Stop the presses! I've been so busy that I almost forgot! Its mid-May, and that means it's just about time to head out to our neighbor to the west, Mitsukaido, now part of Joso City (it took me so long to learn all the local place names, and then they went ahead and changed them all!), for the colorful Sen-Hime Festival! Last year I enjoyed the unique procession of more than 100 women, warriors, and plenty of adorable little kids, all clad in Edo Period costumes. The festival provides great photo opportunities, lots of music and also a chance to learn about the amazing life of Princess Sen, the granddaughter of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Edo Shogunate.
Sen was married off at a very tender age to the son of Toyotomi Hideyoshi (the second of the great unifiers of Japan) and she was installed in Osaka Castle. A few years later, this formidable stronghold was put under siege and razed, by none other than her own grandpa, Ieyasu. Not known as a man of tender heart, the victorious general had his son-in-law commit hara kiri (ritual suicide) along with Sen's famous mother-in-law.
After remarriage, she found herself living in the greatest castle of them all, Himeji-jo, where she had two children. Her fortunes took a turn for the worse again when her son and husband passed away from illness, and she headed east, to Kanto (our neck of the woods) to shave her head and become a nun. One major project that she undertook was the reconstruction of the main hall of Mitsukaido`s Gugyouji Temple. In her will, Sen requested that a part of her ashes be interred at this temple, which must have been very close to her heart.
There are many legends surrounding Sen-Hime`s life and she has always been a common figure in historical tv dramas, plays, and novels. The city of Mitsukaido has turned their connection to the princess into an annual event, which will take place this year on Sunday the 13th.
You can take a bus from Tsukuba Center, or even better, drive out, due west on the Tsuchiura Gakuen Line. Then you will be able to combine a trip to the festival with some of the other major Mitsukaido sites including the spectacular Sakano House, and the Tenmangu and Hitokotonushi Shrines(these merit articles for themselves).
I know I'm not giving you much notice, but if you are free on Sunday, take your camera and get on the bus for a Sen(Hime)Sational Day!
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