December 2014//January 2015 Event Information

Date

Name

Area

Details 

November 21st – February 14th

Big Tree Pageant Festival IN KORIYAMA

Koriyama

Koriyama station will be decorated for the winter period (including Christmas and Valentine’s Day). There will be music concerts on December 19 and January 16 from 5pm.

November 29th – December 25th

Aquamarine Christmas

Iwaki

Plenty of Christmas activities for everyone to enjoy!

December 6th – January 12th

Iwaki Cherry Blossom Illumination Festival

Iwaki

Lights will decorate the trees in Taira to give the impression of flowering cherry blossoms. On the opening night of the festival, there will be a lighting ceremony from 3:15pm and live music from 5:50pm at the plaza by the southern entrance of the station.

December 6th – January 25th

Abukuma Caves Concert

Tamura

Musicians will perform in the open space in the 8000 year-old limestone caves. Don’t miss out!

December 6th – January 26th

Iwaki New Year’s Events Exhibition

Iwaki

This exhibit provides an introduction many of the events and decorations that can be found in Iwaki over the New Year’s period.

December 12th

Iwaki Citizen’s Christmas

Iwaki

There will be a candle service and Christmas carols by kindergarteners from Taira, a women’s choir performance and a performance by the charity idol group Baby Tiara.

December 14th

6th Nihongo de Hanasou

Aizuwakamatsu

Come give a speech in Japanese about the culture of your country, things that are different from Japan, daily life, family, friends, or anything else you would like to talk about! Come offer support to each other with your daily lives in Japan, enjoy a fun cultural exchange, and make some new friends!

December 20th

Park Festival and Yosakoi

Iwaki

30pm. This event is part of the Cherry Blossom Illumination Festival. The Park Festival will include a variety of performances including choral performances, Jangara, high school hula and other dance performances. There will be two rounds of yosakoi (first round from 2:45pm, second round from 5:30pm) with a lighting ceremony including a daruma-mikoshi from 4:45pm.

December 20th

Xmas Parade 2014

Iwaki

Take to the streets of Taira in your favourite Christmas cosplay. Prizes and awards too!

December 31st

Asakawa New Years Fireworks

Asakawa Town, Kennan

Welcome in the new year by watching 108 fireworks being set off, and get sound health for the next year!

December 31st – January 1st

Nanukamachi Countdown and Temple Bell Ringing

Aizuwakamatsu

Both Western and Japanese New Years traditions are combined at this event! Ring in the new year with a countdown, enjoy the café which will be open late, and help ring the temple bell 108 times!

January 6th – 7th

Nanukado Mairi

Koriyama

Buy plenty of lucky charms and talismans at this traditional new year’s market!

January 7th

Yanaizu Naked Man Festival

Yanaizu, Aizu

Come welcome in the new year with this amazing festival! Local men strip down to their fundoshi loinclothes, drink a bunch of sake, then run barefoot up the snowy hill to the temple, wrestle each other to climb up a rope to the rafters and ring a gong! 

January 7th

Uneme Fireworks

Koriyama

Welcome in the new year with fireworks and taiko drums!

January 10th

Tenth Day Market

Aizuwakamatsu

Visit the traditional new year’s market with over 400 years of history! There will be over 400 street stalls selling lucky charms and talismans, food, traditional goods, and much more!

January 10th

Giant Straw Bale Tug of War

Aizu Misato

Two teams pull ropes attached to a giant bale of straw, with the winning team getting good luck for the year as their prize!

January 10th

Kotohira Shrine Festival

Iwaki

The streets between this shrine and Yumoto Station are filled with over 450 stalls selling lucky charms and talismans from early morning to late at night!

January 12th

Numanouchi Festival

Iwaki

This strange festival began over 400 years ago. Newly married men wear a single thin yukata and get buckets of water dumped over their heads to protect them against illness, and give them safety and abundant harvests, etc.

January 13th

Thirteenth Day Market

Inawashiro

This market started in 1336 sells delicious food and local products such as daruma, okiagarikoboshi, windmills, and much more!

January 14th

Bange New Years Tug of War

Aizu Bange

Two teams compete in a tug of war over a giant bale of straw weighing over five tonnes!

January 14th

Sai no Kami Bonfire

Hinoemata, Minami Aizu

Burn your old new year’s decorations in this bonfire!

January 18th

Miharu Daruma Market

Miharu

Come to the market and buy your very own daruma and papier maché dolls!

January 24th

Minami Aizu Snowshoe Walk and Snowball Fight

Minami Aizu

Take advantage of the heaps of snow in the Miz and go for a snowshoe walk and snowball fight!

Skiing and Boarding in Fukushima

Skiing and Boarding in Fukushima

430470_10150642808332288_1940370566_nOne thing Fukushima is famous for is the amount of snow that absolutely covers the area from December to March. You don’t have to hibernate under your kotatsu until spring, because now it’s winter and ski season has just kicked off in full force! Whether you snowboard or ski, there’s nothing better than hitting the slopes all day, with a trip to one of Fukushima’s many onsen to relax at night! There are over twenty ski resorts in Fukushima, so let’s narrow it down and talk about a just a few of the great local ski hills in the prefecture.


Mount Bandai (磐梯山)Mount Bandai, often called the Mount Fuji of Fukushima, dominates the Aizu skyline. Its picturesque beauty makes for great hiking in the warmer months, and even better skiing in the winter! There are many ski hills all over the mountain, and each has something great to offer to skiers and boarders for any level of ability.

ALTS Bandai (アルツ磐梯)
[location] [trail map] [website] Lift Pass: 4700yen/day

IMG00248ALTS Bandai is the largest and most popular ski resort in Fukushima. Located on the mountain’s south side, it has 29 runs for you to enjoy. Due to its size and popularity with foreigners, they have plenty of English-speaking staff to help out. ALTS is also open late for night-skiing, which is a great way to really make the most of the ski season in Aizu. One feature that really surprised me is the Whistler Cafe, located in the chalet, which serves some Canadian favourites like maple cookies and poutine. One of the locals told me that Bandai has a long history of intercultural exchange with Canada, and it felt like coming home to see a little bit of Canada in Fukushima.

Urabandai Nekoma Ski Area (裏磐梯猫魔スキー場)
[location] [trail map] [website] Lift Pass: 4000yen/day

Nekoma is located on the Urabandai side to the east of the mountain. It is often associated with the ALTS Bandai resort, and you can get a combined lift pass and make use of the shuttle between the two hills. While Nekoma is smaller than ALTS with only ten courses, the Urabandai side of the mountain gets much more powder snow, making for better ski conditions and a longer ski season. It’s also much less crowded than the ALTS side. Another advantage is the large terrain park, making for some great jumps.

Inawashiro Ski Area (猪苗代スキー場)
[location] [trail map] [website] Lift Pass: 4700yen/day

1888678_10152080971744543_1713363851_nInawashiro Ski Hill is smaller than ALTS, but still offers sixteen courses of intermediate and beginner levels. It’s a great hill to learn and practice the basics of skiing or boarding, as the lift passes are also much cheaper than ALTS. Every year, a group of ex-pats living in Fukushima do a charity “Boxer Run” at Inawashiro Ski Hill, going down the main course in nothing but some boxers for modesty. What better way to raise money for our local charity, The Japan Cat Network?

Grandeco Snow Resort (グランデコスノーリゾート)
[location][trail map][website] Lift Pass: 4500yen/day

Grandeco is a great beginner ski hill! There are plenty of easy runs for you to learn on! There are plenty of lifts and a gondola that service long, wide courses so it’s perfect for beginners!

Minami Aizu (南会津)

Minami Aizu gets a ridiculous amount of snow every winter, and it’s rural location makes for less crowded ski resorts. If you’re willing to brave the drive, Minami Aizu has got some of the best skiing and boarding to be had in the prefecture!

Aizu Kougen Takatsue Ski Area (会津高原たかつえスキー場)
[location] [trail map] [website] Lift Pass: 4200yen/day

Takatsue is the largest of the ski resorts in Minami Aizu, and it’s proximity to the Tochigi border means a lot of skiers and boarders from down south come up to enjoy the slopes. It’s a great hill for intermediate runs, but there are also beginner and expert courses to enjoy!

Aizu Kougen Daikura Ski Area (会津高原だいくらスキー場)
[location] [trail map] [website] Lift Pass: 4000yen/day

Daikura is smaller than Takatsue, but has a great range of courses for all levels to enjoy! It’s also not as busy, so you don’t have to wait for the chair lifts as much as Takatsue. There’s also a nice cafe and Italian pizza restaurant in the lodge for you to enjoy on your down time.

Aizu Kougen Takahata Ski Area (会津高原高畑スキー場)
[location] [trail map] [website] Lift Pass: 4000yen/day

Takahata is a resort specialized for skiers, no snowboarding allowed! That being said, if you’re a skier, it’s a great little hill to do some serious ski practice!

Aizu Kougen Nangou Ski Area (会津高原南郷スキー場)
[location] [trail map] [website] Lift Pass: 4000yen/day

While it may be smaller than Takatsue, Nagou has got a lot to offer! It has a great half pipe and terrain park so you can practice your jumps. There are also plenty of intermediate runs for everyone to enjoy!


Discount Lift Ticket Campaigns

Snow Magic Fukushima: If you’re between the ages of 20 to 22, you can get free lift passes at all participating ski resorts on weekdays! What a great deal! [link] Also, if you’re 19 years old, you get free lift passes to many ski resorts all over Japan! Download the app by the end of December! [link]


 

Useful Links:

Snow Japan: A great guide to ski resorts all over the country. [link]

Surf & Snow: A guide to when ski resorts open around Japan: [link]

Trace Snow (formerly Alpine Replay): Use this app to track your skiing and boarding, including top speed, distance, how much air you get on your jumps, and more![link]

Fukushima no Tabi: Information about travelling around Fukushima, including ski resorts, and campaign information. [link]

Fukushima Snowboarders and Skiers Facebook Group: Have a question about skiing or boarding in Fukushima? Want to see who’s on the hill this weekend? Join our Facebook group! [link]

 

December Survey Results: What’s your strangest food experience in Japan?

“I was at a Japanese friend’s house and they had this weird purple egg-shaped fruit. They said it was a mountain fruit that people used to eat back before they could get decent sweets. Splitting the purple shell, the inside fruit lookes like big light purple grubs with a black dot in each segment. At first I thought it might actually be grubs. The black dots were seeds and when I asked if I should eat them, they said no. I tried my best to eat it, but it was mostly seeds and so awkward trying to spit them out. I don’t even remember what it tasted like.” — Sarah, Soso Area

“I was given a few slivers of raw whale meat at my welcome party at the restaurant we went to. It was good, but it is not something that I would go out of my way to eat… I mean, it just tasted like regular raw, red fish.” — Melanie Smith, Iwaki

“Something called monkey pears! They were like a cross between a kiwi and a grape, and you squished them and sucked out the insides. It wasn’t too sweet, and was actually quite nice! I’d never seen or heard of them before the principal picked a bunch from one of the houses neighbouring the school.” — Danielle, Mishima

Dried Lizard from Minami-Aizu! They are said to be good for your health and give you lots of energy. My high school kids bought some and ate it to get revitalized after their studying, like an energy potion. After chatting with people, I learned that the dried lizards were actually eaten during the winter when protein was scarce.” — Cat, Aizu-Wakamatsu