April 2015 The Lucky Island Events

April 2015 The Lucky Island Events

Date: Sat. April 4th – Sun. June 28th (Sat. & Sun. weekly event)
Area: Aizu Wakamatsu
Name: Aizu Juuraku (会津十楽)
Time: 10am – 4pm

Address:
Tsurugajo Castle grounds

Details:
This weekly event pulls you back into Japan like it was 400 years ago. You can try food, crafts, and experience culture from hundreds of years ago!

Contact:
Samurai City Project Committee: 0242-39-6539
Japanese website: http://aizu-jyuraku.jp/blog/432


 

Date: Thurs. April 9th – Thurs. June 25th (weekly event)
Area: Aizu Wakamatsu
Name: Spring 2015 Japanese Classes
Time: 6:30pm – 8pm

Address:
Aizu Keikodo, 3rd floor (會津稽古堂)
3-50 Sakaemachi Aizuwakamatsu, Fukushima Prefecture 965-0871
(会津若松市栄町3番50号)
Details:
The AWIA would like to present the 2015 spring semester of our Japanese classes! Whether you’d like to study Japanese for your daily life here in Aizu, or are looking to challenge the JLPT, the AWIA is here to help. Each class is divided into small groups, according to level and language goals. For participants interested in joining for the first time, a Japanese language level assessment is provided before classes begin. Come kick-start your Japanese with the AWIA!
Price: AWIA members: 4,000 yen; Non-members: 6,000 yen (12 classes total)
Contact:
Margaret Price (mail@awia.jp)
*Please apply by April 9th*


Date: Fri. April 10th – Thurs. June 26th (weekly event)
Area: Aizu Wakamatsu
Name: Spring 2015 Japanese Classes
Time: 10am – 11:30am

Address:
Aizu Keikodo, 3rd floor

Details:
The AWIA would like to present the 2015 spring semester of our Japanese classes! Whether you’d like to study Japanese for your daily life here in Aizu, or are looking to challenge the JLPT, the AWIA is here to help. Each class is divided into small groups, according to level and language goals. For participants interested in joining for the first time, a Japanese language level assessment is provided before classes begin. Come kick-start your Japanese with the AWIA!
Price: AWIA members: 4,000 yen; Non-members: 6,000 yen (12 classes total)
Contact:
Margaret Price (mail@awia.jp)
*Please apply by April 9*


Date: Fri. April 10th – Wed. May 6th
Area: Aizu Wakamatsu
Name: Tsurugajo Illumination
Time: Sundown to 9:30pm (8:30pm after the cherry blossoms have bloomed)

Address:
Tsurugajo Castle (鶴ケ城)
1-1 Otemachi, Aizuwakamatsu, Fukushima Prefecture 965-0873
(〒965-0873 会津若松市追手町1-1)

Details:
Visit Tsurugajo Castle to see nearly 1000 cherry trees lit up against the night sky. Enjoy the lights, stars and beautiful scenery in one of the best large-scale illuminations in Eastern Japan!

Website:
http://www.aizukanko.com/event/102/


Date: Sat. April 11th – Sun. April 12th
Area: Shirakawa
Name: Shirakawa Dogtooth Violet Festival
Time: Saturday: 10am – 4pm; 2nd Sunday: 10am – 3pm

Address:
Shirakawa Seki no Mori (白河関の森公園)
7-3 Hatajuku, Shirakawa 961-0038, Fukushima Prefecture
(〒961-0038福島県白河市旗宿白河内7−3)

Details:
A festival celebrating Spring and Dogtooth Violets (cherry blossoms aren’t the only celebrated spring flower!). A two day festival with food, stage events, food, a flea market, food and more! (did I mention “food”?)

Contact:
Shirakawa Tourism Association, 0248-22-111
Japanese website: http://www.shirakawa315.com/


Date: Fri. April 24
Area: Aizu Wakamatsu (Iimoriyama)
Name: Byakkotai Memorial Service
Time: Starts at 10:30am

Address:
Mount Iimori / Iimoriyama (飯森山), by the graves
Bentenshita Ikkimachi Yahata Aizuwakamatsu, Fukushima Prefecture 965-0003
965-0003福島県会津若松市一箕町八幡弁天下

Details:
A memorial service for the Byakkotai (White Tiger Brigade), a group of teenage samurai who fought in the Boshin War. During battle, 19 of them committed ritual suicide under the mistaken belief that their lord had been defeated. The memorial service includes a Byakkotai sword dance performed by Aizu High School students.

Contact:
Aizuwakamatsu City Tourism Bureau, 0242-39-1251
Japanese webpage: http://www.aizukanko.com/event/110/


Date: Sat. April 19th – Sun. April 20th
Area: Higashishirakawa (Tanagura)
Name: Jumangoku Tanagura Castle Festival (Cherry Blossom Festival)
Time: Saturday: 10am – 7pm; Sunday 10am – 5pm

Address:
Tanagura Castle (Kamegajo Park) / 棚倉城跡(亀ケ城公園)
Jōseki Tanagura, Tanagura-machi, Higashishirakawa-gun, Fukushima-ken 963-6131
〒963-6131 福島県東白川郡棚倉町大字棚倉字城跡

Details:
A two-day festival with a parade of warriors (Saturday from 11am), stalls selling local goods, and stage events including Yosakoi (incredible Japanese dancing!) and comedians. Not to mention being surrounded by over 500 cherry trees in bloom!

Contact:
Tanagura Tourism Association: 0247-33-7886
Japanese webpage: http://www.town.tanagura.fukushima.jp/view.rbz?cd=282


Date: Sat. April 25th
Area: Aizu Wakamatsu
Name: AWIA Cherry Blossom Potluck Party (100 yen fee)
Time: Noon – 3pm

Address:
Kōtokuji Temple (behind the AWIA)
2-12 Sakae-machi, Aizu Wakamatsu
(会津若松市栄町2-12)
Details:
*Please RSVP by contacting the International Association by Friday, April 24th (mail@awia.jp)
Come eat great food and drink sake under the cherry blossoms at one of Aizu’s most beautiful, and least crowded spots for cherry blossom viewing, Kōtokuji Temple! This is a great chance to make new friends, learn more about the community, and just have fun!
Please bring one dish (main dishes, dessert, anything is fine. Doesn’t have to be handmade). We will provide the non-alcoholic drinks. Those who would like to drink alcoholic drinks are invited to bring them yourself. Also, Please bring your own chopsticks, cups and plates to help make this even environment friendly!

Contact:
Margaret Price (mail@awia.jp)


 

Date: Sat. April 25th
Area: Aizu Wakamatsu
Name: Aizu Sake Tasting
Time: 5pm – 8pm

Address:
Tsurugajo Castle (鶴ヶ城)
1-1 Otemachi Aizuwakamatsu, Fukushima Prefecture 965-0873
会津若松市追手町1-1

Details:
Wet your lips with some local sake and snacks inside Tsurugajo Castle grounds!

Contact:
Sake Brewing Cooperative, 0242-26-1515
Japanese webpage: http://www.tif.ne.jp/jp/event/event_disp.php?id=3128&year=2015&mon=4&day=0&area=4&keyword=


 

Date: Wed. April 29th – Thurs. April 30th
Area: Date
Name: Atago Shrine Annual Festival
Time: from 11am

Address:
Atago Shrine (愛宕神社)
Atagoyama-1 Hakozaki
Date-shi, Fukushima-ken 960-0502
(福島県伊達市箱崎字愛宕山1)

Details:
A two day festival to kick off Golden Week! Dancers will travel around Hakozaki calling upon newly built houses and households with a recently-born child and those in their yakudoshi (‘year of calamity’)

Contact:
Fukugonji Temple, 024-583-4633
Japanese webpage: http://www.rurubu.com/event/detail.aspx?ID=12078

Art and Tradition: JETs Practicing Japanese Culture: Taiko Drumming

Art and Tradition: JETs Practicing Japanese Culture: Taiko Drumming
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Emma performing on a chuu-daiko.

One of the coolest Japanese instruments has got to be the taiko drum. Just watching a group of taiko players leaping around hitting drums in unison is an amazing experience in and of itself, but some of our local Fukushima JETs have joined taiko groups and have performed it themselves!

The term “taiko” in Japanese refers to all types of drum, and the term “wadaiko” specifies the traditional Japanese style of drum. They can range in size from the shimedaiko (about the diameter of a large dinner plate) to the huge festival o-daiko whose face alone can be almost as tall as the players themselves! Accompanying the drums are a variety of other instruments, such as small gongs called “atarigane,” and bamboo flues called “shinobue” or “takebue.” The performers’ voices themselves can be part of the song, chanting or yelling to add to the rhythm, or signalling a change in the song.

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Diana performing taiko at a local lake festival.

Diana Truong, a fourth-year JET in Showa-mura, Aizu, has been playing taiko for almost four years. “During my first year, I heard about a local taiko group in one of the towns that I teach at. I was invited to join the group by one of the local families.” The taiko group members include some of her elementary and junior high school teachers and students. “I really enjoyed spending time with my students and some of their parents outside of class! It is also a good stress reliever,” she jokes.

Fifth-year Shirakawa JET Emma Gibson joined her taiko group in a different way. “I told my BOE kachou when I first arrived in Japan that I wanted to learn something traditional while I was here.  I was thinking ikebana.  He suggested taiko because his friend was the kaichou of a local team.  I had no idea what it was… so I said yes.” She has been playing with this group for almost five years now! “I love my team members.  After such a long time you get very close.  I also love that I’ve been able to travel and perform.  I’ve performed in Okinawa, Ishikawa, Saitama, Kanagawa, Yamagata… and all over Fukushima.”

Emma and her taiko group. They will be back playing in Minamisoma for the first time since the Great Earthquake at the Soma Nomaoi festival.
Emma and her taiko group. They will be back playing in Minami Soma for the first time since the Great Earthquake at the Soma Nomaoi festival.

Playing taiko involves a lot of time and commitment, to both practices and performances. It is impossible to play taiko casually without giving it your full effort. “Once I’d proven that I was serious, the senpai accepted me and taught me.  It took a long time to get that acceptance, but now my senpai are like my Japanese family,” Emma says.

Of course, in the beginning you will be at the bottom of the totem pole. Emma explains, “I’ve learnt a lot about status.  When you start you are at the end of the line.  You play in the back corner and clean the floors after practice.  But slowly over time you move towards the centre of the stage and someone else has to wipe the sweat off the floors.  And eventually (for me, after four years) you finally get to play the solos and really become an essential part of the team. It’s a good feeling when you get to that stage.”

And of course the taiko songs themselves can be a challenge. Diana says, “It can be difficult playing your part simultaneously with completely different rhythms being played by the others. It’s easy to get lost! Also remembering  so many different pieces!”

Playing a single drum together!
Playing a single drum together!

Despite these challenges, Diana believes that taiko is a great representation of Japanese culture. “The beating of the drums represent the sounds of the Japanese in its own unique way. Often times, the pieces are reflective of the nature and culture of Japan. When you hear the songs, you can picture a story from the mixtures of melodies produced by the drums, flutes, cymbals, and the shouts of the performers.”

Emma agrees, “Our main performance piece is called Natsu and is about the samurai horse races.  You can hear the thundering of hooves and the rising tension as we play.” You can hear this piece at this year’s Soma Nomaoi Festival in Minami Souma City on July 26th, Saturday night, 9pm with the fireworks.  “We are/were the local team from that area and it’s the first time we’ll be back at the festival since the Great Earthquake.  I’d love to see everyone there!” For more information about this festival, see the link here: https://www.facebook.com/events/516502978476094/

Diana has this advice for JETs: “If you’re interested in experiencing new things, I definitely recommend trying out taiko. You will easily fall in love with the rhythmic beats. If you are not sure where you can find a taiko group, ask your predecessors, talk to the locals and teachers (especially at enkai), go to festivals and keep an eye out for local groups and ask them about it. Once you become a member, just keep beating and enjoy the sounds of the drums.”

April 2014 Photo Contest–‘Hanami’

April 2014 Photo Contest–‘Hanami’

The theme for next month’s photo contest is, “TAUE” or “rice planting.” May is the season for planting rice fields, and Fukushima has many of those. It is said that rice fields are the mirror of the sky, so go out and capture the feel of the countryside!

Each entrant can submit up to three photos. Be sure to include your name and where you took the photos with your submission. Please submit them here or send them to fujet.newseditor@gmail.com by TUESDAY, MAY 27th. No late submissions accepted. I look forward to seeing your photos!

2013 FuJET Nagano Soccer Tournament Recap

2013 FuJET Nagano Soccer Tournament Recap

Twice a year, ALTs from across Japan gather to compete in the All Japan ALT Soccer Tournament. The eastern division of the tournament is held at Sania Sports Park in Sugadaira, Nagano. This year’s autumn tournament was held on October 5th and 6th across verdant pitches nestled in between the mountains: there was more than just soccer drawing people out.

Every year, Fukushima attends the autumn tournament, where our reputation precedes us. While the Lucky Islanders aren’t always the strongest team on the field, Teams Akabeko and Akabekette are always the champions of the cheering and partying divisions of the tournament. This year, team Fukushima converged in Aizu to form a massive football convoy down to Nagano, eventually arriving at the hotel with enough time to grab at least a bit of sleep before the heated competition.

On Saturday, each team played three or four games (fifteen minute halves) in a league style tournament. On Sunday morning, the teams played their remaining competitors, after which the teams were ranked and entered into a knock-out cup competition.

This is my third time playing on team Akabekette (and first time co-captaining with the gorgeous Duchess, Madame Katherine Middleton) and while the tournament sounds fairly simple and straightforward it is anything but. Not only are you playing against your opponent, but you’re playing against your own bodily limits, pushing yourself to make just one more sprint to the ball. On Saturday, the Akabekettes only had one sub and fought each game as though it was the last. And, when we weren’t playing, half of the team would have to be refereeing for the other teams. It was a full-on day but our efforts were rewarded: the Akabekettes walked away without a loss on Saturday (one tie) and placed fairly high in the team rankings.

Unfortunately, do to reffing obligations, I was unable to personally witness most the glory that was team Akabeko, I did manage to watch half of one of their games. I must say that I was thoroughly impressed with the Akabeko’s teamwork, led by veteran captain and Scotsman, Mister Alan Inkster. The ten minutes of the game that I watched was invigorating and I was able to watch FuJET co-president, Rokan, impeccably set up the ball for our fiery-soccer-loving-coastie-first-year, Mister Tony Villa to score an impressive goal (I do believe that the goal made the opposing keeper cry). The games that I didn’t get to witness were relayed to be in full dramatic detail by the rest of the boys’ team in full, gory detail.

This soccer tournament isn’t completely dedicated to your footie prowess. In the evening, after dinner, there is a pub quiz in the lobby. Fukushima formed two teams- Team Sempai and Team Kohai. Not surprisingly (read: surprisingly), Team Sempai won first place after a nail-biting tie breaking question, foreshadowing tomorrow’s competition. After the trivia, the dance party started and Fukushima kept with tradition: we were the first on the dance floor and the last off.

Sunday morning comes and everyone trudged to their respective pitches, a little slower than they had the day before. The Akabekettes fought hard and won against the last teams before the play-offs. Blessedly, we had 2 subs to lead us into the second day of the tournament. When the points were all added up, we were ecstatic (and mortified: we were tired) to discover that Team Akabekette was in first place and would play the Saitama Psychoborgs for the first place trophy! Last year, Akabekettes went home with a third place trophy. Could we actually go home with first?

Long story short, after a gruelling game filled with janken-ing, arguments, heckling/cheering from the sidelines, the game boiled down to penalty kicks. My heart was in my throat as I watched my teammates line up to take their kicks (hey, I was co-captain for my genki and janken-ing skills, I never claimed that I am worth anything actually on the pitch. I left that up to the Duchess!) I swear that the Akabekettes had their legs replaced with cannons and that our fabulous goalies have robot hands because seriously– the entire team rocked it all weekend long. Rachel, Emi, Kylie, Kath, Judy, Xan, Michelle– we all kicked some serious tail ladies! The guys, they were something else too. It’s a bit of highway robbery that team Akabeko ONLY walked away with third place in the men’s division. Seriously though, did the guys’ team completely rock it or what? Oh yeah– one last thing– did I mention that our girls totally kicked ass, blew away the Psychoborgs at the penalty kicks, and we walked away with a case of Chu-Hai, a trophy, and the first Fukushima championship victory (men’s OR women’s) in the 13-year tournament history? Yeah, we are pretty fabulous. FUKU! SHIMA!

I would love to give a special shout-out to Saitama and all the other teams that competed over the course of this unforgettable weekend, Chris and the tournament organisers, and most importantly to Rokan and FuJET for organising this whole affair for us!