Japan (October 2018): Tokushima


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At the northeastern end of Shikoku, Tokushima is one of the convenient access cities into the island. The Shinkoku Henro starts at Temple #1 located a few kilometers north of the city center.


View of the Tokushima area taken during a flight from Matsuyama and Nagoya, with the city center circled in yellow. The large river in the circled area is Yoshino-gawa, the second longest river in Shikoku.



Night view over Tokushima from the top of Mount Bizan (280m), located south of the Yoshino-gawa. The two bridges visible in the left-half background of the photo cross the Yoshino-gawa. The dark area at the center-left of the photo is the Shiroyama hill on top of which the Tokushima-jo (castle) was built.



Tokushima-jo was built in 1585 by Hachisuka Iemasa, the first lord of the Awa province (roughly the present-day Tokushima prefecture), on top of the Shiroyama hill located on the south side of the Yoshino-gawa. Most of the castle was dismantled in 1875 during the Meiji period and the only surviving gate was later destroyed during WW II. Today the surrounding moat and a few walls are all that remain (or that have been reconstructed), but the area has been turned into an attractive park (Chuo-koen).


Sukiya bridge, a replica of an older arched bridge over the eastern side of the moat surrounding Chuo-koen.





Portion of the moat and wall surrounding Chuo-koen.



Statue of Hachisuka Iemasa in Chuo-koen.




Large camphor tree behind the statue.




Pond in Chuo-koen with a strange arrangement of statues .






In the Senshukaku-teien, a beautiful stone garden built around 1590 and listed among the Top 100 gardens in Japan, located in Chuo-koen. The garden features textured blue-grey rocks. The stone bridge below (~10m in length) is said to be the longest in Japan.














Platform at the top of the Shiroyama hill where the castle used to stand, now planted with cherry trees.



Small shrine on the platform.



View over the neighborhood of Tokushima on the northeast of the platform.



Along the Shinmachi-gawa, one of the rivers that cross the city center.



In August, Tokushima is the site of a four-day festival known as Awa Odori. Large groups of dancers and musicians wearing traditional costumes then perform the so-called Awa Dance in the city streets. This dance is said to have multi-century origins, but the term Awa Odori is quite recent. Outside festival times, the Awa Dance is performed in the Awa Odori Kaikan hall below Mount Bizan (where I took the two photos below). In my opinion, this was a tourist trap cashing on the lure of the festival and a dubiously reconstructed history of the dance...




Performance in the Awa Jurobe Yashiki, a traditional Japanese Joruri puppet theater located on the northern side of the Yoshino-gawa. It is one short scene of ″Keisei Awa no Naruto″, a tragic story developed in the early Edo period (17th century) and played for more than 300 years. In this scene, a young pilgrim girl comes to Oyumi′s house in Osaka. Thanks to the Awa dialect spoken by the girl, Oyumi recognizes her daughter Otsuru, who was left in the care of the mother of her husband Jurobe in the Awa province, while she and Jurobe were in Osaka searching for a treasure sword. But Oyumi, who was wanted along with Jurobe by the Osaka police, could not reveal her identity without placing Otsuru in a dangerous situation and so let her go. The entire play is much longer (so long that it was performed only once in the 18th century). Later in the play Jurobe unintentionally kills Otsuru without knowing she is his daughter.


Each puppet (ningyo) is manipulated by three puppeteers (ningyo-zukai) dressed entirely in black, one for the head and right arm, another for the left arm, and a third for the legs. The story is told by a narrator (tayu) in the form of a chanted recitative, while a three-string musical instrument (gidayu-shamisen) produces timbres expressing sentiments and emotions. Even though I could not understand the recitative, I found the whole performance deeply captivating.














Oyumi and Otsuru with two of their puppeteers.



Japanese puppet theater originated in the late 16th century and became very popular during the 17th and 18th centuries. But its popularity declined dramatically after 1920, mainly due to the emergence of movie theaters, and most puppet theaters have now disappeared. Tokushima remains a major center for Joruri puppet theater, with 11 Joruri puppet groups, 100 outdoor stages in the precincts of Shinto shrines, and 40 active puppet makers, more than any other cities in Japan.


Puppet heads in the small museum attached to the Awa Jurobe Yashiki theater. The main controls of the puppets are for the eyes, the mouth, the neck, the arms, and the hands. Because Joruri puppets were often used at night in villages with poor lighting conditions, the heads are relatively large so that they could be seen well from a distance. The heads are carved in wood and then covered with lacquer.









Articulated hands.





Pages of Joruri recitative and music scripts on display in the museum.




Auspicious Sanbaso puppets used for festive occasions, in the main house of the theater complex.



Left: Tsuru-Kame-no-Niwa (turtle and crane garden) in the puppet theater complex. Right: Statue in the inner court that represents Oyumi and Otsuri.



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