Japan 2008

On May 15, we arrived at Narita Airport and took a train to Ueno, a transportation hub in the central city and our base for the next few days in Tokyo - three instructors and eleven students from the College of Mt. St. Joseph. Tsukiji Central Wholesale Market, Tokyo.  Acres and acres of frantic activity and seafood.  The students were a bit overwhelmed. Whoosh.  Look OUT! Crowded?  A little. Hundreds of small shops selling anything and everything from the sea. It probably thinks WE'RE ugly too. Octopus make a nice graphic design.  And they're good to eat. Frozen tuna, with little flaps cut at the tail end so prospective buyers can judge the quality.  The white blocks are dry ice, to keep the flesh frozen. The stores are small, the offices are smaller.  This is the CEO. Here are our students on the subway.  The nice, clean subway. Learning traditional kid's games at the Shitamachi Museum. It seems that ALL Japanese ladies of a certain age can juggle. This is a Jizo (boddhisatva) at the Benten shrine at Shinobazu Pond near Ueno Park.  Helen loves them because Jizo is the protector of travelers and children. Lanterns at a sister temple to the famous one at Nikko Our students with a sumo wrestler.  There was a big sumo tournament on while we were in Tokyo and one day we were at a museum right next door to the sumo stadium. McSumo! This is the Edo Tokyo Museum.  Fabulous place, and the building looks like something out of Star Wars. One of the exhibits at the Edo Tokyo Museum.  This is an Edo-era  carpenter's shop. We lucked into a dance performance ... Here are some of the dancers. The view from the seventh floor of the museum.  It gives you some idea of the sheer spread of Tokyo. Akihabara, the electronics capital of the world.  And now manga, anime, and ... ... weird trends.  Some of these young ladies are advertising live music shows, some "maid" bars where shy guys can go and get waited on by young women in French maid uniforms. Weird?  You haven't SEEN weird yet.  Just wait for the Yoyogi Park photos.  But this'll serve as an appetizer. Sandy and Jonathan P. meet our dear friends Keiichi, Piching and Nanami (11 years old) Takiyanagi. From left to right, Jonathon M., Jennifer Morris, Kazuko Fujita (our Tokyo Boss and izakaya organizer), Tracy, Patrick, Edgar, Kazuma (former CinDay Taiko player) and Jackie.  We had a great time. Nanami loves sushi and sashimi (every Japanese baby we've ever met loves it).  Her parents have reserved our home for her college career from 2025 - 2029! We plunged into the festivities of Sanja Festival.  Over one million people visit the festival over the weekend.  We felt that ALL of them were there when we were. Each neighborhood association brings their mikoshi (spirit shrine) to the main Sensoji Shrine.  The teams dress in distinctive happi coats. They carry the floats through the crowds with chanting and shouts. Here on a side street, a children's mikoshi waits for its turn in the parade.  They are exquisite works of art, almost always topped with a phoenix sculpture. The caprentry, metal work and silk cords are wonderfully crafted. Also in the parade are covered carts with taiko drummers, ofter young boys and girls.  They are accomplished performers. Helen caught this toddler practicing for his debut in a few years.  He was having a wonderful time! Before the mikoshi join the big parade, they have their own ceremonies in their neighborhood.  Yes, Helen loved the taiko drummers. On one street corner a taiko group collaborated with a punk rock band and two of their drummers donned kabuki costumes.  It was definitely in the original spirit of kabuki which translates as "outrageous." Helen couldn't resist photographing these darling girls enjoying their snow cones away from the crowds. Many older people dress in summer kimonos.  Steve was fascinated by this gentleman's inro (pouch) and netsuke. Kimonos don't have pockets.  The Japanese developed a way to suspended a purse from their obi or sash, anchored by a toggle.  These toggles or netsuke developed into incredibly detailed miniature sculptures. The young ladies and their dad are dressed in traditional costumes.  The purple happi coat, turquiose hat and checkered tabi are a bit unusual.  We wondered who the natty gentleman was. Steve got this great photo of one parade participant tying on his traditional straw sandals.  Can you imagine that people used to walk miles in those?  Ouch! And the food at the festival was great!  Edgar discovered yakisoba and shared it with Jennifer.  Edgar returned to Cincinnati and quickly learned to make his own yakisoba . We had a great time introducing the students to lots of new tastes.  Here is a booth of octopus treats. Thank you to our Tokyo Boss, Kazuko Fujita!  Our students really appreciated all the time she spent with us at the festival. Next we were on the train to Odawara where we picniced at the castle. Steve got a kick out of this promotion for a new summer treat.  We didn't try it. We traveled to Hakone to study the Tokaido.  At the Sekisho Museum Kierstin and Patrick posed for photos. Many Japanese want fantasy when they vacation.  You can sightsee on pirate ships on Lake Ashi.  We hoped to see Mt. Fuji but it was too cloudy. Here's the crew before we board our ship.  Ahoy, Matey! We had a great time enjoying our trip down the lake. The pirate figures made great photo opportunities.  We won the duel. Yes, Helen took them on a hike on the restored section of the Tokaido.  It's incredible that people hiked and hauled freight over these rough stone roads. Hakone Shrine was voted one of the best places to visit.  The students appreciated the quiet beauty of the forests. We all enjoyed the contrast of the red buildings with the deep green of the pine trees. At the top of the hill we wandered among the main shrine buildings. These dragons are especially handsome . . . . . . as is the roof above and the elegant tablet. This fierce dragon guarded the fountain and appeared in many of the students' photos. Steve got this wonderful photo of the fortunes left by visitors. There were a number of gardens tucked among the shrine buildings and we were delighted by the many different flowers. Who can resist the combination of stone lanterns and stately trees? We stayed at an onsen while we were in Hakone.  Mariko was our English staff and a great help to all of us.  We were all happy and relaxed after our soak in the rotenburo, the outside hot springs. After we left Hakone some of us returned to Odawara castle.  This is one of the views from the top of the castle.  Now I understand why the Tokaido went over the mountains and not along the coast.  Look how those hills plunge into the sea! I just had to play the taiko video game.  I have not idea if my score was high or low, I just had fun. Here's Odawara's train station where we started our journey to Tajimi. Ikuhiko Shibata, our ceramic artist friend, hosted us for a delightful two days in Tajimi, the center of Mino and Oribe ceramics.  Here he discusses the finer points of the art with our students. Our trip was the subject of an article in the local paper.  Masako explained it to the students. We visited a ceramics factory that manufactured porcelin dinnerware for restaurants.  In the center is our host, the owner. We followed the production line from start to finish.  This young lady is attaching handles to coffee mugs. We visited a park to see the entrance arch.  Iku worked with elementary students to decorate it with handmade tiles. Here's the dynamic duo, Dr. Jennifer Morris, Humanities Department at Mt. St. Joseph, a great co-teacher and Helen, Department of Art. Iku welcomed us to his studio for lunch and a ceramics lesson. Our Tajimi Boss, Kanako Shibata, was in charge of the calligraphy activity.  She was ably assited by her boyfriend, Ryo Kobayashi. Iku demonstrated how to use the wheel and form a tea bowl. We were all fascinated as we watched him turn a lump of clay into a graceful bowl. Behind Iku's studio is a shrine to the male and female gods who protect his work and his kilns.  He created this himself. Then each of us took our turns creating our own masterpiece. Iku was right there to guide and encourage us.  The sunlight inspired Christina and Helen. It was magical to guide the clay into a new form. Each of us added our own flair to our bowls.  Edgar worked hard. Iku made sure we all succeeded.  Here is Jennifer enjoying Iku's great sense of humor. Kierstin forgot that we were there. This is what is left on the wheel when you cut off the finished bowl - abstract art! Success!  Everyone has completed their bowl and they are set aside to dry. Iku had a friend make a traditional presentation box for each of our bowls.  Kanako helped us write our name on the box lid and a name for our tea bowl. Iku created a stamp for each of us with our name.  We followed the custom of putting our stamp on the box lid.  Jonathon M. created a bold design. Here the finished lids are drying amongst Iku's artworks. Steve found this sign as we were touring Tajimi.  It became a joke among us as we teased the two smokers on the trip. In a Nagoya department store we found this amazing display of T-shirts: Don't be a Monkey.  Weat the T-Shirt you Chose!  Live like a Human Being.  Notice the banana tree in the back? Then it was on to Kyoto and we enjoyed the Nishiki-ichiba Market, wandering the covered streets to find bargains. These elementary students may have been more interested in the handsome young vendor than the jewelry he sold. Angie, Jonahon M. and Christina have fun with the Samurai Colonel Sanders. We spent an entire morning at Kiyomizudera high above Kyoto on Higashiyama.  We shared the temples and shrines with hundreds of elementary and junior high school students. The main temple is built on a huge wooden structure and surrounded by trees on the hillside below. Frequently at Buddhist temples there are bronze statues of bodhisattvas, enlightened beings who stay on earth to guide others to paradise. People rub the statue to transfer good luck and good health to their own bodies. Everyone wants their picture taken with the main temple behind them.  You must stand in line to take your turn. The temple was originally founded at this spot because of the pure spring water.  It has been directed to three outlets and people believe they will have good health if they drink the water. It's not easy to capture the water with the long handled cup then drink it.  But people stand in line to take their turn. Katie, Angie, Christina and Kierstin pose beside one of the two "Love Rocks."  Since ancient times women have walked blindfoled between them.  If they successfully reach the second rock, they will find their true love. On one quiet hillside we found these small stone statues of Jizo.  The bodhisattva is also the patron of children.  People put small rocks on top to honor children who died young. A group of junior high girls had an assignment to interview English speakers.  They took turns asking the questions, but everyone wrote down the answers. They asked the usual - where are you from, what Japanese food do you like, how long will you be in Japan, etc.  But they surprised us with the final question - Who is the prettiest of us?  Angie said that they were all pretty and they giggled. Of course they had to take photos to prove that they had completed the assignment. The area around Kiyomizudera is crowded with souvenir shops.  we had a great time checking them out as we left the temple. Next we visited Heian Jingu Shrine.  Here tourists tied their fortunes to a bush near the bright red and gold temple railing. Heian Jingu has a fantastic strolling garden.  Everywhere you looked there was a beautiful composition. The translator for the signs in the garden was not too experienced.  And it seems the lawyers had gotten involved. These are the steps that the sign referred to - they were fairly easy to walk if you could ignore the beautiful lotus blossoms. The lotus is a Buddhist symbol of rebirth and these three blossoms were just gorgeous. This is the structure at the middle of a bridge over one of the lakes in the garden.  There are benches so that you can enjoy the scenery. We had another party at an izakaya in Kyoto.  Edgar and Helen are with Hiroko Takagi and her brother-in-law, Koji Nakamura.  Tony was fascinated to learn Koji's family was samurai. Asako Nakamura shows off baby Takuho, just nine months old.  He was right at home at the party. The next day we visited Ryoanji, the famous Zen dry landscape garden.  The rain made the rocks shiny and reminded us of the theory that the raked gravel represents the sea. There are fifteen rocks arranged so that you can not see all of them at one time.  The students quietly counted them off, ichi, ni, san, yon . . . . There are extensive gardens beyond the rock garden.  There were many different varieties of maple trees to enjoy. Our Kyoto Boss, Kayo Yoshida, organized so many wonderful experiences for us.  Here she takes a photo for Edgar.  He declared that we MUST take the next group there in 2010. Sachiyo Yoshida , Kayo's sister, joined our happy group.  We toured the Golden Pavilion in the rain.  But it was still crowded. In Kyoto it's a big business to dress women as a "geisha" and take their photos at famous sites.  Here the woman has a traditional paper umbrella (that is waterproof). Steve managed to get this view of the Golden Pavilion with no tourists - hurray! You've seen the paper fortunes - here's how one purchases them.  At the Golden Pavilion you can get yours in English, Korean or Japanese. Some junior high school girls were fascinated by tall, blad Patrick.  Of course they had to have their picture taken with him.  We teased him that he had his own fan club. We stayed overnight at Ninnaji Temple.  Here Sachiyo poses with Ungyo, one of the two guardians of the South Gate. He's carved in the exaggerated style of the Kamakura Period, all muscles and drama. This is his partner, Angyo, also a fierce protector of the teachings of Buddha. You don't want to mess with these gentlemen. It started raining so some students took shelter under the gate.  The rainy season came 20 days early this year.  Our students never complained - at least to us. Ninnaji has their own spacious gardens and they weren't crowded with tourists.  Here Kayo and Sachiyo enjoy the view of the pond from a veranda. Tracy, Patrick, Jonathon M. and Jennifer soaked in the beauty. As always, Steve was fascinated by the roofs and the interplay of the angles. On the other hand, Helen looked for the smaller scenes of beauty. On building in the garden was a small Buddhist temple.  Often it is too dark to get a good photograph of the front altar with its offerings and the rich fabrics in the back. Ninnaji specializes in vegetarian cuisine, shojin ryori.  We cooked some of our dinner on individual tiny burners. Jonathon M., who vows that he will be "the world's greatest chef" was very, very happy to indulge in all the delicious dishes. Next morning at breakfast, Sachiyo dished rice for the early risers. Moving fourteen people at one time has its challenges.  Here we wait for a bus to take us to the Kitano Tenmangu Flea market.  Unfortunately, we had all our luggage with us. The overnight downpour had slowed down to a drizzle and most of us stayed near the area that specialized in antiques. Used kimonos were a favorite buy for a couple of us.  Recently many people turn the kimono inside out to see the painted scene inside - very dramatic! Even on a Sunday the temple was filled with students on field trips.  This temple is dedicated to a 10th century intellectual who has been deified as the Shinto god of learning. One group of students was dressed in kimono and they were happy to pose for photos. Kayo, our Kyoto Boss, is surrounded by her grateful friends.  Of course, Edgar found the yakisoba booth in the first ten minutes.  Andre Lampson, a UC student studying in Nagoya, joined us for the weekend. We returned to Tokyo for  two days before the students went back to Cincinnati.  We enjoyed the street vendors at Harajuku station. On Sunday evening we joined the crowds at Yoyogi Park to see the "cosplay" geeks.  That's Japanese for costume play, dressing as your favorite anime or manga character.  Here Christina poses with two "little maids." The participants are always in groups.  For some of them, the more outlandish the costume, the better. One group was coreographing a video, all on a cell phone. Don't you love the Mad Hatters?  They were in red velvet. The two young ladies on the left are dressed as a famous rock drummer, per Christina and Angie, our J-Pop experts.  It's amazing what people do to be fashionable! But even the most outlandish teenager shows their Japanese roots, bowing as they meet a friend. Farther into the park are the bands.  This group of rock and rollers has been partying every Sunday for the past twenty years and draws quite a crowd. Elvis would be jealous! The dancers had regular routines and were quite enthusiastic. Some danced freestyle while other seemed to be coreographed. Everyone was enthusiastic and showed off their moves. The next day we wandered among the trendy shops in Harajuku.  Steve was fascinated with some of the shop names. Can anyone explain what a gorilla has to do with Zen? We don't remember what they sold at Store My Ducks, but it was all on sale. Camper for Hands sold casual clothing.  Their shop graphics are great. In American there's a TV show, Pimp My Ride.  In Harajuku you can pimp your cell phone. Since Japanese take off their shoes when they are at home, and often in the office and at school, creative socks are all the rage.  This store sold only funky socks. Someone was deeply into rebar and bright colors. Some of us took a break at Meiji Shrine, just at the edge of the craziness at Harajuku.  It is dedicated to the Meiji Emperor who began the modernization of Japan. The shrine is surrounded by a lush forest and a wide pathway leads back to the complex of buildings. We were fortunate that the grounds werre not too crowded and we could enjoy the architecture. A wedding!  We were fortunate to view the procession of the bride and groom.  At the front is the Shinto priest who presided over the wedding ceremony. The bride and groom are accompanied by shrine maidens (probably college students doing a part-time job). After crossing the wide courtyard the wedding party disappeared into some side buildings.  Take a good look at that umbrella.  Soon you'll see how they are made. We had a final dinner together at a buffet restaurant where you cooked your selections at your table.  They were tired and a little homesick, but most declared that they would return in 2010. Angie shows off her newest purchase - a little sweater with panda ears on the hood. We all trooped to the airport on May 27.  Finally I was able to get a photo of our gaijin kyoretsu or foreigners parade.  We waved them goodbye and stayed for another two weeks of our own adventures. It was great not worrying about all those other people!  We loved introducing the students to the Japanese culture, but were relieved not to be tour guides for awhile.  We could enjoy other groups as they went by.  Aren't they darling!?! So we hit the road, again traveling theTokaido to find the connections between the travelers of the Edo Period and the Japanese today.  We journeyed without the samurai and porters. Our first stop was the Umbrella Burning Festival in a small town outside of Odawara.  It is the home temple for a pair of brothers famous for revenging their father's death. A peaceful Buddha greeted festival goers as they finished climbing the hill to the temple courtyard. The ceremonies opened with a parade of people dressed in 12th century costumes.  Here we see early samurai. Soon they were joined by the children from the temple pre-school who charmed eveyone there. The story of the brothers' revenge was made into a kabuki play.  On the right is a famous kabuki actor who later graciously signed autographs.  On the left is a sumo wrestler - more on that later. The priests blessed the participants in the next part of the ceremony.  Look at all the photographers in the press section. Legend says that when the brothers confronted their father's murderer at midnight, they set fire to their umbrellas, so the villain would know who they were.  Each year on May 28, the day of the revenge, they burn paper umbrellas for the repose of the souls of the brothers who later were ordered to commit suicide. There were more festivities at the stage area.  The dignitaries threw  envelopes to the crowd.  Each contained a lucky coin.  Two of the organizers made sure that Steve and I each got a coin. Sumo wrestlers originally performed at shrines to honor the gods.  This festival continues the tradition.  Here the wrestlers enter the performance area. All the neighborhood children line up to have their photos taken with the wrestlers.  It takes a few minutes to get them all in position. They're all psyched up!  After a demonstration, they'll get to do sumo wrestling. Two wrestlers demonstrated common moves that actually go very quickly.  So the sumo champion asked them to do it again in slow motion. Actually this must be fairly difficult to do and was fascinating to watch. Of course, the wrestler on the left who had lost had to lose again. They were great with the kids and mugged for the cameras all around.  I call this photo "The Glare." Next, groups of students got to "challenge" one of the sumo wrestlers. It was almost too hard to take the photos Helen was laughing so hard as the sumo wrestler let all those tiny little hands try to push him out of the ring. After an appropriate time . . . . . . .he let himself be pushed out of the ring.  The kids won! The rest of the afternoon was a Children's Sumo Tournament, organized just like the national championships.  The winner of one match went on to wrestle the winner of the next match. The children were very serious and worked hard to be the winner. Even the girls got their turn in the ring.  Parents and grandparents packed the audience. Everyone wanted to touch the real sumo wrestlers as they left.  They were wonderful with the children and seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves. Just as we left we noticed this young boy who had no interest in the festivities.  He was happy making piles of gravel. It was a rainy day but we traveled on to Shimada, the east side of the Oi River, the largest on the Tokaido.  Here Hiroshige gives a bird's eye view of a daimyo's procession waiting for the porters to take them across the river.  There were few bridges, to make it difficult for reble samurai to move an army. The city has a museum there dedicated to the nameless men who worked so hard.  This mannequin shows the typical clothing of the men who waded the river, carrying passengers and freight. Of course there were lots of officials who collected the tolls and assigned the porters.  After a flood it was a struggle to get everyone across who had been backed up for days, impatient to move on. The toll was based on the height of the river - the higher the river, the higher the cost.  When the depth got above the porters' shoulders, the river was closed. This photo is for Steve's mom who loves owls.  It was in a garden near the musuem. It was a grey and blustery day, so we got the feel for the worries of travelers afraid of the raging river. Yes, Honda also makes bikes, and Steve loves the contrast with our normal experiences. We settled into Nagoya for a week and made day trips from there.  The Super Hotel Nagoya Station is sparkling clean, friendly, cheap and our room was tiny! We spent a lovely afternoon with Aiko Ando Ota and her husband, Kakuyuki.  Their son, Kotaro, was born April 13, 2008 and guess what we spent the afternoon doing. Kotaro did very well meeting his first gaijin (foreigners).  He's a happy baby and our third "grandchild." Aiko sprained her ankle, so she wasn't moving around too much.  That also got me extra time with the baby. Aiko ordered lunch from a nearby restaurant - what a feast.  All the activities of the day were immortalized on video. Kakuyuki is a great dad.  He has magic hands that calm the baby when Kotaro is crying. The story for the Shono print will be about the young man running with the umbrella.  So I needed to know how the traditional umbrellas are made. Rokuro Takagi (Hiroko's dad) arranged for us to visit Mr. Ozeki who reluctantly agreed to show us his workshop.  Here he is straightening the bamboo "bones" that support the top. It's a time-consuming, tricky process using heat from a small charcoal fire. Here Mr. Ozeki attaches tough handmade paper to the frame.  His apprenticeship was ten years long. Mr. Ozeki is the seventh generation in his family to make umbrellas for tea ceremonies, temples and shrines.  Remember the umbrella at the Meiji Shrine wedding? All his umbrellas are made to order with the help of three assistants and some contractors who supply small parts. The glue for the paper is a very special formula and includes persimmon juice.  This bowl and stick are at least 125 years old. Our tour lasted over two hours and Mr. Ozeki answered so many questions that will make my story more authentic.  Here he poses with an extra umbrella from an order made for the Grand Izumo Shrine festival. In the Fujikawa print, two prosperous men bow as an official procession passes.  Sake' is a very important part of Japanese culture so my story will imagine that one ot these two merchants was the local sake manufacturer. Hiroko took us to a festival at the Inari Shrine, dedicated to the god of rice.  On the last day of each month, local merchants pray to the god for success for their buisness.  Here they are offering sake' and fried tofu. The god Inari is always shown as a fox and the temple was surrounded with fox statues.  Legend says that foxes love to eat fried tofu and some worshippers leave the tofu at one of the statues. Hiroko has just started a translation business, so here she prays for success for her new venture. Many people buy candles to light and place in the special glass cabinet.  I imagine that my narrator takes his son with him to teach him the proper way to solicit the gods. We ended our weekend visit to the Takagis with a party at a restaurant.  From left to right, dad Rokuro, mom Harue, Helen, Steve, Hiroko, brother Atsuro, his wife and daughter Nayu Next stop was Ishiyakushi.  It was one of the smallest stations on the Tokaido.  The print featured an autumn rice field with the local temple behind and farmers in the fields. Modern Japan has passed Ishiyakushi by.  It was a one mile walk from the nearest train station to the village.  But you have to love the signs asking you to be careful of the fireflies. The temple gardens were beautiful with many stone lanterns, gravel paths and beautifully shaped trees. Tucked in a corner of the grounds was the cemetary for children.  Each jizo commemorates a child.  Many family members decorate the statues with toys for the soul of the child. Helen's friend Jizo is in the middle of the path to the main temple building.  We met the priest who gave us a 45 minute tour of the worship hall.  He explained that the temple grounds were much simpler in the 1800s. After we left the temple, we encountered Mr. Kitagawa who invited us back to his house.  We ate our box lunches on his new deck and learned that he is a retired university history professor and the village historian.  He also is fascinated with the Tokaido. His wife plays the one-stringed koto and performed a song for us.  It's quite a percussive instrument and she gave me a quick lesson.  This would sound good with taiko drums.  Santa? Mr. Kitagawa has written a book about this cherry tree which a World Heritage site.  It was planted about 1180 by Minamoto Yoshitsune, a famous general, and has never died. Mr. Kitagawa drove us the two miles to the next station, Shono (of the umbrella).  The guide at the museum was happy to tell us about the merchant who formerly owned this house - lots of details for my book. We spent a day in Kyoto - in the rain!  But we were there to learn about the silk industry.  One of my narrators is a silk merchant.  He's the man leaning over the bridge contemplating the river. We visited the Nishikijin Silk Center and were thrilled to see the fashion show and to get a good position to take photos. This woman is dressed in the many-layed kimonos which were the fashion of Heian times in the 8th - 10th centuries.  The flashes were popping! At the finale, all the women were on stage together, a real feast for the eyes.  The kimonos ranged from the bold to the subtle. The center featured weaving demonstrations.  It is such exacting work. A guide at the center helped us.  We were able to visit the Nakamura Obi Wholesale Company.  Here Mr. Nakamura shows us a series of obis which used the Tokaido prints in the designs. They do everything here, from designing the obis to dying the silk.  They have over 3,000 colors of silk on display in one of the showrooms. They also repair obis which area a tremendous investment.  All Nakamura obis include pure gold threads in the designs. Next stop was the Kosakis home back in Nagoya.  Nao's dad fixed us dinner which was fabulous.  Last  year he spent three days guiding us to restored inns. This year we remembered to tak a goup photo.  From left to right, Junichi, Helen, Katsura, Nao and Atsuko. Nao and her sister Katsura are twins.  Nao, the pharmacist, is supervising research projects testing drugs.  Katsura is a doctor who is learning gama knife surgery. Naumi was famous for its tie-dyed shibori fabrics.  My story will be about the woman in the kago being carried past shibori shop.  She is the wife of a shibori merchant. Narumi is now a manufacturing center, but shibori is still made in nearby Arimatsu.  We visited their annual festival with our friends Shinichi and Rie Sugita.  How do you like that design on the kimono? All the stores were open and many kimonos were on sale.  Here is young girl is fitted in a traditional showroom. But merchants have developed products to attract modern fashion buyers, too. You could try to create your own shibori handkerchief with the help of local volunteers. You must pull the stiches tight so that the dye does not penetrate to the design.  Many festival goers wore shibori kimonos. Proud parents are alike the world over. The last step is the dye baths, choose your color! This festival gave me a bonus I didn't expect!  The Numazu print features a saratohiko mask carried by a pilgrim.  Saratohiko started as a fierce creature but by the 1830s was considered a protector of children. These characters roamed the streets of the festival, blessing the children.  The gentlemen inside the very hot costumes were having a great time (perhaps helped with a little beer). When children were lost in the fields, the parents who were searching, called out to Saratohiko to bring their children home safely. Steve got this great shot of the children posing for their dad with their protector. There were many traditional entertainers at the festival, such as this performing monkey and his handler. After the performance, the children could get a close look, but they couldn't touch. Many children worked in the stalls that lined the streets.  This young lady was a confident saleswoman. Watch out at the bargain bins!  Here items were just ten dollars - for pure silk scarves and shirts with shibori designs. I thought these ladies with their shibori hats were so cute and they thought I was, too. This shop is in one of the traditional buildings, just like in the print, though you can't see it for the sun umbrellas. This woman looks just how I imagine my story's narrator.  She's encouraging customers to check out the beautiful fabric. This ame-zuku-jin, traditional candy maker, is crafting exquisite animals from spun sugar. He explained each step to his rapt audience as he formed a crane in flight. The taiko drummers were just finishing as we arrived.  But they let me play for a few minutes and we were instantly friends. These two women were especially friendly and we had a great time! Each neighborhood had their special float, topped with mechanical dolls.  They gave demonstrations of the intricate dances and movements of their dolls. Each doll is a distinct character and neighborhoods compete to have the best. On this float a volunteer needs to make an adjustment, adding a note of humor to the photo. On the first floor of the floar are taiko drums that accompany the mechanical dolls. One morning we visited Osu Temple in Nagoya.  It has quite an entrance to the main building.  I always enjoy the banners, even if I can't read them. I had been fretting for weeks about how to show the continuing tradition of calligraphy for one of my narrators will be a calligrapher in Kyoto.  Bonus!  I was talking with a temple attendant when someone brought their book for the temple inscription.  My new friend agreed to the photo.  Yuki's cousin supervises in back. You see all sorts of people at the temple. Helen loves Inari shrines and on a sunny day the bright flags showing local donors are gorgeous. In the Yoshida print, a roofer is waving to a procession going by on the bridge.  I image that he has just repaired the "sachi" golden mythical fish that guard the castle from fire. The most famous "sachi" are atop Osaka Castle.  The motif is shown all throught the castle, grounds and gift shops. Haruna Tanaka toured the castle with us.  It was great to have such a knowledgable guide and translator. Many replicas are full size, truly amazing since the original ones were covered in gold.  The pair are male and female, but all the models were identified as female. Up in the tower museum, you could even have your picture taken riding the "sachi."  There was quite a long line. Haruna tested her strength against the men who moved the very heavy stones in the castle's foundation. When a traveler arrived at a temple or shrine, they had to bring back sourvenirs for the family at home.  That is still a big tradition, as we see at the shops in front of Sensoji Temple in Tokyo. In the Yoshiwara print, a woman and her two children ride "three to a horse," a typical mode of transport for more wealthy travelers.  I image that this wife of a wealthy rural farmer is taking her daughters on a pilgrimage to Ise Shrine,  This would make them more eligible for marriage. Here is a woman at a traditional senbei shop, counting off how many boxes of the crisp rice crackers she needs to take home. Steve found a statue of Buddha with the little chilren playing around his hem.  It's amazing that someone crafted the tiny hats for each baby. Neither of us can resist a good dragon fountain. Back behind Sensoji Temple, away from the crush of the crowds, a Buddha presides over a welcome oasis of green. This Inari Shrine at Asakusa was dedicated to the fox god in gratitude for the recovery of a merchant's wife from a serious illness. In a quiet corner, women rub the head and shoulders of a bronze Buddha, asking for good health. One wonders what  wishes she has communicated to the Buddha. We ended our trip in Tokyo.  In Asakusa, well off the beaten path, we found this cut-out of one of Steve's favorite characters, Tora-san.  The films of this traveling man of Tokyo in the 1970s and 1980s, help Steve improve his Japanese.