Fuji San – 富士山

Climbing the tallest mountain in Japan

A little history, fireworks, a waterfall and of course some climbing.

This will be the big one, the way best way in my eyes to finish my year aboard in the one and only Japan. For a very long time I have been talking about climbing Fuji (I even brought my hiking boots with the very intention to climb) and now the 8th of August will be the day that I take it on.

View of Fuji overlooking Kofu, Yamanashi

DSC_0885.jpg

I have only seen Fuji from afar, living in Yamanashi you are constantly reminded of 3776m breath-taking volcanos grandeur wherever you are in the prefecture. I had climbed some of Fuji’s neighbouring mountains and only been inspired more by the sheer size of the mountain.

My year in Japan has been one that I will never forget, and when in you come the land of the rising sun it is only fitting that you climb the most climbed mountain in the world, right?

DSC_0746

With a climbing season of only 2 months and around 300,000 climbers every year, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about! It was recently added to the UNESCO’s World Heritage List as “Fujisan – Sacred Place and Source of Artistic Inspiration” – June 2013. The reasons for this active volcano being added are to do with its contribution to the culture of Japan and also the art of the world. For the Japanese it wasn’t only a source of artistic inspiration but a holy place of worship and accordingly at the foot of Fujisan there are many shrines and temples. For hundreds of years the Japanese have climbed Fujisan as a part of a religious pilgrimage, this resulted in no  women being allowed to climb Fuji until 1868.

The day before the climb

There were a few events and places surrounding Fujisan that I had never seen, so the day before I climbed myself and my good friend Yuka set out on an adventure to try and do a few!

Starting the day with the trip down to Shizuoka, Yamanashi’s neighbouring  prefecture that also shares the beautiful Mt Fuji. Famous for the ocean, Macha (green tea) and oranges is another place I would recommend a quick stop off especially to the falls we visited!

Shiraito Falls (白糸の滝, Shiraito no Taki) near the border of Yamanashi and Shizuoka, right beside Mt Fuji.

DSC_0065DSC_0034DSC_0062DSC_0052.jpg

The picture perfect scene, the iconic symbol when people think of Japan they often think samurai, geisha, sushi and Fujisan. So iconic in fact that they put the active volcano on the 1000¥ bill. We went to try and a get the view of Fujisan from Lake Motosu.

DSC_0075

I had no such luck, of course, there was a lot of clouds that day… (its behind that cloud I swear…)

As mentioned before Fujisan had a great influence on in Japan but also in the west not only in art but in the music of the 1900’s. The 5th Paris Expo or Exposition Universelle held in Paris France was the first to bring the world of Asian art to Europe. Consisting of art, music, dance, food and pottery, this was the chance for the middle-class Europeans to come and experience world culture on their doorstep. One artist who was practically influenced  by this was, of course, the young Frenchmen Claude Debussy, whose work would never be the same after that faithful day. It is clear that fuji and the music of Japan had a massive impact on his work after visiting the Expo he would go on to write ‘La Mer’ that was inspired by the famous depiction of the Great Wave off Kanagawa the woodblock print by Katsushika Hokusai.

Great_Wave_off_Kanagawa2.jpg

An obvious indication of this is shown in his choice of art used on the cover of the score. Other artists such as Van Gogh and Claude Monet would also gain inspired by Japanese works of art.

Debussy_-_La_Mer_-_The_great_wave_of_Kanaga_from_Hokusai

As well as visiting Lake Motosu I stayed a litter later as there was a firework festival that night at Lake Kawaguchiko. On the way picking up some budō (or grapes) as Yamanashi is the wine country of Japan they are the best here!

DSC_0074.jpg

The firework display just so happened to be one of the biggest in Yamanashi Prefecture, with around 10,000 fireworks. For those of you who don’t know fireworks or Hanabi (花火, which translates as fire flower or flower fire) is an integral part of Japanese summer culture. All over Japan no matter was you go there will be abundances of Hanabi Taikai (firework festivals) going on! This was an opportunity to get on my yukata (summer kimono) and eat some kaki gouri (shaved ice with sauce) while watching the fireworks.

DSC_0127_01DSC_0178DSC_0189DSC_0193DSC_0173Summer time 5th Aug_5821.jpg

So, the Japanese know how to do a fireworks display, this was without a doubt the most impressive firework show that I had ever seen. Some of the larger fireworks were wider that the bridge that crosses Lake Kawaguchiko which is over 500 meters long. These things were HUDGE!

Prearing for the climb

 

Meanwhile doing all of this I made the time to prepare for the climb, and it turns out there is a lot to consider when climbing up 3700 meters. This was the biggest climb that I have ever done and I heard a lot of different stories from different people. Some people told me it was easy, others told me it was hell, I wasn’t really sure what to believe. Of course like any kid of the 21st century (if I can even call myself that) I went straight to the internet and watch some videos of the climb.  After being inspired by youtube, and having a lot of laughs I went to prepare.

IMG_6590

What I brought to Fuji

 

Hiking boots – you may take this as a given, but you wouldn’t believe the number of people that wear sandals, runners and other types of shoes that just wouldn’t cut it.

Clothing – I bought the day before the climb a pair of hiking trousers from Uniqlo (best purchase ever) they were comfy, warm and cheap too! A T-Shirt, woolly hat, fleece, shorts and an extra pair of socks.

Waterproofing – Bring a coat and if your trousers aren’t waterproof bring some waterproof ones. You won’t regret this if it rains a little and the wind picks up.

Drinks – I brought 2 litres of H2O, 1 litre of Green Tea and 6 or 7 various energy/sugary drinks. 

Food – I brought some onigiri (rice balls), hard sweets, loads of chocolate and some other snacks.

Backpack – You need to put all your stuff somewhere, right? Just make sure it’s comfy as it’s going to be your best friend for the next 7 to, however, many hours you spend on the mountain.

Cash – This is essential as you have to pay for the climb, food or water and if you need the toilet there are several (usually at the stops) but you have to pay, 200 while climbing and 300 at the summit.

Plastic bag – There are no bins on the mountain so bring a bag for your trash and also to stop valuables getting wet.

Sunglasses – If you don’t get rained on its going to be bright. These are also great for your decent (especially if it is windy) as the dust from the track goes everywhere and can get in your eyes.

Towel or bandana – This is super important for your decent unless you like eating lava rock. Covering your face with this really makes the decent a much more pleasant experience.

Suncream – The UV rays are ‘hella strong’ on Fuji and if you don’t wanna burn, bring suncream.

Medical supplies – We all like to think that nothing bad will happen but it is really important to be prepared in case something does. I brought some plasters (band-aids), painkillers and Imodium to ensure an easier climb. 

Things I would recommend bring that I didn’t

Gloves  for general warm and also for some of the rougher bits of the hike where you have to climb.

Bag cover – if it does rain or you get stuck in a cloud, you’re gonna get wet along with your bag and all the stuff it contains.

Headlamp – if you’re gonna climb at night for the sunrise.

Shoes – A change of shoes for the bottom when you get down it is a great feeling to take off the old shoes and change into new ones. A light pair or flip-flops would be perfect.

Things that I would recommend not bringing

If you are only going to climb from the 5th station in one day (like most people do). One and a half litres of water is fine and 3 or 4 energy drinks would be enough just bring a little extra cash you can get more if need be. These will be the heaviest things that you will bring and if like me you bring an extra 2 litres you don’t need you will really feel it the next day or four.

Now that we are packed and ready to go, let’s climb! 

The Climb 

8th August 2016

Wake up! – 3:00 am

It was lovely and quite an early start to the day, that involved getting dressed and packing my bag with the 10s of litres of liquids that I had foolishly decided to bring along with me. Then off to the bus to pick up the rest of the group!

5th Station,  2305M – 5:15am

Arriving on the bus to the fifth station, we spent some time to acclimatise and ready ourselves for the walk ahead!  Starting our climb at 2305 meters we had another 1410 meters to the top! When we set off at 6 the walk was rather pleasant and we made sure to stop off ever 20 to 30 minutes for a quick breather.

DSC_0206

6th Station, 2390M –  6:47am

The climb was going well everyone was having a lot of fun and the weather was brilliant!

DSC_0210DSC_0205

7th Station, 2700M  – 8:30am

The climb to the seventh was one of the longer climbs and had a rough patch of rock that lasted for 20 or 30 minutes. This was probably the most intense of all the climbs! The weather was getting worse as well, we started to walk into a cloud and everything was getting wet.

DSC_0216DSC_0215

8th Station,  3360M – 9:32am

When I arrive at the 8th station I realised that my leg was starting to hurt, I think that I had pulled a muscle in my left leg. It was making things a little difficult at this point! As well as that a few of the people in the group had fallen really far behind and wouldn’t be able to make it to the summit in time so they were turned around. My leg was sore and the group had been cut in half!

DSC_0218

Station 8.5, 3450M   – 10:17am

Everyone was now very wet and one of the girls was showing signs of altitude sickness, meanwhile, my leg wasn’t getting any better. But the show must go on so we quickly made our way to the 9th station.

DSC_0223

9th Station, 3600M – 10:50am

So close to the top at this point everyone was getting excited, the cold and wet wasn’t going to stop us, we were going to get there!

DSC_0221

Summit gate, 3700M – 11:28am

Finally after 5 and a half hours of climbing we could see the gate to the summit of mt Fuji!!!

Summit,  3715M – 11:40 am

We got to the top (those of us left) and let out a group cheer! Then it was time to try and warm up, relax and get some food into our bodies! There are several shops at the summit all selling hot food and drinks, of course at very high prices but what can you do at 3700M. There is, of course, vending machines as it wouldn’t be Japan without them! Another very Japanese thing when climbing a mountain is to collect a little Omiyage (or souvenir) in the form of a small bell! I, of course, got mine and the shop owners will engrave the date of the climb! 

Video of the Climb

Descent   – 1:00pm

With all the fun over at the top, it was time to face the horrible fact that we had to get back down again… Taxi anyone?   If only…

We started are descent and the wind had picked up, this meant that all of the loose gravel on the downward path was going everywhere. This is where the towel that I mentioned earlier came in handy. I wore it as a face mask and put on my sunglasses to protect my eyes, these two things were a real life saver and meant the descent was a lot easier and safer. I foolishly decided that it would be easier to jog down as the pathway is quite steep and awkward to walk on. Believe it or not, it was actually easier on my sore leg to jog. To cut a long story short after a lot of sweating and heavy breathing we made it to the bottom just after 3pm.  With two hours to wait for the bus home, we just lay there and relaxed waiting for the rest of the group to arrive!

 

We headed home at 5pm and I was fast asleep as soon as we got home! Needless to say I could hardly move my left leg the next day but of course, the onsen fixed that right up! Over all what an amazing trip and great experience!

DSC_0228DSC_0226_01

Best way to end the climbing experiance, get naked with lots of other men in a big bath! ut seriously, get to the onsen after your climb it will help if you are staying in Yamanashi this one is amazing! Kunitachi, Arashi no Yu, Spa in the Storm, Isawaonen, Yamanashi is famous for its pebble baths and will work wonders on any aches and pains you may have after the climb!   It is also renoned for curing people of sickness and ailments, great spot well worth a visit!  Unfortuntly they only have a japanese website, but if you visit the hotel you can go into the baths for the day at a resonable price!

http://www.isawa-kunitachi.com/hotspa/

Thanks for looking/reading

Stephen

Advertisements

Katana (刀) or the Japanese Sword

 

Karate class adventures

Today we joined Katada Sensei (my karate teacher at iCLA) on a little adventure to one of his friends in Kofu!  Katada Takashi has been more than just a teacher to me. Over the year that I have known him, he has taught me many things to do with the overall culture and Etiquette of Japan.

When we first met I would say I was somewhat boisterous or rather excited about being in Japan and studying martial arts with a World Champion.   Not speaking very good English we developed a sense of communication through, me talking and him agreeing with everything I said… Joking of course, (this did happen a lot though) the communication came through the dojo and practice karate. Growing a mutual respect for one another benefited, practically for Philip and myself in many ways. On many occasion we have been invited by Katada to events or trips and also to join the karate training with his team, (they’re all 3 dan and upward, training for the 2020 Olympics) which is pretty unheard of for two foreign novices.

P.s for those of you know don’t know what that is, here it is put in simple terms by ‘Our’ Philip – “if you are proud of your driver’s license, they’re like fighter pilots.” or my personal favorite “If you have no badges, they have 10.”

Katada for those of who know him is not only a master in karate but a keen connaisseur of everything Japanese.  Dedicating all free time to learning things like Sado, Iaido and the rest of his time to his young family. We have gained experiences in these fields because of Katada, in both Sado (or the tea ceremony) and Iaido (or drawing the sword) on a regular basis. Just two weeks ago we were able to try using a live blade for the first time thanks to Katada.

 

 

Because of these experiences, he asked both Philip and I if we would like to see how the katana are made. Of course, we jumped at the opportunity to see a swordsmith working metal!! Que today’s adventure!

 

Kofu’s Secret Sword Smith – Ito Shigemitsu

Not really sure if it’s a secret or not but it sounds more provocative don’t you think?

We jumped in the car and drove 20 minutes south of the campus and arrive at Ito Shigemitsu’s workshop/home. We introduced ourselves in the Japanese fashion of lots of bowing and saying your name. Then it was sword time!!

 

DSC_0316DSC_0373DSC_0374DSC_0395

 

He showed us first of all the raw materials for making the swords. Japan, of course, is an island with limited raw materials. They weren’t blessed, like many other places around the world with iron ore, so they had to get inventive. They were able to extract it from sand that was rich in iron like this.

 

DSC_0318

 

Of course, this made the process very time-consuming and costly. Spending several days over a charcoal furnaces (like the one shown below) the sand is spread over the top where it heats up and the iron sinks to the bottom and collects in a trough.  This is a very delicate process, the furnace needs to be kept at a constant temperature to avoid the iron spoiling and the sand being spread evenly to ensure optimum quality. After the firing, you are left with a slab of iron and other impurities. This is then broken and sorted into different groups, some are used for the softer core of the katana and others for the harder exterior.

 

DSC_0319DSC_0320DSC_0338DSC_0324

 

It is then heated, hammered and folded. This is what gives the katana its edge over other swords from around the world. This process is necessary to extract any impurities within the metal and to align the carbon, making it extremely strong. As the metal block is folded it creates lots of small layers, within the steel, giving it a pattern or skin. Of course, every sword smiths pattern is unique as they have their own individual way of folding the metal.

 

DSC_0383DSC_0365DSC_0367DSC_0368DSC_0385DSC_0392DSC_0393DSC_0399DSC_0359DSC_0401DSC_0412DSC_0413DSC_0414DSC_0416

 

The block is folded once more, only this time, a softer piece of iron is added (with a lower carbon content) to the harder steel exterior. The softer interior will eventually be hammered down and become the edge of the blade. Then it is heated and hammered into a rod that is the desired length for the sword.

 

DSC_0344DSC_0342

 

The reason for the soft centre and hard exterior has to do with strength and durability of the sword. The soft centre makes the blade flexible so your stupidly expensive sword won’t crack and break. The hard exterior is for strength, it still needs to pack a punch when you are chopping off heads, right? 

 

Then the rod is hammered on one side for the signature style single blade, this also is where the katana gets its curve. As only one side is made thinner the single piece of steel stretches on the blade side and contracts on the other giving it the curve you see. Then the blade is given a rough polish and coated in clay and heated once more to 800oC. This gives the blade its signature Hammon (or pattern/wavy line), then it is dropped into a bath of cold water dropping the temperature rapidly hardening the outer steal.

 

DSC_0468DSC_0352

 

Then comes the rigorous task of polishing and sharpening, this is normally done by a professional sharpener taking weeks of even months to perfect.

 

DSC_0398DSC_0397

 

Then we got to try out one of his swords. It was like getting a gun and shooting cans on a white picket fence in the wild west only, Japanese style. So with a katana, a wooden block, and a vending machine coffee can, oh and the aim was to slice it in half.

 

DSC_0358

 

Then Philip suggested we do some gardening and why not cut the tree’s (joking, of course,) trust the Japanese to take him seriously.

 

DSC_0467DSC_0465DSC_0458DSC_0457

Left the corner a little bare…

DSC_0471

 

Shigemitsu showed us some photos of an Australian group coming to visit his workshop. They got two swords and by striking them together were able to make sparks fly. Then he asked if we would like to try recreating this, Philip of course, jumped at the chance of destroying a ¥1,000,000 (or about 10,000 US Dollars) katana. To his dismay it was of course not the expensive katana we would be using but two blanks that were yet to be sharpened fully (still worth a shit load of money). Then Katada and Philip proceeded to destroy these two swords while I failed to capture the sparks on my camera… Gomen Shigemitsu gomen…

 

DSC_0450DSC_0439DSC_0454DSC_0446

There was actually some sparks, I just didn’t get it in time…

 

After breaking two swords we went inside to look at the real deal. Shigemitsu told us how his family had been making Katana for hundreds of years. He then produced this smaller blade and hand guard.

 

DSC_0428DSC_0427DSC_0434DSC_0430

 

These turned out to be over 300 years old made in the Edo Period by his great-grandfather! Absolutely amazing, the history and what beautiful pieces of craftsmanship.

Then he showed us one of his more recent works.

DSC_0435DSC_0424

This is the 1 Million yen jobbie right here… What an honor to even see such amazing pieces, let alone touch and swing them about!

 

What an experience, thanks, Ito Shigemitsu and of course Katada sensei!

 

Thanks for reading/looking!

Hope you enjoyed it!

Stephen

 

Poor guy was right back on the wheel as soon as we left, fixing those swords no doubt.

DSC_0455

 

Shingen Ko Festival! – 信玄公祭り (しんげんこうまつり)

‘The Largest Gathering of Samurai’ – Guinness World Records, April 2012.

 

As you have seen in earlier posts in the build up to the samurai parade we have been working very hard to prepare and finish the armour in time.

 

 

 

A short video of the coming up to the parade and the post about making the samurai armour.

https://lifesofar.org/2016/04/04/making-samurai-armour/

https://lifesofar.org/2016/04/07/homemade-samurai-armour-part-2-helmet/

The Big day – 9/4/16

 

After the long wait, it’s time to finally march in the Parade!  Held here in Kofu the city of my study year abroad. Convenient I hear you say…

 

 

The plan was to wake up nice and early, get the armour on and head into Kofu city centre on the train for the start of the parade.  All was going well with only a few costume hick ups, noting that the master craftsmen couldn’t fix with ease though!

After an hour or two of everyone getting ready, some worry worts putting on diapers, we made our way to the train station.

Diapers I hear you ask, yes diapers… Someone had the bright idea of telling everyone that the parade would last a long time and there would be no toilet breaks. Their solution was to wear a diaper (or 3, literally 3).  Don’t worry I can put your minds at rest and tell you that there were no accidents and everyone got home with a dry bum. Or at least I think they did?

 

IMG_5293

 

Of course, everyone in Yamanashi knows about the parade, but that didn’t stop the funny looks as we made our way to the train station.

The Parade Route

We started at the Prefectural office and marched through the streets to the castle for the opening ceremony.

 

dsbksfIMG_1368

 

After marching to Kofu Castle we sat down on the green and listened to the opening ceremony! Then it was time for the full parade, marching around the city centre and off to battle we went.

 

IMG_1364Bendik Aarsæther

She thinks that’s bad, try living beside him.. 😉

IMG_1370IMG_13734038IMGP0297IMG_1385

 

We had the great honour of being allowed to take part in the parade itself, but as if that wasn’t enough we also got to march with this man in our group!

 

IMG_1366

Kuninobu Takeda ’16th Generation descendant of Takeda Shingen’

One of the only living decedents of Takeda Shingen. Talk about amazing!

 

IMG_1365IMGP0329_01.jpg46IMG_1350IMGP0317

Some of the other performances during the parade.

IMG_138139IMGP0266IMGP0305IMG_1374

 

After a few more hours of walking we were back to the starting point and it was time to grab a quick bento, oh and photos!

 

IMG_7554IMG_7573IMG_7546

 

For obvious reasons I couldn’t take any photos on the day, I have been given permission by everyone to use all of the photos and videos that  you see in this post.

 

Big Thanks

Bendik Aarsæther, BA Productions   ( https://www.facebook.com/baprodnorway/?fref=ts )

Saitoh Naoki, LANDSCAPE FILMS  ( http://amadeus43.wix.com/landscape)

Ellie Parker-Harbord  (@icemonkey65 on Instagram)

Josephine Dryden  (@josiedryden on Instagram)

Yuka Shimazu  (@yuc4t4n on Instagram )

iCLA   (https://www.icla.jp/en/)

Everyone else who helped make this possible

 

IMG_7547

Time to get the armour off and get the beers in! What an amazing day and what an amazing experience!

 

Thanks for reading/looking

Stephen

 

 

 

 

I’ll leave you with this..

output_KOCp76

 

Shibazakura – Another day trip!

I’m trying to catch up and write down all the trips that I’ve been on recently. It’s been a fun-filled month or three of non-stop traveling, day trips and adventure throughout south-east Asia! This will be the first of many to come. The rainy season is about to hit in Japan so that means not as many adventures. But it gives me plenty of time to actually write about the things that I have been up to.  I’ll also be giving you an update on some of the little projects that I have been doing over the last few months.

So back to Shibazakura! 

1/05/16  – Sunday 1st May 2016

Just to point out, as I’m sure you have already noticed, ‘Zakura’or ‘Sakura’ has appeared again.. I think it’s kind of a rule if it is pink and something to do with nature it is called Sakura as I told you before this literally means cherry blossom, but in this case it will be used to describe the colour, not the species. Shiba, in this case, means moss and translates to cherry blossom moss or pink moss.

Again I find myself around the beautiful lake area located at the base of Mount Fuji it is one of the most beautiful places in Yamanashi. Especially at this time of the year (if you can get over the tens of thousands of tourists going there) this festival quite stunning and a fitting end to the cherry blossom season. It lasts for around two months but it is at its height in the last two weeks of April, after this is golden week and we will talk about why it’s not a good idea to go then…. After Golden Week it is still in bloom but not anywhere near the full bloom of before Golden Week!

I decided I should do something over Golden Week as I didn’t really have any plans and most of my friends had other plans. So I just decided to get up and go. I set off bright and early, catching my 8am train from Kofu. When going from Kofu you need to make a change  there are two different trains you need to get, first to Otsuki, then to Kawaguchiko. During the Shibazakura Festival there are shuttle buses that leave every half an hour and take you on the short journey to the field.

Oh, I’m not sure if I mentioned but, it was Golden Week here in Japan. For any of you who don’t know what this is, don’t worry, I will explain…

So basically Golden Week in Japan falls once a year and last for a week (kind of). It is different every year, as it can fall on different dates, but this is one of the only annual holiday weeks of the year in Japan and everyone is doing something. Golden Week is a collection of four national holidays within 7 days, so basically everywhere that would normally have a lot of tourists has 4 times as many. Be warned, I didn’t believe it until I experienced it…

With that in mind, back to the story. So I got off the train and headed over to bus stop seven. Walking past a huge crowd of people thinking nothing of it. I headed to the stop and the ticket booth only to realise that the line I just walked along beside was the one for the shuttle bus. Shit, I was going to miss this bus and of course, I did, and the next one oh and the next one after that. So three buses later I was finally on the road we got out of Kawaguchiko and about 10 minutes into the 30-minute journey when we hit the traffic for the festival.  An hour and a half later I arrive along with a million (excuse my exaggeration) other people, the place was heaving.

To cut a long story short, this is a beautiful place and festival, just don’t go during Golden week..

All the crappy parts aside. It was rather beautiful in hindsight, I refused to tell myself it was at the time as I was so annoyed with the transport and all the people but looking back it was a rather enjoyable experience! Let’s just have a look shall we?

 

DSC_0712DSC_0719DSC_0706DSC_0703DSC_0708

 

After the festival, I headed to the Ice Caves nearby called  Narusawa-hyōketsu, then went to Lake Kawaguchigo

 

DSC_0733DSC_0724DSC_0739DSC_0737DSC_0738DSC_0746

 

Thanks for looking/reading

Stephen

Yamanashi’s Fire Festival, Hokoji Temple.

April 29th, 2016

Today was spent at the Buddhist temple Hokoji for the annual Yamabushi fire festival!  Situated in Kōshū, Yamanashi Prefecture, this is a beautiful temple known as the flower temple as it is famous for its year-round flower gardens!

 

DSC_0682DSC_0678DSC_0574DSC_0570

The festival started with a reanactment of hiking up a mountain as it says in the name Yamabushi, Yama means mountain and Bushi is a warrior or samurai! After the reanactment that invovled walking through the town to a locals house and saying some words the main part of the festival began!

DSC_0583DSC_0577DSC_0587DSC_0600DSC_0608DSC_0618

Back to the temple and starting the ritual for the fire to be lit.

DSC_0633

It began with chanting then shooting arrows into the crowd(no humams were harmed in this shooting), then followed by blessings and more chanting.

DSC_0628

The fire was lit and the clothes started to come off!

DSC_0643

DSC_0662DSC_0660DSC_0657

Then one by one the Yamabushi walked through the hot coals, after they had finished everyone else at the festival got the oppurtunity. Of course I went for it! Hot on my heals (quite literally) was my good friend Bendik walking through the hot coals!

DSC_0671

After walking throuh fire we explored more of the temple.

DSC_0673DSC_0595

Then it was off to the onsen we go, to wash our smoky bodies and what a view of Fuji-san!

DSC_0691.jpg

 

 

Thanks for reading/looking guys!

Stephen

DSC_0597

 

The Oldest Cherry Blossom Tree in Japan, Hanami Jindai Zakura, Hokuto-shi – 花見 神代桜 北杜市(はなみ じんだいざくら ほくとし)

花見 or hanami literally means ‘flower watching’ or to look at flowers.  This phenomenon comes about at the start of spring as the sakura or cherry blossom trees start to bloom. People go crazy for the sakura in Japan and just right too as it probably one of the most beautiful times to see Japan.   As I talked about in my last blog  post on Kawaguchigo spring time is the rebirth of Japanese nature. All of the flowers start to pop out, the fruit trees are blooming and the smell of nectar is in the air.

IMG_5452

The Sakura (or cherry blossom) is the unofficial national flower of Japan and has been celebrated here for 100’s of years! if you ever come to japan you will soon find out how the Japanese are borderline fanatical when it comes to flowers on tree’s….  so where am I going with this you say?  Well,

Yesterday, I took a little trip to Hokuto city, Yamanashi Prefecture to spend sometime flower watching or hanami as they like to say in Japan!

I first went to 山高神代桜 or Bowler Sakura Jindai which is quite a famous area to see cherry blossom, in fact, it is home to this tree.

The Jindaizakura, which just so happens to be the oldest cherry blossom tree in the Japan and in fact the world. Oh, and it’s in Yamanashi Prefecture!!! This tree has been a focal point for Japanese culture for hundreds of years, and at a mere 2000 years young it is still growing strong! Jindaizakura one of the three famous sakura trees in Japan, the second oldest is Usuzumi-Zakura in the Usuzumi Park in Gifu Prefecture which is around 1500 years old and Miharu Takizakura, Fukushima Prefecture is the third oldest at 1000 years old but by far the most famous. After lasting the tsunami and nuclear reactor disaster is it a beacon of hope for the Japanese and is visited by thousands of people when blooming.

IMG_5365

The gardens surrounding the Jindaizakura tree are gorgeous,  fields of daffodils, snowdrops and tulips covered in the fallen cherry blossoms.

The temple park is in full of blooming flowers from all around!

IMG_5451IMG_5450

 You can even stop off and get some tasty food! I would recomend the mochi and the sakura ice-cream. Yes cherry blossom ice-cream!!!! 

IMG_5449IMG_5441IMG_5448

 

Parking at the temple cost around 400/500 yen depending on how close you are to the temple.

After walking around the park more than once, I got talking to a lcoal and they told me about a famous street that was a five minute drive from were the temple park was. So I thought that I would check it out!

And there it was…
IMG_5442
One of the most beautiful strees I’ve ever seen, I was completely surrounded by sakura. Along the road there are flieds of daliodils and friut fields with lines of peach (or momo as the japanese say) trees  that were some of most beautiful I have ever seen! These trees had three didifernt types of blossoms on each branch pink, white and a mixture of the two!
IMG_5446
If you want to check it out it is very busy and there isnt vey much parking on the plus side it’s free!
IMG_5445
I even met some interesting friends.. Posers
IMG_5443
Enjoy the hanami!
Thanks for reading/looking guys,
Stephen

Homemade Samurai Armour Part 2 (Helmet)

(You can see the helmet in its complete stage above, this also happened to be when I was interviewed for CATV a Japanese TV Channel that is broadcast to over 800,000 people, no pressure.. )

The second part of my Samurai Armour instalment,

When constructing the armour I thought long and hard about the helmet as it really is the centrepiece for any samurai armour. There are such vast amounts of styles and variations when it comes to this part of the samurai armour it was actually very difficult to choose. After looking through lots of different resources online and in books provided by Watanabe sensei I found one and based my design roughly around it!

 

Making the horns

I started off by making a cardboard cutout of one side then using it as a stencil to make both sides identical. After cutting, tweaking and perfecting it I scored the outline on to the same black plastic sheets that were used for the rest of the armour. This would act as the support and backbone really of the horns.

After cutting out the insert I cut out two pieces of styrofoam in the shape of the horns. 20160226_122536

Then I worked them with the Stanley knife shaving the sides and rounding off both sides, then I used a fine course sandpaper and smoothed off the edges.

Then same then I taped and glued the two pieces together with the plastic cutout in between.

The next stage was to add cloth over the top of the black tape to allow me to spray them easier. Also, this was a chance to add an effect to the horns so they weren’t perfectly smooth making them more like an animal’s horn.

After many layers of glue (about 7 or 8) I started to smooth out the surface using sand paper then repeating the glueing process to take away the ragged edge of the cloth. After three or four more layers it was ready to have its final dry then paint!

After the paint had dried I attached the two pieces together and fitted them to my helmet. The final result looks pretty awesome I think anyway! Let me know what you think!

IMG_4242

(This is an older photo there has been more modifications made to the armour for example, all the blue thread you see has been changed to purple and the Takeda mon has been added to the hand guards)

Thanks for looking/reading

Stephen