Haunted House Needs Scary Foreigners

By now, I’m sure some of you have been asked to organize or volunteer at at least one Halloween event or run a Halloween class. However, if you’re feeling festive and don’t have a place to scare Japanese children on the 30th, Komatsu’s International Association would love to have you!

KIA is throwing a big Halloween Party for the kids of Komatsu and its environs. We need some ALTs in costume to help out with the games, and–if we can get some more people–possibly a haunted house.

We know you have awesome costumes, great haunted house ideas, and probably some sweet Halloween props. Please put them to use–it’s only once a year!

The Halloween Party itself runs from 1 to 6 on Saturday the 30th, leaving you plenty of time to get to Kanazawa for the AJET get-together. (Komatsu is 30 minutes and not many yen away from Kanazawa Station.)

Set up will be very important for the tentative Haunted House, and we plan on doing that on the 29th in the early evening. Your creative ideas and awesome props would be appreciated–it might be the closest thing to a real Halloween these kids will experience, and we want to make it great.

If you’re interested, write me a keitai mail at laurena at softbank.

Lauren will buy you a drink if you volunteer and show. For reals.

Komatsu City Don Don Matsuri (10/10)

This Sunday,  Komatsu City will hold its 35th annual Don Don Matsuri. This festival isn’t affiliated with any shrine or spiritual practice; rather, it’s yearly chance for  garage bands, theater troupes, and traditional dance ensembles to take over the area around the Komatsu JR station for a day. The festival also includes a market,  lots of festival food, and–of course–a drink tent. 

While not as famous among ALTs as some of Ishikawa’s more traditional matsuri, the Don Don Matsuri offers something unique: a chance to sample the many genres of music, dance, and theater found in Japan for free all in a single afternoon (with a drink tent and takoyaki cart nearby).  Also, because the festival is made up of many community organizations, it can give you a feel for what is out there in terms of art and music organizations and an opportunity to contact a Flamenco group, belly dancing class,  or shamisen instructor.

Local band/troupe performances begin at 10 am on Sunday and last until 5.  From 5 to 7:20, there will be a series of civic parades, followed by performances from the most popular or better-known groups until 8 or 9. 

The festival is easy to access by train or bus:  from Kanazawa, take the Hokuriku line bound for Fukui (or Komatsu) to Komatsu station. Trains run every 30 minutes until 10:30 at night. From Kaga, take the Hokuriku line toward Kanazawa.

Don Don Matsuri Event Page (Japanese).

Posted by Lauren, who is looking forward to underground rock bands and tiny children attempting taiko.

Osugi Musical Theatre presents “Kokoro Yori”

Long-time Ishikawa resident, former JET and this year’s closing speaker for the ALT Mid-year Conference, Gart Westerhout, has produced another wonderful original musical with his troupe, The Osugi Musical Theatre.

This year’s production is called Kokoro Yori, based on the life of famous, female  haiku poet Chiyo-ni, a native of Edo-period Matto-shi (Hakusan City).  A brief description of the background and the play can be found here on the troupe’s website. Each year, the plays produced by Osugi Musical Theatre have a component of international exchange – from tengu dolls painted by artists from around the world, or thousands upon thousands of origami cranes folded and sent to the theater for use in the show and then transport to Sadako’s memorial in Hiroshima. For this show, people wrote and sent in haiku composed in many languages and some will be presented as part of the dialogue of the show.

Speaking of the show, there are numerous performances coming up! The first round will be in October at the troupe’s home theater in Osugi (Komatsu City), a small town in the absolutely breath-taking foothills of Hakusan.  There is a bus that runs up to the area from Komatsu train station, but it is best accessed by car.  Click here for a Google map to the location. The November performance will be at the Hakusan City Matto Bunkakaikan ( also the Hakusan International Salon location), which is about a block away from Matto train station.  Which is also conveniently near to the Chiyo-ni Museum next to the train station.  Both of which you can see from the station’s doors.

Here are the dates and times:

Osugi home shows on the left, Hakusan City shows on the right

Osugi Musical Theatre is troupe of both children and adults, Japanese and foreigners alike, who are always looking for hard-working volunteer crew members, sparkling cast members, and enthusiastic audience members for their numerous productions.  I’ve done this myself and has been one of the best experiences I’ve had in Japan. Please contact Gart to sign up to help or audition for the next show!


Summer Festival Season: August 26-29

This post concludes the Ishikawa JET Blog Summer Festival Series. Thanks for reading!

1. Watermelon Festival 西瓜祭り, Komatsu; Aug. 26-28
2. Bullhead-Fry Festival ぐず焼き祭り, Kaga; Aug. 27-29
3. Café Lowell カフェ・ローエル, Anamizu; Aug. 28
4. Fukuura Festival 福浦祭り, Shika; Aug. 28
5. Niwaka Festival にわか祭, Noto; Aug. 28
6. Togi Hassaku Festival 富来八朔祭り, Togi; Aug. 28-29

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Otabi Matsuri 2010

Photo from Hot-Ishikawa's information page.

Komatsu’s annual Otabi matsuri お旅祭り, one of the three largest festivals in Ishikawa, features children performing kabuki (a kind of Japanese theatre) on portable shrines called hikiyama 曳山.

This year’s festival will be held from 13 – 16 May 2010.

Location: Ubashi Jinja莵橋神社; Moto-ori Hiyoshi Jinja本折日吉神社 in Komatsu city.
Access: 10 minute walk from JR Komatsu Station 小松駅; five minutes by bus from the JR Komatsu Station on the Hamada-machi bus 浜田町バス.

More information:
Hot-Ishikawa in English

Ishikawa JET’s 2009 Otabi Matsuri information.

Hot-Ishikawa in Japanese (with map)

Leah Zoller is a first-year CIR in Anamizu and loves attending local festivals.

Hanibe Caves

Tucked into the hills of Komatsu about a 20-minute drive from Komatsu Station are the Hanibe Caves ハニベ岩窟, famous for their many Buddhist statues and the parody of hell.

Entrance to Hanibe

There are no information pamphlets in English, but you will receive a map of the suggested route upon entry. A giant statue of the Buddha’s head and shoulders marks the entry, as, as my partner noted, looks like it might open its eyes, rise up out of the ground, and stomp off to fight with Godzilla.

There are statues and shrines on the way up the hill to the caves. Inside the first cave, make a wish by buying a ceramic piece, writing your wish on it, and throwing it into (or near) a ceramic basin.

Make a wish!

The first section of the caves features Buddhist art from India–statues of various saints, depictions of the Buddha’s childhood–and a host of statues in flagrante delicto. A stone Kama Sutra, if you will.

The parody of Hell is much less fun than the imported statues from India, but, in being a parody, is still pretty entertaining in a grotesque way. There are statues depicted (Buddhist) punishment for various sins, and at the end, more saints to redeem you. Afterward, if your legs are strong enough and it’s not raining, climb the path to the garden on top of the hill, where Shakamuni Buddha reclines.

Jaws theme

My impressions of the place were mixed. While I enjoyed seeing “heaven” and the natural beauty of the place, the abandoned atmosphere gave me the heebie-jeebies. However, if you have an interest in Buddhist art, Hanibe Caves makes for an interesting afternoon.

Leah Zoller is a first-year CIR in Anamizu and landed her wish right in the middle of the box.

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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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