culture & history, Osaka
One way of immersing yourself in Japanese culture is to take a public bath. For the uninitiated and often inhibited Westerner this may be challenging, but it is well worth the experience!
Follow these steps to stay in sync with Japanese cultural practices when visiting a public bath:
1. Disrobing. Enter the public bath and locate a locker for your clothing or robe. Disrobe and lock valuables. The key usually has a band, which you can attach around your wrist or arm.
2. Cleanse your body. This is very important. Do not even think of immediately getting into the bath. With towel and facecloth in hand, move to a series of small stools adjacent to an assortment of taps, bowls and soaps. Before you sit down, fill the bowl with warm water and splash it onto the chair. Take a seat on the chair and refill the bowl, tipping it over your head and splashing your body several times. Now use the soap to thoroughly - and I mean thoroughly - scrub yourself clean. The Japanese are very serious about this! Use the bowl to wash the soap from your body.
3. Enter the bath. Once you have THOROUGHLY washed yourself, move over to the bath. Now be careful, these baths can be piping hot! Gently, gently lower yourself into the bath so that your body becomes accustomed to the heat. Some onsen have both cold and hot baths, or a range of baths with different temperatures. Move between the baths as it takes your fancy. When things heat up, do not be shy to sit on the edge of the bath until you've cooled off a bit.
4. Relax. Once you're in the bath, sit back, rest your head, close your eyes and... relax! Wonderful!
TIP: If you are very shy, keep your facecloth with you and cover your vital parts surreptitiously. But really, no one is looking. Cannot speak from personal experience, but the girls did say the small-breasted Japanese were quite curious about their well-endowed Western counterparts!
There are many interesting classes you can take in a wide range of traditional Japanese arts and crafts. Such things as ikebana (flower arranging), traditional dance, taiko drumming, tea ceremony, etc. can provide interesting insight into the rich culture of Japan and can make your visit more enjoyable.
Wedding-halls are totally unknown in my part of the world, but in Japan they obviously are quite popular ! This one is in the port of Osaka, in my main photo you will see it from the giant ferris wheel. I could also take a look through some of the lighted windows at night, but the giant gate was locked unfortunately.
The photo was taken in front of the Osaka Castle. You can have a photo shot of yourself in a Kimono without actually wearing it, and it is free. Presenting two of the Kimono styles for Men & Women. It was a tradition to wear a Kimono on those days. Nowadays, it is worn on special occasions only.
Men's Kimono are usually designed with blue, black, grey or brown background and with motif of a dragon, or bamboo canes, or geometric patterns.
Women's kimono is worn based on the person's age and marital status. Young and single women wear long sleeves with colourful patterns. Married and older women wear a more simple design.
Hanami is the Japanese tradtional spring picnic activity. A great place to observe hanami is in the gardens surrounding Osaka Castle. Parts of the gardens are free to enter and others require a fee of 200 yen (April 2007). You will notice that just about all hanami picnic mats are blue. I have not yet found out why a ubiquitous blue tarp is used for the hanami, but it is very intriguing. Often the smell of beer will surround hanami picnics. People also claim their sites days before the actual picnic with family and friends and you will see people apparently 'camping out' to guard their ground. Of course, hanami happens under blossoming cherry trees. In other places around Osaka, you will see the familiar blue sheets placed under the cherry trees - beside railway lines, next to rivers and of course in parks and gardens.
Omiya-mairi is a celebration of a baby's first vist to a Shinto shrine. Traditionally, this happens one month after the birth of any Japanese baby. My son was born on February 10th, so on March 10th, we took him in to Temmangu Shinto Shrine for the ceremony.
Basically, you go in, pay the fee (10,000 yen) and wait while the priest and his acolytes prepare the room. After that, the priest summons you and you have to go and sit in the shrine. According to tradition, the mother of the baby's father holds the baby during the ceremony. My mother was absent so my wife's mother filled in. The priest begins a long incantation and disperses smoke around the room. My mother-in-law sat in front of the priest during the ceremony. I didn't understand much of the ceremony, except for the part where he said my name and how it was my duty to protect my son. It was a truly moving event. Unfortunately, no photography was allowed during the ceremony but we took a couple of shots afterwards.
This is as much a national custom as a religious one. This custom is not native to Osaka but Temmangu Shrine is considered to be the premier place in the area to go through it. It was a day I'll never forget!
Ok, so this isn't just an Osakan cultural activity, but hey, I live in Osaka so that's where I do my hanami-ing!
Hanami is the practice of going looking at cherry blossom trees in full bloom and then getting royally drunk sat underneath them. It's one of the best opportunities of the year to see the Japanese let their hair down with picnics and parties going on well after sundown. We managed to get adopted by a group from a badminton party who plied us with food and drink all night!
The time period is quite narrow - the cherry blossoms only tend to last for a week or so. In Osaka it's early to mid April, but later further north.
Osaka's most popular Hanami spots are Osaka-Jo Koen and The Mint Museum (the stretch of river near Tenmabashi). Asashiobashi Park and Ryokuchikoen are also popular with people who live nearby.
There's some pictures from the Mint Museum in my Hanami 2005 travelogue.
It is not only in Osaka, but everywhere in Japan. In the spring when the cherryblossom is in full bloom the japanese get all excited. Pictures have to be taken and the best thing to do is to have a picknick under the blossomtrees.
This tree is on the Osaka castle grounds and you can´t sit under it. But it is worth a picture!
My favorites: Crafts in Japan is an art form. Look for the most beautiful and elegant porcelain dolls (ningyo); types differ in Honshu & Kyushu: kyo-ningyo dolls (love these; elaborate dolls made in Kyoto and dressed in fine brocade fabrics), isho-ningyo dolls based on kabuki characters and daruma dolls based on the figure of Bodhidarma. Lacquerware is another of Japan's most popular and best known products. Known as shikki or nurimono, lacquerware is made using the sap from the lacquer tree. The sap has been used to protect and enhance the beauty of wood since the Jomon period. In the better pieces, multiple layers have been applied and left to dry thus polished to a luxurious shine. Sometimes, silver and gold powers are sprinkled onto the liquid lacquer to form a picture. Dazzling! Some even made it to be national treasures!
japan is not christian country ,but that will not stop japanese people celebrating it
you will find lots of decorations around to make you feel the christmas spirit