The Bazaar

From early Saturday morning until late on Sunday afternoon the smells of fresh curry wafted lazily through the hot sunny skies and mixed with the sounds of South Asian pop music amidst the lush green landscape of Kairakuen park. The sun sparkled on brilliantly bejeweled bangles and the wind toyed with vividly colored dresses and scarves as the lines of people waiting to get their own taste of authentically made curry moved slowly forward, somehow without ever getting any shorter in length. Nearby, a Bangladesh vendor called out loudly to the crowd to advertise his freshly baked naan bread, turning its name into a groan-worthy Japanese pun that quickly drew a few fans. Families settled onto plastic sheeting and ate their spicy fare with relish, listening to the performances of various voices, dances, and instruments that echoed from the flag-bedecked stage, before moving off to browse the cultural wares and other booths of the 1st Annual Pakistan Bazaar.

Beyond simply being an excuse to enjoy some delicious Pakistani curry on a beautiful Saturday morning, the bazaar also became a gathering place for foreigners of all kinds. The vendor booths were filled with different nationalities, most of whom spoke quite fluent Japanese, and the sheer variety of participants was refreshing. Though the original purposes of the bazaar were to promote Pakistani culture and help with Ibaraki’s recovery from last year’s disasters, it seemed to me to be fulfilling yet one more important role: here was a chance for the Japanese to experience multiculturalism within their own backyard. Rather than simply introducing a new culture, it provided an opportunity to highlight the people from that and many other cultures who were already within Japan, giving renewed emphasis to the future possibilities of cultural exchange should the necessary awareness of shared spaces be raised.

All in all, the Pakistan Bazaar was an interesting way to spend a summer morning; delicious curry, intriguing culture, and future hope. With any luck this will become another great tradition for Kairakuen.


Mito’s 38th Annual Ajisai (Hydrangea) Festival

Mito’s seasonal festival to celebrate the beginning of summer will be held at Howaen Park and its surrounding historical sites (such as Hachimangu). Within Howaen Park there will be Western hydrangea in blue and white as well as Gaku Hydrangea, for a total of more than 30 varieties and over 6000 flowers in joyful bloom.

Dates: June 17th to July 8th

Location: Howaen Park, Shinso Community Center, Hachimangu

Main Events:

June 17th….10am to 11am: Opening ceremony, magic show, prize draw – Howaen Park

10am to 3pm: 31st Annual Haiku Competition – Shinso Community Center

June 22nd to 24th…10am to 3pm: Park-wide stamp rally – Howaen Park

June 24th…10am to 3pm: Outdoor tea party (Sekishu school) – Howaen Park

July 1st…10am to 3pm: Photography contest, Mito Komon members photo opportunities – Howaen Park

Other Events:

–          Craft and bake sale by the Shinso Women’s Group

–          Guided tour of area by the ‘Mito Historical Advisors’ resident tourism volunteers (Sat/Sun only)

–          A hydrangea display corner

–          Haiku-writing booth

Introduction to Ibarakese

Glad to see everyone’s enjoying this feature, has anyone tried using it in conversation yet ?;) This week’s Ibarakese:

みぐさい (migusai): pathetic, deplorable (mittomonai)

みしみし (mishimishi): solid, dependable, (as an order) buck up (shikkari)

みそっかす (misokkasu) : a falling out with friends, being left out of a group (nakamahazure)

水戸っぽ (Mitoppo) : a person from Mito, the characteristics being easily angered, easily bored, and argumentative

みるけん (miruken) : a word used by children while crossing their fingers to ward off another child’s ‘dirtiness’ (like cooties) (engacho)

みばいい (mibaii) : looks or outer appearance are good ;

Ex : その服のほうがみばいいよ→ sono fuku no hou ga miba ii yo, those clothes look better on you

みっちょ (miccho) : like, -ish, to seem like, (mitai)

Ex : 水戸っぽみっちょ→ Mitoppo miccho, (looks/acts/etc) like a person from Mito

A Taste of Summer

Did you know that Ibaraki is Japan’s number one producer of melons? Not only that, they produce roughly a quarter of all the melons grown in Japan, and boast of the highest quality among Japanese melons. Within Ibaraki, 65% of the melons produced come from Hokota City, an area bordering the Pacific Ocean near the middle of Ibaraki Prefecture.

Roughly 45 years ago farmers in the JA Ibaraki Asahikawa-mura area began growing prince melons as an alternative to their usual barley and potato crops, and soon discovered that the warm climate, large variation between daytime and evening temperatures, and the moist high-nutrient soil were perfect growing conditions for melons. Gradually the growing area increased and they began growing netted melons such as Andes melons as well, selling them across the country.

In order to better cater to consumers who have come to expect a high level of quality from Japanese melons, in 2004 they began using light sensors to select melons for distribution. Light sensor selection involves shining light from both sides of the melons and measuring the sweetness (sugar content) and ripeness (maturity) of the melons based on their translucence. Only melons that have achieved a certain standard are distributed to customers. For those who want the very best, there are melons with even netting and over 18% sugar content, which comprise only 1% of the total melons produced!

But, melons aren’t just for the rich. Like many other fruits and vegetables in Japan, you can go pick your own at certain farms, so-called melon-gari, or ‘melon hunting’. This time of year, May until the end of June, is the peak season for melons in Japan, so now is your chance to get your own perfect melon. To that end, here is a listing of places within the Hokota City area where you can pick your own melons, go for an all-you-can-eat feast, or just taste-test some of the country’s best fruit.

Minami Kajuengei


Period: June 1st to July 1st, 9am to 5pm

Caters to both individuals and groups (groups must make a reservation)

Options: Entrance fee of 525yen (includes taste testing)

–          U-pick (take home), 800yen/kg

–          All-you-can-eat (30 minutes, must reserve in advance), 1260yen adults, 840yen children (children under 5 are free)

JA Ibaraki Asahi-mura Sun Green Asahi


Period: End of May to end of June, 9am to 4pm

Caters to groups of 15 or more only

Please make reservations at least one week in advance

Prices: 1 for take-home and 1/2 of one for taste-testing = 2000yen

JA Kashimanada Farmer’s Market Nadarou


Period: May 15th to June 20th, Weekends only, 11am and 2pm

Caters to groups of 5 or more only

Reservations can be made as late as the day before

Options: U-pick – 1600yen

U-pick + taste-testing – 2000yen

Forest Park Melon no Mori


Period: May 3rd to July 8th, 10am to 5pm

Caters to individuals and groups

Reservations required on weekdays, not necessary on weekends (groups always need reservations)


1. Standard U-pick: 1/2 melon taste-test, 3 take-home, 4300yen/person

2. Taste-testing/5-variety comparison (starts June 1st, depends on season): 5 1/2 melons taste-testing, 3400yen/group (up to 2 people)

3. Family U-pick: 4 1/2 melons for taste-testing, 3 take-home, 5900yen/group (up to 4 people)

4. Single U-pick: 1/2 melon taste-test, 1 take-home, 1900yen/person

5. Perfect U-pick: 2 1/2 melons taste-test, 1 take-home, 2500yen/person

6. Twin U-pick: 1/2 melon taste-test, 2 take-home, 3100yen/person

7. Taste-testing/Taste one: 2 1/2 melons (as of June, 2 varieties), 1400yen/person

8. Taste-testing/Tasting: 1/2 melon, 800yen/person

9. Single Barbeque (serves one person) and U-pick: 1/2 melon taste-test, 1 take-home, 4300yen/person (groups of 5 or more only)

10. Perfect Barbeque (serves one person) and U-pick: 2 1/2 melons taste-test, 1 take-home, 4900yen/person (groups of 5 or more only)

11. Twin Barbeque (serves two people) and U-pick: 2 1/2 melons taste-test, 2 take-home, 9500yen/group (max 2 people)

12. Family Barbeque (serves 3 people) and U-pick: 4 1/2 melons taste-test, 3 take-home, 13,800yen/group (max 4 people)

13. Barbeque (serves one person) and taste-testing: 1/2 melon taste-test, 3200yen/group (groups of 5 or more only)

14. Barbeque only (serves one person): 2800yen/person (groups of 5 or more only)

15. Variety-specific, Yuki melon U-pick (as of June 1st): 1/2 melon taste-test, 1 take-home, 6500yen/person

16. Lunch and dessert (groups of 25 or more): 1/2 melon taste-test, 2300yen/person

Kenko Tasshaka-mura Shinsaku Noen


Period: Middle of June to Beginning of July, 8am to 5pm

Caters to individuals and groups (must have reservation, limit 50 people/day)

Reservations can be made as late as 3 days in advance

Prices: Entrance fee 500yen

U-pick (take-home) – 800yen/kg

The Strasbourg Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Exhibition

An invitation to modern art, from the city of food and art at Europe’s crossroads

Period: May 26th to July 16th

Location: Museum of Modern Art, Ibaraki

The city of Strasbourg, capital of the Alsace region of eastern France, has long flourished as an important transportation hub. Though Alsace was historically the stage for territorial battles between Germany and France, currently Strasbourg not only serves as a symbol of European harmony as a ‘European Capital’ and site of the European Parliament along with Brussels, it is also a popular tourist destination for its beautiful old city and Christmas markets. This exhibit will center around the collection of the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, from the historically rich city of Strasbourg which celebrates the blending and fusion of German and French culture and still has traces of the footsteps of Gutenberg and Erasmus, Goethe and Mozart. In addition to masters who have painted art history in their splendid colors, such as Alfred Sisley, Paul Gauguin, Paul Signac, and Pablo Picasso, there are also pieces from painters connected with the Alsace region such as Lothar von Seebach and Jean Arp. This collection begins with the Impressionists and passes through the 20th century to reach the modern era, giving a glimpse at the rich and variegated world of contemporary and modern western painters.

Related Events:

Art Seminar: Strasbourg the Border City, Living as both German and French

An introduction to the old capital of Strasbourg in its place between France and Germany, its symbolism of the unrest of European history, and the fascinating culture which allowed it to develop independently.

Date: June 16th, 1:30pm

Instructor: Uchida Hidemi (Seikei University Economics Department)

Location: Ground Floor Auditorium (limit 250 people, free entry)


Art Lecture: Strasbourg Museum Exhibition, an Introduction to Modern Art

Date: June 24th, 1:30pm

Instructor: Planning Section Assistant Curator Sawawata Mari

Location: Ground Floor Auditorium (limit 250 people, free entry)


Gallery Talk from the Curator

Date: July 8th, 1:30pm

Location: 2nd Floor Exhibition Hall (ticket needed)


Museum Theater: In the City of Sylvia

Director Jose Luis Guerin, collaboration between France and Spain, 85min

Date: July 1st; entrance at 1pm, curtains up at 1:30pm

Location: Ground Floor Auditorium (limit 250 people, free entry)


Museum Concert: Tanabata Concert, A Night of Impressionist Music featuring Violin and Piano

Date: July 7th; doors open at 5:30pm, curtains up at 6pm

Performers: Tachibana Chisato (pf), Mogitate Maki (vn)

Location: 1st Floor Entrance Hall (limit 200 people, free entry, must apply via reply postcard)


Art Forum: An Overview of Strasbourg, Introduction to Modern Art

–          Gallery Talk and Evening of Alsace Cuisine and Wine

A chance to view the exhibition and enjoy some Alsace cuisine and wine (light meal) from the museum’s own French restaurant ‘Petit Poire’.

Dates: June 17th, July 15th, 4-7pm

Strasbourg Exhibition Viewing (with gallery talk)

2nd Floor Exhibition Hall (ticket required)

An Evening of Alsace Cuisine and Wine

Restaurant Petit Poire (1500yen meal fee)

* limit 30 people for both, must apply via reply postcard

Itako’s 61st Annual Ayame (Iris) Festival

Period: Late May until the last Sunday in June

Location: Maekawa Ayame Park (main area)

This festival’s history goes back to 1952, when it was conducted by iris-lovers placing the cut flowers in beer bottles as decorations.

Within the park there are over 10 000 irises in roughly 500 varieties, and when they reach their peak blooming point the whole area is lit up with them. In previous years the best viewing day was June 10th.

Furthermore, there are many local events being held during the festival, such as the Bridal Boats, Iris Dancing, and much more.


Bridal Boats:

Up until the land reclamation operations conducted as part of local development in the first half of 1955, the Itako area was built upon a system of canals. For that reason, when a new bride and/or her goods were to be transported to her new home (the husband’s family home) it was done using a Sappa boat, which is where the term Bridal Boat comes from.

The Bridal Boats during the Ayame Festival will be operating along the Maekawa river within Ayame Park. First, after having arrived at the ‘Itako Bride’ memorial, the bride will walk along the pathway to the boat with her matchmaker and the boatman, then the boat will set off. Often the groom will be waiting at the dock of the destination and it will be a very celebratory mood. (may be cancelled due to weather)

Every Wednesday starting at 11am, Saturdays at 11am, 2pm, and 8pm, Sundays at 11am and 2pm (may change due to circumstances of the couple)


Other events include different kinds of dance performances, sailing demonstrations, an iris-growers exhibition, and more, mainly held on Saturdays during the festival period.