Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Kanji(Chinese character) of this yerar

The Chinese Character 「新-Shin」,meaning new, was chosen in poll as the Kanji of this year. Since 1995, every year in December one Kanji has been chosen, symbolizing the events for the year. 
Why do you think “Shin” was chosen? Because in Japan and the United States, new administrations started.
In Nara there is Shin-Yakushiji Temple. According to one theory, “Shin” in the name of the temple means not new but granting prayers quickly. Healing Buddha, the main object of worship of this temple, will grant people’s wishes and prayers quickly.
If you choose one word of 2009, what word do you choose?
For further informations of Kanji of the other years, look at Wikipedia,Kanji of the year.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Why is she running?

Here running is a shrine maiden of Kasuga Grand Shrine, wearing a beautiful crown of wisteria flowers. The shrine maiden is supposed to behave gracefully. Why is she running? Because it is one of the busiest days in Kasuga Grand Shrine. The luckiest day(大安 Daian) in the old fortune-telling calendar, in which six different fortunes come in the order, falls on Sunday. So there are more ceremonial occasions than usual.

When Japanese people hold special ceremonies such as a wedding ceremony, a one- month- old baby’s blessing ceremony and so on, many of us still examine the fortune-telling calendar and choose the luckiest day which usually comes once in every six days. Many calendars and pocket diaries tell us six days cycle in the fortune-telling calendar. There are no scientific proofs at all, but this idea is deeply rooted in our DNA. Really Japan is a wonderland where the old and the new coexist side by side in harmony.

Why don’t you visit Kasuga Grand Shrine especially on the day when the luckiest day falls on Sunday or a national holiday, so you will have more chances to see happy ceremonies.

Those days are March 14th and May 4th in spring 2010.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Maybe even Shinto diety is tired.

The deity of Young Prince Shrine in Kasuga Grand Shrine, affectionately called Young Prince, travels once a year. Every year on December 17th, he comes to a temporally built traveling place (1 kilometer to the west of Young Prince Shrine) and stays here and goes back in 24 hours.

While his staying, people offer a variety of performances in front of the traveling place to please him. He enjoys entertainment of the people behind the bamboo curtain. Maybe even Shinto deity is tired of daily routines and needs to travel. In the 12th century, the country was suffering a long period of rain which caused a serious famine. People invited Young Prince to the traveling place to ask him for help. This is the origin of Honorable Festival dedicated to him. This festival is the biggest festival in Nara and also famous for the traditional procession. But, do you know how Young Prince comes to the traveling place and goes back? Ask us!
(Shinto is an indigenous religion in Japan based on nature worship.)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Tiger

Tiger is one of the twelve zodiac signs in Japan

Next year is the year of the tiger,so we have come to see ornaments of tigers here and there.

In Nara, there is a temple known for its papier-mache tigers. A lot of people go to this temple during the New Year holidays.

In addition, the tiger is very popular among peple in Osaka.

If you have Japanese friends who love baseball, please ask the reason



(posted by proxy)

Why are Christmas decorations everywhere?

Here are Christmas illuminations in front of a church on the Higashimuki Street near Kintetsu Nara Station. Many people stop and take pictures. This time of the year, Japan is filled with red and green decorations, and stores play Jingle Bells. Even such a small alley is decorated with modest Christmas lights.

Only one percent of Japanese population is Christian. Why are Christmas decorations erywhere?

Maybe Japanese people put a lot of emphasis on the seasons and feel the aesthetic beauty of the seasonal changes. In the old Japanese lunar calendar, besides 4 seasons, there are even 24 seasonal divisions in a year. Now Christmas is becoming the 25th seasonal division for us.
Or just are we Christmas Christian ・・・・・?

Monday, December 7, 2009

The last glow of the autumn colors

Now it is winter and colored leaves are falling down.

This year it was warmer in autumn and colors were not so impressive as I had expected.

But when I walked in the park last week the last glow of the autumn colors were gorgeous.

I tried to capture them with my cell-phone camera.

The view is from the roof of governor’s office building.

This spot will be included in one of our walking tours.



(posted by proxy)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


This week would be the last chance to enjoy beautiful scenery decorated with colorful autumn leaves in Nara. You may enjoy beautiful red maple leaves or yellow gingko leaves.
Here are some pictures of Nara this week.

Your NARA-WALK guide will be happy to show you those photogenic points.
Rush to Nara, now!!!
Nara is a beautiful city full of both history and nature. Deer is here to greet you with a bow anytime at Nara Park.
Why don't you plan to visit Nara? November and early December would be the perfect time to enjoy beautiful Japanese autumn leaves.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Kazuo Oga Exhibition

"The world of "My Neighbour Totoro" is realized in Oga's paintings" once said Hayao Miyazaki. Kazuo Oga is the art director of "My Neighbour Totoro". In recent "Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea" and most of Studio Ghibli animations, he painted the background arts - yes that comfy backgrounds making us somehow feel at home.

In Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art, there will be about 600 pieces of Oga's arts in display. Get warmed, relaxed and soaked in Oga's world. Afterwards come to Nara, you might find a glimpse of Totoro's forest in the primeval forest of Kasuga (forest surrounding Kasuga Taisha Shrine where we go during our daily walking tour!).

Duration: 2009.12.8 ~ 2010.2.7
closed on Mondays(Tuesday if Monday is a national holiday), Dec. 31, Jan. 1
Hours: 10:00-18:00 (Fridays and Saturdays till 20:00 except for Jan. 2)
Admission: Adult 1400yen, Grade 9 - college students 1000yen, Grade 1-9 500yen
*advance tickets sold at major train stations of Kintetsu line and other are 200-100yen cheaper.


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Colored vending machine?!

Autumn leaves are almost over, but there are something else that has gradually changed their color during autumn and can enjoy throughout the winter. Vending machines! Now there are more red buttons for hot drinks. To get hot tea, coffee, hot chocolate or even soup, press red buttons.

During winter time probably you won't get thirsty during our walking tour, but hot drinks will certainly warm you up! (If you are joining us during summer, we strongly recommend you to carry a bottle or two of cool drink.)


Friday, November 27, 2009

Myth: Imagination of Japanese Art

Probably you know the name Amaterasu, the sun goddess, from the Japanese mythology. Or you had a chance reading a Japanese folk tale... And you might have wondered how the characters in those stories look like.

An exhibition held in Nara Prefectural Museum of Art is a good chance to get to know them! Titled "Myth: Imagination of Japanese Art", this exhibition exhibits paintings depicting a scene from Japanese mythologies, folk tales, and history.

Duration: ~ 2009.12.24
(closed on Mondays)
Admission: Adult 1000yen, Grade10-college student 700yen, Grade1-9 400yen
Hours:9:00~17:00 (Fridays and Saturdays till 21:00)

Nara Prefectural Museum of Art is located behind the prefectural office building of Nara. You can see (and we can point to you) the office building during our daily walking tour.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

New Maiko Debut

A new Maiko debut in Ganrinin-town, Nara's Gion! The new charm of the town is named Kikuchiyo (菊千栄 in Japanese). The poster above is put by her senior Geiko's fan club, Kikuno-kai, to celebrate her debut~. All the good wishes to her success!

Ganrinin-town is just a street or so away from Sarusawa pond which is part of our daily walking tour.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Sweet joy at tea ceremony lessons

I take a tea lesson twice a month.

I like the lessons, for I can be in a completely different atmosphere from my daily life.

Another pleasure is of course “sweets”.

We can get seasonal sweets at shops and each sweet has a name.

I enjoy guessing the name of the sweet at each lesson.

Can you guess the name for the sweet in the picture?

“Autumn mountain”

Yellow and red are the colors of the leaves and it has a whole chestnut inside.

You can enjoy autumn colors in Nara Park until the middle of December.


(posted by proxy)

Monday, November 16, 2009

A strange tree

I found a strange tree with many white pieces of paper on its branches on the way to Kasuga Grand Shrine.

They seem to be Omikuji (fortune) paper but why did peple tie them on this tree?

It is standing more than 200 meters away from the main building where Omikuji are sold.


(posted by proxy)

25 Regrets of the Life

"25 Regrets of the Life" is a book written by Dr. Shuichi Otsu who practices palliative treatments. He has supported more than thousand terminally ill patients. In his book, he shares with us what he has learned from terminally ill patients - that is...What People Regret at the Last Moments of Their Lives. He has listed 25 regrets he often hears.

One of the 25 regrets is this...

"I regret that I didn't travel to the places where I wanted to visit."

Are you travelling?

(The book is only available in Japanese.)


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Free Museum Admission On Kansai Culture Day

Attention~ if you like going to museums and want to save on admission fees! November in Kansai region (that is Nara, Kyoto, Osaka, Hyogo etc) is especially good time for you to come! Many of the museums in Nara, Kyoto, Osaka, Hyogo, Shiga, Mie, Fukui, Wakayama, Tokushima, Tottori prefectures are admission free throughout or on certain days of November. This month long event is known as Kansai Culture Day.

Most of museums scheduled their free day on Nov. 14 & 15.
Here is a list of museums free on those two days. (not complete one. There are just too many to list all...)

Nara National Museum
Irie Taikichi Memorial Museum of Photography(JPN link only)
Hakomotokan Konya

Insho-Domoto Museum of Fine Arts
Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art
The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto (special exhibition not free)
Umekoji Steam Locomotive Museum(JPN link only)
Kiyomizu Sannenzaka Museum (special exhibition not free)
The Tale of Genji Museum

National Museum of Ethnology
The Museum of Oriental Ceramics
Osaka Castle (only on Nov. 14)


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Red Leaves

Autumn is here. Leaves have started to turn their colour... At the same time, it's getting chilly in the early morning and in the evening. Bring light jacket to warm yourself up. And the day time, it's a perfect-for-walking temperature.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Antique Fair in Nara Park

"AOZORA KOTTO-ICHI," an open-air antique fair will be held in Nara Park for the first time. Antique lovers, come and dig up?! something unique to take home with you.

Nov. 7-8, 14-15, 21-23
10:00 ~ 17:00
will be held in rain too!

Ukigumo Park in Nara Park
(It's near Todaiji Temple. If you're going to the temple, you'll notice. It is also along our regular tour's route. If your are joining our tour on those days, you'll be sure to know where the event is held!)


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Shoso-in Exhibition Review

I went to Shoso-in Exhibition yesterday afternoon. Arriving Nara National Museum around 15:30, there were no lineups! Lucky me! I left my baggage in the free coin locker room provided for the exhibition visitors, and hurried myself inside.

I already had my ticket so I didn't needed to buy one. If you need to buy tickets, get them from a temporary ticket counter at JR or Kintetsu Nara Station. They have cheaper tickets than the ones sold at the museum.

At the museum entrance, personal voice guidance machines (500 yen, available in English) are available. There might be English volunteer guides available, too. Hearing explanation doubles the enjoyment of any exhibition (at least for me).

Among the numerous exhibits - beautiful in form or in craftsmanship, and interesting in its history - my favorite exhibit is exhibit no. 48 "Kingin-no-kaban." It is a silver plate ornamented with a imaginary deer "Hana-shika," a deer with antlers of flowering branches. The look of it reminds me of the deer like god "Shishi-gami" from Miyazaki's "Princess Mononoke"!

"Hana-shika" was a popular motif in T'ang Dynasty symbolizing happiness. It looks like a Princess Mononoke's deer like god. Deer is also symbolic in Nara (you'll hear why during our tour). History, Nara and even animation, just fused in this single exhibit - exhibit no. 48.

What will your favorite exhibit be?


*Find dates and admission of this exhibition in our former article: Sosho-in exhibition is COMING SOON!

Scenary of Autumn

Autumn is the season of harvest. If you have visited Nara during September to mid October, you have probably seen something triangle standing in a field (like the ones in the picture) on your train trip from Kyoto or Osaka to Nara. And you have probably wondered what they are ...

Well, they are bundles of rice straws being dried for their own harvest. Yes, as well as grain, straw is harvested. During our tour, you will see at least one example of how rice straw is utilized in Japan.


Monday, October 26, 2009

Wanna try on Kimono?

You can try on Kimono for free in Nara.

A volunteer group 'JOIN JAPAN NARA' will provide you an opportunity to get dressed in kimono and participate in a tea ceremony, once a month (usually 2nd Tuesday) at the 2nd floor of Nara City Tourism Center on Sanjo St. If you plan to stay in Nara around 2nd Tuesday, it would be a great experience to get in touch with Japanese culture of Kimono and tea ceremony.

You can choose your favorite one from their various Kimono, which are authentic and made of silk. They will also explain how to enjoy tea ceremony in English. What you need is just 200 yen, a nominal charge for tea sweets.

Visit their web-site for more informations.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

2000+ lanterns glow in darkness

Thousands of lanterns glow in dark and quiet shrine ground... it's such beautiful sight in awesome silence.

In Kasuga Grand Shrine in Nara Park, they hold "Mandoro" festival in February and August.

On the night of festival, more than 2000 stone and bronze lanterns in the precinct are lit by candle light.

You can actually take part in lighting ceremony like I do in this photo.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Kofukuji's 52 stone steps now under repair

The beautiful 52 stone steps leading the way from Sarusawa pond to Kofukuji Temple is now under repair. 52 is one of the symbolic number in Buddhism. I usually tell its meaning to guests while walking up the steps .... well, now I need to find something else to talk about!

The repair work is scheduled to complete by March 26, 2010.


Rice cake making

Have you ever seen mochi(rice cake) pounding? Here in Nara, they pound mochi several times a day at the mochi shop named 'Nakatani-do.' They won the first prize of making mochi at the TV show, 'TV Champion,' which has brought crowds of customers to this shop. They pound steamed sticky rice with wooden mortar and pestle at very high speed, and all by man-power.
You can buy just made warm yomogi-mochi(rice cake with Japanese herbs and sweet bean paste inside) from one piece (@130 yen). It's something Japanese, tasty and worth trying.
You can see their performances of pounding mochi, if you are lucky.
Your NARAWALK guids will show you the shop and the wooden mortar and pestle during our regular tour.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Herding deer by horn

Bringing in hundreds of deer by a horn in Nara Park... such a scene!

Every year in March, Nara Deer Preservation Foundtion holds this daily event starting 9a.m.

It is amazing to see many deer run out of woods and gather together around the horn player.

Deer in Nara Park is wild and well-preserved.
You'll meet them everywhere, when you visit famous Todaiji temple in Nara Park.

In this video clip, you can see the scene of deer-herding in Tobihino field in Nara Park with the sound of horn (and my son's giggle ;-)

Visit Nara, an ancient capital older than Kyoto.
You can find out more about deer in Nara in NARAWALK tours.


Shoso-in exhibition is COMING SOON!

Shoso-in is a repository of Todaiji Temple. Its treasures are composed of fine art objects which belonged to Emperor Shomu, who ordered the erection of Todaiji Temple, and temple's treasures used at the consecration of Great Buddha in 752. You can understand Nara is a terminal of 'Silk Road' to see some treasures from China and Persia.
Some of those treasures are on exhibition once a year. The 61st Shoso-in exhibition will be held:
Duration: October 24 (Sat) ~ November 12 (Thu)
At Nara National museum (New building)
Hours: 9 AM to 6 PM (to 7 PM on Fridays~Sundays & national holiday)
Admission: Adults 1000yen, High school & College students 700yen, students(1st~9th graders) 400yen, Nov. 12:free

There will be a long line of people who want to see those treasures. The line would be shorter in late afternoon. I recommend to see the exhibition after our regular tour.
Why don't you come and see the treasures of 1250 years ago!


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Ashura statue back in a hall after 110 years

"Kofukuji Temple: Special Exhibition of National Treasure 2009" has begun! The main attraction of this exhibition is Ashura statue (top right picture in the poster above) and thirteen other National Treasure statues. These statues are usually shown behind glass cases in National Treasure Museum in Kofukuji Temple, but this time they are out of museum glass cases and back in a temple hall. Enjoy this rare occasion to appreciate them in a temple hall setting!

Duration: Oct 17, 2009 - Nov 23, 2009
Admission: 1500yen(adult) 1000yen(grade 7-12) 500yen(grade1-6)
Hours: Mon-Thur 9:00am ~ 5:00pm Fri-Sun&Holidays 9:00am ~ 6:00pm


Friday, October 16, 2009

Experience NARUTO in Nara?!

Are you a NARUTO fan? (For those of you who don't know NARUTO, it's a Japanese animation popular worldwide) Do you remember Japanese letters "あ(Ah)" and "うん(UN)" appearing on the entrance gate of Konoha ninja village?

Well, in Nara you can see historical and National Treasure "あ(Ah)" and "うん(UN)"! When you're visiting Todaiji Temple just pay close attention to statues at the entrance gate. Read the lips of the statues...

By the way, these two words "あ(Ah)" and "うん(UN)" are found at the entrance gate for very good reasons. You can discover the deep meaning behind "あ(Ah)" and "うん(UN)" in our tour!


Thursday, October 15, 2009

NARAWALK GUIDE's blog created

Hello, everyone.
As a member of NARAWALK - best sightseeing walking tours in Nara, I'm happy to announce our guide member blog has started!
Don't know about NARAWALK? Then, visit our brand new web site at http://www.narawalk.com/

Our daily tour runs everyday and we welcome guests from all over the world.
If you are planning a trip to Japan, don't forget to include NARAWALK in your itinerary!

Our guide members will start writing posts to this blog soon.
Stay tuned!

Tommy - NARAWALK web site admin
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