Festival yakuza

The ties of the yakuza with Shinto are not widely-known, but they certainly exist.  They are not perhaps surprising when one considers that the mores of the yakuza are deeply rooted in Japanese traditions. It’s why gang leaders are often … Continue reading

Gion 2015 (Kikusui)

The evenings before the grand parade on July 17 mark the busiest, bustling peak of the month-long Gion Festival, but this year a typhoon currently hitting Shikoku threatens to wreak devastation.  At the time of writing it’s the evening of … Continue reading

Pilgrimage

It seems wherever you go in Japan, there is a pilgrimage route nearby.  Some of these are major pilgrimages, like that of the Kumano Kodo, while others are local and less well-known.  There are 33 Kannon pilgrimages, Seven Lucky Deity … Continue reading

Sacred and secular mountains

Mountains are a vital part of Japan’s identity, and Mt Fuji its sacred symbol. Some 70% of the country is mountainous, and the terrain is characterised by rice-growing villages set amongst steep hillsides. These ‘abodes of the gods’ have shaped … Continue reading

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