Vote for Ishikawa’s Mascots in the Yuru Character Grand Prix 2011

Thanks to Super Awesome Happy Fun Time with Sean and Alice for the tip-off!

Japan is famous for its cute mascots, which represent everything from blood banks to local attractions. The NTT Town Page (タウンページ協賛) is currently running a contest in which you can vote for your favorite town mascot in the Yuru Character Grand Prix 2011.

Wakatama-kun from the Yuru Character Grand Prix 2011 website.

Ishikawa has six entries:

Kappuchi from Komatsu (Entry #41)

Mon-chan from Monzen (Entry #45)

Wakutama-kun from Wakura Onsen (Entry #66)

Basshon, representing Noto Heirloom Vegetables (Entry #132)

Konmaru-kun from Nanao (Entry #156)

Nyantarou from Kahoku (Entry #250)

Voting is available until 26 November. If you click the big orange button on your preferred mascot’s page, it will open your email client and make that mascot’s number the subject line. Or, email with the number of your favorite mascot as the subject line (e.g. 66). You can vote once a day.

Leah Zoller is a former CIR (2009-11) and now works for The Art of Japan: Kanazawa/Discover Kanazawa. She voted for Wakutama-kun.

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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Otabi Matsuri 2011

Komatsu’s annual Otabi Matsuri (お旅祭り), one of the three largest festivals in Ishikawa, features children performing kabuki on portable shrines called hikiyama (曳山). This year’s festival will be held from 13-16 May 2011 (Friday – Monday)

From the Otabi Matsuri website.

Perfomance Schedule
The kabuki performances will be held at Daimonji-machi (大門字町) and Kyoumachi (京町).

Daimonji-machi: performing Dondoro Daishi no Ba and Keisei Awa no Naruto

Kyoumachi: perfoming Otoko no Hanamichi

Map of Performances (numbered)


The festival takes place in front of Komatsu Station (小松駅); the grounds (会場) start at the Komatsu Performing Arts Center Urara (小松芸術劇場うらら) and include Ubashi Jinja (莵橋神社), Moto-ori Hiyoshi Jinja (本折日吉神社), the Kyoumachi intersection (京町交差点). Urara is about a 15 minute walk from Komatsu Station.

Access Map (Japanese)

Paid parking is in light blue (有料). Free parking for 5/14 is in pink (無料).

Streets closed to traffic (交通止め) (see lower left) are marked in orange and green.

Places where the hikiyama will be are marked with yellow circles.

Websites (Japanese) (English)

The English site is just information on the history and basic contents of the festival.

How to Donate Goods in Ishikawa

Many thanks to our crack team of JETs who have been working tirelessly to get this information out: Julia Caffrey, ALT; Sophie Bocklandt, CIR; Megan Lam, AJET Charity Rep & ALT; and Bill Smith, PA. 誠にありがとうございます!

Below is a list of locations accepting donations of goods; includes restrictions and maps.
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Donate Goods to the Red Cross in Komatsu

Thanks to Megan Lam and Julia C. for the information!

From the Komatsu City Website:

Between March 17-22 from 9:00-17:00, you can donate goods (see list below) at

  • Komatsu Citizens’ Center (小松市民センター) (map)
  • Komatsu Dome (こまつドーム)map

Donations are LIMITED TO the following items (must be new and unopened):

  1. Rinse-free rice
  2. Bottles of water, 500 mL or 2 litre
  3. Powdered milk
  4. Diapers
  5. Sanitary napkins / Feminine hygiene products
  6. Toilet paper, tissues
  7. Towels
  8. Blankets (not beds or futons)

These items will be delivered by the Red Cross.

From Meiry Komesu, CIR:

If you cannot go to the places above, bring these goods (ONLY BRAND NEW ones) to KIA (Kodera-machi Otsu 80, 1/ 5 min from Komatsu station).


市民福祉部 ふれあい福祉課
Komatsu Welfare Division, Welfare Office
Tel. 0761-24-8052
Fax 0761-23-0294

Welcome to Komatsu! the Musical

One of our local musical maestros has whipped up another sure-to-please act.
Check it out:
What: “WELCOME TO KOMATSU!” – an original musical

Where/When: Komatsu Dome 2 pm on March 13

In honor of the 20th anniversary of the sister city-relationship between Komatsu and Gateshead, UK, Osugi Musical Theatre will present a musical on March 13 in Komatsu and March 22-23 in Gateshead.

The story takes characters from Komatsu history and catapults them into the present –  the haiku poet Matsuo Basho puts his poems online and in a chat meets 12th century dancer Hotoke Gozen, whose dream it is to travel the world…  

The comedy is played in Japanese, with English narration and bilingual songs.


There are 10 people in our cast, supplemented by a chorus of 25 schoolchildren. In Gateshead, college students will sing in the chorus.

Details can be found at

Tickets can be reserved by writing to info[AT]osugimusicaltheatre[DOT]com

This promises to be a fun show, so come one, come all!

Yunokuni no Mori Traditional Handicrafts Village

If you like the traditional arts and crafts of Ishikawa and feel the need to create and be creative, makes plans to head to Kaga’s Yunokuni no Mori (ゆのくにの森). Yunokuni no Mori is a Kaga Traditional Cultural Amenity and offers guests the chance to watch craft-making, make their own crafts, and make or eat fantastic food. (Yes, handmade food is an artistic creation!)

Photo by Leah Zoller.

The “village” is a cluster of workshops that focus on the traditional crafts of Ishikawa: kutani ceramic pottery(kutani-yaki, 九谷焼); Wajima lacquerware (wajima nuri, 輪島塗); Japanese paper-making (washi, 和紙); Kaga yuzen printed silk (yuzen, 友禅); gold leaf(kinpaku, 金箔); Yamanaka lacquerware (yamanaka nuri, 山中塗); music boxes (orugouru, オルゴール); glasswork (gurasu kougei, グラス工芸); Echizen pottery (echizen te bineri, 越前手びねり) and the culinary arts: Japanese and Western sweets (okashi, お菓子) and soba-noodle making (soba, そば). There are three restaurants with delicious local food, a teahouse, an omiyage shop, and some art galleries as well.  You pay a flat fee to enter, and then you pay a fee for whatever activities you choose.

The village is gorgeous—set in a wooden area not too far from Natadera by car, the thatched roves and stone paths of the village are gorgeous in the snow. The village boasts beautiful wildflowers and blooms in the warmer months, and maple leaves in the fall.

Photo from Yunokuni no Mori's website.

If you speak good Japanese, around JLPT N2 level, you shouldn’t have a problem making the crafts. A lot of the signs are bilingual, but the staff isn’t really, though they are friendly and willing to help. I recommend going with a Japanese-speaker if you don’t speak a lot.

When I visited, I decorated a tea tray with gold leaf at a workshop. If you have a small group (under 10 people), you don’t need a reservation, so I was able to just walk into the gold leaf house and didn’t have to wait to get started. The gold-leaf decorating, like the pottery painting/sculpture and paper-making, is priced based on the piece. A tea tray is about 1500 yen to decorate, but a vase is 2000 yen. You can view the prices on the website: click on the building on the map, then scroll down and click the activity (Japanese only).

Photo by Leah Zoller


This was a lovely way to spend the afternoon, and I can’t recommend Hakusan, the soba restaurant, enough. I ordered a vegetable-based meal of soba and a stone pot of rice and veggies, and it was worth every yen.

More information below the cut. Continue reading

Join the Osugi Musical Theatre!

Interested in participating in local theatre? See below for details!

The Osugi Musical Theatre, based in Komatsu,  was founded in 1995 by 1987-88 Kanazawa ALT Gart T. Westerhout to produce original musical theatre at the community level. We also give family concerts, which are made up mostly of songs from our shows. Children and adults act in our shows, which are based on Japanese folklore, history, and theatre. Harmony is our goal, not only in our music but within our theatre family, our community, and beyond. All of our cast and staff are volunteers (including the director). We have a core staff of about 10 people, and our cast size generally ranges  from 5 to 30. (Nov. 14 we gave a gala performance with cast and chorus of 260 strong!)

Our shows are performed in Japanese. We have done 275 performances to date, including two tours to the US, one to England, and one to Austria. For our overseas performances we add narration, bilingual songs, and some supertitles in the local language.  In 2003 OMT was awarded the top Ishikawa Prefecture prize for community development, and in 2004 received the General Affairs Minister’s community development award from the national government.

We always welcome new members, and would be very happy to welcome folks from the JET program to our cast and staff. We have had participation by JETs several times over the years, and it has been a positive experience for all. We are now planning to perform a new musical based on the Japanese comic kyogen tradition in spring or summer 2011 in Komatsu’s sister city Gateshead, England, as well as in London. We will of course put the show on locally as well, and welcome folks whether or not  they will be able to travel overseas.

December 18 at 7 pm we will hold our annual Christmas Concert at Saienji, a former temple in Komatsu that is now a hot spring and restaurant. It is free – come along and meet us!   Call or write for details!

Please have a look at our website, and feel free to contact me anytime!  Hope to have some of you join us in 2011!

Gart T. Westerhout. Director, OMT

info AT osugimusicaltheatre DOT com