Otabi Matsuri 2012

What’s better than festival floats? Elementary school kids decked out in full kabuki gear performing short plays on festival floats, of course! This weekend is Komatsu’s famous Otabi Matsuri, a celebration of Komatsu’s local history and culture. If you’re curious about kabuki but are intimidated by formal performances, this is a great chance to see short performances in a casual atmosphere (with festival food).

From My Japan Travel Guide

Hikiyama floats from the eight central towns will be on display throughout downtown Komatsu all day. The floats in Nishi-machi and Muraki-machi will host hour-long Kabuki shows twice during the afternoon. At around 4:30, all eight floats will be carried to a central location and lit up for two evening performances.  On Saturday, the first evening performance begins at 6:00. To get there, just take a right coming out of the station–the main gathering of floats will be at the intersection of the 305 and the station road.

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Uchinada World Kite Festival May 3-4

Courtesy of Drachenman

Finally, an excuse to bring your flip-flops out of hiding! If you’re sticking around Ishikawa this Golden Week come on out to Uchinada Beach, just 15 minutes from KZ station, on May 3rd and 4th (Thursday and Friday) for this exciting daytime event.

The Uchinada World Kite Festival is in it’s 23rd year (last year was cancelled due to tsunami concerns), and it is the first event to re-open the Uchinada Beach area after winter – lots of fun, food, and sun to be had! If you’ve not been to this festival yet, I recommend it. The kites themselves are enormous! They seem more the size of a hot-air balloon than a kite and the people that fly them come from all over the world. The stunt kite competition is also very impressive, with teams of up to eight pilots flying their kites within inches of each other and performing all manner of figures and formations in the air while somehow narrowly averting disaster.

There will be cheap Japanese kites for sale, festival attendees are encouraged to try their hand at flying their own tako!

Read on for schedule and transportation info:

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Hokuriku Odekake Pass

Staying in the area over Golden Week? If you want to use your three and four-day weekends to explore the area without spending a lot on train fare, JR West has you covered. You may have seen the Hokuriku O-dekake Pass (北陸お出かけパス)advertized before:

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Basically, this is a day-long all-you-can-ride pass for anywhere within the area listed on the map. The zone goes as far north as Tanihama (谷浜)in Niigata Prefecture, and as far south as Nagahama, Fukui on the Hokuriku Line and Aonogou, Fukui on the Obama Line. (Yes, you can visit the city of Obama.) The zone also includes the Noto Line as far as Wakura Onsen. If you haven’t visited Echizen, the Noto, or Toyama Prefecture yet, this is a cheap way to get there and back in a day. Fare from Kanazawa to Aonogou on local trains is 3,570 yen one way, so if you want to go far north or south, this pass can pay for itself at least three times over.

So, how does it work? The pass costs 2,000 yen. It can ONLY be used for local trains (no Limited Express trains like the Thunderbird, Shirasagi, or Hokuetsu). It can also ONLY be used on Saturdays, Sundays, or national holidays. You can get on and off as many times as you would like. The biggest catch perhaps is that it must be purchased AT LEAST three days in advance. You can purchase it as early as one month before the day you want to use it, but they are quite strict about the three days. Passes are definitely available at the larger JR stations like Kanazawa and Komatsu, and must be ordered at the counter. Smaller stations may or may not have them. The offer ends September 30th of this year, but it will probably be back.

Intrigued, but not sure which direction to go? The southern part of Fukui might be familiar to most Ishikawa JETs, but only from out the window of an Osaka or Nagoya-bound train. The Echizen area of Fukui  (normally 1,600+ each way from Kanazawa) is full of temples, shrines, and ruins to explore. 

For those of you living in Southern Ishikawa, this is a cheap way to explore the lower Noto, as tickets from Komatsu to Wakura Onsen usually run about 1,890 yen each way. Similarly, folks in the Noto can get to places like Natadera and Yunokuni no Mori in Kaga.

Your Hokuriku staycation can still be awesome and within budget–just make sure to get your Hokuriku O-dekake Pass at least three days in advance!

 

 

The Shiramine Snowman Festival on Jan. 27 and Feb. 3

Snowmen at the Shiramine Snowman Festival are illuminated by candlelight at night. The process used to keep the snowmen from melting is a town secret.

The annual Shiramine Snowman Festival will be held again on Jan. 27 and Feb. 3. This festival features hundreds of snowmen constructed by the townspeople that are illuminated at night using a special lighting method that is a well-kept town secret. This is a great way to escape the Ishikawa winter blues because no one can possibly be sad when surrounded by hundreds of adorable snowmen. The festival lasts from 3 – 9 p.m.

It’s easiest to get to the festival if you have a car. If you live near Kanazawa or Hakusan, you can make it to the festival with plenty of time if you leave right after work. A Google Map of Shiramine can be found here for those wanting directions. For those interested in attending the Jan. 27 festival, there will be a free shuttle bus from the parking lots to Kuwajima. If you don’t have a car there are shuttle buses leaving from Kanazawa Station at 3 p.m. on both days. A round-trip ticket is ¥2000. Also, see the jump below for an English tour with limited availability.

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Use Technology to Find (More!) Must-See Fall Spots

You’ve probably found many of Ishikawa’s Must-See Fall Spots, but now iPhone users have a tech-savvy way to find great foliage wherever they may travel with Rurubu (Fall Foliage 2011), a free app designed to help you scope out the best spots around Japan.

Use the Location function to find foliage wherever you are. Clicking on a red pin will give you more info about the spot, including its peak color time–apparently Kenrokuen is best viewed from mid-November to early December–public transit directions, address, contact information and a full description (Japanese only).

This fall, try using technology to guide you into the great outdoors!

Get Rurubu from the iTunes store

Find recommended foliage wherever you go!

Get more info about each spot (Japanese only).

Ishikawa’s Must-See Fall Spots

The fall scenery at Natadera Temple in Komatsu.

Fall is here and Japan – never wanting to miss an opportunity to admire nature – is getting ready for the changing of the leaves. Going to a great 紅葉 spot is THE fall outing. So grab some friends, get a car (most of these locations are only accessible via car), make sure your camera has a fully charged battery and get to admiring those leaves.

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Ishikawa’s Shunran-no-Sato finalist for BBC World Challenge

All across rural Japan, many young Japanese are leaving their hometowns to pursue life in the more metropolitan areas. This has left the older farming generations wondering how to get young people to return to the farm. Up in the Noto Peninsula, Shunran-no-Sato (春蘭の里) has found a way to get younger people to return to the farms via eco-tourism. This endeavor has made them a finalist for the BBC World Challenge Project.

Villagers converted their own homes into guesthouses for travelers who come to the village to take part in traditional agricultural activities. Each guesthouse offers different activities from fishing to picking wild vegetables in the mountains to jam making. The owners and other people in the town act as guides for the guests and help younger generations return to their agricultural roots.

Click HERE to vote for the project. Voting is open until Nov. 11.

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Wajima Taisai 輪島大祭

Aug. 22-25 (Mon.-Thurs.)

Waijima Taisai is Wajima’s biggest summer festival. The festival is actually a combination of the festivals of four different shrines in Wajima in the towns of

  • Ama-machi (海士町): Aug. 22 (Mon.) 16:00 – 23:00
  • Kawai-machi (河井町): Aug. 23 (Tues.) 15:00 – 24:00
  • Fugeshi-machi (鳳至町): Aug. 24 (Weds.) 20:00 – 24:00
  • Wajimazaki-machi (輪島崎町): Aug. 25 (Thurs.) 20:00 – 23:00

Wajima Taisai encompasses all the basics of a proper Noto festival into four days of celebration: mikoshi, portable shrines, taken out to sea; kiriko; a bonfire with a 12-meter pine torch; dancing and revelry in the streets. Don’t miss it!

Additional information

The climax of the kiriko part of the festival will be on Aug. 23, 24, 25 at 23:00 each night.

The Ama-machi festival includes participants carrying the kiriko into the bay from 17:30 on 8/22.

Access

〒928-0001 石川県輪島市河井町4

928-0001 Ishikawa-ken Wajima-shi Kawai-machi 4

By car:

Free parking available near the site of the festival. The festivals are concentrated in one part of town. Streets may be closed in certain parts of town.

Map

Public transit:

Take the Hokutetsu (北鉄バス) Kanazawa-Wajima (金沢・輪島) bus  toward Wajima and get off the Wajima Lacquerware Museum (Wajima Shikki Kaikan 輪島漆器会館). 10 minute walk.

More information

Wajima city website (Japanese)

Hot-Ishikawa (English; scroll down to Great Festival of Wajima)

Joanna Clark is a 2nd year ALT in Kahoku City and a believer that most things are better done late than never.