Gaijin on Getas Blog

Posts in the ‘samurai tours’ Category

Zatoichi – The Blind Swordsman

Posted on December 5th, 2017 by Mike Roberts

Zatoichi - The Blind Swordsman

Zatoichi – The Blind Swordsman

I am writing again about one of my favorite subjects: Japanese movies. One of my favorite Japanese movie series is Zatoichi, The Blind Swordsman. A total of 26 movies were made between 1962 and 1989, and 105 television shows were made between 1974 to 1979 making it the longest-running action series in Japanese history. Oddly enough, all of the movies and television shows feature the same person playing the main role. Shintaro Katsu, the son of a Kabuki actor, was an actor, singer, producer, director and shamisen player who appeared in more than 110 movies, but became synonymous with his role of Zatoichi.

The Zatoichi movies are formula movies in the same fashion as Bond movies and Law and Order television shows. Each movie has a similar storyline and plot. Zatoichi, a traveling blind masseur and sentimental drifter is a man who lives staunchly by a code of honor and delivers justice everywhere he goes during the late Edo Period (1830s and 1840s). He meets old friends or makes new friends who are forced to suffer some kind of harm or injustice by oppressive and/or warring yakuza gangs. In the meantime, Zatoichi, through no fault of his own stumbles into harm’s way. Eventually, Zatoichi overcomes his own problems, and comes to the aid of the unfortunate and innocents. (The Japanese love a good revenge story.) And, after every sword fight, there is the signature way Zatoichi slowly sheaths his cane sword.

Because of his blindness, his other senses are more finely attuned. His keen ears, sense of smell, sensory perception and his wits in a fight, combined with his incredible lightning-fast sword skills make him a formidable adversary. In addition to his sword skills, he also has a fondness for gambling on dice games where, once again, his other senses make up for his inability to see. He wins large amounts of money by his ability to identify whether the dice have fallen on even or odd, and the ability to identify loaded or substituted dice by the difference in their sound.

A number of sequels have been released since the last Zatoichi was released. There was even one that was about Zatoichi’s daughter. Recently (2003) a remake was released with Takeshi “Beat” Kitano playing the leading role of Zatoichi (he also directed the movie). Kitano did an excellent job creating the movie, and his portrayal of Zatoichi was spot on. It won a number of Japanese Academy Awards as well as a Silver Lion Award at the Cannes Film Festival.

Nyuto Onsen – Historic and Remote Hot Springs

Posted on August 19th, 2017 by Mike Roberts

Nyuto Onsen is a collection of seven popular and remote hot spring inns, located in the Towada Hachimatai National Park in north-central Tohoku. The name Nyuto Onsen means “nipple hot spring” and comes from the suggestive shape of nearby Mount Nyuto. With a history of over 300 years, many of the springs were visited by feudal lords during the Edo Period seeking hot-spring cures. Located deep in the mountains, and surrounded by dense beech forests, you feel far removed from the rest of the world.
Read the full post »

Goshuincho – Red Seal Books

Posted on August 12th, 2017 by Mike Roberts

If you are looking for a unique souvenir for yourself from Japan, we recommend that you consider purchasing a “御朱印帳”, or “Red seal book”. You can use this to get unique, one-of-a-kind seals and calligraphy at temples and shrines. Or, you can bring a notebook for the many ink stamps you will find everywhere in Japan. Or even better, bring both. Read the full post »

10 Small Things Japan Has To Be Proud Of

Posted on January 7th, 2015 by Mike Roberts

The Japanese love to create lists of different things. There are the Nihon Sankei (Three Scenic Views: Miyajima Island, Amanohashidate and Matsushima), the Nihon Sanmeien (Three great gardens: Korakuen, Korakuen and Kairakuen), the Hyakumeizan (100 great mountains), etc. Most lists contain the largest or greatest. But since Japan is a small country, I thought it might be interesting to explore the small things that Japan has to be proud of. So (with my apologies to David Letterman) here are the 10 small things Japan has to be proud of.

Read the full post »

Kumano Kodo Trek – Day 2 – Takahara to Tsugizakura

Posted on December 3rd, 2014 by Mike Roberts

  • Total Elevation Gain: 1,650 Feet (500 meters)
  • Total Elevation Loss: 1,300 Feet (400 meters)
  • Net Elevation Gain: 350 (100 meters)
  • Total Distance: 8 1/4 Miles (13.2 kilometers)
Nakahechi10

Nakahechi Trail

During the night it rained heavily, which meant one thing for today’s walk. It would be very humid. After having an excellent breakfast at the minshuku, I set out for Day 2 at about 8:30 for Tsugizakura-Oji.

For the first kilometer or so, the trail was over pavement, and then changed to dirt trail. For the first 5 1/2 kilometers, the trail steadily climbed past several important Oji to the former site of the Uwadaya-jaya Chaya. At about 700 meters (about 2,300 feet), this location is the highest spot on the trail between Takijirioji and Hongu Taisha Shrine. At one time, there were numerous chaya (literally translates to tea house) along the Kumano Kodo. These were places of rest, drink and food. Some chaya also offered lodging. These chaya were an important part of the Kumano pilgrimage infrastructure. In addition to a place of rest, they also served as centers of exchange between pilgrims and the locals. These chaya were not only found on the Kumano Kodo, but were also common along major highways in Japan such as the Tokaido and Nakasendo.

From here, the trail descended into a small river valley to the Osakamoto Oji. It is thought that the Oji got its name from the fact that the Oji is located at the base of what was once known as Osaka Pass. In his pilgrim’s diary from 1109, Fujiwara Munetada wrote “On the Osaka Pass, there is a tall tree on which a snake-shaped object is hung. It is said in the past, a woman was transformed into the object.” It is also thought that in the old days, at the site of the Osakamoto Oji there was an inn for lords. Read the full post »

Kumano Kodo Nakahechi Trek – Day 1

Posted on November 11th, 2014 by Mike Roberts

 

Nakahechi Trail

Nakahechi Trail

I set out for my Kumano Kodo trek from Kyoto as did pilgrims more than 1,000 years ago. At that time, it was common practice to visit Jonan-gu Shrine just south of Kyoto near Fushimi. Here, pilgrims would stay for about a week and perform “misogi” (Shinto water purification rituals) and maintain a strict vegetarian diet to purify themselves before starting their pilgrimage. After leaving Jonan-gu, they would travel down the nearby Yodo River by boat, and then walk along the Kiiji pilgrimage route along the western coast of the Kii Peninsula. After arriving at the present site of the city of Tanabe, they would follow the Nakahechi along the river until reaching Takijiri Oji. I visited the Jonan-gu shrine before today, but I didn’t stay for a week, and I didn’t perform any water purification rituals or eat only vegetables. Read the full post »

Tokyo Sky Tree

Posted on October 8th, 2014 by Takako "Tammy" Ota

Tokyo Sky Tree 2The Tokyo Skytree (東京スカイツリー) is a digital broadcasting tower and a new landmark of Tokyo. At a height of 634 m, Tokyo Skytree is the tallest tower in the world. It is the core of the Tokyo Skytree Town, near Asakusa. Read the full post »

Akihabara Maid Cafes

Posted on May 11th, 2014 by Takako "Tammy" Ota

Akihabara Maid Cafe Ad

Akihabara Maid Cafe Ad

Akihabara is a paradise for electric appliance and anime subculture fans. Akihabara started as a place where radio parts were sold just after the Second World War. Today Akihabara is famous as the cheapest place in Japan for electric appliances. It’s also well-known as a place of ‘otaku’ (Japanese word for geeks) including comic-book devotees, video-game fanatics or anime figurine colletctors. Among all the shops, maid cafés attract attention, especially to men. If you spot girls dressed in a waitress costume delivering brochures on the street, they are the maid café waitresses who attract customers to their shops. They wear a maid dress, petticoat, and apron and frill accessory. At a maid café, they act as customers’ servants and entertain them just as the customer’s own servants. When customers enter a maid cafe, they will be greeted with ‘Okaeri nasai mase, goshujin sama!’ which means ‘Welcome back home, my lords!’ Read the full post »

History of the Kumano Kodo (Part 2 of the Kumano Kodo Series)

Posted on April 24th, 2014 by Mike Roberts

Kumano Kodo NewKumano has been considered a sacred area since prehistoric times. Shinto, the native religion of Japan, started during prehistoric times as nature worship. And it was during this time when the sacred sites of Kumano were first created. When Buddhism was introduced into Japan in the 6th century, Shinto and Buddhism merged together. It was during this time when the belief that Kumano as a Buddhist Pure Land became prevalent (in the 9th and 10th centuries), the sacred sites as we know them today were formed. Read the full post »

Driver’s License in Japan

Posted on April 3rd, 2014 by Takako "Tammy" Ota

Japan has one of the best, if not the best public transportation systems in the world. There are many, diverse means of public transportation in Japan. We can move around by bullet train, train, bus, streetcar, subway and monorail. But still, about 90% of Japanese adults have a driver’s license. We can start to drive at the age of 18 and many people go to a driving school to get a driver’s license after finishing high school. Read the full post »