Sand Art and Haiku

2012 Hitachi Sand Art Festival

Date : July 15th, 10am

Location : Kawarago Port and Kawarago Beach, Hitachi

This year’s event includes many different attractions. There will be sand art creations on display from two internationally-recognized pros, and a section where you can learn how to make your own! There is also a dance contest, food and goods stalls, and a yukata contest with prizes. For those who want to spend more time in the water there is a touring boat and a banana boat to ride around on, so bring your bathing suits. To cap it all off, there will be a theatrical firework performance by Nomura Fireworks at 8pm.

Also running concurrently is the 5th Annual Challenge Festival in Kawarago.

There will be a free shuttle bus running from JR Hitachi-taga Station, and there will be no vehicles allowed in the area between 6 and 8:30pm, so hop on and leave your car behind. Come have some fun in the sun!


Tabi Cafe Vol.13 – Kitaura’s Lake Shore, the Moon as seen by Basho

Date: July 14th, 2:10 to 7:30pm

Locations: Taiyo Station, Fukusenji Temple, Daigiji Temple, Kitaura Kohan Station

Thanks to the collaboration of the Kashima Rinkai Line, we are offering programs such as ‘a walk as Matsuo Basho’ and ‘let’s all ride the train!’ through which you can enjoy the areas around the Kitaura Kohan and Taiyo Stations.

Program 1: A walk and a ride on the train (2:10 to 4:30pm)

Free participation, free snacks

2:10pm…meet at Taiyo Station (there are trains arriving from both directions at 2:07)

2:30pm…leave Taiyo Station

–          walking course: from Taiyo Station to Fukusenji Temple (round trip)

there will be a talk about cultural assets at the temple

4pm…let’s ride the Kashima Rinkai Line!

–          ride from Taiyo Station to Kitaura Kohan Station (5min)

210yen for adults, 110yen for children

Program 2: Talk session (4:40 to 6pm)

‘To learn about ancient times…’

Free participation, light meal and drinks provided

Location: Daigiji Temple *transportation from Kitaura Kohan Station will be via the staff’s vehicles

Program 3: Walking (6 to 7pm)

–          walking course: from Daigji Temple to Kitaura Kohan Station

there are trains leaving Kitaura Kohan and arriving at      Taiyo Stations for 6:42-7:21 and 6:47-7:27 respectively

Must register in advance through online form on website


Fish fun

Kasumigaura’s ‘Exciting Kids’ Summer Vacation!’

The period from July 16th (Marine Day) to September 1st (Kasumigaura Day) is Kasumigaura Water Quality Improvement Month.

As part of the events forming the Kasumigaura Water Quality Improvement Month, the Ibaraki Prefecture Kasumigaura Environmental Science Center will be hosting ‘Kasumigaura’s Exciting Kids Summer Vacation!’ for elementary and junior high age students.

This is a chance to learn everything about Kasumigaura, from plants to plankton, fish to water quality, a special series of courses provided this summer only.


1st Course – Kasumigaura’s Plants and Water Quality

July 22nd, 10am to 3pm

2nd Course – Kasumigaura’s Living Things

July 29th, 10am to 3pm

Location: Ibaraki Prefecture Kasumigaura Environmental Science Center and Kasumigaura Lakeshore

Meeting place: Ibaraki Prefecture Kasumigaura Environmental Science Center

15 groups of parents and children, from elementary to junior high age, free participation

There will be a bus provided from Tsuchiura Station east exit to the Center, departing at 9:30am and returning at 3:20pm

Please apply via phone or fax at the locations below:

Ibaraki Prefecture Kasumigaura Environmental Science Center, Environmental Activities Promotion Division

Tel : 029-828-0961  Fax : 029-828-0967


Shirosato’s ‘Fish-snatching Festival!’

Date: July 7th, 10am (moved to July 8th in case of heavy rain)

Location: Michi no Eki ‘Katsura’, Naka River riverbed

Due to its high popularity with children, we will once again be holding our annual ‘fish-snatching festival’. We will form a giant fish tank out of the Naka River riverbed so that everyone can enjoy trying to catch fish with their hands. Please feel free to invite your family and friends and come along!

Free participation


9:30 to 10am…participant registration

10am…opening ceremony

10:30 to noon…fish-snatching!

Summer sights

Summer Gourmet Street Vendor Fair and Surfing Festival

Date: July 7th and 8th, 10am to 4pm

Location: Oarai Coast (near Aquaworld, Oarai Swimming Area parking lot), free admission

Time to beat the heat with some tasty eats! This food fair will bring together famous foods from both local vendors and other prefectures, including a gathering of all the most popular yakisoba types from around the country. Among the local delicacies on hand are Ibaraki’s famous grilled ham as well as a melon soda float served right out of the melon! Also making a tempting appearance are Okayama’s Hiruzen yakisoba, Kanagawa’s Atsugi Shirokoro hormones, Tochigi’s Utsunomiya gyoza, Fukushima’s Aizu traditional sauce pork-cutlet rice bowl, and much more.

Guests include Japan’s 2012 Miss World representative Igarashi Nozomi (7th only), Ibaraki’s representative comedian Antoki no Inoki (both days), and owner and chef of Omotesando’s Ristorante Da Fiore Manaka Hideyuki’s Kitchen Ibaraki (7th only).

Furthermore, a surfing contest will be held over both days, open to both pros and amateurs, as well as a charity flea market and autograph event held by pro surfers!

Not to mention, both days will be free admission to the Aquaworld aquarium for junior high students and under. Other events for kids include making magnets out of seashells, stamp rally, Tanabata message writing, a bouncy castle and free balloons. Don’t miss it!


Ama-biki Kannon Ajisai Festival

The Ama-biki Kannon in Sakuragawa is a miracle-working Kannon goddess whose areas of expertise are childbirth, child-rearing, pregnancy, avoidance of disaster, and financial fortune, and is the 24th hallowed site of the Bando Kannon Sites. It is also well-known as a temple featuring beautiful seasonal flowers, such as sakura, botan (peonies), tsutsuji (azalea), ajisai (hydrangea), as well as the turning of the leaves in fall. In addition to making the entrance free to all visitors and encouraging relaxation, there are souvenirs available that can only be found at the Ama-biki Kannon temple.

This year’s Ajisai Festival runs from June 10th to July 20th, and the park will be filled with the water-colored blooms.

Introduction to Ibarakese

Soon we’ll have a little dictionary of our own going here^^ This week’s episode is brought to you by the letter U and the number 24;)


うーでもつーでもねえ、うーでもねえつーでもねえ (u- demo tsu- demo nee, u- demo nee tsu- demo nee) : no reply or news (from someone)

うすうす、うすらうすら (usu usu, usura usura) : to wander aimlessly, stroll (bura bura)

うすぱが、うすぱがやろ (usupaga, usupagayaro) : extremely harsh insult/derogative name (baka, bakayaro-)

うたう (utau) : tell, talk ; ex : うたっちゃあど (utacchaado) -> iitsukechau yo (I’ll tell you what to do)

うだでー (udade-) : sluggish, languid, listless (kattarui)

うちんて、うちんてら (uchinte, uchintera) : my family ; can also be used to describe your social/work group

うっちゃりぼっけ (uccharibokke) : leave alone, leave in peace,

うっちゃる (uccharu) : 1. throw away  2. set free, cast away

うでっこぎ (udekkogi) : with all your might, doing your utmost (seiippai)

うの、うぬ (uno, unu) : you (slang, over-familiar, derogatory) (omae)

うわっぱり (uwappari) : coat, sweater, upper garment (usually with something underneath)

New Eyes

Do you remember the first time you came to Japan? If you were like most of us, your eyes were sparkling with delight and wonder, your body possessed by an itch to explore every nook and cranny, and you were hooked from the instant you stepped outside. Have you ever wondered what that you might have looked like at that moment of discovery? I recently got the chance to witness this eureka euphoria firsthand as I got involved with the inaugural group from the Kizuna Project.

The Kizuna Project was created by the Japanese Government as a way of re-igniting the passion for Japanese tourism that had been somewhat diluted by the aftermath of the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake. The plan is to invite an estimated 9000 students from schools all over Asia and North America to come visit Japan for short or long term, and send another 2300 or so Japanese students abroad to some of those same schools as an exchange. While the students are in Japan they are given a tour of some of the most famous attractions, including, of course, Tokyo and its myriad facets, Kyoto, and Osaka. During that period they also spend some time with a Japanese family as part of homestay, and visit one of the prefectures struck by last year’s earthquake disaster so they can get an idea of the full impact of the tragedy and its lasting effects on the area. The ultimate goal of the project is to have these students return to their home countries and spread the word about their experiences in Japan, about the safety of tourism in Japan, and about the resilience and spirit of the Japanese people.

To that end, the first group spent 4 days in Ibaraki as soon as they arrived in Japan. Around 50 Students from Allderdice High School in Pittsburgh and Meridian High School in Idaho were united upon arrival and brought wide-eyed and jetlagged to meet the Prefectural Governor. All students were originally taking Japanese classes in their hometowns, and had already had some kind of introduction to Japanese culture through their studies, but it was fascinating to see them confronting it in person for the first time. Those who were chosen to meet the governor asked well-though-out questions about attracting industry to the area and making use of the entertainment industry to re-start tourism. But having seen very little so far it was too soon for the real excitement to set in.

However, by the third day there was no stopping them. They were brought to Hitachi Ni-ko High School to experience Japanese school life and meet students their own age, and from the instant their buses pulled into the parking lot the powder keg was lit. Though both groups of students were initially quite nervous and kept to themselves, it was clear they very much wanted to meet the other; it wasn’t until they were forced to play a game where they found a student from the other group and got them to teach them a new word in their language that things got interesting. Soon the room was filled with excited chatter as both groups realized that, despite the ever-present language barrier, they could communicate. The fascination with the ‘other’ took over and the room was overflowing with energy within seconds. When I asked the Japanese students what they thought it was interesting to hear their responses: ‘They speak Japanese so well!’ after the Idaho group sang a self-written song in mixed Japanese and English; ‘I saw someone who looks like Winnie the Pooh!’; ‘The girls are all so pretty!’. The Americans were equally enthusiastic, exclaiming over the cuteness of the girls (it was an all-girl school) and exchanging facebook contacts. In fact, many of the Americans told me that this interaction period had been the best part of the trip so far, and their euphoria was practically tangible.

Soon after the Americans were split into two-person groups and sent off to participate in regular Japanese classes. As I visited some of the groups it was interesting to see what they thought of school. Some students pointed out the different definition of ‘home economics’ they used here, others felt that the biology classes were much more hands-on. However, most students I talked to felt less surprise than wonder; almost universally they told me that they already knew what to expect when they got here and that this experience was exactly what they’d expected. Whether through anime or other forms of visual culture they had already come to know Japan, and were rather thrilled to find it exactly as they’d hoped; in fact, it seemed to me that they were overjoyed to actually be inside this world they had viewed externally for so long.

Later the students split into their high school groupings to make posters of encouragement for the local residents, after having viewed the damaged areas the previous day. Many felt that talking with a local fisherman in Kita-Ibaraki about the tsunami and its impact on his livelihood had been extremely meaningful, and actually seeing Otsu Port and the remaining damage there had helped them get an idea of the scope of the disaster. When I asked what his favorite part of Ibaraki had been one student mentioned Rokkakudo and its exquisite beauty; when I told him that it had been completely swept away last year and entirely rebuilt since he was amazed at the speed and craftsmanship. Others cited the architecture of the homes, or the traditional sleeping style with tatami and futon, or the kindness and generosity of the Japanese people they had met here. And every single student I asked immediately said they wanted to come back to Japan.

So, it seems the Kizuna Project’s first group is already fulfilling the aims of the project. Watching their excitement build with each experience and hearing their passion for a future connected with Japan reminded me of myself not so many years ago. Seeing things through their eyes helped me recall the wonder I held myself at that time, and it was exciting to hear their plans for the future. Hopefully these new spokesman will return to their country with tales that will inspire others to visit these shores, and hopefully someday they themselves will be able to return and continue the cycle of discovery and experience that is the beginning of new bonds between both individuals and nations.