Movies of the real Japan
Movies on Japan
The following are short MPEG movies of various aspects of life in and connected with Japan.
Tagata Jinja Hounen Matsuri supposedly dates back over 1500 years and its origins lie in a festival to ensure bountiful harvests.
Now Tagata Jinja is dedicated to the phallus and fertility and is often visited by young couples who come to pray for the birth of a child.
Every year in March a raucous, drunken festival is celebrated as a huge wooden phallus is paraded on the streets, with an accompanying procession of young women carrying smaller phalluses, Shinto Priests, local dignitaries and a Tengu.
Tagata Jinja Hounen Matsuri held annually on March 15 near Inuyama, just north west of Nagoya is one of Japan's most bizarre fertility festivals.
Tagata Jinja Hounen Matsuri has become increasingly popular over the years and draws a large, enthusiastic crowd of both Japanese and foreign visitors including many US servicemen and women, who visit on special tours.
A freshly carved two and a half meter wooden phallus carved from a single log is carried 1.5km on a mikoshi between Kumano Shrine and Tagata Shrine. Sake is freely dispensed along the way.
Eko-In Temple is an approximately 300-year-old temple in the heart of Tokyo's, indeed Japan's, sumo heartland, the Ryogoku district. For most of it's lifespan Eko-In Temple has also been associated with sumo.
Like all Buddhist temples in Japan, however, Eko-In Temple deals with ceremonies to do with death, and here are said to be enshrined the souls of all who pass away with no one to mourn them: victims of large-scale calamities, convicts, and animals.
Watch these three priests performing memorial rituals in front of various mounds and tombs in Eko-In Temple.
Read more about Eko-In Temple and Ryogoku
The Kanamara Matsuri, or Festival of the Steel Phallus', in Daishi, Kawasaki, is held at the Wakamiya Hachimangu Shrine, popularly known as the Kanamara Jinja Shrine.
The festival has its roots in the pre-modern Edo era, about 250 years ago, when Kawasaki's ladies of the night instituted this celebration of the phallus both to spur business and to pray for protection from STDs. In those days the most feared was syphilis.
Today the main purpose of the festival, besides having fun, is to pray for the conception of a child, or for safe and easy childbirth. The previous preoccupation with syphilis has been replaced with a concern for AIDS, and the festival is very much part of the general AIDS awareness campaign. However, besides the initial queuing at the beginning of the festival in front of the shrine to toss a coin and say a prayer, the rest of the day is spent anything but meditatively.
Rock bands, rap, country and western line dancing, and more are mixed in with the thoroughly Japanese float parades, drumming troupes, shamisen players, and procession of dignitaries. Almost as popular as the beer stands are those selling phallic goods from keyrings to candies.
Konomiya Shrine's Hadaka Matsuri or Naked Festival first took place in 767 in an attempt to ward off a plague epidemic. A shin-otoko ("god-man") is first chosen from a group of applicants and prepares himself for 3 days kept in a small hall at the shrine. On the 13th day of the first month of the lunar calendar a large group of men dressed only in loincloths gather to touch the shin-otoko, who was traditionally naked, to pass off evil and bad-luck on to the shin-otoko. The festival begins in mid-afternoon on the 13th day of the lunar new year when thousands of men dressed only in loincloths carry a bamboo pole covered with pieces of paper carrying the excuses of people who couldn't make it to the festival that year.
If you can't find it Shinjuku, it probably doesn't exist. Tokyo's major entertainment and shopping area is where all kinds of Tokyo's well-off and not-so-well-off rub shoulders in a neon commotion of everything from sedate old department stores and high street boutiques to pachinko parlors and sex shops.
Something very much made it through the commotion on a recent visit there: a rapper outside an optometrist's, appealing to people to see what's on special and what's just come in. The streets are so innured to shouting through cupped hands and megaphones, that this store got creative. With the constant cluster of passers by who stopped to watch, it seemed to be paying off.
Pride Tokyo 2007 was Tokyo's 6th gay, lesbian, transgender celebration of queer sexuality. Held on 11 August in temperatures of around 36-37 degrees Celsius (97-98 degrees Fahrenheit) it was hot in every sense of the word. Thousands paraded through the streets of Tokyo, making a hour-long loop from Yoyogi Park and back. Thousands more well-wishers lined the streets, waving from the pavements and overhead bridges as the dazzling crowd of revellers passed by. Another successful gay parade, it looks set to be followed by many many more.
August 11, 2007.
Summer in Japan means the boom of the festival drum and the rat-a-tat of fireworks. One of Tokyo's biggest summer fireworks festivals is the Jingu Gaien Fireworks Festival. This event began in 1980, and has been a major feature of summer in Tokyo ever since. This movie of the 2007 event was taken at the huge No.2 field of the Meiji Jingu Gaien Sports compound. Thousands massed to get into the grounds for 1,000 yen, or sat around on the streets and in the parks surrounding the grounds. A total of 10,070 fireworks were let off. The variety of shapes, patterns, ways in which the fireworks flowered' (fireworks are actually called fireflowers' hanabi in Japanese) was amazing and kept the gargantuan audience gasping, oohing and aahing the whole way through.
August 16, 2007.
Walking throughTokyo's sprawling, grandiose Hama-rikyu Gardens with its moat, its multitude of vistas, and its teeming wildlife, I saw a performance taking place near the 300-Year Pine.A pair of young women in yukata robes, and a shamisen player. They were a traditional juggling act, but using paper parasols. Balls, metal rings, tea cups, even wooden sake box-cups, were thrown on top of whirling parasols and expertly manipulated to the awe of the small crowd that gathered. It was all in the spirit of humor, and the women kept up a lively patter between themselves and with the audience to the droll twang of the shamisen in the background. Check out this video of the parasol acrobats/jugglers for consummate skill delivered with smiles and laughter in lush greeneryunder a perfect blue late summer sky.
September 8, 2007.
Yutaka Fukuoka, former member of the band Pink, returns annually from Tokyo to his hometown in Hamada, Shimane Prefecture, to host an eclectic showmixing electronic and traditional kagura dance music. Watch a movie of dancers in kagura costume performing to Fukuoka's music accompanied by Japanese flutes, taiko drums, and other various percussion instruments with a backing of Fukuoka's very own electronic beat.
August 28, 2007.
Obimai, the Obi (i.e. sash) Dance, is a dance in the kagura tradition performed by a single male dancer. In north Kyushu it is performed by women. Sometimes the obi is white, sometimes red. All kagura dances are performed for the entertainment of the kami (gods), but the obi dance is specifically to soothe the kami. Myth has it that the dance was first performed for Homuda Wake, known now as Emperor Ojin, in the 5th Century. The dance is rarely performed nowadays. This performance was at Ichiyama Hachimangu Shrine in Shimane.
December 15, 2007.