GOCOO (pronounced gokuu) is a Japanese Taiko Drum band that, while playing more than 40 Japanese drums, creates the sound and beat of mother earth. The band consist of 7 female and 4 male members who generate their original sound that cannot simply be categorized as traditional, folk or rock music. The sound is more primitive and trance-like and it is beyond nationality and music genre. The core of the band is its leader, Kaori Asano, who possesses the enchanting power of a modern shaman.
Ms. Asano brings her sticks down with full power as she swings her long hair as in a shishi lion dance.
Ms. Asano has said: “On stage, there comes a moment when daily affairs are stripped down to nothing but “love” and “gratitude” - the most genuine feelings of our souls. I think this must be what was originally intended by the idea of having a “festival”. I am often told that I am expressing something new but in truth, the newest things are intimately connected with the oldest things”
The band was formed in 1997 and GOCOO is highly regarded in Japan as well as in other countries. They have performed more than 100 shows abroad, including Europe. Their music was used in the movie, Matrix. GOCOO also performed their music at the opening of the Earth Summit in 2008 as an Asian representative.
If you have a taste for the buckwheat noodle “soba” from Japan and you like it so much that you find dining on it at a restaurant occasionally does not satisfy you, then it could be time for you to start making your own soba at home. The alluring smell of freshly made soba, its texture and taste are true bliss and it can be experienced whenever you desire by making your own soba. Essential to the preparation of soba, you will need to use a professional broad knife especially made for cutting soba by a master craftsman. The soba knife with Kuroda-shiage (black finish) is made by sharpening only the blade leaving the upper part with its original black color. It uses Yasuki Hagane White Steel, premium silver high carbon steel, which is suitable for cutting noodles into thin slices. It weighs 650g so pressing down on the dough to cut it into noodles is easy. The price is not too high but they are professional quality. It is always a good item to have in your kitchen.
Azechi Point is a small peninsula located to the west of Kiritappu Peninsula, in the vicinity of Kiritapp Town of Eastern Hokkaido. It protrudes out over the sea as if it is watching over Biwako Bay.
Azechi Point is known to have a spectacular sweeping view of the beautiful shore lines of Biwako Bay and Hamanaka Bay and, facing the Pacific Ocean, has an expansive view of table shaped islands unique to this region.
From the point visitors can observe closely the island well known as a nesting ground for the rare Tufted Puffin as well as Kenpokki Island, which is a breeding ground for numerous sea birds including Japanese Cormorants. Numerous strangely shaped rocks appear and disappear under the raging waves of the Pacific Ocean.
Visiting the point in the early morning is also worthwhile. In season, visitors can see a dynamic scene of fleets of kelp catching ships racing each other towards the ocean.
Sunset is also spectacular; the scene of the island and the ocean glowing red reflecting the crimson colored sun setting down over the Pacific Ocean is much loved by locals.
Azechi Point is a place where the visitor can indulge in the spectacle of nature from the moment the day dawns to the last minutes of the sun setting on the horizon.
The New Moon is the lunar phase that occurs when the Moon lies between Earth and the Sun, and is therefore in conjunction with the Sun as seen from Earth. At this time, the illuminated half of the Moon faces directly toward the Sun, and the dark portion of the Moon faces directly toward Earth, so that the Moon is invisible as seen from Earth.
A solar eclipse occurs when the ecliptic longitude of the Sun and the moon's path in celestial sphere are extremely close or overlapps, thereby the outline of the new moon can be seen as a white light ring.
The time interval between New Moons is about 29.5 days. According to Feng shui teaching, it is said that if you make two to ten wishes within eight hours right after the Moon gets into the New Moon phase, your wishes will be fulfilled.
A year was divided into 24 solar terms on the traditional Japanese calendar. Shubun, or Autumnal Equinox, is the 16th solar term. It usually begins around September 23rd, when the Sun reaches the celestial longitude of 180°. Autumnal equinox in astronomy is the moment when the Sun is at the equinoxtical point. Night and day are of nearly the same length at an equinox both in spring and autumn.
Spring and Autunmal Equinoxes are national holidays in Japan, for people hold a memorial service for their ancestors and dear deprted family members on these days. Originally, the autumnal equinox was the day to hold a Shinto ritual to thank the god for rich harvest and return the god to the mountain, who had came down to the village to guard the harvest. With the spread of Buddhism, it took on the meaning of service for one’s ancestors’ souls.
Since autunmal equinox became Imperial Memorial Day in the Meiji period (1868-1912), it became the custom for general people,too, to hold a memorial service on this day.
Yoshiaki Fujii is a craftsman in Fukuyama koto harp, a traditional handicraft in Fukuyama City, Hiroshima Pref.
Fukuyama koto harp dates back to the early Edo period (the 17th C), when Mizuno Katsunari was enfeoffed the Fukuyama domain and built Fukuyama Castle in this town. Encouraged by the domain lord, artistic accomplishments came into boom among the wives and daughters of townspeople as well as the warrior class, from which the making of koto harps also developed in the town. The high-grade articles of Fukuyama koto harp are made of paulownia wood from Aizu area. The paulownia tree grown slowly in the cold weather has tight growth rings, which is indispensable for creating good tones.
Tough each part is made separately by different workmen using machines today, Mr. Fujii undertakes the whole processes by hand. He exerts delicate care and expert skills on each product. When he encounters a wood of beautiful grain, he is so much absorbed in the making that he feels 24 hours is too short a time, he says. As a craftsman, it is the happiest moment for him to see his harp is played with treasured care.
Every year on June 10th and 11th, a traditional event called Yodakaandon takes place in Tsuzawa, Oyabe-Shi, Toyama Prefecture. It is an epic and elegant festival that dates back 350 years to the early Edo period.
As part of the rites for the establishment of the town of Fukuno (today's Nanto-shi), the townspeople went to receive blessings from the spirits at the Ise Shrine. The journey to the shrine took ten days, so the townspeople carried 'andon' lanterns to light their way at night.
Today, andon have become part of the festival 'yodaka' procession, which also includes a float, decorations and ornaments. Some yodaka can be very majestic, measuring about 5.5 meters high and 12 meters long.
On the day of the festival, as twilight approaches, the andon light up the dark streets, signaling the children and young people, who are wearing 'happi' festival clothing, to come and pull the large andon while energetically shouting a rallying cry.
The climax or highlight of the festival, however, is the Kenka Yodakaandon Hikimawashi, which literally means 'Yodakaandon brawl'. Two Yodakaandon position themselves face to face, and then collide. Each group has to destroy the other's float and decorations. Everyone who is at that site becomes intoxicated with fear and excitement, drawing the people into a world where dismay and chaos coexist.
Sen no Rikyuu was a master of the tea ceremony in Azuchi-Momoyama period (1573-1603). He was born in 1522, the son of a merchant in Sakai, Oosaka. His given name was Yoshirou. He studied the tea ceremony in his youth and age seventeen was apprenticed to Takeno Jouou, who developed and refined Wabi-cha. When Oda Nobunaga, who was the ruler in Japan at the time, took Sakai city under his direct rule, Sen no Rikyuu was hired as the head of the tea ceremony, and later, served Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Nobunaga’s successor. When Sen no Rikyuu was invited to host a tea ceremony at the Imperial Palace in 1585, in order to be allowed to enter the Palace, he had to be given a Buddhism rank of Koji, which is an honorary title given to a lay person who has lived as a pious Buddhist, and he was named Rikyuu. The biggest accomplishment of Rikyuu, who was also referred as a “tea saint”, was the perfection of Wabi-cha.
Tea practice, originally imported from China, was until this time mainly a leisure activity among wealthy society in Japan. Sen no Rikyuu elevated the ceremony to a higher level of artistic subtlety, expressing exquisitely the Japanese aesthetic
His simple and minimal use of space and atmosphere that eliminated anything superfluous, the sense of esthetic that embodied the beauty of nature, and his view on life that was expressed in his famous saying; “treasure every meeting, for it will never recur” allowed weary warriors facing life and death everyday to get back in touch with their trembling souls again. In 1591, at the height of his reputation as the greatest tea master, he infuriated Hideyoshi and was ordered to commit ritual suicide or hara-kiri. He was 70 at the time.