Koshu Highway, or Route 20, in Hachioji is famous for its street lined on both sides with ginkgo (or ichou) trees, which turn bright yellow in the fall. For one weekend each year in late November (16-17 Nov 2013), the city holds a festival to celebrate the colorful leaves, the changing of the season and the vibrant town of Hachioji. We arrived on the Saturday of the festival, at around 2pm, and it was surprisingly quiet. The trees were beautiful, the festival atmosphere was lacking. We did stop and get some food from several restaurants, we found the Ginga Kogen beer tent, and we enjoyed talking to several friendly locals.
The Sunday of the event, which features a classic car parade is surely a better event.
Each September Hachioji holds a series of Geisha Parades on the streets just north of Hachioji Station. These women, dressed in traditional kimonos, dance and play music as they weave through some of the small streets in town. In 2013, the geisha parades covered four small streets from about 6pm to 9pm with each parade lasting about 30 minutes.
Hachioji lies on Koshu Highway, which was a busy transportation route to the city of Edo, now Tokyo. Like other busy cities of the day, entertainment was necessary, and a small geisha industry grew up here. By some accounts, at it peak, there were 200-300 geishas in Hachioji working at more than 30 restaurants. Today it is estimated that Hachioji has less than 20 geisha, but I have seen online advertisements asking for women 24-35 years old to earn 3,000 Yen per hour by dancing or playing the traditional guitar-like instrument called the shamisen.
Geisha, also known in Kyoto as Geiko, are traditional hostesses and entertainers for Japanese men. They are perhaps best known for their elaborate kimonos and white face paint, though geisha apprentices, called maiko, more commonly wear the bright white paint. While many observers believe geisha are prostitutes, traditionally geisha and prostitutes were different and distinct professions in Japan. While Japan once had an estimated 80,000 geisha, today the number is down to 1,000 to 2,000 geisha, most famously in Kyoto, but also in other cities including Tokyo.
In Kyoto, the Geiko districts are called Hanamachi, or flower towns. There are five distinct Hanamachi in Kyoto, Gion Kōbu and, Miyagawa-cho, Kamishichiken, and Ponto-chō. Four of these five areas are located around Gion Shijo Station on both sides of the river. Kamishichiken is the only area outside of the city center, but it is small with only about 25 geisha and maiko.
While Kyoto is famous for its geisha districts, Tokyo also had a number of geisha areas of its own, called "Tokyo Roku Hanamachi." Tokyo's traditional geisha districts are Shinbashi, Asakusa, Yoshicho, Kagurazaka, Hachioji and Mukojima.
I took two videos during the Hachioji Geisha Parades in 2013:
The Torii is the gate to the temple.
They can be seen all over Japan wherever there are temples.
The most famous of the gates is the one in Miyajima's Itsukushima Shrine.
The Grand Gate (Otorii) is a very famous symbol of Japan. If you've been to Epcot Center, you'd have had some memories of it.
Alternatively, I've also visited Itsukushima Shrine in Miyajima & some pix of it can be seen in my page.
For a more indepth exploration of the shrine, here's a very good site: Hiroshima-cdas.or.jp.
& what a pleasure to see young kids embarking on the trips of their lifetimes!
The most interesting encounters I've on most trips usually come from observing children. They are an intuitive & innocent bunch.
They have yet learned what being on the defensive means & I probably have a face that most kids trust somewhat.
It's fun to make a connection with kids... to look into those innocent eyes & to discover their enthusiasm.
Brings me great deal of joy just to capture those moments on films.
I had another wonderful encounter in Zakopane (Poland) recently.
That child is just soooo giving to a stranger that I'd never forget her smiles. Truly lovely! :-) Makes me happy just thinking about her, even now!
I didn't say that!
Atsuko told me that's what Dimitris say.
Frankly I don't know much about plants.
But this one it seems traps insects within its bud.
It's really wonderful to go out with people from different culture & background. One learns a great deal & that makes life so much more enriching & fulfiling!
Thanks to Atsuko & Dimitris!
A tree shaped like the octopus at its roots area.
Very unusual, very unexpected.
Or is it human nature to see what we wish to see?!
Have you ever take time to look at the sky & the clouds?
I love doing that especially in the confinement of the plane.
It's like a dream... anything is possible up there in the sky.
A very fun activity ... & sometimes it can be so magical I felt like the luckiest princess in the world!
Japan is quite a varied society; one can find lots of different types of sceneries & things in a small tiny country in terms of size.
Yet, nothing is ever quite "wild" here. Even flowers or mountains in their natural state seem like they have been shaped by human hands.
For most part, most regions are occupied by the Japanese & even the most remote place had been visited by the locals. Hence, there really aren't that may off-the-beaten paths if you consider the places where Japanese have left their footprints. But for most tourists, there are a great deal of areas in Japan that are off-beaten-path. This is one such area!
Ok, this is a travel site, not a dating site!
But romance sprouts everywhere... & when u least expected as well!
So, here's one of those VT romances which I've come to witness ;-)
Imagine a Greek moving to Tokyo!
U are brave, Dimitris! :-)))
& Atsuko is one lucky woman!
Envy, envy, envy ;-)))
It is great to have a friend who knows where she is going, is happy taking you there & enjoy your company at the same time!
Plus, she has lots of interesting & funny stories that'll make you laugh so much so you'll cry!
If you do get to meet her one day, ask her about Guam! ;-)
Thanks again, Atsuko!
For the most beautiful sunday! & a great time to remember by...
Here at Takao-san we also get to see the Momiji, the Japanese version of the maple leaves. It's spring now, so they are all in green but comes the autumn, this area will be ablaze with different shades of red, orange & green... another marvelous site.
So, if you didn't make it here in the Spring for the sakura, try instead in October for its momiji viewing!
I'm very sure it'll be something you'll never forget!
For those of you who have never ever seen Sakura, it is a must at least once in your life.
In Japan, it's "elevated" to the status of a festival... a time for joy & celebration.
Hanami means flower viewing & during this time of the year, hordes of people would gather under the cherry trees with friends, have a picnic & drink sake & just have lots of fun!
This will last for a few weeks before the next fair or festival takes over.
It is interesting how ardent the Japanese can be in celebrating the numerous fairs, festivals & matsuri in the different parts of the countries.
I'm most fascinated by how spirited, elaborative & fun these people can be!
It's as if the country is fully united, acting as one single soul, & immerse itself in the spirit of celebration! What a great feeling!
Whatever this guy was espousing I have no idea. But we saw him as soon as we were out ot the train station.
Atsuko mentioned something about the drive to preserve the "forest" for the highway? Something to that effect.
Anyway, we just thought he looks "interesting" & very ethnic.
So here he is...
Mt. Takao is a sacred mountain located in the western Tokyo. There are 6 courses with different themes and you can even use cable car or lift.
Mountain Peak - 599 m
a) 1st mark trail - 3.8 km (this trail is for knowing the detailed history of Mt. Takao)
*going up - 100 mins.
*going down - 90 mins.
b) 2nd mark trail - 0.9 km (for couple who wants to relax while seeing the nature)
*30 mins. going around
c) 3rd mark trail - 2.4 km (for densed/luxuriant evergreen tree trail)
*going up - 60 mins.
*going down - 50 mins.
d) 4th mark trail - 1.5 km (for experiencing a suspension bridge trail)
*going up - 50 mins.
*going down - 40 mins.
e) 5th mark trail - 0.9 km (peak loop course)
*30 mins going around
f) 6th mark trail - 3.3 km (waterfalls trail)
*going up - 90 mins.
*going down - 70 mins.
Here in the mountain, I was surprised to see shades of pastel colors. It evoked a very nice & hopeful feelings somewhat.
Sakura in full blooms!
Nope, they are not snow... from afar seem like snowflakes!
(For an instant, they reminded me of those snow-covered trees & bushes in the Arctic!)
Lovely, aren't they?!