Upcoming Events

No.1 Soup Cup 2015

When: 10am – 3pm, February 8th, 2015
Where: Hitachiota Station Square, Hitachiota

During this event, delicious soups will be pitted against one another so visitors can vote to decide which soup is the most delicious! There are literally no losers in this day of delectable soup sampling. Head to Hitachiota Station to warm up at this lively event. Try miso soup, clear soup, tofu and vegetable soup, curry soup, stew, and much, much more. Don’t miss out!

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Upcoming Events

Chikusei Hinamatsuri

When: February 7th – March 8th
Where: Shopping area north and south of Shimodate Station and the Alterio, Chikusei

20150207 Chikusei HinamatsuriHinamatsuri, also known as the Doll Festival or Girls’ Day, is held on March 3rd every year. Many places display dolls for around a month before the day of the festival. Visit Chikusei and admire the numerous displays around the station area and the main exhibition area, the Alterio. The displays will feature Tsurushi-bina, origami tapestries made by children, dolls made from gourds and pottery, and much, much more.

Special Events

6th Annual Shimodate Night Market
When: 1-9pm, February 28th
Where: The square in front of the Alterio
A 5m high giant tiered doll display stand will be on show.

Chikusei Hinamatsuri Hinameguri Jazz Show
When: 4:30pm onwards, March 1st
Where: Shimodate Chiiki Koryuu Centre, Alterio 1st Floor Assembly Hall
Capacity: 150 people
Session 1: 4:30-6:10pm
Shimodate Nishi Junior High School Orchestra, Shimodate Factory Jazz Band & Takana Miyamoto Joint Concert
Session 2: 6:30-8:30pm (2×45 min sets)
Takana Miyamoto Piano Trio with Special Guest Keizo Nakanishi

Upcoming Events

13th Annual Makabe Hinamatsuri

When: February 4th – March 3rd, 2015
Where: Downtown Makabe in Sakuragawa

Hinamatsuri, also known as the Doll Festival or Girls’ Day, is held on March 3rd every year. Many places display dolls for around a month before the day of the festival. Head to Makabe to marvel at the numerous doll displays that will decorate the town during the Hinamatsuri period.

Buses will be running to Makabe during the Hinamatsuri period:

Makabe no Hinamatsuri Bus
Period: February 21 – March 3
Route: TX Tsukuba Station – Makabe Gymnasium

Wa no Kaze Bus
Period: February 21 – March 3
Route: Iwase Station – Makabe Gymnasium

Upcoming Events

7th Annual Naka Hinamatsuri

When: 9am – 4:30pm, January 31st – March 8th
Where: Various locations around Naka

20150131 7th Annual Naka Hinamatsuri

Hinamatsuri, also known as the Doll Festival or Girls’ Day, is held on March 3rd every year. Many places display dolls for around a month before the day of the festival. Head to Naka to see beautiful doll displays all around the city.

Display Locations

Naka Magariya
Address: Naka-shi Sugaya 4520-1
PH: 029-295-1315

Naka Rekishi Minzoku Shiryoukan
Hina Doll Exhibit – features dolls from as far back as the Edo Period
Address: Naka-shi Tozaki 428-2
PH: 029-297-0080

Naka City Hall
Address: Naka-shi Fukuda 1819-5
PH: 029-298-1111

Naka Chuuou Kouminkan
Address: Naka-shi Fukuda 1819
PH: 029-298-5680

Sougou Centre Raporu
Address: Naka-shi Kotoku 371
PH: 029-296-1651
Naka Municipal Library (closed on the last Thursday of every month)
Address: Naka-shi Sugaya 2995-1
PH: 029-352-1177

Fureai Centre Yokobori
Address: Naka-shi Yokobori 1526-1
PH: 029-296-2111

Shizu Hills Country Club (closed when it snows)
Address: Hitachiomiya-shi Oba 5766

*The Rekishi Minzoku Shiryoukan, Chuuou Kouminkan, Sougou Centre Raporu, and the Municipal Library are closed on Mondays. If Monday is a public holiday, they are closed the following day

Special Events

Tsurushi-bina Festival*
When: 10am – 3pm, March 1st
Where: Naka Magariya and Ichinoseki no Tameike Shinsui Koen
Tsurushi-bina are small stuffed dolls. This festival will feature doll displays, a taiko performance, stalls, a performance of the traditional Kadobe Hyottoko Dance, and much more.

*Cancelled in poor weather

Naka Tsurushi-bina Committee Original Goods Sale
When: Every Wednesday-Sunday and public holidays during the Naka Hinamatsuri
Where: Naka Magariya
Buy small hand-sewn goods, Tsurushi decorations, fabric sets, cookies, madeleines, and more

IbarakEATS!

Tjangala Cafe

The backstreets of Koga are probably the last place you would expect to find an Australian Aboriginal art gallery, and yet that is where you will find Tjangala Cafe.

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Mr. Onuki, owner of this unique set up, first visited Cairns in Northern Australia many years ago to see the Great Barrier Reef, but found himself lured further and further inland by the culture of the Australian Aboriginal people. Across 11 years, while working as a public servant, Mr. Onuki read about Aboriginal culture and visited Aboriginal communities in inland Australia. During this time he also did independent research into the art of the Aboriginal people, which is closely linked to their culture and way of life.

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The Australian Aboriginal people are Australia’s first people, and it is estimated they have been living in Australia for around 50 thousand years. Although there were once between 250-300 languages and over 600 dialects used by the Aboriginal people, none of these languages had a written script – instead, Aboriginal people traditionally used pictures to convey a vast number of things from Dreamtime stories, and history to the location of food and water and other useful everyday information.

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Mr. Onuki is particularly captivated by the distinctive art of the Western Desert region. In 1971, a school teacher named Geoffery Bardon introduced acrylic paints to the people of Papunya, a remote Aboriginal settlement west of Alice Springs, and they began to paint on canvases, which was the beginning of the Western Desert Art Movement, known for its innovative ‘dot painting’ style.

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Lynette Corby Nungurrayi

Mr. Onuki decided to establish Tjangala Cafe to introduce some of these amazing artworks to the Japanese community, and to create a space where people could appreciate them. The name Tjangala is an Aboriginal skin name used by the Pintupi people of the Western Desert, and it was given to Mr. Onuki when he visited the Aboriginal community of Utopia. In addition to displaying a sizable collection of artwork from numerous Aboriginal artists, Tjangala has also hosted a number of these artists over the years.

Maureen Nampijinpa

In 2007, when Tjangala first opened, two artists from the Mount Liebig Aboriginal community visited he cafe and created artworks. In 2011, Maureen Nampijinpa from Mt. Allen visited Japan, creating artworks and giving talks in Kobe and Tjangala Cafe. In 2012, Barbara Weir, who previously visited Japan in 2008 and spoke at the opening ceremony of the hugely popular art exhibition Utopia: The Genius of Emily Kame Kngwarreye with fellow artist Gloria Peyarre, visited Tjangala Cafe. During her stay she created artworks and gave a talk to the large crowds who came to see her. Many of the works painted by these artists can be viewed at Tjangala.

Barbara Weir
Barbara Weir

Many other Aboriginal artists have visited Japan in the past. In August 2008, Maureen Napaltjarri, and Norma Kelly, two artists from the Mount Liebig Aboriginal community, participated in Yomiuri Television’s summer program ‘Waku Waku Takarajima’, and created artworks with local children. Five women from the Mount Liebig community visited Iwaki in Fukushima on March 11, 2012, one year after the Great East Japan earthquake, to attend a memorial and revival event. They performed a traditional song and dance to pray for those affected by the earthquake and tsunami. It is hoped that with the cooperation of Melbourne-based Aboriginal Art Coordinator Mayumi Uchida many more Aboriginal artists will visit Japan in years to come.

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Tjangala has a diverse menu, ranging from curry and spaghetti to sandwiches and sweets, including apple pie, pumpkin cake, and brownies. I recommend the Aussie-style toasted sandwiches – I tried the egg and ham sandwich and was not disappointed. They also offer a wide range of delicious Australian teas and blends of coffee, as well as soft drinks, wine, and beer.

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In addition to its Aboriginal art related events, Tjangala also plays venue to a number of musical performers. Most recently in November they hosted a Jazz performance. You can keep an eye on what events are scheduled on Tjangala’s website.

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Tjangala is open from 11am – 8pm, and is closed Tuesdays and the final Monday of each month. They also take a break over New Year’s. The cafe is located a 20 minute walk from Koga Station, close to Koga First High School. I highly recommend you visit Tjangala next time you are in Koga to experience the extremely friendly, family-like atmosphere, enjoy the delicious food and drink, and appreciate the unique and beautiful artworks of the Australian Aboriginal people.

Tjangala Cafe Details
Address: 306-0012, Ibaraki-ken Koga-shi Asahi-cho 2-16-8
Tel: 0280-32-4724
Website: http://www.tjangala-cafe.jp/index.html

One Day in Ibaraki

Hitachi Seaside Park

Hitachi Seaside Park is a government run garden and amusement park located along the coast in Hitachinaka, Ibaraki that has enough beauty and scenery to enjoy at any time of the year.

West Entrance

Before opening as a park in 1991, the land where Hitachi Seaside Park is currently located had been used for a variety of reasons, and has changed hands many times over the past 80 years or so. Starting in 1938, the Mito Army Flight School was located at the sight, and many Japanese pilots were trained there during WWII. After losing the war, the land was confiscated by the United States Army in 1946, and was used as an U.S. Army firing range until 1971 when training operations were ceased. During that time, many local residents were displeased with having the firing range there, and there was even an accident in 1949 where a local was killed due to a misfire. Finally, on March 15th, 1973, the entire area was returned to the Japanese Government, and the plans to develop the area into the park it is today began.

Currently, Hitachi Seaside Park is made up of seven different areas covering a total of 190 ha (470 acres, 2 sq km). Each area has a specific theme, and different types of plants and flowers can be seen. One of the areas, named the Pleasure Garden, even consists of an amusement park where nearly 30 different attractions, including a giant Farris wheel, can be enjoyed. The park also is home to an 11km long bike path (rental bikes available!) that winds its way through all seven areas, so you can enjoy the wonderful scenery without having to wear out your legs by walking around the enormous park.

HSP Farris wheel

Merry Go Round

With a vast variety of flowers that bloom at various times of the year, there is almost no point during the year where there isn’t something to see at the park. In the spring there are tulips, nemophila (baby blue-eyes), and rapeseed blossoms. In summer there are poppies, linaria, zinnia, sunflowers, and green kochia. In the fall, the kochia slowly turn red, and there are cosmos and Hitachi fall buckwheat flowers. In winter, ice tulips (tulips that bloom with snow on the ground) and daffodils can been enjoyed. Finally, an array of natural wild flowers and grasses can be seen and various points all year round.

Cosmos 1

Pampas

Tamago no mori

By far, the most popular flowers are the nemophila flowers in spring and kochia in the fall. Both are planted across an area called Miharashi Hill, which is also home to two traditional Japanese houses, one from the mid 1600’s and one from 1706, relocated from different parts of Japan. During the nemophila season (between late April and mid-May), nearly 4.5 million blossoms can be seen. Dyeing the entire hill a vivid blue, the sky and nemophila flowers create an ocean of blue as far as the eyes can see. It truly is a breathtaking sight.

Nemophila 1

Nemophila 2

Traditional Japanese Houses

Nearly 32,000 green kochia (also called “broom-grass” in Japanese, as they can be dried and made into brooms) are planted as seedlings by hand at the beginning of July. As the plants grow, the space between them shrinks and the entire hill takes the form of a fluffy green cloud. As fall progresses, the green kochia slowly turn a deep red. (Since the park mainly consists of evergreen trees, it is said they started planting kochia so that visitors can truly experience all four seasons.)

Kochia 1

Kochia 2

Red Kochia

Next to the hill, nearly 2 million cosmos bloom in shades of pink, red, and white in order to further accent the red kochia. The guide said that the ratio of pink, red, and white is the park’s own special blend with a higher percentage of pink flowers in order to better match the kochia. Also, in the area in front of the traditional Japanese houses, nearly 1.5 million white Hitachi fall buckwheat flowers bloom. Many visitors try their best to angle their cameras to capture all three areas in one shot. After the kochia dry out the park cuts them, and visitors can try their hand at making kochia brooms as well. The cut kochia are also used in the park’s yearly giant zodiac drawing which is usually on display until early January. (The fluffy kochia are a perfect match for 2015, which is the year of the sheep!)

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Kochia brooms

Giant Sheep 2015

To go along with the nemophila and kochia seasons, the park has created various treats only available during each season. Some of the treats include nemophila ice cream, kochia ice cream, nemophila curry, and kochia curry. The bright red and blue curries are quite the sight, but the park guide assured us that the flavor is none other than a delicious curry. I definitely recommend them to anyone who is interested in trying strange looking dishes!!Kochia Ice Cream Nemophila Curry Kochia CurrySo if you are looking for a nice place to take your family or simply looking for a place to stretch your legs and take in some beautiful nature, Hitachi Seaside Park is a must see in Ibaraki!

Address: 605-4 Onuma-Aza, Mawatari, Hitachinaka, Ibaraki 312-0012

Tel: 029-265-9001

For admission fees, park hours, and days closed, please check Hitachi Seaside Park’s English homepage here.

Upcoming Events

63rd Annual Katsuta Marathon

When: January 25th, 2015
Where: Ishikawa Exercise Square, Hitachinaka

20150125 63rd Annual Katsuta Marathon

Hitachinaka will be bustling with activity on the weekend of this massive event. The Katsuta marathon has a long history – it was first held in 1958. This year over 10,000 people are expected to run. Come along and cheer for the contestants in what is sure to be an exciting race! There will be plenty of stalls selling food, drink, and souvenirs in the Ishikawa Exercise Square.

Check out a map of the course here on the official website. At the bottom of the page you’ll find a map to Ishikawa Exercise Square, located conveniently near the station.

Schedule
09:15 Opening Ceremony (Ishikawa Exercise Square)
10:30 Race Start (Omotemachi Commercial District)
13:00 10km Division Award Ceremony (Ishikawa Exercise Square)
14:00 Marathon Division Award Ceremony (Ishikawa Exercise Square)

Upcoming Events

43rd Annual Mito New Year’s Takoage Festival

When: 10am – 2:30pm, January 24th, 2015*
Where: Shiki no Hara, Kairakuen, Mito

20150124 Mito Takoage Festival

Takoage, or kite-flying, is a traditional new year’s activity in Japan. Come see the winter sky filled with colourful kites. There will be a 100 kite string featuring kites drawn by local children, a kite-making workshop, and traditional children’s games. There will also be stalls selling udon, amazake (sweet sake), and more. You are free to bring your own kites.

*May be cancelled in case of poor weather

Upcoming Events

Takoage and Dondo-yaki Festival

When: January 17, 2015 (Takoage from 9:30 – 2pm, Dondo-yaki from 4-7pm)*
Where: Toride Ryokuchi Exercise Park (Tone River riverbed), Toride

Takoage, or kite-flying, is a traditional new year’s activity in Japan. The Takoage festival will include a kite competition for those who wish to make their own kites. Registration for the competition will take place from 9:30-10:30am. There are two individual divisions – the children’s division for elementary school children and below, and the general division for junior high school students and above. There is also a group division for groups of 5 or more. You can enter as many kites as you like, and you will need to fly your kites when you register. The award ceremony will take place at 12:30pm. Those who do not make their own kites and do not wish to enter the contest are still free to bring a kite and fly it at the festival. The first 500 people to visit the Asahi Shinbun tent will receive a free kite to decorate and fly. There is also a free kite-making workshop for the first 100 people, and the first 300 children will receive sweets. There will also be food stalls.

In the evening the Dondo-yaki Festival will be held in the same place. Dondo-yaki is a traditional new year’s event where new year’s decorations, good luck charms from the previous year, daruma (a traditional doll that helps you achieve a goal – they are burned after the goal has been achieved), and Kakizome (the first calligraphy done at the beginning of the new year) are burned in a bonfire. Traditionally you also roast mochi (rice cakes) and mandarins in the embers of the fire. Mochi will be on sale from 3pm – get in quick because it may sell out.

*Takoage rain date January 24. The Dondo-yaki festival will be postponed to the following day if conditions are not safe for the bonfire.

Upcoming Events

Nishiyama Winter Festival

Where: Yamabuki Exercise Park Gymnasium and other locations in Hitachiota (see the map at the bottom of the flyer)
When: 9:30am – 3pm, January 17, 2015

20150117 Nishiyama Winter Festival

Come forget about the chilly weather at the Nishiyama Winter Festival! There will be craft stalls selling art and craft made by children and local artists, food stalls selling curry, udon, soba, tonjiru (pork soup), fairy floss, and much more. In the activities corner you can make pressed flower bookmarks, keychains, and taketombo (small wooden that flies when you spin it between your hands), try playing old-fashioned games, and learn how to cook or play an uguisu fue (bush warbler flute). There will be live bands, a luck draw, and quiz bingo.

The coach of Mito’s soccer team the Holly Hocks will be there with their mascot Holly, and from 1-3pm there will be a soccer class for kids. There will also be an air goal set up between 10am – 3pm where you can test your skills. Don’t miss out!