Winter Illuminations in Ibaraki 2016 – 2017

Daigo

Daigo Light

When: November 3 – January 29, sunset – 8pm*
Where: Fukuroda Falls
Cost: Adults 300 yen, Children 150 yen
Website

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*Illuminations will be on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and public holidays only. Between December 23rd and January 9th the falls will be illuminated every night. On New Year’s Eve, the illuminations will continue until 2am.

Kuji River Illumination

When: December 1 – January 15, sunset – 10pm
Where: Along the banks of the Kuji River in Daigo

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Hitachi

Hitachi Starlight Illumination

When: November 19 – December 25, 5 – 10pm (5 – 8pm on December 25)
Where: Hitachi Civic Center Shin Toshi Square, Hitachi Station area
Website

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Takahagi

Hikari no Pagent in Takahagi

When: December 3 – January 6, sunset – 11pm
Where: JR Joban Line Takahagi Station Rotary Niji no Hiroba

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Hitachinaka

Christmas Illumination

When/Where:
Sawa Station: December 1 – January 9, 4:30pm – midnight
Nakaminato Station: December 2 – January 9 4:30pm – 11pm
Katsuta Station: December 5 – January 9 4:30pm – 1am

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Tokai

Tokai “make a wish” Illumination

When: December 3 – February 18, 5pm – midnight
Where: In front of the escalators outside the West Exit of Tokai Station
Website

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Mito

Ibaraki Kenmin Bunka Centre 50th Anniversary Illuminations

When: November 13 – December 25, 5 – 10pm
Where: Ibaraki Kenmin Bunka Centre (697 Higashikubo, Senba-cho, Mito)
Website

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Art Tower Mito Light Up Project

When: October 29 onwards, 5-10pm (no illuminations on Mondays unless Monday is a public holiday. Illuminations every day over the new year’s period)
Where: Mito Art Tower (1-6-8 Goken-cho, Mito)
Website

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Tsuchiura

Hikari ga Tsukuru Art Suigo Sakura Illumination

When: November 19 – February 19, 5 – 9pm
Where: In front of the windmill in Kasumigaura Comprehensive Park, Tsuchiura (1051 Oiwata, Tsuchiura)
Website

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24th Annual Tsuchiura Winter Festival

When: November 29th – January 9th, 5 – 11pm
Where: Tsuchiura Station East and West Exit, where the old waterfall used to be at Tsuchiura Mall

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Tsukuba

Mt. Tsukuba Ropeway Night Walk Stardust Cruising

When: September 17th – February 26th*, 5 – 9pm (every 20 minutes)
Where: Mt. Tsukuba Ropeway, Tsukuba
Cost: 1000 yen per person, free for children elementary school aged and younger
Website

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*Saturdays, Sundays, and public holidays, and December 23 – 30th only. Not operating in poor weather, on December 31 – January 2, or February 4-5

Tsukuba Expo Center Christmas Illumination

When: November 26 – December 25, 4 – 10pm
Where: Tsukuba Expo Center 2-9 Azuma, Tsukuba)
Website

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Tsukuba Hikari no Mori

When: November 26 – January 9, 4:30pm – midnight
Where: TX Tsukuba Station Pedestrian Deck Area
Website

Ishioka

Flower Park Winter Illumination

When: December 1 – 30, January 1 – 31, 5 – 9pm
Where: Ibaraki Flower Park (200 Shimoaoyagi, Ishioka)
Website

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Chikusei

Hoshi no Fantasy in Shimodate

When: December 10 – January 31
Where: JR Shimodate Station area

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Bando

Bando Illumination Fantasy

When: November 23 – January 28, 5 – 9:30pm
Where: Iwai Shopping District, Bando Kanko Koryu Center, Sashima Shopping District

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Ami

Ami Premium Outlet Mall Winter Illumination

When: November 3 – February 15, sunset – 9pm
Where: Ami Premium Outlet Mall
Website

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Ushiku

Brilliantville Ushiku

When: December 3 – February 19th, 5pm – 1am
Where: JR Ushiku Station West and East Exits
Website

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Moriya

Moriya Christmas Fantasy

When: November 23rd – December 24th, 5 – 10pm
Where: Moriya Station West Exit Square
Website

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Ryugasaki

Ryugasaki Illumination Dream Tree

When: November 3rd – February 28th, 5pm – 1am
Where: JR Sanuki Station East and West Exit, Ryugasaki Station

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Kashima

Kashima Hikari no Art Gallery 2016

When: December 2 – January 9
Where: Kashima Jingu Station Area
Website

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Daigo Light

When: November 3 – January 29
Where: Fukuroda Falls and other locations around Daigo
Cost: Adults 300 yen, Children 150 yen

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Starting November 3 and continuing on Friday to Sunday and holidays* until January 29, Fukuroda Falls will be transformed into a mystical space by the skills of highly acclaimed lighting technicians. The illuminations will commence at sundown and finish around 8pm, except on New Year’s Eve, when the event will continue until 2am. Parking is available on site for a fee and is limited to 900 vehicles. Be careful of ice on the road during the colder months.

Furthermore, from December 1st to January 15th, the Kuji River banks will be illuminated every night from sundown until 10pm.
*Between December 23rd and January 9th the falls will be illuminated every night

Related Events

Distribution of Onsen Discount Tickets

When: December 1 – February 28
Where: Fukuroda Falls Tunnel Entrance

Free Okukuji Shamo Hatto-jiru Soup

When: January 14, 4pm~
Where: Daigo Fukuroda Waterfall Viewing Bridge Area
First come first served.

Fukuroda Ice Garden

When: January onward
Where: Fukuroda Falls Area
The freezing of the falls depends on the weather.

Nugui yo Vouchers

From December 2 till January 29 on days that Fukuroda Falls are lit up (excluding January 1 – 3), passengers on the local bus between Fukuroda Station and Takimoto will receive one 500 yen voucher that can be used at certain restaurants and stores around Daigo. The vouchers are valid until January 29th.

33rd Annual National Frozen Falls Haiku Contest

When: February 2
Where: Daigo Bunka Fukushi Kaikan (722-1 Daigo-machi, Kuji-gun, Ibaraki)

KENPOKU ART 2016 – Mountain Route

My supervisor and I made a trip from Hitachiomiya to Daigo to see the various art pieces placed around northern Ibaraki. Some of the facilities that house the art pieces require an entrance fee. If you decide to take the weekend bus tour or the free KENPOKU shuttle bus with your friend(s), I’d recommend getting the KENPOKU Passport. The passport cost \2,500 and it will permit you one entrance to each of the facilities.

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Michi-no-Eki Hitachiomiya Kawa Plaza

E-14: Ryota Shioya – riverbed / a gathered people

The artist took into consideration the placement of the piece. The decision to permanently construct this artwork at a rest stop, Kawa Plaza, where hundreds of people will pass through daily is symbolized by river rocks which have been smoothed down by rushing water. It seems that the artist was trying to show the beauty of passing through a place.

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The Former Miwa Junior High School

E-01: Hackathon – The Sound of TapBoard

The Sound of Tapboard was an interesting use of sound and motion in order to draw the viewer into the experience. The artist created an interactive, unusual piece of art that anyone can enjoy.

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E-02: Yoichi Ochiai – Colloidal Display and Others

The artist of this piece utilized many materials to send his message to the viewers. His juxtaposition of electronic resources to portray the beautiful image of the butterfly was innovative. He successfully and stunningly created a link from the technological world to the natural one. This was one of my favorite piece to see, simply because the beautiful butterfly was so unexpected from the loud sound of the machine working.

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E-04: Hackathon/CALAR.inc

This was another piece in which the artists successfully gave the viewer an experience for all the senses. By inviting guests to walk through the storybook and view colorful videos it creates a more memorable experience. The artists’ storybook format and decision to arrange the path in a specific order urges the viewer to continue on until the end in order to truly finish the artists’ tale. The artists’ use of lighting, sound, and space helped to create an intriguing experience.

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E-05: Hiroshi Suzuki + Masato Ohki – Constellations of the earth ― Ibaraki-kenpoku-za

This was another piece in which the artist sought to draw in the viewers. By creating a participatory artwork, the entire community was able to play a part in creating the finished product. The piece combined many different elements including space satellites and radio wave reflectors, as well as the finished piece made to mimic the constellations of the earth.

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E-06: Isabelle Desjeux – The Ibaraki Inventorium

This artist’s background as a molecular biologist shaped her artwork in a fantastic way. By bringing her love of another field and incorporating it into her artwork, she succeeded in creating something not only beautiful for the viewers, but also educational. Her focus upon wildlife found in Ibaraki is a way to involve the viewers and to perhaps have them view their surroundings with a different light after seeing the piece. Her decision to place the artwork in a science classroom also creates an interesting contrast for the viewer to see beautiful work in a somewhat familiar place.

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E-07: magma – WOODSTOCK

This piece was an entire room that the artists had transformed. The whole room- from the ceiling, to the decorations and furniture, were all crafted of wood from the Miwa region. Upon walking into the room, there is a calming effect for the viewers. This calming effect is accentuated by the artist’s decision to include xylophone music and forest sounds. The unity in material gives the viewer a kind of eye-pleasing harmony.

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E-07: magma – GREAT TEACHER

In this piece, the artists worked to incorporate humor and portray their, perhaps, relatable experiences. They transformed the principal’s office and manipulated the sound, lighting, and contents of the office. They created a robot in place of the headmaster and recorded a dialogue- successfully making the principal’s office a dramatic, humorous experience. This piece puts the viewer into the shoes of a student, and reminds viewer of the feelings of listening to adults speak.

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E-08: Fumiaki Murakami – Fly Me to the Earth

The artist of this piece successfully utilized AR (augmented reality) technology in order to create a kind of looking-glass for the viewer. Upon entering the classroom, there was an airplane suspended from the ceiling. Upon closer inspection, the rear end was a lens. The viewer is invited to peer into the lens and is instantly shown real scenery and nature. The artist crafted the lens to give the viewer a bird’s-eye, virtual reality view of Hitachiomiya. The piece is interactive and successful in giving the viewer a beautiful never-before-seen view of familiar surroundings.

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E-09: Miki Yamamoto – Classroom of Ribbon around a Bomb

This piece was a storybook depicting a girl’s school life. The artist, having grown up in Ibaraki, successfully made her piece relatable to the viewer and also gave a respectful nod to her home prefecture. The illustrations in the storybook were simple and beautiful, mirroring the simple life of the girl in the story.

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The Former Yawara Seishonen-no-Ie

E-10: Zadok Ben-David – Blackfield

This piece was a surprising visual experience for the viewer. The artist crafted 27 thousand small, metallic flowers to greet upon entrance to the room. The flowers are of various colors and diverse real-life environments, but are unified by their placement. The flowers are two-dimensional, so upon further entering the room the flowers begin to change before the viewer’s eyes. The flowers, metallic on one side, are hiding thousands of colors on the other side. The artist, Zadok Ben-David, says that the piece is “a psychological installation about life and death, very moody, developing and changing while we walk along. It has two sides, black and colour, symbolising and manipulating a state of mind, yet leaving us a choice”. The symbolism in his piece was beautifully crafted.

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E-11: Wang Te-Yu – No.85

The artist of this piece created an interactive experience for the viewers by filling a room with a giant balloon. The artist invites the viewers to enter the entirely white room, feeling the ground slightly deflate with every step. The lack of color and furniture in the room create a kind of dreamy, surreal, and peaceful experience. The artist’s aim to free the viewer of outside physical sensations with the white balloon successfully places them in a different world.

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E-13: Matthew Jensen – Reflecting on the Kuji River / The Sun Returning

The artist of this piece, similar to the ‘Ibaraki Inventorium’ artwork, utilized his interests in other areas in order to create a truly beautiful finished product. He focused on the Kuji River in this piece. The piece features stunning beautiful, aerial photos of sunsets reflected upon the river. The artist also trekked along the river and collected small stones and objects that were found along the shore. By including multiple perspectives of the area, the piece truly lives up to its name and is a reflection on every part of the river.

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The Shopping district in front of Hitachi-Daigo Station

The Daigomachi Culture & Welfare Hall (大子町文化福祉会館) offers free bike rentals to tour the area. There are many artworks located near the Hitachi-Daigo Station, so riding a bike around the area is a great way to explore the town. There are several restaurants that are collaborating with KENPOKU Art 2016 to entice tourists to the area. Daigo is famous for Oku-kuji Shamo chicken, and Yamaki (弥満喜) is one of the better known restaurants in the area collaborating with the event. At Yamaki, you can enjoy yuba sashimi and Oku-kuji Shamo chicken prepared in various ways.

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F-16: Song-Ming Ang – Daigo Lost and Found

The Daigo Lost and Found piece is a historical peek into the past for the city of Daigo. Footage of the city’s festivals and events were taken decades ago and were recollected specifically for this display. The video footage, displayed on old TVs, give a glimpse into what life was like in Daigo decades ago. For current residents or those familiar with Daigo, it’s a reminder of the cultural history and values that are unique and beautiful to these residents. For newcomers, it’s a historical introduction to a city with a rich and vibrant history.

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Fukuroda Falls (Tunnel)

F-18: Jung Hye-Ryun – Serial possibility – fukuroda fall

The artist of this piece successfully transformed the tunnel which leads visitors to Fukuroda Falls in Daigo. The piece is representative of the Kuji River and winds along the overhead of the tunnel as the viewer walks. The artist created beautiful, twisting neon lights which mimic the twists and turns of the river. By symbolizing the Kuji River, he created a link between two of Daigo’s most beautiful areas.

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Autumn Leaves in Ibaraki 2016

Autumn, the season of changing leaves, is finally upon us. Blessed with a diverse natural environment, there are many places in Ibaraki that you can visit to appreciate the colourful leaves of autumn.

Fukuroda Falls (Daigo)

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One of the three great waterfalls in Japan, Fukuroda Falls is sometimes known as ‘Yodo no Taki’, a play on words that can be translated as either the four-tiered waterfall, referencing the four levels of the falls, or the four-time waterfall, as it is said that in order to appreciate their beauty, you must visit them in every season. There is parking on site as well as a store and vending machines. There are also a number of beautiful hiking trails in the area.

Trees: Maple, sawtooth oak
Best time to visit: Early to mid November
Recommended spots: The waterfall viewing tunnel, viewing platforms 1 & 2
Address: 3-19 Fukuroda, Daigo-machi, Kuji-gun, Ibaraki
Access: 10 minutes by bus from JR Fukuroda Station. Get off at Takimoto, it is ten minutes’ walk from there. If travelling by car, it is roughly 50 minutes from the Naka IC on the Joban Expressway.

Mt. Yamizo (Daigo)

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The highest peak in Ibaraki, Mt. Yamizo stands 1,022m tall and offers spectacular views of Tochigi and Fukushima Prefectures. At the summit you will find Yamizomine Shrine, Nichirinji Temple, and a virgin forest containing a variety of beech trees. Around the eighth station, you will find a group of springs from the Yamizo River.
Trees: Beech, Erman’s birch, Japanese oak, maple

Best time to visit: Late October – Early November
Recommended spots: Mt. Yamizo Viewing Platform
Address: Kaminomiya, Daigo-machi, Kuji-gun, Ibaraki
Access: 50 minutes by bus from JR Hitachi-Daigo Station. Get off at Jakechi (蛇穴) – it will take around 2.5 hours to reach the summit from there. By car, it is a 1 hour 50 minute drive from the Naka IC on the Joban Expressway.

Eigenji Temple (Daigo)

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Eigenji Temple is nicknamed the Maple Temple. As the name would suggest, the Japanese maple trees around the temple create a fantastic view as they turn brilliant shades of red when autumn arrives. Eigenji Temple is dedicated to Saraswati, the goddess of music, and its elevated location provides a splendid view of Daigo, allowing you to see all the autumn leaves in the town.

Trees: Japanese maple
Best time to visit: Mid November
Address: 1571 Daigo, Daigo-machi, Kuji-gun, Ibaraki
Access: 10 minutes’ walk from JR Hitachi-Daigo Station
Parking: 30 spaces at the temple. Temporary parking also available.

Mt. Nantai (Daigo)

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Mt. Nantai is located in the south east of Daigo, and stands 654m tall. The northern and eastern slopes are quite gentle, while the western and southern sides are steep cliffs. Mt. Nantai has been a sacred places since ancient times, and is shrouded in a mysterious atmosphere. There are many hiking courses in the area that provide splendid views.

Trees: Maple, Japanese lacquer, Japanese oak
Best time to visit: Early to mid November
Recommended spots: Tsutsujigaoka Viewing Platform
Address: Saigane, Daigo-machi Kuji-gun, Ibaraki
Access: 60 minutes’ walk from JR Saigane Station. 50 minutes’ drive from the Naka IC on the Joban Expressway.
Parking: 5 free spaces

Okukuji Valley (Daigo)

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With the beautiful Okukuji River that flows through it offering splendid views along Route 118, Okukuji Valley is ideal for a leisurely drive. Mt. Yamatsuri, located in Okukuji Prefectural Natural Park among the southern-most peaks of Fukushima Prefecture offers splendid views from season to season. In particular, the changing leaves of late October to late November set the mountain ablaze with colour.

Trees: Keyaki, Japanese maple
Best time to visit: Early to mid November
Address: Daigo-machi, Okukuji-gun, Ibaraki
Access: 15 minutes’ walk from Hitachi-Daigo Station. Roughly 50 minutes’ drive along Route 118 from the Naka IC on the Joban Expressway.

Hanazono Gorge (Kitaibaraki)

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Hanazono Gorge is located upstream of the Hanazono River, and is part of the Hanazono Hananuki Prefectural Natural Park. During autumn red and yellow leaves fall from the trees and float down the river, creating another splendid piece of autumn scenery. At the bottom of the gorge you will find Hanazono Shrine. There are two hiking trails; the Nanatsu Taki Hiking Trail that begins behind Hanazono Shrine, and the Eizomuro Hiking Trail, located 15 minutes’ drive from Hanazono Gorge. On a sunny day, you can see Mt. Fuji.

Trees: Maple, Japanese maple
Best time to visit: Early to late November
Recommended spots: Shiro Waterfall
Address: Hanazono, Kitaibaraki, Ibaraki
Access: 30 minutes by taxi from JR Isohara Station, or 25 minutes’ drive from the Kita-Ibaraki IC on the Joban Expressway
Parking: 60 spaces

Sarugajo Gorge (Kitaibaraki)

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Sarugajo Gorge is located upsteam of Hanazono Gorge. It is said that the Satake clan, after being defeated in battle, survived after receiving walnuts, akebi, and sake from monkeys that gathered in the area. Sarugajo Gorge is renowned for the beauty of its numerous waterfalls, which include Hako Waterfall, Rakuun Waterfall, and Senen Waterfall (which translates to ‘the waterfall of 1000 monkeys!). Listening to the sound of flowing water while appreciating the beauty of the changing leaves is an autumn experience you shouldn’t miss.

Trees: Yamamomiji, maple, beech
Best time to visit: Late October – mid November
Recommended spots: Hako Waterfall, Rakuun Waterfall, Senen Waterfall
Address: Ogawa, Sekimoto-cho, Kitaibaraki, Ibaraki
Access: 40 minutes by car from JR Isohara Station. 35 minutes by car from the Kita-Ibaraki IC on the Joban Expressway

Hananuki Gorge (Takahagi)

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There are splendid views along the Hananuki River from the Hananuki Dam to Namerigafuchi and the Kotakizawa Camping Ground. The view from the Shiomidaki Suspension Bridge that stretches across the gorge is particularly spectacular, even more so in autumn when the trees that grow along the river and stretch over the bridge create a gorgeous tunnel of fall colours.

Trees: Japanese maple
Best time to visit: Mid to late November
Recommended spots: Shiomidaki Suspension Bridge
Address: Ono area, Takahagi, Ibaraki
Access: 25 minutes by taxi from Takahagi Station. 20 minutes by car from the Takahagi IC on the Joban Expressway.
Parking: During the autumn leaves season there is paid parking – 80 spaces for 500 yen per vehicle at the Hananuki Parking Lot and 40 spaces for 500 yen per vehicle at the Ono Parking Lot

Ryujin Suspension Bridge (Hitachiota)

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Ryujin Suspension Bridge is located in Okukuji Prefectural Natural Park, and is located 100m above Ryujin Dam, which dams the Ryujin River. It is a 375m long pedestrian bridge and offers unique panoramic views in every season. The bridge is open from 8:30am to 5pm and costs 310 yen (210 for children) to cross.

Trees: Maple, Japanese maple
Best time to visit: Mid to late November
Address: 2133-6 Kegano, Hitachiota, Ibaraki
Opening Hours: 8:30am – 5pm
Admission: Adults 310 yen, Children 210 yen
Access: 45 minute bus ride from JR Hitachiota Station. Get off at Ryujin Otsuribashi; it is 20 minutes’ walk from there. By car, it is 45 minutes from the Hitachiota IC on the Joban Expressway.
Parking: 200 spaces

Seizanso (Hitachiota)

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Seizanso is the retreat where the second daimyo of the Mito Domain, Mitsukuni Tokugawa, spent his twilight years, from 1691 until his passing in 1700. It is a simple, single-story house with a thatched roof. From the round window in the study, you can gaze out upon the artificial miniature hill and the pond, which is shaped like the Chinese character for heart. Here Mitsukuni Tokugawa supervised the editing of the Japanese history book known as the Dai Nihonshi.

Trees: Japanese maple, ginkgo, konara oak
Best time to visit: Mid to late November
Address: 590 Arajuku-cho, Hitachiota, Ibaraki
Opening Hours: 9am – 4pm (open every day during autumn leaves season)
Access: 5 minutes by taxi from JR Hitachiota Station. 30 minutes by car from the Hitachiminamiota IC
Parking: 70 spaces

Kagoiwa (Hitachiomiya)

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This cliff face on a mountain south of Mt. Nantai in Okukuji that towers over Yuzawa Gorge has been shaped by years of wind and rain to look like a basket weave, giving the area its name. The viewing platform at the summit provides a splendid view.

Trees: Japanese maple, Japanese lacquer tree, mountain ash
Best time to visit: Late October – Late November
Address: Hitachiomiya, Ibaraki
Access: 30 minutes by car from Yamagatajuku Station. 1 hour by car from the Naka IC on the Joban Expressway
Parking: 5 spaces

Gozenyama Prefectural Natural Park (Hitachiomiya)

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The Gozenyama Prefectural Natural Park is a treasure trove of natural beauty. The view from the Naka River Bridge is reminiscent of Arashiyama in Kyoto, and is thus called the Arashiyama of Kanto. Autumn truly brings out the beauty of this region, as the leaves of the keyaki forest change and colour the landscape a variety of brilliant shades. There are over 100 varieties of mountain birds living in the park.

Trees: Keyaki, konara oak, evergreen oak
Best time to visit: Mid November – Early December
Recommended spots: Fujikura Waterfall, Belltower ruins
Address: Hitachiomiya, Ibaraki
Access: 60 minutes by bus from JR Mito Station. Roughly 25km by car from the Mito IC on the Joban Expressway
Parking: 100 spaces

Kairakuen (Mito)

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One of the three great gardens of Japan, Kairakuen was built by order of Nariaki Tokugawa, 9th daimyo of the Mito Domain, in July 1842.

Trees: Japanese maple
Best time to visit: Early to mid November
Address: 1-3-3 Tokiwa-cho, Mito, Ibaraki
Access: 15 minutes by bus from JR Mito Station. 20 minutes from the Mito IC on the Joban Expressway.

Ibaraki Prefectural Museum of History (Mito)

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The Ibaraki Prefectural Museum of History has permanent exhibits covering history from ancient to modern. There is also a traditional farm house from the Edo Period and a western-style school building from the Meiji Period that have been dismantled and reconstructed in the grounds of the museum. In November, when the leaves of the gingko trees begin to change, the museum holds the Museum Gingko Festival. With most events falling on weekends and public holidays, you can enjoy traditional Japanese music, tea ceremonies, and other activities that celebrate Japan’s history and culture.

Trees: Maple, Japanese maple, ginkgo
Best time to visit: Mid to late November
Address: 2-1-15 Midori-cho, Mito, Ibaraki
Hours: 9:30am -5pm (last entry 4:30pm, closed on Mondays)
Admission: Adults 150 yen, University Students 80 yen, school students, people over 70, and people with a physical disability certificate free
Access: 15 minutes from the Mito IC on the Joban Expressway
Parking: 127 spaces (3 spaces for persons with disabilities)

Kitayama Park (Kasama)

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In Kitayama Park, you can see the beauty of the seasons reflected in the lake that lies between the mountains. Take a walk through the park and be rejuvenated by its natural beauty. The park includes a viewing platform with 360 degree panoramic views, resting facilities, a camp ground, a barbeque area, and a roller slide. Spend time with your family and friends in this tranquil area.

Trees: Maple, Japanese maple
Best time to visit: Early to late November
Address: 1416-62 Taira-machi, Kasama, Ibaraki
Access: 20 minutes’ walk from JR Shishido Station. 5 minutes on Route 355 from the Tomobe IC on the Kita-Kanto Expressway. 20 minutes on Route 355 from the Iwama IC on the Joban Expressway.
Parking: Free

Mt. Sashiro (Kasama)

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Mt. Sashiro is a 15 minute walk from Kasama Inari Shrine. It stands 182m above sea level, and is located in the middle of the Kasama Basin. It is covered with thick forest. More than 100 varieties of plant life grow there, and it is sometimes called a natural botanical garden. The autumn leaves in the park at the foot of Mt. Sashiro are a sight to behold.

Trees: Japanese maple, ginkgo
Best time to visit: Early to late November
Recommended spots: The bell tower
Address: 1015-2 Kasama, Kasama, Ibaraki
Access: 5 minutes by car from JR Kasama Station. You can also take the Kasama Sightseeing bus from Tomobe Station and get off at Nichido Museum of Art. By car, it is 9 minutes from the Tomobe IC on the Kita-Kanto Expressway.
Parking: Available

Mt. Tsukuba (Tsukuba)

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Mt. Tsukuba is sometimes called Shiho (the purple mountain) due to the colour it turns when the sunrise hits it. Over 1000 species of plant grow on its slopes, making it a treasure trove for botanists. Its hiking trails and cable car bring many visitors all year round. From the top, you can see autumn colours across the entire Kanto Plain.

Trees: Japanese ivy, oak, yamaurushi, Japanese maple
Best time to visit:  Early to late November
Recommended spots: Mt. Tsukuba Shrine, Mt. Tsukuba summit, Miyawaki Station in the Tsukuba cable car
Address: Tsukuba, Tsukuba, Ibaraki
Access: 40-50 minutes by direct shuttle bus from TX Tsukuba Station; get off at Tsukuba-san Jinja Iriguchi or Tsutsujigaoka. 55 minutes by bus from JR Tsuchiura Station; get off at the last stop Tsukuba-san Jinka Iriguchi. You can take another bus from there 6 minutes to Tsutsujigaoka. 40 minutes by car from the Tsuchiura-Kita IC on the Joban Expressway.

Sairenji Temple (Namegata)

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Sairenji Temple is an ancient Tendai sect temple said to have been built in 782. It contains a number of cultural assets. There is a Deva gate built in 1543 that was originally two stories high. In 1790 it was rebuilt to be the main temple gate and changed into a Deva gate. The big gingko tree in the grounds is a prefecturally-designated natural monument that is said to be 1000 years old. The autumn leaves are not to be missed.

Trees: Ginkgo
Best time to visit: Late November to early December
Address: 504 Sairenji, Namegata, Ibaraki
Access: From the Joban Expressway, take Route 355, go straight through the traffic lights at the Route 354 intersection and turn left into Sairenji in roughly 3km.
Parking: 100 free spaces

Ibaraki Shukakusai (Harvest Festival)

When: November 5 (10am – 5pm) & 6 (10am – 3:30pm)
Where: Sanuma Koiki Koen, Shimotsuma (Nagatsukaotsu, Shimotsuma, Ibaraki)
Website

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The Ibaraki Shukakusai, or Ibaraki Harvest Festival, is one of Ibaraki’s biggest festivals, a celebration of all the delicious foods of autumn. From Hitachi beef dishes to Tsukuba Fukure Ramen, Hitachi Aki Soba to a colourful array of freshly picked fruit, you’d better come with an empty stomach because you will find far more things you want to try than you have room for.

In addition to the multitude of food stalls, there are also stalls selling local goods and running activities and games. There will also be stage performances throughout the weekend. Don’t miss this chance to make the most of beautiful and delicious Ibaraki autumn!

Stage Events

Saturday

10:30 – Chiyokawa Junior High School Brass Band
11:00 – Opening Ceremony
11:30 – Masahiro Chono Talk Show
12:00 – Fujiini & Katsumi Live Show
12:30 – Yoshimoto Comedy Show
13:00 – Nebaru-kun
13:30 – Scissors Paper Rock Battle
14:00 – Natto Domo-kun Quiz Show
14:30 – Chef Yoroizuka Talk Show & Sweet-making Demonstration
15:30 – Tobu Junior High School Brass Band
16:00 – Nebaru-kun

Sunday

10:30 – Shimotsuma Junior High School Brass Band
11:00 – Ultraman Orb Show
11:30 – Mirai e Tsunagu Project – Ongaku no Chikara
12:00 – Umaimon PR Stage
12:30 – NHK Mito Children’s Choir Mini Concert
13:00 – Ultraman Orb Show
13:30 – NEVA GIVE UP Live Performance
14:00 – Edo Murasaki Comedy Show
14:30 – Scissors Paper Rock Battle

Kenpoku Art 2016 – Ocean Route

On October 14th, I headed to the Kenpoku region to visit installation sites along the ocean route. As I am not very well-versed in art appreciation, I worried that the exhibition wouldn’t really be for me and I would have trouble writing about it, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. The artworks were beautiful and thought-provoking, and accessible even to someone with my lack of expertise, and the pursuit of each work lead me to beautiful places all along the coast of northern Ibaraki. Many of the artworks were interactive, allowing you to be an active participant instead of just an observer. Whether you are an art aficionado or a total beginner, this exhibition has something for you.

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*If you purchase a Kenpoku Art Passport (2500 yen), you are provided free access to all individual exhibitions and you can collect stamps at all the locations you visit. See the official website for more details.

1. Tenshin Memorial Museum of Art

Where: 2083 Tsubaki, Otsu-machi Kitaibaraki, Ibaraki
Public Transport: 5 minutes by taxi from JR Otsuko Station
Hours: 9am – 5pm

Our first stop was the Tenshin Memorial Museum of Art in Kitaibaraki. The museum is dedicated to artist and scholar Okakura Tenshin. Some people from the south might be thinking of skipping Kitaibaraki since it’s quite far – don’t! The art installations at Tenshin Memorial Museum are definitely worth checking out.

The first work I noticed was a row of framed drawings in reddish brown ink lining a wall. There were some headphones – when we put them on we could hear children playing and chattering in Hindi. It was eerie to hear the sounds of children playing when none could be seen in room – in fact as it was still early, and there were not very many other people at all.

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We eventually found the panel labelling the work ‘kenopsia (void of human life)’ and attributing it to India-based artist Mithu Sen and describing her intentions. The use of the word ‘kenopsia’ led me on a very interesting google adventure to discover a website called the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, where the author John Koenig coins terms to describe emotions that we all feel but don’t have a word for. Kenopsia (n.) is ‘the eerie, forlorn atmosphere of a place that’s usually bustling with people, but is now abandoned and quiet – a school hallway in the evening, an unlit office on a weekend, vacant fairgrounds – an emotional afterimage that makes it seem not just empty but hyper-empty, with a total population in the negative, who are so conspicuously absent they glow like neon signs.’

Mithu Sen’s installation is actually in two parts – the first part, which we did not visit, is at Fujigaoka Elementary School, a former elementary school in Kitaibaraki. Mithu Sen ‘reopens’ the school by filling it with the voices of Indian children. The empty school building is infrastructure with no children to fill it, whereas a lack of infrastructure for schools is a problem in parts of India. The second part of the installation at Tenshin Memorial Museum visually represents the Indian schoolchildren who have been virtually emigrated the site via sound with numerous small portraits in red ink. The installations are an attempt by the artist to supplement the ‘void’ that each culture is experiencing. All of the portraits will be up for ‘adoption’ at the end of the exhibition – those who are interested in adopting a portrait can leave their name and contact information at the Kenpoku Art desk at Tenshin Memorial Museum.

The other artworks on display at the Tenshin Memorial museum are in an exhibition called ‘Infinity of Flowers inside Small Things’ by teamLab, a self-described ‘ultra-technologist group’ who specialise in blending art, science, technology, and creativity. The works at the museum were inspired by Okakura Tenshin and his efforts in spreading Japanese art and aesthetics around the world. This was a really fun exhibit as the artworks are digital and you can interact with many of them. To view them you enter a series of dark rooms. The first work you come across is a number of teacups on a low stage. Inside the teacups you can watch as digital flowers bloom – but if you move a teacup, the flower withers and the petals scatter. This work is titled ‘Flowers Bloom in an Infinite Universe inside a Teacup’, and is rendered entirely in real time – your actions play a part in its creation.

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In the second room there are five works. ‘Nirvana’ is a colourful depiction of animals rendered in a virtual 3D space inspired by screen printing. The screen starts blank and the animals slowly appear. In ‘The Land of Peace and Bliss’ you can watch as a city is built before your eyes. As your viewpoint slowly scrolls across the land you can see small stories playing out all over the screens. ‘Flutter of Butterflies Beyond Boarders’ is another interactive piece rendered in real time. Butterflies float around the walls of the room, the patterns on their wings evolving as they go. They through frames into other installations, dissolving the concept of boarders. The butterflies are influenced by the other artworks and by the viewers – they gravitate toward places where flowers are blooming, but if you reach out to touch one it falls to the ground. The butteflies gather around the work ‘A Whole Year per Hour, Dark’, which depicts a whole year of seasons over an hour of time through the bloom and wither of digital flowers. The final work in the room, ‘Life Survives by the Power of Life’, explores Japanese spatial awareness using teamLab’s ‘spatial calligraphy’, an interpretation of calligraphy in abstract space. Brush strokes develop into a tree which experiences the passage of time – from snow to the blooming of flowers to the teeming of life in mid-summer.

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The next room was also really fun – in ‘What a Loving, Beautiful World’ the walls are covered in kanji, and when your shadow touches one it materialises into the thing it represents – the kanji for thunder and lightning, 雷, creates a booming sound and flashes of light. If you touch 雨 rain will begin to fall – 鳥 sends small birds flying around the room. You are creating the artwork with your movements, and the things you create will interact – birds and insects will flutter around the flowers, but are scared if you unleash fire, and if you create wind you can watch it blow the things around it. I recommend experimenting and seeing how the different manifestations interact, it’s loads of fun!

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Outside this room you will find a table with virtual reality headsets. This work, ‘Spatial Calligraphy: Circle, Infinity’, allows you to draw spatial calligraphy with a small controller. The strokes you drawn materialise into 3D and float away into the sky. It takes a little while to get the hang of it but it was a lot of fun seeing what kinds of shapes could be created and how they would look in 3D.

2. Rokkakudo

Where: 727-2 Izura, Otsu-cho, Kitaibaraki, Ibaraki
Public Transport: 10 minutes by taxi from JR Otsuko Station
Hours
October: 8:30am – 5:30pm
November: 8:30am – 5pm
Last entry 30 minutes before closing. Closed Mondays or Tuesday when Monday is a national holiday.

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After the Tenshin Memorial Museum, we visited Rokkakudo, the famous seaside meditation retreat of Okakura Tenshin. It was washed away in the 2011 tsunami, but was rebuilt in 2012. At this site you will find two artworks – ‘Weeds’ by Tokyo-based artist Yoshihiro Suda, a collection of wooden sculptures of wild grass and flowers inspired by the eastern aesthetics of simplicity and transience championed by Okakura Tenshin and present through the history of eastern art, and ‘Artificial Rock No. 109’ by China-based artist Zhan Wang, a celebration of Okakura Tenshin’s innovative and exploratory spirit, which coexisted with his love of eastern aesthetics.

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One of the best parts of touring the Kenpoku Art sites is enjoying the natural beauty of the areas where they are placed. The Izura coast and area surrounding Rokkakudo is absolutely stunning.

3. Sendo Ryori Tenshinmaru (lunch)

Where: 710 Izura, Otsu-cho, Kitaibaraki, Ibaraki
Access: 3 minutes’ walk from Rokkakudo
Hours:
Tuesday – Saturday: 11:30am – 2:30pm, 5:30 – 9pm
Weekends and Public Holidays: 11:30am – 7:30pm
Closed Mondays
Cost: 1000~1900 yen

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For lunch, we chose a restaurant near Rokkakudo called Sendo Ryori Tenshinmaru. I had been told by coworkers that the servings were quite large, but that was an incredible understatement. The restaurant offers takeaway boxes for 10 yen each for people who cannot finish their meals, and I guarantee that you will be using one, especially if you get the tendon set like me. The tempura was delicious – an assortment of fish, squid, ashitaba leaves, and a slice of sweet potato – but I could only eat about a quarter of it. The rest of it I packed up and took home for later. Tenshinmaru offers a number of other seafood dishes including kaisendon, nizakana, and a tempura set. Come with an empty stomach!

4. Takahagi Beach Takado Maehama Coast

Where: Takado, Takahagi, Ibaraki
Access: 10 minutes by taxi or 20 minutes’ walk from JR Takahagi Station East Exit
Hours: 9am – 5pm

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The next location we visited was the Takado Maehama Coast in Takahama, where two artworks were on display on the shore – US-based artists Ilya & Emilia Kabakov’sThe Fallen Sky’, a giant canvas painted with the sky, sits propped up as though it had indeed fallen from above and pierced the sand. A panel beside the work explains the tale of this piece of sky in quite a lot of detail, leaving you wondering how much of the story is true. Finding the artwork and reading the story is part of the fun, so I’ll let you go discover it for yourself.

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The other artwork on the beach was particularly interesting to me because it resembled a mystery that occurred in my town while I was in high school. In the middle of the night, somebody painted several of the wave blocks on the sea wall bright colours. Although their act was technically vandalism, the locals fought to have it left as it brightened up the scenery and made it more interesting to look at. UK-based artist Nitipak Samsen’s artwork ‘Tetrapad’ had a similar story – the artist became interested in the many wave blocks that can be found along Japan’s shoreline, commonly referred to as ‘tetrapods’, and mimicked them using a beach ball-like material, allowing you to look at industrial infrastructure in a new light.

5. Takado Kohama Coast

Where: 848-8 Takado, Takahagi
Access: 10 minutes by taxi or 20 minutes’ walk from JR Takahagi Station East Exit
Hours: 9am – 5pm

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Kohama Coast is a beautiful area that I wouldn’t have thought to visit without the opportunity created by Kenpoku Art. It is included on Japan’s list of the top 100 most beautiful beaches, and it well deserves the accolade. It didn’t hurt that the weather was so lovely – I could have chilled on the beach all day. The work on display here is ‘Soul Shelter’ by Thailand-based artist Sudsiri Pui-ock – it is a huge, beautifully sculpted hermit crab shell, but instead of a hermit crab a human hand has taken up residence inside. It is unsettling at first glance, but the artist uses the work to question the compatibility of humans with their environment and comment on our ability to seek out and reside in temporary spaces and shelters.

6. Hozumike Residence

Where: 2337-1 Kamitezuna, Takahagi
Public Transport: 10 minutes by bus from JR Takahagi Station (take a bus bound for Sekiguchi (関口) and get off at Kawabata Iriguchi (川側入口) timetable in Japanese here)
Hours: 9am – 4pm

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Our next stop was the Hozumike Residence, a traditional Japanese residence in Takahagi built in 1789, where four artworks are on display. ‘cockle of pearl blue – to the sky, from the sky’ by Ibaraki-based artist Kosho Ito is a ceramic work with 3000 (!) pieces, which are placed in gardens outside the residence. Each piece is entirely unique, and the pearl-blue glaze that covers them reflects and scatters the sunlight. Strolling around the garden looking at each of the clusters of ceramic pieces was very relaxing.

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The Cabinet of Doctor Komo’ by Vietnam-based artist Sandrine Llouquet is an unsettling collection of objects inside a dimly lit room with an interesting tale. The collection is based on a story made by the artist of a Dutch doctor living in the Hozumike Residence. The artist researched the Kenpoku area and cultural aspects of the Edo period, including yokai and misemono-goya. The collection of creepy objects, including a mummified figure in a case, a saber tooth tiger skull, a tiny hand, and a number of grotesque framed drawings lining the walls, is based on the western practice of a cabinet of curiosities, popular with scholars from the 15th – 18th century. It’s interesting examining the objects and trying to work out their origins – there was a large paining of a kappa on one of the cupboard doors.

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As a person, gaze up to the sky and stand on the ground’ by Tokyo-based artist Yuji Ueno was another interesting exhibit. In order to view it you must enter a room that is almost entirely pitch black. At the top of a pile of what looks like soil or woodchips (I couldn’t really tell since it was so dark) blooms a single flower. Mr. Ueno is a floral artist interested in ikebana, and the flower was made via 3D printing.

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The final artwork at the Hozumike Residence is ‘Web of Life’ by US-based artist Debbie Han. When I first entered the room where the work is on display, all I could see was a tangle of copper-coloured wires – however, as you look closer you realise the wires form a huge collection of facial expressions. All of the wires are connected, suggesting at the connectivity of human life even as we are all seeing things from different perspectives and experiencing life in different ways. It’s a lot of fun walking around the work looking at the different faces hidden in the wires and interpreting their expressions.

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7. Hagi no Chaya

Where: 2337-1 Kamitezuna, Takahagi (Hozumike Residence)
Public Transport: 10 minutes by bus from JR Takahagi Station (take a bus bound for Sekiguchi (関口) and get off at Kawabata Iriguchi (川側入口) timetable in Japanese here)
Hours: 10am – 4pm (Lunch menu 11am – 2:45pm)

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From September 17 – December 4, there is a temporary restaurant called Aki no Chaya at the Hozumike Residence in Takahagi. There are a number of lunch options on the menu, including steak and hamburg steak made from Hitachi Beef. We decided to check out the desert menu, since we had already eaten earlier in the day, and we were not disappointed. I ordered a hozuki no-bake cheesecake dessert set. Edible hozuki, also known as a ground cherry or Chinese lantern plant, is a specialty of Takahagi, and this one dish utilised it in a number of ways. There was a small no-bake cheesecake with a sweet hozuki sauce topped with a hozuki that had been dipped in white chocolate, small slices of hozuki decorating the plate, and a scoop of hozuki ice cream. The set came with a drink of your choice. I highly recommend stopping by Aki no Chaya if you visit the Hozumike Residence! Although we did not order from the lunch menu, it also looked quite delicious.

8. Oiwa Shrine

Where: 752 Irishiken-cho, Hitachi, Ibaraki
Public Transport: 35 minutes by bus from JR Hitachi Station (Take the no. 60 bus bound for Higashi Godo (東河内) and get off at Oiwa Jinja Mae (御岩神社前) timetable in Japanese here)
Hours: 9am – 5pm

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It’s hard for me to choose a favourite venue of those we visited, but Oiwa Shrine might be it. Located in the middle of a forest of tall beautiful Japanese cedar trees, including one with a triple trunk estimated to be 500 years old, this shrine has a history reaching back almost 700 years.

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As you walk through the trees, you will soon spot ‘Mirage in the Forest’ by Sweden-based Akane Moriyama. This instillation is made from roughly 6000 thin strips of film suspended in the trees. As they sway in the breeze they catch and reflect the sunlight, giving a slightly different impression depending on the angle you view them from. The work captures the spiritual atmosphere of this beautiful mountain shrine.

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The second work at Oiwa Shrine is a ceiling painting inside Sai Shrine, one of the shrines inside the Oiwa Shrine precinct. The painting, titled ‘Oiwasan Unryu-zu’ by Kagawa-based artist Miki Okamura, takes a new approach to ceiling paintings, which typically depict the world seen from the ground looking up. This painting of a dragon flying over the mountains depicts the world as seen from above, a concept influenced by the modern progression of satellite technology and space travel. However, the mythical subject of the painting links back to humanity’s persistent belief in and connection to the spiritual. The painting will remain in the shrine even after the Kenpoku Art Festival finishes.

9. Hitachi Civic Center

Where: 1-21-1 Saiwai-cho, Hitachi, Ibaraki
Public Transport: 3 minutes’ walk from JR Hitachi Station Central Exit
Hours: 10am – 5pm

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There are six artworks on display at the Hitachi Civic Center, although we did not have time to see them all. My first thought upon viewing ‘Crystal Palace: The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nuclear Nations’ by Kyoto-based artists Ken + Julia Yonetani was that this collection of glowing neon green chandeliers looked like they belonged in a haunted house – they reminded me of popular depictions of ghosts and ghostly activity. Each chandelier is named after a country, and its size is determined by the scale of that country’s nuclear energy production. The chandeliers are made from uranium glass. In an adjoining room there is another artwork by the same artists – fragile faeries under glass jars rotating like figures in a music box to ‘It’s a Small World After All’. If you look closer, you will discover that their wings are actually real butterfly wings, and not just any butterflies – these particular butterflies were hatched from eggs collected from a location 10km away from the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant for the purpose of investigating the effect of radiation on wildlife in the area. The figures, which at first seem charming, quickly take on a different light as you read about intention of the artwork.

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In the Civic Center lobby you will find a tower topped by a retro TV set. ‘HITACHI Denrin Tower’ by Tokyo-based Ei Wada is actually made up on a number of TVs encased inside the walls of the tower. The staff by the tower will hand you a small radio device – by tuning it and holding it at different distances from the tower you can search for a secret song. As for what the song is, I will let you discover that for yourself.

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Stepping outside of the Civic Center you will find ‘Noah’s Bus’ by Finland and Germany-based artist Tea Mäkipää. From the outside, it looks like an old bus with some plant life growing out of the roof – if you get closer and peer inside, it is filled with life. Not knowing what the bus contained was half the fun – I was quite surprised when suddenly a white rabbit hopped by before my eyes. The bus also contained Guinea pigs, budgerigars, a Russian turtle, and a pair of black and white Laced Polish chickens. The plants inside the bus can all be found in the Hitachi region, and the work invites viewers to think about the relationship between urban and natural environments. The animals residing in the bus are cared for daily by staff from Kamine Zoo.

10. Hitachi Station

Where: 1-1-1 Saiwai-cho, Hitachi, Ibaraki
Public Transport: JR Hitachi Station
Hours: 9am – 8pm

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Although described as the gateway to the Kenpoku Art Festival, Hitachi Station was actually our last stop. The walls of the station building are almost entirely made of glass, and the station is located right on the ocean, so you can enjoy a spectacular view from the second floor. Throughout the Kenpoku Art Festival, the glass corridor of Hitachi Station has been decked out in rainbow colours by France-based artist Daniel Buren, in an installation titled ‘In the corridor: the Four Rainbows, work in situ, Daniel Buren for Kenpoku Art 2016. Japan’. As Hitachi Station is commonly the first stop for visitors, this colourful gateway is the perfect entrance to the festival.

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If you turn right after leaving the ticket gates, you will find the other installation at Hitachi Station, ‘Landscape Magic Lantern’ by Ibaraki-based artist Fumiaki Murakami. The installation is in the form of what appears to be a regular, if not funkily-shaped, telescope. Peer into the lens, however, and you will see fantasy and reality collide as stories from the ancient text Hitachi no Fudoki play out before your eyes right outside the station window.

Kenpoku Art 2016 is on all around northern Ibaraki until November 20th. Check out the website for information on shuttle buses, bus tours, and events throughout the festival.

Tsukuba University Plastic Arts & Mixed Media Exhibition

When: November 3 – January 29
Where: The Museum of Modern Art, Ibaraki (666-1 Higashikubo, Senba-cho, Mito)
Museum Hours: 9:30am – 5pm (last entry 4:30pm). Closed on Mondays and from December 29 – January 1st. Open on Monday January 2nd and 9th and closed on Tuesday January 3rd and 10th.
Admission: Adults 980 yen, High School and University Students 720 yen, Elementary and Junior High School Students 360 yen
Website

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明和電機「ナポレオン銃」2015年©YOHEI SHIMADA

 

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寺田真由美「curtain 010416a」2001年 BASE GALLERY 蔵

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三田村畯石「紙吹雪」1989年

 

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小野養豚ん「…pigeep…pigeep…」2015年

At this unique exhibition, works that defy what we think of art by graduates of Tsukuba University’s Plastic Arts & Mixed Media program will be on display, and a number of artists, including former instructors from the Plastic Arts & Mixed Media program will be giving lectures and running workshops.

See the website (Japanese only) for more details about events during the exhibition.