Thursday, February 22, 2007

If You See Only One Show This Year...

Cirque du Soleil (which means "circus of the sun" in French) is an acrobatic performance team like no other. They have a number of shows with different themes (Delerium, Love, Dralion, La Nouba, etc.), so even if you have seen them perform before, you will probably enjoy seeing them again. The original team was from Quebec, Canada, but now they have several teams performing all over the world.

The Tokyo team performs at "Shin Big Top" in Harajuku. Their latest show is called "Dralion" and it runs from February 7, 2007 to May 6, 2007. The ticket site is all in Japanese, so you may need help to make the reservations if you can't read kanji.

I highly recommend going to a Cirque du Soleil performance at least once in your life. The tickets are quite expensive, but they are definitely worth it.

This site has some information in English about the Dralion theme and there is an article on the Alien Times website that gives the ticket prices.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Mount Tsukuba Plum Festival

The Mount Tsukuba Plum Festival runs from February 17 to March 21. This is the 34th time the festival is being held. The plum orchard is 4.5 hectares in size and it has a thousand plum trees. You can enjoy the lovely fragrance of the plum trees while taking in a scenic view of Tsukuba. Tsukuba's famous toad oil will be on sale on Sundays and you can drink plum tea and participate in a stamp rally every day during the festival. The city-run parking lots cost 500 yen for cars and motorcycles. There is also a shuttle bus available.

On February 18, 24, 25, and March 3, there is an express bus from Tsukuba Shrine to Makabe Doll Festival (Makabe Station) leaving at 12:00 and 13:30. You can catch a return bus at 12:45 (to Tsukuba Shrine), 14:05 (to Tx Tsukuba Station), 15:10 (to Tx Tsukuba Station), 16:00 (to Tsukuba Shrine), 17:15 (to Tx Tsukuba Station), 18:27 (departs from Makabe Gym and goes to Tx Tsukuba Station). The fare from Tsukuba Shrine to and from Makabe is 200 yen. The fare from Makabe to Tx Tsukuba Station is 800 yen. The bus stop at Tsukuba Shrine is at 筑波山神社大鳥居下 and it is a five minute walk from the plum orchard. (Official schedule)

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Doll's festival in Tsuchiura!

Okay, so there are “hinamatsuris” in Tsukuba, Makabe, and in Kasama…. How about the one in Tsuchiura?

I didn’t know about this until today, but the Hina Doll’s Festival in Tsuchiura has started last Saturday. The dolls are on display in 45 businesses along the streets in front of the Tsuchiura Station, Kamitakatsu Kaizuka Furusato Rekishi Hiroba(historical park), and in Komachi no Yakata (park dedicated to the legends of Ono no Komachi).

Tsuchiura Hinamatsuri
Feb.17(Sat) to March 4(Sun)

The participating businesses besides Rekishi Hiroba and Komachi no Yakata are all within walking distance of JR Tsuchiura Station. There are only two free temporary parking lots, one with room for 20 cars (available only on weekdays) and the other with room for 15 cars (available only on weekends) during the festival, so try to get there extra early if you want to go there by car!

Tsuchiura Tourist Association
3rd Tsuchiura Hinamatsuri flyer/map(pdf)

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Ume in Umezono Park

Last Saturday was the first day of Ume (Japanese plum/apricot or ume apricot) Festival at Ume grove park in Mt. Tsukuba(34th Mt.Tsukuba Ume Festival), but I went to the nearby park called Umezono Park instead. Umezono literally means Ume Garden, and there are many beautiful Ume trees in Umezono Park. The ume blossoms weren't in full bloom yet, but I enjoyed the sweet smell of ume a lot!

If you visit this park on Sunday, you might also want to check out the thrift shop called "Umezono House" since it's open only on Sundays now. Please read my blog entry about Umezono House below if you are interested.
Umezono House's new store hours

Please note that there is no parking space for this park, but TsukuBus5 stops in front of Umezono Park/Umezono House!

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Doll's Festivals taking place in Tsukuba

It's Hinamatsuri (Doll's Festival) season!

As RrFish and Shaney posted, big events are being held in Kasama and Makabe. If you feel they are a little bit far from Tsukuba, you have another option.

There is an old-fashioned Japanese house named "Sakura Minkaen" in Chuo park in the Tsukuba center area. Tsukuba city is displaying old traditional Hina dolls made from about 80 years ago at the Sakura Minkaen.

Period: From February 16(Fri) to March 4 (Sun) , 2007
Time: From 9:30 to 16:30
Closed: Wednesdays, National holidays
Website (in Japanese)

Sakura Minkaen is located behind the rest house in Chuo Park, near Azuma Elementary School. They hold tea ceremony events and exhibitions there sometimes.

Tsukuba Wiki
Google Map

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Friday, February 16, 2007

Current events at Aquaworld Ooarai

So..., many kids love everything nice and sweet. How about something…oh, yucky and stinky?

There is a new special exhibit called ”Naruhodo! The Unchi - Unchi no Unchiku- なるほど!ザ・うんち ~うんちのうんちく~”at the Aquaworld Ooarai. Naruhodo! means “Aha!” and unchi is the word for, well, what my kid refers to as poopee! (The exhibition name probably was inspired by the wildly popular quiz show from the early 80’s to mid 90’s by the name of “Naruhodo! The World” which, by the way, still comes on TV every once in a while as a special program. )

The exhibition is all about “Unchiku(stock of knowledge)” of “Unchi.” Over 100 sea and land creature poo specimens are on display, including the dinosaur poo fossil. You can also look at various paper products made from animal dung, and learn a lot about unchi, such as how to tell the health condition of a creature by looking at its unchi. Your kid(s) may even want to take a sniff at red panda poo! This is a very kid-oriented exhibit, so many articles on display are at kid's eye-level.

The "poo exhibit" is from February 10 to May 6, Sunday, which is the last day of the "Golden Week" holidays. Remember, children can get in at half price on Saturdays except during long school holidays like Spring break.

Your kid(s) may also enjoy a visit to "Doctor Fish" on the 5th floor of this aquarium. I'm sure Turkish people are very familiar with this fish, but it has very recently become well known and popular over here. For those who are not familiar with this fish, it's known for its use in the treatment of skin problems like atopic dermatitis since it nibbles dead skin (and only the dead skin) off people. Please see this page for more information on Doctor Fish.
Why not experience what it feels like to be treated by Doctor Fish? The "doctors" are in the "touching pool" by the playground on the 5th floor ;-)

Aquaworld Ooarai(main page)
-Naruhodo! The Unchi
Feb.10(Sat) to May 6(sun)
-Doctor Fish
Feb.10(Sat) to Mar.31(Sat)

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Tennis Tournament for Beginners

There will be a tennis tournament for beginners on March 11. (If the event has to be postponed for some reason, it will be held on the 18th.) It will be at Ninomiya Park and Expo Memorial Park (Banpaku Kinen Koen) and will involve men's and women's doubles. People who live or work in Tsukuba, or who belong to a club in Tsukuba are eligible to join. Both members of the doubles team should not have ever participated in a formal tournament, and they should not have gone past a third game in a beginners' tournament like this in the past five years. Thirty teams can sign up on a first come, first served basis. The fee is 600 yen per pair. Sign up by February 16 at the G&T Pro Shop (south of Jusco and Seibu). See the Tsukuba Gym Association website for more information (in Japanese).

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Saturday, February 10, 2007

Tsukuba Environmental Walking Festival

Tsukuba City is hosting an "Environmental Walking Festival" on February 25 from 8:30am to 12:30pm. The walk will start at the Tsukuba Branch Office of the City Hall and follow a 12km long course that will end up back at the same place. The course includes RinRin Road, the ruins of Oda Castle, Oike Park, and the ruins of Hirasawa Kanga. The walk is open to anyone of elementary school age or older (children must be accompanied by an adult). There is a limit of 250 participants. Participation is free. This even will be cancelled if it rains enough to warrant cancelling. Bring something to drink and rain gear. Apply by calling 029-836-1111 ext. 8246 or faxing 029-876-2069 with your name, address, telephone number, age, and gender.

Happy Walking!


Thursday, February 08, 2007

Special Showing of a film in Joso City

I don't know how many of this blog readers are in the field of education or medicine, or just a big fun of Takako Tokiwa, but I got a flyer for this special showing that some of you may be interested.

There will be a special showing of a film called Fudeko Sono Ai, Tenshi no Piano (Fudeko, Her Love, The Angel’s Piano) in Joso City on February 17, Saturday.

This film is about Fudeko Ishii who became one of the pioneers of welfare of people with intellectual disabilities* and education of women. She was also a mother of three girls. Her first child was born with hypophrenia, and second and third girls passed away due to their health problems. She remarried a founder of Takinogawa Gakuen, the oldest welfare insutitution for people with hypophrenia in Japan, after her first husband died at the age of 35.
*I don’t know what the most appropriate word to use is nowadays.

Fudeko was a Christian woman from a noble family born during Keiou Period (1865 - 1868). She spoke 3 languages, and taught French at school for aristocratic women. The Empress Teimei, the wife of Taisho Period emperor, was one of her students. She had everything anyone could ask for, but she dedicated her life to educating people with intellectual disabilities and educating “healthy” people about people with disabilities.

The film’s subtitle, The Angel’s Piano, comes from the piano with the angel emblem Fudeko received as a wedding gift from her father and the other family members when she married to her first husband.

Here’s the official website for this film. The director of this film, Hisako Yamada, is also a mother of 43 year-old daughter who has severe hypophrenia.

Unfortunately, this film is not in any commercial theaters in Ibaraki, and the showing in Joso City is THE only chance for those who are interested to watch it in Ibaraki.

**** 筆子その愛、天使のピアノ(Fudeko Sono Ai) *******************

Casts: Takako Tokiwa(Fudeko), Emiya Ichikawa, Gou Katou
(they are all big names)

Time: February 17, Sat. from 2PM and 6:30PM
Place: Joso Civic Hall, 3222-3 Suwa Machi, Joso City,
Tel: 0297-22-2011

1600yen(1300yen Advance) for adults
1400yen(1100yen Advance) for high-schoolers and younger, people with disabilities, and care personnel.

* Childcare services available for toddlers and children with disabilities.
Advance reservations required. Cost: 200yen for snacks.


Sorry, the film and websites are all in Japanese.
Thanks wiki for additional information on Fudeko Ishii.

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Kasumi Accepting Event Proposals

Kasumi Co. is offering to subsidize a number of events (somewhere between three and five events) with a total of 1,200,000 yen. They will let the applicants use their facilities (240 person seminar room, 54 person seminar room, 30 person seminar room, gallery, lobby) for free. It has to be a non-profit event. The deadline for submitting a proposal is March 10.

For more information, please see the website (in Japanese) or contact the Environmental and Social Contribution Division at Kasumi Co. (029-850-1824).

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Girl's Festival in Makabe

One of my friends forwarded this information to me to add to RrFish's information about local Doll's Festival events.

Do you know Makabe's Hina Matsuri (Girl's Festival)? Makabe is a small town located 45 minutes by car to the north of Tsukuba. The town has good atmosphere of old Japan of Meiji & Taisho era.

Once a year, from the begining of February to the begining of March, they have Hina Matsuri Festival in the town. There are no stage shows and no extravagance, but most houses and shops in downtown Makabe show their traditional Hina dolls at the entrance of their houses and shops. You can also enjoy some Japanese sweets at some traditional sweet shops. It must be a nice opportunity to get familiar with Japanese tradition.

If you don't have a car, tour buses are available from Tsukuba center bus terminal
8 times/day.

A recommend day to visit is the "wearing kimono day". The date for this year is February 18, 2007 (Sunday). Many residents and visitors wear kimonos on this day. You can enjoy a tiny time travel experience on the day :-).


Monday, February 05, 2007

Mint Exhibition in Tsukuba

I should've posted this on Friday, but 造幣局INつくば(Mint Exhibition in Tsukuba) is currently being held at the Tsukuba Seibu. The exhibit is small, but you can still enjoy looking at various medals and coins, learn about coins, and you can touch real gold and silver bars!!

The exhibit details from Japan Mint website (English);

- February 2nd to 6th (10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.)
- February 7th (10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.)
- THE SEIBU DEPARTMENT STORE, 6th floor "Tsukuba Seibu Hall",

"This fair shows the minting technology of coins and various operations of Japan Mint as well as the history of Japanese coins through exhibits and photo panels. We are looking forward to meeting you in Tsukuba."

For those who are interested, commemorative coin sets and other items are available for sale. I bought sets of coins commemorating this even in Tsukuba, and I thought this set will be a perfect souvenir for friends and families or for those who are leaving Tsukuba! There are only 4000 sets available, so there's a chance of Tsukuba coin sets being sold out for the day.

Admission is free.


Friday, February 02, 2007

New exhibit at the Ibaraki Nature Museum

The 5th exhibition of citizen’s collection called Creating nature, - The Charm of Bird Carving – will open tomorrow at the Ibaraki Nature Museum. You’ll be able to enjoy the art and history of bird carvings and learn about bird carvings as tools of nature and wildlife conservation. This exhibition runs through February 25th, Sunday. Kids get in free on Saturdays.

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Two “one of a kind” Doll Festivals taking place in Ibaraki

March 3rd is the day of Hinamatsuri, or Doll(Girl)’ s Festival, and there are two very unique Hinamatsuris in Kasama City and in Sakuragawa City.

The one in Kasama City is called “
桃宴 or Touen ( Tou means peach and En means feast).” The dolls are all earthenware dolls created by local potters, and they are displayed in the pottery shops, galleries, and other local businesses. You are sure to enjoy the 雛人形 or Hina Dolls you've never seen elsewhere! Touen is from February 1(Thur.) to March 4(Sun.), and 32 businesses are participating this year. Many of these dolls are for sale, and participating local restaurants have special menu during Touen. You can go to the following websites for more information, or you can stop by at the tourist information office by the JR Mito Line Kasama Station. Kasama is only 30 to 60minutes away from Tsukuba by car, depending on the roads you are going to take, or about 1.5 hours by train. If you are going to take the train, get on the JR Joban Line train and switch to JR Mito Line train at the Tomobe Station. Kasama is about 10 minutes from Tomobe, and the cost is 820yen each way from JR Arakawaoki Station. There’s a free bus going around the central Kasama City, and it stops in front of the station.

Websites for Touen (Japanese)


list pf participating businesses (Japanese)

Another unique Hinamatsuri is in Sakuragawa City and is called “Kura no Machi, Makabe no Hinamatsuri,” since it’s been held in the former Makabe Town area of Sakuragawa City. It starts on February 4(Sun) and ends on March 3(Sat). I think the festival period’s been always from Feb.4th to March 3rd every year, regardless of days of the week. I hear some people visit the town early to catch a sneak preview of the dolls :-)

This event was originally started in 2003 to cordially entertain the visitors who come to the town in the cold weather to the see the ( kura), or the traditional warehouses Makabe is known for. This is only the 5th year of Makabe’s Doll’s Festival, but the festival has already become a huge success! People came in large tour buses last year and got very crowded on weekends, so I think it’ll be the same this year. Please note that you won't be able to see many Hina Dolls on display if you go there on Wednesday since many stores will be closed on Wednesdays.

Makabe is only 30 to 40-minute drive from Tsukuba, and there are many free parking lots in town if you don’t mind walking a little bit. There are some pay parking lots for this event, but I had a trouble parking there last year(My advice to you is “leave home early"). You can also take the bus from Tsukuba Center Bus Terminal. Buses to Makabe leaves from loading zone 1, and takes about 45 minutes to get to真壁町民体育館(Makabe Chomin Taiikukan) or真壁駅(Makabe Station). It costs 800yen each way.

Makabe no Hinamatsuri Official Website(Japanese)
Bus schedule from Tsukuba Center to Makabe(Japanese)

There are absolutely no public trash cans, so the visitors to the festival are asked to bring a bag to bring back the trash. Believe me, you will need a bag because you may choose to eat something there or your kid may keep blowing his/her nose!

The pictures from the last year's Hinamatsuri.
Click for a bigger image.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Capture Go as Communication

The title of today's post may not seem to make a lot of sense. I am writing about the game called "Go", and in particular a simpler variant of the game called "Capture Go". Now does it make more sense?

Yasutoshi Yasuda (安田泰敏) is a 9th level master of Go. He has developed a method to teach all people -- children, elderly people, disabled people -- in many countries how to play Go and to learn to improve their communication skills through the game. His students start by learning to play Capture Go, and then, if they are interested, they can continue to learn how to play the full version of Go.

Yasuda-sensei is very famous for his work in this area. He has written some books, two of which are available in English.

Go as Communication (Read a sample of this book.)

Let's Play Go (Read a sample of this book.)

You can find out more information by doing an internet search of his name and the names of his books.

And now, for the good news!

Yasuda-sensei is coming to Ushiku!

On Sunday, February 25 from 1pm to 4pm, there will be a Capture Go Festival in Ushiku at the Social Welfare Center (Onabakecho 859-3, map). Everyone is welcome, and I have been assured that foreign people are especially welcome. The point of the event is to bring people together through the game of Go, in order to improve communication and understanding, so it will make the event even more successful if foreign people show up.

The deadline for signing up for this event is February 10. Call 029-873-2111 to register (in Japanese).

You can get more information about Go at Wikipedia.

Just to be clear, this event is not specifically designed for foreigners, so there will not be any official language support (such as English interpretation). However, the whole point of the event is to promote communication, so I think that if you go, people will try to communicate with you (as long as you make it look like you want to communicate with them).

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Seminar on Medical Translation Assistance in Tsukuba

The Ibaraki International Association and Tsukuba Cultural Foundation are holding a seminar on medical translation assistance in Tsukuba. The seminar is open to all people who are involved in medical issues that foreign residents face. The target audience for the seminar includes people who offer translation assistance at medical facilities in Tsukuba, people involved in the medical profession in Tsukuba, and other people who are working towards better international relations in Tsukuba.

Date: February 22, 2007
Time: 1pm to 4:30pm (reception starts at 12:30pm)
Place: Tsukuba International Congress Center (Takezono 2-20-3)
Fee: Free

Information on how to apply (deadline: February 9) can be found on the Tsukuba Cultural Foundation website.

This seminar will be held in Japanese, so it might be difficult for some foreign residents to attend, but I think it important for us to know that these kinds of events happen in Tsukuba. In fact, it would be a lot better if the foreign community were "officially" informed of these kinds of events (instead of finding out about them when I happen to see them on the city hall website while trawling for things to write TsukuBlog posts about) so we could lend our input and experiences to help enrich the event.

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Friday, January 26, 2007

Tsukuba Science Tour Stamp Rally

If you visit three, five, or eight of the following spots on the Tsukuba Science Tour between February 1, 2007 and May 31, 2007, you will be eligible to win some prizes, such as hotel stays, stuffed toys, pens, and Tsukuba Express merchandise.

1. Food and Farming Science Museum Tsukuba Research Gallery
2. Geological Museum at AIST
3. Science Square Tsukuba at AIST
4. JAXA Tsukuba Space Center
5. Museum of Maps and Survey
6. Tsukuba Botanical Garden
7. Tsukuba Expo Center
8. KEK Communication Plaza

You can pick up the rally sheet for collecting stamps at the Tsukuba Information Office at Tx Tsukuba Station, Kantetsu Gakuen Service Center, Tsukuba Expo Center, Tsukuba Science Tour Office.

I picked up a pamphlet about the stamp rally at Tsukuba Information Center, so you may be able to get more information about it there. Happy Rallying!


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Coffee Hour: International Relations in Tsukuba

I didn't mention this earlier (because giving speeches makes me nervous!), but I am giving at talk about "International Relations in Tsukuba" at the January Coffee Hour today from 2pm at the Tsukuba Information Center.

I am going to talk about whether Tsukuba really is an "international" city. I think that it hasn't reached that goal yet. I am going to give some suggestions for making Tsukuba a more welcoming place for foreign people.

First of all, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I think that we should offer an orientation program or seminar session two times a year (April and October) for people who arrive in Tsukuba. Also, we should develop a welcome package of information that can be given to foreign people when they register at city hall. And, ideally, we should offer a homestay/buddy program to help newcomers make connections with Japanese people and foreign people in the city as soon as they arrive.

Second, I think the Ibaraki International Association needs to offer more activities that allow for true interaction between foreign people and Japanese people. Ikebana and tea ceremony lessons put Japanese people above foreigners, and coffee hour speeches put foreigners above Japanese people. We need to have more events where people can interact on an equal footing, such as sporting events or classes in something that is not necessarily related to Japanese culture (so we can learn about it together, as equals).

Third, I think that the international community in Tsukuba lacks a focus. I think that Tsukuba Information Center could serve a greater purpose in the lives of foreigners as a focal point to the community. As it is now, I think a few people make use of the center, but it is not living up to its potential. The facilities are incredible, the location is prime, but the programs that it offers are somewhat uninspired. We need to shake things up and make it more of an entity that plays a part in the lives of foreigners here in Tsukuba.

Finally, I think the city and the prefecture should put their resources together to hire a full-time, foreign "Co-ordinator for International Relations" (CIR). Right now, there are one or two foreigners working in the city hall, but they are not full-time and, in my opinion, the pay that they receive is not commensurate with their abilities, so there is no incentive for them to stay for very long or for them to want to implement new and exciting programs. Also, working within the framework of city hall is very restrictive. The prefecture's international association might be able to offer a better working environment. I think that Tsukuba desperately needs some qualified, innovative, and enthusiastic foreign people working to improve international relations in the city. Without that input or stimulus, the city just seems to recycle the same old ideas over and over again.

So, in case you miss it, that is what I am planning on saying. The speech will be in Japanese mainly, but the slides are bilingual and I am including a discussion session in the middle of the speech to try to stimulate conversation about this topic. If you are interested in these ideas, please feel free to come by and voice your opinion.

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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Computer Classes

Tsukuba Cultural Foundation is organizing an I.T. (Information Technology) training seminar for foreign residents. You can learn how to input hiragana or katakana into a personal computer and send email in Japanese. Also learn the best way to find useful Japanese web sites from search engines. Everyone is welcome. (Sorry, no small children, please.)

* The seminar will be in easy Japanese. English interpreter is available.

Date & time: February 4th (Sun.) 10:00a.m. to 12:00
Place: International Network Center
Member: 15 foreigners who live or work in Tsukuba
Lecturer: Mr. Kazuhiro Yamashima
Fee: 100 yen (text fee)
Application: By telephone or email
Registration & more information:

Tsukuba Cultural Foundation Tel.029-856-7007
Email class[AT]tsukubacity.or.jp

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Friday, January 05, 2007

National Women's Ekiden

The National Varsity Women's Ekiden will take place on Monday, January 8 from 12 noon in Tsukuba. You can watch the race live on TV Tokyo (Ch 12) from 11:50am. Expect traffic delays from noon until about 2pm.

Ekiden is a marathon relay race. Read more about the concept on Wikipedia.

The Tsukuba race is about 30 km in total, with 6 racers competing for each university. The first runner will start at Chuo Koen (the park with the pond near Expo Center and Tsukuba Public Library) and run for 5km to Meiki Gakuen (private school near the Cineplex movie theatres and Yamada Denki). The second runner will run the 3km to JAXA (space center), the third to the main administrative building at the University of Tsukuba (5.5km), the fourth to Oho Intersection (3.5km), the fifth to Tsukuba University Hospital (6km), and the sixth to the track and field grounds at the University of Tsukuba (7.67km). Here is a map of the course.

Here is the official website, although it is only available in Japanese.


Sirens -- Do Not be Alarmed

The volunteer fire brigade will be having their annual New Year's ceremony on Sunday. They will broadcast the sirens around 7am on Sunday morning, but do not confuse the sirens with a real fire alarm. (Just go back to bed.)


Sunday, December 17, 2006

Beethoven's Ninth Symphony

The City of Tsukuba, the Tsukuba Cultural Foundation, and the Tsukuba 9th Symphony Steering Committee would like to invite the public to a performance of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 in D. minor, opus 125, known as the "Ode to Joy Choral" to be performed at Nova Hall on Saturday, December 30, 2006. The choral parts will be performed by a community chorus made up of local residents and the 2006 Tsukuba 9th Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Yuichi Takubo. Members of the citizen's chorus rehearsed for about 4 months to stage this inaugural year-end choral concert here in Tsukuba City. In addition to the "Ode to Joy" Symphony, Wolfgang Mozart's Divertimento for string orchestra in D major ("The Salzburg Symphony No. 1"), K. 136 will also be part of the afternoon program, which is set to open its doors at 2pm with the actual performance beginning at 3pm.

General admission tickets are being sold for 1,500 yen at the Tsukuba Cultural Foundation or Tsukuba Shinkou Zaidan located at the rear of the Tsukuba Capio Center (029-851-2886) or at Nova Hall (029-852-5881). For more information, call the Tsukuba Cultural Foundation (029-856-7007).

For those of you out there not flying home for the holidays and who are planning to spend your New Year's Holiday here in Japan, come join us during this holiday season. Make the December 30 choral concert a part of your end-of-the-year celebrations.

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Outdoor Daruma Market

An outdoor daruma market called "Doro Ichi" or "Daruma Ichi" (どろ市 or だるま市) is held in Tsukuba on December 28 every year. The market starts sometime in the evening, perhaps around 7pm. (Sorry, I couldn't find an exact starting time anywhere online.)

Daruma are Buddhist figures that represent the Bodhidharma and they are used to help people achieve their wishes. They are usually red, but also come in other colours. Their eyes are white, and when someone wants to use a daruma to help their wish come true, they paint in one of the eyes black and place the daruma in a high position in their house. When the wish comes true, the other eye is painted in. When a family is finished with a daruma, they must return it to the temple where they bought it to be burned in a ritual bonfire at the temple (usually) once a year. It is not usually acceptable to own more than one daruma at a time.

Tsukuba's Doro Ichi is held near Yatabe Elementary School. They sell all kinds of daruma and other New Year's decorations. It only happens on one day a year. This is a very good place to pick up some unique souvenirs for your friends and family back home. The market usually starts around 3pm and continues on into the night.

The term "Doro Ichi" literally means "mud market" and has two possible linguistic origins. One is that traditionally December was the month when "dorobo" (thieves - literally "mud sticks") were most active. The other theory is that it had to do with the muddy roads of December and that when people went shopping on such roads, they tended to get muddy.

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Monday, December 04, 2006

Vertical Jousting

I ended up going to the Lantern Fighting Festival in Koga-shi on Saturday. A friend was visiting from abroad, so I figured that was a good excuse to take in a local festival.

The festival was normal in many ways (food and game stalls, music, etc.), but the main event was quite strange. There were maybe 30 different teams and each of them had a long bamboo pole with a lantern at the top. The pole was supported by four other bamboo poles. All five "legs" were lifted by the team members. About five of these poles would be lugged into the middle of a cage and then it would be a free for all. Each team had to try to extinguish the lights of the other teams' lanterns. This resulted in poles snapping in half, lanterns catching fire, poles crashing down onto the cage, and occasionally a lantern might just go out with a silent snuff like it was supposed to. The overall effect was akin to vertical jousting. Quite strange, but fun for a night out with friends.

Koga-shi is located on the far western edge of Ibaraki Prefecture. If you want to get there by train, it is probably best to take the Joban line from Tsuchiura, Arakawaoki, or Hitachi no Ushiku to Ueno and then take Tohoku Honsen to Koga. This trip will take you about 2.5 hours. Taking the Tsukuba Express is also possible, but will require at least three transfers, so it is not ideal. Getting there by car is a lot easier. Follow the roads north and west until you reach the Jusco in Shimotsuma City and just keep going on that road (Route 125) until you get to Koga. It should take you just over an hour. There is parking around the station, so follow the signs for the station. The festival location is not immediately apparent, so ask a local to point you in the right direction, and then follow the sounds of the taiko drums.


Saturday, December 02, 2006

Fighting Lanterns in Koga-shi

Sorry for the late notice, but I only discovered this information last night. There is an annual festival taking place today in Koga-shi (western edge of Ibaraki) called Chochin Zao. If you have a car, it looks like it might be a fun one.

Koga Chochin Zao


Friday, December 01, 2006

U2 in Saitama

I went to the U2 concert in Saitama last night. I can tell that I am getting a bit old for concerts because, despite the fact that I was about 10 people away from Bono, I felt that I could have enjoyed the concert a lot more from a greater distance (i.e. in the seated part of the arena), since then I wouldn't feel like I was being made into mochi by the crushing masses.

The concert was great, the fans were enthusiastic, and Bono was able to spread his message of "co-existence". The concert lasted two and half hours and included lots of classic numbers as well as some of their newer stuff.

The venue for the concert, Saitama Super Arena, was well-suited to the occasion, and it is relatively conveniently located for us in Tsukuba. (Of course, it would have been better if U2 had signed up to play in Nova Hall, but I suppose I shouldn't hold my breath for that to happen.) My friends and I decided to drive to the arena, but we were not sure what we would encounter in terms of traffic and parking issues on the way. The drive was extremely smooth (with a few moments of extreme uncertainty, as is bound to happen on Japanese roads) and it only took us about 1 hour to get there. And, because we arrived fairly early, there were still a lot of parking spots available in the actual stadium.

The arena is located right beside a train station (Saitama Shintoshin -- about one hour and fifteen minutes from Tsukuba), so I imagine most people came by train anyway. The only problem with going by train is getting home after the concert. Because we came by car, we could lollygag and wait for the crowds to clear out a bit before making a move. The people who came by train, however, had to rush to the station and start the trip home right away so they could be sure to catch the last train. No time for looking at merchandise or saying goodbye to friends. If you go to a concert at this arena (or anywhere for that matter), be sure to buy a return ticket when you depart so the lines for the ticket machines don't prevent you from getting home that night.

There is one more show in the Japan tour (December 4). The concert that I went to wasn't sold out, so it is possible that there are still some tickets for the last show. If you are a U2 fan and are pining for the glory days of concert-going, this is definitely a show that will satisfy. Just remember to get a ticket for a seat rather than the floor if you are not as close to your teenage years as you used to be.


Thursday, November 30, 2006

Free concerts at Seibu

There will be two 30-minute mini concerts on the 3rd floor of Tsukuba Seibu this Saturday;

These mini concerts are held every month at Tsukuba Seibu, and the artist who'll be singing this Saturday is "Poplar."

The concerts begin at 2PM and 4PM.


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Christmas Lights and Merry-Go-Round!

Hi Everyone!

Doesn't Tsukuba Center look beautiful lately with all the Christmas decorations and Merry-Go-Round for the children?!! There will be an extra-special Christmas light display starting this Saturday night, and don't forget the Q't merry-go-round is free!! Your kids can ride until their hearts content!!

Light decorations in Tsukuba Center (Dec. 2-Jan. 8)
Website: http://www.hikarinomori.info/

Free merry-go-round !! (Nov.3 - Jan.31) and some events at Q't
Website: http://www.creo-sq.com/event_info/0611/cf06.html

Merry Christmas!

from Kate


Monday, November 27, 2006

Tsukuba Calendar

I am trying to put a calendar on the TsukuBlog site so we can keep track of upcoming events. Originally I tried to embed a calendar in the blog itself, but it turns out that the implementation is a little clunky.

So here is a link to the new (and currently empty) Tsukuba Calendar.

I may try to find a better implementation, but this will work for now. I wonder if anyone will volunteer to help me keep the calendar up to date... (Wishful thinking?)


Friday, November 24, 2006

Tsukuba Marathon

The 26th Tsukuba Marathon is on this Sunday, 26 November 2006.

Start 42 km run: 9:30am
Start 10 km run: 10:10am

The roads in Tsukuba University will be blocked (closed) for the marathon, so try to avoid Tsukuba Uni on Sunday!

If you want to participate in the marathon next year, remember to check the website and apply by October 2007. You can apply through the website or at the university sports center.

Tsukuba Marathon website
Map of the marathon course

Source: TAIRA


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Charity Ballet Presentation for Kids

From Tsukuba International School:

Tsukuba International School is holding our second charity ballet to help update our science series. Please consider attending this event to support your local international elementary school! (Even if you can't attend, feel free to send a donation!)

Christine Bzdel
Head Teacher,
Tsukuba International School

TIS Charity Ballet: The Magic Flute, Japanism, and Coppelia


A Special Charity Ballet Presentation for Kids

December 7, 2006
6 pm (doors open at 5:30pm)
Tsukuba Capio
Tickets: Advance Tickets: 1000 yen, At the Door: 1500 yen

How to Buy the Tickets

1. Buy from TIS students, parents, staff.
2. Call, fax, or email your order, then transfer payment for your ticket(s) to:
Tsukuba International School
Joyo Ginko Kenkyu Gakuen Toshi Shiten
Account: 7137009 regular

Proceeds from the ballet will go towards updating our science series!

Tsukuba International School
Tel/Fax: 029-859-5553
Email: tisballet[AT]gmail.com

Tsukuba International School is a non-profit elementary school for kids of all nationalities. This event is a fundraiser to update the science series for our students. If you are not able to attend our event, but would like to make a donation, please call, fax, or email us!

The Austrian Ballet Company first performed in 1995 in Vienna. Since then, ABC has toured internationally while developing a repertoire of traditionalclassical ballets like "The Nutcracker". Recently, the company hasproduced a number of shows especially for children such as "Alice in Wonderland" and "A Christmas Carol", two of their most popular pieces forchildren aged 5 and up.

The audience will have a chance to meet and take pictures with the performers at the end of the show.

For more information about the ballet, please see the flyer:
English Flyer
Japanese Flyer

For more information about Tsukuba International School, please see our website.

For more information about the Austrian Ballet Company Tokyo, please see their website.

Tsukuba International School
2nd Floor, Ai Kenchiku Jimusho Building
2-10-20 Takezono,
Tsukuba, Ibaraki, JAPAN
Tel/Fax: 029-859-5553


Thanksgiving at Cork Head's

From Martin at Cork Head's:

According to the Farmers Almanac, Ben Franklin wanted the humble turkey to be the national symbol for the U.S.A rather than the bald eagle! Apparently he admired the bird's readiness to defend itself against all predators. Well, Ben, we at Cork Head's are not anticipating much of a fight this Thursday!

Come and join our feast!
We promise to have these belligerent beasts safely subdued in a rich gravy and I imagine the stuffing should slow them down a bit too!

Roast turkey
Roast veggies
Pumpkin pie
Fresh garlic and herb bread
Apple pie and ice cream


We recommend you book to be sure of a seat: 090-1656-6046

Source: TAIRA


Monday, November 20, 2006

Special Thanks Week

There are lots of discounts at the Creo Square complex (the mall adjoined to Tsukuba station) this week until November 26th. Apparently it is Special Thanks Week. The name is a bit strange, but since the sale is happening at a store called Q't (pronounced "cute"), I guess I shouldn't complain too much.

See: Special Thanks Week at Creo Square


Friday, September 15, 2006

Halloween goods at Joyful Honda

Joyful Honda near JR Arakawaoki Station started selling Halloween stuff in August, and they now have a whole lot more!

At the moment the Halloween goods are only at Joyful Honda 2, an Arts and Craft Store next to the main Joyful Honda store, but they usually have pumpkins and other Halloween stuff in the flower & flower arrangement supply area of the main Joyful Honda building as well.

I've never seen Joyful Honda selling the costumes, but Toysrus near this Joyful Honda should have some. FYI,Toysrus on line has already started discounting Halloween costumes and other items:


Friday, August 11, 2006

Ibaraki Artifact Exhibit at Seibu

Ibaraki Artifact Exhibit & Sale started today on the 6th floor of Seibu Department, and it'll go on until Wednesday, 16th. Hours are the same as Seibu's business hours, 10AM to 8PM, but the exhibit closes at 5PM on the last day.

I went to this Exhibit about a year or two years ago, and I actually had fun! I bought several small "Ukiyo-e" prints, and am planning to go buy some more this time. If you are going to be in town during the "o-bon"period, then this would be a really nice to place to visit (to kill your time)!!

You can ...

enjoy the works of art and appreciate the craftsmanship,

buy artifacts if you like them (or should I say if you can afford to buy them? LOL),

try making some of those artifacts at mini-craft school which is held twice a day every day during the exhibit,

or you can just go there to pick up the brochures from various tourist spots in Ibaraki!

Have a safe Obon*-break!!

*If you are not familiar with Obon yet, please take a look at this site. Please note that the site describes the "
original Buddhist mythology behind Obon traditions." Most Japanese people just think of Obon as time to spend time with the souls of the deceased by "picking them up" from the graves at the beginning of Obon and "taking them back" at the end of the Obon period. 


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Lantern Festival at Ushiku Daibutsu

There is a lantern festival at Ushiku Daibutsu on August 15 from 5:30pm. I think the grounds are open from 5:30pm and the lanterns are lit at 7pm. It seems to be free.

Please see this page for pictures:

Has anyone attended this event in the past? If so, please leave a comment about the best way to enjoy this festival.


Friday, August 04, 2006

Mount Tsukuba Festivals

There are two festivals happening at Mount Tsukuba this weekend.

Mount Tsukuba Gama (Toad) Festival

Sunday, August 6 from 10am to 5pm around Mt. Tsukuba Shrine, at the peak of Mt. Tsukuba, and Tsutsujigaoka

Tsukuba Tourist Association web page on Mount Tsukuba Gama Festival

Mount Tsukuba Tanabata Festival

Saturday, August 5 from 10am to 10pm (cable car will keep running until 10pm), Tanabata illuminations will be from 5:30pm to 10pm at the peak of Mt. Tsukuba

Sunday, August 6 from 7pm at Mt. Tsukuba Shrine: Gakaku (ancient Japanese music) performance, tea (maccha) service (weather permitting)

Tsukuba Tourism Association web page on Mount Tsukuba Tanabata Festival

I have never been to either of these festivals, so I can't offer any opinions. If you click on the websites above, you will be able to see some pictures. If anyone has been to either (or both) of these festivals, please leave a comment and let us know what you thought.


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

NIES Summer Open House

The NIES Summer Open House was held on Saturday and it was a roaring success. (Am I allowed to say that about my own institute?) If someone invited me to an open house at a research institute, I would guess that I would be spending the day looking at posters and trying to catch the eye of the reticent researcher half hidden behind one of the panels. This was NOT like that at all.

First of all, there were gigantic bugs.

This picture shows a stag beetle. These beetles are extremely popular in Japan and children often keep them as pets. They can cost hundreds of dollars, and the more exotic they are, the better. The problem is that sometimes these exotic (i.e. foreign) bugs escape from their little cages and cause environmental damage. The NIES researcher who studies "invasive species" was happy to explain the details of this situation and answer our questions in English. It was really interesting to see all the different kinds of beetles. This was one of the most popular attractions at the Open House.

Then, there were cars. There were three different electric cars on display and two of them were all charged up and ready to be driven. Anyone with a valid license was given a chance to drive one of the cars around the circular driveway in front of the main research building. People were lined up for ages waiting for their chance to scoot around in these little two-seaters.

Oh, and did I mention MORE BUGS. This display shows larval fireflies. The researchers had set up a quiz for kids (and adults) to try to identify the various kinds of (living) bugs and worms around the room. This was also hugely popular with the kids.

In addition to these attractions, you could test your own DNA, play games like Karuta and Bingo, use microscopic cameras to photograph algae, etc. There was also a stamp rally (collect four stamps in a row and win a seedling) and lots of paraphernalia to pick up at each of the 16 buildings that were opened to the public.

I heard that about 5000 people came to the event, which is about 1000 more than last year. (About 20 people participated in the English tours.) The weather was perfect: not too hot and not raining.

If you didn't get a chance to come to the Open House this year, I highly recommend planning a visit next year. While it is called an "open house", I think a better description would be something like "festival" or "science amusement park". Fun for the whole family.

More Photos


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Fun at NIES and AIST

National Institute for Environmental Studies (NIES)

The National Institute for Environmental Studies is having an Open House on July 22. The number of facilities that will be open to the public will be about twice that of the April (Science Week) open house.

We will be offering tours in English from 10:30am and 2:00pm, but since many of our researchers can speak English, you can come whenever you want and take yourself around, if you prefer.

See: Summer Open House 2006: National Institute For Environmental Studies

National Institute for Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST)

AIST will also have its open house this Saturday from 9:30 to 4:00.

See: Summer Open House 2006: National Institute for Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (in Japanese)

Special free buses to AIST and NIES will leave Tsukuba Station/Bus Terminal #9 every 10 minutes. Buses will go to NIES first from the station, then AIST Central, AIST East, and come back to the station.


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Fireworks Festivals along Tx Line

Here are a few fireworks festivals along the Tsukuba Express line. (Some of them are not exactly close to the stations.)


July 27: Adachi Fireworks Festival (15 minutes walk from Kita Senju Station)

July 28: Joso City Mitsukaido Fireworks Festival (Train and 15 minute walk from Moriya Station)

July 29: Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival (15 minutes walk from Asakusa Station)


August 5: Edogawaku Fireworks Festival (Two train rides from Shin Okachimachi Station)

August 5: Ichikawa City Fireworks Festival (One train ride and 15 minutes walk from Akihabara Station)

August 5: Teganuma Fireworks Festival (Train, bus, and walk from Nagareyama Otakanomori Station)

August 15: Karakasa Mando (20 minute taxi ride from Tsukuba Station)

August 19: Minami Nagareyama Fireworks Festival (20 minutes walk from Nagareyama Central Park Station)

August 19: Misato Summer Festival Fireworks (One train ride and 5 minutes walk from Minami Nagareyama Station)

August 19: Sekiyado Festival (Train, bus, and walk from Nagareyama Otakanomori Station)

August 5: Shimotsuma Sanuma Fireworks Festival (Train and 15 minute walk from Moriya Station)

August 23: Takaoka Tsunabi (Bus and 10 minute walk from Moriya Station)

August 24: Kobari Tsunabi (15 minute walk from Miraidaira Station)


September 10: Hakke Ryusui Mando (10 minutes taxi ride from Banpaku Kinen Koen Station)


October 7: Tsuchiura Fireworks Festival (Bus and 5 minute walk from Tsukuba Station)

More information (in Japanese)

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