Kyudo Demonstration at the Meiji Shrine (2)

The Culture Day (Nov. 3) Festival at the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo is something I look forward to every year. I’ve been four times, and still get excited about going because it’s so great for photography. I tried out the Jidai Matsuri in Asakusa last year, but a lot of the costumes were kind of cheesy, and it was so crowded it was hard to take photos.




Here are some other photos of the festival:

The Temple of the Flying Buddha


Shobo-in temple near Asakusa is dedicated to the Buddhist deity Fudo Myo, and is popularly known as Tobi Fudo. Tobi Fudo means “the flying Fudo Myo.” The temple got its nickname in the 1500s when its founder took an image of Fudo Myo to Mt. Omine, some 300 miles away. The story goes that the image flew back to Tokyo one night, to answer the prayers of devotees there.
Today, a lot of young women who are trying to become flight attendants or people who are afraid of flying go there to pray. The wooden board in the photo is an ema, or votive plaque which people use to write their wish on.

For more information about Shobo-in and the Tobi Fudo, visit:

Reading Kanji in Microsoft Word


I guess pretty much everyone who computes in Japanese knows about and Rikaichan, the wonderful website and browser plug-in that help you to read kanji by popping up a little window with the kanji’s pronunciation and meaning.
They’re fantastic, of course, but I’m planning on never using them again because I’ve stumbled upon something much better. It’s called Stardict, and it enables you to read kanji, not just online, but in other applications such as Microsoft Word and Excel. No more Alt-Tabbing back and forth between windows!
Another advantage is the wide-range of dictionaries available*. Of course it has the usual word, names, and places dictionaries, but it also has specialty dictionaries for terms related to business, computers, Buddhism, geology, classical Japanese, and even four-kanji idioms.
One other good thing about it is that you don’t have to have stuff popping up all the time if you don’t want it to. You can configure it so that it only shows you the reading of a kanji that you’re hovering over when you hit the <Shift> key.

Especially if you’re a third-rate translator like me, you’re going to want to download this free application right away.

Here’s the URL:

*You have to download the dictionaries. You probably want the Tarbal files, and you have to uncompress them and copy them into the Stardict directory. A free program like 7-zip will do the job nicely.

For those of you who are just here for the photos, here’s a picture of Yoyogi Park:


Examination Hell


I’d always heard about Japan’s “examination Hell” (juken jikoku) where high school students study night and day to get into a good university, but it never really sunk in how awful it must be until I saw these seven bags full of textbooks in the garbage room of my apartment building one morning. I wonder if the person got accepted.



Bird man street performer

Hamamatsu Kite Festival


Ready to launch a giant kite at the Hamamatsu Kite Festival. The festival features giant kites flown by teams of people from the local area, and they try to cut the strings of rival group’s kites. It’s held on May 5 (Children’s Day), the last day of Golden Week and is well worth a visit if you’re looking for something to do during the Golden Week holidays.

More kite-related posts:

A Japanese Garden Ready for Winter


The Horikiri Shobuen is a small but very nice iris garden near my apartment in Katsushika Ward. It gets jam-packed in early June when the irises are in bloom, but is quite beautiful and nearly empty the rest of the year.

When I visited last Sunday, all the plants were covered in straw, ready for the winter. The idea is that the straw will attract bugs because it’s warmer, keeping them away from the plant itself. I’m not sure if it’s any more true than the popular pet-bottle theory of keeping cats away from your house or not, but it’s very attractive.


This straw-rope carousel is called a yukitsuri. It’s supposed to be to support the branches of the tree when they are covered in snow, but seeing as Tokyo only gets a light sprinkling of white stuff three or four times a year, I have an idea that they’re more ornamental now. There’s a good explanation of Yukitsuri at:

The Horikiri Shobuen is near Horikirishobuen Station on the Keisei Railways main line. It’s a nice place to visit if you’re in the area, but probably not worth a long trip.

Hina Doll at Awashima-jinja


Hina doll at Awashima Jinja in Wakayama prefecture. Many Japanese people believe that dolls have souls, so instead of throwing them in the garbage, they take them to a shrine where they are blessed and ritually burned or thrown into the sea.

Other posts with pictures of Awashima Jinja: