Yearly Archive 2016

ByMark Guthrie
Jan 20, 2016

Toyohashi Demon Festival

Oni

There are many elements of Japanese folklore that instantly grab the attention, but at this time of year, thanks to the upcoming Setsubun celebrations it is probably the ‘oni’ – roughly translated as demon or ogre – that is the greatest focus. At the beginning of Spring you can often find depictions of these grotesque creatures, with sharp claws, wild hair, and two long horns growing from their heads, but you are unlikely to see as many of them as you do at the Toyohashi Demon Festival.

Origins

The Toyohashi Demon Festival, or ‘Oni Matsuri’, has been held in Akumi Kanbe Shinmeisha Shrine in Toyohashi City, Aichi Prefecture since 940CE and celebrates a great rivalry between two of the more famous oni, Aka-oni (red demon) and Tengu (the long nosed demon). The legend has it that Susanoo-no-mikoto, a red demon and a god of destructiuon arrived in the high heavenly plains of Takamagahara and laid waste to the fields there, including the granary stores.

Not happy with this, a god of martial arts, Sarutahiko-no-mikoto, the Tengu oni, decided to chasten this interloper by defeating him in battle and thus correcting the world of the gods. The other oni were so pleased with this turn of events that they held an impromptu kagura dance session. This story, depicting the the defeat of one who desroyed valuable foods was coopted into this shinto festival in order to prey for a good harvest in the coming year.

What to See

The Toyohashi Demon festival runs for two days, fro0m February 10th and February 11th. The first day is the festival’s eve and begins around 8:30am and includes dances and displays by local children, and the various demons are summoned, including Kuroi-oni (black demon) and Aoi-oni (blue demon, though he is in actual fact more of a green).

On the 11th, a day that happene to be National Foundation Day, meaning most of us will have a day off work, falls the festival proper. This begins again at 8:30am with a kagura Shinto theatrical dance, with many of these performed throughout the day. At various points there is a scattering of candy to ward off evil demons, but most people will be awaiting the main event at 2pm.

The Main Event

The ‘Aka-oni to Tengu no karakai’ or ‘the rivalry between the red demon and the long nose demon’ depicts the aforementioned battle between the two oni, with the red demon repeatedly provoking his opponent. The fight, of course, culminates in his defeat, and he runs away casting out candy as well as grain flower in his wake, meaning that if you want to get some of the lucky candy, be prepared to get white and dusty!

The festival itself continues until 10pm, with more dances and drumming sessions throughout the evening, though it is the ‘Aka-oni to Tengu no karakai’ that most people will have come to watch.

Toyohashi Demon Festival 2016

  • When: Feb 10, 8:30-21:00 and Feb 11, 8:20-22:00. Main event Feb 11, 14:00. For a full line up, check the ever excellent Kikuko-nagoya.com
  • Where: Aichi-ken, Toyohashi-shi, Hatchōdōri, 3 Chome (map link )
  • Getting there: Meitetsu or JR Train to Toyohashi Station, then tram to Toyohashi-Koen-mae station.
  • ContactAkumi Kambe Shinmeisha (shrine) Tel: 0532-52-5257

Mark Guthrie

Image: flickr.com “Grawwrrr! It’s an Oni Elijah van der Giessen (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) – Modified

ByRay Proper
Jan 12, 2016

Skiing in Japan – Spend a Weekend on the Slopes!

Photo By - Charles J Sharp

While Japan does not traditionally come to mind when you think of skiing, there are literally hundreds and hundreds of ski resorts, and many have become increasingly more well known and popular internationally.  If powder, cold, and speed are what you seek, you can find it here!

Hokkaido Ski Areas 

Hokkaido is said to offer the best powder in the world, and with a winter that lasts from September until the official end of ski season in MAY, you have ample opportunity to make it there.  Besides skiing, there are a variety of famous winter festivals that may be of interest as well.  When you think Hokkaido, think winter paradise.

From mainland Japan you will generally need to fly to Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido to enjoy these ski areas.  From Hokkaido, there will be additional distances to cover to reach the individual areas themselves.  See this post on Japan Guide for more details on getting to Hokkaido.

Niseko United

Niseko United offers one mountain and four resorts.


Niigata Ski Areas 

Niigata is one of the main skiing and snowboarding destination areas of Japan, and features over 50 operational ski resorts which are located mostly in the Myoko area and the Yuzawa area of the region.  Niigata itself is located about 200 km north of Tokyo on the Sea of Japan.

From Tokyo you will need to drive or take a bus (at least 3 hours), or ride the train (2 hours on the shinkansen, longer on JR) to enjoy these ski areas.   The journey from Nagoya takes about five hours.  From Nigata there will be additional distances to cover to reach the individual areas.

Gala Yuzawa Ski Resort

Gala Yuzawa Ski Resort is located in the town of Echigo Yuzawa, in an area famous for its impressive snowfalls.  This resort offers skiing from 1,181m down to 358m in excellent snow conditions.   They offer a variety of slopes, with some for kids.  The coolest part about  GALA Yuzawa is its own bullet train station; right at the base of the resort. Step off the train, pick up your pass and gear and you’re ready to go! It couldn’t be easier. You can wake up in Tokyo and be on the slopes by 8 am!


Nagano Ski Areas

From Tokyo you will need to drive or take a bus (at least 3 hours), or ride the train (2 hours on the shinkansen, longer on JR) to enjoy these ski areas.  From Nagano, there will be additional distances to cover to reach the individual areas.  See this post on Japan Guide for more details on getting to Nagano.

Tateshina Tokyu Ski Resort

Tateshina Tokyu Ski Resort is focused on fun on skis for kids.  You will not find a lot, if any, advanced or dangerous ski runs here.  10% are supposed to be for absolute beginners, and 60% of the remaining for intermediate level.  Click through and look at the advertising pictures; good spot to take your kids skiing.

Karuizawa Prince Hotel and Resort

Karuizawa Prince Hotel and Resort offers ten runs that break down as beginner 50% , intermediate 30%, advanced 20%.  There is a little something here for the whole family, and the amenities as described seem nearly posh.  One selling point; they claim to be “one of the few ski resorts in Japan to offer both hotel rooms and individual cottages,” so they have that going for them.

Nozawa Onsen

Nozawa Onsen is one of Japanʼs most superb and expansive winter sports areas. The resort ranks among the very top in Japan in terms of size, its history and snow quality; touting an “abundance” of 100% natural, high-quality powder snow and skiing well into early May


Gunma Ski Areas

Tambara Ski Park

Tambara Ski Park  is focused on fun on skis for everyone, especially kids.  You will not find a lot, if any, advanced or dangerous ski runs here.  15% are supposed to be for absolute beginners, and 65% of the remaining are for intermediate level skiers.


More Info on Skiing in Japan

A collection of articles and resources, including an app!   Yes, you heard right.  Skiing in Japan?  There is an app for that!

Japan Snow Guide – e-Zine online magazine 

The Japan Snow Guide contains all the info you need to get up to the mountain and enjoy winter in Japan. Enjoy reading the guide on your computer or tablet or mobile device with their easy, e-zine style on-line format.

Japan Snow Guide IOS App 

Japan Snow Guide App By MapMotionThe Japan Snow Guide has one simple goal, to help people get out and enjoy Japan’s amazing snow country, resorts and winter hospitality. Japan is blessed with a mountainous terrain that receives some of the heaviest snowfalls in the world and is dotted with natural hot springs. If you have chosen Japan for your winter holiday, you have countless ski resorts to choose from and one of the finest ski experiences in the world.

The key is to find the resorts right for you. Inside the free Japan Snow Guide iOS Mobile App, readers will find course info on some of the top resorts in Japan as well as information on featured resorts, resort services and destinations.

January and February are the peak snow months, but Japan’s ski season runs until early May. Don’t let another snow season pass you by. Regret can bury you like an avalanche. It can stop you in your tracks like a bad wax job. Know before you go because… “Knowledge means powder – think deep!”

FEATURES

  • Resort information
  • Mountain information
  • Downloadable trail maps
  • Weather
  • Events
  • Featured resorts and services
  • Real-time accommodation bookings
  • Original feature stories and articles
  • Shop List for finding great winter gear
  • GPS enabled map views and directions
  • Push Notifications
  • Facebook integration and sharing
  • Bookmarks and Favorites

And more … continually updated!

Japan Guide – Japan’s best ski resorts – Article 

The best resorts and snow conditions are found in northern Japan (Hokkaido and Tohoku) and in the mountains along the Sea of Japan Coast (especially Niigata and Nagano).

SnowJapan – Japan Winter Sports Guide- Article 

SnowJapan is the resource for skiing and snowboarding in Japan. Updated daily throughout the year. Online since 1999.

Skiing in Japan: small but beautiful

Japan has many winter micro resorts. Our writer escapes the crowds and finds untracked slopes and perfect powder

Ten Things to Know About Skiing in Japan – Article