Thursday, April 28, 2011

1301st anniversary at Nara Palace Site

It's time to celebrate Tenpyo-sai, an annual festival celebrating the old Nara capital.

Basic Info:
Duration: April 29 to May 5
Hours: 9:00-17:00
Admission is free. (Some attractions are for fee.)
Access: click here
*During this event, there will be a bus (No. 81) connecting JR Nara station, Kintetsu Nara station, Nara Park and Nara Palace Site, running every 20 min. between 9:00 to 18:00. Fee is 200yen for adults (over elementary school age) and 100yen for children (elementary school students).
Bus route bound to Nara Palace Site:
Nara Park (in front of Nara prefectural building) > Kintetsu Nara station > JR Nara station (west side) > Nara Palace Site (near Suzaku-mon Gate)
Bus route bound to Nara Park:
Nara Palace Site (near Suzaku-mon Gate) > JR Nara station (west side; **unloading only) > Kintetsu Nara station (**unloading only) > Nara Park (in front of Nara prefectural building)
Event homepage: click here (in Jpn. only)

Event Schedule:
#April 29 to May 5# 
@Former Imperial Audience Hall area
-A stage by the official mascot of Nara, Sento-kun is held several times a day. Receive a warm welcome from this once regarded hideous, but now very popular mascot of Nara.

@near Nara Palace Site Museum
-Charity Bazaar
Calligraphy works by Nara's renowned Buddhist priests, Nara's famous Akahata-yaki brand potteries and other goods will be sold. All proceeds to go to the earthquake relief.
-Food court & hand craft workshops, 10:00-17:00
* Not all shops are available on May 2.

@near the south gate of Former Imperial Audience Hall
-Open Air Tea Ceremony, 11:00-16:00, 500yen
*Not available on May 2.
-Costume Rental. Walk the palace site in a costume of 1300 years ago. 9:00-17:00(last admission is 16:00)
300yen for 30 min. rental
500yen for 60 min. rental

@near Excavation Site Exhibition Hall
-Ride Segway, 10:00-16:00, 2500yen per person
*Numbered tickets will be issued from 9:00.
*The ride is for 16 years old and older.

#April 29#
@Former Imperial Audience Hall area
11:00 ~ Parade of 400 people in costumes of 1300 years ago with music.
14:00 ~ Calligraphy performance show by local elementary school students. They will write a cheer up message toward earthquake affected people.

#April 30#
@Former Imperial Audience Hall area
-Wadaiko, Japanese drum stage by nine drum music group
Three stages: 10:30~, 12:30~, 14:40~
-Parade of people in costumes of 1300 years ago. (short version)
Time: 11:00~, 13:00~

#May 1#
@Former Imperial Audience Hall area
-Kemari demonstration. Kemari is a type of ball playing that nobles of 1300 years ago played.
Time: 11:00~, 14:00~
-Parade of people in costumes of 1300 years ago. (short version) Time: 11:00~, 13:00~

#May 3 to May 5#
@Former Imperial Audience Hall area
-Music concert.
Time: 13:00~, 15:00~ (On May 3, the second stage is from 15:30.)

@near Nara Palace Site Museum
-Japanese Tea Booth, 10:00-17:00
Learn and taste the Nara brand of Japanese tea, Yamato-cha.

@Field in front of Former Imperial Audience Hall
-Zorb. Try New Zealand born attraction Zorb for free.

#May 5#
@near Nara Palace Site Museum
-Vote on B-grade gourmet competition.
B-grade gourmets are usually inexpensive local soul foods. Eat B-grade gourmets, and cast your chopsticks to a chopstick-collecting box of your favorite B-grade gourmet shop! Each chopsticks is counted as a vote. Competition starts 11:30.

-NARAWALK guide 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Traditional Theater Training 2011

Noh and Kyogen, traditional theatrical arts of Japan, have roots in Nara. When I went to Noh theater near Todaiji Temple, I found a leaflet for a course to learn Noh, Kyogen and Nihonbuyo from leading performers of each genre.

This three week course (July 22 to August 12) takes place in Kyoto Art Center.  The course includes workshops, group training sessions with Japanese masters of each genre and a recital at a Noh theater. For people living outside of Kyoto, housing assistance is available.

On April 23, Kyoto Art Center extended the deadline for the early bird discount to May 10. They also reduced tuition by 10,000yen. They have already started to accept applications; apply quickly seats are only available for approx. 24 participants.

For details visit followings:
Kyoto Art Center website (quick overview to the program *Information is latest at this website than T.T.T. website below.)

Traditional Theater Training 2011 website (curriculum, requirements to participate, about instructors, pictures from past courses etc.)

-NARAWALK guide 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Kuniyoshi: Spectacular Ukiyo-e Imagination

Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797~1861) is an Ukiyo-e artist with imagination and humour. He is known for action-packed Ukiyo-e printings of historical and legendary heroes. As an ardent cat lover, he also created many works depicting personified cats (and other animals), in addition to usual subjects like Kabuki actors, beautiful ladies and landscapes.

This year is Kuniyoshi's 150th death anniversary. An exhibition "Kuniyoshi: Spectacular Ukiyo-e Imagination" is held to commemorate him. About 400 works, including newly discovered, are exhibited at Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts. This exhibition is scheduled to tour to Shizuoka and Tokyo after Osaka.

Exhibition Tour Schedule:
April 12, 2011 ~ June 5, 2011 Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts
July 9, 2011 ~ August 21, 2011 Shizuoka City Museum of Art
December 17, 2011 ~ February 12, 2012 Mori Arts Center Gallery

@ Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts
Duration: April 12, 2011 ~ June 5, 2011
Closed on Mondays (except for May 2)
Hours: 9:30~17:00 (enter 30min before closing time)
Admission: Adults 1300yen, University and High School Students 900yen, Junior High School Students and under Free
Access: click here


Sunday, April 24, 2011

After Cherry Is Wisteria

Kasuga Grand Shrine has a over 700 years old wisteria tree. Every year from late April to early May, fragrant purple clusters droop from the wisteria tree.

Around the same time, Bonsai Wisteria Tree Exhibition is held at Nara International Seminar House near Nara National Museum. This is the fifth year of this exhibition. (for pictures of the exhibition click here)

Duration: 2011, April 18 ~May 3
Admission: Adults 400yen, Elementary School Students 200yen, Children 5 and under are free.
Access: Nara International Seminar House

*You can also enjoy a bonsai wisteria tree at former JR Nara station building which is now used as one of the Nara City Tourist Information Center. The center is located next to the current JR Nara station building. Gorgeous aroma of wisteria fills the whole center.


Hanami in Kyoto

Last Sunday, on April 17, I went to Kyoto Botanical Garden and Kamigamo Shrine for a walk. Cherry blossoms were still beautiful, and people were enjoying Hanami or cherry-blossom-viewing-picnics.

On many cherries now in Nara, fresh leaves have sprouted. Some are still beautiful with pink blossoms. A news program tells me today that cherry blossoms in Tohoku area are now in their full bloom.

*by Kamo River*

*going to Kyoto Botanical Garden*

*Kamigamo Shrine*

All pictures are taken on April 17, 2011.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Birth of Chinese Civilization

2000 B.C. is a long loong looong time ago, isn't it?

Henan Province, located in the central region of China and in the Yellow River watershed, is a cradle of Chinese civilization. From around 2000 B.C. to up until the 12th century, Henan Province was the center of Chinese politics, economy and culture hosting capitals of many dynasties - including Xia dynasty (once regarded as nonexistent), Shang dynasty (where earliest form of Chinese characters were incised on oracle bones), Eastern Han dynasty(end of which the Battle of Red Cliffs depicted in the movie Red Cliff was fought), Cao Wei(one of the three kingdoms) and other dynasties.

In an exhibition "The Birth of Chinese Civilization", Nara National Museum displays ancient artifacts (2000 B.C. ~ 12th century) from Henan Province. Most of exhibits are unearthed articles excavated in 20th and 21st centuries. Artifacts laid out in chronological order neatly shows the development of craftsmanship.

My favourite part was face expressions of animal and human figure crafts; their faces were lively and some even humorous.

Duration: ~ May 29, 2011
Closed on Mondays except May 2
Hours: 9:30~17:00
*Fridays and Saturdays from April 29 will open late till 19:00.
*Entrance permitted until 30 min before the closing time.
Admission: General Admission 1400yen, College/High School Students 1000yen, Junior High/Elementary School students 500yen
*Half price off for married couples on April 22 and May 22. (At the ticket booth, say "we are visiting as a couple".)
Access: click here


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

One month

A month has passed since the Great Tohoku Earthquake. Yesterday 14:46 (Japan time), as in many parts of Japan and the world, a moment of silent prayer was offered in Nara.

While thinking "today is one month since the earthquake" and "I cannot believe a month has passed", I remembered a haiku poem by Basho, a famous haiku poet.
So many things that I recall,
looking at cherry blossoms.
This year, cherry blossoms gave me a comfort and a relief from all sad news related to the earthquake. In the next cherry blossom season, what will people remember looking at cherry blossoms?

Praying for the victims and those affected by the earthquake,

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sakura In Full Bloom

Sakura, cherry blossom, in Nara Park area are in full bloom. Beautifully falling petals, grounds decorated with pink fallen petals, deer eating cherry blossoms, people enjoying picnic under cherry trees ... are what you can see in Nara now.

(^ photo taken in Kofukuji Temple)

(^ photo taken in Jokyoji Temple on Sanjo St.)

(^ photo taken on Sanjo St.)

(^ photo taken on Sanjo St. near Sarusawa Pond)

(^ photo taken near Kintetsu Nara Station)

A sight of fresh young leaves are very refreshing too.

All pictures are taken on April 10.


Monday, April 4, 2011

Events around Nara Park (April 2011)

Around Nara Park:

April 5(tue) Chinka-sai Festival of Mizuya Shrine

@Mizuya Shrine in the precinct of Kasuga Grand Shrine

Started in 1288, this is a festival to pray for protection from a plague. Kyogen, traditional comic dramas, are offered to deities after the festival. Kyogen plays are performed by Kasuga Grand Shrine’s Shinto priests and others.

10:00~ Chinka-sai Festival

13:00~ Offertory of Kyogen Play

April 5(tue)- April 10(sun) Special Opening of Honbo Office, Tenno-den Hall and Jibutsu-do Hall

@Todaiji Temple (Buildings above are located just north of Great South Gate)

40 paintings on Fusuma sliding doors, portraits of emperor Shomu and empress Komyo and reproduction of their imperial clothing are on display. Paintings are works by Junsaku Koizumi. Among 40 paintings on Fusuma sliding doors, completed last year, you can see pictures of Nara’s famous cherry blossoms.

Time: 10:00~17:00(April 5-7)/10:00~20:00(April 8-10) *Enter 30min before the closing time.

Admission: 1000yen *Children under 12yrs old are free. *All proceeds go to earthquake relief.

April 8(fri) Sakyamuni Buddha’s Birthday

April 8 is said to be the birthday of Sakyamuni, the founder of Buddhism. Many temples hold a ceremony to celebrate his birthday. Usually a birth statue of Buddha is placed in front of a hall. The statue is enshrined in a small temporary shrine decorated with flowers. Sweet tea made from Amacha, a type of hydrangea, are poured onto a birth statue of Buddha.

@Todaiji Temple in Great Buddha Hall

8:00~9:00 Ceremony

8:00~15:00 Pouring tea over a birth statue of Buddha

*You can pour and taste Amacha tea by and for yourself.

@Kofukuji Temple in Nanen-do Hall

10:00~ Ceremony

You can visit the temporary shrine for a birth statue of Buddha till around 16:00. Amacha tea is offered to visitors.

April 17(sun) Hojyo-e Ceremony

13:00~ @ Kofukuji Temple

Hojyo-e literally means “a ceremony to release living creatures”. This ceremony reminds people of a Buddhist commandment – do not kill. In Kofukuji Temple’s Hoyo-e Ceremony 1500 fish are released to Sarusawa Pond after a ritual ceremony.

April 19(tue) Manju Festival

@ Kangou Shrine (5min walk from Kintetsu Nara Station)

Manju is a steamed bun with sweet bean paste inside. The first person who made Manju in Japan was a Chinese named Lin from 14 century. He lived near Kangou Shrine where a small shrine for him, Lin Shrine, stands now. April 19 is Lin’s death anniversary. Confectionary companies throughout the country offer their confectionaries to Lin’s soul.

11:00~ 12:00 ritual ceremony

Tea and Manju (*a limited number) are offered to visitors until around 14:00.

April 21(thu) Death Anniversary of Kukai

Kukai is one of the most worshipped Buddhist priest in Japan. April 21 (March 21 in lunar calendar) is his death anniversary. On this day, many temples throughout Japan hold a ceremony to commemorate him.

@Daianji Temple where young Kukai learned Buddhism

13:00~ ritual ceremony

14:00~ Homa ritual

*Kukai’s hair is open to the public only on this day. Temple’s treasured Buddhist statues are also open to the public.

April 23(sat) – May 8(sun) Special Opening of Hokuen-do Hall

Hokuen-do Hall houses three national treasure statues from 13 century. The hall itself is also designated as a national treasure.

9:00~17:00 (admission till 16:45) @Kofukuji Temple

Admission: Adults 300yen, Students 200yen, Elementary School Students 100yen

April 23(sat) – May 8(sun) Special Viewing of Temple Treasures

9:00~17:00(enter before 16:30) @Gangoji Temple

Chikou Mandala (important cultural property) and two picture scrolls are open to the public. Two picture scrolls, each over 10m (32ft) long, depict the history of Gangoji Temple. Chikou Mandala depicts paradise of Amitabha Buddha.

April 24(sun) Offertory of Kyudo

14:00~ @Kasuga Grand Shrine

Kyudo or Japanese archery is offered to the deities. Men in traditional warrior class costumes perform Kyudo. Archers are from Ogasawara school, a Kyudo school with over 800 year olds tradition.

April 25(mon) Monju-e Ceremony

Monju or Manjusri is a bodhisattva of wisdom. In this ceremony children’s healthy growth and academic success are prayed.

14:30~ A procession of children in traditional costumes. Starts from Jyokyoji Temple on Sanjyo St. and walks to Kofukuji Temple.

15:00~ Ritual ceremony at Tokondo Hall in Kofukuji Temple

April 26(tue) Hana-matsuri Festival with thousand Buddhist monks

13:00~ @Todaiji Temple, Great Buddha Hall

Thousand Buddhist monks from various Buddhist sects gather to pray together at Todaiji Temple. Monks’ outfits are slightly different from a sect to a sect – it might be interesting to compare their outfits.

Around Kintetsu Yamato Saidaiji Station:

April 9(sat) – April 10(sun) Big Cup Tea Ceremony

@ Saidaiji Temple

Experience a unique tea ceremony using big tea cups – 30cm in diameter and 7kg in weight. Of course other tea utensils are big too. A Buddhist priest makes tea with 35cm long tea whisk!

Fee: 3000yen (includes a tea ceremony, light meal, Homa ritual and admission into the main hall)

Around Horyuji Temple and Nishino-kyo:

April 8(fri) Sakyamuni Buddha’s Birthday

April 8 is said to be the birthday of Sakyamuni, the founder of Buddhism. Many temples hold a ceremony to celebrate his birthday. Usually a birth statue of Buddha is placed in front of a hall. The statue is enshrined in a small temporary shrine decorated with flowers. Sweet tea made from Amacha, a type of hydrangea, are poured onto a birth statue of Buddha.

10:00~ @ Jiki-do Hall in Horyuji Temple

April 11(mon) – May 18(wed) Special Viewing of Hidden Statues

@ Hall of Dreams in Eastern Precinct of Horyuji Temple

A national treasure statue of Kannon Bodhisattva made in 7 century is enshrined in this hall. The Kannon statue is said to be modeled after Prince Shotoku, the father of Japanese Buddhism.

Admission: Adults(13yrs old and up) 1000yen for West and Eastern Precincts or 200yen for Eastern Precinct only, Elementary School Students(12-6 year olds) 100yen

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