53rd Annual Mito Komon Festival

Dates : Aug 2-4, 2013

Location : North and South of Mito Station

This famous festival has been held the first weekend of August every year since 1961, celebrating the last lord of the Mito Domain. The festival itself is one of the biggest held in Ibaraki all year, and features a show of 4500 fireworks, a parade with dancing, portable shrines, and floats, and community carnivals.

Schedule:

August 2nd       Lake Senba         7:30-8:30pm         Firework exhibition (postponed to Aug 9th in case of rough weather)

 

August 3rd         From Mito Central Post Office to Daiku-machi (North)

10am – 9pm    Floats

2pm – 4pm    Mito Komon Parade

2pm – 3pm     Children’s portable shrine parade

4:30 – 9pm     Mito Community Carnival

Between Hon-cho 1 and Hon-cho 3

10:30am – 12pm  Mito Komon Parade

2 – 9pm         Hon-cho Town Festival

Mito Art Gallery Plaza

1 – 8:30pm      Summer Dream Music

Minami-machi Free Plaza

10am – 9pm    Summer Dream Festa

Mito Station North Exit Pedestrian Deck

11am – 5pm     Town Festival

August 4th         From Mito Central Post Office to Daiku-machi (North)

10am – 9pm    Floats

2 – 6pm        Portable shrine parade

6 – 9pm        Town Festival

Between Hon-cho 1 and Hon-cho 3

10am – 12:30pm  Portable shrine parade

Mito Art Gallery Plaza

12:30 – 8:30pm    Summer Dream Music

Minami-machi Free Plaza

10am – 9pm    Summer Dream Festa

Mito Station North Exit Pedestrian Deck

11am – 5pm     Town Festival

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2013 Oarai Ocean Fireworks Festival

Date: July 27th (July 28th in case of cancellation), 7:30 – 8:45pm

Location: Oarai Sun Beach (Accessible via bus from Oarai Station)

The focus of this fireworks festival is ‘the bigger the better’, with 10-hit runs of extremely large individual fireworks, big displays, wide-area displays, a display set to music, and a firework with a diameter of 500m in the air! Nomura Fireworks, the winners of the Prime Minister Award, will be running the show.

This year’s program has undergone a slight change, as the usual finale with the ultra large fireworks will be followed by a fireworks display set to music like the one that was so popular last year. Come enjoy this beautiful symphony of fireworks and music by the sea. There will also be a firework cruise on the Nippon Maru luxury liner, for a new and unique way to enjoy the show.

It is expected that traffic on the day will be fairly intense, so please be aware of this in advance.ooarai2013

Spirit Skills

You may be surprised to know that the original Aikido dojo was founded in Iwama, Ibaraki, in 1945. This is where Ueshiba Morihei settled in the later years of his life, building the Aiki Shrine first and then the dojo which soon became the world headquarters. Though the original dojo was severely damaged and reconstructed after the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake, the newly renovated dojo still accepts students and is located not far from current Iwama Station.DSCN5055

Aikido, known as a martial art that endeavors to protect both the attacker and the practitioner from harm, not only focuses on the physical aspects of training but also on the spiritual. This is clear from the close connection between the dojo and the Aiki Shrine across the street, where the carefully raked gravel (in familiar zen-like patterns) speaks to the dedication of the students. In fact, during the time when the dojo was uninhabitable the students used the main house of the shrine for practices. The shrine is surrounded by a small wooded area, and also features a commemorative bronze statue of Ueshiba Morihei. DSCN5054

These days the dojo operates on a daily basis, accommodating both regular and live-in students. Live-in students pay a fee for their accommodations and practice three times a day, once at 6am, once at 2pm, and once at 7pm, and in between they are in charge of maintaining the grounds and other small tasks. Regular students are free to come a few times a week in the evenings for practice at a lesser fee, but are not required to take part in maintenance.DSCN5058

The dojo itself looks rather new, but still follows the same design principles as the original. In keeping with the Iwama style of Aikido, which promotes weapons training, there are even wooden swords on the walls for practice. There are several foreign live-in students among the practitioners so there is a good chance you will be able to attend without being a complete master of Japanese. However, even if you are just interested in visiting the birthplace of modern Aikido it is only a few minutes walk from the train station and can be an interesting side trip.DSCN5061

32nd Annual Ushiku Kappa Festival

Date: July 27th and 28th, 3pm – 9:30pm

Location: Ushiku

Ushiku’s familiar blend of traditional dance and modern entertainment is back again this year, and promises to be quite a sight to see. In addition to the parade and dance performances, there is also a main stage with special guests and a live music stage packed with local bands.

Live Stage Schedule:

27th

3pm – QUESTION!, 3:30pm – 840, 4pm – HATTIN, 4:30pm – sugarDaddy, 5pm – MINT, 5:30 – Higher Ground, 6pm – Go-Yah!, 6:30pm – Inaba, 7pm – BASTOS

28th

3pm – Nitta Band, 3:30pm – MMS Band, 4pm – Limit Crush!!, 4:30pm – Solid29, 5pm – Mile stone, 5:30pm – The Hoochie Coochies, 6pm – MASH, 6:30pm – JAPINA ROCKING, 7pm – Folky na Sekai

 

Music Parade:

On both days starting at 3pm local elementary school students will be performing in the parade, 8 schools total over the course of the festival.

The rest of the parade comprises Ibaraki’s traditional Yosakoi and other festival dances, with thousands of participants stretching all the way down Hanamizuki Street.

 

Main Stage Schedule:

27th 3pm – Time and Space Warrior Ibaliger

A hero who moves through time and space to rescue the desolated future and protect Ibaraki from the evil Jaaku military group which thrives on the hatred, anger, and greed of human hearts. Ibaliger is equipped with an ‘expo dynamo’ that changes proper emotions such as love, kindness, happiness, hope, and thoughtfulness into power, so the more you support him the better he fights!

7:30pm – Celebrity Impersonations

Nakajima Mari and Danzy will be showing off their vast repertoire of celebrity impressions to awe and amuse the audience. They even have costumes for each one!

28th 7pm – Japanese Song Performance

Nishikawa Hitomi will sing her hits and most recent songs, covering a range of traditional Japanese ballads.

7:30pm – Ono Masatoshi

Active in the Japanese music industry for over 20 years and boasting of a voice that spans 4 octaves, Ono Masatoshi’s songs have been chosen as the theme song for television dramas and anime shows alike.

 

Free shuttle buses will be running from both Ushiku Station and Hitachino-Ushiku Station through the major areas. The area around the festival will be closed to cars for the duration of the festival, so please make use of the buses.

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2013 Shimodate Gion Festival

Dates and locations :

July 25th, 6pm – 10pm, Shimodate Station North Exit, and South Area (6:30-7:30pm)

July 26th, 6pm – 10pm, Shimodate Station North Exit

July 27th, 6pm – 10pm, Shimodate Station North Exit

July 28th, 6am – 9am, Kanai-cho Gogyo River bank

Chikusei’s biggest summer festival, with portable shrines carried by both men and women and the portable shrine river-crossing as the grand finale!

This festival features the Meiji Portable Shrine, built in 1895 to celebrate the end of the war with the Qing Dynasty, the Princess Portable Shrine, built for local deity Princess Tamai, and Japan’s largest portable shrine, the Heisei Portable Shrine. There will also be over 30 children’s portable shrines also wandering around the city, making for quite a visual feast.

In the early morning of the last day the shrines will be purified of all the pollution collected during the festival via the ‘river-crossing tradition’ held in the Gogyo River that runs through the city.gion2013

A Little Prayer

A short walk from Fukuhara station lies the Izumo Shrine complex, which houses the well-named restaurant Priere (prayer). This laid-back eatery offers high quality soba, udon, and tempura meal sets with quite a lot of volume; the broth for the noodles is a flavorful combination of chicken, pork, and onion shoots, and the tempura is perfectly cooked to give flavor without grease.DSCN5028

The menu also offers desserts and a wide selection of cold and hot beverages, including fresh, pure apple juice directly from Akita Prefecture (the owner’s parental home). Of special note is the large collection of herbal teas on offer, which are not bagged teas but free leaves that are served in a special decanter for ease of brewing. In addition to the normal mint and chamomile they also have blends targeted for different effects, such as a mix of rose, lemon grass, and marrow for aiding digestion and some lemon grass and lavender for tired eyes.DSCN5011

The restaurant itself has a small patio for those who would prefer to dine outdoors when the weather permits, and the interior is lit mainly by natural light to give a relaxing effect. The windows look out onto the lush greenery of a Japanese mountain forest all year round and the seating arrangements are plain but spacious. Music box versions of various popular songs (Unchained Melody, My Heart Will Go On, etc) play over the speakers to add to the soothing ambience, and the staff is extremely courteous and friendly.DSCN5012

Because it is connected directly to the gift shop (where the entrance lies) there is also a selection of beautifully crafted glass pieces on display for purchase. Some of these pieces were imported directly from the famous glass houses in Venice, with their long-protected secret filigree technique being used to full effect. Others were handmade by the shrine’s head priest in the adjoining glass-blowing workshop, and still others were donated by a friend of said head priest. All in all it gives the sense of being inside a small art gallery just to peruse the works on display. Whether you are just in the area or stopping by to visit the shrine, Priere offers a nice place to fuel up before moving on.DSCN5027

Old and New Events

43rd Annual Takahagi Festival

Dates : July 27th and 28th

Location: Main street in front of Takahagi Station

This festival involves Mikoshi parades with lion-dancers and floats, music and dancing and food, and on July 27th at 7:30pm there will be a fireworks display. Come make some warm summer memories in Takahagi!taka2013

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Hitachi Eco Festival 2013

Date : July 27th, 10am – 4pm

Location : Hitachi Civic Center, Shin-Toshi Area, Marble Hall

This annual environmental summer event involves lots of homemade fun and new experiences.

 Events:

Exhibitions of environmental products, technologies, and activities

Eco Car round-up: low impact cars from each maker will be on display and available for test drives

Overview of various environmental organizations

Display and sale of local agricultural and horticultural products

Helping others via donating plastic bottle caps

Eco stamp rally

Stage area: character shows, dance and musical performances

Gourmet corner: curry, yakisoba, okonomiyaki, shaved ice, and much much moreecofes