Upcoming Events

Fish and Futsal

Oarai Angler Fish Festival

Date: November 18th (Sunday)
Location: Lawn in front of Oarai Marine Tower

There will be an international exchange booth located at the Oarai Angler Fish Festival. This year, the international booth will serve Indian and Nepali food. If you have a chance, feel free to stop by and savor genuine cuisines difficult to find anywhere else!


Tsukuba World Futsal 2012

Date: December 1st (Saturday)

Location: Sekisho Challenge Stadium

Let’s forget about what country we’re from and enjoy futsal together. Both individuals and teams can participate! There will also be attractions and stalls with food from around the world held at the same time.

For more information, visit: http://tsukubainfo.jp/

For info about Oarai or Tsukuba, please see our homepage!

One Day in Ibaraki

Flexing Their Wings

Amid the growing awareness of the increasing levels of truancy and drop-outs among Japanese junior high and high schools, the Japanese Ministry of Education (MEXT) quietly started a new project involving pilot schools across the country. As the second high school chosen in Ibaraki Prefecture to be part of this project, Yuki Flex School not only provides an alternative to the often rigid and oppressive regular system, it also gives students a chance to explore different paths in education and self-awareness.

The main concept of the new variety of high school was based on the idea of flexibility (hence ‘flex school’), dividing the day into the three equal sections of morning, afternoon, and evening, and allowing students to pick their preferred section. For students who just can’t do mornings, the afternoon classes are perfect; for those who work during the day to support themselves or their family, evenings work best. Not to mention, it is structured so that high school is completed in four years, with the option of speeding up to the usual three; by turning the classes into a credit-based system the school made it possible for students to go at a slower pace. In fact, it is even possible to start with the three year plan and switch over to four mid-way through, providing a much more relaxed environment.

But beyond just the time of day, students can also choose more of their preferred subjects, from a varied pool that includes yoga, dance, sign language, kimono-wearing, haiku, and pottery. All of the teachers for these elective classes come from outside the school; some are university professors, some are local artists, some are simply fellow residents. This is another part of the school’s special mandate, to make the school open to the community and attempt to create deeper ties between the students and other residents.

One of the more interesting classes is the so-called ‘psychology’ course; contrary to what you might assume, this is not a review of the great thinkers of our time or different theories. Rather, this class serves to help students develop more self-awareness and coping mechanisms, including techniques such as meditation and breathing exercises. The reason a course like this was introduced, and remains popular, is that, according to the principal, Mr. Matsumoto, many of the current students stopped regularly attending school during junior high. In fact, it was in response to these needs of the community, specifically the lack of accommodation and acceptance in regular schools, that Yuki Flex School was formed.

However, this is not a Free School, such as the one that exists in Tsukuba. When I inquired as to the difference Mr. Matsumoto pointed out that the Free School system often offers coursework online or through the tv, making attendance no longer mandatory. In comparison, Yuki Flex School does not offer distance education and requires attendance to complete the credit-based units for graduation. Another difference is the dress code; my visit to a Free School was a pleasant surprise, with students arrayed in all kinds of different, personalized clothing. Meanwhile, Yuki Flex School has a designated uniform that must be worn by the students at all times. So a Flex School operates in the middle-ground between the regular school system and the Free School system, providing yet another option for students.

In fact, Yuki Flex School is so popular, despite its class-size restrictions to maintain more interaction between students and teachers, that there are students attending from places as distant as Gunma! It is easy to see why, as it provides all the support necessary to get into university or college while still giving students more control and freedom in their lives.

I was lucky enough to be invited to visit the school as part of a group that included three guests from the Chinese city of Xi’an who were observing Yuki’s municipal functions with the help of a local member of parliament. We toured an art class, where students were working on recreating famous paintings, a dance class, where the students were trying to increase their flexibility, and finally the kimono class. Here the students learn the traditional Japanese method of putting on and wearing a full kimono, including how to make the different knots in the sash that ties it. It was amazing to see the students hard at work learning how to make a ‘stuffed sparrow’ style bow, each dressed in a modestly-patterned silk kimono. The teacher was even kind enough to let us guests try one on ourselves, giving us a better sense of the true difficulty involved in not only getting the kimono on but in making it look the way it should. The students I talked to said they really enjoyed this class and felt it taught them something useful they couldn’t get at any other school, and seemed quite invested in doing their best.

Despite having only been around for four years, and finally reaching the curriculum goals only in the last year, Yuki Flex School has proved to be popular not only with students and the local community, but with other schools and prefectures as well. As part of the future of Japan’s secondary education system, Yuki Flex School appears to be a step in the right direction; one that understands inclusion and variation are necessary for all to flourish.

For more information about Yuki, please check out our homepage!

Upcoming Events

Ibaraki Reconstruction Festival 2012 “Let’s enjoy all that Ibaraki has to offer!”

Dates: November 3rd (Saturday) and 4th (Sunday)

Times: 10:00am – 5:00pm (Saturday), 10:00am – 3:30pm (Sunday)

Location: Kasama Geijutsu no Mori Park (Kasama City)


Come take part in celebrating how far Ibaraki has come since the Great Easter Japan Earthquake. Take part in fun activities, watch amazing stage events, and eat delicious local foods over a two day span.


■     Stage Events■

Saturday: Saera, Dance Performance by JET Participants

Sunday: Kumiko, Spa Resort Hawaiians Dancing Team

Both days: DokiDoki☆Dream Campus

And many more!


■     Booths & Exhibits■

Delicious Ibaraki foods for sale, International Exchange Square, 32nd Arts Festival, Ibaraki Stone Festival 2012, and many more!



-By Car-

Take a free shuttle from one of these three free temporary parking areas:

Kyu-Chikusan Shikenjou Atochi (654 Asahi-machi, Kasama City)

Kasama City Sogo Park (867-1 Hakoda, Kasama City)

Kasama City Hall, Kasama Branch (717 Ishii, Kasama City)


-By Train-

Get off at JR Tomobe Station and take the free shuttle departing from the north entrance.


Get off at JR Kasama Station and take a paid bus, taxi, or rental bicycle to the park, or walk from the station to the park.


For more information, visit: http://www.ibaken.jp/

For more information about Kasama, please visit our homepage!

Upcoming Events

Construction Festival 2012

Date: October 28th (Sunday) 9:00am – 4:00pm

Location: In front of Hitachi Seaside Park’s West Gate

Free Admission!

Various public groups and construction companies are coming together to put on the Construction Festival 2012 in order to show local Ibaraki residents the necessity of successful social capital and the charm of construction. There will be different types of machinery on display, different art projects (some require a small fee), as well as different games for kids of all ages!


9:00am Opening Ceremony

9:45am Parent-Child Log Cutting Round 1

11:00am Wind-Instrument Performance

12:30pm Parent-Child Log Cutting Round 2

1:30pm Charity Auction

2:00pm Quiz Rally

3:00pm Mini Frame Raising Ceremony

Upcoming Events

Mito Machinaka Festival “An Earthquake Reconstruction Event”

Date: October 28th, 2012

Time: 11:00am to 4:00pm

Location: Mito City Center, Main Shopping District

(Between Mito Central Post Office and Daiku-machi Intersection)


Mito Machinaka Festival will be held to celebrate 2012, a year of reconstruction and advancement. Mito City Center’s Main Shopping District will be turned into a pedestrian’s paradise where movies, plays, gourmet, live performances, markets, and all of Mito’s charm will be condensed in to one! Various events and performances will line the streets, such as: remote controlled race cars, wheel-chair basketball, movies (500 yen), art work markets, Halloween events, Machinaka theatre plays (1000 yen), as well as various cafes and vendors selling food, farm products, and many other goods! A guide book will also be available the day of the festival that has an entire list of all the events and vendors! This is sure to be a festival you can’t miss!

For more info about Mito, please see our homepage!

Upcoming Events

Autumn Festival 2012

Date: October 21st, 9:30am to 5:00pm (Canceled in case of rain)

Location: Hitachi Seaside Park, near the Water Stage

Price: Free Admission!

Autumn Festival is being held in order to promote PR for the development of Hitachinaka and the usage of Hitachi Seaside Park, as well as creating a broad array of interactions between different areas to jump-start rejuvenation. On the day of the festival, there will be bus tours of the Hitachinaka area, local specialty goods for sale, folk entertainment performances, and lots of other fun events! Also, at the same time, those who attend will be able to enjoy the kochia and cosmos flowers of Hitachi Seaside Park.


■     Hitachinaka Area Bus Tour

Those who take the tour will be able to visit and see places normally not able to be seen, such as Hitachinaka Harbor, Japan Safe Driving Center, and Hitachi Construction Machinery Company’s factory.


■     Hitachinaka Area PR Corner

Hitachinaka Area’s development status and land planning will be introduced using panels and posters. While looking at the panels and posters, visitors will be able to answer quiz questions about Hitachinaka and win small prizes!


■     Stage Events

Local performers from Mito, Hitachinaka, Hitachiota, and Naka will perform. There will also be bingo games and PR from cities and towns across Ibaraki, and PR from Tochigi and Gunma as well.


■     Food Exhibits

Local foods from Hitachinaka, Toukai-mura, Mito, Hitachi, Ryugasaki, Hitachiota, Kasama, Hitachiomiya, Naka, Hokota, Ibaraki-machi, Daigo, and Oarai will be available to buy!

For more details about Hitachi Seaside Park, visit our homepage!


Zen and the Art of Pasta-Making

Nestled beside the roadside of the busy Yuki bypass is a small, unassuming building with a bright red sign reading Zen. This is the Zen Coffee and Cup Café (Ko-hi- to utsuwa Zen), half ceramic shop, half cozy haven. The ceramics are quite artistically made in the local Kasama pottery style and are priced accordingly, but what really shines is the small dining area. The walls are made of the traditional straw-and-mud style which is found in the homes of lords in the region; this style has the benefit of being cooler in the summer while still insulating in the winter, as well as providing a very unique atmosphere. On the side facing the road are several narrow floor-to-ceiling windows for light, but on the opposite side the window covers almost the whole bottom half of the wall, cleverly designed to look out on the adjoining garden area while hiding the rest of the neighborhood, creating the effect of a private, soothing space.

The menu has reasonably priced lunch sets that include salad, bread, main dish, drink, and dessert, and the daily specials are all quite appetizing. My colleague had the spicy mentaiko cream pasta, while I chose the mozzarella and eggplant tomato-sauce spaghetti, and both were al dente and richly flavored successes. For dessert I chose the Tarte Tatain, a French take on apple pie, and my colleague selected the pumpkin tart, which were both exquisitely delicious while remaining light and airy. One more delightful surprise was the option of herbal tea for the set drink; as someone who cannot have caffeine I am often forced to resort to orange or apple juice (neither of which finishes a meal off very well), but Zen has a fruit tea menu which includes the apple cinnamon tea I elected to enjoy after dessert.

One element that we weren’t able to fully enjoy, due to the season, was the tiny adjacent garden. Wreathed in vines that provide a shady canopy for the little patio area, the tiny space is a nice spot of soothing greenery to retreat to on a hot day. There were even fully-grown gourds hanging from the metal lattice holding the vines, giving it a slightly exotic atmosphere.

If you’re in the area and not in the mood for fast food be sure to look up Café Zen for a pleasant meal and some relaxation.

For more details on Yuki, please visit our homepage!

Upcoming Events

2012 Japan Foot Path Seminar in Namegata

“A search for unchanged lands, from shore-side to rural landscapes”

Dates: November 3rd and 4th, 2012

Location: Lake Echo (1389 Uzaki, Namegata City)


Seminar: Free

Meet and Greet: 5,000 yen

Foot Path: 2,000 yen (includes meal and souvenir)

Optional Tour (Sightseeing Sail-Boat Tour): 2,000 yen

Application Deadline: October 19th

What is Foot Path?

Originating in England, Foot Paths started as a way for residents to walk along paths and enjoy different scenery and views around town. In Japan, many public administrations and various groups have started to deploy this concept, from Hokkaido in the north all the way to Kumamoto in the south.

Once a year, the Japan Foot Path Association holds a big event in a different place in Japan. For each event, many organizations, NPOs, and local residents come together to participate and put on each event. On the first day, there is a seminar and introductions of the various places you can visit on the walk, and on the second day the actual walk takes place.

Namegata City holds many beautiful sights and places of which you can see, including shorelines, rural landscapes rich with nature, and other reminiscent Japanese sights. We plan on a “Namegata Foot Path” which allows you to enjoy the season in which Namegata vegetables are eaten, and one which brings together a laid back stroll and wonderful foods.

Daily Schedule:

November 3rd (Saturday)

1:30pm – Registration

2:30pm – 4:00pm – Seminar (choose 1 of 2)

–          People That Live Along the Shores of Kasumigaura and Transportation- (Professor Takashi Chiba)

–          Trying to Utilize the Story of the History of the East Country- (Professor Taro Miyata)

4:00pm – 5:00pm – Hospitality Attraction

5:30pm – 7:00pm – Meet and Greet (with local delicacies)

November 4th (Sunday)

8:30am – 9:00am – Registration

9:30am – 11:30am – One of Three Foot Path Experiences

-Lunch Break-

1:30pm – 2:30pm – Optional Sail-boat Tour (may be canceled due to bad weather)

What can you see?

Tour A: Tamatsukuri Fureai Course

The Shores of Lake Kasumigaura, Kasumigaura Fureai Land, an Old Mountain Keeper’s House, and Tofuku Temple.

Tour B: Takeda no Sato Course

Views of the Banks of the Takeda River, Ruins of Shinmei Castle, Views of Rural Landscapes, and Entsu Temple.

Tour C: Aso Jinya Course

Haguroyama Park, Kairyo Temple, Aso Clan House, and Views of Tennozaki Shore-lines.

※To register, please contact the Namegata Foot Path Planning Committee:

(Or have a Japanese friend contact for you)

TEL: 0291-35-2111

E-mail: name-shokan@city.namegata.lg.jp

Don’t forget to visit our homepage!