81st Annual Tsuchiura Fireworks Festival

Date: October 6th, 2012 (Saturday)

Location: Along the Sakuragawa River in Tsuchiura City (Near Gakuen Ohashi Bridge)

 

Tsuchiura Fireworks Festival, along with Omagari (Akita) and Nagaoka (Niigata) can be counted as the three biggest firework festivals in all of Japan. Bringing in first-class firework artisans from all over the country, one can enjoy beautiful and artistic fireworks at the Tsuchiura Fireworks Festival. Started in 1925 as a way to commemorate members of the Kasumigaura Naval Air Corps who died and to promote local shopping areas, the Tsuchiura Fireworks Festival turned into a festival where firework masters could compete against one another in 1946. Nowadays, the number of kinds of fireworks has expanded dramatically, and you will be able to see all of them here! The firework masters who take part in the Tsuchiura Fireworks Festival bring only the most prominent fireworks, and this festival will surely be called the best in Japan!

<Access>

■     By Car:

From Tokyo- 10 minutes from the Sakura-Tsuchiura IC exit

From Fukushima- 10 minutes from the Tsuchiura-Kita IC exit

■     By Train:

30 minutes walk from JR Joban Line Tsuchiura Station’s West Exit, or 10 minutes by shuttle departing from Tsuchiura Station’s East Exit.

*Please note, due to the high amount of traffic in the area, times are not exact

House of Clay

Fukuda Kiln is one of Kasama’s many intrepid solo kilns, currently run by the 12th generation of the family and covering a sprawling plot of land in the hills of the city. The instant you enter the courtyard you are confronted with the evidence of the biggest and most well-known characteristic of the world-famous Kasama pottery style: the individuality and free-spiritedness. Here and there are pottery statues in an slightly Picasso style, men or women, torsos and birds, even a giant vase roughly 5.4 meters tall. Originally there had been several of these giant vases, one of which held the record of the tallest in the world, but the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake left only the smallest standing in one piece. However, not to let good earthenware go to waste, the owners cleverly used the broken shards to create a mosaic-like yard area, complete with a clay loveseat for visiting couples.

The kiln itself produces large amounts of tableware and knickknacks, its tiny shopped crammed to the rafters with whimsical creations such as mugs with a face (complete with a nose to rest your glasses on!), ladle holders, and pins, as well as the standard cups, teapots and vases. However, most of the items have different glazes, some of a midnight blue with robin’s egg blue speckles, others with a smoky blend of orange, brown, grey and green; each piece has a sense of individuality among these more conventional shapes, and the pricing is perfect for gifts.

However, you could also elect to make your own pottery, if you’re willing to try your hand at clay creations. They offer 3 types of pottery classes, varying in price and complexity: hand-molding, painting, and spinning. Hold-molding is 1000 yen for an 800 gram cylinder of clay (which results in about 2 cups or one large bowl), and you receive instruction on different ways to make things before being set free for a few hours to see what you can produce. After you’re done they fire it and paint it for you (the artists choose the lacquer based on your work; on an interesting note, the type of glaze chosen varies based on the thickness, size, and height of the piece! Some colors and types go only with certain dimensions), and within 30 to 40 days it is ready for pick up or mail (separate fees for wrapping and postage).

Or, if you’re less confident in your manual dexterity, you can try your hand at painting something already created. Whether its pictures or letters or just a nice glaze, anything goes, and it only costs 400 yen per cup or 500 yen per plate. From there it takes another 15 to 20 days for firing and drying, and finally you can take it home. Lastly, there is spinning something on the potter’s wheel, which is much more difficult and somewhat more costly. The clay is still 1000 yen per 800 grams, plus 1000 yen for set-up fees and 300 yen and up for machine fees, which gives you an hour to do your worst; you also are asked to clean up when you’re done.

The staff are very kind and their explanations are thorough and easy to understand; within minutes of being shown various ways of manipulating the clay by hand we were off and running, 4 bowls slowly emerging from the dark brown lumps of earth. Not to mention, there are some who speak English and there is English signage around the compound as well. They do ask for reservations for groups of more than 10 people, but if you number fewer than that you will probably be able to drop by most days and get fit in (operating hours are from 9am to 5pm, excluding lunchtime).

As an added bonus, the kiln hosts two museums, one featuring Kasama pottery from previous generations and the other showcasing pottery from around the world. If you’re already in Kasama this is a nice way to kill some time on the weekend, but it is definitely worth the trip from outside of town too. The views of the mountains are quite pretty along the way, and there are worse ways to spend a few hours than laughing at your own skill (or lack thereof) at playing with clay.

Come, See, and Touch at the Kochia Carnival!

Date: September 15th – October 21st, 2012

Location: Hitachi Seaside Park (Hitachinaka City)

Admission: Adults \400, Children (15 and younger) \80

Free admission October 7th and 21st!

From September 15th until October 21st, Hitachi Seaside Park is holding the “Kochia Carnival,” where visitors can see over 36,000 kochia bushes, as well as over 4 million cosmos flowers!! Inside the park on “Miharashi Hill”, you can see the kochia changing to fall colors, as well as a wide field of cosmos flowers. It’s a view of fall you can only see here at Hitachi Seaside Park! Around mid-October, the pure-red kochia and cosmos flowers create a stunning view that you can’t miss.

Also, during this period of time, there are plenty events with greenery, flowers, and art as their themes inside the park. There will also be vendors that sell local Ibaraki produce and products, as well as fall sweets that are sure to make the perfect souvenir for anyone!

<Events Inside the Park>

■     Happiness to Japan! March of the Kochia*

You can turn the kochia into a marching band by dressing each one up! Through collaboration with an event at Hibiya Park in Tokyo, we will also gather grape hyacinths and sunflower seeds to send to those affected by the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake.

Dates: September 15th – October 21st    10:00-16:30

Location: Near the Terrace House

■     Kochia Quiz Rally*

While walking around Miharashi Hill, you can answer quiz questions. Those who correctly complete the entire quiz will be able to choose a wonderful present!

Dates: September 15th – October 21st     9:30-17:00

Location: Near Miharashi Hill

■     Aquarium in the Park!

Aquaworld will be bringing colorful tropical fish to the park.

Dates: September 15th – October 21st   9:30-17:00

Location: Terrace House

■     Photo Partner-Photo Gallery “Fall”*

Pictures that the volunteer group “Photo Partner” has taken throughout the park will be on display for all to see.

Dates: September 15th – October 21st    9:30-17:00

Location: Terrace House

■     Ibaraki Tasty Foods Place!

Come taste the delicious foods of fall, from the bounties of the earth to the happiness of the sea! Some famous dishes you will be able to enjoy include roasted ham and shirasu rice.

Selling dates: September 15th – October 21st

Selling location: Miharashi Square, Miharashi Village

 

* = no participation fee!

Quiche Niche

If you’re looking for a cool place to eat in Kasama, look no further than the mysteriously named Wasugazen Cafe nestled in the hills beside the Ibaraki Ceramic Art Museum. It’s hard to miss, considering it’s a giant yellow western-style house with a full patio right abut the roadway; there is even parking, with enough spots for quite a crowd. Once inside, the décor is warm, dark mahogany-colored woodwork with cool silver fixtures, and the first thing to greet you at the door is the glass display case full of the hand-backed desserts they offer for sale.

Though the inside is somewhat small, perhaps only seating 20 to 25 people, there is almost seating available on the well-appointed porch outside. The walkway is quaintly inlaid stones, the tables come with parasols to keep off the sun, and there is a bbq standing to one side, promising some delicious cookouts on summer nights. One of the more interesting features of the building is the bathroom; hidden behind a rather Spartan-seeming door is a fully-featured (the automatic tap even has a light so you can see where you’re washing!) and sparklingly clean set-up. Just outside the door is a large mirror, which is easily mistaken for some kind of artsy gate because of the clever positioning, which gives you a little privacy to tidy up before returning to your seat.

The menu is rather small, but packed full of appetizing favorites. Curry, ham sandwiches, salads, specially blended flavored teas, desserts, and my favorite, the quiche. There are two kinds of quiche, but they sell out fast; this time we were left with the potato and sweet potato quiche, which sounds like an odd combination with cheese. However, it was extremely well conceived and one of the best quiches I’ve ever had. Most dishes come with a small house salad, but you can also get a set that includes salad, soup, tea or coffee, and a dessert. The desserts are nice and light, ranging from peach jelly with peaches inside to fluffy chiffon cake to blueberry tarts, and reasonably priced so that they are quite attractive for finishing up the meal.

If you’re tired of the inari sushi and soba that the area is famous for, Wasugazen is a nice retreat for the spirit and the palate.

Ishioka Festival

Date: September 15-17, 2012

Location: City Center in front of JR Joban Line Ishioka Station, and Hitachinokuni Soujya Shrine.

The Ishioka Festival, one of the Three Great Kanto Festivals, is held every year at Hitachinokuni Soujya Shrine. From giant formal portable Shinto shrines, to luxuriously ornate floats and brave lion dancers pulling over 40 “lion carts” through the middle of town, this 3 day festival brings in over 400,000 visitors every year from all over Japan!

For more details and pics you can also check out my coverage of the festival from last year^^

<Schedule>

September 15th (Saturday)  

Main Festival・Shinkou Festival  8:30~ Rope Festival (Hitachonokuni          Soujya Shrine)

14:00~ Giant Portable Shinto Shrines (Hitachinokuni Soujya Shrine)

 

September 16th (Sunday)

Houshuku (Celebration) Festival   11:00~ Dedication Sumo (Hitachinokuni Soujya Shrine)

13:00~ Myoujin Portable Shrines, Sacred music (Hitachinokuni Soujya Shrine)

15:00~ Lion Cart Dance Parade (Street in front of the station)

19:00~ Float Parade (Street in front of the station)

 

September 17th (Monday)

Kankou Festival                    14:00~ Portable Shinto Shrines (Street in front of the station)

Introduction to Ibarakese 11

It’s finally getting a little cooler, just watch out for typhoons!

This we have ‘ho’;)

ほーかー、ほーけー、ほーがー (ho-ka-, ho-ke-, ho-ga-): Is that so? I see (sou nan da)

ほーたに (ho-tani): that much (sonna ni); ex: ほーたにおごんなくてもよかっぺよ (ho-tani ogonnakutemo yokappe yo) -> sonna ni okoranakutemo ii desho (you don’t have to get so angry about it)

 ほう (hou): hey, see, well (hora, hore, saa); ex: やっとほう (yatto hou) -> saa yaruzo (well, let’s do it)

ほがほが (hogahoga): I see I see, I understand, that’s right isn’t it (souka souka)

ほご (hogo): there, that (soko); ex: ほごじゃあんめ (hogo ja anme) -> soko ja nai daro (that’s not it!)

ほじゃあんめ、ほじゃんめ (ho ja anme, ho janme): that’s not right, what are you talking about (sou ja nai desho)

ほだ、ほだっぺ、ほだっぺよ (hoda, hodappe, hodappe yo): that’s right (sou da); also ほだほだ (hoda hoda) is more agreement (sou da sou da)

Tsukuba Craft Beer Fest 2012

Dates and Times: September 28th (Friday) 15:00-21:00 (Last Order 20:30)

September 29th (Saturday) 17:00-22:00 (Last Order 21:30)

September 30th (Sunday) 11:00-18:00 (Last Order 17:30)

Location: Tsukuba City, Tsukuba Center Square

Monument Plaza Forum (Aiai Mall, 1st Floor)

Price: Drink Ticket + Entrance Fee 500 Yen

(Entrance Fee only, 200 Yen) ※Elementary School Students and Under Free

Looking for a chance to try new beers? Well, the time has come! Finally, the beer fest’s energy and vigor has made its way to Tsukuba! You can clearly tell that the number of people who love craft beer is increasing. As of August 17th, 13 breweries are planning to take part this year. Furthermore, the Beer Fest’s Management Committee’s original craft beer will also be on display. Don’t miss this event!