Nebuta Museum WA RASSE

This is my second visit to Nebuta Museum WA-RASSE. It is a facility that introduces the history and charms of the Aomori Nebuta Festival. Every year the best floats from the Nebuta Festival – which runs between 2-7 of August, are exhibited at the facility for the next 12 months. So, in a way no two visits to the Nebuta House will ever be the same.

I have written an in-depth article on the nuances of the Nebuta festival and how the museum facilitates the unique tradition in the Aomori prefecture. You can more about it here.

For this article I will be focusing more on the beautiful architecture of the unique building.

Architecture style of Nebuta Museum WA-RASSE

Nebuta House (Nebuta-no-ie Warasse) is a museum and center for creative culture in the Northern Japanese city of Aomori inspired by the craftsmanship and spirit of the Nebuta Matsuri. The festival, one of Japan’s largest, is a form of storytelling during which heroes, demons and animals from history and myth come to life as large-scale paper lanterns illuminated from within.

The first ideas of a cultural facility was initiated by Stephanie Forsythe and Todd MacAllen, who had previously worked closely with the city of Aomori to address the it’s evolving needs. In 2002, they had helped build the Aomori Lantern Houses and Community Center. The aim of that project was to create a lively, culture oriented space with the intent of revitalizing the city scape.

The partners identified the cultural importance of the Nebuta festival as one of the biggest draws of the prefecture. After selecting a new site for the awarded project – located adjacent to the JR Aomori train station, they proposed a building dedicated to preserving and enriching the festival’s heritage.

Their proposal was received with initial hesitation. The celebration itself was such a large, living part of the city that a museum didn’t seem essential. But after continued insistence from Forsythe and MacAllen, the local government realised that despite the festivals scale, there were hardly any lasting artifacts or methods of educating tourists about the festival.

In 2011, with assistance of the Kajima – Fujimoto – Kurahashi Construction JV, construction was completed on the unique, sculptural building – resting along the waterfront of Aomori City.

On first appearance the museum exterior looks like giant steel ribbons, parted like curtains to welcome visitors. These ribbons of steel enamel-coated in deep red, envelop the structure, creating a shifting pattern of light and shadow that separates exterior, everyday life from the otherworldly realm within. The design is said to have been inspired by the paper lanterns. The architects copied the movements of strips of paper caught in the breeze to generate the twists of each ribbon on the museum’s exterior.

For each steel ribbon, the bottom was set to a unique and specific angle, with thought to how sunlight would permeate the ribbons as it moved throughout the day, while the top part of each ribbon remained parallel to the building. These twists create openings that let in light and lead into a sheltered passageway between the ribbons and the glazed inner facade.

Dring fall the yellow Ginkgo trees look fabulous against the red nebuta museum

In all, the building is encased in 820 steel ribbons, 12 m tall, encircling the glass-and-steel structure inside. The exposed round steel columns are as slender as possible, giving the structure a feeling of physical lightness. The floor to ceiling window mullions are black, galvanized solid steel and fastened to the steel structure of slender columns to contribute structural support to the steel ribbon screen of the façade.

Enough with the boring stuff! Lets now enter the museum.

Exhibits from Nebuta Matsuri 2018

Aomori Nebuta House is a museum that houses and honours heroes and demons that are handcrafted into luminous floats for the Nebuta festival. Each year the five best Nebuta are selected for their creative artistry and craftsmanship and displayed at the Nebuta Wa-Rasse museum.

The interior is black, like a black box theatre. The abstraction of materiality, detail and colouring of the building allow visitors an intimate focus on the exhibits. The ground floor of the complex features a restaurant and a well stocked museum shop selling all sorts of local souvenirs and food. To witness the nebuta floats, take the stairs to the next floor.

Nebuta Tunnel

The tour starts with the Nebuta Tunnel. Along the red corridor lined with photos and images from the Nebuta Matsuri’s 300 year history, you can learn how the techniques and styles used in creating the floats has changed over the years.

Just beyond the Nebuta Tunnel, lanterns in the shape of red goldfish, another symbol of the festival, hang along the corridor where the recorded sounds of taiko drums, flutes, and voices play. These luminous Nebuta appear suspended in the darkness of the corridor, their vibrant colours reflected in the rippled, water-like floor. This is a subtle analogy to the last day of the festival when most of the Nebuta are set out to float on the sea.

One the walls along this corridor. the museum exhibits dioramas, drawings, photographs and artifacts that grant a deeper understanding of the unique culture and its evolution over time.

Aomori Nebuta Exhibit Hall

The Nebuta are creatures of light, and their home was designed as a realm of darkness. As you wind your way beyond the galleries and educational displays, you will find yourself in a dimly lit hall where you will be confronted by the Nebuta themselves.

There are no barriers, you can go as close as you want up to the paper structures with their expressive facial features and delicate detailing. In the darkened main hall of the museum these were five floats from this years festival.

I walked around the floats, taking pictures and admiring the craftsmanship that went into their construction. The floats reminds me of the “Durga Festival” we have back in my home town of Kolkata. Every year the deity is created using mud in numerous life-sized styles only to be submerged in to the Ganges after the festival ends.

A platform lies in one corner of the Hall, used for occasional performances by “Haneto” dancers. I have not been lucky enough be around during one of their dances. I would love to see them demonstrate the unique Nebuta Matsuri dance with taiko drums and flutes.

If you want to check out the nebuta floats from 2016, click here.


Nebuta is a living part of Aomori, and it continues to grow as an art form as individual artists bring their own style and innovations to the tradition. The Nebuta Warasse museum attempts to capture this spirit of the festival and gives visitors a teaser of its lively atmosphere, history and traditions.

The creation of the building dedicated to Nebuta allows people like me to visit Aomori at other times of year and yet experience the skillful craft of the artists that are the backbone of such an immersive festival.

Thanks for reading. Please leave me a comment if you liked the post or follow my story as I continue to explore the lovely Aomori waterfront.

How to access Nebuta Warasse Museum

The Nebuta Warasse is about a five minute walk north of JR Aomori Station.

Admission price of tickets

Adults: ¥600

On what days is the museum closed?

31st December-1st January (whole facility is closed)
9th-10th August (The museum is closed for the changing of the floats on display. The shop and restaurant are open for business as usual.)

The Stone Sculptures of Veerabhadra Temple

The forecast for the weekend had been bleak. With frequent rains and cloudy days, I was a bit circumspect if we would eventually be able to go down to the Veerabhadra Temple in Lepakshi. Fortunately for us, it turned out to be a lovely sunny day.

The Veerabhadra Temple lies not far from Bangalore in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. It is popular around these parts for its outstanding sculptures and ceiling paintings which represent the climax of the Vijayanagar Art towards the middle of the 16th century. Built in 1530 CE, the architectural features of the temple follow the Vijayanagar style to the detail, with numerous carvings and paintings at almost every exposed surface of the temple.

How to reach Veerabhadra Temple

We started from Bangalore at about 1 pm. The journey was uneventful as we passed by some fine stretches of flowering Gulmohar trees along the NH7.

After about an hour and a half of driving along the national highway, we reached a toll booth at the borders of Karnataka. Immediately after the toll booth, we took a hard left into a branching road towards Lepakshi. The road is adorned with a huge gate and a big Nandi statue sitting in the center. From here Lepakshi is just about 12 km away.

Once we left the highway, the road narrowed down to a 2-lane driveway, but it was still well maintained. I thank the Andhra Pradesh government, who have done a great job for the many foreign and local tourists, who have no other way to reach this historical site.

After about another 20 minutes, we found ourselves in front of the first attraction of the day – the colossal monolithic Nandi, carved from a single block of granite, said to be one of the largest of its type in the world.

Nandi of Lepakshi

Since I have relocated to Bangalore, this imposing sculpture of Nandi has been beseeching me to visit. Today, I found solace as I stood in front of the monumental Shiva’s mount from the Vijayanagar era. Seated peacefully in a lovely manicured garden the statue faces the precincts of the Veerabhadra Temple. The statue is about 5 meters in height and 9 meters in length. Its neck is bedecked with finely carved garlands and bells.

One of the first question that comes to one’s mind who understands Hindu mythology is “where is the shivalinga?” It is also quite odd that this large Nandi bull is situated almost 200 meters away from the temple. Generally, every Nandi statue I have seen is always accompanied by a shivalinga before it.

As we snapped away capturing different angles of the nandi, the caretaker walked in towards us. He carried a large wooden stick in his hand. He told us that the temple and the Nandi sculpture used to be part of the same temple grounds and during ancient times there used to be a clear view of the temple from here, however illegal encroachments have separated the Shiva’s mount with its master. 

After taking a few pictures of the grand Nandi, we came out of the small garden, planning to head towards the Veerabhadra Temple. Before entering the temple, we stopped for lunch at the Andhra State tourism board run restaurant, just beside the Nandi sculpture. After a sumptuous vegetarian thali meal and some rest, we gradually made our way towards the temple.

Veerabhadra Temple of Lepakshi

The Veerabhadra Temple has been built on the southern side of Lepakshi town on a low altitude granite hillock. The locals say this hillock was in the shape of a tortoise, and hence known as Kurmasailam – which translates to tortoise hill in Telugu. It is hard to see much of the hillock now because of the numerous shops and houses built around the temple.

You can avail parking near the entrance to the temple. There is a fixed car parking charge of Rs. 40 for an unlimited number of hours.

One has to remove their shoes before entering the temple. Beside the entrance, on the left there is a makeshift shoe rack. Patrolling this area is a middle-aged lady holding a long wooden stick in her had, primarily I think to drive the naughty monkeys away from the area. The temple does not seem that special from outside, but once you climb the fleet of steps and enter, you will begin appreciating the thorough artwork of the sculptors of that time. Not even at Hampi, in the historical temples at the core of the Vijayanagar empire, can one find carvings of this stature.

History of Veerabhadra Temple

In 1346 CE, Harihara constructed a fort at Penukonda, a town in Anantapur district of the Andhra Pradesh. It was one of the important provincial centers and occupied a strategic position in the Vijayanagara period. He made Lepakshi his second capital marking the start of the Vijayanagara rule over the town. During the rule of this dynasty, Lepakshi was benefited from a multitude of construction activities, centered around this temple.

Construction of the Veerabhadra Temple was started in around 1530 AD by two brothers, Virupanna Nayaka and Viranna, who were Governors of Penukonda, under the Vijayanagar Empire during the reign of King Achyutaraya, the successor of King Krishnadevaraya.  Virupanna was the son of Nandilakkisetti of Penukonda and rose to a position where he made himself prominent and indispensable. Inscriptions of the time of Acyutarāya inscribed on the walls of the temple give particulars about the neighbourhood, the temple and the devoted brothers.

The temple was dedicated to Veerabhadra Swamy, the family God for Tuluva dynasty. In the south Veerabhadra is known as the angry form of Hindu God Shiva. One interesting aspect of this temple is that it is North facing. Hindu temples are typically East facing, while there are some West and South facing temples too, North facing temples are rare in comparison. 

Even today, no one stays in the temple after sunset as the locals believe that Veerabhadra Swamy will be coming for rounds at night

The main temple stands inside two concentric irregular enclosures. The outer enclosure wall is lined with shielded porches and corridors surrounding the temple grounds.

The main temple is laid out in three parts:

  • The assembly hall or the central pavilion called Mukha Mandap, with a pavilion for dance performances (Rang/Natya Mandap)
  • An intermediate hall called the Ardha Mandap (worship chamber)
  • Garbhagriha, the innermost sanctum sanctorum

Mukha mandap, Veerabhadra Temple, Lepakshi

As I entered the inner sanctum, I was awed by the profusion of sculptures and paintings over every inch of space on the columns as well as the ceilings. Karnataka and several parts of Andhra are blessed with an abundance of granite hills and our ancestors have used it smartly so what they created hundreds of years back can still be enjoyed by us and I hope numerous generations.

Inside the Mukha mandap, there are about 70 pillars at this fabulous 16th-century temple of stone in Vijayanagar style. The carvings on these 15-foot pillars constitute of divine beings and the avatars of Shiva. I felt the cold stone through my naked feet as I walked along with the figurines of the goddesses Ganga and Yamuna at the entrance to the sanctum.

The central space is surrounded by many pillars with sculptures of divine beings. The first to catch my attention was that of the Nataraja, standing over the demon named Apasmara. Nataraja sculpture is almost the same pose as Natesha, the difference being Shiva has his left leg raised, unlike Natesha who has his right leg raised in the same pose.

Beside him lies a sculpture of Brahma playing the Mridanga. The Mridanga is a percussion instrument from India of ancient origin also known as ‘Deva Vaadyam‘ or the instrument of the Gods.

In an adjoining column, one can see the lovely Rambha, a celestial nymph, in a dancing posture created with the minutest of details. In Hindu mythology, she is the Queen of the Apsaras (nymphs), the magical and beautiful women of Devaloka, the city of the divine gods.

The column at the southwest part of the hall has an image of Parvati, Shiva’s consort, feeding her husband, who was disguised as a beggar. There are many such interesting tales in Indian mythology.

Beside her statue on another pillar one can see the three-legged Bhringi. If you notice carefully, he has 3 legs. Wondering why? read on..

Bhringi was an ancient sage who would not worship Parvati and took forms such as a snake or a bee to be with only Shiva and trying to drive a wedge between them. Annoyed by this, Parvati cursed Bhringi and he became so weak that he could not dance anymore. Shiva seeing his pain, granted him an additional, third leg and since then Brungeshwara is always seen dancing with 3 legs .

Musicians and ascetics adorn the intermediate pillars. 

The Natya (dancing) and the Ardha (worship) Mandaps are the most interesting parts of the temple in terms of architecture.

The mystery of the hanging pillars of Lepakshi

The peripheral columns called the Aakaasa Sthambha, are slightly elevated on an ornate basement, with blocks carved of horses and warriors, a tribute to the engineering genius of ancient and medieval India’s temple builders.

How such a heavy pillar stays hanging just about a centimeter above the basement is truly a mystery. it is said that during the British colonization, a British engineer had tried to uncover the secret of its support in an unsuccessful attempt. 

Ceiling paintings of Lepakshi

As I searched for answers to the secret of the hanging pillars, my eyes were drawn towards the ceiling. The fresco in the ceiling of ardha mandapa is said to be Asia’s largest, measuring 23 by 13 feet with the depiction of all the 14 avatars of Lord Shiva as Ardhanarishwara, Andhakasurasmahara, Bhikshatana, Chandes Anugraha Murthy, Harihara,  Kalyanasundara, Tripurantaka, Nataraja, Gouriprasadaka, Lingodhbava, and Yogadakshinamurthy. The frescoes are also beautiful and show an impressive attention to detail with colors strikingly contrasted – black limework against an orange-red background with some green, white, black, and shades of ochre-gold and brown mostly applied to a stucco surface blended with lime water. 

This is a panel of Dakshinamurti. is the name of the Hindu god, Shiva, as the supreme guru who imparts higher knowledge. The name comes from the Sanskrit, dakshina, meaning “southern” or “right”; and murti, meaning “incarnation,” “personification” or “image.” It is usually translated as “the one who faces south.”

Dakshinamurti is a form of Shiva, which is found invariability in almost all the Shaiva temples of Tamilnadu. Shiva, in this form, is depicted as the “Guru who guides his devotes in the right path (dakṣiṇāmārga)” and hence called by this name. In this form, Shiva is represented as seated on a rock in lalitāsana. His right hand is in vyākhyānamudra. Other hands hold sarpa, agni and akṣamāla. The four sages (Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatkumara and Sanatsujata) are represented as seated on the foreground.

Apart from paintings of gods and goddesses, in the presence of the devotees arranged in rows, the frescoes also depict the various incarnations of Vishnu. The paintings are in striking compositions where particular emphasis is given on the period costumes and facial expressions depicting the grandeur of Vijayanagar pictorial art. The fresco paintings are particularly detailed in very bright dresses and colors with scenes of Rama and Krishna from the epic stories of the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, and the Puranas. However, these frescoes are peeling off in many places and in need of better maintenance and expert restoration.

The ceiling in the sanctum above the deity has paintings of the builders of the temple, Virupanna and Viranna, regally dressed and crowned with headgear. They are depicted, with their entourage, in a state of reverential prayer, being offered sacred ashes of their family deity.

Garbhagriha, Lepakshi

The temple’s main deity is Veerabhadra, the fiery god created by Shiva in his rage after the Daksha Yagna and the immolation of Parvati. The presiding deity in the sanctum sanctorum is a near life-size image of Veerabhadra, fully armed and decorated with skulls. There is a cave chamber in the sanctum where sage Agastya is said to have lived when he installed the image of the linga here. I would recommend the caretakers to install softer yellow lights to preserve the ancient feel of the place when it used to be lit up only with diyas, rather than the intrusive bright white bulbs.

There are several forms of Shiva here — a majestic Kankala Murthi, Dakshinamurthi (Guru of Gurus), Tripuranthaka or Tripurasurasamhara (vanquisher of demon Tripura); Ardhanareeshwara (the half-female, half-male form, where Shiva and Parvati are equally represented in one body), etc. Another shrine has the fiery goddess Bhadrakali, though bearing an uncharacteristically serene expression. Photography is not allowed inside the garbhagriha.

Kalyana Mandap, Lepakshi

After paying our respects we came back out into the Mukha mandap and headed left towards the marriage hall. We slowly walked out of the shadows of the temple porch into the now blazing sun.

But as I got up the stairs, I was saddened to see the structure in an unfinished state. There are 38 pillars in this Mandap. The peripheral columns looked completed, but the columns towards the center of the altar were standing bent with no ceiling. Parts of the ceiling joints lay at the base of the column. 

The theme of these carvings is the marriage of Parvati and Shiva. Inside the mandap the pillars are arranged in the form of a circle, with the Gods and Goddess who attended the wedding also carved on the pillars.

Parts of this temple complex and some structures within never got completed. Why? That is another story in itself…

The beautifully crafted pillars of the unfinished wedding hall still lie out in the open air with no ceiling. Virupanna, it is said, had grand plans for the temple. In his blinded pursuit, he emptied the treasury for funding the monumental project. For this financial embezzlement, the architect met with a gory fate, with his eyes were gouged out, as was the customary punishment for cheating in those days. With his conviction, the construction was stopped indefinitely and the structures have been standing in a semi-broken state as we see it today.

Even though many of the pillars of the Kalyan Mandap are unfinished, it will still amaze you with the fine craftsmanship of the sculptors. In fact in the radiant sun, this section of the temple impressed me even more than the main mandap. I rested for a minute on one of the fallen pillars for the day was warm.

Ganesha, Lepakshi

From the marriage hall, we took a left towards a mammoth Ganesha – hewn in stone and leaning against a rock. This giant monolithic Ganesha carved in to the side of the boulder is also one of the attractions of Veerabhadra temple. Veerabhadraswamy inside the Garbhagriha is ugraroopi meaning he is in an angry state. It is considered that the teekshna drishti (angry eyes) of Veerabhadraswamy is too powerful for mere mortals and one should pray to Ganesha before entering the sanctum.

On the back side of the Ganesha idol, one can find stains of blood which leads us to the story of Bhaktha Kannappa Nayanar and how he sacrificed his eyes to Lord Shiva.

Kannappa Nayanar was born in a vyadha (hunter) family. Being a hunter, he did not know how to properly worship Lord Shiva. It is said that he poured water from his mouth on the Shiva lingam which he brought from the nearby river Swarnamukhi. He also offered Lord Shiva whatever animal he hunted. But Lord Shiva accepted his offerings since Thinna was pure at heart and his devotion was true.

Thinna noticed that one of the eyes of the Shiva linga was oozing blood and tears. Sensing that Lord Shiva’s eye had been injured, Thinna proceeded to pluck his one eye out with one of his arrows and placed it in the spot of the bleeding eye of the Shiva linga. This stopped the bleeding in that eye of the linga. But to complicate matters further, he noticed that the other eye of the linga has also started oozing blood. So Thinna thought that if he were to pluck his other eye too, he would become blind to exactly know the spot where he has to place his own second eye over the bleeding second eye of the lingam. So he placed his great toe on the linga to mark the spot of the bleeding second eye and proceeded to pluck out his other and only eye. Moved by his extreme devotion, Lord Shiva appeared before Thinna, stopped him from plucking his only eye and restored both his eyes.

Nagalinga, Lepakshi

Beside the Ganesha, is a massive Naga (serpent) with three coils and seven hoods. The monolithic Nagalinga, approximately 12 feet in height, forms a sheltering canopy over a black Shivalingam. It’s reckoned by many as the largest Nagalinga in India.

The nagalinga has a small crack and there is a story behind it too. in one hour, while their mother cooked lunch and she said it will take time, by that time before their mother finishes breakfast preparation they will be completing the Shiva Linga with seven heads snake. When their mother finished cooking she saw this amazing sculpture, praised her sons/sculptors, and soon a crack appeared at the base caused by her “evil eye”. With that a small crack happened.

You never find Lord Shiva Linga without Nandi. If you recall the Nandi we saw before entering the temple. That nandi used to sit directly staring at this linga. Unfortunately they have been separated by the boundary walls of the temple.

Legends and Myths of Lepakshi

One of the legends gives the town a significant place in the Ramayana. It is said that this was where the mythological bird Jatayu fell, wounded after a futile battle against Ravana who was carrying away Sita. When Rama reached the spot, he saw the bird and said compassionately, “Le Pakshi” which in Telegu translates to – “rise, bird”.

The Sthala Mahatyam and local legends mention that sage Agastya stayed here, in a cave on the Kurmasailam hill, during his visit to scared places in the south of the Vindhya mountain.

Hanuman temple at Lepakshi

Giant Footprint at Lepakshi

In front of the Hanuman Temple lies a large footprint craved in the rock, whose big toes are always filled with water. I was told that this is Sita’s footprint and the devotees around cupped some water with their hands, drinking it, and then sprinkling a little over their heads. Others believe that it is of Hanuman whence he landed here on his right foot. The force was so great that his footprint was left pressed into the solid stone. The next left footprint can be found at Penukonda fort, some 35 km away.

On the way back, we stopped for a few minutes at the Nandi sculpture, which is the 2nd largest monolith in India after the statue of Gomateshwara Bahubali in Shravanbelagola. The crowd had grown in numbers, in the lovely evening weather. The grandeur of Nandi certainly makes it a popular photo-op with visitors. I had to wait for about 20 minutes as a stream of selfie-takers kept photo-bombing my composition. In India, I have learned to be patient 🙂

Even though some structures within the temple complex lie incomplete, Lepakshi will surely amaze you. As you enter inside the Veerabhadra Swamy temple, you will be mesmerized by the intricately carved pillars in the main “mukha mandap“. The Lepakshi temple also has the finest specimens of mural paintings of the Vijayanagar Era. Being just a couple of hours ride away from Bangalore, I would highly recommend you to go and witness this amazing creation from the yesteryear.

Thanks for reading. Please leave me a comment if you liked the post or follow my story as I visit the intriguing tombs of Chattardi.

When was the Veerabhadra Temple in Lepakshi built?

The Veerabhadra Temple in Lepakshi was built towards the middle of the 16th century.

What is the architectural style of the Lepakshi Temple?

Dravidian architecture.

Is there a dress code to visit the Veerabhadra Temple in Lepakshi?

There is no dress code as yet for men or women for entering the temple, but it is always appreceiable to go dressed decently to respect the feelings of the local surroundings.

Is parking available near the Veerabhadra Temple in Lepakshi?

Yes, parking is available for a nominal charge of Rs. 40 for the entire day. The fees are subject to change.

An evening at Kobe Harbour

Mani & I dropped in at Kobe in Hyōgo Prefecture today, to spend the evening at the stunning Harbor but we were pleasantly surprised by the Bon Odori festival happening on the same day!

We used the “Kansai Thru Pass” to travel to Kobe. The Kansai Pass, also called Surutto Pass, allows unlimited travel on most train lines in the Kansai area, barring the JR trains. You can also avail the JR Kansai Area Pass for the same. However, if you are touring mostly the Kansai area, the Surrutto Pass offers better value as it covers a denser network in the region’s most visited areas.

For visiting Kobe from Nara, it is preferable to travel via the Kintetsu line, since a direct train is available. On the JR line, one has to change a couple of trains in-between. The red and beige train with its big square windows was a great experience as we chugged along the beautiful Osaka countryside. We reached Kobe Sannomiya at about 3.30 pm.

The nearest train station to reach Kobe harbor is Kobe Sannomiya

It was still too early so we wandered around the shopping area for a bit before heading out towards the Kobe Waterfront.

The Kobe Waterfront is about a 20-minute walk from the station. On the way, we passed the well-known Kobe Chinatown.


Nankinmachi is Kobe’s Chinatown and the center of the Kansai region’s Chinese community. It was originally developed in the 19th Century by Chinese merchants who settled near Kobe Port. Nankinmachi is now a popular shopping and dining district. There are shops, restaurants, and food stands selling popular Chinese foods like steamed buns and ramen. However, they are not genuinely Chinese dishes as they have been adapted to the taste of the Japanese to a big extent.

The port area is just a block away from Nankinmachi. As we neared the port area, we passed under the huge Hamate Bypass on the Kobe waterfront which was extensively damaged during the quake of 1995. It is another marvel of Japanese technology.

As we entered Merikane park, we were surprised by the presence of large crowds of Japanese in their lovely kimonos. It was only then that we realized that we had landed there right on the day of the Bon Odori festival in Kobe. The Bon Odori Festival in Kobe is one of the largest in the Kansai area. It features live performances of Japanese traditional folk songs with Kobe’s famous night view in the background.

Up ahead a high wooden scaffold had been constructed with red paper lanterns hanging from all sides. On the scaffold called Yagura, a group of girls were performing to the “Kawachi Ondo“. Many vendors had set up food stalls where you can enjoy delicious Kobe food.

Bon Odori ( 盆踊り) or simply known as the Bon dance, is a style of dancing performed during Obon, a festival lasting over a period of five days, welcoming the spirits of the dead. The style of the Bon dance varies from region to region.

In the Kansai region, the song goes like “Kawachi Ondo“. Around the platform, young couples in their colorful kimonos were dancing along with the performers in a circular ring around the yagura. The dance is also performed in a different way at times with people facing the yagura and moving towards and away from it in concentric circles.

I was fortunate to experience the dance in another variation while I was in Tokushima in Shikoku, very famous for its “Awa Odori” which simply proceeds in a straight line through the streets of the town.

The Bon dance tradition is said to have started in the later years of the Muromachi period (1333 – 1573) as public entertainment. Over the course of time, the original religious meaning has faded, and the dance has become associated more with summer festivities.

We enjoyed a couple of dances before moving towards the Kobe Tower. On the way, I caught a view of the Kobe Ohashi, Japan’s first double-deck arched steel bridge.

As we walked towards the Kobe Tower, the sun was starting to set behind the tall buildings. The lights on the tower were slowly being turned on. Far away on the other side of the pier, we could see Kawasaki Shipyard.

Kobe Marine Harbour Park

Across the peaceful waters of the bay, Kobe Harborland looked amazing with the big Ferris wheel. Kobe Harborland is a shopping and entertainment area along with the Kobe port that offers a selection of shops, restaurants, cafes, and other amusements, which, together with the romantic evening atmosphere, have made it a popular spot for couples and tourists alike.

As we went around the bay towards Harborland, we were stopped midway at the base of the Kobe Tower where a group of girls was ready to perform the Samba. Now, this was right out of the blue. Samba is not really what Japan is known for, and that’s what made this even more surprising for me. Performers, of all ages, in their colorful feathery attires, adorned with glittering beads were ready to daze the eager crowd.

They swayed to the sensual beat of Samba, heating up the evening at Meriken Park, and coloring it with many brilliant hues. Some from the gazing crowd joined in, stumbling awkwardly among the seasoned dancers.

The dancers were amazing. They put a lot of energy into it, and the costumes were truly astonishing. It was really something I never would have expected.

Once the dance got over, we moved on towards the pier across a pedestrian bridge and onto Kobe Harborland. The crowd was huge filling every inch of the array of department stores. This shopping area was built on the site of the former freight yard, Minatogawa Kamotsu Station of the Japanese National Railways. The yard was removed in 1982 and the shopping district opened in October 1992 as a cultural hub.

The cafe area was even more crowded. The evening was set up for the many events planned for the evening. People had taken up seats along a promenade for further events in the evening. A cruise ship was parked nearby. Across the bay, I could see the Kobe Tower and Maritime Museum along with the tall buildings. This cityscape from this side of the harbor is very popular among photographers and the reason why I was here too.

We hurriedly crossed by the shopping area and reached the giant Ferris wheel. Honestly, I was glad to come out of the heavy crowd into some kind of peaceful sanity. Some guys were fishing along the pier. The Kobe harbor looked amazing from here. I set up my tripod and took some shots of the Kobe skyline. Kobe also has one of the most beautiful skylines at night

Kobe skyline at Evening

Kobe was one of the world’s busiest ports prior to the earthquake, In the 1970s the port boasted of handling the most containers in the world. It is said that it was one of the world’s busiest container ports from 1973 to 1978. The 1995 Hanshin earthquake diminished much of the port city’s prominence when it destroyed most of the facilities here, causing immense damage. Over 6,000 people died in the quake, which also left a $100 million trial of damage. Despite the repair and rebuilding, it has never regained its former status as Japan’s principal shipping port.

As dusk set in the cruise ship stationed nearby started on its run. This luxury pleasure boat offers a 40-minute cruise where one can savor the scenic attractions of the Kobe seaside along with the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge.

Kobe Meriken Park Oriental Hotel at night

The Oriental is an upscale hotel resembling a luxury liner and one of the iconic structures in the Kobe skyline. It was opened in June 1995. From the looks of it, one can make out it’s a plush hotel.

We stayed around till the sunset and the sky turned pitch black. Far away on the hills behind the city, numerous lights were illuminated. The dancing and feasting went on late into the evening.

By 8 pm I had got the shots I came for. I packed my gear and we started our walk back towards the Sannomiya station.

On the way back, we went past the dazzling Kobe Tower. The sightseeing tower was completed in 1963. The first floor is leased out to souvenir shops and restaurants. The ticket office to the sightseeing level is locating on the second floor. The third floor is a 360 rotate cafe with 20 minutes for a single round. I don’t think we even tried getting inside looking at the surrounding crowds.

Near the Maritime museum, the Bon Odori festival was still going on. We stayed around for a dance. The crowd was dancing in concentric circles around the Yagura.

At around 9 pm we bid adieu to the beautiful harbor and walked back to Sannomiya station. The streets were much quieter as we made our way out of the Harbor. The route took us along Gaslight street, a beautiful sight when on an evening outing. It’s called gaslight street because the street is decorated with old-fashioned gas street lights and electric lamps.

The trees and lights enhance the avenue and surrounding buildings, which makes Gaslight Street a little-known but memorable spot for taking pictures.

Kobe harbor is a happening place to spend quality time. It is surprising how people here are able to get over the tragedies brought on by earthquakes. Maybe it’s just inbuilt. After the devastating quake of 1995, it is commendable to see them getting back to living their lives and having fun. I came to Kobe just to catch the stunning Kobe harbor but I am going back with some special memories of the Bon Odori festivities.

Thanks for reading. Please leave me a comment if you liked the post or follow my story as I visit the thrilling cliffs of Tojinbo.

The cute dolls of Tougyoku Doll Museum

Today we travel to the quaint town of Iwatsuki in Saitama Prefecture. Iwatsuki is today Japan’s largest producer of traditional dolls employing over over 300 doll-makers creating miniature masterpieces using only natural materials since the 17th century, a tradition that continues to this day. Just like manga or anime that appeals to the young and old alike, these Japanese dolls from Saitama are loved by people of all generations.

My fascination with dolls started in my childhood years when I visited the Children’s Museum in Kolkata. I was deeply touched by the depiction of the story of Ramayana in a series of figurines behind glass panes. Even as I transitioned to adulthood, my love for collecting and cherishing figurines depicting local culture never waned. To this day, I take immense delight in my figurine collection procured from different parts of the world.

The name of “Saitama” originates from the Sakitama (埼玉郡) district. Sakitama has a long history and even finds a place in the famous Man’yōshū (万葉集), the oldest existing collection of Japanese poetry, compiled sometime after 759 CE. The colloquial pronunciation gradually changed from Sakitama to Saitama over the years.

Train from Takasaki to Iwatsuki

We were staying at the Toyoko Inn at Takasaki. From Takasaki, we took the Joetsu Shinkansen to Omiya, the biggest city near Iwatsuki. The Shinkansen does not go all the way to Iwatsuki so we had to change to the local Tobu-Noda Line at Omiya Station. From Omiya, it’s just a 15-minute train ride to Iwatsuki. If you are in the Kanto region, it is a good idea to obtain the Tokyo Wide Pass, or in my case the JR Pass.

After a short ride on the local train, we arrived at Iwatsuki Station at 11 a.m. The Tougyoku Doll Museum is just a minute away from the station in a tranquil neighborhood.

History of Saitama Dolls

In Japan, dolls have been a part of everyday life since ancient times. Japanese dolls reflect the customs of Japan and over the centuries have developed in many diverse forms. The Japanese term for “doll” (人形) is constructed by combining two kanji characters, where the first character signifies “human” (人), and the second character denotes “form” (形).

The first Ningyō (dolls) in Japan were the Dogu and Haniwa. The Dogu, appeared in the Jomon period (10,000 B.C.E. to 300 B.C.E) as a prominent fertility symbol. It held immense significance for the Japanese populace, representing the fertility of the land, animals, and people, and therefore played a crucial role in society.

The Haniwa, unglazed terra-cotta cylinders and hollow sculptures were most likely influenced by the Chinese terra-cotta. The Haniwa dolls added a new dimension to the Japanese Ningyō, introducing the concept of protection. These two elements, fertility and protection became the two most important factors of the Japanese Ningyō over the centuries to come.

Later around the 7th century, simple dolls made from wooden planks were created to entrust them with protection against misfortune in the coming year, after which the dolls were floated away on rivers. Katashiro paper dolls are still used today in purification rites for the same purpose at Shinto shrines throughout Japan.

With the introduction of Buddhism following the end of the Kofun period, the use of the Haniwa and Dogu faded and a new form of Ningyō was introduced that later evolved into the Amagatsu and Hoko. Amagatsu and Hōko (Nos.2,3) are dolls designed to protect babies from any misfortune that may befall them. As time passed and the Ningyō styles succumbed to the effect of commercialisation. Due to this the Ningyō slowly lost its connection to fertility and protection and their importance shifted to the aesthetics side.

The doll town of Iwatsuki

Around 3 centuries ago, Eshin, a Buddhist image sculptor from Kyoto, devised a method of making dolls out of Paulownia wood powder using a technique called Tosokashira. The process involved mixing the paste of Paulownia powder and Shobunori (paste made from wheat starch). In addition to Paulownia wood, the abundance of high-quality water found on Iwatsuki also became essential in creating the Tosokashira mix. The technique was passed down the generations and is still employed today for making these detailed handmade dolls.

Iwatsuki has a very interesting connection with the Toshogu shrine of Nikko. About 366 years ago, Shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu invited skillful carpenters from all over the country in order to build the Toshogu Shrine, a mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu. In those days Iwatsuki used to be a small castle town on the Nikko-onari-kaido road between Nikko and Edo (Old Tokyo).

The workmen and artisans labored for the next couple of years to build the heavily ornate Toshogu Shrine. Iwatsuki and its outskirts were abundant with the finest Paulownia trees. Once the Nikko Toshogu Shrine was completed, some of the disbanded carpenters chose to settle down in and around Iwatsuki and began earning their living by creating household furniture.

Tougyoku Doll Museum

The history of Tougyoku museum runs parallel with that of the town of Iwatsuki. Founded in 1852 CE, the museum was started with the idea of protecting and furthering the indigenous art of doll-making in Iwatsuki. Today, the museum exhibits hundreds of dolls including some really historical ones like the Iwatsuki ganso kamishimo hina doll.

From the outside, the Tougyoku Doll Museum building looks like any other building and is easy to miss. An elevator took us up to the museum on the fourth floor floor. Out of the lift, we found ourselves in front of a dimly lit room.

No one was around at the entrance so we just put the admission money in a box and entered the premises. The admission cost is ¥300 per person.

The museum was empty barring one family. Many of the dolls here, date back hundreds of years and are truly works of art. It is also interesting to see how they have evolved over time.

Dolls in Tougyoku Museum

Near the entrance there are various nifty little dolls made of fabric hanging on strings, creating a sort of curtain. Some were in the shape of Owls, one of the very popular creatures in Japan. Some time ago I did research on the Owl superstitions among the Japanese.

Clay Dolls

The first section my eyes went to was these miniature clay dolls. Beside it were the words – “Hatsu uma“, the first day of the horse. In the old Japanese calendar, the first day of the horse falls at the beginning of February, which coincides with the first planting of rice for the year. A festival is held at the “Fox Shrine” to pray for a good and prosperous harvest. This little figure is dancing at that festival.

This is a miniature clay art cute little boy, with a happy facial expression, who is taking part in the same Hatsu uma festival. He is shown wearing a beautifully painted kimono, decorated with colorful flowers and is playing a Japanese taiko or drum.

Shichou dolls from Taisho period

On the left wall, the Shichou dolls are on exhibit from the Taisho era (1868-1926). These impressive samurai warrior dolls were crafted for display on Boys’ Day, celebrated annually in Japan.

The exquisite detailing of these works of art is beyond words. Extreme effort has been put into making the expressions so human.

Another doll from the same era.

Ichimatsu Dolls

Ichimatsu Ningyō dolls were widely loved by people as a typical cuddly toy-doll during the Edo Period (1603-1867) and remain popular today as a gift for girls and as an art object. It is said also that a newly married couple will be blessed with a healthy baby when they display this doll.

The widely held explanations regarding the origin of the name of Ichimatsu Ningyō the name came from Ichimatsu SANOGAWA, a kabuki actor in the mid-Edo period.

Ichimatsu Ningyō, which consists of a head and limbs made from the mixture of sawdust of paulownia wood and wheat starch, or from wood, painted with a white pigment made from oyster shells (or that made from clam shells), connected to a body made from a sawdust-stuffed cloth, is sold naked and the purchaser makes its costume. It ranges in size from as small as 20 centimeters to larger than 80 centimeters, but it is generally around 40 centimeters high. There are girl and boy dolls, and the girl doll has a bobbed hair transplanted and the hair of the boy doll is drawn with a brush.

Kokin-bina Dolls

Hara Shugetsu, a doll-maker in Edo (Tokyo), developed the Kokin-bina style during the Meiwa Era (1764-1772 CE). The style’s name comes from the Kokinshu, a Heian Period poetry anthology. Kokin-bina draws from several earlier doll styles. The Emperor doll usually wears a simple black ho, emulating the courtly style of the Yusoku-bina. The Empress doll is more like the Kyoho-bina style, as she typically wears an elaborate junihitoe, the twelve-layered court costume of the Heian Period, as well as a crown styled into a mythical phoenix. These inspirations show how doll-makers balanced competing tastes by pairing the austere formality of the Yusoku-bina with the elaborate textiles of the Kyoho-bina.

This is a rare Edo Period Kokin-bina Empress. It is part of a Dairi-bina Imperial Couple for the Hina-matsuri Girl’s Day celebration. The me-bina lady is wearing a spectacular crown. The dress is a formal court attire.

An important difference between the Kokin-bina and earlier doll styles was how they were manufactured. As the popularity of the Hinamatsuri festival increased, doll-making was divided into different specialties. Carefully sculpted heads were fashioned at a workshop in Edo and the simpler bodies, hidden under clothes, were mass-produced in Kyoto. The extra care given to the heads allowed for other innovations, such as the extensive use of inset glass for the dolls’ eyes. Once complete, the heads were shipped to Kyoto where they were painted, matched with a body, and dressed.

By the time the “Kokin bina,” shown below, became popular, it had become the tradition to display other dolls below the imperial pair. Among these were the Three Court Ladies (Sannin Kanjo) dolls and Five Musicians (Gonin Bayashi).

Hina Ningyō

From the Shichou dolls, we moved on to the most favorite of all dolls – Hina Ningyō. The Hina Ningyō dolls have a history of over 1000 years. There are quite a few types of the Hina Ningyō, the Amagatsu, Houko, Tachi Bina, Kan’ei Bina, Kyouho Bina, Jirozaemon Bina, Yuzoku Bina, Kokin Bina and the Muromachi Bina. However, the latter six dolls are all different types of the Dairi Bina, who respectively are evolutions of the Amagatsu and Hoko.

These dolls are made with extremely ornamental details and calm expressions. They usually represent the Emperor, Empress, and other court attendants of the Heian period (794-1185) During the Hina Matsuri festival, celebrated on March 3rd each year, families with the girl child display their Hina Ningyō dolls and pray for their child’s growth and happiness. Most Hina dolls are heavily ornate.

The carpenters did not just make dolls. They also created some exquisite furniture to go with the cute dolls. The miniature vessels and furniture are perfect for a doll house. Hina Dolls are traditionally displayed on March 3rd, the Girls’ Day held to wish for healthy growth and happiness of girls. In the Heian period (794-1192 C.E.), people made dolls with paper or grass, imbued them with misfortunes and bad luck they might suffer from, and then released them to rivers or the sea as their bodily substitutes. Separate from that, there were also paper dolls called Hina Dolls which aristocratic girls played with. With time, the customs of Hina dolls that were floated on water and those that girls played with were integrated to give birth to paper dolls and standing earthen dolls that led to the Hina Dolls of today.

These Hina always appeared in pairs, and these pairs would always be placed on the highest part of the Hina display. These Hina as pairs were called the Dairi Bina. Two of the most important dolls would most likely be the Houko and Amagatsu, which have been thought to be the predecessors of the Dairi Bina. The Houko and the Amagatsu are thought of as a pair, where the Amagatsu is the male equivalent while the Houko is the female one.

Gogatsu Ningyō

On Boys’ Day which is observed on May 5th, families pray for their sons’ good health and success. On this day, also known as Tango no Sekku, families display figures of costumed warriors with miniature armor and warrior helmets. These dolls especially made for boys are called Gogatsu Ningyō and appear with fierce expressions, wearing armor, and showing the courage, bravery, and honor expected of the Samurais. Models of armor and dolls of heroes are put on display for the festival, and rice-cake sweets wrapped in blades of bamboo grass or oak leaves are eaten in celebration.

Hero dolls that are particularly popular include Momotarō and Kintarō, both known for possessing super-human strength and for having saved the people by overcoming monsters.

Origin of Gogatsu dolls

The origins of Gogatsu dolls come from an age-old samurai tradition. In the old days, when a boy was born in the family of a samurai, his parents used to put ornamental helmets and trinkets and hang them at the entrance gate to celebrate his birth. They also had a custom of gifting a new samurai body armor to the child. These items were put together to form the Gogatsu doll, though in a smaller size. To this day people display Gogatsu dolls to protect their sons from evil and Koinobori (carp streamers) along with wishes for good health and social success.

Oyama Doll

Oyama Ningyō is the name given to traditional Japanese female dolls which are, for the most part, inspired by ukiyo-e images from the Edo period. These types of Japanese doll express a woman’s beauty through a gorgeous costume and elegant figure.

This kind of doll has been very popular since the Edo period, and it is also used for the Girl’s Festival held on March 3rd. When girls of the Samurai class got married, their parents gave them the Dressed Dolls as a ‘substitute’ that would consume possible misfortunes on behalf of the girls. For this reason, the dolls were crafted as women of high ranks.

As the crafting techniques evolved with time, the dolls today have come to be enjoyed by all people. Particular among them is the doll modeling a Japanese traditional dancer called Oyama Doll named after Jirosaburo Oyama, a renowned doll maker in the Edo period.

Most of the Oyama dolls are derived from Kabuki each representing a particular dance.

I totally loved the intricate details on the kimono of this doll.

Eto Dolls

Introduced from China in the period of Yin, an ancient dynasty that reigned around the 17th century B.C., to Japan, Eto is a cycle of sixty years that consists of twelve signs relating to animals and ten elements. Originating in China and spreading to Japan, Vietnam, Russia, and Eastern Europe, it was used in the calendar, as well as to indicate angles, time, and directions. When applied to the calendar, each year has one of the twelve signs of animals.

Thus the calendar has a twelve-year cycle. The order of years is; rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and boar. Each year, Japanese people place an Eto Doll of the animal of the year. They believe that the Eto Dolls absorb their misfortunes during that year.

After about an hour of going through some amazing history, we left the museum. Just across the street, opposite to the museum, one can find a souvenir shop that also has a huge collection of Hina and Gogatsu dolls for sale.

The biggest festival in Japan surrounding dolls is the Hina Matsuri, or the Doll Festival, even though the Hina Matsuri is still celebrated today the original meaning of the festival is lost to most Japanese people. In ancient times the Hina matsuri was about the cleansing of body and soul, but as it moved closer to modern times, it was the festivities and beauty of the festival that mesmerized the Japanese people

One of the cheaper ones can set you back by ¥200000.

The Hina dolls are kept on the 2nd and 3rd floors. Although the Hina display does not have a longer history than from the Edo period (1600-1868), the celebrations around it had been prominent since the Heian period (794-1185)

For the Japanese, these dolls enjoy a special place in their lives. In most countries, the term “doll” typically refers to playthings. However, in Japan, beyond being toys, Ningyō have evolved into forms of art, craftsmanship, and objects laden with wishes. There remains a prevalent belief in Japan that anything crafted in the likeness of living beings should be treated with respect. When someone can no longer keep a cherished doll, it is not discarded as waste; instead, it is dedicated to shrines or temples, where a Ningyō kuyo, or doll funeral service, is requested. This practice has endured since ancient times and continues to this day.

The ground floor has some nice cheaper souvenirs for tourists like us 🙂 Rummaging through the souvenirs I found a set of cards with hand-drawn paintings of 6 UNESCO sites in Japan. They looked beautiful. I had visited all barring the Nikko Toshogu Shrine. We decided right then to visit the shrine the next day.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the museum and the shop. I wasn’t carrying enough cash to own one of these from the shop today but I am really determined to come back one day to get one of these for my souvenir collection. After a fun morning, we were on our way to the Saitama Railway Museum.

Address of Iwatsuki main store

1-3 Honmachi, Iwatsuki-ku, Saitama City
TEL: 048-756-1111

Business Hours of Iwatsuki main store

10 am to 5 pm (May 6th to October 31st)
10 am to 6 pm (November 1st to May 5th)

Annual Closures of Iwatsuki main store

Mondays and Tuesdays (May 6th to September 30th)
Mondays (October 1st to October 31st)
Open every day (November 1st to May 5th)
*Temporarily closed 5/8/9 ·Ten

Address of Doll Museum

4F Higashitama Building, 3-2 Honmachi, Iwatsuki-ku, Saitama City
TEL: 048-756-1111

Open Hours of Doll Museum

10 am to 5 pm

Admission fee for Doll Museum

Adults: ¥300
Free: Elementary school students and younger Free
Free: Persons with a disability certificate with one accompanying person

Annual Closures of Doll Museum

Mondays and Tuesdays (May 6th to September 30th)
Mondays (October 1st to May 5th)
*Temporarily closed 12/31, 1/1, 5/6

Official website

Warrior dolls of Aomori Nebuta Museum

Aomori Nebuta Matsuri is one of the largest Japanese festivals in the Tōhoku region. It is held every year at the beginning of August. Unfortunately I missed it by a whisker. However there is still a ray of hope for people like us if you visit Aomori during a different period of time, you can still enjoy a part of its beauty at the Wa Rasse Nebuta Museum.

The Wa Rasse Nebuta Museum in Aomori showcases some of the most spectacular Nebuta Floats from Aomori’s annual Nebuta Matsuri. The museum is a great place to learn about the world-famous festival and everything Nebuta. It walks the visitors through the history of Nebuta and it’s importance to Aomori City.

I took the early morning 6 am Komachi Shinkansen from Akita to Morioka and from there switched to the Hayabusa Shinkansen to Aomori. It took me about 3 hours for the full ride and I reached Aomori at 9.30 am. The museum is located at a short walk from the JR Aomori Station and opens at 8:30 am in the morning.

I bought my ticket at the admission booth for ‎¥600. The ground floor does not contain many exhibits and the space is taken up by a quaint restaurant and a few souvenir shops. Here, one can enjoy views of Mutsu Bay as they feast upon delicious seafood dishes prepared at Restaurant Den.

Up on the first floor I went past a red hallway, the walls adorned with photos and images from the Nebuta Matsuri’s 400 year history.

Beyond the hallways I found myself in a large, dimly lit hall where the colorful, brightly illuminated award-winning parade floats from this year’s festival were on display in all their splendor. These are replaced each year with new winners from that year. I walked around each of the floats admiring the craftsmanship that went into their construction.

A large screen on the wall displayed scenes from the just finished festival. In one of the corners of the hall, smaller components of the floats in wire frames were displayed on stands that visitors could touch and feel.

History of Nebuta Festival in Aomori

Nebuta Floats are generally created based on scenes from Kabuki, Japanese history and mythology or some popular current affairs. The Aomori Nebuta Festival is one of Japan’s most colorful festivals but it has had a rather chequered history. The festival began in the 1600’s during the Edo period and has been banned at various times in yesteryear mainly due to the fire hazard it represented during those times when candles were used to light the paper floats. Nowadays these floats make use of electric bulbs for illumination.

The floats themselves are believed to be the result of an amalgamation of several key elements in the Nara Period (710-794): ancient Tsugaru traditions, dolls, insect-repelling torches, the sending off of ancestral spirits, and the aforementioned Tanabata Matsuri. All of these customs were brought together in the form of lanterns, at a time when the use of paper, bamboo, and candles was becoming increasingly common in society. The lanterns would eventually come to depict human figures – the original Nebuta Matsuri floats.

The word Nebuta finds its roots in the Tanabata Matsuri. The lanterns that appeared during the festival processions were known by this name, and on the actual night of Tanabata itself (July 7), they were floated down rivers or the sea, serving as both a cleansing ritual and a prayer for good health. This custom was called nebuta-nagashi, and can be seen today in the form of Aomori Nebuta maritime displays.

Many contemporary Nebuta floats depict kabuki actors – a custom which most likely began in the Bunka Period (1804-1818), when folk art was at its peak. In the past, the nebuta were quite smaller and were created in every alley. In those times the festival was more of a personal enjoyment. A festive atmosphere filled the entire town, from one corner to the next. Nebuta floats grew even larger as Japan entered the Meiji Period (1868-1912). One particular Nebuta from Hamamachi in 1871 is said to have been about 20 meters tall (the reasons for which are unknown) and carried by a hundred people. During recent years however, both the schedule and course are set and the main purpose is to have a spectacular show, showcasing the floats to festival goers.

The incredible color, intricacy and the sheer size of the floats is mind-blowing. The Nebuta floats reminded my of the similar spirit during the celebration of goddess Durga in my hometown of Kolkata.

While the Nebuta Festival in Aomori is the biggest in the area, there are many other Nebuta festivals around. So when visiting Aomori during festival time, make sure to check out the festivals in the small towns, too. Every town has its own way of building these floats. The floats in Aomori are wide, the ones in Hirosaki they are not so wide, but higher. There are some floats that also have movable parts.

As I moved on towards the exit, there is a wall adorned with many Nebuta faces, all looking down on me with extreme fierceness.

It was time for me to head out towards my next stop at Yamadera Temple. Nebuta Festival is held every year in early August, but for those who can’t make it to the festival itself, Nebuta Museum Wa Rasse offers a glimpse into the experience all year-round. The museum is a fantastic place to see the floats live and up close without having to jostle for a place in the festival streets. On weekends and holidays, there are occasional performances by “Haneto” dancers who demonstrate the unique Nebuta Matsuri dance accompanied by live music played on Taiko drums and flutes. If you are in Aomori, I highly recommend a visit to the Wa Rasse Nebuta Museum.

Inakadate Tanbo Art

Today we head down to Inakadate to witness the interesting Tanbo Rice Art fields. Inakadate is one of the older places on Earth where rice cultivation was initiated. In 1993, in order to honor this 2000 year old history, the people of this quaint village started a rice field behind the town hall and created a picture of Mt. Iwaki using the paddy as a canvas. Since then each year, the villagers create a new graphic using colored paddy that attracts visitors from far lands to see this innovative art.

We woke up to a beautiful sunny day in Aomori. I was still under the spell of the magical sunset that swept us off our feet at the Matsu bay. The weather was cool and pleasant and we had a busy scheduled planned for the day. From the window of our Hotel APA, I could see the Aomori Bay Bridge in a distance.

After a light breakfast we walked down to Aomori Station. We took the Tsugaru Limited Express to Hirosaki Station.

The inside of Hirosaki Station was still decorated with Nebuta Floats. The Nebuta festival had just got over in Aomori. Its a very interesting festival. If you want you can check out my article on the history of Nebuta.

Hirosaki is also famous for its apples. If you like the raw fruit, there are many different apple products available at the local stores. Do try some when you are here.

After a bit of a wait, we took the bus to the Inakadate-mura Observation Platform.

The bus dropped us off at the Town Hall stop but it was mostly deserted and we had to hunt about a bit to find the venue. I guess most people don’t use the bus so they didn’t put up any signs nearby.

For 2016 the “Tanbo Art” is created under two themes. One is from NHK TV drama “Sanadamaru” at the first town hall venue and the other from the movie “Shin Godzilla” at the second venue.

Inakadate-mura Observation Platform

The First Tanbo Art
Design: NHK TV drama “Sanadamaru”
Location: Inakadate Town Hall

At the Castle tower, there is a 300 yen admission charge to get up to the observation deck and an additional 200 yen charge if you want to go the to topmost observation deck. The paddy field looks like just another field from below.

A small queue had formed for the elevator to the 4th Floor Observation Deck. On the viewing balcony, thankfully not many people were around and we got the front row experience. The rice paddy art uses various colored rice plants as paint on a rice-field canvas. The massive pictures are elaborately designed using perspective drawing methods to make them look their best when seen from the observation platform. Two huge fields lay before us with scenes for the Japanese drama Sanadamaru starring Masato Sakai. The television series follows the Sanada Maru, a fortification defended by Sanada Nobushige during the Siege of Osaka in 1615.

On the 4th floor one can purchase tickets for the 6th Floor Castle Tower but we were happy with what we saw from the lower deck and decided against it.

History of Inakadate Tanbo Rice Art

For over 2,000 years, people in the small town of Inakadate, Japan have grown rice. Unfortunately, growing rice was all the town was known for until 1993. In a near desperate attempt to generate attention and tourist revenue, the townspeople began working on a public art project.

With the paddy as a canvas, the villagers cultivated and used four different types of heirloom and modern strains of rice to create a giant picture in the field. To allow viewing of the whole picture, a mock castle tower 22 meters high was erected at the village office.

The village where this artistry started, Inakadate-mura, Aomori Prefecture, is celebrating their event’s 22nd anniversary. Initially, they used three different colored varieties of rice to create artwork of Iwaki Mountain with the phrase “Village of Rice Culture: Inakadate” in a rice paddy 54 meters long by 47 meters wide.

In 1993, the first work of art was only a depiction of a mountain, using a few colors. Since then, the town has become much more bold, even incorporating multiple fields to create a dramatic battle scene between a monk and a samurai. Each year the rice is planted and a new image is created. For the most part, the images reflect Japanese culture and traditions. However, in an attempt to draw more tourists to the town, the Mona Lisa was also attempted in 2003.

Every April, the villagers meet and decide what to plant for the year. Prior to planting, farmers sketch out the designs on computers to figure out where and how to plant the rice. In 2007, 700 people helped plant rice. In Inakadate, the fields used are approximately 15,000 square meters. Agreements between landowners have allowed for larger pictures to be created.

Since then, they have increased the canvas size while also attempting more difficult artwork, such as Leonardo da VINCI’s “Mona Lisa” and KATSUSHIKA Hokusai’s “Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji.” This year, they have planted rice of five different colored varieties in a huge rice paddy 143 meters long by 104 meters wide. This summer, artwork resembling “Ushiwaka and his subordinate Benkei.” (famous historical figures) is expected to appear.

The main purpose behind the creation was to take advantage of the tradition of manual work in rice cultivation to give people an opportunity to learn more about rice farming and agriculture. For the first nine years, the farmers created a simple picture of Mount Iwaki before going to more complex designs.

By embracing its agricultural past, and adding a little 20th-century technological know-how, Inakadate was able to create massive living art, made out of colored rice stalks. Called Tanbo (Paddy) art, the designs are wondrous. Spanning entire fields, the rice paddy art takes 1,200 people from the community and $35,000 to create. But the end result is an amazing multi-colored design, stretching hundreds of feet and featuring incredible detail.

Following Inakadate’s example, other villages such as Yonezawa in Yamagata prefecture, have started to create their own tanbo art.

To provide the full effect for the designs, the town invested in a small 20 meter observation deck in front of the fields. On the tiny deck, 200,000 visitors per year come to marvel at the artistic fields. Given the success of the project in Inakadate, other rural Japanese towns have followed suit, creating other Tanbo art in a similar fashion, incorporating words and pictures to add flavor to their work.

Once we had our fill of the creative ideas of the Aomori residents, we walked down to the shuttle stop from where free car shuttles are available at 30 minute intervals.

A car was waiting at the stop but it was already filled. Strangely even though the shuttle was filled it didn’t leave until after 15 minutes when it was scheduled to leave. Well, the Japanese certainly are very particular about time. We waited around for the next car to come along. During the rice paddy art event, free car shuttles are available for access between the first venue (Inakadate observation platform) and second venue (Yayoi no Sato observation platform).

Yayoi-no-sato observation Deck

The Second Tanbo Art
Design: Shin Godzilla
Location: Inakadate Roadside Station, Yayoi-no-sat

We reached the second venue – Michi-no-eki Inakadate Yayoi no Sato in exactly 11 minutes. Like I said the Japanese are very particular about time.

Here on a huge field, the size of a football ground was showcased a still from the movie “Shin Godzilla”, the new film of Godzilla series that a world-famous monster “Godzilla” appears on-screen. It has been 12 years since Japanese filmmaker produced last one of the series, and the film was released in July 2016 in Japan.

Furthermore, this year also “Stone Art”, which is the artwork created using different color of stones on the ground, will be held. It got favorable reviews on last year.

As same as last year, its theme will be a Japanese famous actor, Ken Takakura. The artwork can be seen from the Yayoi-no-sato observation deck at the second Tanbo Art field. A work of the Stone Art of Yujiro Ishihara, a Japanese actor, will be created in this year.

We spent some time up at the tower taking photographs of the endless paddy fields.

Going back to Hirosaki Station was much simpler. The Tamboāto Station is just a minutes walk away from the second venue. We walked down to the Tamboāto Station and waited for the next train to Hirosaki.

Tamboāto Station

Tamboāto Station (田んぼアート駅 ) is on the Konan Railway Konan Line in Inakadate, links Hirosaki and Kuroishi along a 16.8 km route. The station opened on 27 July 2013, funded entirely by the village of Inakadate to help raise tourist awareness in the area.

Trains are slated at regular intervals and we didn’t have to wait long for one to come along.

We had a wonderful time in Inakadate and now we were off to Hirosaki Castle, one of the few authentic castles still preserved from the Edo period.
The art has gained media attention from domestic and international media because of its uniqueness. Every year, over 100,000 visitors from Japan and abroad come to see the fields, including the Emperor and Empress of Japan in September, 2014.

Recommended viewing period

Mid-July to Mid-August. Open 9:00 – 17:00 (Last Admission 16:30 )

Ruins of Sannai-Maruyama

Today I visit the ruins of Sannai Maruyama in Aomori. Discovered in 1992, the Sannai Maruyama Archaeological Site is the largest and one of the most complete and best-preserved Jōmon Period (13000-300 BC) village in Japan. 

Morioka to Aomori

I and my wife, Mani were on a short tour of Tohoku region. We were thoroughly refreshed from our previous day at Jōdogahama beach in Iwate. The day was bright and sunny as we checked out of our hotel and walked down to Morioka Station to catch the train to Aomori. As we entered the JR Station, we were quite pleased to see it was still decorated, in lieu of the just-passed Tanabata celebrations.

Tanabata originated from a romantic legend about two lovers that are only able to meet each other once a year. This festival is held across Japan on July 7 or August 7 depending on the region. It’s said that your wishes will come true if you write them down on strips of paper called the tanzaku and hang them on bamboo branches. We left a tanzaku wish note praying for a happy future at one of the booths.

The Shinkansen takes only an hour for the journey from Morioka to Aomori, however, Mani didn’t posses a JR Pass and in order to save some money, we used the limited express train. It was a long 3-hour journey but felt rather shortened by the animated chats about the places we were yet to explore around these parts. 

We reached Shin Aomori at 11 am. The Nebuta festival had just got over in Aomori, the previous day and the station was still adorned with many Nebuta floats all over the place. The Nebuta festival is one of the most popular festivals in Aomori and if you miss it you can always drop down to the Nebuta Museum to witness the amazing floats from the last held festival.

It was almost mid-day and the sun was burning bright, and although Aomori was cooler than Iwate, the strong Sun made it a tad uncomfortable. We left our luggage at one of the station lockers and waited for the bus for Sannai Maruyama site.

The sightseeing bus called Shuttle de Route Bus Nebutan-go arrived in a few minutes. The bus route keeps running in a loop all day, and to reach the Sannai-Maruyama site one has to get down at the Sannai-Maruyama-Iseki-mae bus stop. The ride cost us 310 Yen each.

Jōmon Jiyukan

As we entered the giant hall in Jōmon Jiyukan, the volunteers at the reception helped us out with the information about the heritage site. They provided us with a guided map of the area. Beside the reception, one can also find replicas of dresses from the Jamon period. Visitors are free to try on these Jōmon period clothing. I tried out a fisherman’s dress and I presume, I would have fit right in, into this traditional society 🙂

Once we had gathered all the information, we decided to first take our lunch and then proceed to investigate the huge site. The Gosennen-no Hoshi restaurant inside the campus serves delicious meals using prominent Jōmon ingredients. One can find a variety of set menus made of fish, vegetables and nuts that people during the Jōmon period used to consume.

I am generally a bit circumspect to try new food, but I decided to give it a try anyway. I ordered the “Shiokatsukune Udon.” The dish basically comprised of soft “Chicken meatballs” with bonitos (fish) and kelp soup. I did end up enjoying it and as I write this journal I can feel myself salivating just thinking about it. After the fulfilling meal at the Gosennen-no Hoshi restaurant, we slowly walked down to the Sanmaru Museum.

Sanmaru Museum

The Sanmaru museum exhibits objects excavated from the excavation site and lists many facts about the people who lived during the Jōmon Period. The Jōmon period encompasses a large expanse of time, constituting Japan’s Neolithic period and the museum exhibits approximately 1,700 artifacts excavated from the Sannai-Maruyama site. 

A dimly lit path led us towards a life-sized figure of a young boy with his Inu (dog), pointing us towards the glass encased cases of historical findings from the Jōmon period.

Jōmon no Kokoro

The first section of the Sanmaru Museum is called the Jōmon no Kokoro (heart of the Jōmon Period). This area displays various excavated items including a large number of pottery, stone artifacts, personal ornaments, clay figures, earthenware, wooden utensils, bone tools and small knitted baskets called “Jōmon pochette” from the Jōmon period.

Shown below is one of the stone tools from the site. This grinding stone was particularly used as a food processing tool. Nuts, such as chestnuts, walnuts, and Japanese horse chestnuts were an important source of food for the people at the time. These were used to crush these hard nuts. 

Below you can see some stone spearheads used by the hunters during that period. These hunting tools are characterized by a carefully formed leaf shape and evenly beveled edges that required great skill and patience to create. These tools were created by a process called knapping, where one stone is used to strike another to create a desired shape. If you are a student of history, you will notice that these stone tools, which were somewhat roughly created in the Paleolithic era, were by the Jōmon period meticulously chipped and smoothly polished. 

We moved forward to a large board-shaped clay figurine on display. The Sannai Maruyama village site turned up a huge number of human shaped figurines. From middle to late Jōmon periods, the Jōmon people made large numbers of human figures from clay. However these Jōmon figurines do not look like real people. They have distorted forms with large faces, small arms and hands. Some of the figurines look like humans wearing goggles. This is not new for many cultures who have depicted humans in exaggerated shapes like the Egyptians, but it does make one think if the Jōmon actually had some kind of extra-terrestrial contact.

The pottery vessels crafted in ancient Japan during the Jōmon period are generally accepted to be the oldest pottery in Japan and also among the oldest in the world. The word Jômon literally means “straw-rope pattern,” and it typically describes the style of pottery of the earliest Japanese period. The Jōmon period was named after this style of pottery.

All Jōmon pots were made by hand, without the aid of a wheel. As in all other Neolithic cultures, generally women created these early potteries. Clay was mixed with a variety of adhesive materials, including mica, lead, fibers, and crushed shells. After the vessel was formed, tools were employed to smooth both the outer and interior surfaces. When completely dry, these were baked in an outdoor bonfire.

Pottery found at this site is called Ento (cylindrical) style pottery. A typical Ento style pottery is characterized by an elongated bucket shape with a wide opening and is decorated with cord marks.

Below you can see different sized needles created from bones. In those times, animal bones were used to create harpoon heads, fish hooks, needles and even hairpins. Their varying length, thickness and the eye indicate that the Jōmon people developed them for specialized purposes. Most of the bone needles shown here are made of mammal ribs.

The image below is a cross-section of a mound. Many ritual associated implements were found from these mounds, suggesting the significance of these mounds as a ground for ceremonial activities

Most artifacts used in daily life such as pottery were made at the site using locally available materials. Ornaments include pendants and earrings made of clay, stone, and animal bones.  However certain items came from far away. Jade was favored by the Jōmon people and especially valued in north Honshu where Sannai Maruyama is located. In addition to complete artifacts such as large beads, raw stones have also been discovered here. 

If you want a guided explanation while looking at the exhibits, a volunteer from the Sannai-Maruyama volunteers will gladly guide you round the exhibits.

The Jōmon people of Sannai Maruyama

As we moved further, we were in the Jōmon-jin no Kurashi wo Himotoku (Lifestyle of the Jōmon Period people) section. Here life-sized figurines are used to reproduce the Jōmon daily life, based on excavated objects. The people in the early Jōmon period frequently traveled from one place to the next while engaged in camping and nomadic life. The Jōmon people primarily belonged to a hunter-gatherer culture. 

Over time the sedentary settlements appeared and certain communities engaged in cultivating plants. They gradually moved to a semi-sedentary lifestyle and descended from a mixture of the ancient hunter-gatherer Jōmon and the Yayoi rice agriculturalists. Their features can also be seen in the Ainu and Ryukyuan people. In fact, the Ainu have often been considered to be descendants resulting from a mix of the cultures of the Jōmon people and the Okhotsk. I have written a detailed report on the history of Ainu people.

Below you can see a typical Jōmon family gathering. The historical Ainu culture originated in a merger of the Okhotsk culture with the Satsumon, one of the ancient archaeological cultures that are considered to have derived from the Jōmon period cultures of the Japanese Archipelago. The origin myths of Japanese civilization extend back to periods now regarded as part of the Jōmon period, though they show little or no relation to what we know archaeologically of Jōmon culture, one of the reasons why the Japanese deny Ainu as the aborigines.

After about an hour of adoring the prehistoric artifacts, we moved on towards the excavation site. The Jiyu tunnel led us into the the largest ruins of a traditional village, dating from 4,000 to 5,500 years ago. Stepping into this region is like taking a step back in time.

A brief history of Jōmon People of Sannai-Maruyama

The Jōmon period experienced a large-scale climate change since it extended for a long period of 10,000 years. The Sannai-Maruyama Ruins are the largest ruins of a Jōmon-period (about 10,500-300 BC) village in Japan, and are estimated to date from 4,000 to 5,500 years ago. The Japanese archipelago is extremely elongated from north to south and its topography varies considerably; therefore, regional differences in the climate and vegetation were large during the Jōmon period as is today. As a result, the cultural style of the Jomon period is not uniform both historically and regionally and it came to take many different forms.

There have been previous excavations around the Sannai-Maruyama site between 1953 to 1967. These excavations involved teams from Keio University and the Board of Education of Aomori City. In 1976 and 1987, the Board of Education of Aomori Prefecture and Aomori City also conducted further excavations on the southern part of the site.

However, the major breakthrough for the site came in 1992 while excavating during a pre-construction phase for a baseball stadium. This excavation uncovered how large Sannai Maruyama was as well as a large amount of artifacts. 

After the excavation and study of the site, the village was reburied with earth and a number of reconstructed pit dwellings, long houses and a large tower were built on top. Visitors can enter the reconstructions, some of which are quite large, as well as see a few of the original excavation sites around the grounds.

A large number of pot shards and stone implements, clay figurines, jade beads, etc. were disposed together with the soil and formed a mound for over 1000 years. You can see its cross-section here. X-ray analysis shows that the jade excavated at ‘Sannai-Maruyama Site’ in Aomori Prefecture is from Itoigawa and therefore, it is assumed that the Jōmon people also traded among themselves over the wide area.

These findings demonstrate a change in the structure of the community, architecture, and organizational behaviors of these people. Because of the extensive information and importance, this site was designated as a Special National Historical Site of Japan in 2000.

Sannai Maruyama

Sannai Maruyama was first settled around 3900 BCE. At that time it was inhabited by hunters and gatherers only. Over this period of time, the site changed from a seasonal camp, to the home of a more mobile society, and finally to a settled village. Evidence of this sedentary lifestyle can be found in the the changes in their storage facilities.

Pit Dwellings

The earliest pit dwellings at Sannai Maruyama were during the Early Jōmon period, built between 5900 and 5400 years ago. At that time, Sannai was comparatively small and simple, a collection of pit dwellings. The first settlers on the site lived in pit houses. These dwellings typically were about 10 feet in diameter. The floor was dug below the ground level. A hearth was located in its center. At least 550 pit-dwellings have been discovered so far and 15 have been reconstructed. Some of the pit houses seen at Sannai Maruyama were simple thatched-roof semi-subterranean houses, like this reconstruction. To make this bark-thatched pit dwelling, a pit was excavated into the ground and bark or wood branches were assembled over the top forming a cone-like structure.

Over time the thatched pit dwelling was replaced with a sturdier structure as shown below. Like the thatched huts, the floor of a pit dwelling was dug into the ground. Supporting posts were placed at the corners and the walls and roof were built and roofed with thatch. The average size of these pit dwelling is between three and four meters in diameter.

Store Houses

Initially they used to store food in underground pits, which allowed them to hide it when they left the site since the occupants were not yet living a sedentary lifestyle.  With time, the storage features changed from these underground pits to elevated granaries around 2900 BC. These buildings were built higher than the ground level and were specifically used as storage facilities.

Long House

As the community became sedentary, long houses began showing up around this time. Long houses were large, oval-shaped structures. The longest one found at the site was 32 meters (105 feet) long. Scholars believe long houses were used for meeting places, workshops, or living space. Pit houses were still being inhabited for individual dwelling  at the same time that long houses started to come up on the landscape.

Till now eleven long houses have been excavated at Sannai Maruyama. They were large, oval-shaped semi-subterranean pit dwellings. The reconstruction  shown below is the longest, measuring 32 meters in length. This huge structure displays a coordinated labor force that would have required cooperation of several people to make. This displays the gradual shift from an individual to a social community in this time period.


With a stable living style, also, there appeared one of Sannai Maruyama’s most famous structures, the large six-pillared building, was built around 2,600 BC.  This structure consisted of six large pillars that are believed to have held up platforms. Each one of these pillars was around 1 meter in diameter and was placed exactly 14 ft apart.  This large post like platform was certainly used as a watchtower. 

Burial Pits

Burials at Sannai Maruyama took three forms: jar burials, pit burials, and stone circle burials. Large jars have been discovered near the pit dwelling clusters. These are assumed to be burials, although human bones have not been preserved within them, on the basis of similar burials found in later Jōmon sites such as Yoshinogari. Jar burials have been dated to the Middle Jōmon period, from 5400-4300 years ago. The second form of burial was of adults aligned in rows along the sides of long roadways extending from the center of the settlement towards the outside. Finally as shown below, stone circle arrangements have also been found at Sannai Maruyama, which included adult burials. 

The settlement of Sannai Maruyama ended around 2300 BC.

By now we were extremely dehydrated. The harsh sun had taken its toll and we dragged ourselves to the safety of the Jōmon Jiyukan.

The vending machine at that moment was “gold” for us, as we gulped on the chilled sugary drinks.

The Sannai Maruyama site was designated as a special historical site by the Japanese government in November 2000. Today the public can visit this site and explore its many reconstructions. The site also features a Theater, a workshop and a gift shop. If you are in love with history do not miss this site. Even though at present, most of the excavated items have been reburied for preservation, the excavation sites and artifacts on display will giving you a feel of life in those ancient times.

Thanks for reading. Please leave me a comment if you liked the post or follow my story as we go for a stroll along the lovely Aomori Bay to witness a most alluring sunset.

Open Hours:

9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Closed days:

December 30 – January 1
The center is also closed on the fourth Monday of each month. If that day is a holiday, the center will be closed the next day

Admission Fees:

410 Yen

Are baggage lockers available at the site?

Lockers are available for free. You need a 100 yen coin to lock them, but it will be returned when you retrieve your belongings.

Are all objects exhibited in the museum excavated in the Sannai-Maruyama site?

Yes. Sanmaru Museum exhibits approximately 1,700 artifacts excavated from this very this site.

Are there any restaurants at the site?

Yes, you can find a fine restaurant on the premises named Gosennen-no Hoshi, which offers specialty food prepared with Jōmon period recipes and also a kiosk called Hokusaikan.

Do you sell any books about the site?

Yes, many informative books are available at the museum shop as well as the kiosk.

The Awa Odori Musical

This weekend I was lucky to witness the Awa Odori, a traditional Bon dance. It originated in Tokushima Prefecture and is danced to the lively call of “Yatto San, Yatto, Yatto. The dance has a history of about 400 years, and is one of the largest festivals in Japan.

Watch this space for the full story.

Train ride to Tokushima


Tokushima Station Building

Shinmachibashi Street

Awaodori Kaikan


Musical performance

Awa-odori dance performance

Awa-odori dance performance

Awa-odori dance performance

Awa-odori dance performance

Mani participating in Awa-odori dance performance

Awa-odori Museum

Awa-odori Costumes

Awa-odori Instruments

Awa-odori Miniatures

Awa-odori Miniatures

Awa-odori Paintings

Awa-odori Paintings

Awa-odori Paintings

Awa-odori Robo dancer

Awa-odori Mannequins

Train to Osaka

Thanks for reading!

The ancient Yoshinogari village

Today we went to explore the Yoshinogari ruins, that spreads throughout the Kanzaki area of Saga Prefecture. It is one of the largest historical site in Japan, reminiscent of Yamatai Kingdom from the Yayoi Era between 300 BC to 300 AD. The moated village marks the first shift from a nomadic lifestyle to permanent settlements.

On the way to Yoshinogari



Bridge to village

Torii at the entrance of the village

First views of the village

Viki at Yoshinigari

Dwelling huts at Minami no mura

A wild visitor

Kura to ichi

Near Minami naikaku

Watchtower at Minami naikaku

Minami naikaku

Chief house at Minami naikaku

Interiors of a hut at Minami naikaku

Naka no mura

Kita Naikaku

Entrance of Kita Naikaku

Ceremonial hall

Watchtower at Kita Naikaku

Prayer hall at Kita Funkyubo

Burial mound at Kita Funkyubo

Inside the burial mound

Burial jar

Burial pits

Leaving Yoshinogari

Catching the train to Kagoshima via Kumamoto.

Thanks for reading!