Category Archives: Festivals

Events and Freebies Golden Week 2017 | SAITAMA

Its that wonderful time of the year again when we can live without either heating or air conditioning. When spring is in the air, but summer is just around the corner. Golden Week is very aptly named ; between the weather and the events it really is a golden time of the year!

The entire population may very well get out and about at some point during Golden Week. And while traffic is bad and queues are inevitable, there is so much to make an outing worthwhile during this celebratory period. Here is a round up of some of the events and free entry locations available in Saitama this Golden Week 2017.

Free In Locations

(mapped below list)

Special Events

 

Kids Events at the Center for Environmental Science in Saitama (CESS)

A number of events are planned over Golden Week at CESS. Each day of Golden week (April 29th, 30th, May 3rd, 4th and 5th) they are showing a film and have an orienteering event. Other special events include:

Cardboard Town at Sakura Environmental Center | SAITAMA CITY

From April 29th to May 7th (except for Monday the 1st of May) you can enjoy a FREE cardboard exhibition for children at the Saitama City Sakura Environmental Center. Map and contact details in the …

Source: insaitama.com/event/cardboard-town-at-sakura-environmental-center-saitama-city/

The 8th Annual World Bonsai Convention | SAITAMA CITY

  All media from the official website:  Please scroll down to grey box for times, URLs, map and more details.

Source: insaitama.com/event/the-8th-annual-world-bonsai-convention-saitama-city/

 

Please see the event section for even more events over Golden Week. 

Setsubun: catching beans for good luck at Kitain Temple | KAWAGOE

February 3rd is Setsubun in Japan, which marks the end of winter. People celebrate annually with traditional ceremonies in both homes and temples. A common tradition associated with this ancient festival is mamemaki or bean throwing. A lot of families carry out this fun tradition at home, but you can also visit a temple to do it with a crowd. Today, we did both.

When you carry out setsubun at home, the aim is to chase the ONI (ogres) away. It sounds like a metaphor for exorcism, but it is just a ritual to rid the house of evil and allow luck in for the coming year.  The oni represent evil and bad luck. We shout “Demons out, luck in” as we throw beans at an ogre, which is often the head of the household dressed up in traditional garb!  Most preschools and children community centers also mark the day with some fun crafts and activities.  I’ve previously written about our experiences of chasing the demon away while celebrating Setsubun at home.

When celebrated at a temple,  temple staff and honoured guests throw beans into the crowds from a dais.  It is not unusual for the temples to also throw things other than beans. In some places they throw fortunes or amulets or money or a combination of these. Tokyo has some temples that are famous for sumo wrestlers and / or celebrities throwing money to the excited crowds. Most temples conduct rituals before the bean throwing ceremony.  Some temples also have a performance by Oni, Japanese ogres or demons. The oni in Japan usually have one or two horns and wear animal print shorts. They are most often depicted as being red, but the most famous setsubun festival in Kazo, Saitama has 3 oni; one red, one blue and one black. There are many temples that conduct setsubun and mamemaki ceremonies throughout Saitama. We went to one of the biggest; Kitain Temple in Kawagoe. This year was the kids first to participate in a ceremony of this type. They were dubious at first, but they quickly joined in on the commotion and were thrilled with their haul. They recounted the affair to their grandparents with great animation and excitement.

The video shows the dais. You can hear the emcee chanting. The last thing he says is "Fuku ha uchi" which invites luck and signifies the start of the bean throwing. I turned off the camera so I would have a chance to catch some of the goodies. :-)

One of the reasons I didn’t bring them to such a ceremony up until now was because I was worried that the crowds would be intimidating, even dangerous. However, I found today that people were quite careful of children for the most part, plus they made periodical announcements to watch out for small children.  We were able to secure a nice little spot right by the dais with a responsible crowd around us, during the bean throwing.  However, just before the ceremony ended the throwers accumulated on our end of the dais with huge boxes of goods (not beans) to throw, so there was a sudden surge in the crowd. That was a little frightening for my 2 year old, but she was okay in my arms. It was actually a wonderful feeling when there were dozens of little packets falling from the sky and enveloping us in a feeling of richness! However, the scramble to pick up the fallen packets was both surprising and amusing. The kind Ojiichan (older man) beside us suddenly became an oni himself as he whipped a packet from under my hand. Another stood on a packet so that my six year old couldn’t pick it up! The generous Obaachan (older woman) beside us who had passed us packets of beans was slipping unseen numbers of packets into her pockets and handbag. Despite those incidents we got a good hoard and the kindness of the Ojiichan and Obaachan returned as they complimented my kids on their stash and their devout participation. Much to my surprise I felt totally exhilarated after the whole experience.

    

Apart from the various ceremonies that were conducted there were other festivities to be enjoyed at Kitain today. They had some festival food stalls as well as some stalls selling flowers and plants, but what interested me most were the various stalls selling good luck charms, mainly Daruma and Manekineko. As we entered Kitain from the car park we stopped to look at the Daruma at the first stall. The very friendly, personable and informative owner told us many things about the goods he was selling. While we were there a man bought one of the giant daruma which would cost around 20,000 yen (approximately 200 Eur0). We were invited to join in the Sanbonjime to mark the occasion.  Sanbonjime is the custom of clapping your hands rhythmically 3 times for 3 claps and one final clap to signify fulfillment. They only do this type of Tejime (ceremonial rhythmic clapping) when they sell their biggest sized Daruma. Passersby stopped to observe and exclaim enthusiastically. It was a lovely thing to be invited to enjoy and I think we may have received some good karma from it!

I have always enjoyed Setsubun as much for what it represents as the fun and vivaciousness of the celebration.  Now that the kids are old enough to enjoy the bean throwing ceremonies at temples, it just adds to the whole experience.  It completes the day for them too, as the celebration in the house is over quite quickly. The preparation of the masks and the aftermath of thrown beans take exponentially longer than the bean throwing ceremony itself! The kids love making the masks, feasting on the ehomaki, the traditional sushi rolls or makizushi and throwing the beans and eating them. (They say that if you eat the same number of beans as your age you will have good health for the year. ) However, I think after today’s experience,  what they are most anticipating now is the bean throwing ceremony at Kitain Temple Kawagoe. 🙂

For more details on Kitain Temple including maps, access details and other seasonal information:
http://insaitama.com/autumn-leaves-at-edo-castle-remains-kitain-temple/


A fantastic detailed and informative video about Setsubun in CHICHIBU SHRINE:

 

Chichibu Night Festival | CHICHIBU

At 2.02 am today, December 1st 2016 the Chichibu Night Festival, specifically the traditional music and performances of the festival, along with 32 festivals in Japan were confirmed and recorded as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. Congratulations CHICHIBU. 🙂

Japanese people seem to have an magnanimous love of the number three. One of the ways this manifests itself is in the numerous compilations of top threes that are famous within the country. There are the three gardens of Japan, the three views of Japan, the three night views of Japan, the big three festivals, the big three fireworks and so on and so forth. Chichibu Night Festival also makes it on to a top three list or more accurately a “greatest” list. It is one of Japan’s three greatest Hikiyama (pull-float) festivals in Japan, together with Gion Matsuri in Kyoto and Takayama Matsuri in Gifu prefecture.



KASABOKO from Chichibu Navi page
KASABOKO from Chichibu Navi page
YATAI from Chichibu's Navi Page
YATAI from Chichibu’s Navi Page

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The floats of this 300 year old festival, which are very different to the better known Mikoshi (portable shrine), 奉奏are on wheels and are drawn by a rope, by bearers clad in traditional festival clothes.  There are a number of different floats classified as Kasaboko or Yatai. Both are floats with beautifully carved ornate roofs. There are two main differences between them.  The first is that the Kasaboko have an appendage on the roof, which remind me of Yorishiro, the white paper decorations you see around trees at shinto shrines. The Yatai does not have this decoration. The second is that the Yatai have room for performers to sit and play music and / or dance, which Kasaboko do hot have. They floats are pulled around the town on both days of the festival:

On the 2nd the floats will be pulled from Chichibu shrine from about 12 noon first to Miyakawa then Moto Machi, Naka Machi and finally Kami Machi at approximately 4 pm. During this time you can watch the floats being turned and danced around the street. The yatai will have live traditional music and you can witness traditional dance. From 10 am to 3 pm you can see traditional performances in Chichibu Shrine. From 4 to 6 pm there is taiko drums and other traditional music performances around Seibu Chichibu station. Fireworks are from 7 to 8 pm.

On the 3rd the you can see the kasaboko and yatai all around the city from 9 am to midnight. The yatai will be pulled with traditional dancers performing in the float, from just before 10 am on the same route as the 2nd: from Chichibu shrine to Miyakawa then Moto Machi, Naka Machi and finally Kami Machi which will be around 1 pm. Chichibu shrine will have music and traditional performances from 10 am to 3 pm. You can see a Yatai Shibai, stage performance, from 11 am to 2 pm in Naka machi near the kaijyou 会場. Oneri (Kabuki Douchuu) a type of acting performance will be held between 2.30 and 3.30 pm moving from around the Chichibu shrine area right down to Yao Department store.  From 10 am to 7 pm there are live taiko drum and other traditional music performances around Seibu Chichibu station and Chichibu Tetsudo station. The fireworks are from 7.30 to around 10 pm.

INFORMATION

Cost: FREE

Dates / Hours: Every year on December 2nd from 10 am to about 8 pm and December 3rd from 9 am to midnight.

URL: http://chichibuji.gr.jp/

TEL: to Chichibu Tourism at 0494-25-5209

ACCESS

From the Chichibu Tourism English webpage

BY CAR

  • Use National highway No. 140 from Kanetsu Expressway flower garden I.C.; in Chichibu-shi (from flower garden IC approximately 35km)
  • Use National highway No. 299 from Kanetsu Expressway Kawagoe I.C. or Tsurugashima I.C.; in Chichibu-shi
  • From Kawagoe, Iruma at National highway No. 299 via Shomaru tunnel in Chichibu-shi (from Hanno approximately 40km)
  • From Yamanashi side via National highway No. 140 wild goose slope tunnel in Chichibu-shi

BY TRAIN

Trains are usually very scarce in the evening in Chichibu, but each train line puts on extra trains for this special occasion. Usually the last train leaves around 10.20 pm. Please do check for up-to-date information on train times.

  • Getting off at SEIBU Railway Seibu-Chichibu Station (limited express from Ikebukuro approximately 80 minutes)
    To SEIBU Railway homepage
  • To each Chichibu-Railway Wado Kuroya, Onohara, Chichibu, Ohanabatake, Kagemori, Urayamaguchi, Bushunakagawa, Bushuhino, Shiroku, Mitsumineguchi nearest station (from Kumagaya to Chichibu approximately 70 minutes)
    To Chichibu-Railway homepage

Even more detailed access information here:
http://navi.city.chichibu.lg.jp.e.qg.hp.transer.com/access/

JULY Festivals and Fireworks 2016 | KANTO (TOKYO)

Kanto is the area around Tokyo, comprising Saitama, Kanagawa (Yokohama), Chiba, Ibaraki, Tochigi and Gunma.  This is a calendar displaying festivals and fireworks in this area for the month of July. Click on the event for more information including time and place, and a link to either the official website or to a webpage with more information in English. I recommend you view as AGENDA.

GOOGLE VERSION

Yorii Autumn Festival

This weekend Yorii town is celebrating a 2 day Autumn festival. The festival is held every year on the 1st Sunday of November and its proceeding Saturday, which this year happens to fall on October 31st.


It starts at 3.30pm on Saturday the 31st with 7 floats of lanterns accompanied with Japanese traditional festival music played on whistles and taiko drums. The following day, Sunday the 1st of November, the floats will also parade through town and try to outdo each other in their music performances. Sunday celebrations start from 11am.

I found this video online from 2010. (Disclaimer: I have no affiliation to this youtube account).

Yorii is a small rural town, but is easily accessible from the Kanetsu highway.  It is home to the Saitama Museum of Rivers, but is probably better known for its “Le Petit Prince” themed parking area.

End

Source: 寄居秋まつり – 寄居町公式ホームページ Yorii Autumn Festival – Yorii Town Official page

Koedo Kurari Character Festival Halloween event

This Saturday from 11am there is a “character festival” in Kawagoe Kurari, a small shopping area with food and souvenirs housed in three former sake breweries.  You can meet mascots and characters from the Kawagoe area, including Kawagoe city’s main mascot Tokimo, a sweet potato clock. There will be an opportunity to get your photo taken with the mascot.

Children who come in Halloween Costume will receive candy. There are other events and surprises planned for the day. It runs until 4pm. It will not take place, if it is raining.

Kawagoe Kurari is in walking distance of Hon Kawagoe and Kawagoe station. Their website (Japanese only) is http://www.machikawa.co.jp/  This event hosts information on a facebook page; https://www.facebook.com/小江戸蔵里キャラクター祭り-Reborn-346947485490475/photos/


We recently met Tokimo at another event:Meeting Tokimo

AniTamaSai Anime/Manga Festival in Saitama

Saitama’s Biggest Anime and Manga Event!Over 80 Booths Showcasing the Latest Anime and Anime-Related Tourism!Date:October 17, 2015 (Sat) Event Starts at 10

Source: AniTamaSai Anime/Manga Festival in Saitama – アニ玉祭

Saitama’s largest Anime / Manga festival will take place this Saturday, the 17th of October, in Sonic City Kawaguchi. Entry to the grounds is free. There will be over 80 booths and a wide variety of events. Some of the events require pre-registration. The website has all the information you need in English, please check it out: AniTamaSai Anime/Manga Festival in Saitama – アニ玉祭.

Tokorozawa Festival

The Tokorozawa festival will be held on the 10th and 11th, with the main parade, music and street performances happening on the latter; Sunday the 11th.

On the 10th, most of the activities will be conducted in Motomachi community wide space 元町コミュニティ広場 from 1 to 7pm. On the 11th, the festivites will be conducted around Tokorozawa station area, from 10am to 8pm. On that day you can not drive up the main thoroughfare until after 9pm at night. Among the many things you can enjoy on the 11th, are Taiko drums and yosakoi traditional dance performances, and a parade to traditional music.  There is a bazaar with booths and stalls.

The festival flyer can be viewed (japanese only) here: http://www.tokorozawa-cci.or.jp/matsuri/pamphlet/pamphlet15.pdf

The official website is http://www.tokorozawa-cci.or.jp/matsuri/index.html

#saitamawithkids, #thisweekendinsaitama

Sakado Yosakoi Traditional Dance Festival

The Sakado Yosakoi traditional dance festival will be opened on the evening of the 9th. The street parade and stage performances are scheduled for the 10th and 11th. This event used to take place in summer. However, due to it’s acclaim and popularity, from this year this event will be held in OCTOBER, to accommodate its growing size.

From the Sakado City Commerical and Labor Division
From the Sakado City Commerical and Labor Division

Despite only 15 years of history, Sakado Yosakoi is making a name for itself as one of the biggest Yosakoi traditional dance festivals in the whole of Japan. You can enjoy food, drink, music, dance, street and stage performances over the 2.5 day period.

The opening night festivities are conducted on the South side of Sakado station. The parade is conducted on the North side of that station. The main stage is almost half way between Sakado and Kita-Sakado stations; it is marginally closer to the latter. At Kita-Sakado station there are other designated festival areas.

The festival is managed by the Sakado City Hall, the phone number is 049-283-1331, extensions 347 and 346. The official webpage is http://www.sakadoyosakoi.com/
第15回坂戸よさこい.

Taishou Period Festival in Yono

On the 10th of October, Yono will celebrate the Taishou Period festival for the 24th year in a row. This free event, at the West side of Yono station, runs from 10am to 8pm.

The Taishou period was between 1912 and 1926. Participants of this time slip festival dress up in period costumes and parade down the street in front of the West side of the station. There are about 100 stalls/booths selling festival food, drink and games.

Web page: http://www.taishou-jidaimatsuri.jp/

Phone number: 0180-991-045

#thisweekendinsaitama, #saitamawithkids