"Fortune in! Devils out!" Fuku-wa-uchi!
Oni-wa-soto! This is the battle cry that accompanies spectacular
pitched battles fought between Buddhist deities and demons with
flaming torches. This ritual of driving out demons marks the end
of the lunar calendar's winter. It seems the weapon of choice against
the oni (demons) is roasted soya beans. Originally the driving out
of the oni, representative of driving out evil, was achieved with
boisterous bean throwing, and are, of course, driven out by defenders
of good. The beans are said to represent sowing seeds and the impregna-tion
of the world with new life — and what better time to perform
this demon chasing ceremony than at the start of the new lunar calendar?
Watch out for the lucky beans thrown into the crowds around Kofuku-ji
If you are staying at home and still want to get
into the spirit of Setsubun, you can throw beans in each room of
the house with the cry, "Fuku-wa-uchi," then beans out
of each window, "Oni-wa-soto!". It is then customary to
eat the same number of beans as your age, plus one for the coming
year, to ensure health, good luck and prosperity, then complete
the custom by eating an uncut sushi roll in silence while facing
in the year's lucky direction.
Time: 18:30 Oni comes out, get there well before
Getting there: Short walk from Kintetsu Nara station toward Nara
park — watch out for the five-storied pagoda.
Chinese New Year
Just when you thought you were getting to grips
with your new year resolution not to eat or drink too much and to
do more exercise, another celebration rears its festive head. Happy
Chinese New Year! 2005, the year of the rooster (hen or cock) flies
in today and Nanking Machi pulls out all the stops to make this
a fire-cracking event. The religious ritual and the opening ceremony
are followed by a colourful parade of people dressed as Chinese
traditional classical performers.
All shops and stores remain open as various attractions
and events are laid on. Many restaurants will serve traditional
Chinese New Year set meal for ¥2,500 and to get you in the celebratory
mood Chinese alcohol drunk only on New Year day will be available.
Finally there is shi-shi-mai, the Lion Dance. Festivities continue
the following day too.
Chinatown, Nanking Machi, Kobe
Getting there: South of JR Motomachi Station
Hello Kitty — Valentine World
The mouthless cat that roared could be a good
description of this cute feline phenomenon that has become a multi-billion
dollar industry. Fans will be in their element to participate
in this three-day extravaganza. There will be all kinds of merchandise,
or should I say, social communications gifts as Sanrio, the maker
of these charming characters would have us call it, to include art,
collectibles and games, as well as new items hot off the press waiting
to be purchased. Entertainment is also on the agenda. Each day kicks
off with a schedule of music, dance, contests and other attractions
to promote and market Kitty and other characters.
In May 1994 Hello Kitty was made the child ambassador
of UNICEF in Japan, a role taken seriously because in celebration
of its 30-year anniversary (Yes, Hello Kitty is 30 in human years!)
$150,000 will be donated to the US Fund for UNICEF for girls' education
programs. Perhaps she isn't such a dumb cat after all.
Getting there: Osaka Dome-Mae Chiosaki Station
Entry: ¥1,700, Elemetary student ¥900
The Tokyo Ballet — Bejart Gala
Illustrious dancer and Choreographer, Maurice
Bejart, who runs the Bejart Ballet Lausanne choreographs The Tokyo
Ballet with four famous pieces starting with, Danses Grecques to
the music of Greek composer, Mikis Theodorakis. This is followed
by Bhakti III, which explores the relationship between the Hindu
dieties, Shiva and Shakti. The word Bhakti means devotion and Bejart's
fascination with mysticism can be detected when you listen to the
traditional Indian music that accompanies this piece. The evening
rounds off with Mozart's Don Giovanni
and Bolero by Maurice Ravel. The dances and themes chosen reflect
Bejart's globalness and his unique expressionist style which includes
all genre of music, nontraditional dance forms and unusual settings.
Main dancers are Yukie Iwaki, Shu Nakashima, Mizuka Ueno, Haruo
Goto, Mika Yoshioka and Naoki Takagishi.
Getting there: 5mins from Otsu station
Tel: 077-523-7136 • www.biwako-hall.or.jp
Kansai Event Listings
An annual festival that features a procession in which the
chief priest wears a fake lion head and virtually nude young
men encourage the procession with their powerful chants. Archery
is another attraction.
Owase Shrine, Mie Prefecture
Getting there: Owase stn. on JR Kise line
Setsubun is a traditional ceremony to dispel demons. Mibu
Kyogen is an exciting colourful spectacle famous throughout
Japan. All the performers wear masks, some of which date back
to the 13th century. The stylized movements, the costumes
and spectacular scenes make the drama easy to understand.
Mibu Temple, Kyoto City
Getting there: Bus from Kyoto station to Shijobo-jo
Entry: Adults ¥800
Also known as Oniyarai or Onioi, an annual event that began
during the reign of Emperor Monmu (AD 697-708) to celebrate
the start of spring. Seven ogres wielding torches dance to
the sound of conches and drums. Five boys act as sword bearers
and a dozen stage managers take part in this traditional divine
ceremony that celebrates the coming of another spring.
Nagata Shrine, Kobe
Getting there: Kosoku Nagata station
More than 3,000 lanterns either standing in the precincts
or hung from the eaves of the building are lit, presenting
an enchanting and illuminated sight.
Kasuga Shrine, Nara
Getting there: Bus from JR/Kintetsu Nara stations to Kasuga-taisha-mae
The sound of music
From Broadway to Osaka, the unforgetta-ble musical that tells
the tale of a romance between a nun and a captain with seven
children and their plight to escape from the Nazis. Do-Re-Mi
and My Favourite Things, to name but two tunes that most people
can hum to.
Festival Hall, Osaka
Time: 3rd & 4th: 18:30, 5th & 6th: 13:00 & 18:00
Getting there: Above Higobashi station on the Yotsubashi line
Tel: 06-6231-2221 www.festivalhall.jp
Fishing Show Osaka 2005
Exhibition and sale of fishing tackle and leisure items under
the theme of, 'Let's Make Fishing More Fun!' Many participa-tory
attractions are planned including seminars on fishing techniques.
Visitors can actually experience trout fishing. Exciting event
Intex Osaka, Venue Hall 3,6AB
Getting there: Nanko Cosmos Square
This fertility festival attempts to stay true to life. Two
masked dancers graphically simulate copulation even getting
down to mop up the ground with tissue paper when the act is
done. This paper, torn into little bits, is then scattered
over the bystand-ers, who fight for the right to a piece.
Asukani-imasu Shrine, Asuka village
Getting there: Kintetsu Asuka
Hundreds of wines from around the world to taste with a 20
percent discount on all purchases. Special events include
a Can-adian display of product, Canadian beer tasting, wine
tasting contests, live music, a champagne seminar and a lottery.
Kobe Sheraton Hotel, Kobe
Time: Noon - 20:00
Entry: ¥2,000. (¥2,500 at the door)
Wine Seminar: ¥2,000
Getting there: A minute from Island Center station on the
Osaka Auto Messe 2005
Rediscover the fun of dressing up and tuning up is the theme
behind this, the biggest motor event in Kansai. Exhibits include
a wide range of tuned-up and dressed-up cars, both domestic
and imported, and more custom-made motorbikes than ever. You
can't miss this three-day blowout, according to
Time; 9.00-18:00 (13th until 17:00)
Entry: ¥2,500 Adults, Children free
Osaka born conductor, Seikyo Kim conducts the Orchestra Ensemble
Kanazawa through two of Beethoven's great works, opus 36 symphony
No.2 and opus 55 symphony No.3. An afternoon concert to get
you in the mood for Valentine's day.
Yamato Koriyama-jyo Hall
Getting there: 7mins from Yamato Koriyama subway stn.
While many people celebrate Valentine's day with family, friends
or loved ones, hoards will descend on Hase-dera where huge
fire torches are lit. The sparks from them are then showered
down on the people to chase away devil spirits.
Hase-dera, Sakurai City
Getting there: Subway from Hase-dera stn
A tea party hosted by Kyoto maiko
and geiko is held amongst the fragrant blossoming plum trees.
Participants enjoy seasonal sweets, tea and a
Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, Kyoto
Getting there: Bus from JR Kyoto station