Category Archives: Culture & Tradition

Shichi-go-san: A special ritual for child health and longevity

From Ian Ropke,

This month visitors will have a great chance to photograph children all dressed up in kimono, a special opportunity not to be missed. November is the month of the shichi-go-san (7-5-3) ritual for girls (seven and three years of age) and boys (five years of age).

Four generations celebrate shichi-go-san.

Four generations celebrate shichi-go-san.

Shichi-Go-San is believed to have started in the Heian Period (794-1185). It was a ritual developed by court nobles to celebrate the passage of their children into middle childhood. In Japanese numerology, odd numbers are considered to be lucky.

In the Kamakura period (1185-1333), the fifteenth of what is now known as November was set as the date for this ceremony.

The samurai class also found the ritual beneficial for their children. Samurai children, according to the custom of the warrior class, had their heads shaven until they were three years old. Samurai boys were allowed to wear their first hakama (samurai formal wear) at age five. And samurai girls from age seven onwards were allowed to wear obi sashes around their kimono instead of simple cords.

By the Meiji period (1868-1912), the shichi-go-san tradition was firmly part of the annual traditional practices observed by all classes. By this time, the practice also included visiting a shrine to have the local deities keep the children free of bad spirits and to bless them with a long, healthy life.

Today, the tradition has changed little. Three-year-old girls and five-year-old boys often wear their first formal Japanese clothing, kimono for girls and hakama for boys, at a shichi-go-san ceremony. Three-year-old girls differ from the seven-year-olds in that they usually wear hifu padded vest over their kimono.

Chitoseame or “thousand year candy” is something that children also look forward to in November, as part of the shichi-go-san ritual. These long, thin candies, presented bags decorated with a crane and a turtle, symbols of longevity, are colored red and white (the colors of celebration in Japan). Eating the candy is said to ensure a child’s healthy growth and a long life.

The best shrines in Kyoto to see this beautiful and colorful ceremony are Heian Shrine, Shimogamo Shrine, and Kamigamo Shrine. Though the 15th is still considered the actual correct day of the event, modern times have resulted in both weekends before and after the 15th as being the most popular. This month, the 14th and 15th and the 21st and 22nd will be the best time to experience shichi-go-san and take some of the cutest and most memorable pictures you will ever see.

Text and image by Ian Ropke. Ian Ropke is the author of the Historical Dictionary of Osaka and Kyoto, and director of Your Japan Private Tours. You can read his previous articles for Deep Kyoto here.

A Night of Japanese Sake and Cuisine in a Kyoto Machiya Townhouse

October 8thAn update on this event from Takara Shuzo: “We regret to inform you that this event is now full. We have received an overwhelming response and wish to sincerely thank everyone who has taken the time to apply. We do currently plan to run this event again in the near future and look forward to welcoming more participants at that time.”

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From Chris Malcolm,

Takara Shuzo, based in Kyoto and one of Japan’s leading sake and shochu producers, is looking for non-Japanese participants for a fun and informative night of Japanese food and sake at the beautifully restored beKyoto machiya and gallery in Kyoto. This cultural event will be hosted in English by international staff from Takara Shuzo, and attendees will have a chance to taste and learn about 9 premium sake, including several daiginjo varieties, while enjoying a full Japanese meal. During dinner, the staff will give a short seminar on sake, Japanese food, and sake pairings. In addition to the meal, participants will receive a bottle of Mio Sparkling Sake at the end in exchange for their cooperation in filling out a couple of short surveys.

Fee: 500 yen. This includes a full meal, and sampling of 9 premium sake.

Time: Friday, Oct 16 from 5:45. The event will end around 8:00pm.

Participants: The event is limited to 15 non-Japanese guests.

Application Method:

・Simply send a message with your name in an Email titled ‘Sake Tasting’ to If you wish to invite friends, please include their names in the Email as well.
・Application deadline: Oct 14, 2015, 5:00pm.
・All applicants will be notified by email with the result of their application.
・Participants will be determined via their applications on a first come, first serve basis.
・If we have reached capacity at the time of your application, we will add you to a waitlist and contact you if there are any cancellations.


beKyoto Art Gallery and Rental Space:
〒602-0064 京都市上京区新町通上立売上る 安楽小路町429-1
beKyoto is a 5min walk from Imadegawa subway station exit 2.

Additional event and contact information will be provided to participants through email at the time of confirmation.

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・Any information collected via Email from attendees will be used solely for the organization of this event or future editions of the same event for applicants unable to attend due to overcapacity.
・Takara Shuzo does not sell, trade, or rent your personal information to others.
・All guests must be at least 20 years old.
・Given that alcoholic beverages will be served, please do not travel to the event by car, motorcycle or bicycle.

We look forward to seeing you there!”

Zenbu Zen Winter Tour of Kyoto January 2016 with Food Writer Jane Lawson

zenbu zenIn December 2010, food writer and photographer Jane Lawson, escaped her overworked and stressed out life as a publisher and ran away to her dream city: Kyoto. Here she spent five months exploring Kyoto culture, particularly Kyoto food culture, and wrote a book to record that exploration. Zenbu Zen is part memoir, part cookbook, and part pictorial tribute to the city she loves: a beautiful book to look at and an excellent primer for the study of Japanese cuisine. But the story doesn’t end there, for Jane has continued her love affair with this city and each year hosts expert culinary and cultural tours of the ancient capital. Here’s Jane to tell us more…

Thinking about travelling to Kyoto but don’t want to do it on your own? Do you lean towards an intimate, connected travel experience over larger in-personal group travel? If so, this in-depth Kyoto tour hosted by food and travel writer Jane Lawson, author of Zenbu Zen – Finding Food, Culture and Balance in Kyoto has just 4 spots ( of 8) left!

ZENBU ZENzenbu 3

Winter Cuisine & Culture Tour of Kyoto

12 days/11 nights

9 -20 January 2016

AUD $10, 199 p/p or $9799 p/p twin share

(maximum of 8 places available)

Jane says, “We’ll spend our days soaking in the serene atmosphere of Kyoto, the country’s cultural and historical heart, returning each night to the luxurious Kyoto Hyatt Regency Hotel – an appropriate base for witnessing the best of this city’s omotenashi (hospitality).

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This is an in-depth experience for like-minded folk who appreciate the finer things in life – great food, sake and laughter. Meet creative and talented locals, visit quiet temples, shrines and gardens. Shop for artisan ceramics, antiques or stunning contemporary home-wares. Float around galleries and museums. Sample your way through this spectacular cuisine in some of Jane’s favourite restaurants and take time out to relax or explore on your own. We’ll also day trip to wonderful Kanazawa, the ancient city of Nara and vibrant Osaka.’

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Blissful Kyoto, encircled by snow-capped mountains is the perfect place to relax and recharge for those who appreciate aesthetics, culture and peace. Magical vistas, alpine air, seasonal delicacies and the opportunity to wander minus the crowds of spring and autumn. Experience the beauty in simplicity and be nurtured and inspired by this mystical city of layered textures.”

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Click the link for more details!

All images courtesy of Jane Lawson.

What is “Deep Kyoto”? ~ Some thoughts from Lonny Chick

In recent months the Deep Kyoto Group on Facebook has really taken on a life of its own, with members sharing events, photos, info, opinions and even fun little quizzes! It really does feel like it has naturally grown into a vibrant community and a center of friendly discussion. One of our frequent contributors is Lonny Chick, who is perhaps better known on Twitter and Flickr as Rekishi no Tabi, and his photographs and posts on historical matters are always fascinating. A recent discussion about the kind of content we would like to see more of in our group, inspired Lonny to write a wonderful meditation on what “deep Kyoto” means to him personally. It was so beautifully written and so full of heartfelt love for this city that I thought it deserved a wider audience, and I am very glad to say he has given me permission to reproduce it here.

*          *           *

What is “Deep Kyoto”? What does it mean to you?

I don’t mean this in terms of the Facebook Group, which is a stellar community and I do truly enjoy the posts, but what is “deep Kyoto”?

I ask myself this question a lot, as Kyoto is a very special place that resonates deep in me. It is a destination that allows me to forget the burdens of work and daily life and all the associated stress that really sometimes drags me down both mentally and physically. It is in Kyoto that I can find an inner peace, refresh myself and find the resolve to re-don my samurai salaryman armor to fight in the workplace trenches another day.

So what then is my “Deep Kyoto”? I think the best way to answer that is with a list. In no particular order, here is a portion of that list.

A Quiet Sunday in Kyoto by Lonny Chick

A Quiet Sunday in Kyoto © Lonny Chick – Click to view original.

1. It’s the feeling of joy to see the owners and senior staff of one of my favorite obanzai restaurants, who go out of their way to make me and my wife feel special. It is all about the omotenashi (hospitality) and the relationship that has developed over a decade with these people. It is the fact that the okami-san eagerly WANTS to talk about Japanese history and traditional culture with me. It’s the special sake that they bring out for me to sample. It is the box of chirimenjako or special Kyoto pickles that the okami-san presses into our hands to take back to Tokyo. It’s the master preparing extra special goodies for us, unsolicited. Again, Kyoto-style omotenashi really goes a long way with me.

2. It is the taste of botan nabe (wild boar hot pot) cooked in an iribancha tea-based broth on a cold winter’s night. It’s pure Kyoto and pure delight!

3. It is the smile of recognition and greeting one gets when seeing a geiko or maiko on the street who actually remembers you.

4. It is the sound of a shamisen accompanied by a singer emitting from the open second story machiya window on a hot and sultry summer’s night.

5. It’s running into Kyotoite friends on the street at night by pure chance who are on their way to a bar and drag you along, only to find out you will be drinking with a stunning geiko.

6. It is the sound of “kon-chiki-chin” music of the Gion Matsuri during Yoi-yoiyama up through the big parade every July 17. It just helps set the mood.

7. It is the feeling of being revitalized while walking through the Kibune Shrine complex, especially after a rainfall, or during a light drizzle. Water and the dragon god go hand in hand.

8. It is the feeling of deep relaxation and satisfaction one gets when sitting on the veranda at Entokuin or Eikandō, nearly all alone and undisturbed, staring out into the garden and thinking of absolutely nothing for about an hour.

9. It’s the subtle smile and sideways glance one gets from a favorite Buddhist statue.

10. It’s the conversation one has about “what constitutes the best cup of tea” with an accomplished tea master while sipping whisky in a small Gion bar run by a charming semi-retired geiko, who also has a treasure chest full of great stories.

11. It is being told by the owner of an ancient restaurant to wait until all the dinner customers are gone so you can have nearly a free reign to go and photograph just about every nook and cranny of the historic building.

12. It’s being told by the owner of a restaurant, which you are visiting for the first time, to wait until the last lunch customer is gone so he can show you how hamo is prepared.

13. It is just browsing in an antique store and talking to the owner about the history of a piece when he suddenly invites you to an impromptu tea ceremony in his shop using 15th century utensils.

Akai-san Prepares a Bowl of Matcha © Lonny Chick. Click for original image, and story!

Akai-san Prepares a Bowl of Matcha © Lonny Chick. Click for original image, and story!

14. It is the wonderful old architecture that co-exists with some interesting new structures.

15. It is a stroll down Kiyamachi at night, holding hands with your loved one, admiring the sakura and soaking up the history of the area.

16. It is stopping to dally around the Tatsumibashi bridge and shrine around midnight, while on the way back to your hotel, just to admire a sudden snowfall and watch the area slowly get blanketed in white.

17. It is the old couple who owns a kissaten, set in an old machiya, who invites you to come back tomorrow to just hang out and watch the carrying of the mikoshi (portable shrine) from their place during the Gion Matsuri and to get tested on Kyoto history knowledge via the Kyoto Kentei books.

18. It’s the sound of thundering hooves and the sight of a mounted archer whiz pass you while firing arrows at targets on the grounds of the Shimogamo Shrine during the Aoi Matsuri.

19. It’s just walking up and down the narrow walkway in the Pontochō at dusk, trying to count the number of languages you hear spoken, catching a glimpse of a geiko or maiko, and wondering how the area must have looked during the Bakumatsu period. Pontochō is magical at dusk.

20. It’s the sudden sense of being overcome with awe and wonderment when you are led upstairs to the Sumiya’s second floor to see the beautiful settings where courtesans and geiko mingled with Edo period literati and elites.

This list can go on and on, but this is just a part of my “deep Kyoto”.

Pendulum – Japanese Traditional Music Course @ Kyoto Geidai; August 18-20

Alison Tokita is running an intensive 3-day course on Japanese traditional music at Kyoto City University of Arts, August 18th – 20th, 2015.

Click to download PDF

Click to download PDF

This short-short course will introduce many of the genres of traditional Japanese music that have been transmitted to the present and are still actively performed. The course will also discuss the varied ways of experiencing musical modernity in the context of the overwhelming dominance of western music in Japan. It will provide an accessible overview of Japanese music culture for non-Japanese participants, including performers, composers and musicologists. It is also intended for Japanese participants who are interested in an international perspective on Japanese music, and students planning to study abroad who want to know something about their ‘own’ music as well as western music.

The major genres include gagaku, shōmyō, and shakuhachi and koto music. The narrative genres of heike and jōruri and their place in the nō, bunraku and kabuki theatres will be introduced. Practical encounter with some genres during learning sessions, and an evening concert will be included.

Cost: 5,000 yen (payable in cash at the commencement of the course)

Schedule: There will be two sessions per day over three days. Morning session 10:00-13:00 Afternoon session 14:00-17:00 (The following schedule may be adapted depending on the interests of participants.)

HOW TO APPLY: Registrations must be received by Friday July 31 by email. Payment will be made on the first day of the course, August 18, between 9:00 and 10:00. Registration form can be found on the website.
Enquiries and registration:
Enquiries can also be made to the course convenor, Alison Tokita:
Here is the link for further details and a contact form:

Exploring Fushimi on Inside Kyoto

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My latest article for Inside Kyoto is an exploration of the backstreets and waterways of Fushimi – Kyoto’s famed sake making district. Included in the article are places to taste sake, a boating cruise, a visit to the Teradaya Inn (where Sakamoto Ryoma narrowly escaped assassination), and a Buddhist temple dedicated to a Hindu river deity that happens to have a Hidden Christian lantern!

Here’s a taste,

Fushimi. Say it aloud and the very sound of those soft syllables seems refreshing. This is not inappropriate. The name originally meant “underground water”, and Fushimi is famous for its springs. The water from these underground sources is soft, mellow and is held to be particularly delicious – perfect for sake production. Many sake breweries thrive in this area and Fushimi sake is renowned as the perfect complement for Kyoto cuisine. Historically the waters of Fushimi also made this area an important hub of transport and trade. Here the confluence of three rivers, the Uji, Katsura and Kamo, and an intricate network of canals were put to good use, sending rice, sake and other goods between the cities of Kyoto and Osaka…

Read more here: Exploring Fushimi – Kyoto’s Sake District

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See also:
Kabuki At Kyoto’s Minamiza Theater
Walking In Gion
Kyoto Samurai
Toka Ebisu

Omuro Sakura at Ninna-ji Temple

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This year’s cherry blossom season was basically a washout, with many hanami parties cancelled because of the incessant rain. Ninna-ji Temple in western Kyoto, has a special variety of cherry blossom that blooms later than most, but when it was at its best last week, the rain was still coming down. Mewby and I resolved to defy the weather and visit the temple anyway. At least, I thought, the rain will keep the bulk of tourists away. We’ll probably have the place to ourselves. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Even in the rain, Ninna-ji Temple is very popular.


Perhaps it is because Ninna-ji is on UNESCO’s World Heritage list as one of the “Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto”? It is certainly ancient. Ninna-ji Temple was first built in 888.

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Like many Kyoto temples though, the original buildings of Ninna-ji were long ago destroyed by fire. In Ninna-ji’s case the temple was destroyed during the conflict of the Ōnin War in 1467. The majority of the current buildings date from a 17th century restoration.

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Most striking of all must be the five storied pagoda…

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But the grounds are extensive and there is much to see here.

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The Kyōzō (経蔵) or sutra repository had a sign outside describing many treasured wall paintings and Buddhist statuary, yet the building itself was completely locked up. There was however a tiny hole in the wooden walls through which we took a little peak and saw…

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The main attraction though was Ninna-ji’s famous orchard of 200 dwarf cherry trees. These date from the early Edo period, so people have been enjoying cherry blossoms here for about 400 years!

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This orchard was designated as a national scenic beauty spot in 1924.

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Even in the rain, cherry blossoms can gladden the heart!

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We enjoyed our trip to Ninna-ji and will certainly go again – but hopefully in better weather!

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You can find out more about Ninna-ji Temple at their multi-lingual website here: It is also possible to stay at Ninna-ji overnight. You can find out about that here:


Getting to Ninna-ji is little complicated but much of the route is quite scenic and pleasant.

To get to Ninna-ji from Kyoto station, take the JR subway to Karasuma-Oike Station and change to the Tozai line. Go as far as Uzumasa-Tenjingawa/Randen-Tenjingawa (it has two names), and then change to the Keifuku Dentetsu-Arashiyama line. Take that line as far as Katabiranotsuji and then take the Keifuku Dentetsu-Kitano Line as far as Omuro-Ninna-ji. That’s three changes over 46 minutes for 610 yen.

To get to Ninna-ji from the town center take the Hankyu line from Kawaramachi to Sai, then change to the Keifuku Dentetsu-Arashiyama line. Take that line as far as Katabiranotsuji and then take the Keifuku Dentetsu-Kitano Line as far as Omuro-Ninna-ji. That’s two changes over 45 minutes for 360 yen.

Check for details of train times at:

Fire Ceremony & Kyōgen Performance at Seiryō-ji on March 15th

Seiryō-ji temple grounds with festival stalls & giant torches ready to be lit!

Seiryō-ji temple grounds with festival stalls & giant torches ready to be lit!

Many temples hold special ceremonies on March 15th to commemorate the Buddha’s death, or passing into Nirvana (Nehan 涅槃 in Japanese). One of the more spectacular and eventful commemorations is at Seiryō-ji temple in Saga. There are a number of reasons why you might want to attend this particular event.

  • On this day only, entry to the temple interior is free.
  • It has a real local festival feel with food stalls set up all about the temple grounds.
  • Traditional Kyōgen comedy performances are held throughout the day.
  • There is a huge fire festival in the evening.

Mewby and I visited Seiryō-ji for last year’s Nehan-e (涅槃会), so here are some pictures from our visit.

Seiryō-ji Temple

Naturally we took advantage of the free entry to the temple interior and gardens. Normally this would cost us 400 yen each, but on this day alone there is no charge!

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Many Buddhist artworks of incredible detail are on display inside the temple. In contrast the gardens provide space for peaceful reverie.

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Take a look around yourself!

Click on this image for a 360 degree rotational view.

Click on this image for a 360 degree rotational view.

Kyōgen Comedies

Two monks carry in a "living" statue of the Buddha.

Actors portray two monks carrying in a “living” statue of the Buddha.

Saga Kyōgen is a form of medieval mummer’s play, performed completely without words and so very easy to understand, even for non-Japanese. Accompanied by drum and gong, the masked performers, use exaggerated miming to convey very simple plots. The play we saw, concerned a visit to Seiryō-ji temple by a beautiful mother and her less than beautiful daughter.

The "homely" daughter is on the left and the mother on the right.

The “homely” daughter is on the left and the mother on the right.

So beautiful is the mother that monks become overly excited in her presence and welcome her warmly. Naturally, the plainer daughter gets a colder reception. Not very subtle I know, but the play does contain some religious satire. Seiryō-ji is famous for its rarely displayed sandalwood statue of the Buddha. This statue is held to be so sacred it is termed a “living Buddha”. In the Kyōgen comedy, the Buddha literally comes to life, turning away from the plain-faced daughter, and actually running off with her mother instead!

The Buddha statue running off with a beautiful lady as a temple monk tries to stop him.

The Buddha statue running off with a beautiful lady as a temple monk tries to stop him.

Naturally, both the daughter and the monks are very upset by this, but not to worry. There is a Japanese expression, 蓼食う虫も好き好き, or “some prefer nettles”, which means that beauty is very much in the eye of each beholder – and so the homely daughter also finds true love in the end!

All's well that ends well for the homely daughter...

All’s well that ends well for the homely daughter…

The Fire Ceremony

Saga no hashira taimatsu, (嵯峨の柱松明) is part of a religious ceremony commemorating Buddha’s passing from this world into Nirvana. The ceremony begins around 8pm and the two giant torches are set alight at 8.30. You need to get there early though, if you want a decent view.

The pine torches quickly catch fire...

The pine torches quickly catch fire…

I’ve read that the condition of the fire can be used to divine the fortunes of the coming year.

Fire fighters are on hand to prevent the fire from getting out of hand...

Fire fighters are on hand to prevent the fire from getting out of hand…

As the fires blaze, monks from the temple parade around bearing lanterns and chanting sutras.

A blazing inferno!

The fires really do reach quite high and send their sparks up to the heavens.


A blazing inferno!

My pictures don’t really do the experience justice, so take a look for yourself!

Click on this image for 360 degree rotational view.

Click on this image for 360 degree rotational view.

Details and directions:

Kyōgen performances are held in the afternoon at 15.30, 17.00 and 18.30. The temple interior and gardens are open from 9:00 until 16:00. The fires are lit between 20.00 and 20.30. To get there, take Kyoto Bus #71, or #72, and get off at Saga Shakado-mae. The temple can also be reached by taking a 15 minute walk from JR Saga-Arashiyam Station. Here is a MAP.

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Hina Matsuri ~ A Magical Doll Festival

The first tier of a Hina doll display bears the Emperor (男雛 O-bina) and Empress (女雛 Me-bina).

The first tier of a Hina doll display bears the Emperor (男雛 O-bina) and Empress (女雛 Me-bina).

Hina Matsuri (雛祭り) is a Doll Festival held every year on March 3rd. It is dedicated to the health and happiness of young girls in each family’s household. Though I have lived in Japan for many years, family celebrations like Hina Matsuri, have never really meant much to me – until now. Now that I am marrying into a Japanese family, I get to take part and experience these celebrations first hand. So a few days ago, I helped set up the  hina dan (雛壇), the platform on which the dolls are displayed. As I took the various dolls out of their boxes and arranged them in the correct order with their various accoutrements I found myself fascinated. Much as a Western family might enjoy decorating a tree together for Christmas, this too is a delightful custom.

a child's eye view

Viewing the Hina Doll display from a child’s perspective, it truly is a thing of wonder.

The Hina doll festival as we know it today, was developed in the mid-Edo period, but it has its roots in something much older. In ancient times people believed that doll-like effigies had magical powers and could take on a person’s misfortune and disease and carry it away. Dolls would be placed beneath a child’s pillow for this purpose and then in the spring, the dolls would be put in straw boats and set afloat on a river. As the dolls sailed off toward the sea, so too would bad luck and illness be carried away. Apparently, this custom is still practiced in some parts of the country…

The Emperor bears a ritual baton (笏 shaku) representing his authority.

The Emperor bears a ritual baton (笏 shaku) representing his authority.

Today though the typical Hina Doll display depicts a Heian era court and is symbolic of a well ordered family. Presumably the Emperor and Empress at the top represent mom and dad.

The Empress bears a beautiful fan.

The Empress bears a beautiful fan.

On the second tier are three court ladies, san-nin kanjo (三人官女). They are holding equipment for serving sake.

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A lady bearing sake:

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Below the ladies are five musicians, gonin bayashi (五人囃子), bearing an assortment of drums and flutes.


This young fellow has no instrument because he is the singer, or utaikata (謡い方).

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Below the musicians are two retainers bearing swords, bows and arrows. The Minister of the Left (左大臣 Sadaijin) is a venerable old man.

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The Minister of the Right (右大臣 Udaijin) is much younger.

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On the fifth tier of the display are two trees: an orange tree (右近の橘 ukon no tachibana) and a cherry tree (左近の桜 sakon no sakura). And between these trees are three intriguing figures: the three servants or sannin jōgo 三人上戸. 上戸 is usually translated as “drunk” but why these three honest workers should be drunk I have no idea. They are named the crying drunk, nakijōgo (泣き上戸):


The laughing drunk (waraijōgo (笑い上戸):


And the angry drunk, okorijōgo (怒り上戸):


On the sixth tier a variety of laquered furniture, representing a young girl’s dowry is displayed. Among these treasures is a miniature tea ceremony set.

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The final tier carries vehicles used when carrying a bride away from the imperial palace, such as a palanquin:


And an ox-drawn carriage. In Heian times, an ox-drawn carriage was the favored mode of transport for the nobility.

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And there we have it: seven tiers and fifteen dolls (the numbers are said to be auspicious) that give us a miniaturised glimpse at how Japanese view their own cultural roots. A set like this is too big for most houses these days, so I feel very lucky to see one for myself. If you would like to see some traditional dolls though, the Kyoto National Museum has an ongoing Hina Matsuri & Japanese Dolls exhibition throughout March which may well be worth a look. Our display must be entirely cleared away though, soon after Hina Matsuri is over, for folklore would have it that leaving the dolls out too long, will delay your daughter’s marriage. I fully intend to marry the daughter of this household and so will be happy to help pack it all away. Until then however…

Let’s light the paper lamps!
And decorate with flowers and peach blossom!
Five musicians play with pipe and drum!
Today is so much fun – Hina Matsuri!

You can read the rest of the song lyrics for Ureshii Hina Matsuri in Japanese and English here:

Plum Blossom at the Imperial Palace Park


On my way home from Kitano Tenmangu Shrine the other day, I stopped by the Imperial Palace Park to enjoy the plum blossom. The trees at Kitano Tenmangu are probably more famous, but the shrine grounds were also a lot more crowded. Though each tree in the park had its admirers, there was really only a small scattering of people around, and so I could enjoy the blooms in a more relaxed and pleasant manner.

Every tree has its admirers...

Every tree has its admirers…

And there is something very calming about viewing plum blossom.


The scent of plum blossom is subtle, not strong, but deep like wine and very rich. I love to stick my nose in a spray and take a big sniff!

梅が香に追い戻さるるさむさかな [松尾 芭蕉]

ume ga ka ni
samusa kana
~ Matsuo Bashō

plum blossom scent
this chases off
the cold!
( tr. Michael Lambe)