One Day in Ibaraki

From Iwase to Itako – Exploring Ibaraki on the Tsukuba Kasumigaura Ring Ring Road

View of Mt. Tsukuba

The Tsukuba Ring Ring Road is well-known cycling track in the west of Ibaraki. It was once the Tsukuba Railway, which was discontinued in 1987 and eventually turned into a scenic cycling track stretching 40km from Iwase Station to Tsuchiura Station. Recently it was extended to join the road around Lake Kasumigaura and form the 180km Tsukuba Kasumigaura Ring Ring Road. With the extension of the cycling course, the Ibaraki Prefectural Government has teamed up with seven municipalities around Lake Kasumigaura (Tsuchiura, Ishioka, Tsukuba, Itako, Kasumigaura, Sakuragawa, and Namegata) to set up a bicycle rental system allowing you to rent bikes from one of seven locations and return them to any of the other locations. We rented cross bikes and cycled one of the most popular sections of the course – the old railway track.

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We set out from Iwase Station at around 10am. We were immediately given a preview of the scenery we would enjoy along the way – rolling fields, spring flowers, and distant mountains. Not long in we discovered an optional side trip of about 3km up to Amabiki Kanon Temple http://www.amabiki.or.jp/ – unfortunately, we didn’t have time to go the whole way, but if you want an extra challenge (the roads are quite steep) and are keen to see one of the most scenic temples in Ibaraki, this is definitely an accomplishable sidetrack from the main path. The road is marked quite clearly with signs so with the help of a map you shouldn’t have much difficulty finding it.

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Our first stop was in the Makabe Rest Area. The Ring Ring Road is punctuated by six rest areas between Iwase and Tsuchiura that were once stations on the Tsukuba Railway. Now they have seats, bathrooms, and some have pumps for your bike tires. When we reached the Makabe Rest Area we departed from the road once again to cycle through the old streets of Makabe, a castle town that was planned in the Sengoku period and completed in the Edo period. 99 buildings around the town have been designated as National Registered Cultural Properties. The town is renowned for its Hinamatsuri doll displays in February and March. There is a café called Hashimoto Coffee where you can drop in for a cuppa – unfortunately, it is closed on Tuesdays, which is the day we visited.

 

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As we continued along our path we drew closer and closer to Mt. Tsukuba. When we reached the Mt. Tsukuba Rest Area, we decided to veer off the track again in search of somewhere to eat and we found Maruchu, a soba restaurant. The food was delicious so I would definitely recommend it for lunch, but take care as the location of the store is not exactly where it says it is on google maps. If you head toward the google maps pin but turn left when you reach the street with a Lawson you will find it on the right side of the street.

 

After lunch, we powered along until we got to Tsuchiura. When we arrived in the city, we ventured off toward Lake Kasumigaura. Once you arrive at the lakeside you are treated to a beautiful view of the water. If you continue around the lake you have the option of visiting the Lake Kasumigaura Environmental Science Center, a museum and research centre on the northwestern side of the lake. Inside are a number of exhibits introducing the flora. fauna, and history around Lake Kasumigaura.

Finally, we headed back toward central Tsuchiura to return our bikes and have a well-earned ice cream before catching the train back to Mito. We explored just one section of the cycling path – there are many more recommended courses to check out. Whether you want a relaxed 10km course or a more intense 80km one (you could do the whole 180km if you’re up to it!), this well-serviced cycling course has something for everyone. Check out the information below and start planning your own adventure!

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Bicycle Rental

Time: 9am – 4pm
Cost:
Road Bike: 2000 yen
Cross Bike/Mini Velo: 1500 yen
Child’s Bike: 500 yen

Recommended Courses

1. 80km Course
JR Iwase Station – JR Itako Station (approx. 6 hours)
2. 50km Course
JR Tsuchiura Station – JR Itako Station (approx. 4 hours)
3. 40km Course
JR Iwase Station – JR Tsuchiura Station (approx. 3 hours)
JR Iwase Station – TX Tsukuba Station (approx. 3 hours)
4. 10km Course
Explore the cutting edge technological city of Tsukuba and the historical city of Tsuchiura! TX Tsukuba Station – JR Tsuchiura Station (approx. 1 hour)
Websites
Tsukuba Kasumigaura Ring Ring Cycling Road Official Website http://www.rinrin-road.com/
Ibaraki Guide to the Tsukuba Kasumigaura Ring Ring Road (you can watch videos of the course and download maps!) http://www.ibarakiguide.jp/seasons/ring-ring-road.html

Locations to Pick up and Drop off Bikes

The hours listed refer to the opening hours of the facilities – pick up and drop off of bikes can be done every day between 9am – 4pm.

Sakuragawa
Iwase Station Square Takasago Ryokan
Hours: 9am -4pm (Closed during Obon and New Year’s)
Address: 174 Iwase, Sakuragawa
PH: 0296-75-2165

Tsuchiura
Lacus Marina
Hours: 9am – 5pm (closed Wednesdays from December – March)
Address: 2-13-6 Kawaguchi, Tsuchiura
PH: 0298-22-2437

Tsuchiura Machikado Kura Daitoku
Hours: 9am – 6pm (Closed on New Years Holiday)
Address: 1-3-16 Chuo, Tsuchiura
PH: 029-8242810

Ishioka
Nakamura Parking Lot
Hours: 8:30am – 5:15pm (closed weekends and public holidays)
Address: 425 Kitanemoto, Ishioka
PH: 0299-23-3399 (Ishioka Chiho Koiki Silver Jinzai Center)

Tsukuba
Tsukuba General Information Center
Hours: 8:30am – 6:30pm every day
Address: BiVi Tsukuba 1st Floor, 1-8-10 Azuma, Tsukuba
PH: 0298-79-5298

Kasumigaura
Hours: 9am – 5pm (closed Mondays except public holidays in which case it will be closed the following Tuesday)
Address: 4784 Saka, Kasumigaura
PH: 0298-40-9010

Namegata
Lake Kasumigaura Fureai Land
Hours: 9:30am – 4:30pm (closed Mondays except public holidays in which case it will be closed the following Tuesday. Closed over New Year’s)
Address: 1234 Tamatsukurikou, Namegata
PH: 0299-55-3927

Itako
Suigo Itako Tourism Association
Hours: 9am – 5pm every day
Address: 1-1-16 Ayame, Itako
PH: 0299-63-3154

How to Make a Booking

Note: If possible, please make reservations in Japanese. If you wish to book in English, please fax or email the information.

You must book three days in advance. Same day reservations will not be accepted unless there are extra bicycles available. Please note that Nakamura Parking Lot in Ishioka is reservation-only. Call, fax, or email the Lacus Marina Support Desk (details below) with the following information:

1. 氏名(グループの代表者。以下2~3同様)
Name (if you are a group, the name of one person in the group. Use the same person’s information for 2 and 3):
2. 住所及び郵便番号
Address (including post code):
3. 連絡先(携帯番号)
Contact Information (mobile phone):
4. ご利用日
Date of reservation:
5. 貸出施設及び予定時刻
Location and time you would like to collect the bikes:
6. 返却施設及び予定時刻
Location and time you will return the bikes:
7. 利用車種(台数)・ロードバイク( 台)・クロスバイク( 台)・ミニベロ( 台)
Type and number of bike(s):
Road Bike (Number of bikes you wish to reserve: )
Cross Bike (Number of bikes you wish to reserve: )
Mini Velo (Number of bikes you wish to reserve: )

There are a limited number of bikes available, so Lacus Marina will contact you to let you know if they can cater to your request after they receive it. Bikes can only be rented on a daily basis – you cannot keep them overnight.

On the day, pick up your bikes from the facility you designated. Make sure to bring some form of ID. You can also borrow a helmet free of charge (either child size, L, or M), but please understand if your size is unavailable.

Please return the bikes to the facility you designated by the time you designated.

Cancellations: Please contact the Support Desk by 4pm the day before your booking if you wish to cancel. If you are more than an hour late to pick up your bikes, your booking will be cancelled.

Caution

  • The bicycles all have a TS Mark sticker, insuring the rider with personal accident insurance and liability insurance
  • The bikes are not insured for theft or damage. If you leave the bike at any point make sure that you lock it
  • If you lose or damage the bike’s attachments (e.g. light), helmet, or key, or if they are stolen, you will have to pay for their replacement
  • Responsibility for accidents or theft that were not caused by the actions of the organisers will not be taken by the organisers
  • Please obey the traffic laws and cycling manners, and cycle safely
  • Please ensure that the tires, breaks, and gears are working correctly before you leave
  • If you are in an accident or if you have any trouble such as your bike breaking down, please call the Support Desk

Lacus Marina Cycling Support Desk
Hours: 9am – 5pm
Address: 2-13-6 Kawaguchi, Tsuchiura
PH: 0298-22-2437
FAX: 0298-26-2839
Email: info.cycle@lacusmarina.com
Website: http://www.lacusmarina.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lacusmarina.ibaraki

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One Day in Ibaraki

KENPOKU ART 2016 – Mountain Route

My supervisor and I made a trip from Hitachiomiya to Daigo to see the various art pieces placed around northern Ibaraki. Some of the facilities that house the art pieces require an entrance fee. If you decide to take the weekend bus tour or the free KENPOKU shuttle bus with your friend(s), I’d recommend getting the KENPOKU Passport. The passport cost \2,500 and it will permit you one entrance to each of the facilities.

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Michi-no-Eki Hitachiomiya Kawa Plaza

E-14: Ryota Shioya – riverbed / a gathered people

The artist took into consideration the placement of the piece. The decision to permanently construct this artwork at a rest stop, Kawa Plaza, where hundreds of people will pass through daily is symbolized by river rocks which have been smoothed down by rushing water. It seems that the artist was trying to show the beauty of passing through a place.

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The Former Miwa Junior High School

E-01: Hackathon – The Sound of TapBoard

The Sound of Tapboard was an interesting use of sound and motion in order to draw the viewer into the experience. The artist created an interactive, unusual piece of art that anyone can enjoy.

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E-02: Yoichi Ochiai – Colloidal Display and Others

The artist of this piece utilized many materials to send his message to the viewers. His juxtaposition of electronic resources to portray the beautiful image of the butterfly was innovative. He successfully and stunningly created a link from the technological world to the natural one. This was one of my favorite piece to see, simply because the beautiful butterfly was so unexpected from the loud sound of the machine working.

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E-04: Hackathon/CALAR.inc

This was another piece in which the artists successfully gave the viewer an experience for all the senses. By inviting guests to walk through the storybook and view colorful videos it creates a more memorable experience. The artists’ storybook format and decision to arrange the path in a specific order urges the viewer to continue on until the end in order to truly finish the artists’ tale. The artists’ use of lighting, sound, and space helped to create an intriguing experience.

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E-05: Hiroshi Suzuki + Masato Ohki – Constellations of the earth ― Ibaraki-kenpoku-za

This was another piece in which the artist sought to draw in the viewers. By creating a participatory artwork, the entire community was able to play a part in creating the finished product. The piece combined many different elements including space satellites and radio wave reflectors, as well as the finished piece made to mimic the constellations of the earth.

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E-06: Isabelle Desjeux – The Ibaraki Inventorium

This artist’s background as a molecular biologist shaped her artwork in a fantastic way. By bringing her love of another field and incorporating it into her artwork, she succeeded in creating something not only beautiful for the viewers, but also educational. Her focus upon wildlife found in Ibaraki is a way to involve the viewers and to perhaps have them view their surroundings with a different light after seeing the piece. Her decision to place the artwork in a science classroom also creates an interesting contrast for the viewer to see beautiful work in a somewhat familiar place.

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E-07: magma – WOODSTOCK

This piece was an entire room that the artists had transformed. The whole room- from the ceiling, to the decorations and furniture, were all crafted of wood from the Miwa region. Upon walking into the room, there is a calming effect for the viewers. This calming effect is accentuated by the artist’s decision to include xylophone music and forest sounds. The unity in material gives the viewer a kind of eye-pleasing harmony.

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E-07: magma – GREAT TEACHER

In this piece, the artists worked to incorporate humor and portray their, perhaps, relatable experiences. They transformed the principal’s office and manipulated the sound, lighting, and contents of the office. They created a robot in place of the headmaster and recorded a dialogue- successfully making the principal’s office a dramatic, humorous experience. This piece puts the viewer into the shoes of a student, and reminds viewer of the feelings of listening to adults speak.

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E-08: Fumiaki Murakami – Fly Me to the Earth

The artist of this piece successfully utilized AR (augmented reality) technology in order to create a kind of looking-glass for the viewer. Upon entering the classroom, there was an airplane suspended from the ceiling. Upon closer inspection, the rear end was a lens. The viewer is invited to peer into the lens and is instantly shown real scenery and nature. The artist crafted the lens to give the viewer a bird’s-eye, virtual reality view of Hitachiomiya. The piece is interactive and successful in giving the viewer a beautiful never-before-seen view of familiar surroundings.

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E-09: Miki Yamamoto – Classroom of Ribbon around a Bomb

This piece was a storybook depicting a girl’s school life. The artist, having grown up in Ibaraki, successfully made her piece relatable to the viewer and also gave a respectful nod to her home prefecture. The illustrations in the storybook were simple and beautiful, mirroring the simple life of the girl in the story.

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The Former Yawara Seishonen-no-Ie

E-10: Zadok Ben-David – Blackfield

This piece was a surprising visual experience for the viewer. The artist crafted 27 thousand small, metallic flowers to greet upon entrance to the room. The flowers are of various colors and diverse real-life environments, but are unified by their placement. The flowers are two-dimensional, so upon further entering the room the flowers begin to change before the viewer’s eyes. The flowers, metallic on one side, are hiding thousands of colors on the other side. The artist, Zadok Ben-David, says that the piece is “a psychological installation about life and death, very moody, developing and changing while we walk along. It has two sides, black and colour, symbolising and manipulating a state of mind, yet leaving us a choice”. The symbolism in his piece was beautifully crafted.

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E-11: Wang Te-Yu – No.85

The artist of this piece created an interactive experience for the viewers by filling a room with a giant balloon. The artist invites the viewers to enter the entirely white room, feeling the ground slightly deflate with every step. The lack of color and furniture in the room create a kind of dreamy, surreal, and peaceful experience. The artist’s aim to free the viewer of outside physical sensations with the white balloon successfully places them in a different world.

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E-13: Matthew Jensen – Reflecting on the Kuji River / The Sun Returning

The artist of this piece, similar to the ‘Ibaraki Inventorium’ artwork, utilized his interests in other areas in order to create a truly beautiful finished product. He focused on the Kuji River in this piece. The piece features stunning beautiful, aerial photos of sunsets reflected upon the river. The artist also trekked along the river and collected small stones and objects that were found along the shore. By including multiple perspectives of the area, the piece truly lives up to its name and is a reflection on every part of the river.

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The Shopping district in front of Hitachi-Daigo Station

The Daigomachi Culture & Welfare Hall (大子町文化福祉会館) offers free bike rentals to tour the area. There are many artworks located near the Hitachi-Daigo Station, so riding a bike around the area is a great way to explore the town. There are several restaurants that are collaborating with KENPOKU Art 2016 to entice tourists to the area. Daigo is famous for Oku-kuji Shamo chicken, and Yamaki (弥満喜) is one of the better known restaurants in the area collaborating with the event. At Yamaki, you can enjoy yuba sashimi and Oku-kuji Shamo chicken prepared in various ways.

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F-16: Song-Ming Ang – Daigo Lost and Found

The Daigo Lost and Found piece is a historical peek into the past for the city of Daigo. Footage of the city’s festivals and events were taken decades ago and were recollected specifically for this display. The video footage, displayed on old TVs, give a glimpse into what life was like in Daigo decades ago. For current residents or those familiar with Daigo, it’s a reminder of the cultural history and values that are unique and beautiful to these residents. For newcomers, it’s a historical introduction to a city with a rich and vibrant history.

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Fukuroda Falls (Tunnel)

F-18: Jung Hye-Ryun – Serial possibility – fukuroda fall

The artist of this piece successfully transformed the tunnel which leads visitors to Fukuroda Falls in Daigo. The piece is representative of the Kuji River and winds along the overhead of the tunnel as the viewer walks. The artist created beautiful, twisting neon lights which mimic the twists and turns of the river. By symbolizing the Kuji River, he created a link between two of Daigo’s most beautiful areas.

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One Day in Ibaraki

Kenpoku Art 2016 – Ocean Route

On October 14th, I headed to the Kenpoku region to visit installation sites along the ocean route. As I am not very well-versed in art appreciation, I worried that the exhibition wouldn’t really be for me and I would have trouble writing about it, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. The artworks were beautiful and thought-provoking, and accessible even to someone with my lack of expertise, and the pursuit of each work lead me to beautiful places all along the coast of northern Ibaraki. Many of the artworks were interactive, allowing you to be an active participant instead of just an observer. Whether you are an art aficionado or a total beginner, this exhibition has something for you.

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*If you purchase a Kenpoku Art Passport (2500 yen), you are provided free access to all individual exhibitions and you can collect stamps at all the locations you visit. See the official website for more details.

1. Tenshin Memorial Museum of Art

Where: 2083 Tsubaki, Otsu-machi Kitaibaraki, Ibaraki
Public Transport: 5 minutes by taxi from JR Otsuko Station
Hours: 9am – 5pm

Our first stop was the Tenshin Memorial Museum of Art in Kitaibaraki. The museum is dedicated to artist and scholar Okakura Tenshin. Some people from the south might be thinking of skipping Kitaibaraki since it’s quite far – don’t! The art installations at Tenshin Memorial Museum are definitely worth checking out.

The first work I noticed was a row of framed drawings in reddish brown ink lining a wall. There were some headphones – when we put them on we could hear children playing and chattering in Hindi. It was eerie to hear the sounds of children playing when none could be seen in room – in fact as it was still early, and there were not very many other people at all.

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We eventually found the panel labelling the work ‘kenopsia (void of human life)’ and attributing it to India-based artist Mithu Sen and describing her intentions. The use of the word ‘kenopsia’ led me on a very interesting google adventure to discover a website called the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, where the author John Koenig coins terms to describe emotions that we all feel but don’t have a word for. Kenopsia (n.) is ‘the eerie, forlorn atmosphere of a place that’s usually bustling with people, but is now abandoned and quiet – a school hallway in the evening, an unlit office on a weekend, vacant fairgrounds – an emotional afterimage that makes it seem not just empty but hyper-empty, with a total population in the negative, who are so conspicuously absent they glow like neon signs.’

Mithu Sen’s installation is actually in two parts – the first part, which we did not visit, is at Fujigaoka Elementary School, a former elementary school in Kitaibaraki. Mithu Sen ‘reopens’ the school by filling it with the voices of Indian children. The empty school building is infrastructure with no children to fill it, whereas a lack of infrastructure for schools is a problem in parts of India. The second part of the installation at Tenshin Memorial Museum visually represents the Indian schoolchildren who have been virtually emigrated the site via sound with numerous small portraits in red ink. The installations are an attempt by the artist to supplement the ‘void’ that each culture is experiencing. All of the portraits will be up for ‘adoption’ at the end of the exhibition – those who are interested in adopting a portrait can leave their name and contact information at the Kenpoku Art desk at Tenshin Memorial Museum.

The other artworks on display at the Tenshin Memorial museum are in an exhibition called ‘Infinity of Flowers inside Small Things’ by teamLab, a self-described ‘ultra-technologist group’ who specialise in blending art, science, technology, and creativity. The works at the museum were inspired by Okakura Tenshin and his efforts in spreading Japanese art and aesthetics around the world. This was a really fun exhibit as the artworks are digital and you can interact with many of them. To view them you enter a series of dark rooms. The first work you come across is a number of teacups on a low stage. Inside the teacups you can watch as digital flowers bloom – but if you move a teacup, the flower withers and the petals scatter. This work is titled ‘Flowers Bloom in an Infinite Universe inside a Teacup’, and is rendered entirely in real time – your actions play a part in its creation.

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In the second room there are five works. ‘Nirvana’ is a colourful depiction of animals rendered in a virtual 3D space inspired by screen printing. The screen starts blank and the animals slowly appear. In ‘The Land of Peace and Bliss’ you can watch as a city is built before your eyes. As your viewpoint slowly scrolls across the land you can see small stories playing out all over the screens. ‘Flutter of Butterflies Beyond Boarders’ is another interactive piece rendered in real time. Butterflies float around the walls of the room, the patterns on their wings evolving as they go. They through frames into other installations, dissolving the concept of boarders. The butterflies are influenced by the other artworks and by the viewers – they gravitate toward places where flowers are blooming, but if you reach out to touch one it falls to the ground. The butteflies gather around the work ‘A Whole Year per Hour, Dark’, which depicts a whole year of seasons over an hour of time through the bloom and wither of digital flowers. The final work in the room, ‘Life Survives by the Power of Life’, explores Japanese spatial awareness using teamLab’s ‘spatial calligraphy’, an interpretation of calligraphy in abstract space. Brush strokes develop into a tree which experiences the passage of time – from snow to the blooming of flowers to the teeming of life in mid-summer.

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The next room was also really fun – in ‘What a Loving, Beautiful World’ the walls are covered in kanji, and when your shadow touches one it materialises into the thing it represents – the kanji for thunder and lightning, 雷, creates a booming sound and flashes of light. If you touch 雨 rain will begin to fall – 鳥 sends small birds flying around the room. You are creating the artwork with your movements, and the things you create will interact – birds and insects will flutter around the flowers, but are scared if you unleash fire, and if you create wind you can watch it blow the things around it. I recommend experimenting and seeing how the different manifestations interact, it’s loads of fun!

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Outside this room you will find a table with virtual reality headsets. This work, ‘Spatial Calligraphy: Circle, Infinity’, allows you to draw spatial calligraphy with a small controller. The strokes you drawn materialise into 3D and float away into the sky. It takes a little while to get the hang of it but it was a lot of fun seeing what kinds of shapes could be created and how they would look in 3D.

2. Rokkakudo

Where: 727-2 Izura, Otsu-cho, Kitaibaraki, Ibaraki
Public Transport: 10 minutes by taxi from JR Otsuko Station
Hours
October: 8:30am – 5:30pm
November: 8:30am – 5pm
Last entry 30 minutes before closing. Closed Mondays or Tuesday when Monday is a national holiday.

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After the Tenshin Memorial Museum, we visited Rokkakudo, the famous seaside meditation retreat of Okakura Tenshin. It was washed away in the 2011 tsunami, but was rebuilt in 2012. At this site you will find two artworks – ‘Weeds’ by Tokyo-based artist Yoshihiro Suda, a collection of wooden sculptures of wild grass and flowers inspired by the eastern aesthetics of simplicity and transience championed by Okakura Tenshin and present through the history of eastern art, and ‘Artificial Rock No. 109’ by China-based artist Zhan Wang, a celebration of Okakura Tenshin’s innovative and exploratory spirit, which coexisted with his love of eastern aesthetics.

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One of the best parts of touring the Kenpoku Art sites is enjoying the natural beauty of the areas where they are placed. The Izura coast and area surrounding Rokkakudo is absolutely stunning.

3. Sendo Ryori Tenshinmaru (lunch)

Where: 710 Izura, Otsu-cho, Kitaibaraki, Ibaraki
Access: 3 minutes’ walk from Rokkakudo
Hours:
Tuesday – Saturday: 11:30am – 2:30pm, 5:30 – 9pm
Weekends and Public Holidays: 11:30am – 7:30pm
Closed Mondays
Cost: 1000~1900 yen

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For lunch, we chose a restaurant near Rokkakudo called Sendo Ryori Tenshinmaru. I had been told by coworkers that the servings were quite large, but that was an incredible understatement. The restaurant offers takeaway boxes for 10 yen each for people who cannot finish their meals, and I guarantee that you will be using one, especially if you get the tendon set like me. The tempura was delicious – an assortment of fish, squid, ashitaba leaves, and a slice of sweet potato – but I could only eat about a quarter of it. The rest of it I packed up and took home for later. Tenshinmaru offers a number of other seafood dishes including kaisendon, nizakana, and a tempura set. Come with an empty stomach!

4. Takahagi Beach Takado Maehama Coast

Where: Takado, Takahagi, Ibaraki
Access: 10 minutes by taxi or 20 minutes’ walk from JR Takahagi Station East Exit
Hours: 9am – 5pm

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The next location we visited was the Takado Maehama Coast in Takahama, where two artworks were on display on the shore – US-based artists Ilya & Emilia Kabakov’sThe Fallen Sky’, a giant canvas painted with the sky, sits propped up as though it had indeed fallen from above and pierced the sand. A panel beside the work explains the tale of this piece of sky in quite a lot of detail, leaving you wondering how much of the story is true. Finding the artwork and reading the story is part of the fun, so I’ll let you go discover it for yourself.

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The other artwork on the beach was particularly interesting to me because it resembled a mystery that occurred in my town while I was in high school. In the middle of the night, somebody painted several of the wave blocks on the sea wall bright colours. Although their act was technically vandalism, the locals fought to have it left as it brightened up the scenery and made it more interesting to look at. UK-based artist Nitipak Samsen’s artwork ‘Tetrapad’ had a similar story – the artist became interested in the many wave blocks that can be found along Japan’s shoreline, commonly referred to as ‘tetrapods’, and mimicked them using a beach ball-like material, allowing you to look at industrial infrastructure in a new light.

5. Takado Kohama Coast

Where: 848-8 Takado, Takahagi
Access: 10 minutes by taxi or 20 minutes’ walk from JR Takahagi Station East Exit
Hours: 9am – 5pm

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Kohama Coast is a beautiful area that I wouldn’t have thought to visit without the opportunity created by Kenpoku Art. It is included on Japan’s list of the top 100 most beautiful beaches, and it well deserves the accolade. It didn’t hurt that the weather was so lovely – I could have chilled on the beach all day. The work on display here is ‘Soul Shelter’ by Thailand-based artist Sudsiri Pui-ock – it is a huge, beautifully sculpted hermit crab shell, but instead of a hermit crab a human hand has taken up residence inside. It is unsettling at first glance, but the artist uses the work to question the compatibility of humans with their environment and comment on our ability to seek out and reside in temporary spaces and shelters.

6. Hozumike Residence

Where: 2337-1 Kamitezuna, Takahagi
Public Transport: 10 minutes by bus from JR Takahagi Station (take a bus bound for Sekiguchi (関口) and get off at Kawabata Iriguchi (川側入口) timetable in Japanese here)
Hours: 9am – 4pm

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Our next stop was the Hozumike Residence, a traditional Japanese residence in Takahagi built in 1789, where four artworks are on display. ‘cockle of pearl blue – to the sky, from the sky’ by Ibaraki-based artist Kosho Ito is a ceramic work with 3000 (!) pieces, which are placed in gardens outside the residence. Each piece is entirely unique, and the pearl-blue glaze that covers them reflects and scatters the sunlight. Strolling around the garden looking at each of the clusters of ceramic pieces was very relaxing.

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The Cabinet of Doctor Komo’ by Vietnam-based artist Sandrine Llouquet is an unsettling collection of objects inside a dimly lit room with an interesting tale. The collection is based on a story made by the artist of a Dutch doctor living in the Hozumike Residence. The artist researched the Kenpoku area and cultural aspects of the Edo period, including yokai and misemono-goya. The collection of creepy objects, including a mummified figure in a case, a saber tooth tiger skull, a tiny hand, and a number of grotesque framed drawings lining the walls, is based on the western practice of a cabinet of curiosities, popular with scholars from the 15th – 18th century. It’s interesting examining the objects and trying to work out their origins – there was a large paining of a kappa on one of the cupboard doors.

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As a person, gaze up to the sky and stand on the ground’ by Tokyo-based artist Yuji Ueno was another interesting exhibit. In order to view it you must enter a room that is almost entirely pitch black. At the top of a pile of what looks like soil or woodchips (I couldn’t really tell since it was so dark) blooms a single flower. Mr. Ueno is a floral artist interested in ikebana, and the flower was made via 3D printing.

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The final artwork at the Hozumike Residence is ‘Web of Life’ by US-based artist Debbie Han. When I first entered the room where the work is on display, all I could see was a tangle of copper-coloured wires – however, as you look closer you realise the wires form a huge collection of facial expressions. All of the wires are connected, suggesting at the connectivity of human life even as we are all seeing things from different perspectives and experiencing life in different ways. It’s a lot of fun walking around the work looking at the different faces hidden in the wires and interpreting their expressions.

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7. Hagi no Chaya

Where: 2337-1 Kamitezuna, Takahagi (Hozumike Residence)
Public Transport: 10 minutes by bus from JR Takahagi Station (take a bus bound for Sekiguchi (関口) and get off at Kawabata Iriguchi (川側入口) timetable in Japanese here)
Hours: 10am – 4pm (Lunch menu 11am – 2:45pm)

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From September 17 – December 4, there is a temporary restaurant called Aki no Chaya at the Hozumike Residence in Takahagi. There are a number of lunch options on the menu, including steak and hamburg steak made from Hitachi Beef. We decided to check out the desert menu, since we had already eaten earlier in the day, and we were not disappointed. I ordered a hozuki no-bake cheesecake dessert set. Edible hozuki, also known as a ground cherry or Chinese lantern plant, is a specialty of Takahagi, and this one dish utilised it in a number of ways. There was a small no-bake cheesecake with a sweet hozuki sauce topped with a hozuki that had been dipped in white chocolate, small slices of hozuki decorating the plate, and a scoop of hozuki ice cream. The set came with a drink of your choice. I highly recommend stopping by Aki no Chaya if you visit the Hozumike Residence! Although we did not order from the lunch menu, it also looked quite delicious.

8. Oiwa Shrine

Where: 752 Irishiken-cho, Hitachi, Ibaraki
Public Transport: 35 minutes by bus from JR Hitachi Station (Take the no. 60 bus bound for Higashi Godo (東河内) and get off at Oiwa Jinja Mae (御岩神社前) timetable in Japanese here)
Hours: 9am – 5pm

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It’s hard for me to choose a favourite venue of those we visited, but Oiwa Shrine might be it. Located in the middle of a forest of tall beautiful Japanese cedar trees, including one with a triple trunk estimated to be 500 years old, this shrine has a history reaching back almost 700 years.

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As you walk through the trees, you will soon spot ‘Mirage in the Forest’ by Sweden-based Akane Moriyama. This instillation is made from roughly 6000 thin strips of film suspended in the trees. As they sway in the breeze they catch and reflect the sunlight, giving a slightly different impression depending on the angle you view them from. The work captures the spiritual atmosphere of this beautiful mountain shrine.

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The second work at Oiwa Shrine is a ceiling painting inside Sai Shrine, one of the shrines inside the Oiwa Shrine precinct. The painting, titled ‘Oiwasan Unryu-zu’ by Kagawa-based artist Miki Okamura, takes a new approach to ceiling paintings, which typically depict the world seen from the ground looking up. This painting of a dragon flying over the mountains depicts the world as seen from above, a concept influenced by the modern progression of satellite technology and space travel. However, the mythical subject of the painting links back to humanity’s persistent belief in and connection to the spiritual. The painting will remain in the shrine even after the Kenpoku Art Festival finishes.

9. Hitachi Civic Center

Where: 1-21-1 Saiwai-cho, Hitachi, Ibaraki
Public Transport: 3 minutes’ walk from JR Hitachi Station Central Exit
Hours: 10am – 5pm

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There are six artworks on display at the Hitachi Civic Center, although we did not have time to see them all. My first thought upon viewing ‘Crystal Palace: The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nuclear Nations’ by Kyoto-based artists Ken + Julia Yonetani was that this collection of glowing neon green chandeliers looked like they belonged in a haunted house – they reminded me of popular depictions of ghosts and ghostly activity. Each chandelier is named after a country, and its size is determined by the scale of that country’s nuclear energy production. The chandeliers are made from uranium glass. In an adjoining room there is another artwork by the same artists – fragile faeries under glass jars rotating like figures in a music box to ‘It’s a Small World After All’. If you look closer, you will discover that their wings are actually real butterfly wings, and not just any butterflies – these particular butterflies were hatched from eggs collected from a location 10km away from the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant for the purpose of investigating the effect of radiation on wildlife in the area. The figures, which at first seem charming, quickly take on a different light as you read about intention of the artwork.

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In the Civic Center lobby you will find a tower topped by a retro TV set. ‘HITACHI Denrin Tower’ by Tokyo-based Ei Wada is actually made up on a number of TVs encased inside the walls of the tower. The staff by the tower will hand you a small radio device – by tuning it and holding it at different distances from the tower you can search for a secret song. As for what the song is, I will let you discover that for yourself.

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Stepping outside of the Civic Center you will find ‘Noah’s Bus’ by Finland and Germany-based artist Tea Mäkipää. From the outside, it looks like an old bus with some plant life growing out of the roof – if you get closer and peer inside, it is filled with life. Not knowing what the bus contained was half the fun – I was quite surprised when suddenly a white rabbit hopped by before my eyes. The bus also contained Guinea pigs, budgerigars, a Russian turtle, and a pair of black and white Laced Polish chickens. The plants inside the bus can all be found in the Hitachi region, and the work invites viewers to think about the relationship between urban and natural environments. The animals residing in the bus are cared for daily by staff from Kamine Zoo.

10. Hitachi Station

Where: 1-1-1 Saiwai-cho, Hitachi, Ibaraki
Public Transport: JR Hitachi Station
Hours: 9am – 8pm

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Although described as the gateway to the Kenpoku Art Festival, Hitachi Station was actually our last stop. The walls of the station building are almost entirely made of glass, and the station is located right on the ocean, so you can enjoy a spectacular view from the second floor. Throughout the Kenpoku Art Festival, the glass corridor of Hitachi Station has been decked out in rainbow colours by France-based artist Daniel Buren, in an installation titled ‘In the corridor: the Four Rainbows, work in situ, Daniel Buren for Kenpoku Art 2016. Japan’. As Hitachi Station is commonly the first stop for visitors, this colourful gateway is the perfect entrance to the festival.

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If you turn right after leaving the ticket gates, you will find the other installation at Hitachi Station, ‘Landscape Magic Lantern’ by Ibaraki-based artist Fumiaki Murakami. The installation is in the form of what appears to be a regular, if not funkily-shaped, telescope. Peer into the lens, however, and you will see fantasy and reality collide as stories from the ancient text Hitachi no Fudoki play out before your eyes right outside the station window.

Kenpoku Art 2016 is on all around northern Ibaraki until November 20th. Check out the website for information on shuttle buses, bus tours, and events throughout the festival.

One Day in Ibaraki

Kochia Carnival!

When: September 17th (Saturday) ~ October 23rd (Sunday)
Where: Hitachinaka, Hitachi Seaside Park
ひたちなか市・国営ひたち海浜公園
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Autumn, the season when Kochia changes its color to red.
When autumn begins, kochia transform Miharashi Hill from green to sea of red. At the bottom of the hill, cosmos sway with the autumn wind, so come enjoy the magnificent view at Hitachi Seaside Park.

Growing diligently under the hot summer heat, kochia changes its color to bright red when it starts to feel the gentle breeze of autumn. Now, the fun of Kochia Carnival is about to begin! During this carnival, there will be various events for you to experience. “Kochia Carnival!”

On the last day (October 23rd) Admission is FREE!
Admission is also free on October 23rd (Sunday)

Dates: September 17th (Saturday) ~ October 23rd (Sunday)
Place: Hitachi Seaside Park
Hours: 9:30am ~ 5:00pm
Open Everyday During the Season
Admission Fee: Adult ¥410, Senior Citizens ¥210, Child ¥80
Parking: Bus ¥1,550, Car ¥510, 2-Wheel Vehicles ¥260

Directions:
By Car – Via Kitakanto Motorway Hitachinaka IC, 1km from Hitachinaka Toll Road Hitachi Seaside Park IC
By Train – JR Joban Line “Katsuta Station”, then 15 minutes by bus
Contact Hitachi Seaside Park, Hitachi Park Management Center
TEL: 029-265-9001

CIR Diary

The Ibaraki Contents Collection

Japan’s status as a soft power has been growing since the turn of the century, and recently the national government has increased its support of Japan’s culture industry. Not to be left behind, Ibaraki has also fortified its efforts to promote the local content industry.

The Ibaraki Prefectural Government launched the Ibaraki Contents Business Evolution Project in 2014, with the aim of supporting and nurturing creators in Ibaraki and developing the local content industry. Its activities include the establishment of the Ibaraki Creators’ House, a base for content production activities and the nurturing of young creators in Ibaraki managed by the Tsukuba Incubation Laboratory. The house currently hosts 12 creators. The project also aims to support the exhibition of Ibaraki creators’ works with the organization of the Ibaraki Contents Collection exhibition in Akihabara UDX, held on Sunday March 6th, and the Ibaraki Contents Software Awards, the ceremony for which was held during the exhibition.

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The idea behind the Ibaraki Contents Collection was 「あ、こんなのも作ってるんだ」 (‘Oh, they’re making things like this too?’), and it was held with the aim of increasing interest in and knowledge of the content industry in Ibaraki. Two of Ibaraki’s CIRs decided to take the opportunity to discover what creators in Ibaraki are up to, and attended the event.

38 booths featuring writers, animators, illustrators, comic artists, character designers, game designers, performers, and more were set up in two halls. On a stage set up in a separate room, a number of events were held throughout the day, kicking off with the Ibaraki Contents Software Awards 2015. The awards were separated into a smartphone app category and an animation category. A number of winning animated shorts were screened during the animation category, including some impressive works produced by high school students. The contestants were lucky enough to receive some feedback from the judges and special guests, who included Tomoya Aoki, the freelance blogger behind Ibaraking, and Production I.G. screenwriter Junichi Fujisaku, whose credits include Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Blood+, and Blood-C. After the awards were presented, Toru Noguchi, Director General of the Ibaraki Prefectural Government Planning Division gave a short address, in which he expressed his desire for content to become one of Ibaraki’s industries. There was also a special guest appearance from Ibaraki’s unofficial mascot Nebaru-kun!

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Touring the booths was an exciting journey of discovery. Although I knew that there are many creators from Ibaraki who have successful careers in the content industry, I knew very little about local indie creators. There were too many interesting people to discuss them all here, so I have included a list of the booths below with links to the creators’ websites.

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One of the main features of the Ibaraki Contents Collection was a special talk show on the theme ‘What it takes to make it as a creator’ by Shinji Higuchi, a film and special effects director best known as one of the founding members of Daicon Film (now Gainax) and director of Shingeki no Kyojin: Attack on Titan, and Ryusuke Hikawa, a researcher of animation and tokusatsu. They discussed Mr. Higuchi’s early career. It was very interesting to hear how his passion for film making as a student led to a successful directing career.

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A second talk session featured professionals from the fields of comics, games, and characters providing information on the current state of these industries and advice for amateurs looking to debut as indie creators. I was particularly interested to hear from Kei Otomo, a producer from the company NHN comico, developer of the smart device web comic and web novel reader app comico. He discussed how developing comics to be read on smart phones requires creators to take the scrolling top to bottom format into consideration when choosing how to lay out their works. The other presenters also discussed how changing technology has affected their industries.

Unfortunately we were unable to stay for the final part of the evening, the Ibaraki Creators Stage, featuring performances from the band Denshi Jision, screenings of short animations, a hero show using CG to introduce traditional Japanese performing arts, and more.

The Ibaraki Contents Collection was a wonderful opportunity to learn about creators in Ibaraki. If you are interested in their work, please take a look at the list below and check out their websites. Hopefully these government initiatives achieve their goal of raising the profile of the local content industry. I am certainly looking forward to more events like this in the future.

Ibaraki Contents Business Evolution Project Website
Ibaraki Contents Collection Website

What is the Ibaraki Contents Business Evolution Project?

Aim: Strive to promote the content industry by nurturing creators and creating a base for the production of content.

Activities
1. Manage the Ibaraki Creators House

2. Hold information sessions for residents and uncover talented creators
Create a network of creators, businesses, and organisations involved in the content industry, link with universities and hold seminars etc. in order to increase their knowledge and motivation as creators.

3. Support the exhibition of creators’ works
Match residents of the Ibaraki Creators House with companies and local industries and encourage the production of a variety of content through collaboration among creators. Display the results of this at the Ibaraki Contents Collection and link it to the development of business following the exhibition.

4. Hold the Ibaraki Contents Software Awards
Recognise anime and apps linked to the area, discover related talent and ideas, and promote the creation of an IT community.

Ibaraki Contents Software Awards 2015

Smart Phone App Category

Smart Phone Apps

Winner: Nobase! Nebaru-kun (Nebaru-kun wo Nobasu Shimin no Kai)
Runner Up: Hirameki Ibatouch!! (SHiFT-UP)
Runner Up: Ibachara Zukan (Ibaraki Prefectural Ryugasaki 2nd High School Commerce Department)

Smart Phone App Ideas

Winner: Omoidearimasu in Kasama (Kasama Omoide Seisaku Iiinkai)
Runner Up: Ryotei Fukuroda no Taki Keiei Simulation (Okawa Yosuke)
Runner Up: Ibaraki Yorimichi Navigation (Ishihara Hidemi)

Animation Category

Animated Short (Free theme)

Winner: Horikawa Demizu Hairu (Tani Yosuke)
Work
Creator’s Website
Encouragement Award: ÉMIGRÉ (Nakajima Wataru)
Encouragement Award: Kami no Ue no Arty to Bit (Azuma Misaki)
Fighting Spirit Award: Gourmet Bancho (Champon)
Judges Special Award: Series Otomodachi (Nagaya Masaharu/Ishimatsu)

Animated Short (Ibaraki Theme)

Encouragement Award: Hajimete no Oryori Suteki na Natto (Takeko Denno Sosakudan)
Fighting Spirit Award: Natto Nostalgia (Sakata Ryo)

Character Design

Winner: Nobara (An)
Second Place: Mitona (Nakano Sanae)

Ibaraki Contents Collection Booths

4th Cluster

Website

A group of students from Tsukuba University who got together with the common goal of making games. Their work includes the PC mystery visual novel game series ‘Campus Notes’, which is set at Tsukuba University. They are currently working on a smart phone RPG.

Categories: Game

ICH Manga-ka Group

A combined exhibition of Ibaraki manga artists, including Aoyama Takanori from the manga production unit RusuKey, whose manga B is currently being serialised on MangaBox, Kino Hinata, who penned the Manga Junior Meisaku work Night on the Galactic Railroad, based on the famous novel by Miyazawa Kenji, and Yokoi Sanpo, who adapts games into comic form for magazines including Famitsu DS+Wii, Terebi Game Magazine, and Pikopuri.

Categories: Game, Illustration

Otasaku

Website

Otasaku has managed the original character store ‘Otasaku Shop’ in Tsukuba since 2006. She produces cheerful and lighthearted merchandise and clothing using Otasaku characters, who are based on cats.

Categories: Character, Merchandise

Geek House Tsukuba

Website

A Geek House is a share house comprising mostly of tenants who are NEETs or engineers. Geek House Tsukuba is working on an apiary based on the IoT method. They commenced preparations in November 2015, and have since held study and hive making sessions.

Categories: Sharehouse, Apiculture

Imada Tama

Website

A manga artist who debuted in 2010 with Pachinko Fever (Issuisha). They have since published several works including Pachipro7 (Tatsumi Shuppan), Pachinko Dairensho (Nippon Bungeisha), and Nekodamashii, and Nekopuni (Mediax). In November 2015, their work Kazoku ga Inakunatta Hi was published as a book.

Categories: Manga

Harukaze Mika

Website

A manga artist from Tsukuba who attended Azuma Kindergarten, Elementary, and Junior High School and Takezono High School. She graduated from the Department of Law at Chiba University then honed her design skills in the Planning and Design Section of Kinmei Graphic Art. She currently resides in Tsukuba, working as a freelance manga artist and illustrator.

Categories: Manga, Illustration

Matsuri Hero Project

Website

The Matsuri Hero Project began as Tsukuba Hatsu! Matsuri Hero Soran Dragon in 2010. They have held hero shows and traditional Japanese performing arts shows all around the country and even overseas. They offer a range of action entertainment, including 3D collaborative shows and education packages.

Categories: Performance, Action

Hitachi Risshi Juku Business Journal Session

Website

A workers’ group where young owners, successors, and field managers of small and medium sized businesses in Hitachi and Hitachinaka of various fields, ages, and genders come together for study sessions. They shared ideas with local university students and created their own character and LINE stamps.

Categories: Character

SHiFT-UP

Website

This enterprise began as Studio Index in Hitach in 2003, and was primarily engaged in web design. After touring an overseas company, they began to design gaming apps. In 2015 they re-launched as SHiFT-UP, a smart phone entertainment app developer.

Categories: Game

Local Animation Production Project

A project launched from an Ibaraki Creators’ Network volunteer workshop to produce animation with a close link to the local area. They are striving to gain a wide network of supporters and have the animations they produce used to promote Ibaraki.

Categories: Animation, Tram

Koichi Uehara

Website

An independent animator who produces animations that resemble silhouettes. He also takes on character design and illustration work.

Categories: Animation

Sunekuma

Website

An illustrator and comic artist who enjoys drawing young characters and machinery such as planes and rockets. They want to create works that can be enjoyed by many people.

Categories: Illustration

Yotagarasu

Website

A literary circle consisting of Tsukuba University students and alumni.
Noriko Senju: Involved in a variety of writing projects such as publishing stories online and in pamphlets and writing game scenarios and popular fiction
Yowa Shido: Writes novels and game scenarios. Was a short-listed candidate for the 21st Dengeki Awards Comic Writing category.
Kugai Iori: Writes novels, comics, and game scenarios. Author of Kakuheki no Make Doll (Ponican Books) Yoneura Yuu: The youngest member, representing the next generation!

Isekai Toukei Kazoeuta

Website

A collaboration project connecting a serial novel with the Ibaraki Prefectural Government Statistics Division’s twitter. The project was planned by the Statistics Division. Yotagarasu from the Ibaraki Creators’ House writes the story and Tsunayama draws the main characters for use on twitter and the covers. The story currently has three chapters. It is uploaded every two weeks to the writing website Shosetsuka ni Narou.

Categories: Statistics, Novel

Kakkoi Rikei Yogo de Koi Shiyou!

Bikkuri Suru Hodo Yaku ni Tatanai! Rikei Kudoki Monku Shuu (A Collection of Incredibly Useless Scientific Pick Up Lines). This book features highly specific scientific vocab and a clumsy male scientist. A collaboration between Noriko Senju of Yotagarasu and Natsumi Furuyama.

Categories: Illustration, original work

Natsumi Furuyama

Website

A freelance illustrator specialising in illustration and character design active in Tokyo and Tsukuba since 2013. She recently illustrated the medical textbook Kanja to Kazoku ni Todoku Kanwa Care.

Categories: Illustration, Design

3D Girl Miri

A project by the Ibaraki Creators House illustrator Natsumi Furuyama, CG designer Akira Souma, and musicians Denshi Jision produce a 3D CG music video. Miri is the image character for Denshi Jision’s song ‘3 Jigen no Ano Musume to Kisu ga Shitai’.

Denshi Jision

Website

A white-clad ‘scientific’ entertainment group/band active in Tsukuba Science City. As the members are scientists, their unique electronic music influenced by modern culture features Tsukuba and scientific vocabulary.

Categories: Science, Band

Rista-Design

Website

A graphic design company. They design brand logos, posters, pamphlets, websites, stickers, and more. They will commence the sale of a 3D projection experience kit for smart phones from April. The prototype was on display at the Ibaraki Contents Collection exhibition.

Categories: Design, merchandise

Studio Nibun no Ichi

Website

A group consisting of a CG creator, graphic designer, and system engineer/ integrator. They are involved in a variety of production projects including videos, games, merchandise, apps, and illustrations in the pursuit of the concept of multi-use, which is one of the advantages of 3DCG.

Categories: 3D content production, video

Realize+

The event producer Realize+ was established in 2015. They are working on an event for late July. Specialising in music and video, they have undertaken a new goal of treasuring their connections with people so that everyone they come in contact with can become a ‘plus’.

Categories: Event, Music

Studio Kinako

Website

Studio Kinako is a studio based in rural Chikusei. They run classes and workshops for DJing, VJing, drums, keyboard, and DTM, produce music, and participate in events. They have participated in Comitia, Gallery Art Point Ginza, and Design Festa Harajuku.

Categories: DJ, Event

Techline

Website

This company is engaged in the provision of services and development of apps for stores using SoftBank Robotics’ product Pepper. They are currently also in possession of Pepper’s older brother Nao.

Categories: App development

Takuhiko Yokoyama

Website

Began working as an illustrator in April 2013. Has worked on individual and collaboration projects including ‘Kinder Book 3 2014 April Volume’, ‘Mushikui Note’ (Kanzen) ‘Fukashigi Plants Zukan’ (Seibundo Shinkosha), and ‘Watashi no Hatake no Chiisa na Sekai’ (Express Media Publishing, to be published).

Categories: Illustration, Insects

Tomu

Website

Organiser of ‘Moeshu Summit’, and event held every year in Akihabara attracting around 30,000 attendees, this company produces sake for a variety of contents. Their shochu ‘Vocaloid Lilly’ won the special aware Lilly Frankie at the 2010 Bin Awards.

Categories: Moeshu

Penton Kikaku Shitsu

Website

The owner of this toy design enterprise started it as a post retirement project, making use of their experience as a toy maker. Their interest in carpentry lead them to start making wooden toys using a 3D CAD and CNC tool. They won the Hyogo Governor’s Award at the 2014 Hyogo Prefectural Tanba Nenrin no Sato Woodwork Exhibition in 2014.

Categories: 3D CAD, Toys

Eiko Kuriu

Website

Born and raised in Tsukuba, Eiko Kuriu graduated from the University of Tsukuba College of Comparative Culture and Kuwasawa Design School. After working for companies involved in editing temple publications, lighting, and IT, she started working as a freelance illustrator in 2009. She mainly creates illustrations for books, magazines, and websites.

Categories: Illustration

Yasufujiya

Website

Joined a printing company after graduation. After 10 years working as a designer, they went freelance. In addition to graphic design, they also do illustration and character design.

Tag: Character, illustration

Ibaraki Prefectural Ryugasaki 2nd High School Commerce Department

Website

The commerce department started a project called ‘The commerce department began to use NetCommons’ as a part of the 100 year anniversary celebrations for Ryugasaki 2nd High School. The project includes activities such as the creation of groupware by students in the commerce department, a parent and child programming class using Viscuit, and the development of smartphone apps using Monaca.

Categories: App, Character

Oarai Introduction Booth

Website

Oarai is working hard to show the world why it’s a great place, with projects like a store in the Oarai Resort Outlet dedicated to displaying the things that make Oarai wonderful and events that allow as many people as possible to enjoy Oarai, the setting of Girls und Panzer.

Categories: Merchandise, sightseeing, event

Tsukuba Short Film Competition

Website

The Tsukuba Short Film Competition (Tsukuppe for short) is a film festival that is held to share culture from Tsukuba, uncover new talent, and to be a fun event for residents to enjoy. This year is the third year that it has been held, and director Yoshihiro Nakamura, who is from Tsukuba, will be participating as a special judge.

Categories: Video

Kenpoku Local Creative Project

Website

This project seeks to create a new style of working by renovating vacant buildings in shopping areas into shared offices and supporting creators and creative enterprises so that they can work without worrying about time and their workspace.

Categories: Northern District Economic Development Division, supporting creators

Studio Puyukai

Website

An animation studio based in Tsukuba. They have worked on a variety of projects, notably Agukaru, the short film ‘Mobile Suit Gakuen G-Reko Koshien’ included on the Blu-ray for Gundam G no Reconguista, and the short film ‘Pure Pure Purea desu’ available on the official Overlord anime website.

Ibaraki Nurse Center

Website

The Ibaraki Nurse Center is a support facility dedicated to utilizing the skills of those in the nursing field for society. They have created the characters Hapina-chan and Nurse Centre-kun, and are working to raise awareness of them and their work among those in the nursing profession.

Categories: Character

Ibaraki wo Shirou! Dai Campaign

Website

The slogan of this campaign is ‘Nobishiro Nihon Ichi. Ibaraki-ken’ (Ibaraki, the prefecture with the most potential in Japan). The Nobiru Ibaraki Senden Tai, a group made up on Yoshitimo celebrities lead by Yuuji Ayabe and Naomi Watanabe and assisted by Ibaraki’s unofficial mascot, the natto spirit Nebaru-kun, are working to spread Ibaraki’s appeal all around Japan.

Categories: Public Relations Division

Nebaru-kun

Website

Nebaru-kun is the unofficial mascot of Ibaraki. He is a natto spirit born to support Ibaraki, the home of natto, and all the children in the world.

Ibaraki Film Commission

Website

The Ibaraki Film Commission assists in securing locations for the filming of movies and TV shows and in attracting projects to locations.

Ibaraki Digital Contents Software Awards

Website

A contest honouring smartphone apps, short animated films, and character designs organized by the Ibaraki Prefectural Government, the Ibaraki Prefectural Sophisticated Information Society Promotion Council, and the Ibaraki Information Service Industry Association.

Categories: Ibaraki Prefectural Information Policy Division, Animation

One Day in Ibaraki

Fruit Picking in Ibaraki

As Japan’s second biggest producer of agricultural products, Ibaraki is heaven for fruit lovers with a number of farms and orchards open to visitors. In autumn, many of these places offer fruit picking experiences, giving you the opportunity to enjoy freshly picked seasonal fruit with your friends and family.
Note: The phone numbers provided will most likely only be able to handle queries in Japanese

Asian Pears (Nashi)

Ibaraki is the number one producer of Asian pears in the Kanto region, and the number two producer of the kosui and hosui varieties nationwide. They are mainly grown in Kasumigaura, Ishioka, Chikusei, Shimotsuma, and Yachiyo. Asian pears have been grown in Ibaraki since the Edo Period, and it is one of the oldest production areas in Japan.

Where can I go Asian pear picking?

Mito
Late August – Late September
Mito-shi Kajuengei Kumiai Renraku Kyōgikai (029-243-9312)

Shirosato
Late August – Mid September
Miyamoto Kankō Kajuen (029-289-3551)

Kasumigaura
Early August – Late October
Chiyoda Fruit Tree Tourist Association (0299-59-2116)

Tsuchiura
Mid August – Late September
Little Farm (029-862-3542)

Grapes

Ibaraki’s vineyards are very popular for their fruit picking experiences. You can try your hand at harvesting a number of different varieties of delicious grapes between July and October, from Kyoho grapes to western varieties that can be eaten with the skin on.

Where can I go grape picking?

Hitachiota
Early September – Mid October
JA Ibaraki Mizuho Hitachiota Budō Bukai Jimukyoku (0294-70-3488)

Tokai
Late August – Early October
Shimizu Budō En (029-283-0278)

Hitachi
September
Nakazato Leisure Nōen (contact JA Ibaraki Hitachi Nakazato Branch, 0294-59-0101)
Orikasa Budō Kankō Nōen (contact JA Ibaraki Hitachi Hidaka Branch 0294-42-4415)

Naka
Mid August – Late August
Kamigane Budō En (029-298-3963)

Mito
Early September – Late September
Mito-shi Kajuengei Kumiai Renraku Kyōgikai (029-243-9312)

Ishioka
Early August – Mid October
Yasato Kankō Kaju Kumiai (0299-43-1111)

Kasumigaura
Late August – Mid October
Chiyoda Fruit Tree Tourist Association (0299-59-2116)

Apples

Most of Ibaraki’s apples are produced in the cooler mountainous areas such as Daigo, and you can enjoy their crisp sweetness between September and November.
When and where can I go apple picking?

Daigo
Mid September – Late November
Okukuji Ringo no Mura
Okukuji Ringo no Furusato
Okukuji Ringo En
Okukuji Asakawa Ringo Danchi
Okukuji Shizen Kyūyō Mura
For more information, contact the Daigo Tourism Association 0295-72-0285

Hitachiomiya
Mid September – Late November
Takamura Ringo En (0295-57-3775)
Late September – Late November
Sawayaka Kajuen (0295-57-2711)

Hitachi
Early September – Early December
Nakazato Leisure Nōen (contact JA Ibaraki Hitachi Nakazato Branch, 0294-59-0101)

Mito
Early September – Early December
Mito-shi Kajuengei Kumiai Renraku Kyōgikai (029-243-9312)

Shirosato
Early October – Late November
Miyamoto Kankō Kajuen (029-289-3551)

Kasama
Late September – Late November
Fujieda Ringo En (0296-74-3060)

Ishioka
Late September – Late November
Yasato Kankō Kaju Kumiai (0299-43-1111)

Ushiku
Mid September – Early December
Kankō Nōen Naganuma Ringo En (029-875-0592)

Persimmons

Ibaraki is the northernmost area where persimmons can be grown. They are grown widely throughout Ibaraki though mainly in the south of the prefecture. The persimmons grown in the Yasato area in Ishioka have been gifted to the Imperial family since 1955, which speaks volumes about their delicious flavour.

Where can I go persimmon picking?

Ishioka
Late September – Late November
Yasato Kankō Kaju Kumiai (0299-43-1111)

Kasumigaura
Late September – Late November
Chiyoda Fruit Tree Tourist Association (0299-59-2116)

Tsuchiura
Mid October – Mid November
Little Farm (029-862-3542)

Melons

Ibaraki is the number one producer of melons nationwide. The Earl’s Favourite variety is grown through summer and autumn mainly in Hokota, Yachiyo, and Ibarakimachi, and it comes into season during October. In Japan, melons are very popular as gifts.

Where can I go melon picking?

Sakuragawa
Early September – Mid October
KEK Chokuei Iwase Nōjō (0296-76-0744)

Hokota
Early September – Early October
Sun Green Asahi (0291-37-4147)
Early September – Late October
Forest Park Melon no Mori (0291-33-5621)

Mandarins

Mt. Tsukuba is said to the northernmost area for growing mandarins, and most of Ibaraki’s mandarin producers are located in that area. The Fukure mandarin from the foothills of Mt. Tsukuba is only 3cm in diameter and are known for their strong acidic flavour.

Where can I go mandarin picking?

Ishioka
Mid October – Late November
Yasato Kankō Kaju Kumiai (0299-43-1111)

Sakuragawa
Early November – Late December
Sakayori Kankō Mikan Kumiai (0296-55-4330)

Tsukuba
Early November – Late December
Kessoku Mikan En (029-867-0688)

Chestnuts

Ibaraki is the number one producer of chestnuts nationwide, and Kasama, Kasumigaura, and Ishioka are the main production areas. Delicious when simply boiled, they take on a whole other level of tastiness when candied or simmered in their astringent skin.

Where can I go chestnut picking?

Kasumigaura
Early September – Late October
Chiyoda Fruit Tree Tourist Association (0299-59-2116)

Tsukuba
Late September – Early October
Ogawa Blueberry En (029-836-1312)

Dried Sweet Potatoes

Whilst not a fruit, sweet potatoes are a healthy food packed with vitamins and dietary fibre, and Ibaraki is one of Japan’s top producers. Hokota and Namegata are the main production areas. 97% of Japan’s dried sweet potato is produced in Ibaraki.
Where can I see dried sweet potato being made/go sweet potato picking?

Ishioka
Asahi Satoyama Gakkō (0299-51-3117)

Kasumigaura
Chiyoda Fruit Tree Tourist Association (0299-59-2116)

Shimotsuma
Beers Park Shimotsuma Fureai Taiken Nōjō (0296-30-5121)

Hokota
Forest Park Melon no Mori (029-133-5621)

Tokai
Hoshi-imo Kōbō (029-283-0278)

One Day in Ibaraki

Mt. Tsukuba Onsen – Edoya

After viewing the beautiful plum forest on the side of Mt. Tsukuba or after a climb to the top, nothing is more relaxing than a dip in one of the local onsen. Nestled at the foot of Mt. Tsukuba next to Mt. Tsukuba Shrine is Edoya, a traditional Japanese inn (or ryokan) and onsen.

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Although the three current buildings that make up the ryokan date from between 1968 and 1985, Edoya’s rich history can be traced back to 1628 during the Edo Period. After the Mt. Tsukuba Chuzenji Temple was built by Tokugawa Iemitsu, the area saw a sudden increase in worshipers, and Edoya was built to help meet those needs. After the temple was dismantled in 1872, the owner at the time built a western style mansion on the site, called the Holland Mansion, in 1873 in order to continue to draw visitors to the area.

Holland Mansion (Courtesy of Mt. Tsukuba Onsen - Edoya)

Over the years, Edoya has had many important and famous guests, including the 19th Sumo yokozuna (grand champion) Taniemon, Hitachiyama (born in Mito), poets Hakushu Kitahara and Yau Yokose, and even Emperor Showa (Hirohito) in 1985.

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Nowadays, Edoya is still enjoyed by visitors, both from within Japan and from abroad. For those who only want to stay the day, Edoya is a great place to stop and relax. Inside, one can enjoy lunch at its café Seseragi, or just enjoy a cup of coffee or tea while resting your feet in the ashiyu (footbath) located on the veranda overlooking a small river and greenery. Day visitors can also take a dip in Edoya’s onsen, which also overlooks the same wonderful greenery, and refresh after a long day’s hike around the area. For those looking for a nice place for dinner, Edoya is also home to the Japanese style restaurant Yusentei, where guests can enjoy a private dinning atmosphere.

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For those who wish to experience a traditional Japanese ryokan, Edoya offers Japanese style rooms to stay the night. With a large range of rooms, Edoya can accommodate between 2 to 7 people per room, making it a great place to stay for any occasion. They also have rooms with western style beds for those who want to still experience a traditional ryokan without sleeping on the floor on a futon. As most rooms do not have a bath, guests can bathe in the onsen for free (although rooms with baths are also available upon request). Also included in the price for most plans is a delicious Japanese style dinner and breakfast held in a dining area.

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Edoya also offers banquet rooms that can be rented out for dinners, weddings, enkai (or drinking parties), and even office meetings. They also offer the option to book a free shuttle bus to and from Tsukuba Station, offering easy access from Tokyo, and to those who don’t want to hassle renting a car (or just driving in general).

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While the ryokan is open all year round, it is especially popular during certain times of the year. The first is during the Plum Blossom Festival that runs between late February and late March. The next is during in the fall when Mt. Tsukuba turns red, yellow, and orange with the colors of autumn. Also, as Edoya is located right next to Mt. Tsukuba Shrine, it can become quite busy when shrine festivals take place.

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Whether you find yourself at Mt. Tsukuba just for the day, or decide to spend a weekend relaxing, Edoya is definitely worth a stop!

Address: 728 Tsukuba, Tsukuba 300-4352
TEL: 029-866-0321
Website: www.tsukubasan.co.jp (available in Japanese and Chinese)
Price: Lunch 3,000 yen/ person~
Stay (Dinner and Breakfast) 16,000 yen/ person~

One Day in Ibaraki

Mt. Tsukuba

There is a saying in Japanese, though it does not seem to be so well known – ‘Fuji in the west, Tsukuba in the east’. Mt. Fuji is undoubtedly Japan’s most famous mountain, but Mt. Tsukuba, located in the west of Ibaraki, also has a rich history with the local area, and is listed as one of Japan’s ‘hyakumeizan’, or 100 famous mountains. It is easily distinguishable by its characteristic double peaks, known as Mt. Nantai and Mt. Nyotai.

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Legend has it that thousands of years ago, a deity descended from the heavens and asked Mt. Fuji and Mt. Tsukuba for refuge. Mt. Fuji refused, proudly assuming that it did not need the blessings of a deity as it was already so grand. Mt. Tsukuba, however, humbly welcomed the deity. Now, Mt. Fuji is cold and barren, while Mt. Tsukuba is teeming with life. It is believed that Japan’s creator gods, Izanami no Mikoto and Izanagi no Mikoto, are enshrined in the ancient shrine that sits on its summit. Mt. Tsukuba is a feature in poems and stories reaching back to the Nara Period (710-794).

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Nowadays, Mt. Tsukuba is a popular hiking destination, and there are several trails you can take to the summit. One of the most popular is the Miyugahara trail that starts near Mt. Tsukuba Shrine, conveniently accessible via a shuttle bus from Tsukuba Station.  That path will take you around two hours at a moderate pace to reach the saddle between the two peaks. From there, climbing up to either peak will take you around 10-15 minutes. For those who just want to see the top without breaking a sweat, there is a cable car that will take you close to the top of Mt. Nantai.

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We decided to try out another trail that starts at the Tsutsujigaoka Ropeway Station and takes you to the top of Mt. Nyotai. You start out on the Otatsuishi trail, which eventually meets up with the Shirakumobashi trail. The ropeway will also take you to the summit. We hiked the trail up and caught the ropeway down. I recommend this method – you can work hard on the way up then coast on the way down! The view from the ropeway is definitely worth checking out.

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The path starts next to an old playground – after climbing for about 300m, you will reach Tsutsujigaoka Plateau, where you can stop to admire the view. As the path climbs it becomes more wooded – you can see a variety of trees, including Japanese cypress, Japanese evergreen oak, and beech. You might also be lucky enough to see some colourful butterflies – swallowtails, silver-washed fritillary, and copper are often seen along the Otatsuishi trail.

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The path takes roughly 40 minutes to the point that it merges with the Shirakumobashi trail, and there is a rest area where the two paths meet. From there, along the Shirakumobashi trail, it will take you around 15 minutes to reach the top of Mt. Nyotai. Along the way you will see a number of interesting rock formations, some of which have signs explaining their names and history. Several have some significance in Shinto and Buddhist customs. You can also see the ropeway off to the side of the path.

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The summit commands a splendid view of the Kanto Plain. On a clear day, you can see Tokyo Skytree, and sometimes even Mt. Fuji in the distance. From there you have the option of hiking the trail that connects Mt. Nyotai to Mt. Nantai, where you could jump on the Shizen Kenkyuu trail that winds around the summit of Mt. Nantai.

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Once you’re ready to head down, you can either head back along one of the trails, take the cable car from the saddle, or take the rope way from Mt. Nyotai. We chose the third option, and enjoyed a well-earned lunch at one of the restaurants near the Tsutsujigaoka Ropeway Station. And of course no venture in Japan is complete without buying some delicious local souvenirs!

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Do you enjoy onsen? There’s nothing better at the end of a long hike than a soak in a hot bath! There are a number of ryokan with onsen around Mt. Tsukuba Shrine near the base of the mountain. We visited Edoya – read about it in our upcoming One Day in Ibaraki article!

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Mt. Tsukuba is climbable all year round, though autumn and spring provide the most charming scenery. In late winter/early spring, you can check out the plum blossoms in the Plum Forest during the Mt. Tsukuba Plum Blossom Festival. In autumn, you can enjoy the brilliant reds and oranges of the changing leaves – during November, the mountain is lit up in the evenings and the cable car operates until late. It is definitely worth visiting in both seasons!

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Access

By Public Transport
To Tsutsujigaoka: Accesible via shuttle bus from Tsukuba Station (50 minutes), Numata (20 minutes), or Tsukuba-san Jinja Iriguchi (10 minutes).
To Mt. Tsukuba Shrine (Tsukuba-san Jinja Iriguchi): Accessible via shuttle bus from Tsukuba Station (40 minutes) or Numata (10 minutes).
To Numata: Accessible by shuttle bus from Tsukuba-san-guchi (3 minutes) or Tsukuba Station (30 minutes).
To Mt. Tsukuba Entrance (Tsukuba-san-guchi): Accessible via shuttle bus from Tsukuba Station (35 minutes) or regular bus from Tsuchiura Station (50 minutes)

By Car
Those driving can reach the cable car by entering Tsukuba-san Jinja (筑波山神社) into their GPS System, or the ropeway by entering Tsukuba-san Keisei Hotel (筑波山京成ホテル).

Mt. Tsukuba Cable Car/Ropeway Website (includes maps and trail information)

One Day in Ibaraki

Mt. Tsukuba Plum Festival

Although cherry blossoms are considered to be quintessentially Japanese, plum blossoms, their lesser known cousins, are also the heralds of spring in many parts of Japan, their fragrant flowers of pink, red, and white blooming in late winter and filling the hearts of locals with hope for an end to the chill. Ibaraki in particular has a strong relationship with plum blossoms. Around 3000 trees of 100 different varieties of plum blossom trees fill Kairakuen, one of Japan’s three most famous parks, located in Mito.

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While cherry blossom festivals are decidedly more numerous, there are also a number of local festivals from late February to mid-March that celebrate the annual appearance of the plum blossoms. One such festival is the Mt. Tsukuba Plum Festival. Held annually in the Plum Forest (bairin), which sits around 250m above sea level on the slopes of the mountain. Far above the city and away from the constant background bustle of people and traffic, this festival offers attendees a rare view of the Kanto Plain through branches peppered with soft petals of pink and white. When we visited the festival in mid-March, we were blessed with a beautiful sunny morning, allowing us to appreciate the contrast of the pale petals against a brilliant blue sky.

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There are a number of paths winding through the trees, so you can take a leisurely stroll through to appreciate the blossoms (pausing for pictures of course). A small stream flows down the mountain through the forest, and during the festival it fills with fallen petals. The same petals flutter through the air and form a pink and white carpet upon the forest floor, creating an atmosphere that is truly ethereal.

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Upon climbing to the upper reaches of the forest, you will find an observation deck, which provides a breathtaking view of the whole forest and the city of Tsukuba below. On a clear day you can see Tokyo, and sometimes even as far as Mt. Fuji.

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During the festival, the road is lined with food stalls selling local products, including many plum-themed snacks such as plum youkan (sweet jellied azuki bean paste) and plum-flavoured soft serve. Beside the forest there is a small building where you can escape the seasonal chill and enjoy complimentary cups of tea. For something a little more substantial, the Omotenashi building that sits just below the forest serves as a rest area where visitors can warm up with steaming bowls of rice miso soup and hot drinks.

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Just outside the Omotenashi building is a stage set up for the duration of the festival where visitors can see a number of shows, including one by a gama no aburauri, a spruiker from the Edo Period who would give lively performances in order to sell bulrush oil, a local cure-all. From swordsmanship to silly puns, this short routine has got it all, and is worth checking out. On weekends there are also several additional folk entertainment performances.

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This unique festival is definitely worth a visit, and can easily be made into a great day trip if you add in a climb to Mt. Tsukuba’s summit, a visit to the Mt. Tsukuba shrine, and a dip in one of the numerous nearby onsen facilities. You could even stay overnight in one of the fantastic local inns. If you are looking for something to do in late February or March, look no further!

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Mt. Tsukuba Plum Festival

When: Dates vary each year, usually begins around February 20th and ends in the last weekend of March
Where: Mt. Tsukuba Plum Forest
Website: http://umematsuri.jp/

Access

By Public Transport
Take the Mt. Tsukuba Shuttle Bus from Tsukuba Station and get off at Tsukuba Jinja Iriguchi (roughly 40 minutes). It is a short walk from there to the Plum Forest.

By Car*
From the Tsuchiura Kita IC on the Joban Expressway: Around 20km along National Route 125 in the direction of Shimotsuma and Mt. Tsukuba
From the Sakuragawa Chikusei IC on the Joban Expressway: Take National Route 50 then it is around 20km along Prefectural Route 41 toward Mt. Tsukuba

Parking
There are five parking lots: Parking Lots 1-4, which are managed by the City of Tsukuba, and Tsutsujigaoka Parking Lot, which is managed by the Prefectural Government. Parking Lot 1 is the closest to the Plum Forest where the festival is being held.

*As the roads and parking lots tend to be crowded during the festival, it is recommended that you take public transport.

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