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.
When Naoshige Nabeshima, who later founded the Saga Clan, returned to Japan following the invasion of Korea in the late 16th century, he brought with him a group of Korean potters. One of them was Ri Sampei (Korean name Lee Cham-Pyung), who discovered kaolin and succeeded in making porcelain for the first time in Japan in 1616. This first porcelain was later developed into the three types of porcelain ware: Ko-Imari, Kakiemon and Nabeshima, which came to establish Arita as the birthplace of Japanese porcelain.
Ri Sampei is enshrined at Toyama-jinja Shrine in Odaru, Arita-cho. Behind the main shrine and situated at the top of Mt Renge-Ishiyama, stands a monument to Ri Sampei. This is also a good spot to get a panoramic view of the town of Arita.
The monument to Ri Sampei was erected in 1916 (Taisho 5) on the 300th anniversary of Arita ware. Since then, the Toso matsuri festival, celebrating the founding of porcelain, has been held each year on May 4th.
Sakata Matsuri is an annual festival that takes place at both Kamihie and Shimohie shrines in Sakata, Yamagata Prefecture, from May 19 to 21.
The festival has taken place every year for close to 400 years, since the 14th year of the Keicho era. Formerly, the festival was called Sanno Matsuri, but in Showa 54 it was renamed Sakata Matsuri as a festival for all citizens.
On the night before the festival, a traditional dance called Shikidai-no-Gi is performed. The symbol of Sakata, shishito (lion heads), appears in both male and female form during this festival. In addition, local citizens carry floats around the city. Many stalls line the roads and the city takes on a festive mood that recalls its former glory as a port city. Sakata Matsuri is an event brimming with local color.
A mikoshi is a type of portable float that the divine spirits of Shinto gods temporarily inhabit when they are transferred from one shrine to another or taken outside during shrine festivals.
Most mikoshi are in the shape of a miniature shrine. Also there are mikoshi shaped as sacred trees, phallic-shaped ones, or ones with figures on them. Usually a mikoshi weighs about 1 ton, with larger ones weighing about 2 tons or more.
The origin of these shrines is the altar made for harvest festivals, when pre-historic peoples of Japan lived as hunter-gatherers. After people settled and started to live by agriculture, shrines became the place where the gods settled. Later, the mikoshi became the vehicle for the Shinto gods, and took the well-known shape it has today.
It is believed that mikoshi spread all over the country around the Heian period, along with the belief in the divine spirits of the Shinto gods.
Rekishi-no-komichi is an historic street scene that can be seen in the Mameda area of Hita in Oita Prefecture. During the Edo period, Hita prospered for 250 years under the direct control of the Edo Bakufu government.
Many historic buildings and remnants of the Tenryo period still exist in Hita, mostly in Mameda. This area has been declared an historic townscape in order to preserve its old buildings and place in history.
During the 'Sennen-akari' event, part of the Tenryohita Matsuri, bamboo lanterns cast a soft glow over Rekishi-no-komichi along Ogawa, creating a visionary space. A Tenryo museum is also located in the area, and lets people know of the wealth that once prevailed in Hita.
Today, a stroll through the chic area of Rekishi-no-komichi in Mameda will give the visitor a sense of the atmosphere and mood of the Edo period.
The Hojo Ya festival is an especially famous Shinto festival held in Fukuoka City. Hojo Ya is a religious ritual involving the freeing of all captive animals, and the banning of any taking of life during the festive period.
Although a Shinto festival, the practise of avoiding killing animals is Buddhist, but was absorbed into Shintoism. The festival is held in many temples and shrines all over the country in spring or autumn, along with the harvest thanksgiving rituals.
The enormous Hojo Ya at Hakozakigu in Fukuoka Prefecture is counted among the three largest festivals of Hakata City. During the festival period, more than 700 stalls line the 1km approach to the shrine gates, while many interesting events take place within the precincts of the shrine.
Each year sees more than a million visitors, and services are held for deceased pets, or other living creatures that were reluctantly killed during the festival period. The Hojo Ya is a gigantic event that rouses the enthusiasm of all of Fukuoka in autumn.