Kaga Orphanage Visit

Photo: iloveconor.com *Note: This is an orphanage in Korea 🙂

If you’re feeling charitable, loving, and full of energy, there’s a great volunteering opportunity coming up.  AJET has organized a trip to the Inamien Orphanage in Kaga on Saturday, March 13, 2010 from 1:30-3:00.

They’ll be playing games and doing activities with 20 elementary school aged children, and if you’ve never played with orphanage kids before, I can personally attest that it’s a lot of fun and will give you a lot of feel-good vibes, even if you don’t speak their language.

Ideally AJET is looking to go back once every 2 months, so they’d love to have a core group of solid volunteers get established; however, I’m sure the kids would be happier for you to visit them once than never at all.

Also, this event announcement was sent out to JETs, but if you’re a non-JET foreigner living in Ishikawa who’s interested in participating, you may want to contact Anna anyway!  I’m betting she’d be happy you’re interested.

Interested in going?  Email Anna at volunteerishikawa [at] gmail [dot] com

Natadera 那谷寺

Of course you can see famous temples and shrines in Kyoto and Tokyo, but there are some lovely temples right here in Ishikawa, too. Over the Labor Thanksgiving weekend in later November, I went to Natadera 那谷寺 in Komatsu to see the changing fall colors (紅葉 kouyou). Judging by the photos in the pamphlet they gave me (available in Japanese or English), Natadera is beautiful in every season : cherry blossoms in the spring, maple leaves in mid-to-late November, snow in the winter. Even if you missed the 紅葉 (kouyou; let’s use this term because “changing fall leaves” is a mouthful) this year, a trip in the winter or summer would be equally lovely.

Natadera's Autumn Beauty. From the official Natadera website.

Natadera was founded in 717 CE (Nara Period) by Taichou. The three-storied pagoda is considered a national treasure. This also is one of Ishikawa’s many shrines/temples dedicated to Hakusan. For those of you interested in Buddhism, Natadera is the head shrine of the Koyasan Shingon sect of Esoteric Shingon Buddhism. Also, for you poetry lovers, the poet Basho visited this temple in 1689.

I have to admit that I get temple fatigue very easily, but Natadera is different enough from the temples I went to in Kyoto and Nara to keep me entertained. There’s a small garden and a few ponds, but the most interesting features are the shrines built into the rock face and the beautiful bridges and buildings opposite the shrines. The 紅葉kouyou was absolutely stunning in late November.

The crowning jewel of the temple complex is the giant statue of the Eleven-Headed Kannon (十一面千手観音), the goddess of mercy and the Bodhisattva of compassion. You can’t photograph the statue, but you can see the head on the official website and in this 2007 article in The Yomiuri Shimbun about the cleaning of the statue. Neither photo does the statue justice, though, but it will give you a small taste for now. When you enter the building that houses the statue, Kannon towers over you at 7.8 meters, her serene countenance painted a brilliant gold. (Warning: this statue may inspire you to use GRE words, too.) The statue is a truly awesome sight, and I felt as if I could have studied her expression for hours.

Leah Zoller is a first-year CIR in Anamizu and sometimes uses GRE words.

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Kutaniyaki Festival (May 3-5)

Like Kutani porcelin but can’t afford to buy it at normal prices?  Head down to Terai for a price-down festival!

May 3rd-5th (3 days)
Location:  Sunroad Terai, YO-47 Terai-machi, Nomi-shi, 923-1121
TEL: 0761-57-3511
Open Hours: 8:30 – 20:30 (until 18:00 on May 5th)
Access: Take the Hokutetsu Bus bound for “Terai
Chosha-mae” from the JR Kanazawa Station and get off at the last stop; Or take the bus from JR Komatsu Station and get off at “Kaijo-mae” Bus Stop.

This Festival is held every year as a memorial to the founders of Kutaniyaki: Kutani Shoza and Dokai Saida. It first started in the Meiji Period where about 70 manufacturers of Kutaniyaki Porcelain joined their shops together for the Festival, and since the beginning of Showa Period, the Festival became more and more famous and popular for having clearance sales and bargains on many Kutaniyaki Porcelains. Nowadays more than 300,000 porcelain and pottery fans will come every year from all over Japan to attend the Festival, and during this time the town will be filled with excitement and  joy. The tents and stalls are all packed with many porcelains and potteries; you can get great deals on any items from ¥100 accessories to ¥1,000,000 huge Japanese pots.

~From HotIshikawa.com (Japanese homepage)

Ganmon

On every road in Japan, there is always a roadside attraction. Whether it is the World’s Longest Bench (which is actually the third longest bench, but has yet to change its sign) or the hidden Bird Park tucked away behind Tatsurahama Station, there is always somewhere to go.

And what better than a little adventure warm the blood when the winter chill gets too much?

Along the western coast is a National Park seperated into many different areas. The biggest is Ganmon, nicely situated on the cliffs next to a sleepy little town that crawls up a mountain from the bay. The town itself is a enchanting place to walk around, even on the most blustery of days.

The cliffs at Ganmon are known for being suicide cliffs, which in Japan always translates to beautiful nature. It is split into two different parks. The first is the actual tourist attraction, complete with stores and delicious omiyage. Here, there is a cave, many great photo opportunities, a fantastic bridge with a gorgeous view, and a boat ride available from Spring until Fall. The best time to visit here is when the tide is coming up, so you can walk across the rocks with the waves crashing all around you.

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The second park is further up the road towards Togi, and a little out of the way. Here, there is a path that leads through the bamboo forest (it feels a bit like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) until it reaches the very end of the cliff, where a rope is provided for you to climb down. It’s hairーraising to be sure, but a fun experience nonetheless.

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Directions: By car, Ganmon can be reached by taking the 249 to the 36, no matter which direction you are coming from. Then, just follow the signs. The Kanji reads 巌門. For those without a car in the south, take the train to Hakui station, and the bus to Togi. Get off at Ganmon! However, only half the busses go to Ganmon, so make sure it’s the right bus!! The park will be up the hill, away from the tunnel, and is a good five minute walk away. Turn left at the golden statue dedecated to traffic safety (交通安全).