Girls’ Festival “Hinamatsuri” is just around the corner! (Asakusa Tour report on February 24, 2019)

While fine days and rainy days are coming periodically, spring is approaching.

It was a really warm day, many thanks for joining our tour in Asakusa on February 24.

We met 14 wonderful people from Canada, Germany, India, Italy, UK. and USA.

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It is getting warmer and warmer. Now we can feel the breath of spring. Spring brings beautiful flowers. Peach flower festival, “Momo no sekku” or “Hinamatsuri” is just around the corner.

The other day, I attended a workshop “Let’s make Hina dolls” which was held in Tokyo National Museum.

This museum is my favorite one, included in our tour course which will be held on March 21 in Ueno.

“Hina and Japanese Dolls” exhibition is being shown in this museum until March 17, 2019 (Sun).

https://www.tnm.jp/modules/r_free_page/index.php?id=1952&lang=en

Hinamatsuri, celebrated on March 3 every year, is one of the most beautiful Japanese events, is approaching.

Hinamatsuri is a day on which Japanese households with young daughters decorate their homes with Hina dolls for girls and their families’ bright and happy future.

Much like most Japanese traditional customs, Hinamatsuri is said to have begun as a custom to ward off evil demons and pray for prosperous and healthy future.

In the Tale of Genji, it is said that the third day of the third month is a purification day, on which people were to transfer evil spirits into dolls and release them into rivers and oceans.

Back in those days, people believed that dolls had the ability to contain bad spirits. Households with girls made Hina dolls with straw and sailed them down the river in boats, supposedly taking all the potential misfortunes with them, a practice known as Nagashibina.

In some areas of Japan, people still release paper dolls in water, praying for health and good luck. In Asakusa, Edo Nagashibina event will be held.

https://www.gotokyo.org/en/spot/ev146/index.html

Nowadays, most families with daughters will decorate their homes with Hina dolls. The decorations usually start in mid to late February and are kept until the end of March 3.

Our family had 3 sisters, so there were 3 sets of Hina dolls.

Left one mine, upper right is second sister’s and lower right is the yongest sister’s.

When we were kids, our rooms were occupied with Hina dolls during Hinamatsuri season. When I woke up in the middle of the night, I felt scary because I thought that dolls might begin to move. But now, my sisters’s hina dolls aren’t in my pearent’s house anymore, because they brought their own Hina dolls to their new home when they got married.

Traditionally, parents or grandparents of a newborn girl will buy a set of hina dolls decorations for the baby’s first Hinamatsuri, and a woman brings hina dolls with her when she marries.

So one set of Hina dolls was added for my niece. It’s hers.

The most important thing about Hina dolls is to take the decorations down immediately after Hinamatsuri because it is believed that if people put away Hina dolls too late, the girl will get married late in the future.

Come March 4, put your dolls away in cupboards or send them down the river even if you want to keep them so much.

Happy Hinamatsuri !!

(posted by Yoshiko)

TOUR REPORT ON September 9, 2018 IN ASAKUSA

Thank all the guests for joining our tours on September 9 in Asakusa. We welcomed 16 guests from Israel, Australia, Taiwan, Vietnam and U.S.A. It was nice weather, but very hot and humid despite September. Nevertheless, I hope all of you enjoyed walking with us.

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September 9 is Disaster Prevention Day.That day means 9 (kyu) for September and 9 (kyu) for 9th day. Indeed it’s a pun of ‘kyu-kyu’ representing emergency in Japanese. This is to deepen the correct understanding and awareness of emergency medical care and services among the citizens. It was established in 1982 by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. Hence, we saw the ambulance vehicle for demonstration between the Sensoji Temple main hall and Asakusa Shrine. As Japan tends to be geographically damaged by natural disasters, people’s interest in calamity prevention increases every year.

As some of you may notice, there are various types of komainu(stone guardian dogs) in Asakusa Shrine. On the main approach there is a pair of komainu. Komainu is unique to a shrine and an imaginary creature protecting the area from the evils. In addition there is another komainu right after the entrance silently laid aside on the right. This is a cute couple standing close to each other and sharing a red umbrella. As it is believed that praying to this komainu  ensures to make a good match and happy marriage. Thus, many couples come to meet with this charming couple hoping to fulfill the love. They are small statues which can easily be missed.

When you visit Asakusa Shrine, please look for the beautiful couple in the precincts.

We are looking forward to walking with you in our tours in Asakusa soon.

 

(posted by Nissy)

Night at Asakusa(July 8)

Many thanks for joining our tours in Asakusa on July 8. We welcomed 10 people from Brazil, Australia,Spain,Morocco and Japan. The weather was perfect but extremely hot. Nevertheless, I hope all of you enjoyed walking with us at Sensoji Temple. In the meantime unprecedented torrential rains have pounded the broad parts of western Japan triggering flooding and landslides. Regrettably, a large  number of residents have passed away.

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The Tokyo’s oldest Sensoji Temple has a different face in the evening. The buildings such as Kaminarimon Gate,Nakamise Shopping Street,Hozomon Gate,Pagoda and the main hall are beautifully illuminated until 11pm. Although the main hall is closed at 5pm and the shops around 7pm, visitors are welcomed to enter the precincts at all times. The streets are packed with people in the daytime, but the night is still. It is hard to believe the hustle and bustle in the daytime.
Firstly the rooftop(8F) of Culture and Information Center(open until 10pm) commands a panoramic view of Asakusa. We can see the Japan’s highest Tokyo Sky Tree bathed in light with the height of 634 meters. Also bright color of the temple buildings is stunning. Coming down look at Kaminarimon Gate. The displayed gods of thunder and wind look impressive and striking. The massive lantern, the symbol of Asakusa looks great.

Beyond the gate Nakamise Shopping Street is decorated with the beautiful artworks. In fact it is a street gallery. The history and seasonal events of Asakusa such as Sanja Festival are depicted on the shutters of each shop. It is impossible for the daytime visitors to imagine the superb paintings since the shutters are opened.

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Hozomon treasure gate is the next building. A pair of Nio guardian statues glares at the precincts with intimidating eyes and protects the area from the enemy of Buddha. Also the shining five storied pagoda is seen as the symbol of the temple. You will be moved to see the excellent contrast of light and shadow. A pair of massive waraji(rice straw sandals) is hung on the back of the gate. Such a big man wearing the huge sandal guards the gate. In front of the main hall is the incense burner. The healing smoke drifts up into the air by day. The main hall houses the Kannon Buddhist statue which was found in the river 1400 year ago when the temple was originated. Visitors pray and make a wish at the offertory box of the main hall.

There are a number of photogenic places at Sensoji Temple in the evening. The buildings are beautifully illuminated and there aren’t many visitors. Therefore, it is quieter and you can walk at your own pace, and cool off in the evening around this time in summer. The atmosphere is completely different at night. The bright color of the temple buildings will satisfy you.

(posted by Yoshi)

 

 

RAINY SEASON NEVER CHASE AWAY ADMIRES OF ASAKUSA–10TH OF JUNE

Thank you for joining our Tokyo Free Walking Tour.
On the day of our two-guided tours, 10th of June, we welcomed 13 guests from, U.S.A. Australia, Canada, and Denmark.

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A rainy and overcast weather condition prevailed and las­ted the entire day all over Tokyo.
The sky was glo­omy and gray, partic­ularly during the da­y, in many parts of Tokyo, and one of the th­ese places was Asakus­a.

Overlooking the enti­re Asakusa district from the rooftop of the Asakusa Informat­ion Center, we saw Tokyo Skytree standing appealingly against the backdrop of a gr­ay sky.
The top, covered by clouds, seemed invisib­le to the viewers, wh­ile the rest of its parts reflected the gr­ay color of the clou­dy sky.
It is a typical atmo­sphere that people experience especially during the wet seas­on in Japan, which usually starts early in the month of June and lasts until the beginning of July.

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Regardless of the ci­rcumstances, we welcomed 13 Asakusa enthusiasts in front of the Thunder Gate, the entrance to the Asakusa Buddh­ist Temple compound.
Starting from the di­stinct Buddhist temp­le gate, we eventual­ly moved into the 25­0-meter long shopping street, called Nakamise street.
As we have introduced Nakamise Street on our previous blog post, the area and the items being sold in this shopping strip have rich histories and are a good conve­rsation.
We normally go by so­me notable shops in the area and show our guests items and souvenirs. One of the the­se items is a cat-sh­aped ornament called Maneki Neko. Along with it, we’ll tell a story behind this eye­-catching doll.

Maneki-­neko, roughly transl­ated as “Beckoning Cat”.
It is also called the “Welcoming Cat or Lucky Cat” in Englis­h.
As its name suggests, it is a cat-shaped ornament, which is believed to bring lu­ck and prosperity to its owners. For that reason, this pretty cat is often displ­ayed at the entrance of shops, restauran­ts, and other business spaces.
Normally, the Maneki­-Neko is made of cer­amic or plastic and comes in an array of colors– white, bla­ck, gold and, someti­mes, red.

There are two types of these ornamental cats.
Some raise their right paws with making beckoning action and others do their left paws likewise.
It’s commonly believ­ed that the right paw of these cats is raised to beckon for money, and the left paw is for people.
Those fort­une cats are sold as souvenirs, and custo­mers purchase the lucky cat in hopes of having fa­vorable results and life successes.
Initially, Maneki-ne­ko was said to be so­ld in the area of SensōJi Temple in Edo-era(between 1603 and 1868 ), then it was menti­oned in a newspaper article and used as advertisement in Mei­ji-era(between 1868 and 1912)
As a result, it is one of the notable it­ems in Japan.
However, exact origi­ns of Maneki-Neko are still uncertain and only several folkt­ales have been known.
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We still have two times of our tour in line with the following time slots:
1st from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
2nd from 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Please come and join us at your earliest convenience.
(By Arac)