Last week of September Update

Good day everyone! I hope you are all doing great.

It’s been a long time since our last post, but we’ve been working a bit on the website. Here’s a complete list of updates:

New Pages

Others

Every relevant page has a date where it was last updated on so users can know when a page was last updated.

Concerning New Pages

The “Going to Japan” page is a new main page, which you can access directly from the top menu on every page. At the moment, you can only access the Tourism section, which itself only has a few pages at the moment. You can also see pages that are worked on and will be added soon, such as “Living, Working, and Studying in Japan” pages.

Other important pages such as the History of Japan or Japanese Etiquette pages are also worked on and will be added soon.

See you next week for new updates!

Gion Matsuri and Weekly Updates

Hi everyone.

It’s been quite some time since the last post, but that doesn’t mean this website hasn’t been worked on. Its design is now what I would call completed for the moment. I’ve added a number of pages, and works are in place for other pages, notably the Gion Festival, or Gion Matsuri, in Kyoto.

The Gion Festival is one of the three big events in Kyoto, and requires a lot of research, and many pictures. It may take one or two more days before this page is completely done. As soon as it’s done, it will be linked on this post below, as well as featured on the front page of this website.

From now on, big changes will be in place. Soon, there will be a blogpost explaining the updates made on this website once a week. This weekly update will make it easier for the users to understand how much work there has been done in a certain week, and it will make it simpler to navigate to those new pages.

Another big change will be on social media. No updates have been posted for a long time because this website was still heavily under construction. Fortunately, thanks to the Gion Festival and other activities in Japan, I will post new pictures there every day from now on.

So stay tuned, and be sure to follow DiveIntoJapan!

 

Japanese Holidays Page

Hello everyone!

This website has been updated with a new design, and new pages! I am currently working on finishing the Special Days of Japan first before continuing to do anything else.

There were only two pages made, one for Girl’s Day, the other for White Day. But I’ve updated it and added four new pages which you can find below:

March 20, Vernal Equinox Day
April 29, Showa Day
May 3, Constitution Memorial Day
May 4, Greenery Day

From now on, I will add a few days on the Special Days page every day, until it is complete. Once this is done, I will start working on the Discover section of the website, adding information about every prefecture of Japan.

An informative page the meaning of each prefecture’s flag will also be added. I’m sure vexillologist will be very pleased with that! Finding flags and vexillology very interesting myself, I will try to add as much information about the many flags of Japan, and perhaps create a special section just about Japanese flags later on. This will, of course, depend on the amount of information and pages created about the subject.

Anyway, you can expect to have more updates from now on.

Make sure to follow me on different social medias listed below, and see you later with a new update!

Shimogamo shrine’s Nagashi-bina


Banner of the festival “Kyo no Nagashi Bina”This Saturday, March 3, was the famous Hina Matsuri, also known as Girl’s Day. As explained on this page about this Japanese special day, the Shimogamo Shrine in Kyoto still celebrates the old custom of releasing hina dolls down a water stream in order to let float one’s misfortune and bad spirits away.

The main event starts at 11:00 in the morning, but it is advised to come as early as 9:30 to have a good spot, as hundreds of people, both Japanese and tourists come there every year to see this ancient tradition.

When passing the shrine’s gate, a line of people waiting to buy straw baskets with hina dolls inside. The smaller ones is meant for children, while the bigger ones are for adults.

People waiting to buy a straw basket with hina dolls

Before the main event starts, it is possible to take a commemorative picture next to the hina dan. Once that is done, you can see how shrine maiden dress the woman who will take the role of Ohina-sama, the Empress. Even if you came too late to see the main event from one of the front row spots, I highly recommend watching the kimono dressing, a unique experience!

Ohina-sama dressed as a shrine maiden
Ohina-sama getting dressed by shrine maidens

First, Ohina-sama comes in dressed in white and red as a Miko, or shrine maiden. Two other shrine maiden, dressed in white and an unconventional dark blue then start to dress Ohina-sama, cloth by cloth. This tedious task results in a magnificent kimono dress of about 10 layers, which can add up to a weight of about 10Kg (22lbs)!

The center of the kimono shows how meticulous this task is, with its beautiful gradient of white, slowly turning into a soft purple color.

The center of the kimono has many layers, which make for a beautiful gradient

Once both Ohina-sama, the Empress, and Odairi-sama, the Emperor, have been dressed up, they come forth and take a seat before the ceremony begins.

Ohina-sama and Odairi-sama seated
Ohina-sama and Odairi-sama looking at each other

One of the priestesses starts to purify the other priests, Ohina-sama and Odairi-sama, the special attendants as well as the general public.

A priestess reciting a Shinto prayer
The priestess purifying the other priests
The priestess purifying Ohina-sama and Odairi-sama
Purification of the special attendants
The priestess coming forth to purify the onlookers

The high priest will receive a one of the straw baskets by one of the priestesses, and then proceed to let it float slowly away.

The high priest receiving the straw basket with hina dolls from the priestess
The high priest praying after releasing the hina dolls

After that, it’s Ohina-sama and Odairi-sama‘s turn to let the dolls float away. Ohina-sama is helped by two shrine maiden due to how cumbersome her dress is. Both walk slowly down the stairs toward the streamlet, where they sit down before releasing their hina dolls.

Odairi-sama and Ohina-sama walk slowly to the streamlet
They release the straw basket containing the hina dolls carefully
Two straw basket containing hina dolls slowly floating away
The Imperial couple goes back to their seats
The two Miko help walk Ohina-sama back with her heavy dress

Next up are two Maiko. These young girls are Geisha in training.

Two Maiko walk by, hina dolls at hands

They start by bowing, and proceed to release their dolls too.

Maiko bowing to the Imperial couple
The two Maiko walk carefully down the stairs
Maiko make themselves ready to release the dolls
They put the hina dolls carefully onto the streamlet
And the Maiko finally pray while the hina dolls slowly float away
A shot of the Maiko’s golden Obi

After that come important community members, politicians, as well as a selected pair of kindergartners, let their own dolls float down the streamlet.

Important persons release the dolls
Another couple of important persons set the dolls afloat
Finally a couple of kindergartners, followed by their teachers let go of the straw baskets

Of course, the Nagashibina wouldn’t be complete without a pair of Kyoto Image Characters. Tawawa-chan, the girly mascot for the Kyoto Tower and Yoroi Kotaro, the mascot of Boy’s Celebration Day came in with their own straw basket, which they dropped down on the water.

Tawawa-chan ready to drop the dolls
Tawawa-chan let go of the hina dolls
Now it’s Yoroi Kotaro’s turn to put the dolls afloat
Yoroi Kotaro releases the straw baskets from above
And the hina dolls fall beautifully into the water
Yoroi Kotaru saying goodbye to everyone
It’s hard to walk up the stairs when you’re an Image Character!

At the end, a group of selected kindergartners go in front of Ohina-sama and Odairi-sama to sing somewhat traditional songs.

Kindergartners prepare to sing

Once they are done, everyone can go and let their own hina dolls float down the Mitarashi-ike streamlet, letting all your misfortune and bad spirits go away.

Two hina straw basket, with the adult one on the left, and the one for children on the right

Trees have started to bloom

The warmth of spring has finally come after the last few weeks of cold. This weekend has been especially warm here in Kyoto with temperatures rising up to 21 degrees Celcius (70F)!

Blooming Japanese plum Ume trees
A lone Japanese plum tree in the Imperial Gardens

As to be expected with such a gentle temperature, the Imperial Palace of Kyoto has seen different buds open and bloom beautifully. Trees such as the  Japanese allspice, also known as wintersweet, as well as the Japanese Plum trees Ume were the first to flourish.

Japanese allspice’s blooming flowers

Both the Japanese allspice and Ume trees produce a wonderful fragrance, not only within the park but also around it. A delicious scent of spring can be smelled before even entering the park. This peculiar smell is the result of the many plants and trees within the park turning green and flourishing again after the cold. This aroma changes when a new tree starts to bloom, giving you another reason to go and wander around the Imperial Palace once again.

Japanese plum tree buds
Plum tree starting to bloom
White plum tree’s buds
White plum fully bloomed

As for now, the sakura trees will start to bloom around March 21, together with the peach trees Momo no ki. But at that time, you will definitely be able to enjoy the beautiful pink cherry blossom all around Kyoto!

Japanese allspice

Welcome to DiveIntoJapan!

Hello and welcome to DiveIntoJapan!

This blog / website is a place where you will find tons of information about Japan, from how to prepare for the voyage, to the most sumptuous places to visit. You’re probably thinking to yourself that there already are hundreds -if not thousands!- of blogs and website about traveling to Japan, temples and shrines to visit, gorgeous hiking places, etc…

And YES! You are completely right! But I have yet to find one website or blog has every piece of information possible about Japan. There are thousands of obscure temples and shrines with no information in English, and many with very little information in Japanese even! Surprising, right? Not really. Most sites or blog like to write about popular places, and tend to leave the little known location out.

Think about how many times you have seen information about the dazzling Golden Pavilion of Kyoto, or the breath-taking Mount Fuji. You will literally get millions of search results on Google. But what about the Fujii-dera of Tokushima? The scenic Shogunzuka? Or even the Gioji Temple in Arashiyama? While these places are beautiful, you will find a lot less articles about them.

The first time I came to this realization was when I was doing some translation work on temples and shrines in the Shiga Prefecture. Several had not even a Japanese Wikipedia page, and even very little information on Japanese websites. That’s when I thought it would be great to have a site with information about every temple, shrine, castle, and others in Japan. That is what I will try to achieve.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I will skip the famous places, on the contrary! I want to focus on equally interesting, yet less visited places of Japan. Not only that, but also have sections of information to prepare for the trip, as well as detailed information about anything and everything in Japan. My goal is to have you come to this site, and find what ever you are searching in the first place, without having to go to forums in order to acquire the information you need.

A complete database of everything about Japan is an impossible feat to achieve, but I will do my best so this becomes the largest online database about Japan.

So, stay tuned, and see you tomorrow!