New Year's Decorations

It's all about pine, bamboo, and a fresh new year.

Kadomatsu are arrangements of pine and bamboo placed on either side of entryways in Japan to welcome the gods of the new year. Read more about them on Wikipedia.

The other day, I decided to walk around Ikata's Minatoura neighborhood and see how many kadomatsu I could spot outside. They were at the town hall, of course, and the community center, the learning center, the office next to the town hall, and the local Yawata shrine. In these and other places which did not have kadomatsu, there were also twisted straw wreaths in a variety of styles hung over doorways, on door handles, and even on the grills of cars. These are all called shimenawa, and you can read more about them here.

Let's take a virtual walk together!

the town hall

the community center

the learning center

the shrine

a temple

the offices next to the town hall


shimenawa over the door of a fish shop

shimenawa next to the door of a doctor's office

shimenawa on cars


Christmas Illumination

On Monday, December 6th at 6pm, children from Ikata's Minatoura neighborhood thronged around Tsuwabuki-so, a nursing home, for the annual Christmas Illumination ceremony. Some of Tsuwabuki-so's residents were wheeled out to watch the proceedings, too: after some festive words from the organizers, three switches were thrown to light up Tsuwabuki-so itself, a small park across the street, and the Yonden electric company apartments across the canal.

A group of people from the town hall and the weekly English conversation class sang "O, How a Rose E'er Blooming" in four-part harmony!


The park across the street.

Merry Christmas!

Culture Day

November 3rd is not Election Day in Japan. It's Culture Day, or bunka no hi.

Schools and community centers host large get-togethers, where people showcase their talents in traditional Japanese crafts, dance, music, and paintings of the neighborhood. Local groups run concession stands to help support their activities.

The Ikata international association also runs a booth to allow kids to learn about the rest of the world through two or three international culture activities. In 2009 and 2010, they learned about Western calligraphy and wrote their names to make personalized bookmarks, played a flag and photo-based "Where in the World?" game, and took a swing at some piñatas.

Halloween at Ikata Elementary

On Tuesday, October 26th, Halloween came to Ikata Elementary School. The 6th graders were excited to decorate the gym into three "houses" for the rest of the students to trick-or-treat at. There was a pumpkin-themed "house," a witch-themed one, and a haunted house complete with a scary soundtrack!

All students were encouraged to dress up however they liked, and while the 6th graders decorated the gym, the other students made Halloween masks.

After trick-or-treating, each grade competed in playing the toilet paper mummy game!