and another...
Of course, being the good ambassadors we are, we were happy to oblige. :-)
The Tagata Jingu shrine in Komaki holds a festival every year on March 15th to pray for a good harvest and the general prosperity of the country.

These wooden "symbols" are supposed to bring safe birth and good health for the baby if the tip is touched.
These "symbols" are often taken into the crowd for women to touch/hold/get their pictures taken with.
Non-Japanese women are especially popular.
    The Mochi Nage, or rice-cake throw.  The best way I can describe it is the term "mosh pit."  The square is crammed with people trying to catch a nage, which is a heavy ball of dough about the size of a squashed grapefruit.  They are quite heavy and hurt like heck if you get hit with one (which I did).  The best description comes from Jeff Mendoza:
    "Hosting a Mochi Nage (or rice-cake throw) is the closest a group of Japanese people can get to inciting a full-scale riot without being arrested by the police.  It is a curious Shinto practice where elderly people, who I see so often with backs bent pedaling their bicycles as if each cycle of the wheel would be their last, receive the amazing burst of stamina and strength to throw aside their children, friends and countrymen, for the chance at catching or scooping off the ground a tasteless, palm-sized rice cake.  To say it was dangerous would be an understatement.  Before the nage began, a person came on the loudspeaker and repeatedly asked that all children, elderly, and women leave the square.  After it began, the shouting, pushing, and begging began and my friends and I were pushed back and forth and even down on the pavement.  One of my friends was trampled (he was all right, 'cept for a sore leg).  It was crazy.  It was chaos."
    That it was, especially since everyone on the platform was heaving mochi simultaneously.  I did manage to catch one, and it took me two minutes to fight my way out of the crowd.

The start of the Mt. Fuji climbing trail.  Had I known I'd be walking 15-20 miles over the next 14 hours, I wouldn't have been smiling.

Made it!

Boiling eggs in water heated by the volcano at Hakone.  Supposedly, eating one of these eggs extends your life by seven years.

A view of Mt. Fuji

The A-bomb Dome, formerly the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall, with a picture of what it used to look like.

Looking through the Cenotaph, past the Flame of Peace to the A-bomb dome.

The Peace Fountain at Hiroshima.  Notice the clock reads 8:15, the time of the explosion.

The Golden Pavilion at Rukuon-ji Temple in Kyoto

Ginsyadan (representing waves), Kougetudai (Mt. Fuji), and the Silver Pavilion at Ginkakuji Temple in Kyoto

The Giant Buddha of Kamakura

The Nemuri-neko, or "sleeping cat" at Nikko.  Carvings on the lintel, representing birds and flowers, are masterpieces of sculpture due to their novelty of idea and freedom in technique.

The Five-Story Pagoda at Nikko
Nikko Edo Mura is a theme park that reproduces the customs, culture, and society of Japan's Edo Period (1603-1867).

The villain of the Nippon Dento Geino Gekijo (Japanese Traditional Entertainment Theater) and his lackey.  As part of the show, they posed for pictures.

The Nippon Dento Bunka Gekijo (Japanese Traditional Culture Theater).  This drama stars an "oiran," a high-class geisha.  If I had to pick one image that epitomizes Japan to me, it would be this woman in the most beautiful kimono I've ever seen.

The main tower (Tenshukaku) at Osaka Castle

The bridge at the Osaka Temple
For 7 days in mid-February every year, hundreds of snow statues and ice sculptures line the streets of Sapporo.  The Snow Festival began in 1950 when local high school students constructed six snow statues in Odori Park in downtown Sapporo.

Trying to blend in with the locals

What would an event in Japan be without Godzilla?

This is Malaysia's entry, which was named Grand Champion.

There is also an exhibition of ice sculptures
Enjoying the cherry blossoms at Showa Park.

Tokyo Tower

The statue of Hachiko, more commonly known as 'Shibuya's dog.'  According to the story, Hachiko met his master at the Shibuya train station every evening when he came home--and continued to come each day for seven years after his master died.  The statue is a popular meeting-place for friends before going out on the town.

The main temple gate at Asakusa

GODZILLA!!  Run for your life!  Wait a minute...

False alarm; it's only a statue--and a rather small one at that.  (It's a block south of Hibiya Park in Tokyo.)

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Last updated 7 September 2005