If you’re looking for Ireland you probably aren’t looking in Japan, but if you are in Japan and looking for Ireland there, then you want to look for Matsue.

The city maintains strong ties with Ireland thanks to Lafcadio Hearn’s Celtic background, and this year’s weekend Irish Festival will be March 12-13. I’ve written about it before (see 2013, 2014, and 2015), but how about a video instead?

Here’s a little recap in English (seeing as many of the visitors for this event speak Guinness better than they speak Japanese):

The main event is the two-part St. Patrick’s Day parade and performances on Sunday, though the Irish pub in the vault of the Karakoro Art Studio runs both Saturday and Sunday.

The water portion of the parade, on the Horikawa Sightseeing Boats which frequent the city center but will be specially clad in green on that day, will take off at 11am. The street parade depart from Matsue Castle at 12:40, following its opening ceremony at 12:30. It will take about an hour for the parade to do its jig on down to Karakoro Square, where performances from local music and dance groups will start at 1:30pm. Parade participants should register by March 7, and they should get as creative as they can with their green costumes, as they were will be prizes!

During the performances there will also be a little market to get food from local restaurants, buy handcrafts, or get your picture with the small parade of penguins who will also be participating. But I know, I know, you’re really here for the pub and the Guinness on tap. In addition to other drinks and an Irish menu, there will also be live performances closer to what you’d expect to an Irish pub than what you’d expect a group of Yosakoi or hip hop dancers to put on outside.

On Saturday the 12th, the pub will be open 5pm to 10pm, and on Sunday the 13th, from 1pm to 9pm. Don’t get too hungover!

The Karakoro Art Studio will be lit up in green every night until March 17th, with some special displays and Irish goods for sale in side. Matsue likes making events like St. Patricks Day and New Orleans’ style Mardi Gras last all month, after all.

You can get all the most current and detailed information on the event’s Facebook page. See you there then!

Advertisement

I’ve blatantly borrowed this title from one of Lafcadio Hearn‘s most famous essays, published in The Atlantic in 1892. A lot of the essay is a detailed and flowery (ha!) description of his garden at his second residence in Matsue–preserved now as it was in Hearn’s day–and is quoted at Japanese gardens around the world, and at least two of which, in New Orleans and Tramore, bear his namesake.

I like Japanese gardens, but I don’t think I can–or would–go into such detail as Lafcadio Hearn. Looking back at this text, so characteristic of his style with his rich descriptions, heavy amount of information, cultural fancies, and fascination for even the lowliest of life forms–or forms that have taken on a life of their own–I can see how he was still in his honeymoon period in Japan when he wrote this. As much glowing praise as his prose gets from Japanese readers and criticism he gets from cynical Western scholars, the fact of the matter is that Lafcadio Hearn really enjoyed that garden in a time when he really enjoyed Japan after he had been anticipating enjoying Japan for quite some time. Furthermore, the words he wrote about Japanese gardens have long survived him and reached the sensitive sides of people’s souls throughout the world.

Perhaps my appreciation for Japanese gardens is not as honed and sensitive as Hearn’s, but you do appreciate them more as you learn more about them and the thought behind their designs. The basic idea that both an expansive Japanese garden like that of the Adachi Museum of Art and a tiny bonsai garden are meant to mimic a natural landscape is already enough to take you from one stage of appreciation to another, and the little details I’ve picked up about traits of Izumo style gardens, such as the elevated rock stepping-stones to keep the hems of kimono more dry in the rain and snow and the use of black pines, give me little things to enjoy looking for when I visit new gardens.

The San’in region is home to a few famous ones, even the garden of Kasuien Minami, a fancy ryokan in the Tamatsukuri Onsen area, has one of the top ranked gardens in Japan. My personal favorite is Yuushien Japanese Garden, famous for its array of peonies (and generally being a gorgeous setting for a stroll any time of year). I went out to see the peony festival again this year with a friend, and the fragrance of the thousands and thousands of peony blossoms, especially those covering the surface of the pond, was once again something that could have induced sweet spring dreams.

大根島

Afterward, my friend and I hopped over the Eshima Bridge (that one that looks scary and now has a temporary parking lot just for the people who came out to photograph it) to Tottori to do some shopping, and in the later afternoon hours my friend decided we should stop by her grandmother’s house to get pictures of the kirishima (a type of rhododendron) blooming in her garden. I’ve been to her grandmother’s house a few times before, and I’ve seen the garden, but never really looked at it.

It occurred to me on this visit just how quintessentially Japanese my friend’s family is. I have the pleasure of visiting every few months and have enjoyed seasonal pleasures such as youkan ice cream from Kiyomizu Temple (the Yasugi one, not the Kyoto one), picking home-grown shiitake mushrooms in the forest, viewing three full sets of Girl’s Day dolls, and so on. At her grandmother’s house, we always go straight down the hall to the guest room. The hall has a wood floor, to the right are glass doors and windows looking out on the garden, to the left are the sliding doors to the airy tatami room filled with natural light. There is a vase set on a shelf at one end, and a wooden structure at the far corner of the hallway, and they are both decorated with a few seasonal flowers.

The guest room has a wide, but low table that follows the natural features of the wood, holes and everything, but glossy and warm in tones like the rest of the wood in the house. There are statues and vases and such decorating the wall opposite the garden, and a folding screen with a bird and a few seasonal flowers that would be blooming right around the same time in real life. My friend’s grandmother wasn’t expecting me, and she’s in the adjoining room laying out a few extra sweets to go with the snack she had already prepared to go with the tea. As usual, she’s got everything ready to offer us both the customary two cups of matcha.

And, as usual, we all chill out in the guest room and chat and enjoy our tea and snacks, with no electronic distractions or even any noticeable clock to take our minds away from the moment.

Speaking of timing, we were too late to see the red kirishima bushes in full bloom, as they, like many other flowers, were early this year. Nonetheless, there are still splatters of coral color among the green leaves, and for the greater part of our conversation, a white butterfly with black lines has been ecstatically sampling and savoring them. My friend is none the less very disappointed that we missed full bloom, as apparently that is one of her favorite times to see that garden she’s been visiting with her sisters and cousins for as far back as she can remember. The two of them show me an old photo of them out there, and reminisce about times in the garden, and how it had already been two decades or so since they replaced the koi pond with gravel so that none of the small children would fall in.

The garden, like the guest room, is in meticulously cared for condition. The rocks and gravel are clean in the sunlight, the trees are shapely and full. While I’m still enjoying the sight of the feasting butterfly, their focus shifts to the lush maple tree, fluttering its young, bright yellow-green leaves in the wind. The shadows the leaves make against the large rock behind it are lively.

I’m still at the table while they go to window, and her grandmother kneels in the hallway while my friend borrows her grandfather’s sandals to go get a better look at the maple leaves. Their silhouettes and expressions in the warm afternoon light make me smile at how picturesque they are, and then her grandmother invites me over to enjoy the view and the breeze. They’re both indeed very nice, about as nice as I always pictured this fairy land I dreamed about for years before ever visiting. I’ve been a guest in many other quintessentially Japanese abodes before, including during my own honeymoon period of sorts, but having spent a lot more time around Japan now I have a very different way of looking at this country and culture now. The Japan that I–and other foreigners, and even Japanese people themselves–love to romanticize about does exist, but it’s not a part of everyone’s daily life. For many, Japanese gardens and serving tea to guests, or even having tatami mats is not even a thought in their given or chosen lifestyles. While there are parts of culture that are distinctly Japanese, they are not deeply relevent to many Japanese people, just as much as things like hamburgers and college basketball are major parts of American culture but not ones deeply relevant to me. This is neither positive nor negative, it’s simply things as they are.

Still, I enjoyed being in such a quintessentially Japanese setting, speaking in Japanese with Japanese friends, an experience that would be rare if I lived elsewhere. I could have enjoyed the sunshine and the greenery and the fresh air in a number of other places, or enjoyed snacks and company in any variety of tastes and cultures. Perhaps what really felt so refreshing this time was that I took the chance to notice it, even if not the same level of detail that Hearn observed his Japanese garden.

Right before we left, the butterfly was making friends with another like it, and they fluttered further and further away from the ending kirishima flowers. Just another passing moment, never to be captured again in any haiku, photography, essay, or blog post.

11216174_887663684605331_1977019118_n

Back when I found out I was going to live in Matsue, I read eight of Lafcadio Hearn‘s books in the span of a month to know about the city as he observed it back in the Meiji period. Eight books was a bit excessive. However, this passage from “Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan” (available for free here on the Gutenberg Project) stuck out and stuck with me:

But of all places, Kaka-ura! Assuredly I must go to Kaka. Few pilgrims go thither by sea, and boatmen are forbidden to go there if there be even wind enough ‘to move three hairs.’ So that whosoever wishes to visit Kaka must either wait for a period of dead calm—very rare upon the coast of the Japanese Sea—or journey thereunto by land; and by land the way is difficult and wearisome. But I must see Kaka. For at Kaka, in a great cavern by the sea, there is a famous Jizo of stone; and each night, it is said, the ghosts of little children climb to the high cavern and pile up before the statue small heaps of pebbles; and every morning, in the soft sand, there may be seen the fresh prints of tiny naked feet, the feet of the infant ghosts. It is also said that in the cavern there is a rock out of which comes a stream of milk, as from a woman’s breast; and the white stream flows for ever, and the phantom children drink of it. Pilgrims bring with them gifts of small straw sandals—the zori that children wear—and leave them before the cavern, that the feet of the little ghosts may not be wounded by the sharp rocks. And the pilgrim treads with caution, lest he should overturn any of the many heaps of stones; for if this be done the children cry.
(Lafcadio Hearn, 1894)

There are two famous caves in Kaka-no-Kukedo, the caves of Kaka. The more broadly advertised one is the “Shin-Kukedo” (“new cave,” or a pun on “cave of the god”), which is where the legend of Sada-no-Okami’s birth took place. The less advertised but nonetheless very well know cave is the “Kyu-Kudedo” (“old cave”), as Hearn described. Today, it is still almost exactly as Hearn described. He is one of many writers who have been attracted to these caves.

This description left such an impression on me that as soon as I heard it still existed, I made it my goal to take the boat tour out to see it. The 50-minute tour runs eight times a day March through November, however, just as in Hearn’s day, it can easily be cancelled if it’s too windy. Going far out to sea, or trying to navigate through the cave, is difficult in rough waters.

I had to try a lot longer than Hearn did to finally make this trip.

Every time I’d make plans with my friends, something would fall through. Either we didn’t plan in time to make it before the end of the season, or there was suddenly pouring rain the day we decided to go, or someone would suddenly fall ill. A few friends who had originally volunteered to go later admitted that they were afraid to go because they might see a ghost there. With so many things out of my control keeping me from getting there, it was tempting to think that maybe it really was haunted.

At last, towards the end of last year’s season, the tour finally (barely) worked out! Sort of… the waves were too high to do the full tour, so we had a slight discount. I was not going to let that chance slip me by, though, so I did the partial tour.

It departs from Marine Plaza in northern Matsue, near an active fishing port and a popular camping island called Katsurajima.

The first stop is the old cave, where the spirits of departed children are said to be hard at work. The boat stops a little ways away, and those who wish to see it can go down a long tunnel with alcoves filled with Jizo statues (at which, the tour operators leave incense while passengers are look around), and then walk around the cave. Jizo is a Buddha of mercy often thought of as a patron of children.

The waves only reach so far inside, and the cave goes fairly deep, beyond where the light can reach. As far as my eyes could make out, the countless little towers of rocks and Jizo statues and offerings went as far back as there was space to put them. A bat flapped around towards the interior parts of cave, and all was quiet.

For as many tries as it had taken me to observe this place, there were many, many grieving parents from who knows how far who had come here to leave a gift for their child, and perhaps construct a tower of rocks to spare them a bit of labor. Among the Jizo statues, there were recent, old, and likely many decades worth of perserved silk flowers, origami cranes, juice boxes and bottles of tea and cans of soda, shoes, toys, and other personal belongings. Although I can see why others would see it that way, I did not find this place creepy. However, there was a weight of sadness and sympathy coupled with a curious wonder at how far these parents had come out of their way to give their children whatever comfort they could.

After that, we went back through the tunnel and to the boat to continue on to a place of new life. Recorded in the 8th century Izumo-no-Kuni Fudoki as the birthplace of Sada-no-Okami, primary deity at the influential Sada Shrine, it is only accessible by boat.

However, if the waves are too high, it’s not accessible at all. I had to settle for seeing the outside and imagining the supposedly wonderous view of light from the inside. It seems the best time of year to go is during a short period of time in midsummer when there are special sunrise tours to see the sun rise through the view of the hole. I guess it’s hard to say I did the tour when I only got to see the cave from outside. And apparently this year they’ve started offering an 80-minute tour of several other caves in the area, too! Maybe if I had just been a little more patient…

But hey, watching the waves crash against the rocks was neat and all.


I even got a good view of Mato-jima, the “target island” Baby Sada practiced his archery on!

And riding the waves out there was fun!

While this is the main stage of this legend, there is a spot further inland that I’ll introduce next time.

Thanks for all the photos in this entry, XiaoMan!

It’s not quite St. Patrick’s Day, but the Irish Festival in Matsue was held last Sunday with bright, sunny, warm March weather–not weather very representative of Ireland or the San’in region, but it felt lucky!

There are a handful of cities in Japan that celebrate with parades for St. Patrick’s Day, but Matsue is likely one of the only places that incorporates a water parade around the castle moats in addition to the land parade through the streets. There are regulars, and there are also extras who take the chance to dress up in whatever they want (or dress up their dogs), so long as it is green. This year, my favorite was a pair of siblings dressed as Peter Pan and Negiman.






Like the other times I’ve taken part in the festival in 2013 and 2014, the parades were only one element of the festival. Perhaps what draws the most boisterous crowd is The Shamrock, the Irish pub set up in the vault of the Karakoro Art Studio with Guinness on tap, an Irish food and dessert menu, and a constant stream of live performances. Although there is a mix of music and otherwise, you can expect instrumental versions of traditional Irish jigs and even punk-rock approaches to old Irish ballads.

At the same time, larger performances are going on outside of the art studio following the parade. Everything from jugglers to hip hop dancers to marching bands and Yosakoi dancers to aspiring idol groups. Although many of these teams already have red, blue, or gold uniforms, they all made sure to add some green.

Irish Ambassador to Japan Ms. Anne Barrington arrived in Japan last September, and this was one of her stops what will probably be her busiest month yet. This is already her third visit to Matsue, and her first time to see the Irish Festival held here. Although there is no formal exchange relationship in place, Matsue is a key city in Japan-Ireland relations given the connections through Lafcadio Hearn. As a Irish emigrant to Japan mentioned to me, she’s noticed much more public awareness and familiarity with Ireland here as opposed to other cities. There’s a level of enthusiasm for it even among the people who don’t show up to the festival, as everywhere I’ve been this week people have been bringing it up. While not measurable in numbers, inspiring people to have an awareness and curiousity about other cultures without twisting their arms into it is a sign of healthy “internationalization” (a keyword in the goals of the JET Program, however it is that the phrase is supposed to be defined). There is also exchange in more measurable terms, such as a new gift the city is preparing to send to Tramore, County Waterford’s Lafcadio Hearn Garden Project, which is opening later this year.

Ah, that’s one more thing that makes this feel like a typical Matsue-style Irish Festival. It’s totally normal to stand around Matsue Castle and interupt smalltalk with, “Oh, look. A ninja.”

XiaoMan had a fancy camera with a long lens to capture this not-so-rare sight.

Although occasionally spotting ninja around the castle grounds is a fun little part of life here, watching one of them the ninja that attended that day get into a fight with a can of Guinness (and lose) is another little thing that makes the Irish Festival special.

It’s that time of year again, when everyone is getting ready to celebrate their favorite Irish person.

St. Patrick? What? Of course not, he wasn’t Irish.
I’m referring to Patrick Lafcadio Hearn!

Well, not that he was born in Ireland, he was born in 1850 in Lefkada, Greece, as his mother was Greek. After soap-opera levels of complications between his parents he was cared for by his great aunt in Dublin, where he spent a good chunk of his childhood, but he spent most of his life outside of the country. Plus, he dropped the Irish “Patrick” name in favor of his more exotic middle name inspired by his birthplace. Although he was technically one of many, many Irish immigrants to the United States, he never identified much with the mainstreamers, and instead chose to write about the gritty ways of life that countered western white man’s culture. Maybe we’re not so much celebrating a Irishman as we are celebrating a hipster.

Biographers around the world often point out how Hearn never seemed to feel at home and embraced various subcultures and ways of life even if he never quite fit in, and it wasn’t until he came to Matsue and met his wife Setsu that he found his place. His writings about Matsue, Izumo, the Oki Islands, and parts of Tottori in “Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan” (1894) gave him world-wide fame, and he lived out the rest of his days as a respected writer and teacher. Though his attitudes toward Japan became more nuanced over the fourteen years he lived there, Matsue remained a city he loved and looked back on fondly, especially places like the garden of his former residence, which faced the northern moat of Matsue Castle.

The garden is preserved as it was in Hearn's time, as is the home itself.

The garden is preserved as it was in Hearn’s time, as is the home itself.

Not to worry, you lonely hipster, Hearn. Matsue still loves you back.

A semi-official photo of one of the many faces of Hearn found through the city

A semi-official photo of one of the many faces of Hearn found through the city

Besides Hearn’s influence felt throughout the city, the Hearn ties have been binding Matsue cities around the world together in 111 years since Hearn’s time. New Orleans, where he worked for ten years, has been in a lively Friendship City relationship with Matsue since 1994, and in July 2014, the city contributed to the opening of the Lefcadio Hern Historical Center in his birthplace of Lefkada. Matsue has had unofficial ties with Dublin for even long than that, and as a result, there are many people here who enthusiastically embrace traditional Irish culture. Perhaps Hearn never would have expected that his influence would lead to the annual Irish Festival in Matsue!

This year’s festival will be on Sunday, March 8, 2015, and it kicks off with a water parade on the castle moats and then a green and wildly costumed parade through the streets, followed by performances and food. The Shamrock, an Irish pub held in the Karakoro Art Studio Vault, will serve Guiness on tap and Irish dishes to enjoy with the live evening performances on the 7th and the 8th. I have entries posted about the 2013 and 2014 Irish Festivals.

Also, just a little plug for a new book coming out from Harvest Publishing which pairs photos from around the San’in region with Hearn’s writing about them, both in Japanese and English. The book announcement poster is in Japanese, but it’ll give you a sense of the style they’re taking with the approach. The title, “Shoukei,” refers to a longing or aspiration. I made sure to read a handful of Hearn’s books (available for free via Project Gutenberg) before moving here to Matsue and largely forgot about them while making my own impressions, but every so often when I look back at the descriptions, I’m struck by how accurate they still are.

“Roused thus by these earliest sounds of the city’s wakening life, I slide open my little Japanese paper window to look out upon the morning over a soft green cloud of spring foliage rising from the river-bounded garden below. Before me, tremulously mirroring everything upon its farther side, glimmers the broad glassy mouth of the Ohashigawa, opening into the grand Shinji Lake, which spreads out broadly to the right in a dim grey frame of peaks…
“But oh, the charm of the vision—those first ghostly love-colours of a morning steeped in mist soft as sleep itself resolved into a visible exhalation! Long reaches of faintly-tinted vapour cloud the far lake verge—long nebulous bands, such as you may have seen in old Japanese picture-books, and must have deemed only artistic whimsicalities unless you had previously looked upon the real phenomena. All the bases of the mountains are veiled by them, and they stretch athwart the loftier peaks at different heights like immeasurable lengths of gauze (this singular appearance the Japanese term ‘shelving’), so that the lake appears incomparably larger than it really is, and not an actual lake, but a beautiful spectral sea of the same tint as the dawn-sky and mixing with it, while peak-tips rise like islands from the brume, and visionary strips of hill-ranges figure as league-long causeways stretching out of sight—an exquisite chaos, ever-changing aspect as the delicate fogs rise, slowly, very slowly. As the sun’s yellow rim comes into sight, fine thin lines of warmer tone—spectral violets and opalines-shoot across the flood, treetops take tender fire, and the unpainted façades of high edifices across the water change their wood-colour to vapoury gold through the delicious haze.”
Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan, The Chief City of the Province of the Gods

Sunrise over Ohashigawa

Sunrise over Ohashigawa


Sunset over Lake Shinji

Sunset over Lake Shinji

Seventh feudal lord of the Matsue Domain, Matsudaira Harusato (aka Lord Fumai), has just gotten major a facelift.

fubaki

I was asked to make a cover for the February 2015 issue of the city newsletter, and I wanted to do something that felt very representative of Matsue to me. I like history and I like drawing portraits, so I wanted to draw a historical figure. Hands down, this tea-loving lord is my favorite figure of Matsue’s history. Furthermore, they wanted something bright and flashy, so flowers typically work for that. What’s more, I really like camellia (tsubaki), and they are one of the flower symbols of Matsue, and they are frequently used in the tea ceremony, and the camellia valley on the Matsue Castle grounds starts going into major bloom around late February. So Lord Fumai and camellia seemed my obvious choice for content.

Until I asked whether they wanted something like my cartoony Fumai-ko they might have seen before, or if they’d prefer something a little more refined.

My cartoony Fumai-ko to explain Bote-Bote Tea.

“Refined! Refined!” they cheered.

But, given my artistic roots, “refined” mentally translated to “shoujo manga.”

Unfortunately, this is not a face that translates well in shoujo manga.

Ironically, I’m writing this post as the “Portrait In Museum: The Appeal of Portraiture” exhibit is going on at Shimane Art Museum (until March 9). This historical portrait is one of the featured pieces.

Something felt terribly off to me as I was working on it, so much so that I covered up the face while working on the flowers so that I wouldn’t be so disgusted with the results. I consulted with fellow artists to see if there was something I could fix in the anatomy, and as pretty as we all sort of felt it was, we could not quite tell what was so bothersome about it. The people who requested it for the newsletter all loved it and thought it was beautiful, but I was still very put off by it.

The reception has mostly been good, though people go out of their way to say how pretty the camellia are opposed to mentioning the odd figure in the middle, or he’s just an afterthought and people don’t notice him as much as I do. Many people didn’t recognize that it was Lord Fumai even though he was labeled as Lord Fumai right by the spot that said, “Hey! Your local American CIR drew this!” As a couple of elderly acquaintances brought it up in conversation, one said to the other, “There were such pretty camellia! And she drew Lafcadio Hearn, too.” No!! Hearn gets to be on covers all the time, but Fumai is my favorite, so I wanted him to be on the cover!

At last, a friend who is not regularly steeped in the worlds of glittery shoujo manga saw it and burst out laughing, as she articulated right away what was so funny about it—-why is this old man so pretty???

It’s gotten a little easier to look at since then, as I now know what was so weird was about it. Apparently, all that green tea gave him the power of Matcha Magic for this spectacular transformation!

While reading a folktale, it dawned on me that Buddhist priests wandering around Japan by themselves are just asking for trouble. This tale from Lafcadio Hearn‘s famous “Kwaidan” series of ghostly Japanese folklore immediately sprang to mind.

Matsue loves Hearn’s ghost stories. In summer of 2013, illustrations like these could be found everywhere. This is from the entrance to the history museum’s cafe, Kiharu.


 

ROKURO-KUBI, by Lafcadio Hearn, 1904

Source: The Project Gutenberg “KWAIDAN: Stories and Studies of Strange Things”

Nearly five hundred years ago there was a samurai, named Isogai Heidazaemon Taketsura, in the service of the Lord Kikuji, of Kyushu. This Isogai had inherited, from many warlike ancestors, a natural aptitude for military exercises, and extraordinary strength. While yet a boy he had surpassed his teachers in the art of swordsmanship, in archery, and in the use of the spear, and had displayed all the capacities of a daring and skillful soldier. Afterwards, in the time of the Eikyo war, he so distinguished himself that high honors were bestowed upon him. But when the house of Kikuji came to ruin, Isogai found himself without a master. He might then easily have obtained service under another daimyo; but as he had never sought distinction for his own sake alone, and as his heart remained true to his former lord, he preferred to give up the world. So he cut off his hair, and became a traveling priest,—taking the Buddhist name of Kwairyo.

But always, under the koromo of the priest, Kwairyo kept warm within him the heart of the samurai. As in other years he had laughed at peril, so now also he scorned danger; and in all weathers and all seasons he journeyed to preach the good Law in places where no other priest would have dared to go. For that age was an age of violence and disorder; and upon the highways there was no security for the solitary traveler, even if he happened to be a priest.

(more…)

Thanks to a shared connection through writer Lafcadio Hearn, water cities Matsue and New Orleans began a Friendship City Relationship in March, 1994. To celebrate the 20th anniversary, a delegation and ceremony was held here in Matsue last October, followed by Little Mardi Gras in Matsue, which is what it sounds like. This event–with a special focus on including children in the local community–takes place in October, so you can get your Mardi Gras fix in Japan between Carnival seasons.

I am busy right now with a group from Matsue on an exchange program in New Orleans thanks to the Japan Society of New Orleans and a TOMODACHI Exchange grant from the TOMODACHI Initiative. Click here and here to see the play-by-play on that exchange on Facebook, and in the meantime on this blog, enjoy a few photos from last year’s Little Mardi Gras in Matsue!


The school bands and bands throughout the community, in addition to their impressive performance in the parade, also played at Karakoro Square, Karakoro Art Studio, and a little further north towards the Shimance Civic Center. The music lingered through the streets hours after the parade had ended.

Regular entries will resume shortly!

Thanks to a shared connection through writer Lafcadio Hearn, water cities Matsue and New Orleans began a Friendship City Relationship in March, 1994. To celebrate the 20th anniversary, a delegation and ceremony was held here in Matsue last October, followed by Little Mardi Gras in Matsue, which is what it sounds like. This event–with a special focus on including children in the local community–takes place in October, so you can get your Mardi Gras fix in Japan between Carnival seasons.

I am busy right now with a group from Matsue on an exchange program in New Orleans thanks to the Japan Society of New Orleans and a TOMODACHI Exchange grant from the TOMODACHI Initiative. Click here and here to see the play-by-play on that exchange on Facebook, and in the meantime on this blog, enjoy a few photos from last year’s Little Mardi Gras in Matsue!

Music has no borders, but jazz has a special way of bringing people together across across linguistic borders. With no advance preparation togther, Sasha’s band and the Khacha Band were able to seemlessly start performing New Orleans’ classic together as if they had always performed together.

Thanks to a shared connection through writer Lafcadio Hearn, water cities Matsue and New Orleans began a Friendship City Relationship in March, 1994. To celebrate the 20th anniversary, a delegation and ceremony was held here in Matsue last October, followed by Little Mardi Gras in Matsue, which is what it sounds like. This event–with a special focus on including children in the local community–takes place in October, so you can get your Mardi Gras fix in Japan between Carnival seasons.

I am busy right now with a group from Matsue on an exchange program in New Orleans thanks to the Japan Society of New Orleans and a TOMODACHI Exchange grant from the TOMODACHI Initiative. Click here and here to see the play-by-play on that exchange on Facebook, and in the meantime on this blog, enjoy a few photos from last year’s Little Mardi Gras in Matsue!

In celebration of the 20th Anniversary of the Friendship City ties, Sasha Masakowski and her quartet visited to perform at the anniversary ceremony and for Little Mardi Gras in Matsue.