Holy monkey, I am only 4 months away from heading to Japan for three weeks and with that I am starting on a list of what I should do while I travel there. I leave Newark, NJ on December 6th and return December 28th (my arrival time is before my departure time – gotta love the International Date Line) and will be spending a good portion of my time with my friend @BouncyMcTigger’s sister in Yamato, Kanagawa prefecture. This will be my first time in Japan or anywhere in Asia for that matter so I’m excited. I really have no set plans but I’m arming myself with enough ‘Know Hows’ and ‘Where To’s’ so that I am well armed with activities to do so I don’t miss out on something great.
So far the only thing that is for certain is that I will get to have a weekend in a cabin somewhere, I wasn’t really told much more than that at this point but I’m all for exploring.
Here is a list of festivals thanks to JapanVistor.com that will go on during my stay in Japan.
- Hiwatari Shinji, 10 December, Fukugon Temple, Nishihora, Komaki, Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture Priests walk over burning embers in a purification rite at Fukugon Temple.
- Akou Gishisai , 14 December, Ako, Hyogo Prefecture Traditional dances and warrior parades as an annual memorial to the legendary ’47 ronin’ (wandering samurai) who commited suicide to avenge their master.
- 47 Ronin Festival, 14 December, Bishamon Temple, Yamashina, Kyoto A procession commemorating the 47 Ronin with people in traditional costume walking from Bishamon Temple to Oishi jinja in eastern Kyoto
- Iwatsuta Shrine Fire Festival, 14 December, Iwatsuta Jinja, Ishizugawa, Osaka 108 wooden bundles are set alight and young men run through the flames in a purification ceremony. 8pm start.
- Akiba Taisai Hiwatari Shinji Festival, 16 December, Entsuji Temple, Nagoya 100 ascetics run through flames before the general public joins in. 7pm start.
- Setagaya no Boro Ichi, 15-16 December, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo Countless stalls and shoppers crowd the streets at this flea market that dates back to 1578. A huge range of items to browse and buy including antiques, second-hand goods and food.
- Akutai Cursing Festival, mid-December, Atago Shrine, Mt. Atagoyama, Iwama-cho, Kasama, Ibaraki Prefecture Priests dressed in white and impersonating tengu goblins are cursed and abused. Participants attempt to steal the goblins’ offerings, while the goblins attempt to ward off their abusers with bamboo staves.
- Akiba no Himatsuri, 15-16 December, Akiba, Shizuoka Prefecture Fire festival held to pray for protection against fire held at Akiba Jinja, a Shinto shrine that enshrines Hifuse, the god of fire prevention. Countless stalls and shoppers crowd the streets at this flea market that dates back to 1578. A huge range of items to browse and buy including antiques, second-hand goods and food.
- Kasuga Wakamiya Festival, 17 December, Kasuga Taisha, Nara A chance to see rarely performed traditional dances at a festival that has been observed every year since it began in 1136. A two-hour procession (owatarishiki) through central Nara begins at noon from the Prefectural Office followed by around seven hours of dances.
- Izumi Kannon Daruma-ichi, 17-18 December, Izumi Kannon Temple, Odawara, Kanagawa Prefecture This temple has been holding daruma (a manifestation of the Buddha) fairs for every year over 400.
- Asakusa Kannon Hagoita-ichi , 17-19 December, Senso-ji Temple, Asakusu, Tokyo Festive market selling hagoita, the paddles used in hanetsuki, a game traditionally played at New Year. Around 50 stallholders crowd into the grounds of the temple over the two days.
- Odaiba Island, Tokyo – They have a rainbow bridge leading to it, it therefore has to be a magical place.
- Meiji Jingu Shinto Shrine – Temples and Shrines and ancient spirits – OH MY!
- Jigokudani Yaenkoen – A monkey park, seriously are you even surprised I have this one on here. Plus the monkeys have their own hot springs!
- Golden Temple of Kyoto (Kinkaku-ji) this is one of the 17 World Heritage sites of Kyoto, in fact I wouldn’t mind seeing all 17 of them.
- Shinto Shrine – I’m a sucker for a shrine.
- Akihabara, Tokyo – Nicknamed ‘Electric Town’ this is the place to go and search out electronics, I wonder if they have a flinging monkey toy so when poo flinging ensues I can simply point over with that “I’m with Stupid” look.
- Tokyo Tower – Think of the Eiffel Tower but more mini and lit up in red.
- Mount Fuji – This one probably needs some training and expensive climbing gear but if I get a chance to, at the least, see it and take a photo of it I’ll count it as a win.
- Roppongi – This is the Nightlife section, while I’ve heard they cater greatly to foreigners I’m in the full belief that everyone needs to get their boogie on some time or another even if this isn’t where all the locals go.
- Kyoto – This seems to be the place where you can enjoy all the activities of a large city but also experience many of the traditional cultures of Japan as well.
Things To Do/Activities:
- Sento (Bath houses) or Onsen (Hotsprings) – nothing like a hot and refreshing back, I hope they have a good filtration system built for furry monkeys.
- Japan Rail Pass – I want to see if this will help save money on our travels in Japan.
- Kabuki – a little theater never hurt anyone
- Tea Ceremony – I like tea, and watching the intricacies of a tea ceremony will surely be enough to help me appreciate this ancient drink.
- Sumo – Who doesn’t like two fat men rolling around in diapers? The Tournaments don’t start till January from what I have read but I’m hopeful there will be a few opportunities elsewhere.
- Guidebooks: Fodor’s Citypack Tokyo I heard this was a great book that included city and train maps and you always have your Lonely Planet Japan.
- Phrase Books: I have been taking lessons and hope to master everything in my Frommer’s Japanese PhraseFinder & Dictionary in time so I can order some of the items listed below.
- Ramen – Ramen noodles for too long have had a bad name here in the states, well I want to go to Japan and prove that Ramen can be a delicious, freshly made and popular dish.
- Karaoke – “The ancient art form of singing badly in front of people who will applaud.” That is what it translates to, no really check it out yourself. I feel like I would be a failure of a traveler if I didn’t force at least one torturous tune upon friends and strangers while out on the town.
- Sushi/Sashimi – Really as if this one was questionable. I love the stuff but more so than anything else I want to see how delicious it is at the birth of it’s creation. Maybe at Tsukiji Fish Market?
- Sake – I’m a drunken monkey, you should be more disappointed if this didn’t make the list.
Have you been to Japan before or have any insight of places I should explore or avoid. Let me know because I’m always interested to see what you my fellow traveler has to say about a place.
I really don’t know what I will get to accomplish but by being well informed I hope to at least know all my options, and then as usual go with my normal travel theme, “Over plan, then go with the flow” and yes sake will be flowing too.
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