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Posts tagged flag

Flag Day

kofu takeda shingen festival flag carrying samurai yamanashi nec

Today is flag day in the USA. In my town the streets are lined with flags. It’s an impressive sight. Next week I’ll be in Denmark, and they are quite fond of their flag as well.

Today’s photo doesn’t have Japan’s flag in it, but it does have several of the flags and banners that were carried during the Shingen Festival in Kofu last year. The main flag in this photo, as impressive as it looks to a foreigner who can’t read Japanese, is actually an advertisement for the Yamanashi Branch of NEC (日本電気株式会社). The flag holder, rather than being a real samurai, is merely an NEC employee.

New Year Greeting from Emperor Akihito

On January 2 of each year the emperor of Japan makes a rare, “public” appearance. He doesn’t actually go out in public, but the public comes to see him and the rest of the Japanese Imperial Family.

This was my first, real chance to join in on these festivities. Apparently, I didn’t get enough of the crowds at Zojoji on New Year’s Eve or the crowds at Meiji Jingu on New Year’s Day (photos coming soon). The gates open at 9:30 for the first appearance at 10:10. Seven appearances happen during the day. I thought getting there at 9:30 would be perfect timing to see the 10:10 greeting. It turns out that arriving at 9:30 is perfect timing to make it through the gate at 10:11. I missed the first greeting but did see the emperor’s last wave and backside before he and the rest of the imperial family made their exit.

Above is what the crowd looks like in front of you at 9:30.

Photo number two is what it looks like behind you at 10:05.

A changing of the guard happened a couple of times before the 11:00 appearance. The number of security personnel at this event (and around Yasukuni Jinja down the street where I went after) numbered over a thousand I’m guessing.

There was even a pat down of everyone who lined up. I got in line for the pat down from the cute, female security officer. She told me to go get my pat down from a male cop which wasn’t nearly as fun. He did thank me, though, so I guess it was fun for him. 😉

An old lady near me passed out when they announced the Japanese Imperial Family at 10:55. They carted her off quickly, before the Japanese Imperial Family showed up behind the glass again.

From left to right you can see Crown Princess Masako, Crown Prince Naruhito, Emperor Akihito, Empress Michiko, and Prince Akishino.

天皇陛下と皇后陛下

“Slowly and cautiously” we moved out of the way for the next group of thousands to gather.

Here are a couple of videos I took. The first is when they made their 11:00 appearance. The second is the emperor’s greeting (a rather predictable “I’m happy to see you all. I ask that you all have a good year. I pray that everyone has a happy year and that the world is at peace.”).

Sumo – Part 1

sumo rikishi throws salt into ring september tokyo japan ryogoku 将司 昂親 masatsukasa koshin

After a break of “just” 21 years I finally had the chance to see sumo in person again earlier this month. I was extremely excited, especially after watching it on NHK the prior evenings. I went on the sixth day of the fifteen-day tournament, arriving at 8 a.m. to be sure I could get a ticket. As it turned out, I probably didn’t need to arrive so early as there were many empty seats. Should you ever attend, do get there at 8 (or earlier) to purchase the cheap (2,100 yen) tickets on a weekend or you may not get in. I went on a Friday, early in the tournament, so those may be the main reasons it wasn’t crowded.

The above sumo wrestler (力士 or rikishi) is 将司昂親 (Masatsukasa Koshin). He was 5-0 going into day six. His spectacular salt toss (most 力士 don’t throw nearly as much) was supposed to purify the ring. On this evening it did not work well for him, and he fell to 5-1.

flags in front of ryogoku tokyo japan Asashoryu's flag

The day started out as a beautiful, mostly blue-sky day. The banners/flags of the sumo stars out front looked wonderful, and until about 8:30 a.m. a drummer (who was more than a bit off beat) worked the drum up in this tower. I was enchanted and ready for action. Unfortunately, it wasn’t easy to continue this high for 10 straight hours until the top wrestlers performed.

The flag on the far left is that of 白鵬翔 (Hakuho Sho), the most recent tournament winner. He is Mongolian and one of only two current 横綱 (Yokozuna, the top rank in sumo). On this night Hakuho lost his first bout of the current tournament to a guy who had zero wins and five losses in the first five days. It was shocking to say the least. Spectators picked up their seat cushions and hurled them in Hakuho’s direction, an incredible sight.

ryogoku early in the day tokyo japan sumo ring

I was alone, or I could have had pictures taken with many of the sumo dudes, but I did take this one, self portrait four hours into the day.

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