Archives

Aomori City

New Year

Christmas Carol

Naqua Shirakami

Yoga

Ramen

History of Halloween

Rokkasho Salmon Fest

Hokkaido

Garlic Fest 2009

Base Marathon

Japanese Class

Hawaii

Kyoto, the thousand-year former capital of Japan

Towada Lake Fireworks Fest

Nango Jazz Fest '09

Universal Studios Japan!

FSS Summer Asian Bazaar

Fuji Rock!

UMUC Asia News Release

Haruki Murakami

European Still-Life Painting

Japanese manners

Retiree Activities Office

Road Trip to Sendai, Tokyo, Yokohama

Kondo Frame

Trocks come to Japan

Things to do in spite of cold

Bell Mark

Rockin' in Hachinohe

Photo Exhibit

Shiriyazaki Lighthouse

New Year celebrations around the world

Naqua Shirakami

Lomi Lomi Massage

Shutter Project

Yagen Valley

Fish are jumpin'

Now & Then of Misawa City

Japanese Glass Floats

Garlic Festival

Earthquake

Sushi

Napoleon

U.S. Army Band

Wonderland 2008

Osorezan

Towada Lake Festival

Nango Jazz Fest '08

Top Page Article

No. 156 (1/22/10)

Aomori City

By Chiho Tsukiashi
Staff Writer

Aomori City is the capital city of Aomori Prefecture, housing over 310,000 people. Unlike typical big cities, it is closely surrounded by nature: the sea in the north, Hakkoda Mountains in the south, and rivers run from the mountains to the shore. It also hosts many sightseeing spots, shopping centers, and restaurants. You can spend a whole day in the city and want to come back there again. It takes about 80 minutes from Misawa using Michinoku Toll Road. If you want to save 830 yen toll and don't mind two-hour drive, take Route 4 from Towada, which takes you all the way to Aomori City.

SIGHTSEEING

Aomori Museum of Art
Aomori has nurtured many internationally famous artists. The museum mainly displays their work in their regular exhibits. For example, Yoshitomo Nara's “Aomori Dog,” a huge statue of a dog, and his paintings of cute but angry children. The museum always hosts interesting special exhibits too. It is a place where you want to visit many times.

Sannai Maruyama Remains
Ancient people from 3,500 B.C. to 2,000 B.C. found Aomori City a livable place. Seventeen years ago, major excavation was conducted, and remains of buildings, roads and graves, numerous potteries, accessories, tools, etc. were found. There are many remains of the same period all over Japan, but the size of this one is exceptional. The whole facility is admission free. Do not miss the little museum overlooking the remains. It houses actual remnants found in the site.

ASPM
This is what looks like a pyramid near Aomori Station. The uniquely-shaped building was aimed to be sightseeing information center. On the first floor, browse souvenir shops and stalls. Try an apple pie from the oven. Beware that ice cream sold there, it is scallop-flavored! The restaurant on the 14th floor has great command of view. Most ingredients of their dishes are harvested in Aomori. There is an observatory on the 13th floor (400 yen for admission). You can learn about local culture in the exhibition hall on the 2nd floor.

Gappo Park
Families spend quality time in this park on sunny days. What makes the park distinctive is that it has the beach inside, where they can swim in summer. Children also enjoy fishing crawfish in a pond. It is truly calming to take a stroll under cherry blossoms, sit under wisterias, and walk through old pine tree woods in sea breeze.

Big Statue of Buddha at Seiryuji Temple
You can see the head of bronze Buddha sticking out from woods, and she gently overlooking the city. This statue stands 21.35 meter tall, being the tallest of its kind. Buildings including a five-story pagoda are also beautiful and worth looking at. Admission fee is 400 yen for adult and 200 yen for child.

Night View from Moya Hills
The little mountain standing out in the south of the city is Moya Hills. It has ski runs where people go skiing after work in winter. It is also a great spot where night view of the city can be overlooked. After dark, go to the parking lot of Hotel Villa City Moya for the best command of view.

Asamushi Area
This seaside area has been a spa resort for centuries. Roadside Station “Yusa Asamushi” has a public onsen on the fifth floor, where you can relax dipping yourself in warm water, viewing the ocean and little islands. Black currant ice-cream sold on the first floor is a must to taste. The restaurant on the third floor offers delicious dishes using scallops caught in the area. Sashimi combo (1,280 yen) is recommended. Asamushi Aquarium is a popular amusement place for Americans. Sea otters and dolphin shows are especially fun to see.

SHOPPING

Don Quixote
Discount store selling anything and everything. Customers feel overwhelmed by commodities piled up from the floor to the ceiling. Located in shopping center called Ali, across from “7 & I.”

JUSCO/ Sunroad
Heaton This shopping mall is not as big as Shimoda mall; however, you will find some unique stores appealing. “3 Minute Happiness” sells colorful interior items at low prices. “Akachan Honpo” is a large store selling wide selection of baby and maternity items. “Heaton” has exotic accessories, clothes, and incense imported from all over Asia.

AUGA
This tall building near Aomori Station accommodates stores mostly for young consumers on the first through third floors. The basement is fish market.

RESTAURANTS

Tony Roma's
Tony Roma's famous rib This all-American restaurant was just opened in a new building called “A-Bay” in downtown last December. They offer ribs, char-grilled steaks and BBQ chicken with signature sauce. Around 1,000 yen for lunch and 3,000 for dinner.

Freshness Burger
They have various hamburger and sandwich menus. This is a cafe-style chain restaurant located in shopping center called Ali.

あじ采 Ajisai
restaurant Ajisai Specialized in sushi and tempura. A variety of set menus are available. Fresh ingredients are used. Family-friendly atmosphere. Across from Cub Center near Ali (shopping center).

かわら Kawara
Miso curry ramen A ramen restaurant that offers “Miso curry ramen,” whose soup is made up from soybean paste and curry! It is, believe it or not, an ordinary menu in Aomori. If you like miso ramen and curry, your satisfaction is guaranteed. Buy a ticket at the register before take a seat. Also enjoy jazz music constantly played as BGM.

丸亀製麺 Marugame Seimen
A chain restaurant offering authentic Sanuki udon mainly consumed in Kagawa Prefecture. You can see the chewy noodles made from scratch in the restaurant. It has a cafeteria style: Stand in a line, order noodles, pick up tempura toppings, and pay. Kama-age udon, the most basic kind costs 280 yen.
* No English service is guaranteed at the restaurants above. At Tony Roma's, menus are written in Japanese and English.

Aomori City Map

Page Top


No. 155 (1/8/10)

Japanese New Year's Holiday

By Keiko. H. Johnson
Staff Writer

As Joyanokane (the great bells at the temples) all over Japan are struck on the outside by the wooden hammer; the countdown to New Year in Japan begins. At approximately 10 minutes before midnight of New Year's Eve, the 108 rings on the temple bells echo through the quiet night of New Year's Eve. The number 108 follows the concept of Buddhism, which represents the 108 sins man had made, and the numbers of bell rings heard at the end of the year will clear those sins away. The redeeming moment arrives as the bell ring 108 times and the Japanese New Year's holiday begin. While the New Year is celebrated in many parts of the world, the Japanese New Year shows the unique significance of Japanese people who take the opportunity to restart the many aspects of their lives.

By New Year's Eve, household in Japan are cleaned and decorated. Kadomatsu, pine tree ornaments, are placed on both sides of the gate; Shimenawa, the twisted straw rope with paper strips, are hung above the entrance to prevent the evil spirits from entering the house; Tamakazari, the wreath made with pine trees, an orange, and a gold colored paper fan, is placed on the front door, hoping the following year to be more successful.

The preparation for New Year will be completed before the New Year's Eve. Japanese believes in observing the tradition in clearing a year worth of slate by the end of the year. During the entire December, home makers all over Japan become especially busy cleaning the dust and dirt off of the entire house, and the business men vigorously work and try to wind up the tasks and try to pay off the debts before New Year's Eve. Such activities are Japanese tradition to prevent the old activities from being carried over to the following year. This had been an age-old tradition.

The New Year's holiday celebration in Japan begins at the last 10 minute of the last day of each year. While People in the U.S. wait for the fireworks to blast in the sky, Japanese people usually spend their time together with their families in their homes. Families who had moved out, come home for the celebrations. In each home, the special meal called TOSHIKOSHI SOBA, which becomes the last meal of the previous year and the first meal of the following year, will be prepared at midnight of the New Year’s Eve. The buckwheat noodles, soba, is typically served, hoping to have the longevity of life and good health.

Once the New Year's holiday begins, the Resting period begins. From January 1 through the third, all stores and restaurants in Japan will be closed. Everyone will be free from any tasks during the first three days of New Year's holiday. The special holiday meals called Osechi are prepared at homes during the last week of December. Osechi consists of meat, fish, and vegetable dishes, stored in the fancy carrier boxes, and served during the first three days of the New Year holidays. Other than Osechi, Omochi is also prepared as a significant Japanese holiday food. Omochi is made with the steamed rice that was pounded, formed into cakes and dried to preserve. It is eaten grilled on the broiler/ braziers or put in the soup and makes the dish called Ozoni. These meals are invented as to free hard working homemaker from any chores during the holiday.

During those three-day New Year's holidays, the words “first-Hatsu” and “Begin?Zome, Hajime”, which represents the meaning of “New or restart”, are often heard. One of the most popular New Year’s events in Japan is called Hatsu-Moude or Hatsu-Mairi: the first visit to the temples or shrines. Many people in Japan visit temples and shrines during the first three days of New Year to make their resolution, which they intend to keep through the coming year and pray for good luck. Many shrines and temples in Japan prepare various kinds of charms for this biggest event of the year. Other than Hatsumoude, Kaki Zome, the first Japanese calligraphy art contests of the year, usually conducted at schools on January 2, is the particular event of New Year, which also includes the meaning of the first, Zome, to represent the new, or restoring spirit of people in Japan.

Another activity typical to Japanese people is the custom of sending Greeting cards called Nenga Jyo, which is sent to relatives and close friends in Japan. This is similar to that of sending Christmas cards in the Western country. Nengajo is specially designed post cards. Their design is may be related to the animal of the year. Since the 2010 is the year of the tiger, Toradoshi, tiger prints post cards are sold at stores and the post offices this year. On the card Japanese people writes greetings as “Akemashite Omedetougozamasu", which means unlocking the key to the New Year with refreshed minds.

As well as those events I noted above, there are several other New Year's holiday events to be enjoyed in Japan. One of the biggest events for children is Otoshidama giving. It is a New Year's holiday bonus allowance for children. After Family greetings are exchanged in the morning of the New Year's Day, children receive Otoshidama, the money in the small envelope especially designed for the New Year's holiday. Children will first receive Otoshidama from their parents, and then, from their relatives and their neighbors. Children in Japan generally look forward to the new years, since the sum of Otoshidama is usually more than the usual allowance they receive.

Other traditional activities during the New Year's holidays in Japan are Takoage; the kite flying, Karuta; the Japanese Hiragana card game, and the Hagoita, which is similar to badminton. Takoage is typically enjoyed by boys in Japan during this time of the seasons, since kites fly well in the cold winter wind in Japan, it is widely enjoyed by many to this day. Karuta is a kind of card games, which is often played at schools and at homes, since its educational benefit is recognized widely among parents and teachers in Japan. However, the Hagoita?the Japanese Badminton, used to be played by Japanese girls dressed in fancy kimono, became a rare sight these days. Even though the demand of those as Hagoita became scarce, Hagoita with the decorative prints of Samurai and Geisha are still sold at the stores during the New Year's holidays.

The New Year's holiday is a special event in Japan. There are many events and entertainments you would be able to attend. Visiting temples during this time of the year will sure to be enjoyed, and it will be a great experience to tell in the future.
Enjoy and happy holidays. Akemashite- Omedetou- Gozaimasu!
Happy New Year to all in Misawa!

Page Top


No. 154 (12/25/09)

Dickens' Christmas Carol through the ages

By Robert Finley
Chief Writer

Just before Christmas 1843, famed author Charles Dickens’ novella “A Christmas Carol In Prose, Being A Ghost Story Of Christmas” was published. In the 166 years since, the story has become one of the defining tales of the holiday, and has been retold and adapted countless times in a wide array of formats, from radio broadcasts, television, movies (such as the current Disney adaptation, directed by Robert Zemeckis), and much more.

Everyone knows the story -- the cold-hearted Ebenezer Scrooge learns a lesson about the true meaning of Christmas after a series of visits from three specters that represent Christmas past, present, and future. In virtually all of the adaptations, this premise has remained unchanged over time, but that's pretty much it. Here's a short list of a few of the more popular adaptations that have popped up since “A Christmas Carol” was first published:

In theatre:
- 1974’s “A Christmas Carol,” a musical version of Dickens' tale adapted by Ira David Wood, III, and has been a presence in the Raleigh, North Carolina theater scene for over 30 years.
- 1988’s one-man adaptation of “A Christmas Carol” starred Patrick Stewart of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and “X-Men” fame. First debuting in London (and later expanding to Broadway), Stewart expertly played every single character of the tale. This version can be purchased on CD.

In film:
- 1901's “Scrooge; Or Marley’s Ghost” is a rare short film that is considered the earliest surviving film adaptation.
- 1916's “The Right To Be Happy” was the first feature-length adaptation of “A Christmas Carol,” and featured Rupert Julian as Scrooge.
- 1951's “Scrooge” is a very popular version, featuring Alastair Sim as the title role. This version is often called the best adaptation of the tale.
- 1988's “Scrooged,” starring the always-entertaining Bill Murray as a misanthropic television producer in modern times who is visited by three very disturbing ghosts who show him the true meaning of Christmas (and, incidentally, end up saving his life in the process).

In television:
- 1944's television adaptation “A Christmas Carol” broadcasted in New York is one of the earliest versions of a TV adaptation known.
- 1949's half-hour adaptation starred Taylor Holmes as Scrooge and featured Vincent Price as the narrator. This version is often panned for its cheap special effects. - “The Stingiest Man In Town,” 1956’s musical adaptation of the tale, featured Basil Rathbone and Vic Damone as old and young Scrooge.
- 2004's “A Christmas Carol: The Musical” once again put music to words, this time featuring Kelsey Grammer of “Cheers” and “Frasier” fame as Ebenezer.

In animation:
- 1983's “Mickey's Christmas Carol” supplanted all of the traditional characters of the tale with Disney characters. Scrooge McDuck appropriately took on the role of Ebenezer, while Mickey played Bob Cratchit, and Goofy became Jacob Marley.
- 2008's “Barbie In A Christmas Carol” puts Barbie in the role of Scrooge, in a rare gender-shifting adaptation of the tale.
- 2009's “Disney's A Christmas Carol,” mentioned earlier, is the latest version to hit the big screen. Filmed using cutting-edge performance capture techniques, Jim Carrey takes on the role of Scrooge as well as the three ghosts.

In addition to these adaptations, there have been a number of non-canon sequels produced that intended to expand on the story. Here are a few of the more notable ones:
- In 1985's “A Christmas Carol II,” it is revealed that after the events of the original tale, Scrooge has swung to the other side of the spectrum and is now being taken advantage of by his town’s inhabitants. This development leads to the return of the spirits, who hope to assist Scrooge in finding a healthy median in his behavior.
- 1992's short story by John Mortimer titled, “Whatever Happened To Tiny Tim?” follows Tim Cratchit’s life as a successful businessman, which leads him down the same cold, heartless path that Scrooge abandoned in “A Christmas Carol.”
- 2009's “I Am Scrooge: A Zombie Story,” a horror parody of a sequel, features an outbreak of a zombie virus (carried by Tiny Tim) that only Scrooge and the spirits can combat.

Dickens' “A Christmas Story” has never been out of print since it first saw publication all those years ago, and its message of good will towards men and celebrating the true meaning of Christmas will continue to resonate with people for years to come.

Page Top


No. 153 (12/11/09)

Naqua Shirakami: More than just a first class ski resort

By Simon Bernard
Guest Writer

skiin Naqua Shirakami Ski Resort Living in Misawa gives you close proximity to some of the best snow in Japan.

Hakkoda, with 8 mountains and no groomed slopes, is paradise for back country and powder snow hounds. Skiing in Hakkoda requires higher skill level than that of regular ski resorts. It is suggested that you carry a backpack, snowshoes and poles even if you plan on just going on the “official” courses.

Getting a guide to take you off course to back country is the best way to enjoy the snow and awesome scenery without getting hurt or wasting time navigating thru unfamiliar turf. See my home page for all the information you need.

If you are more of a recreational skier/boarder or even a beginner, you should defi nitely check out “Naqua Shirakami” formerly Ajigasawa Ski Resort. Shirakami is the name of the mountainous area in western Aomori. It is a United Nations World Heritage beech tree forest preservation area.

Naqua Shirakami Ski Resort Located on the north slope of Mt. Iwaki, the highest mountain in Aomori prefecture. With one gondola and four lifts, you can fi nd the right terrain for your ski and snowboard level. You have your choice of skiing in the daytime overlooking the Sea of Japan or in the evening under the lights and stars!

Naqua Shirakami is more than just a 1st class ski resort and hotel. There are fi ne dining restaurants, hot springs, massage, fi tness center and live local music found there.

Evening events include the Nebuta festival floats on snow, fireworks, a winter and Christmas carnival, and visits to the Suntory Ice Bar.

Naqua Shirakami is a great place for the whole family. Fun for kids includes snow mobiles, snow tubing, a bouncy house and even ski lessons in English! Snow caves, snow candles, snow slides and various other playground toys are available so kids can have fun playing in the snow.

You don't ski but the family does? No problem, you can catch a ride on the snow-limo to get the feeling of being on the slopes without learning to ski! Special ski and family packages are available to folks in Misawa base. Don't wait too long to make your Christmas and New Year's bookings. Call Misawa ITT at 226-3555 to reserve a holiday or weekend get away. Looking for just a day trip? Contact Outdoor Rec. or the Mogul Mashers Ski Club.

Driving Directions
Go out the main gate; turn right at the second street after the light. Turn right at the 4th street, you will end up going around the perimeter of the base. Turn right at the Y and you will be on Rt. 8. From the Y go 16 km. and turn left at the Circle K light. Go 0.7km and turn right, go over the bridge and go straight, this road will eventually take you to the Michinoku Toll road. After paying the toll 820 yen, continue straight 8km. till you see the sign for Aomori Higashi Expressway. Turn left to get on the expressway. After a few kilometers you will come to a booth to get a ticket, continue straight toward Namioka , this expressway will merge with the Tohoku Expressway bound for Tokyo. Get off at the fi rst interchange Namioka and pay the toll 800 yen. Continue straight and you will run into the Tsugaru Expressway. Go to the end of this expressway (no charge), when it ends turn left.

You will now be on Rt. 156. You will go about 7km and turn right at the Circle K light. (On this 7km. stretch you will pass by Elm Shopping Center, go over a big bridge where the road changes names to Rt.154 and then you will go by Aeon Jusco Mall). After turning at the Circle K light (you will be on Rt.37), go about 1km to the stop light and turn left onto Rt. 101(there is an Asahi pachinko parlor there). Now go about 8km. and turn left onto Rt.39, there is a “Michi no Eki” (road station) called Morita Earth Top at the stop light. Go 10km. and turn right at the “T”. You are now on Rt. 30. After 700 meters you will come to a light with the sign in Japanese for the ski resort. Turn left and follow for 3km. until you arrive at the resort.

Page Top


No. 152 (11/27/09)

Yoga for life!! Reset your mind and Body at Ms. Takahashi's Yoga Class!!

By Keiko H. Johnson
Staff Writer

Ms.Keiko Takahashi A physically fit, female figure standing on her left foot on pebbles with her arms spread wide apart vertically to her lifted right leg, caught in the photo is Ms. Keiko Takahashi, the Yoga instructor. With great nature in the background, under any conditions of which disturbances, if there is any at all, could make her fall. The photo she showed me was taken at the bank of the Oirase gorge in Towada, when Ms. Takahashi demonstrated the forms of Yoga. Her well-fit figure displayed in the photo demonstrated the excellent flexibility of her utmost physical potential and a remarkably steady balance, which gave me a notion of the myriad of capabilities of a human body.

Ms Takahashi is one of the gifted instructors, who have been teaching Yoga for over 6 years. Her goal as a Yoga instructor is not only to award her trainees with the benefits of gaining their physical wellness, but also to reset their minds to a stage of calmness, she said. Ms Takahashi also pointed out that our daily living style could skew our health. Daily tasks, for instance, the way we reach down on to pick things up, matters when genuinely thinking of our own health and wellness. Each action we conduct daily can almost never be taken into consideration but often be ignored, and such tardiness can become one of the causes to deteriorate our physical health and mental wellness in a long run. Yoga reminds us of such basic living of human nature, bringing out what is natural to humans will contribute to our health, and it will eventually lead us into a sophisticated life style.

At age 42, she was determined to pursue her career as a Yoga instructor. Ms Takahashi’s inspiration to become a Yoga instructor first occurred when she read an editorial in a magazine introducing her to Yoga. While she was actively taking part as a physical fitness instructor at the fitness center on Misawa AB, Yoga was a completely ambiguous field of study, she says. Ms Takahashi, thereafter, pursued her education on becoming a certified Yoga instructor in Tokyo. After she completed a few detailed yoga sessions, she finally obtained her certification in various categories of Yoga. World prominent Yoga instructors and associations issue the certifications. In all, she has attained Ashtanga Yoga certification issued by David Swanson, the Julz Yoga, Slow-Flow Yoga certifications issued by Mr. Ken Harakuma, and The Pacific Fitness Alliance certification. Her abundance of training has made her career successful with a solid background.

Yoga has certainly contributed to Ms Takahashi's physical appearance. Looking at her, you would never guess she was 48 years old. One's age is insignificant when beginning Yoga, she continued. It is one's determination in succeeding that leads to their inspiration. Takahashi's determination and desire is the key to her young appearance, and the mental strength leads her into succeeding in her career as a Yoga instructor, as well as that of a physical fitness instructor.

Ms Takahashi has been a physical fitness trainer long enough to know the anatomical drives of the human body. Her lively, amusing, yet vigorously taught classes may already have made the recognitions in its effectiveness on keeping physical and mental wellness among many of those who have taken her sessions. If any of you are concerned about the communication issues, Ms Takahashi is fluent in both English and Japanese. Ms. Keiko Takahashi is now holding sessions for whoever is interested in experiencing Yoga.

Classes are held every month at the Playroom at Misawa International Ctr. Description of each class is noted below with the support of Ms Takahashi. The schedule of classes will be provided to those who sign up for the class. I will also note them on the event page on The Insider. The fees are $8/800yen per session, or $15/1500yen for 2 sessions. The point of contact noted below is the way to find out more detailed information!!!

Basic:
This is a very basic level class called Hatha Yoga, which introduces a gentle approach to the understanding of the postures and the breathing. Fun for those who have never done yoga, or people who have not regularly been physically active in their lives.

Intermediate:
Introduction to Asana's base. This class focuses on proper utilizations of breathing, the basics of standing and seating postures. This is an excellent class for those who are just starting yoga. It helps to build a solid foundation for moving up to more advanced levels.
For advanced students, this class will bring you back to the basic dynamics and the details in a way that will help you to reassess and to refine your individual practice.

Slow-Flow Yoga:
This class is a stretched program issued by "Ken Harakuma" at the “International Yoga Center”in Tokyo.
This applies a very basic level of Hatha Yoga flow.
Also the session is arranged with the techniques of relaxation and meditation.

Personal Lessons:
Students will practice each pose individually with Keiko's adjustment to improve concentration.
First timers will also enjoy this class.

Class Schedule for November:
Date: Saturday
Time: 1800-1915/ 1930-2050
Place: Misawa International Center/ Play room
Class Level: Basic & Intermediate
Class Style: Vinyasa Yoga/ Slow-Flow Yoga/Personal lesson

Point of Contact:
E-mail: nagaimo(at)sea.plata.or.jp
Phone: 090-7660-9127

See you at the class! NAMASUTE

Page Top


No. 151 (11/13/09)

Ramen Lovers!!! Live well, love more, and eat often.

By Keiko H. Johnson
Staff Writer

After the typhoon had dragged its eye just over the top of Honshu toward the north of Japan a few weeks ago, the delightfully warm weather here in Misawa seemed to be also swept away by its vicious winds. As we begin to feel the coolness in the air, the aromatic steamy soup poured over the top of long wavy noodles, topped with thinly sliced juicy pork meat and naruto (a slice of fish cake centered with artistic pink swirl) in a bowl will sure to become a winter favorite to many. Such ramen dishes are consumed as one of the most popular and distinctively Japanese dishes not only by Japanese people, but also by many visitors from all over the world, that it can surely be considered as one of the cultural icons of Japan to the world.

Such Ramen joints are found on almost every street corner in the towns of Japan today, especially in areas such as; Tokyo, Kumamoto, Hakata, Kitakana, and Sapporo, which are given recognition for their distinct taste of ramen for each of these areas. These areas known prominently for Ramen are called “Ramen Kingdoms”, and are continuously inviting visitors from all over Japan. I, by and large, fell crazy in love with such a delicious food, and once planned a journey to the best tasting ramen areas in the country a few years ago. My journey began in Tokyo, where I was born and raised. Out of all the ramen restaurants I visited in Tokyo, Harukiya in Ebisu, Taishouken in Ikebukuro, Taisshouken in Eifukucho, and a few more of the Ramen shops were my favorites of all time. Besides those in Tokyo, the Ramen I had at Ramen Alley in Hokkaido and at the Ramen Venders’ Street in Kyushu was exquisitely delicious as well. Through those visits to the most popular Ramen Shops in Japan, I become aware of how respectful and what great efforts Ramen chefs make in discovering a variety of flavors for each dish of each region. The thickness and texture of the noodles even varies depending on the area so that none of them are the same nor are comparable to each other. The flavor of the soup and the texture of the noodles are determined depending upon the geographical area and vender specific differences in varieties.

The history of Ramen is fairly short and its origin isn’t quite so clear. The origin of this dish is believed to be from China. This could be true; yet, I am not so convinced that the flavor of each dish, equivalent to that of what we are consuming today in Japan and what is served in China, is the same exact flavor.

However, the sounds of Ramen are so similar to the following Chinese words: “la-mian”, “laomion” or “lo-mien,” that the notion of this dish originating in China has grown larger among the people of Japan. The Ramen-like noodle dish called “Shina (definition of expressing Chinese in the classic Japanese term) Soba” was first served at “Rairaiken”, a Chinese restaurant in Akasaka, Tokyo in 1910. One of the chefs from China Town in Yokohama adapted a Chinese style noodle soup into a Japanese version at the time. This new dish soon became popular among the nation and increased its amount of returning customers. After WW2, the flour imported from the U.S. made a significant increase in the production of Ramen, and this Japanese adaptation of a Chinese noodle dish: “Shina Soba”, rapidly spread into many regions in Japan. The flavor of the noodle dish closest to that of today's Ramen was finally developed between 1946 and 1947. By the end of 1960’s, the seasoning peculiar to Japan are adjoined to their soup at various regions, with the aim of enhancing its flavor through adding a significant character to the soup in order to make its flavor suitable to the nations’ taste. The texture of each noodle was also developed, considering its adequacy to the flavor of the soup at the same time as well. While the standard version of ramen was available throughout Japan since the Taisho era, in the last few decades it has shown a proliferation of regional variations. The ramen we are consuming today has made innovations to its distinctive flavor made through continuous improvement of Ramen chefs in Japan.

As such, the combination of the Ramen soup can be categorized into four kinds: Shio, Miso, Soy, and Tonkotsu. Shio Ramen is the oldest and the closest kind of ramen to its traditional flavor of a Chinese dish. Its soup has light texture; therefore, it is generally healthier and lower in fat content than those other kinds of Ramen. This ramen is usually topped with steamed leafy vegetables such as, cabbages, carrots, snow peas, and onions. The noodles used in Shio Ramen vary, but the thin straight noodle is most often used instead of the curly thick kind.

Contrary to the traditional Shio Ramen, Miso Ramen is relatively new compared to other kinds of Ramen dishes. It became prominent to the nation outside of Sapporo in Hokkaido around 1965. (Sapporo is known as one of the prominent ramen kingdoms of Japan.) Its soup, made with the combination of Miso and chicken broth, tends to be thick and hearty. It is usually topped with butter, corn, leek, onions, bean sprouts, ground pork, cabbage, sesame seeds, and such. Miso Ramen soup is so tangy in its flavor that it can be used with a variety of flavorful toppings. The noodles are typically thick, wavy, and have a slightly chewy texture.

Tonkotsu Ramen is a specialty of Hakata in Kyushu region. Kumamoto (located also in Kyushu region) is also famous for this kind of ramen with a cloudy white colored broth. Its broth has a thick milky texture with a creamy gravy type of consistency. Most of the restaurants dilute this broth with chicken and vegetable stock to prepare Tonkotsu Soup. This ramen topped with roasted garlic, sesame oil and red pickled ginger is the typical serving style. The noodle used for this kind of ramen is typically straight and thin.

The last thing on the list is Soy Sauce Ramen, which is typically shown as “Tokyo Ramen” in the magazines when Japanese Ramen is introduced. Its soy sauce based broth has a light brown and clear color. It is usually based on a chicken and vegetable broth, with a lot of soy sauce added to the broth. Soy Ramen, with wavy and relatively thin, light yellow color noodles are typical in Tokyo Ramen. It is usually topped with marinated bamboo shoots, naruto(see above), seaweed, and a slice of smoked pork. While Tokyo Ramen uses the chicken for its broth, the Soy Ramen in Katakana, another famous place for Soy Ramen in Northern Honshu, uses fish stock rather than chicken stock and thicker, flatter noodles than those used in Tokyo Ramen.

Even with how stunningly flavorful these ramens are, it is difficult for most us to plan a trip because of our busy schedules. With the improvement of technology, the instant cup noodles make them accessible for anyone, to these flavors. Cost effective, delicious, and a remarkably easy preparation process, are valuable to many. I have two boys who are constantly craving for food all day long and that stockpile of instant ramen in our cupboard often saves me from midnight cooking.

Nissin Cup Noodle Top 4-ranked Instant Ramen Noodles at our house are:
Super Cup, Men no Tatsujin, and Menukushi for Miso Ramen; Men No Tatsujin, Nisshin Cup Noodle, Men No Tatsujin for Soy Ramen;
Super Cup, Men no Tatsujn, for Tonkotsu Ramen;
Super Cup, Men Zukushi for Shio Ramen;
These instant noodles are available at any store in Japan.

Page Top


No. 150 (10/23/09)

The Haunted History of Halloween

By Robert Finley
Chief Writer

September may have just ended, but the fall season has just begun. For many, the fall brings to mind images of cold weather, fallen leaves, pumpkins, cider, and of course, the scariest holiday -- Halloween! Children all across America and beyond celebrate this haunted day by dressing up in colorful costumes and traveling from house to house all night asking the perennial question, “Trick or treat?” But where did this holiday come from, exactly? How long has it been celebrated, and where is it celebrated throughout the world? Let us review the intriguing and not-so-scary history of Halloween!

Halloween's origins can be traced back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-wen), which was a celebration of the harvest season. This is where the date October 31 first came to prominence, as it was believed by the Celts that on this very date (which also served as New Year's Eve for the Celts), the boundary between the living and the dead was broken, and the dead would return to wreak havoc upon the people and their crops. Bonfires were often involved in Samhain to commemorate the celebration, and festival participants would often wear masks in an attempt to copy the appearance of the ghosts and appease them. Eventually, though, Romans conquered Celtic territories, and festivals such as Samhain were integrated into Roman celebrations such as Feralia, the Roman holiday where they honor the passing of the dead.

It wasn't until the 800s that Christianity spread into these lands, and thus, added its own influence to the holiday. During this time, November 1 was designated “All Saints' Day” by Pope Boniface IV, which is often considered an attempt by the Pope to eradicate any trace of ancient festivals for the dead. All Saints' Day eventually evolved into All-hallows, making October 31 All-hallows Eve, which would eventually be simplified into All Hallow’s Eve and finally, Halloween.

Sound spooky? Not exactly. Since we are now familiar with where it came from, let's look at some of the holiday's symbols, traditions, and common themes.

The jack-o'-lantern
Carving up pumpkins is one probably the most popular activity associated with Halloween besides trick-or-treating. But why is a carved pumpkin called a “jack-o’-lantern”? There’s a story here, too! This one has Irish roots and many different versions, tracing all the way back to the tale of Stingy Jack, a gambling, drinking, lazy, and all-around unpleasant farmer who one day decides to trick the Devil by making him climb up an apple tree. Before the Devil could come back down, Jack carved a cross into the tree, trapping the Devil up there. For revenge, the Devil curses Jack to wander the earth at night with just the light from a tiny candle inside a hollowed-out turnip.
A turnip? How did pumpkins become involved, then? Well, the pumpkins gained prominence in North America, where pumpkins were more readily available than turnips.

Trick-or-treating
Many people have fond memories from childhood of picking out a costume, getting together with family and friends and hitting the road, and knocking on as many doors as possible to gather treats from their neighbors. This tradition comes from the Middle Ages, when poor people would go from door to door on November 1, offering prayers for the dead in exchange for food. While it’s not entirely certain that trick-or-treating in North America evolved from this, it does offer some insight into how long this tradition has been around. Those are the main activities associated with Halloween in America. But what about Halloween around the world? Let’s take a brief look at the different ways people celebrate Halloween:

Japan
Japan continues to warm up to the idea of Halloween, mainly due to the influence of American pop culture. The typical colors and symbols can be seen sporadically around Japan, and there are even special Halloween events at such popular places as Tokyo Disneyland and Universal Studios Japan. The Obon (お盆) holiday, however, is more in line with the heart of Halloween, as it is a holiday in honor of those who have passed on. Dances honoring the dead are staged, and offerings are left for the dead. In Kyoto, the Gozan no Okuribi (五山送り火), a festival is held in which a huge mountainside etching of the kanji for “large” or “great” (大) is lit on fire.

Mexico
Celebrating Halloween in Mexico is also a rather new concept, given that it has only been celebrates since around 1960. This celebration, too, is influenced by America's style of celebrating the holiday, with one big difference -- Halloween kicks off a three-day holiday block, consisting of All Saints' Day and two days of Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). On Dia de los Muertos, people pay tribute to deceased loved ones by visiting the graveyard and offering gifts to them.

Austria
Many Austrians will leave bread and water beside a lit lamp Halloween night as a welcome for the dead.

England
While England celebrates Halloween day in a similar fashion to the U.S., the holiday is also associated with Guy Fawkes Day, celebrated November 5. On this day, bonfires are burned in effigy for the rebel Guy Fawkes, who was executed November 5, 1606 for trying to blow up the English parliament building.
These are just a few different ways that Halloween is celebrated throughout the world. Now that you are familiar with Halloween's history and traditions, go out and enjoy the spookiest holiday of them all!

日本語で読む
Japanese Translation

Page Top


No. 149 (10/9/09)

Fish are jumpin' at the 26th annual Rokkasho Salmon Festival

By Simon Bernard
Guest Writer

The village of Rokkasho, a fledgling community of about 12,000 residents, boasts two big attractions: a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant and the annual Salmon Festival along the Pacific Ocean.

Rokkasho is roughly 20 miles north of Misawa Air Base making the event very accessible for service members and their families.

The Salmon Festival will be Oct. 24 and 25 at the Rokkasho Port. The event was established 26 years ago to promote tourism in the area. It has since grown to be the longest-running salmon festival in Aomori. The festival takes place Oct. 24 from 9:30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m., and Oct. 25 from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Events include rounds of salmon catching and salmon racing each day. The ankle deep pool is stocked with almost 2,000 salmon for the festival.

To participate in the salmon catch (done by hand), people can purchase advanced tickets at Misawa ITT. Advanced tickets are cheaper than buying tickets at the event and tickets sell out every year so buy early.

In addition, the first six people that catch their salmon during each round can participate (for free) in the salmon race. Your will be able to race your salmon against the competition to win a prize!

Entrance to the festival is free of charge. For those catching by hand, it is recommended to bring your own wading boots and gloves. Many people prefer to participate bare-foot. A warm change of clothes is recommended because everyone who participates gets wet during the salmon catch. Traditional folk dancers, popular bands and singers, and many other performers will be featured on the festival’s stage. Other events include seafood and vegetable wholesale markets, local delicacy mini sales, and bingo. You can buy a ticket at the site for the beef barbecue and they will set you up will all you need to cook your own!

Free contests include a clam game where you try to get as many as you can into a plastic bottle with a small opening with chop sticks; sake (for adults) or milk drinking (for kids) contest trying to leave a winning amount in the glass, and a squid peeling /naga-imo (Japanese long yam potato) grating contest, fun for the whole family.

400 FREE MALE SALMON WILL BE GIVEN AWAY TO THE FIRST 400 PEOPLE STARTING AT 9:30 SATURDAY MORNING! Line up at the reception/information booth to get a ticket, which you can exchange, for the salmon at 12:00 p.m.

The festival is not for commercial purposes. The catch helps preserve local fishery resources. During the festival, local fishermen also catch salmon and extract their eggs. The eggs are hatched and released the following spring at the upper stream of the Oippe River. In three to five years, the grown fish make their way back to Rokkasho.

Salmon fishing in Japanese rivers is prohibited. The salmon used at the Rokkasho festival are all ocean caught, (not in the rivers like other salmon festivals) before they go in to the spawning (chum) phase, making them the freshest, best tasting salmon you can get your hands on.

One reason why so few tickets are sold for the salmon catch is that they send the boat out in the morning and they sell as many extra tickets as salmon they catch that day! Now that is fresh!

This festival has more of a “blue-collar” atmosphere as the locals come out on Sunday morning to race their homegrown horses and wrestle their dogs for bragging rights. It has become quite popular and last year attracted thousands of sightseers. English speaking staff will be on hand around the festival to help you. For more information call Misawa ITT at 226-3555.

DRIVING DIRECTIONS
Rokkasho Town is only a 45-minute drive north of Misawa Air Base. Go out the main gate, turn left at the first light and go straight until you hit the T at the Pacific Ocean. Turn left; you will now be on Rt. 338 going north. From the T go 21.9km and turn right at the light (there will be a convenience store on the left at this light). Follow this road 6.6 km and turn right (the sign will point to the Rokkasho Village Office) follow this road 6.6 kilometers and turn right (there is a small post office on the left). This road will take you to the festival site at the pier.

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS
Events take place rain or shine
Saturday, October 24
9:30-10:00 Free salmon ticket giveaway to the first 400 people.
10:00-10:20 Opening ceremony
10:00-15:00 Seafood and vegetable wholesale fair
10:30-11:30 The Chisato Kon Dance Show (stage)
From 11:30 Do-it-yourself Beef Barbecue starts.
From 11:30 Mini Salmon egg on rice delicacy sale
11:30-12:00 Shijimi Clam game (stage area)
12:00-12:30 Distribution of free salmon for ticket holders.
12:30-13:00 Salmon Catch/ Salmon Race (1st Round)
13:15-13:45 Sake (adult)/Milk (children) drinking contest (stage)
13:45-14:15 Salmon Catch/ Salmon Race (2nd Round)
14:15-15:15 Rock Shu-S concert
15:15-15:45 Salmon Catch/ Salmon Race (3rd Round)

Sunday, October 25
10:00-11:15 Torio the Ponchos Dance Show and RAB Utchan/Mika-chan live radio show
10:00-15:00 Seafood and vegetable wholesale fair
10:00-14:00 Tsuri San Pei fishing contest
11:00-11:30 Salmon Catch/ Salmon Race (1st Round)
11:3-12:00 Sapporo Taiko Drum Performance show (1st)
From 11:30 Beef Barbecue
From 11:30 Mini Salmon egg on rice delicacy sale
11:30-12:00 Squid peeling / Naga-imo (Japanese yam) grating contest
12:00-13:00 The Oyagi Nakajima show (stage)
13:00-14:00 Sannohe Shachu Dance Show
14:00-14:30 Salmon Catch/ Salmon Race (2nd Round)
14:30-15:00 Sapporo Taiko Drum Performance show (2nd)
15:00-16:00 Local fresh seafood market
16:00-16:30 Salmon net pull. Remaining fish will be sold at a discount
16:30-17:30 Free Bingo tournament (get your cards early at the reception booth)

OTHER SPECIAL EVENTS
1. Salmon catching by pole. October 22-25. Catch up to three fish per day. Men 2,000 yen, women and children 1,000 yen. Bring your own pole and bait or rent at the site.
2. Children’s Green Group will be giving away tree saplings and collecting donations. October 24 from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
3. Save The Environment Experiments will be performed on the site October 24 and 25 starting at 10:00 a.m.
4. Tohoku Strong Horse Iron Pull Competitions will be held on Sunday staring at 8:00 a.m. next to the festival site. Horses compete in different classes pulling up to 500 kilograms of weight on sleds up and downhill. An amazing sight!
5. Mastiff Dog wrestling will be held on Sunday starting at 8:00 a.m. next to the festival site. This is not what Michael Vick did! The dogs wrestle until one whelps and the match is over. Culturally accepted in Aomori, but probably not for the faint of heart.

日本語で読む
Japanese Translation

Page Top


No. 148 (9/25/09)

Japan's northernmost point island: Hokkaido

By K.H.J
Staff Writer

Hakodate Compelling view of nature; mouth-watering gourmet; and tracing the footprints of early European influence. Hokkaido is filled with mesmerizing events that definitely leave a feeling of enchantment and a satisfying indulgence to those who visit this place.

The train leaving Misawa Station hauls its way to the tip of the Tappi Peninsula, the northern most point of the Honshu Island of Japan. Once the train reaches Tappi Peninsula, it dives down into the tunnel, which goes deep under the Sea of Japan. The vicious currents and the howling winds of the Tsugaru Channel are such well-known facts about the Sea of Japan, that the confinement under such harsh facts of nature brings fear to your mind as the mouth of the tunnel approaches. After three hours of a long train ride in the darkness we are finally led to the great nature of Hokkaido.

Goryokaku One of the significant remnants of Japanese history: Goryou-kaku can be seen in Hakodate. Fort Goryoukaku is the first castle that adapted the European technique of construction styles in Japan. The construction began in 1854 and it took 8 years to finish building. Goryoukaku is a ruin that commemorates a historical event, which generated a Japanese trading system with oversea countries at the end of Edo shognate era. The fortress surrounded by a moat is built in the shape of a pentagon, or a star, for the purpose of keeping the enemies out of the main shrine of the castle. It was, however, once built for the purpose of situating a new branch of Edo shogunate there in Hokkaido in 1862: for the purpose of opening the port for a trading market, the fort was later invaded by the anti government rebellions in 1864. At the beginning of Meiji era, the rebels who fought against the new government fled to Hakodate and located their headquarters in the fort, in order to continue fighting their war against the Meiji restoration.

The next day, setting the alarm clock at 6 o'clock in the morning is worthwhile, if your tongue is craving fresh seafood from the dark Okhotsk Sea. The Morning Market in Hakodate is so well known among Japanese people that the venders at this market expect and prepare the most exquisite pieces of free samples of crabs, lobsters, salmon roe, and many other delectables for those who visit this place. Whether being a fan or not of seafood, you will be sure to enjoy the lively atmosphere of the market. Another superb flavor, the dairy products from Hokkaido, can be enjoyed at this market as well. Cheesecakes, ice cream, and soft milk caramel candies are so promisingly satisfying to your tongue. The soul of such dairy products, milk, is one of the famous products of Hokkaido. Wide spread green meadows can grow in the fresh, cool air of Hokkaido. Cows producing milk are raised in these green fields and consume fresh green grass with ease. The nature of Hokkaido is again contributing to producing a significant source of mouthwatering food.

Food samples, which the venders offer at the morning market, may fulfill your appetite, but I also recommend you visit the restaurants at the Kanamori Red Brick Warehouse for a glass of Hakodate beer. It is sure to give you an exquisite taste as a part of your trip as well.

Kanamori Redbrick Warehouses were built during the 1800's, when Japan opened their port for global trading markets to European countries: for the purpose of storing imported products coming from oversea countries. Today, these antique, still standing brick buildings, that keep its sophisticated style, have been refurbished and converted into restaurants, beer gardens, and souvenir stores.

In the evening, as dusk approaches, people anticipating seeing another popular attraction of Hakodate, begin congregating at the Gondola Station that is located at the foot of Mt. Hakodate. The night view of the town as a whole is nominated as one of the most magnificent night viewing spots in Japan, and has been introduced in countless travel magazines to date. Standing on top of the mountain, viewing the luminously illuminating city of Hakodate is breathtaking. It looks as though dazzling jewels of all kinds were easily scattered on black velvety cloths, which reveal the silhouette of the whole peninsula.

Lastly, taking the Starlight Express (Hakodate Express) from Misawa Station makes it easy to begin a trip to Hakodate, or taking your own vehicle on a ferry from Aomori Port may be an adequate choice of travel, planning a road trip through Hokkaido, or flying into Chitose Airport may be suitable for those who wish to make a shopping trip to Sapporo. Each trip to Hokkaido can be planned depending on the purpose of your visit. Trips to Hakodate can be enjoyed throughout the year. The summer in Hokkaido is mild and dry. The winter is a bit harsher than that in Honshu, yet the seafood fans (especially those who cannot resist the taste of snow crabs), the snowboarders, and the skiers will definitely consider returning to this beautiful island during the winter.

日本語で読む
Japanese Translation

Page Top


No. 147 (9/11/09)

What's at steak? Find out at the 24th annual Takko Town Garlic and Beef Festival 2009!

By Simon Bernard
Guest Writer

Garlic You don't need a round-trip ticket back to the USA to enjoy country music, dancing, and big slice of beef -- just head out to Takko Town Saturday and Sunday, October 3rd and 4th for their 24th Annual Garlic and Beef Festival to enjoy Texas barbecue, Japanese style.

Nestled in the foothills of Aomori's mountains just southeast of Lake Towada, Takko Town’s delicious beef is known throughout Japan. Drinking natural spring water is just one of the secrets of the health of the high quality cows called Japanese Black.

Takko Town's other claim to fame is that they are the #1 producer of garlic in Japan. Because of this, they have established sister city relationships with other internationally famous garlic producing areas such as Gilroy, Calif., Monticelli, Italy, and Seosan, Korea. Each year student and music exchanges take place. These community members also attend each      other’s festivals, giving the 2-day extravaganza a very international fl avor. This year also the Garlic Queen of Gilroy, California and her entourage will be on hand to meet you!

Barbecue Party Each October the main event at the festival is the Yakiniku (barbecue) Party, with Takko beef that you can season with specially-produced garlic tare (sauce) to enhance the fl avor. Taking place at the 2-2-9 DOME (pronounced nin-niku, the same word for garlic in Japanese) just at the bottom of the ski lift, the indoor and outdoor venues means no matter what the weather brings, everyone can remain warm and dry!

There will be a lot of entertainment happening at the inside and outside stages. The lineup includes many games for children as well as a bouncy house. There will be country dance shows, garlic spitting contest, garlic sumo and garlic putting. Other shows include the Nanyadoyara Bon dance dating back 630 years, Takko Kangura dance and Yosakoi Soran dancers. There will also be a raffle each day for all advance ticket holders for the barbecue with lots of great prizes. English interpreters will also be available.

The entrance to the festival is free, but to participate in the barbecue you should buy an advanced ticket. This will insure you a big slice of the mouth watering Takko Beef. Advanced ticket holders will receive a barbecue set of beef and veggies for you to cook yourself. Do it yourself cooking areas will be set up at the site! To get an advanced ticket, go to the Misawa ITT or the information booth at Shimoda Mall (2,000 yen). If you are not able to get an advanced ticket, it will not be possible to get on in the barbecue. You cannot buy a barbecue set at the festival this year. Misawa ITT will also have a shuttle bus from the base to the venue on Saturday & Sunday. Call 226-3555 for more information!

It goes without saying there will be a lot of booths selling many different kinds of great tasting Japanese foods and drinks. The Misawa Air Base Country Line Dance Team will be on hand Saturday afternoon to get your feet slap-happy. The Baker Street Band will also be performing on Saturday. Again there will be lots of events for children as well!

If after the festival you are still in an adventurous mood, you can drive the road up higher to the top of the ski lift for a breathtaking autumn colored view. There is also a yakiniku restaurant at the top there. Allow yourself some time so you can also visit the famous Miroku waterfalls by going back down to Rt. 104, turning right and driving about 20 more minutes.

DIRECTIONS:
It takes about an hour and a half to get to Takko Town from Misawa Air Base. Go out the Falcon Gate -- also called the POL Gate -- and start counting lights. Turn left at the 13th light to get on the Dai Ni (no.2) Michinoku Expressway. At the 1st toll booth, pay 250 yen and get a ticket. Get off at the 2nd exit called Hachinohe Kita (north). After paying the toll, go to the light and turn right. After 2.8km turn left onto the off ramp, go down to the light and turn right. Follow this road (you will go by the Hachinohe Fish Market on your left side) 4km. and turn right at the light (big pachinko parlor on corner), you will now be on Rt. 104. Go 14 km. (you will go through Nagawa Town, now known as Nanbu Town) and turn left onto Rt. 4. Go 13 km. and turn left onto the off ramp (you will be in Sannohe Town). Go to stop sign and turn right, you are back on Rt. 104. Go 9.3 km and turn right onto Rt. 21(this turn off is just past the 3 stoplights in Takko Town). Follow this narrow road 6.7km and turn left at the fork (right before this turn there is an English sign for Soyu mura) another 1.5 km up the road turn right and you will be at the Festival!

To get to Miroku waterfalls: Go back down Rt. 21 and turn right on Rt.104 go 15.1km (you will pass a light at the 9km mark) and turn left at the sign for Miroku Falls, go another 5km park and walk 3 to 4 minutes over to the waterfall. Drive carefully.

SCHEDULE:
Be advised that by press time not all the times for the schedule had been finalized.
SATURDAY, October 3
10:30 Opening Ceremony
11:30 Garlic Queen paper/rock/scissors contest
12:00 Sister City guests welcome ceremony
12:30 Sano Shachu Dance
13:00 Raffle
13:30 American Garlic Queen Dance & song
13:40 Baker Street Band
14:10 Misawa Country Line Dancers
14:40 Naniyadoyara Dance
15:00 Close

SUNDAY, October 4
10:30 Opening
11:30 Garlic Queen
paper/rock/scissors contest (pending)
12:00 American Garlic Queen Dance & song
13:00 Raffle
13:30 Takko Team Country Dance
4:00 Yosakoi Soran Dance
14:30 Kangura Dance
15:00 Close

日本語で読む
Japanese Translation

Page Top


No. 146 (8/28/09)

Get ready to Race The Base!

By Robert Finley
Chief Writer

Misawa Air Base is scheduled to host an exciting event on Sept. 27 -- the 2009 Race The Base half marathon!

Waikiki The day of the half marathon, which is open to anyone and everyone, will be packed with lots of fun activities for people of all ages. Starting at 10 a.m., the event kicks off with a 3K run for elementary school kids. At 10:30 a.m., the 10K and half-marathon (13 miles) are scheduled to begin, with both taking runners on an elaborate track through the base. Around 10:45 a.m., the 5K runs will commence. The half-marathon runners will have three hours to complete the track, with the event closing up at 1:30 p.m.

“Anyone can sign up,” said Steve Lowe, the Misawa Air Base fitness center director. Those interested in signing up are asked to visit the 35 Force Support Squadron's Web site, where they can find the registration form for both U.S. and Japanese participants. If you are thinking of signing up, do so as soon as you can, because registration ends Sept. 4. Runners will be assigned a number and an electronic chip that will track their progress throughout their run. At the end of the tracks, awards various awards will be given out based on placement, age, gender, and other categories. A grand prize that is yet to be determined will be handed out to the first male and first female that cross the half-marathon finish line at American Park, where all of the events will finish.

Back in 2006, Misawa held the first half-marathon here, but for one reason or another, it didn't continue. “I don't know why it didn't,” Mr. Lowe said, continuing, “(We hope to) build it up over the next two to three years.” The event, too, is intended to promote fitness for the military personnel. “(We) are trying to offer as many running events as possible for active duty personnel,” Lowe added. This year, a 12-week training program was offered to those who were interested in running the half-marathon, but wanted assistance with the preparation.

The event coordinators are expecting anywhere from 300-500 runners to sign up, so don't delay! The last day for registration is Sept. 4, which is right around the corner. For more info, please see the 35 FSS Web site. From there, you will find all the info needed about how to sign up.

日本語で読む
Japanese Translation

Page Top


No. 146 (8/28/09)

Breeze into Japanese at Michinoku International Japanese Education Center (MIJEC)

By Akiko Furukawa
Guest Writer

Have you ever wondered, 'What did you say?' or ‘How should I say?’ about the Japanese language? Have you ever wanted to be able to understand and speak Japanese? We have people who support such an endeavor: they're members of Michinoku International Japanese Education Center (MIJEC), an organization that supports Japanese language education for foreigners living in the area around Hachinohe-City. MIJEC's main activities are short & long-term Japanese Classes in Hachinohe, and also Japanese lessons for foreign students at Japanese schools, etc.

MIJEC's primary service is their Japanese class offered every Tuesday night from 6:30 p.m. at Hachinohe Fukushi Kouminkan. This class runs continuously throughout the year and has approximately 50 students from Hachinohe, Misawa, and other local areas. Classes are divided into five levels from beginners (Class 1) to advanced (Class 5). Each session lasts two hours and covers basic grammar, sentence structure, and review. There are also game time and work groups to emphasize each lesson, which make each lesson fun! Of course, there are conversational practice sessions, putting into practice what you know so you'll be able to learn Japanese step by step!!

You'll see a lot of nationalities in MIJEC's Japanese class, but Japanese is the predominant language, therefore, MIJEC uses the direct method: teaching the Japanese language by using Japanese for teaching, but there are also beginner classes available where the teacher conducts classes in English, Chinese, and of course, Japanese, so even the first level students can feel comfortable.

Another advantage of the MIJEC Japanese class is that the classes are designed to be long-term, so students can keep taking lessons until they leave Japan, thereby making their own study plans.

The new MIJEC Japanese class semester starts at the end of August, with a full class starting in September. MIJEC will host an orientation for students on Tuesday, Aug. 25, at 6:30 pm. in the Hachinohe Fukushi Kouminkan. This will be also good opportunity for socializing and for new students to check out their assigned class. Of course, even it's in the middle of a term, if a student needs to move to another class to match their level, they can move at any time.

If you miss a class due to your work schedule, or for any reason, don't worry: MIJEC is always open for new students, so you can start anytime.

Come to MIJEC Japanese Class where your dream of becoming a Japanese speaker will come true so you can enjoy Japanese life!!

MIJEC 日本語講座 問い合わせ先:
みちのく国際日本語教育センター(MIJEC)
明日山 幸子
Email npo-mijec-jimukyoku(at-mark)ezweb.ne.jp
携帯番号 080-6026-3109
馬場 亜紀子
Eメール npo-mijec(at-mark)ezweb.ne.jp
電話番号 080-6051-3109

Point of Contact (English speakers) for MIJEC Japanese Class @ Hachinohe Fukushi Kouminkan:
Michinoku International Japanese Education Center (MIJEC)
Ms. Sachiko Akebiyama
Email npo-mijec-jimukyoku(at-mark)ezweb.ne.jp
Cellphone number 080-6026-3109
Ms. Akiko Baba
Email npo-mijec(at-mark)ezweb.ne.jp
Phone number 080-6051-3109

Page Top


No. 145 (8/14/09)

Hawaii -- the islands of "Aloha"

By Nao H. Kauffman
Chief Editor

Waikiki A Blue sky, white sandy beaches, palm trees, and tropical high mountains -- Hawaii is the greatest destination for resorts from Japan. There are primarily three major islands (Oahu, Maui, and the Big Island, Hawaii) and three small islands (Kauai, Molokai, and Lanai) in Hawaii. Hawaii is one of the youngest geological formations in the world and the youngest state of union. You will find each island has its own adventures, activities, and sightseeing opportunities. The warmth of the people of Hawaii and the beautiful weather welcome you with the island sprits. There are so many places to cover; however, I strongly recommend Oahu for the first-time travelers because of the perfect balance by its exciting city life and nature beauty.

Quick Facts:
Cliff *Great for snorkeling, scuba diving, wind surfing, boogie board, or body board etc.
*Excellent for shopping, dining, or entertainment
*Historical sightseeing spots
*Unique tropical flowers, plants and nature and great for bird watching
*A log of hiking and biking
Capital City Honolulu
Population 1,262,840
Time Zone Hawaii Standard Time (GMT-10 hours), which is 5 hours behind the U.S. East Coast or 19 hours behind Japan.
Language English & Hawaiian
Currency U.S. dollar credit cards are widely accepted, but some small local business may prefer cash.
Average Temperature
April through November 75 - 88 degrees Fahrenheit
December through March 68 - 80 degrees Fahrenheit
Average water temperature 74 degrees Fahrenheit
Area code/cell phonesThe area code for all of Hawaii is (808). Cell phones coverage on most islands is readily available if you are coming from the US. Check your Japanese carriers, but the roaming fees can be ridiculously expensive. The handy prepaid phones are available through many U.S. carriers especially NET10 (e.g. $25 for 300 minutes, 60 days).
Clothing Dress casually. Bring a light jacket for nights. Bring semi-casual dress clothes or resort wears for restaurants and nightlife. Suits and ties are rarely worn.
How to get there JAL or ANA from Narita airport to Honolulu International airport, or their alliance airline companies’ flights are alternative. JAL offers some discounts for connecting round trip flights from Misawa by booking as an itinerary. So, go with JAL.
Accommodation Military Resort, Hale Koa Hotel right on Waikiki Beach (early reservation will be required). For your long stay, http://www.vacationrentals.com/ is a great source for beach houses or a larger home. Expedia.com or hotwire.com can offer a package deal. Just be prepared for high daily valet parking fees $20-25 at any downtown hotels.

Kauai
The island’s nickname is the Garden Island and unique among the Hawaiian Islands for its natural beauty and fiercely independent sprit. Many viewers fail to realize it’s Kauai they are seeing in movies such as Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jurassic Park, The Lost World, and even the 1975 King Kong remake, until they step foot on the island. Kauai is shaped like a human heart with Waialeale, high in the mountains, collecting an average of 450 inches of rain a year, the fourth largest of the Hawaiian Islands. The Lihue Airport, which services only interisland flights, is a five-minute drive from central Lihue. Most visitors land, rent a car, and head for the legendary sights, which include the Waimea Canyon State Park, the Kokee state Park, and the Na Pali Coast on the northwest side, where you can enjoy some of the most striking hiking trails. “Coconut Coast” on the east side is moderate, while Poipu is the glamour resorts with world-renowned hotels and white sand beaches. Fern Grotto is a spiritual spot; a moist, fern-covered cave greets visitors at a location on the Wailua River that is reachable only by two commercial river barge operations. Many couples get married here, but as one of the island’s most popular tourist attractions, it can be booked up well in advance.

Lanai
Hawaii's Most Secluded Island. This island paradise is only 18 miles wide and 13 miles long and yet encompasses every imaginable service in order to serve its guests in incomparable style. For comfort, seclusion, style, and grace... The pristine island of Lanai is the place to visit. Getting on a ferry from Maui and playing golf at the golfer’s paradise with two 18-hole championship courses are unique activities.

Hawaii
The Big Island is the youngest and largest of the islands of Hawaii, and it is still expanding. This is a place where gods, myths, and legends reside - an island still being created before your very eyes as volcanoes bubble and spew forth red-hot lava into the sea. Here, eleven of the thirteen climates of the world can be found. Scenery changes here every few miles from lush rain forests, to barren black lava fields, to snow capped peaks. This island is the place where you can see different colored sandy beaches. Most of the resorts are located on the west side by Kona Airport. At Mauna Kea observatory, (13,796 feet) sunset and star gazing tour or sunrise tour is a popular thing to do. There is Kilauea volcano national park on the east side. A full-day nature walk or a helicopter ride tour can be the most amazing experience on this island.

Oahu
Turtle The island is the most developed island in Hawaii with a visually stunning landscape with 137 miles of coastline (more sandy shoreline), two significant mountain ranges, and sharply pleated windward cliffs besides its urban center, downtown Honolulu as known as Waikiki beach. The most recognizable landmark on Oahu is Diamond Head, a crater 562 feet deep and 255 acres in land area, and the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl). Further east, there is the famed Hanauma Bay, the best snorkeling spot on Oahu and Halona Blow Hole, the pressure of waves and tides pushes ocean water through a tiny hole in a lava ledge, creating miniature geysers that are visible from the beautiful lookout. The second most visited attraction in Honolulu would be Polynesian Cultural Center where seven Polynesian cultures are replicated in “villages” that function as living museum on the 42 acre of this theme park. You will find more hula or islander shows called luau at many of hotel resort along Waikiki. If you prefer a little more secluded and relaxing vacation, check out the east shore at Kailua or Lanikai Beach, the best beaches on Oahu. The waves are a lot calmer and less crowded, so the area is very friendly to a family with small children or a big group of families. I would recommend renting a beach house for your long vacation just to budget extra-ordinal expenses like eating out everyday or paying $$$ for your hotel rooms. Driving to the airport or downtown (the amazing mountain sceneries and great lookout spots) is still only 30 minutes or so. You would enjoy more loco style life there. There is the best-frozen yogurt shop at 43 Oneawa Street in Kailua called “Yogurt Mama.”-- http://www.yogurtmama-kailua.com/1_5_Photos.html. Simply “fill it,” “top it,” and “weigh it” on your own. You will have a fun and great time at this busy shop. Sea Life Park and Kualoa Ranch (the most outdoor tours and activities are offered). are near by this area. A lot of windsurfing and diving spots are available on the north shore. There are several beaches where you may encounter big sea tortoises. If you are a golfer, I would recommend “Turtle Bay Resort.” The great shopping center is available in Honolulu at the Waikele Premium Outlets or Ala Moana shopping center. Kalakaua Avenue is the right along the Waikiki Beach with tons of boutiques, gift shops, and small markets in the alley. Many famous restaurants are available besides hotel beach cafe and restaurants in this area.

Just remember there are a lot to see and do on Oahu. Your will never have enough time for all!

Page Top


No. 144 (7/24/09)

Kyoto, the thousand-year former capital of Japan

By Robert Finley
Chief Writer

On the other side of Honsh? rests Kyoto (京都), a city with an ancient history that is home to a myriad of temples, shrines, palaces and gardens that attracts throngs of tourists throughout the year.

First settled (by some accounts) in 10,000 B.C., Kyoto has been an integral part of Japan's historical development. The city became the seat of the Japanese Imperial Court in 794, back when it was called Heian-kyo (平安京, which means "the capital of tranquility and peace"). Kyoto's capital status remained throughout the Heian period of Japan, right up until the capital was transferred to Edo (江戸) following a remarkable 1100-year run as the capital. You are probably more familiar with Edo's contemporary name of Tokyo (東京), which Edo was officially renamed on July 17, 1868.

Kyoto is rich with Japanese history and beauty. It has been the focal point of many conflicts within Japan, as was the case during the Onin War, which took place from 1467 until 1477, where Kyoto saw fighting in its streets between samurais, nobles, and religious factions. Only lightly marred during the devastation of World War II, Kyoto is one of the few places left in Japan that features an abundance of pre-war structures, whether it be temples, shrines, gardens, imperial palaces, or machiyas (町屋/町家), which are the unique, traditional wooden townhouses originating from the Heian period.

Sanju Sangendo One of the most prominent temples in Kyoto is Sanjusangendo (三十三間堂), which means "Hall with 33 Bays," a reference to the spaces between the pillars of the temple's hall. While the entire temple is a sight to behold, the temple's main attraction is its collection of 1,001 statues of Kannon (観音), a Buddhist bodhisattva (enlightened being).

Golden Pavilion One of Kyoto's most famous temples is the Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺, or Golden Pavilion Temple) or Rokuon-ji (鹿苑寺, or Deer Garden Temple). Built in 1397, the temple was originally a retirement home for the Ashikaga Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (足利 義満). Once he passed away at the age of 50 in 1408, the three-story home was renamed Rokuon-ji, and has been a unique and beautiful example of Japanese culture.

Nijo Castle (二条城) is one of a handful of castles in the Kyoto area. This castle is a complex structure with lots of unique artwork, such as the elaborate wooden carvings that feature different carvings of birds and other objects from nature on either side of the same large platform. Another unique feature of Nijo Castle is its "nightingale floors." The floorboards lightly squeak, creating a sound similar to that of nightingales, as visitors wander through the castle. The purpose of the nightingale floors was to subtly alert the castle's occupants to any sneak attacks from enemies. The castle grounds are also home to some very beautiful gardens.

Kyoto's Heian Shrine (平安神宮,) is famous for its bright orange appearance. It is a popular shrine to visit, and sits just down the road from one of the largest torii gates in Japan. It was built in 1895 in honor of the 1,100 anniversary of Kyoto's establishment (back when it was called Heiankyo.

Kiyomizu Another popular Kyoto temple is the Otowa-san Kiyomizu-dera (音羽山清水寺), or usually referred to as simply Kiyomizu-dera (清水寺). Kiyomizu means "(clear or pure) water." Founded in 798 during the Heian period, although the buildings around the temple were constructed in the early 17th Century. From this location, visitors are treated to a spectacular view of Kyoto. A popular attraction at Kiyomizu-dera is the Otowa waterfall. Visitors must choose to drink from three water channels, each of which correspond to either wisdom, health, or longevity. Don’t drink from all three though -- if you are greedy and do so, you are inviting disaster into your life!

Seeing Kyoto is something that all people who visit Japan for any length of time should seriously consider. With careful planning, anyone can see all of the wonderful sights, or if you would rather take it easy, there are a plethora of guided tours (both available in English and Japanese) that can take you to many of the historical locations. And while you are there, don't forget that Osaka and Hiroshima are nearby as well!

日本語で読む
Japanese Translation

Page Top


No. 143 (7/10/09)

Light up your life at the Towada Lake Fireworks Festival

By Simon Bernard
Guest Writer

towada lake fireworks festival The 44th annual KOSUI Festival 2008 will take place at Lake Towada on Saturday, July 18th and Sunday, July 19th. 湖水(Kosui), meaning lake water, gives you the hint where the firework's extravaganza will take place…from the middle of Lake Towada! Entrance is free!

Lake Towada is in a designated National Park and represents some of the best scenic beauty that Japan has to offer. There is a 44km (27 miles) route around the lake and and many observatories. There are small capes and inlets around the lake surrounded by cliffs, each exhibiting its own form of lakeside beauty.

The lake glitters an emerald green in the summer sun as it reflects the deep green of the forest on its shores. As day turns to night, the setting sun adorns the lake with an orange glow, which at night is replaced by beautiful reflections of light from the nearby hotels and inns. It is on this gorgeous venue that the fireworks will start at 20:00 both nights.

There are many ways you might consider to enjoy the festival. The close proximity to the base allows you to make it a day trip. It only takes about an hour and a half by car to the lake, but you can expect heavy traffic on the way back after the fireworks are over. You can avoid the late drive back by taking the bus tour offered by Misawa ITT. There will be a bus on both Sat. & Sun. Call 226-3555.

Another idea would be to make reservations at one on the hotels or inns. As all the rooms will be full during the festival, it would be wise to make reservations as early as possible. If you have a Japanese friend to help you, you can call 0176-75-2425. If you cannot get a Japanese speaker to help, you can call Mr. Tamura at 0176-75-2111. He speaks enough English to help you find a place to stay. This phone number is only for making reservations not for festival information.

Lake Towada also has three campgrounds to choose from, some of which are located near to the docks where you can catch a ride on the sightseeing boats which can take you to the absolute best spots to see the fireworks.

Camp Utarube (turn left at the T when you see the lake, located between Nenoguchi and Yasumiya, the event site of the festival) is located close to Utarube docks on the east lake. The other two camp sites are Camp Oide located right across Yasumiya on the west lake where you can see the fireworks from the site itself and Camp Takinosawa on the north side of the lake which is near an observatory and is a short drive from the Ohkawatai docks.

Definitely the best way to see the fireworks is from one of the triple-decked sightseeing Carnival boats called Yu-ran-sen in Japanese. Boats leave from Utarube 18:30and Ohkawatai docks at 19:00 Nenoguchi 18:30 for twilight cruise around the lake before getting to the fireworks site and then take you back. The fare is 1900 yen for the round trip. At the Yasumiya dock, boats start going out at 18:30, 19:00, (the last one is at 19:50 if needed). The fare is 1300 yen but the boats fill up very fast. It is highly recommended that you purchase your ticket as early as possible on the day you are going.

The main festival site is at Yasumiya, where you will find most of the hotels and stores. There will be concerts and Yosakoi dancing at the main stage at the Station Plaza. One band featured will be “Ibuki”. The band members were actually born at Lake Towada!

Other events are also slated. There will be a flea market. Americans are encouraged to set up and you will be given a free booth. But you must register in advance. Call 0176- 75-2425 to register in English.

Other events you can participate for free in include: Row boat races with prizes. Trout fish catching contests by hand. Hot coal will be set up for you to cook the fresh rainbow trout you catch!

Pictures and videos of events can be seen here.

You may also want to spend time water skiing, fishing in the lake, or hiking up Mt. Towada (the hiking trial starts behind the rose garden near Utarube). Or see if you can find all 15 waterfalls along the Oirase Gorge. Mountain biking all around the lake is also very exhilarating.

Whatever your pleasure, the Kosui Festival is one of the best times to make your trip to Lake Towada a memory of a life time!

July 18th (Sat)
9:00- Flea Market. Front field area at Asabashi.
11:00-11:50 Opening Ceremony. In front area of Statue of Otome.
14:00- Yosakoi Dance. In front of the stage.
15:00- Yosakoi Dance. At the Shrine.
14:00-17:00 Band Concert. Stage area.
18:30- Boarding begins on the carnival boats to see the fireworks.
19:00-22:00 Statue of Otome Illumination
20:00 Fireworks begins
21:00 Fireworks ends

July 19th (Sun)
9:00- Flea Market
13:00- Yosakoi Dance performance. Front of the stage
13:00- Paddle boat race. Free. Open to all. Race for prizes.
14:15- Yosakoi dance performance & Suiraijin Taiko Drums Performance.
14:00-17:00 Trout catch by hand, open to all (limited to 400 fish). Free
18:30- Boarding begins on the carnival boats to see the fireworks.
19:00-22:00 Statue of Otome illumination
20:00 Fireworks begins
21:00 Fireworks ends

Page Top


No. 142 (6/26/09)

The Nango Summer Jazz Festival 2009

By Simon Bernard
Guest Writer

Nango Summer Jazz Festival 2009 The little sleepy village of Nango, located just southwest of Hachinohe, comes alive every July putting on the largest open-air jazz concert in Tohoku. This year on Saturday, July 25th, the villagers are celebrating the 20th annual festival, bringing in some of the best world renowned jazz groups from all over Japan and America.

Small beginnings: It was all started back in 1989 by the Nango mayor who was a great jazz fan! Inviting local groups from Aomori prefecture to do an indoor show, they realized from the response of the fans that they needed to expand. From 1990 on, they started having the shows outside and even built an outdoor amphitheater to hold the festival with Mother Nature surrounding the event.
Now thousands of jazz aficionados every year drive and bus in to Nango from all over Aomori, Iwate, and Akita prefectures and beyond to dig on the sounds of jazz. From last year, the times have been moved up to be more jazz fan friendly. The hot show starts from mid-day and goes on while the sun sets and continues with the cool sounds into the evening under the twinkling stars.

Who's coming? This year's lineup should really appeal the all ages of jazz lovers. Starting at 12:00, the First Session starts with George Kawaguchi Jr. and The New Big 4(drums, bass, piano & sax) to kick things off. George Kawaguchi Sr., his father, was the fi rst Japanese ever to perform at Carnegie Hall.

Next, the Second Session: The Eiji Kitamura Quartet (clarinet, drums, bass & piano) featuring Carol Yamazaki on vocals. This band has the distinction of playing 18 consecutive times at the Monterrey Jazz Festival. The stunning Carol Yamazaki, former model, (father: American/Hungarian, mother: Japanese) will knock your socks off!

 Now that you are warming up you should be ready for Session Three: The Super Premier Summit Dream Band (3 guitars, drums, & bass). This band features the 3 greatest Japanese jazz guitarists: Tadanori Nakamurei, Kiyotsugu Amano & Hiroshi Takashima! These guys are legends and have played with everyone who is anyone in the Jazz world!

Now you are cookin' hot and ready for the fourth session: Charito with the Hip Jazz Cats! Swing Journal magazine calls Charito the best jazz singer in Japan. She already has 12 albums under her belt! Her unique style will lift you into jazz, upbeat, bossa nova and latin heaven! With Jonathan Katz from Long Island, NY on piano, Mark Tourian from Denver, Co. on bass and Cecil Monroe from NYC, NY on drums, these Hip Cats will bring Americana to your Japanese doorstep!

You are gonna need a break after this just to cool down!

After the intermission, the Fifth Session begins:

Before I tell you who will play. I would like to tell you the week after the lineup came out this year, my phone was ringing off the hook from all my Japanese friends ranting & raving about this next group.

The Watanabe Group 2009 (sax, piano, electric guitar, electric bass, drums and percussion). This international group of musicians has won more jazz awards than I have space to write and returned to Japan after a 6 state 9 concert tour in the US of A.

Sadao Watanabe (sax) received “The Top Musician Award” and is revered as the most popular musician in Japan. This will defi nitely be the highlight of the evening!

Easy Directions: It takes less than one half an hour to get to Nango from Misawa Air Base. Go out the Falcon (POL) gate and start counting traffi c lights. Turn left at the 13th light to get on the Dai Ni (No.2) Michinoku Expressway. At the 1st toll booth, pay 250 yen and get an expressway ticket. Continue straight (you will go past the Shimoda Mall and then the Hachinohe Kita interchanges), the expressway will merge with the Hachinohe Expressway as if you were going toward Tokyo. Get off at the next exit (Nango interchange), pay the toll. Go to the stop sign and turn right. Go about 1 and a half kilometers and the venue will be on the right next to the Kakko-no-Mori rest stop. Traffi c control will guide you to a parking area.

The concert takes place regardless of weather. So take sun block or a rain coat or both! Umbrellas should not be brought in unless you plan on sitting all the way in the back so you do not disturb the view of the people in front of you!

Buy your tickets in advance and save money: Tickets are 4,500 yen in advance (5,500 yen at the gate on the day of the festival) for adults. 2,500 yen for senior and junior high school students, age 13 to 18 (3,500 at the gate). There is free admission for elementary school students and younger kids (12 and under)! Advance tickets can be bought at Misawa ITT on base. Student tickets are limited so buy early. Gates opens at 11:30.

This year again, Misawa ITT with have a bus that will leave at 10:00 from the base library and take you to the festival and back. This bus will fill up fast so reserve your seats early. Call 226-3555 for more information.

Tips from a veteran: There are no bad seats but if you want seats close-up, go very early and get in line with a cooler, meet the people in front and back of you, offer them a soft drink or beer. Once they know you, you can walk around until before the gates open then get back in line ….or take turns waiting in line or bring some lawn chairs (put them back in your vehicle just before the gates open). Small camp chairs are OK if used in the back, but lawn and reclining chairs can not be bought in. Bring a blanket, get your seats and again meet the new people around you, then you can get up again! There are a lot of stalls selling all kinds of delicious food and drinks. There are also grassy knolls behind the semi-circle of seats where you can lay a blanket down and watch the show!

Can you camp or Bar-B-Q?
There are very limited tent spaces available to camp just outside the gate of the festival site near the field and track area. You will have to go EARLY Saturday morning if you want to get one. The tent sites are free but you must sign in fi rst. Tents and tarps are not allowed in the festival site. Bar-B-Q-ing is only allowed around your tent if you are a signed in camper. You can not Bar-B-Q inside the festival site or make campfires anywhere.

This year should be the best Jazz Fest yet, get out and experience Aomori! See you there.

日本語で読む
Japanese Translation

Page Top


No. 141 (6/12/09)

Experience Hollywood in Japan at Universal Studios Japan!

By Robert Finley
Chief Writer

USJ Movies have the power to inspire wonder and excitement within their viewers. Images of a Tyrannosaurus Rex rampaging through Jurassic Park, the Terminator battling the T-1000, or a Great White Shark terrorizing the citizens of Amity Island have thrilled audience for years, and now you can relive them all live at Universal Studios Japan (USJ) theme park in Osaka.

Since its grand opening March 31, 2001, USJ has entertained visitors with its elaborate rides, shows, and themed areas of the park. In its first year alone, 11 million people visited the park, giving it at the time the biggest draw in a one-year period for a theme park in history. The park's 9 themed areas transport you to famous locales, both real and fictional, and offer up unique food and souvenir options for visitors.

USJ Upon entering the park, visitors are greeted by a wide cast of colorful characters, whether it be Shrek and Fiona from the Shrek movies, or Popeye and Olive Oil from the Popeye cartoons. Woody Woodpecker, the park's official mascot, can be seen roaming about as well. The first themed area visitors enter is Hollywood, where famous sights from tinsel town are recreated, and visitors can enjoy such shows as Shrek's 4-D Adventure, Sesame Street's 4-D Movie Magic, and many others. The park's only full-sized roller coaster, Hollywood Dream: The Ride, is housed in this area. Visitors are asked to place all possessions, including items in your shirt or pants pockets, within the lockers in front of the coaster (it takes a 100 yen coin to lock the locker, but you get the coin back once you unlock it). The coaster is quite unique, as it lets you select one of four songs (visitors pick between classic rock, modern pop, and two J-Pop songs) to listen to while speeding down the coaster's rails. At night, the coaster sparkles like a shooting star.

Adjacent to the Hollywood area is the New York area, where visitors can travel to 2029 and fight Skynet alongside the T-800 and a teenage John Connor in Terminator 2: 3-D. The ride starts out with a pre-show (all in Japanese) where a Cyberdyne Public Relations executive interviews the audience and displays all of Cyberdyne's technological innovations in a video collage (look for Shaquille O-Neill's cameo!). The demonstration, however, is interrupted by Sarah and John Connor, who are trying to destroy Cyberdyne Industries and their creation, Skynet. From there, audience members are taken into a large auditorium, where they are treated to a part-live, part-3-D film show with lots of excitement and surprises. Just outside of T2: 3-D sits The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man: The Ride. Visitors are recruited by J. Jonah Jameson himself to take the Daily Bugle's newsgathering vehicle・The Scoop out to get the scoop on the big story going on ・Doc Ock is at it again, this time with The Hobgoblin, Hydro-Man, Electro, and Scream.

From New York, visitors travel to America's West Coast in the San Francisco-themed area of the park, where visitors can enjoy clam chowder in bread bowls and fresh waffles. This area's big attractions are the Backdraft attraction, which is a pyrotechnics show based on the 1991 Ron Howard hit film, and Back To The Future: The Ride. USJ is the only Universal Studios theme park currently open that still runs this ride, where visitors help Doc Brown stop Biff Tannen from changing the past in a thrilling DeLorean chase sequence that takes visitors through time.

After spending some time in San Francisco, visitors cross a bridge right into one of the themed areas based on a fictional locale ・Jurassic Park. Jurassic Park: The Ride is a thrilling water ride where visitors sail on through Jurassic Park as if the events of the first film never happened, and the park opened on schedule. Dinosaurs come to life all around the raft, but something goes terribly wrong shortly after entering the park, and the dinosaurs escape. The ride culminates in a dramatic 80-plus foot drop, so be warned that you may get wet! After the ride, visitors can eat at a couple of Jurassic-themed restaurants, such as The Lost World and the Discovery Restaurant.

If you blink, you may miss it, but just outside the Jurassic Park area, sandwiched between it and Amity Island, is the home of Waterworld: A Live Sea War Spectacular. Based on the infamous 1995 film starring Kevin Costner, this live-action water show has won praise for its elaborate stunts and demonstrations. Be careful if you are sitting in the front row, however; it's a high possibility you'll get splashed!

Moving on from Waterworld, visitors are transported to Amity Island, where a Great White Shark looms beneath the depths, waiting for unsuspecting humans to enter the water. Jaws: The Ride is another water-based ride with fun visuals and great animatronics. Out in front of the ride is a giant replica of the shark that visitors can take photos with.

The Land of Oz, the park's newest area, is brought to life with its own yellow-brick road and a colorful landscape. Towards the back of the area, visitors can view an elaborate, abridged version of the hit musical Wicked.

Fans of Snoopy and the rest of the Peanuts gang will surely love the Snoopy Studios area of the park, which is geared towards the tiny children. Inside a giant room, kids can run around on giant playground sets, or take a ride on a mini-coaster. After Snoopy Studios, visitors end up right back in Hollywood, where they began.

While most of the attractions are in Japanese, those who do not speak the language should be able to follow along for the most part. The live shows, such as Peter Pan, Universal Monsters Live Rock and Roll Show, USJ's nightly The Magical Starlight Parade, and others are enjoyable more for the music and dancing than for any storyline they may offer. If you are looking for someplace great and unique to go this summer, this is it! There are regular flights from Misawa to Osaka, but there are a number of ways to get down to that side of Honsh.

日本語で読む
Japanese Translation

Page Top


No. 141 (6/12/09)

FSS Summer Asian Bazaar

Article Courtesy of 35 FSS

FSS poster Looking for a place to shop with all kinds of merchandise in one place? Looking for gifts for your loved ones? Or even just to browse? Come see what we have to offer! You're bound to find something that you have to have, just like one of our good customer said.

The Mokuteki Community Center is the host of the 35th Force Support Squadron Bazaars. This year we have already had 3 successful mini-bazaars in the Community Center Ballroom, and we are having 3 more seasonal bazaars scheduled to be held in Hangar 949 starting this summer. The FSS Summer Bazaar will be held on June 20-21, 2009. Unlike the previous years, this year we wanted to offer you something different, something fresh and exciting, so we will have a theme for every bazaar. The first one will be the seasonal theme, so this time around we're proud to present you the FSS Summer Bazaar. If you missed the FSS Spring Bazaar, or even if you've been to one, the FSS Summer Bazaar would definitely be a great place to shop. We will have all of the vendors that you all know and we'll have new vendors too. From Japanese calligraphy to exotic pottery artists, traditional Japanese artifacts to well-preserved antiques, China dresses to variety of Kokeshi dolls, there will be definitely something that will catch your attention.

Page Top


No. 140 (5/22/09)

Fuji Rock!

By Robert Finley
Chief Writer

Summertime is just about here, even though it's hard to tell with the cold winds and cloudy days that still pop up from time to time. Back in the U.S., summer is the time for camping out, traveling to new and fun places, going to exciting theme parks, and checking out your favorite musicians live in concert. You probably already know about most of these, but what about concerts that prominently feature popular American bands? If you want to attend a concert with a little taste of home, then the Fuji Rock Festival '09, scheduled to take place July 24-26, is the concert for you.

Since 1997, the Fuji Rock Festival has been held at the Naeba Ski Resort on Mount Takenoko in Niigata Prefecture (新潟県), which is located southwest of Aomori Prefecture. The festival derives its name from its first location, at the footslope of Mount Fuji. It moved to the Naeba Ski Resort in 1999, where the resort's scenic forestry provides a unique backdrop for the concert-going experience. Festival organizers are conscious of their effect on the environment, and have publicly stated that their main purpose is to make the Fuji Rock Festival "the cleanest festival in the world" by placing an emphasis on cleanliness and recycling. "Remember," the Fuji Rock Festival Web site states, "'Independence, 'Cooperation' and 'Respect of nature' are keys to fully enjoy this festival."

The festival is comprised of seven main stages, with several other smaller stages placed throughout the concert grounds. All of the stages are named: Green Stage, White Stage, Red Marquee, Field Of Heaven, Rookie A Go-Go, Crystal Palace Tent, New Power Gear Stage/Gypsy Avalon, Orange Court, Day Dreaming & Silent Breeze, Naeba Shokudo, and Mokudo Tei. The Green Stage is the main stage of the festival. There are quite a few fun and functional facilities available too, such as The Palace Of Wonder, where you can enjoy Spiegeltent, which is a large mobile tent that is decorated with stained glass and mirrors. A campsite is designated for visitors who plan on attending all three days (but if you don't want to camp out, hotels are nearby). The festival isn't all concentrated in one spot, either -- oftentimes, you'll have to walk along the resort's trails in order to get from one place to another. The festival’s hub has been dubbed "Oasis," and contains over 30 food vendors from around the world.

Three days of great music at the festival kicks off the night before (July 23), when the resort hosts a free “opening party” where visitors can watch bon odori (traditional Japanese dance), win prizes, and check out a fireworks show. On Friday, July 24, U.K. rock band Oasis headline the show, with other popular acts as The Killers and Jeff Lang. Quite a few Japanese bands will also take the stage Friday, and the All-Night Fuji area will be headlines by DJ Towa Tei and other acts. Saturday, July 25 sees headlines Franz Ferdinand take the stage, as well as Ben Harper And Relentless7, Public Enemy, and The Gaslight Anthem. Sunday closes out the concert strong with headliners Weezer taking the stage, as well as Jimmy Eat World, Fall Out Boy, and Animal Collective. More acts are sure to be announced as the festival nears. Ticket costs are as follows: 3-day ticker -- 39,800 yen, and 1-day tickets - 16,800 yen. Car park passes are 3,000 yen per day, per car, and campsite tickets are 3,000 yen per person (valid uly 23 at noon until July 27 at noon). For more information, please visit this site.

日本語で読む
Japanese Translation

Page Top


No. 140 (5/22/09)

UMUC Asia announces registration for Summer Session and $100 Military Textbook Award for Active-Duty Enlisted Servicemembers

UMUC Press Release
Point of Contact: Megumi Savoy, Marketing Assistant (225-7149)

April 24, 2009
Yokota AB, Japan -- University of Maryland University College Asia (UMUC Asia) announces that registration is now ongoing for Summer Session. The On-Site course dates are May 31 to July 25, while the Distance Education courses will be held from June 15 to August 23. Students can register directly with their local UMUC Field Representative or via the MyUMUC portal.

UMUC Asia offers $100 Military Textbook Awards for Active-Duty Enlisted Servicemembers. Through this book award program, Active-Duty Enlisted Servicemembers attending UMUC Stateside, Europe, and Asia can apply to receive a $100 award to help pay for textbooks. The awards will be available for the Summer Session, and applications are being accepted now until July 20. To apply, log on to our website.

Students may learn more about admissions, registration, scholarships, and schedules for certificates, associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s level courses by contacting their local UMUC field representative or visiting our website.

Page Top


No. 139 (5/08/09)

Japanese Contemporary Literature: An Author, Haruki Murakami

By K.H.J.
Staff Writer

Loneliness, happiness, sadness, and anger, various types of emotions felt and expressed amongst people through interactions in our society. Our emotions are so intricate and unique that individuals feel or express these feelings in distinctive manners. Various experiences in our society trigger our emotions, yet sometimes our emotions are so suppressed by society that we gradually mold ourselves into the expectations of the society in which we live. In his novels, Haruki Murakami beautifully depicts not only human emotions expressed in the society, but also the society factors that create emotions among people in Japan.

"I closed my eyes and listened carefully for the descendants of Sputnik, even now circling the earth, gravity is their only tie to the planet. Lonely metal souls in the unimpeded darkness of space, they meet, pass each other, and part, never to meet again. No words pass between them. No promises to keep." ?Sputnik Sweetheart, Haruki Murakami.

Above, I quoted this particular part of the tale from one of Mr. Murakami’s novel "Sputnik Sweetheart", because this part significantly displays his writing style. As with his entire opus, Mr. Murakami’s novels display surreal, melancholic, and enigmatic aspects of human society. In his imaginary tales, he focuses on spiral emptiness of the newer generation during the Showa era. For instance, in the novel "Sputnik Sweetheart", he described loneliness and isolation as negative consequences of the work-dominated mindset that Japanese people sustained. As Sputnik (the Russian satellite) futilely floats in the darkness of space, each human being is depicted as a piece of entity stranded on the earth without being recognized, but only to be used, worn, and forgotten in the society, as if they were a particle of metal still floating in the space without recognition.

Other than the novel I introduced above, his other tales depict human dilemma that are set in Japanese society. Psychological insights, humors, grasp of spirit, and morality, are stunningly portrayed in each character and displayed in Murakami's fantasy world. Somewhat horrifying and formidable life experiences those characters encounter, in his fecund tales, are seemingly suffering from existential despair. For instance, as in the character from "Sputnik Sweetheart", the author explored craving satisfaction of human relationships, as longing for love, unfulfilling dreams, and the tendency of breaking the mold of mannerism that are impossible to resolve. Above all, Mr. Murakami, as in many of his works, argues and criticizes the devalued meaning of human life and pervasive disconnectedness among Japanese people in their society.

In addition to such psychological and sociological aspects of Japanese people's living, Mr. Murakami draws a realistic atmosphere of Japanese society in his narratives. In favor of the readers to grasp the ambiance of Japanese society, he added his extended knowledge of popular cultures to his fictions. Mr. Murakami combined Japanese popular culture, such as music, movies, and the detective stories, as well as his figure of speech (tropes), into his works. Adapting such popular cultures into his narratives is one of his significant approaches to depict both the superficial and the hidden aspects of Japanese society at the end of the 20th century. Quoting famous songs on his book titles is one of such example. On one of his top selling novels, "Norwegian Woods," he quoted one of the Beetle’s tunes and used its title as a title on one of his award winning novels during the 1990's.

Haruki Murakami is one of the prominent authors who convey Japanese contemporary literatures into the world. Many of his fiction novels are lucid and easily accessible but overwhelmingly intricate. His language of art, at the end of each tales, deftly unfolds such convoluted obscurity of human nature. His language talks so deeply into our hearts that his novels put us into a swirl of uncertainty as humans and make us ponder the meaning of existence as individuals in our society. As an author and interpreter, Haruki Murakami's talents are widely recognized in Japan but also into the world.

Haruki Murakami was born in 1947. He began his writing career in 1973. His somewhat spiritual way of awakening to a writer occurred to him while he was watching the professional baseball game at Jinguu baseball field in Japan. Since his first essay inspired him to continue into writing novels, he has accomplished over 50 fiction novels including his short stories. Many of his works such as; "Norwegian Woods"; "Wind-Bird Chronicles"; "Sputnik Sweetheart"; "Dance, Dance, Dance,"; and "Kafka On The Shore"; and many more, have been translated into many languages today.

Followed with his early works, his well-known opus: "Norwegian Woods", was published in 1986. The novel hit top selling chart in Japan and kept its rank for a few months. The book was translated into English a few years after the original version was published in Japan and sold over millions of copies. His works are highly recognized and awarded all over the world. Mr. Murakami's relatively recent novel "Kafka On The Shore" was selected at Prague-based Franz Kafka Literature Prize in 2006. Mr. Murakami was the sixth person to win such honor. His flair in writing, and his power to wield the language continuously, mesmerizes and draws people into Murakami's fantasy world. Moreover, while Nobel prizes were given to a few of previous Franz Kafka Prize winners, Mr. Murakami's potential in winning such a coveted award as Nobel Prize seems to be high. If you wish to obtain his novels, online bookstores are the easiest and fastest ways.

日本語で読む
Japanese Translation

Page Top


No. 138 (4/24/09)

European Still-Life Painting From the Kunsthistriches Museum Wien

By Chiho Tsukiashi
Staff Writer

An angel points out Europe on a globe. Skeletons, an extinguished candle, and an hourglass with most of its sand at the bottom sit on the left table. Medals and jewelries shine on the right -- The name of the famous painting is Allegory of Vanity by Antonio de Preda. What does the picture symbolize? Find the answer at the special exhibit European Still-Life Painting from the Kunsthistriches Museum Wien, at the Aomori Museum of Art. It continues till June 14.

Kunsthistrisches Museum Wien was opened in 1891. It boasts the House of Habsburg's enormous collections from all over Europe. The quality and the quantity of the collections indicate the family's prosperity and their polished aesthetic taste. Among them, 75 still-life paintings are selected for this exhibit.

Still-life paintings were a popular art form in the seventeenth-century Europe, depicting commonplace objects such as flowers, food, vases, and musical instruments arranged in an artificial settings. Those are generally ordered to show off collections of exotic and luxury items which indicate their affluence.

Objects in still-life paintings often carry allegorical symbolism that communicates hidden messages to the viewers, which stimulate their curiosities. Take your time and gaze each painting, which will talk to you silently but clearly.

At this special exhibit, paintings are categorized into four chapters according to motifs. Some English explanation is provided at each chapter.

Chapter 1: Still life Paintings of the Marketplace, Kitchen and Vanitas:
Original forms of still-life paintings are exhibited in this section. They mainly feature people surrounded by various objects in their everyday life in different seasons. This is where Allegory of Vanity is located. “Vanitas”, meaning “emptiness”, is a category of still life paintings established in the sixteenth and seventeenth century. Their messages typically relay meaninglessness of earthly life and transient nature of vanity.

Chapter 2: Still-Life featuring Game, Fruit, Luxury Items and Flowers: Myriad Still Life Types
In this chapter, you can expect to see gorgeously decorated tables full of hunted animals, fruits, flowers and exotic objects brought by international trades. In Evaristo Baschenis's Still-life with Musical Instruments and Globe, dusty musical instruments imply sense of mortality because music they create disappears once they stop playing. The dust looks real, as if it accumulates on the painting. Fruits painted in Cornelis de Heem’s Breakfast Still Life look so much juicier and fresher, compared with plastic replica displayed next to the painting.

Chapter 3: Religion, the Four Seasons, Natural Elements and Still-Life
The House of Habsburg was a pious Catholic family. Paintings in this section feature seasons and rich nature in which people and objects connote religious precepts. For example, Holly Communion is the transubstantiation of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. It’s also interesting to see each month is symbolized by an object: rose for May, wheat for June, grapes for September, game for the hunt for December, etc.

Chapter 4: Genre Scenes, Portraiture and Still Life: Still-Life as Attributes
Objects can be effective foils for genres, portraits, and historical paintings. For example, Jan Steen describes what looks like a lively family in World Upside Down. But look close. Each person is misbehaving. The young woman in the center is seducing a man on the right, holding a wine pitcher in a hand. A child is smoking a pipe. A dog devours a pie on a table! A whip hanging from the ceiling warns against their immorality.

Besides the special exhibit, a large part of permanent exhibit changes seasonally. Spring Exhibition 2009 features Humor and Festival, Laughing Avant-Gart/ Likeness and Portrait till June 28.

Free ticket giveaway!
Eight free tickets are available for readers of The Insider on a first-come, first-served basis. Send and email to editor.insider(at-mark)gmail.com for entry. Two tickets given per winning person.

Driving Direction to Aomori Museum of Art:
From the main gate, go straight and turn right at the city office. Turn right at a church past City Hospital. When you hit the T, turn left. Soon afterwards turn right and go across railroad tracks. You are now on Rt. 8. Proceed about 17km, and at Circle K on your right turn left at the traffic light and go across the bridge. Turn right where you see a sign “to Michinoku Toll Road/ Aomori.” After 6km, you will hit Rt.4. Go straight and the road becomes Michinoku Toll Road. At the tollgate, pay 840 yen and keep going. At the T, turn left onto Rt. 7. Get off Rt. 7 at the sign “Sannai Maruyama Site/ Aomori Museum of Art.” Follow the signs of Aomori Museum of Art. It’s the white building on your right.

日本語で読む
Japanese Translation

Page Top


No. 137 (4/10/09)

Don't be a "monster gaijin" -- take some time to learn some manners!

By Robert Finley
Chief Writer

Cherry Blossoms in Hirosaki Castle 4/18/09 What's more important than good manners when navigating your way through a foreign country for the first time? Manners are everything. With the cherry blossoms blooming expected to happen any week now, the Americans will definitely want to get out and see the sights and enjoy this beautiful, uniquely-Japanese experience. But what if while out enjoying the view, you inadvertently conduct yourself in a way that is disrespectful to the local populations? Here are a few of the horror stories that have happened around Japan, and ways to avoid these situations in the future.

Hirosaki Castle Outer Moat 4/18/09 On the popular blog debito.org, an American-born writer who currently resides in Sapporo dedicates much of his blog space to detailing the wide array of offense committed by foreigners (comically dubbed "Johnny Foreigner", or "NJ", which I'm assuming stands for "non-Japanese"). In December, Arudou Debito, the author of the afore-mentioned blog, detailed how the Tsukiji fish market, located in central Tokyo and is the largest wholesale seafood market in the world, began enforcing a month-long ban on all visitors. The reason given reportedly varied between the original Japanese articles that reported on the ban, and the subsequent English translation of the articles. According to Debito, it was originally explained that the ban was the result of "NJ tourists and their bad manners," while the English translation of the same article simply stated there were too many tourists. Japanichiban.com, another popular blog about Japanese culture, details some of the complaints that have circulated about foreigners and their etiquette, such as complaints regarding soapy visitors to onsens and exaggerated claims of violence against taxi drivers. Like with Debito's blog, they divulge another nickname for foreigners: monga, or, "monster gaijin." On japanprobe.com, during last year's sakura hanami (flower viewing) season, they ran a blog (accompanied by a video) that illustrated poor manners during hanami, such as public drunkenness, littering, and overall rude behavior (granted, the blog mostly detailed locals behaving badly). Many of these bloggers feel the Japanese media embellishes the reporting on poor etiquette from foreigners, although there most likely is a bit of truth somewhere in the exaggerations.

So we've discussed just some of the problems that have arisen due to language and cultural barriers in Japan, but what about solutions? There are many ways we can improve our ability to communicate and our ability to maintain a non-offensive presence in Japan. Here are a few good tips:

Common tips for proper etiquette in Japan:
- Avoid excessive contact, whether it be physical or with your eyes
- Try not to point with your fingers at people
- Avoid chewing gum in formal situations or while working with Japanese people
- The proper way to exchange business cards is as follows: with both hands, extend your card first, with the text facing them. When you receive their card, receive it with both hands, look at it, then tuck it away somewhere than in your pants pocket
- Use "san" after an adult's name (male or female), "chan" after a girl's name, and "kun" after a boy's name. NEVER put any of these after your own name
- Stand on the left of an escalator if you do not plan on climbing up them
- To gesture with your hand for someone to"come here,"place your palm out, fingers up, and lift and lower your fingers in unison a few times.
- Don't wear slippers in a tatami (straw mat) room. You will also sit on the floor in these rooms.
- When returning from a vacation, it is customary to bring back a small gift, usually some treats or candy

Here a few tips about proper eating etiquette in Japan:
- Don't eat or drink while walking
- Keep stuff out of your mouth (such as fingers, pencils, etc.) when with others
- Do not wipe your face and neck with an oshibori (the wet, rolled-up towel given to customers at restaurants)
- If you no longer want to drink, leave your glass full
- Pour your companion’s drink before your own
- Never point at someone with your chopsticks, and always use the top ends of the chopsticks to move food around, dish it out, etc.

And finally, here are a few tips for partaking in hanami:
- Many people will place tarps on the ground so they can sit and enjoy the sakura for a while. You can use a tarp or blanket to lay claim to a free area of park for yourself
- Be mindful of any litter you may have while enjoying your time in the park
- Respect people’s space. It's not like at a concert, where you can butt your blanket up to someone else’s, and people just walk wherever they want.

These are just a few useful tips on proper etiquette, but there are many books available that can help you become a respectful visitor to the country.
(Information from http://www.debito.org, http://www.japanichiban.com, http://www.seekjapan.jp, and http://www.japanprobe.com was used in this article)

Page Top


No. 137 (4/10/09)

Here to help: The Misawa Retiree Activities Office

By Robert Finley
Chief Writer

Picture this scenario: you are a service member nearing retirement, married to a Japanese citizen, and wish to remain in Japan. What steps do you need to take in order to make this a reality? That's what the Misawa Retiree Activities Office is all about. They are here to assist retirees from all branches of service residing in the Tohoku and Hokkaido regions with a myriad of issues that arise when a retiring service member decides to remain in Japan.

The RA office, located in bldg. 653, room 210, is made up of fellow retirees themselves, have been assisting retirees and their dependents for over nine years now. The office, run completely by volunteers, is open Tuesday through Friday, from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.

" We either have the answer, or we know where to get it," said H.W. Tinnirella, director of the Retiree Activities Program at Misawa Air Base, and a retired Chief Master Sergeant.

From immigration issues, social security, survivor's benefits, and veteran's assistance, they can handle it all. They often work with the U.S. Consulate in Sapporo to achieve results for the retirees and their dependents or survivors. "No question is too big or too small," Tinnirella said, adding, "Years ago, there was nowhere they could turn to." The office also provides computer access to retirees and dependents who otherwise have no access to the internet. Whatever the need, the office will do their best to assist. "Basically, we act as a clearing house for all military retirees in the Tohoku and Hokkaido regions," Tinnirella said.

There are approximately 450 retirees, dependents, and survivors throughout northern Japan. The RAO publishes two newsletters that provides vital information for their customers ? a general RAO newsletter, and one specifically generated for widows. The widows newsletter is also available in Japanese. The RAO office also has personnel that are fluent in Japanese, so they can bridge the language barrier. The Misawa Military Retirees Association is closely affiliated with the RAO, and acts as a social group for their demographic to be able to better assist them. They meet the first Tuesday of every other month (in the even months), at 5:00 p.m. in the Tohoku Club. Membership costs just twenty dollars per year. If you are interested in joining, you are invited to attend one of the meetings. For more information on the Misawa Retirees Association, please visit their Web site, or call (315) 226-4428 (DSN) or (0176) 77-4428.

Page Top


No. 136 (3/27/09)

Road trip to Sendai, Tokyo (Iruma), and Yokohama

By Nao H. Kauffman
Chief Editor

Soon, Misawa's snow season will be over, and people are so ready to go somewhere. But, to where and how?

I would like to suggest some ideas for future weekend plans. I bet many people believe getting out of Misawa is too expensive. Without planning your flight schedules in advance through JAL, flying can be very pricy. Therefore, most of people take the shinkansen (bullet trains) to go anywhere even though the fares are comparable to the lowest discounted JAL fares. Taking trains can be inconvenient for large families with younger children. As you may know, driving is certainly easier and more convenient in the U.S. In this article suggestions could be provided how traveling here, may be the same as in the U.S., if you use the new ETC discount services on the toll roads accessed from the Shimoda/Momoishi exit near AEON SHIMODA. (Please see the new ETC service and the detailed information about ETC). If you need a bilingual GPS system for your car, you can purchase an item called SHAKE!350 GM350 by mapnet through amazon.co.jp, or ask about local shops where they sell GPS. They might be able to assist you. Here you will find a sample review of the GPS system, so you can check out how it works. The larger AEON mall in MORIOKA will seem even closer to you now!

SENDAI
Sendai Izumi Premium Outlet Sendai offers a lot of sightseeing, shopping and a variety of nightlife. SENDAI-IZUMI PREMIUM OUTLET is the closest outlet mall to Misawa compared to MITSUI OUTLET PARK SENDAI PORT. The premium outlet is smaller than many of outlet malls in Japan; however, they are right in IZUMI PARK TOWN near IZUMI Inter-Change (IC.) If you use ETC service, there are two IZUMI IC. You have to use the second exit with the purple sign and white letterings -- ETC, turn right onto Rt. 35, turn right again at the large intersection and you can see the entrance toward the park town. Right next to the outlet mall, there is another building called Tapio, which mainly has groceries stores, cafes and restaurants. There is a long shopping arcade near Sendai station and a few department stores as well. From the outlet mall, I recommend Best Western Hotel Sendai for accommodation. Room rates including continental breakfast: 9500 yen-120,000yen) They always offer special packages, so please call at 022-719-8711 or email to sendai@bestwestern-joytel.com for quotation. If you have Japanese language assistance, check out discounted travel Web sites; for example, Jalan and Rakuten Travel The hotel is right across from a large AEON shopping center and close to many restaurants. It is a little away from the downtown Sendai, but more relaxing. The night view from the hotel room is amazing. You cannot miss the hotel since there is a gigantic landmark statue of the Goddess of Kannon, which is looking down the Sendai city from the hill. More accommodation options: Solare Hotels or Holiday Inn near the downtown areas.

ox tongue One of Sendai's famous gourmet dishes is ox tongue. Its origin dates back to Chef Sano in Aji Tasuke in 1948. He opened the restaurant, which serves a variety of ox tongue dishes after he learned how to cook them from a French chef in Tokyo. Nowadays, Sendai is well-known for its ox tongue dishes. There are about 60 restaurants in downtown serving this dish! If you like Yakiniku, you definitely should check it out!

IRUMA & TOKYO
Mitsui Outlet Park If you would like to hop further down to Tokyo from Sendai, going around Iruma city can be a great option since the city offers the largest shopping center, with MITSUI OUTLET PARK and COSTCO whole sale. This area is right off on Rt. 16, which goes straight to Yokota Air Base in Fussa in 15 minutes or so. There are many boutiques and restaurants in one spot with large parking facilities.

Direction from Sendai to IRUMA and YOKOTA Air Base Take Tohoku Express Way (EXPWY) to south towards [1]Kawaguchi (川口) JCT. Go onto GAIKAN-SHUTO to Oizumi (大泉) IC&JCT and take KANETSU EXPWY toward NIIGATA (新潟) and get off at [3] Tokorozawa (所沢) IC. Stay on the left lane to take Rt.463 toward Iruma. You will see McDonald’s and Bikkuri Donkey on your right and turn left at the intersection, then you will pass the Bridgestone and turn right at the corner on TOYOPET. Drive about 5km, you will see the restaurant FLYING GARDEN on your left and at the third traffic light, turn left when you see a large yellow building. This road takes you behind the shopping mall. The road running in front of COSTCO and the outlet park is Rt.16. Yokota Air Base is on the left. The gate will appear a little after the bowling lane called Round 1 on your right.

Direction from Yokota Air Base to New Sanno Hotel near Roppongi
Take Rt.16 south toward HACHIOJI (八王子) IC. Turn right at the corner of the restaurant HANAYA YOHEI(on your left), and take CHUO (中央道) toward Shinjuku (新宿). Stay focus as there are a lot of curves and tunnels, and you want to stay on the right lane to go toward [4] Haneda (羽田) in the tunnel. Go toward [2] Meguro (目黒)and go onto the left lane to get off at Exit 201 Tengenji (天現寺). Make a U-turn at the first traffic light after the exit, the hotel comes up soon. The entrance is very narrow and slightly hidden for security purposes. It is hard to find if you are driving too fast.

Taking the subway, the nearest station is Hiroo station Hibiya metro line. There are many destinations close by such as Roppongi, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Akihabara, or Ebisu etc. Roppongi Hills is the newest and hottest spot in Tokyo with shops and restaurants. There are two prepaid rechargeable travel cards for convenient travel, Suica is powered by JR; meanwhile, Pasmo is powered by the metro. At the Hiroo station, you can only purchase Pasmo. I recommend getting Suica at Misawa station before you visit Tokyo because you can use Suica at many other places such as convenience stores or AEON when you have credits left on your card. Simply with 500 yen deposit, you can top up your card from 1000yen. This tool makes your trip hassle-free in the busy subway stations. You just scan your card at the gate and scan it again when you get off.

*Where to Eat near New Sanno*
Minocitta Near Hiroo Plaza toward the subway station, there is a small alley of bars and restaurants.
Turn right onto a small road, where you will see a Starbucks, there is a small Bistro called MINOCITTA.
They offer a nice ambience with great music. All drinks are only 500yen. The beer snacks and a variety of dishes are very reasonable.

Yokohama
Anpanman children's Museum I bet many of you are interested in going to Tokyo Disneyland for your vacation. There is another theme park called Yokohama ANPANMAN Children's Museum for infants and toddlers. ANPANMAN is one of the most popular characters in Japan, created by Takashi Yanase. You see it everywhere if you are around younger children in Japan. ANPANMAN is made by Uncle Jam at his bakery shop, and he is always patrolling to rescue his friends from Baikinman. Take Hibiya line toward Ginza from Hiroo Station and change onto Minato Mirai line at the Nakameguro (中目黒) to Yokohama. The station, Shin-Takashima-Cho (新高島町) is just one stop from Yokohama station. Follow the character pictures; the place is within the walking distance. In a few stops from Shin-Takashima-Cho, Yokohama china town is also a popular destination.

Direction from New Sannou to Misawa
Exit 201, Tengenji is right by the hotel. Go toward Shinjuku and [5] Omiya (大宮) for TOHOKU EXPWY and proceed toward [C2] Misato (三郷). After the long tunnel, go toward [S1] Angyo (安行) and toward Utsunomiya (宇都宮), this takes you back to Kawaguchi JCT. Once you get on TOHOKU EXPWY, drive north until you come back to Hachinohe Toll Road. There are several service areas to get some break time.

Page Top


No. 135 (3/13/09)

Custom framing and more at the Kondo Glass & Frame Shop

By Robert Finley
Chief Writer

Frame Samples In need of custom framing for your photographs or artwork? Or perhaps in need of some beautiful artwork to hang on your walls, both originals and high-quality replicas? Kondo Glass & Frame Shop has everything you need, and more. Located in their new location, right across the street from World Nakai Liquor Store, the Kondo Glass & Frame Shop is a family-run business that has been serving the Misawa community for almost 40 years. The company moved to their new location in December 2008, and is easily accessible from Misawa Air Base’s main gate.

Within their two-story shop, you'll find a wide array of beautiful artwork displayed along the walls of the first floor, all available for purchase. Many of the pieces come from local artists, as well as artists from all over. The art represents a myriad of muses, from nature and animals (both real and imaginary, such as dragons), to soldiers and deities. The styles vary widely, too - from the hand-drawn to hand-painted, alongside framed images captured on film. Information on the artist and the piece is printed in Japanese with many of the items.

A little deeper in the shop will reveal their main service: custom framing. Samples of dozens of beautiful frames are available to anyone looking for just the right frame, whether it be for a family portrait or for unframed art and photos. If an ordered frame is in stock, it can be completed within three days. If not in stock, most orders are finished within a week, so turnaround time is very swift. Customers are encouraged to bring in their pieces to match with the best frame, at which point they will offer you a complimentary estimate before you commit to framing. Prices are competitive.

Etched Glass Ball Another popular service they provide is glass frosting and etching, which is done with a sandblaster within the building itself. Their precise machine can custom etch any image onto mirrors, cups, glass, frames, plates and more, making this service very versatile for the customers. Please look at various samples at the store.

Upstairs is another big attraction for the shop ? their gallery. On average, the shop will exhibit a new gallery every 7-14 days. Recently, they exhibited the works of Kazan Uto, an artist who has been painting in a unique, classical style for about 40 years. The shop's gallery will host a watercolor painting exhibit March 20-26. From March 12-18, the shop will also hold a big sale on wall scrolls, with over 50 scrolls being marked down 50 percent.

The shop also offers lessons in glass etching, as well as the occasional painting lessons. You will have a good time if you drop by the gallery, where special exhibition is constantly held.

For more information, please visit the Kondo Glass & Frame Shop, located on White Pole Road, directly across the street from World Nakai Liquor, or call them at 0176-53-2704.

日本語で読む
Japanese Translation

Page Top


No. 134 (2/27/09)

The "Trocks" come to Japan!

By Robert Finley
Chief Writer

Trocks Poster The ballet is coming to Japan, but in a way you’d probably not expect! Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, an all-male drag ballet team, is scheduled to perform their world-famous show at the Towada Civic Culture Center June 11. Doors open at 6 p.m.; Show starts at 6:30 p.m.

Founded in New York City in 1974 by choreographer Peter Anastos, Anthony Bassae, and Natch Taylor, the original line-up performed small shows for specific audiences in very small venues. When the magazine The New Yorker began running pieces on the performance, their audience blossomed. During the 1975-76 season, the Trocks (as they were affectionately nicknamed) began extended tours in the Unites States and Canada. Their popularity only grew from there, with the Trocks appearing on a wide variety of television shows, including specials for international television. The company has performed for many charitable organizations, such as the international AIDS organizations Dancers Responding to AIDS (DRA); New York City’s Classical Action; the Life Ball in Vienna, Austria; Dancers For Life in Toronto, Canada; and London’s Stonewall Gala.

The mix of ballet cliches, posing, and physical comedy, with more serious portions (intended to display the performers’ skills) has garnered the group praise from all around the world. They have won such prestigious awards as the Critic’s Circle National Dance Award’s best classical repertoire award in 2007 (UK); the Theatrical Managers Award in 2006 (UK); and the Positano Award for excellence in dance in 2007 (Italy). This past December, the Trocks were featured at the 80th anniversary Royal Variety Performance in London, which was attended by members of the British royal family.

Their gimmick is simple ? an all-male cast of ballet dancers performs mostly in drag, parodying romantic, classical, and modern ballet cliches. The sight of men in drag, performing female routines along with the exaggerated “serious” routines has delighted audiences again and again. Their repertoire contains routines from a myriad of world-famous ballets, such as Swan Lake, Stars & Stripes Forever, Don Quixote (and Don Quixote Grand Pas de), Le Corsaire (and Le Corsaire Pas de Deux), The Bluebird, Pas de Trois, The Little Humpbacked Horse, Diane and Acteon Pas de Deux, The Nutcracker, Pas de Quatre, Raymonda’s Wedding, Les Sylphides, Flower Festival at Genzano Pas de Deux, and Grand Pas Classique from Le Dieu et la Bayadadere.

Japan is one of the Trocks’ most popular locations to perform. Tickets cost 7,000yen for (S) and 6,000yen for (A). Tickets go on sale Sat., Feb. 28 at 10 a.m. at Furusawa Music Store in Misawa (located down the road from White Pole Road toward Misawa Station), The Towada Civic Culture Center, AEON Towada Super Center, or the Miharuya department store in Hachinohe. Be sure to pick yours up!

(Information from Trockadero's homepage was used in this article)

Page Top


No. 133 (2/13/09)

Things to do in spite of cold

By Robert Finley
Chief Writer

Misawa winters sure have been harsh these past few years, haven't they? There seems to be new snow on the ground every other day (if not every day!). The cold wind blows, chilling you to the bone even when the sun is out and shining. In the face of such a harsh environment, it's easy to say to yourself,“Forget this, I'm staying home!”But staying home for weeks and weeks can get tiresome, so here are a few fun activities you can participate in without freezing to death.

Lake Towada Winter Festival Running through February 2009
Stingray The snow festivals in Japan are world-famous, and can be found all over Japan. A nearby one is the Lake Towada Winter Festival, which is running until the end of February. At the festival, visitors are treated to a bunch of different food and beverages such as ramen and pumpkin soup, all of which are reasonably priced. An igloo bar is also available for the adults. The main attraction, of course, is the cool and elaborate snow sculptures, and the fireworks that top off the nights of festivities. Be sure to dress warm, though - it can get below zero at times!

The Badehouse Fukuchi
Hours: 10:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m.
Do you fi nd yourself longing for a nice swim, even though the snow is falling and there is ice everywhere? Well here's a quick solution to your problem! Located about 45 minutes from Misawa (right near the ice arena), you can waste the day away lounging about in the pools. The facility also offers numerous programs that you can sign up for, such as the health course, diet course, and stress course. Admission is 1,000 for general admission, and 500 yen for elementary school students.

Aomori Museum Of Art
Hours: 9:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
(Closed Feb. 23)
The Aomori Museum of Art is a great place to go and spend a couple of hours indoors looking over artwork from a variety of talented artists. Located just off the Route 7 bypass (from Route 4, you can just follow the signs to the Sannai-Maruyama) in Aomori, the museum is big enough to explore for a long time. The receptionists and workers are all very helpful, directing you on your way as you navigate the giant rooms and halls of the museum. Right now until March 8, the museum is exhibiting the post-war photographs of famed photographer Kojima Ichiro. Ichiro captured life in Aomori in the two decades after World War II. His photographs oftentimes illuminate the contrast of the dark lands against the bright sun. He also loved to take photos of workers from the back, almost as if to make the viewer feel like they are in the photograph, seeing what we would see if we were actually there. In addition to Ichiro, there are many other talented artists on display. From backdrops used in plays to vibrantly colored vases and lamps and sketches of monsters and spaceships, the museum has something for everyone' artistic tastes. Admission is 500 yen for adults, 300 yen for high school/college students, and 100 yen for elementary/junior high school students.

Asamushi Aquarium
Hours: 9:00 a.m.- 5:00 p.m.
Stingray The Asamushi Aquarium is also in Aomori (there are signs off of Route 4 as you enter Aomori. You can't miss it), and offers its visitors a fun and educational alternative to sitting inside all day. The myriad of sea life housed in the aquarium are beautiful and bizarre, from the bottlenose dolphins to the huge pitted stingray. All day long, you can catch their exciting dolphin show, where the dolphins do tricks with beach balls and hoops. Visitors can also watch as the California sea lions, sea otters, and dolphins are fed by their handlers throughout the day. Visitors don't have to simply look at the animals on display - there are quite a few hands-on portions of the aquarium as well. The first exhibit that you can touch is the "Doctor Fish"(ドクターフィッシュ), where the aquarium invites visitors to stick a finger or thumb into the Doctor Fish fish tank, where the doctor fish will come up and nibble on your dead skin cells. Elsewhere in the aquarium, there is a whole room dedicated to letting children and adults alike touch starfish and other hand-friendly sea life. Don't worry - there are wash stations available for afterwards!

At the end of the aquarium, there is a nice gift shop where you can buy a souvenir to commemorate the trip. This would be a fun and educational way to get out during the winter. Admission is 1,000 yen for general admission, and 500 yen for elementary and junior high school students.

These are just a few of the fun activities that you can do, even if it's freezing outside. So go have some fun!

Page Top


No. 133 (2/13/09)

Bell Mark

Jerry A. Carrol
Guest Writer

Have you ever wanted to do some good for your Japanese hosts, but could not find the time? Do you purchase items downtown? If so then, as easy as cutting paper, you can do your part!

The next time you go shopping for Japanese goods, look on the package for a Bell Mark.

The Bell Mark is the logo for a Japan-wide campaign run by the Bell Mark Education Promotion Foundation (established in 1960) that supports local school PTA's. The program is a mirror image of the Campbell's Soup Label and Box Tops for Education programs. On the label there is a number present indicating the worth. 1 pt equals 1 yen. You will fi nd the item on many home necessities and foodstuffs. Some companies offer this system in the form of ink cartridge recycling such as Epson and Canon. Whatever the product, please check and collect these labels. After you have saved a few, give them to a coworker or friend that has children going to Japanese schools, they will know exactly what to do with them. For more information, please see the Insider's website archives for “Welfare and Educational funds in Japan” under CHECK IT OUT on April 25, 2008.

Page Top


No. 132 (1/23/09)

Rockin' in Hachinohe

By Nick Bawek
Guest Writer

Without a doubt, the flourishing rock scene in Japan is stronger than ever. Even with new bands around every corner, it can be hard to find the one that fits YOU. For me, anything with a 20-minute guitar solo will usually do, but I am always up for some funky rock beats and heavy metal. Japanese and American rock are pretty much the same: same guitars, same drums, and same enthusiasm. Usually the only difference between Japanese and American rock is … you guessed it, the language! But don’t stray away from the rock scene here just because of that. There are a lot of great bands in Japan that play the tunes you know and some that might just be your cup of tea.

Tetchirri, Manji Japan, and Sakigake are just a few bands you can check out at the PowerStation. It’s located next to the Vianova Department Store in Central Hachinohe, a hot spot for all things rock. Each of these bands might have their own distinct sound, but they do have something in common. All three bands share some of the same band members.

Tetchirri Take a band like Tetchirri, which was started in 2003. Their smooth lyrics and spot-on guitar riffs play all of the hit songs made famous by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Kazuma, the lead singer, grabs the crowd’s attention with the vocals; along with Hitoshi’s bass slapping, Takei’s guitar strumming, and Yuki’s drum pounding really makes them a perfect team. They would make the RHCP proud.

Manji Japan Manji Japan, a heavy metal band, covers the songs from the ever so popular Japanese band, X Japan. If you like screaming vocals, plenty of guitar solos, and fast guitar riffs, make this a band to check out. The solos by both guitarists ST, and Tom Rock are a sight to see. Each of them are like magicians on a guitar, with a sleight of hand, their fingers are moving to fast to keep up, also with hitting each note sequentially to a perfect rhythm is a thing of professionalism. The lead singer, Manabe, wanted “to tell X Japan’s songs all over the world instead of a real X Japan” in the way that he wanted it to sound.

Sakigake, formed in 2007, is different than the other two rock bands; in that they write their own music. A hard rock group, with a couple of members from Tetchirri and Manji Japan coming over, and bringing in a new bassist, David; in the mean time,“ST asked me let’s start a band,” David said, and everything else just fell into place.

Since everybody knew one another through friends and all had aspirations to be in music it was only time until they formed a band. Yuki, the drummer of all three bands (Tetchirri, Manji Japan, and Sakigake) started playing drums at 22; he used music as a medicine to fight off depression. “Music helped me,” he said. “I would like to create something beautiful to touch people's hearts; I would like to create music that's going to help people.

The vocals of the of groups, Tetchirri and Sakigake, Kazuma, began singing after he saw the performance from another band and knew he would be a much better performer, and practiced until he saw fit. Throughout the show, he’ll sometimes add a little comedy routine in between songs, which is a very nice touch to an always-outstanding show. Each bands’ set have their own unique presentation. There might be a theme for the night, with make-up and outfits or just plain street clothes. The thing about everybody involved with the bands is that they are like one big family. From there significant others coming to every single one of their concerts to their loyal fans waiting for their next show.

So be sure to get travel outside Misawa, and make a trip one day to Hachinohe and experience different side of Japan.

Page Top


No. 132 (1/23/09)

Special Exhibit Kojima Ichiro: A Retrospective

By Chiho Tsukiashi
Staff Writer

Kizukuri, Tsugaru City (1958) by Ichiro Kojima During fall, farmers harvesting rice all day; An old woman trudging in deep snow; A horse surviving in blizzard. Such scenes from a country life are vividly captured in Ichiro Kojima’s monochromatic photos that are developed with a special technique. In his short life, he is very compassionate towards those who lived in the country in Aomori. His photos remind people of Jean Fransois Millet's paints such as The Gleaners and The Angelus. 200 pieces of his works are on exhibit at Aomori Museum of Art till March 8.

Kojima was born to a merchant dealing with toys and photo materials in Aomori City in 1924. After finishing high school, he was sent to the warfront in China. Upon his return, he was shocked to see his hometown by destroyed air raid. However, by witnessing the strength of the people who survived the devastation, he was inspired to take photos. “Lost everything in the war, they are starting live again in the snow-covered region. I am one of them. They also represent human beings’desperation for survival,” said Kojima.

His works on the harsh nature and the people in Aomori were highly appraised and that led to holding an individual show in Tokyo. To be a professional photographer, he moved to Tokyo and soon his work received recognition. In the metropolis city, he struggled to find ideal themes. At the exhibition, you can see only few photos taken in Tokyo which is on the setting sun between skyscrappers - the only console he found in the city. He then traveled back to Aomori to take photos, and held successful shows in Tokyo. In hopes to take more photos of the country, he went to Hokkaido. However, his journey did not go smoothly, he became ill and had to return to Aomori. Without ever recovering, he died at the age of 39. In the last room of this exhibition are photos taken in Hokkaido - his last work - shown as slideshow. Although his life was short, his works are still exhibited at museums and introduced on journals. The museum is also holding Winter Collection, in which Henri Matisse’s prints from Jazz, Shiko Munakata’s woodprints on European landscape, Wajiro Kon’s sketches of people in Europe, etc. are featured.

Date: Jan 10 (Sun) thru. Mar 8 (Sun)
Hours: 9:30am to 5pm
Closed: 2nd and 4th Mondays
Venue: Aomori Museum of Art
Admission: 800yen/ adult; 400yen/ college and high school
student; 200yen/ junior high and elementary school student
(To view regular exhibits too, tickets will be 800yen, 600yen, and 250yen respectively.)

Free tickets giveaway!
Eight free tickets are available on first-come-first-served basis. Send an email to editor.insider(at-mark)gmail.com for entry. Two tickets given per winning person.

Driving directions to Aomori Museum of Art
From the main gate, go straight and turn right at the city office. Turn right at a church past City Hospital. When you hit the T, turn left. Soon afterwards turn right and go across railroad tracks. You are now on Rt. 8. Proceed about 17km, and at Circle K on your right turn left at the traffic light and go across the bridge. Turn right where you see a sign “to Michinoku Toll Road/ Aomori”. After 6km, you will hit Rt. 4. Go straight and the road becomes Michinoku Toll Road. At the tollgate, pay 840yen and keep going. At the T, turn left onto Rt. 44.- At Circle K on your right, turn right. Turn left onto Rt. 7. Get off Rt. 7 at the sign “Sannai Maruyama Site/ Aomori Museum of Art”. Follow the signs of Aomori Museum of Art. It’s the white building on your right.

Page Top


No. 131 (1/9/09)

Shiriyazaki Lighthouse with Northern Horses
-- Kandachime (寒立馬)

By Nao H. Kauffman
Chief Editor

Although Shiriyazaki, the northern edge of Shimokita Peninsula, is well known for its nature and wildness, the attraction is always tied up with Shiriyazaki lighthouse and the horses called “Kandachime” -- literally meaning cold standing horse.

History of Kandachime
During the mid 1400s, local warlords began the import of Mongolian stud horses to improve their breed of war-horses, which originated to the Nambu horses named Tanabe Uma. Despite their good breed of horses, the warlords were eventually defeated in battle. Soon afterward, many of these same war-horses were brought to agricultural use by mating the Tanabe Uma with a French breed for better hybridization. Nowadays the horses are pastured in the area all year round; in fact, their wildness and vitality are especially appealing during the extreme cold winters of Tohoku.

Origin of Kandachime
In 1970, the principal of a local school, Mr. Tsutomu Iwasa, wrote a tanka poem (thirty-one syllables of poem) regarding the pastured horses at that time. “Shinonome ni Isami Inanaku Kandachime Tsukushigaharano Arashi monoka wa" -- lyrically describes the scenery of the horses lively neighing in the harsh weather conditions. In addition to the designation of Shimokita Peninsula National Park in 1968, travelers naturally started calling the horses as Kandachime and also admired the naming and the pastoral atmosphere with the lighthouse and its natural beauty by the surroundings.

Present State of Kandachime
Kandachime were previously decreased to only nine horses due to the price slump of the market by import liberalization and the competition with the production expansion in the fi shing industry. Once these Kandachime were faced with the possibility of extinction, the community and Aomrori Prefecture enthusiastically undertook the conservation of these well-loved symbols of history. Thanks to the donation at Hello Net Aomori. the numbers currently remain about 30 of Kandachime.

Shiriyazaki Lighthouse
Shiriyazaki Lighthouse is located in the northeastern tip of Aomori Prefecture on Shimokita peninsula. There are pastured horses“Kandachime” nearby the white chalk lighthouse; as a result, the area has become a scenic spot. The park gate is closed during winter (Dec 1st ? March 31st). The lighthouse is open to the public around July 20th which is a national holiday: “Ocean Day.”

History
- October 20, 1876 The first lighthouse in Tohoku area was lighted.
- November 20, 1877 The first fog bell in Japan was installed.
- December 20, 1879 The first foghorn in Japan was installed; meanwhile, the date became a national foghorn memorial day.
- 1901: The lighthouse was developed to the Japan’s first privately electric generated lighthouse.
- 1945: The lighthouse was destroyed by the US military attack and stopped running.
- Summer 1946 The destroyed lighthouse glowed strangely.
- August 1946 Temporary light was installed on the fog light building; meanwhile, the strange phenomenon naturally stopped.
- 1951: The lighthouse was restored.
- 1976: The 100th anniversary of the lighthouse

Mythology of the lighthouse
During World War II, the lighthouse was damaged by the US military’s attack in which the lighthouse operator died in the line of duty. The following year, a lot of people witnessed the destroyed lighthouse glowed strangely. In fact, distressed fi sherman’s boats found their way back home and people were rescued. The local people could not help thinking it must have been the spirit of the lighthouse operator. After installing the temporary light the same year, the strange phenomenon stopped. Nevertheless, the tragic attack’s damages still remain at the site.

Driving Directions to Cape Shiriya
Approximate driving time: 3 hours from the Main Gate
From the main gate, turn right at the city office. Turn right at Sushi Hanadate (pink and purple sign) past Misawa City Hospital. When you hit the T, turn left. Soon afterwards turn right and go across railroad tracks. You are now on Rt. 8. Drive 30 km. and it merges into Rt. 4 in Noheji Town. Drive another 1 km. and turn left on to Rt. 279 (an incomplete highway). Drive for 13 km. to the highway’s end and turn left at T, drive 700 m. and you will hit Rt. 279, a.k.a. Mutsu-Hamanasu Line. Turn right onto it and drive further north along the beach for around 17 km. You will see Nanohana Plaza on your right.
From Nanohana Plaza, drive further north on Rt. 279 for about 26 km. You are now in Mutsu City. Turn right at the Shell gas station on to Rt. 6. Drive another 25 km. until you see the entrance to Kandachime Horse visitor center on your left. It's about 2 km. to the cape.

Page Top


No. 130 (12/26/08)

New Year celebrations around the world

By Robert Finley
Chief Writer

New Year's Day is one of the most widely celebrated holidays in the world since it was fi rst moved to January 1 way back in 153 B.C. From the Americas to Asia, and everywhere in-between, people of all backgrounds come together to say goodbye to the previous year and welcome in the new one.

Many of you may be familiar with the traditional celebrations held in America -- parties, drinking, hanging out with friends while waiting to watch the ball drop in Times Square, etc., but New Year's Day holds many different meanings and is celebrated in many different ways around the world. Let's take a look at how New Year's is celebrated in Japan first (thanks to www.fathertimes.net for the following info!):

Sunrise over Mt.Fuji In Japan, Oshogatsu (“New Year”) is a family-oriented holiday in which most stores and offi ces are closed for the day. Many Shinto traditions are carried over in their celebrations, such as the practice of hanging a straw rope in front of their homes, which is said to stand for good luck and good will. Also in line with the Shinto beliefs is the practice of decorating the home with evergreens (which represent eternal life) and bamboo (which represent honesty).

When the clock strikes midnight, many Japanese people laugh in the New Year, which is said to also bring good luck for the laughers.

Temple bells ring out to send off the old year, and are followed by the joyano-kane (“night-watch bell”), which is 108 continuous rings of the bells in accordance with the Buddhist belief that the rings will free the people from the 108 evil earthly desires as described in Buddhist dogma.

The New Year is celebrated the fi rst two weeks of January, and each “first” that occurs (referred to as a hatsu) is recognized during this period. For example, the fi rst crow of a rooster is referred to as the hatsu-dori, the first visit to a temple or shrine is called hatsu-mode, and the first business day is called goyohajime. During the second week, kakizome (“first writing”) occurs. This is when people will take a Burch and inscribe a favorite poem or proverb onto paper.

A popular decoration is the paper lobster. Lobsters are reportedly used because of their curved backs, which are reminiscent of elderly people, and many wishes for the New Year include a wish for a long life.

Two big festivals help bring in the New Year in Japan -- The Greater and the Lesser festivals. In the Greater Festival, people pray for the dead and exchange gifts with friends. In the Lesser Festival, people pray for healthy crops, and rituals to scare off birds occur. Japan has some very unique and interesting ways to celebrate the New Year. But what about other countries? Let’s take a quick look at how New Year's is celebrated in England. Similar to how people gather in Times Square in the United States, the English people gather in Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus (among other places) to hear Big Ben ring in the New Year. Once the clock strikes midnight, the crowds link arms and sing “Auld Lang Syne,” the most famous New Year's song. First-footing, a custom that is supposed to ensure good luck, is to be conducted by a dark-haired male who is young, healthy, and good-looking. They must carry on them a piece of coal, money, some bread, and some salt. All of these represent wealth in its many forms. Children sing carols around their neighborhoods for rewards such as money and sweets.

Speaking of Auld Lang Syne, do you know what that song is all about? Its origins date back to 1788, when Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote a poem titled “Auld Lang Syne" s lyrics to a traditional folk song. The meaning of Auld Lang Syne translates into many different ways, all of which refer to days gone by or something to that effect. Here are the original lyrics, according to Wikipedia:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And days o' lang syne?
CHORUS:
For auld lang syne, my jo,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.
And surely ye'll be your pint-stowp!
And surely I'll be mine!
And we'll tak a cup o' kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.
(CHORUS)
We twa hae run about the braes,
And pu'd the gowans fi ne;
But we've wander'd mony a weary foot, Sin auld lang syne.
(CHORUS)
We twa hae paidl' di' the burn,
Frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar'd Sin auld lang syne.
(CHORUS)
And there's a hand, my trusty fiere!
And gie's a hand o’thine!
And we'll tak a right gude-willy waught,
For auld lang syne.
(CHORUS)

Now that you have a little more of a background in the holiday, I hope you will appreciate it a little more, or maybe pick up a new custom or tradition that you and your friends can do to welcome in the New Year. Have a happy and safe one!

Page Top


No. 129 (12/12/08)

Naqua Shirakami: More than just a first class ski resort

By Simon Bernard
Guest Writer

skiin Naqua Shirakami Ski Resort Living in Misawa gives you close proximity to some of the best snow in Japan.

Hakkoda, with 8 mountains and no groomed slopes, is paradise for back country and powder snow hounds. Skiing in Hakkoda requires higher skill level than that of regular ski resorts. It is suggested that you carry a backpack, snowshoes and poles even if you plan on just going on the “official” courses.

Getting a guide to take you off course to back country is the best way to enjoy the snow and awesome scenery without getting hurt or wasting time navigating thru unfamiliar turf. See my home page for all the information you need.

If you are more of a recreational skier/boarder or even a beginner, you should defi nitely check out “Naqua Shirakami” formerly Ajigasawa Ski Resort. Shirakami is the name of the mountainous area in western Aomori. It is a United Nations World Heritage beech tree forest preservation area.

skiin Naqua Shirakami Ski Resort Located on the north slope of Mt. Iwaki, the highest mountain in Aomori prefecture. With one gondola and four lifts, you can fi nd the right terrain for your ski and snowboard level. You have your choice of skiing in the daytime overlooking the Sea of Japan or in the evening under the lights and stars!

Naqua Shirakami is more than just a 1st class ski resort and hotel. There are fi ne dining restaurants, hot springs, massage, fi tness center and live local music found there.

Evening events include the Nebuta festival floats on snow, fireworks, a winter and Christmas carnival, and visits to the Suntory Ice Bar.

Naqua Shirakami is a great place for the whole family. Fun for kids includes snow mobiles, snow tubing, a bouncy house and even ski lessons in English! Snow caves, snow candles, snow slides and various other playground toys are available so kids can have fun playing in the snow.

You don't ski but the family does? No problem, you can catch a ride on the snow-limo to get the feeling of being on the slopes without learning to ski! Special ski and family packages are available to folks in Misawa base. Don't wait too long to make your Christmas and New Year's bookings. Call Misawa ITT at 226-3555 to reserve a holiday or weekend get away. Looking for just a day trip? Contact Outdoor Rec. or the Mogul Mashers Ski Club.

Driving Directions
Go out the main gate; turn right at the second street after the light. Turn right at the 4th street, you will end up going around the perimeter of the base. Turn right at the Y and you will be on Rt. 8. From the Y go 16 km. and turn left at the Circle K light. Go 0.7km and turn right, go over the bridge and go straight, this road will eventually take you to the Michinoku Toll road. After paying the toll 820 yen, continue straight 8km. till you see the sign for Aomori Higashi Expressway. Turn left to get on the expressway. After a few kilometers you will come to a booth to get a ticket, continue straight toward Namioka , this expressway will merge with the Tohoku Expressway bound for Tokyo. Get off at the fi rst interchange Namioka and pay the toll 800 yen. Continue straight and you will run into the Tsugaru Expressway. Go to the end of this expressway (no charge), when it ends turn left.

You will now be on Rt. 156. You will go about 7km and turn right at the Circle K light. (On this 7km. stretch you will pass by Elm Shopping Center, go over a big bridge where the road changes names to Rt.154 and then you will go by Aeon Jusco Mall). After turning at the Circle K light (you will be on Rt.37), go about 1km to the stop light and turn left onto Rt. 101(there is an Asahi pachinko parlor there). Now go about 8km. and turn left onto Rt.39, there is a “Michi no Eki” (road station) called Morita Earth Top at the stop light. Go 10km. and turn right at the “T”. You are now on Rt. 30. After 700 meters you will come to a light with the sign in Japanese for the ski resort. Turn left and follow for 3km. until you arrive at the resort.

Page Top


No. 128 (11/28/08)

Misawa’s Lomi Lomi Studio

By Arisa Brown
Staff Writer

Come relax to the soft sounds of the ocean and the soothing tunes of Hawaiian music, with a wonderful massage from Misawa’s Lomi Lomi Studio. Located only 10 minutes out the POL gate, anyone can enjoy the traditional Hawaiian methods of massage from a highly qualifi ed and dedicated staff. From a special menu designed to satisfy your massaging needs, one can choose from a variety of courses including deep tissue and a newer form of maternity massage. There is even a couple’s massage available for those who would like to experience the healing and relaxing powers of Lomi Lomi together. Or even try a group massage, up to 3 or 4 people.

So how does Lomi Lomi massage work? And what makes it unique from the many other types of massages out there? Lomi Lomi fi nds its roots in the islands of Hawaii where it has been practiced and passed down from generation to generation. “Huna” or the belief in harmony and balance in all areas of the body including physical and emotional health is what Lomi Lomi is based on. The masseuse or practitioner will use a healing force coming from the core of their body, combined with positive feelings and love, hence its nick-name “the loving touch”. They will then perform the massage with the use of thumbs, elbows, arms and hands in a rhythmic fl ow. It is even said that this rhythm passed from masseuse to client will create a sensation where the receiver of the massage will feel as if they are fl oating along in the waves of the ocean. Warm oil is also used in Lomi Lomi in order to allow the hands of the masseuse to fl ow, and since many of the oils used are scented, they have a double effect of aroma therapy.

Misawa’s Lomi Lomi provides for this type of healing and relaxing, where clients are welcomed into a very clean and warm massage studio. Decorated in colorful Hawaiian prints, each massage bed is heated throughout the session. As one lays down for their desired massage it is easy to unwind to the calming music and enjoy the scent of their special ordered herbal mixture oil. Afterwards, a refreshing drink of juice, water, or tea is provided along with a chance to schedule your next appointment.

Fitness Hula Lessons
Anyone up for dancing? The Lomi Lomi massage studio also holds a number of hour long Fitness Hula dancing classes all week long! There are four types of classes one can attend, depending upon their level. There is also a children’s class, for it is believed that you can never be too young or too old to practice hula. Everyone who attends the classes is instructed in all aspects of the dance through rally. Starting with basic hip and foot movement, hand movement is then added with an explanation of each hand movement’s meaning. For example: a fl ick of both wrists in the air from one side of the body to the other symbolizes falling stars through the night sky. Lastly the combination of all movements and steps is practiced with its matching song.

Hula is not only fun, but benefi cial to your health. It is a safe, easy and effective form of exercise that can be practiced in class or the privacy of your own home. It is known to improve posture and at the same time strengthening lower body muscles such as the lower back, thighs and lower torso. It may seem a slower pace of exercise, but it is surprising how much of a sweat can be built up after just one class. For anyone who is interesting in trying out these classes stop by or call. The staff at Lomi Lomi speak both English and Japanese. And there is no need to worry about a hula skirt, as you can purchase them there at a very reasonable price. So if you are interested, try a combination of both for the ultimate taste of Hawaiian health, beauty and relaxation for mind, body and soul.

Page Top


No. 127 (11/14/08)

Misawa’s market street beautification project

By Arisa Brown
Staff Writer

It was September 11th, and despite the overcastted weather and a slight rain showers, a portion of the American Village Project was taking place right out the main gate. The beautification project of the Misawa market street directed by Mr. Baba Department of Development coordinator. On White Pole Road, Mr. Baba, a few volunteers, a crew from Japanese cable television and members from the Misawa community stood waiting, as cars and taxies pulled up carrying teachers, and children from Fun and Learning Center. A number of supportive parents with cameras showed up dressed as their children were to paint the store shutter especially reserved for this project. Paint buckets were layed out on a large plastic sheet in front of the shutter that had been prepared with a freshly painted park scene focusing on an empty garden.

Kelli Coughlin, the director of Fun and Learning Center, called for the attention of the excited children so that they could listen to instructions from volunteer Arisa Brown. It was explained to the children that this empty garden had to be filled. This would be done by dipping their hands in paint to make prints which would then be converted into blooming flowers. There was a very mixed reaction to these words as some children screamed and others looked like they had no idea what she was saying.

Yet with the help of parents the children were guided first to trays, where little hands were covered in paint and then splatted onto the shutter. As soon as the children grasped the concept of making prints the work went fast. Teachers, as well as some parents were also seen rushing to get a few prints in too. The project was finished in a matter of 30 minutes. Faces, rain boots and clothes smudged with paint, the children seemed content with their work and the project was ended with a snack and bottle of juice provided by the Misawa Chamber of Commerce.

This project was coordinated in such a manner as to promote friendship between the Misawa City and Misawa Airbase communities. Mr.Baba says that it is the wish of the Misawa community to encourage further activities with the American community. He says that it would be nice if those children who took part in the painting would consider Misawa their home away from home. And that by painting the shutters, they could hopefully come back to Misawa one day from wherever they are in the world, and see their work still standing in years to come.

Great master of calligraphy supports the market street beautification project
For anyone who has visited the Mokuteki cafe, one of the first places you will come upon near the entrance, is a quaint booth decorated with tapestries and painting boards adorned in beautiful writings. Here Mr. Koki Takahashi who has lived in Misawa for many years runs a calligraphy or “Shoydo” shop five days a week. Mr.Takahashi, originally from Iwataken, went to college at the age 24 in order to become a teacher. He then graduated at the age of 28 and moved to Misawa to teach at a high school and then a college. Mr.Takahashi also traveled to Europe and America during college, helping him to pick us some English. Currently, he is retired and runs the shop out of his love for calligraphy, which he has been practicing since childhood. By having his shop on base he hopes to open the world of shyodo to visitors, and express the beauty and significance of calligraphy itself to his customers and anyone else who is interested in this age-old art form.

When Mr. Takahashi heard about the beautification of White Pole Road being a joint effort between the children of Misawa Air base and the Misawa community, he was very moved. He too wanted to participate in shape or form. Therefore, what better way then to use his skill in calligraphy to produce individual awards for each child who partook in painting. On white rice paper award boards, he elegantly wrote the name of each child both in English and Japanese, with the Japanese portion broken down so that the meaning of each kanji could be read in English. He then painted one large kanji such as “Kokoro” meaning soul or mind, to show that the children’s efforts held a deep and significant meaning to both communities. These along with a thank you written by the city and a group picture were presented to the children of the Fun and learning center. Everyone was pleased with the awards, making the whole experience even more memorable to all.

Mr. Takahashi also teaches calligraphy at the Mokuteki Cafe. For those who are interested or would like to learn more about Japanese calligraphy, stop by for more information.

Page Top


No. 126 (10/24/08)

Relax and enjoy the wonderful outdoors and hot springs of Yagen Valley

By Arisa Brown
Staff Writer

As we enter autumn, the season of cool winds and mountains sitting ablaze with warm-colored leaves, the valley of Yagen remains a quaint welcoming spot for outdoor activities and calming relaxation. Yagen is located in the Shimokita region 3 hours north of Misawa Air Base. An easy drive, anyone can enjoy the fall time scenery of rice paddies and small towns while approaching Mutsu city and turning into the valley located in the mountains. Yagen Valley called Yagen-keikoku, is home to a number of outdoor and indoor hot springs. As one drives up the mountain to the valley, the first attraction lays across a small bridge on the left, hanging over a river. This leads to an open area where a well-groomed campsite is available through the warmer half of the year.

The camping area is set up to be easily accessible and family friendly. For only 500 yen per person, one can pitch a tent on a grassy field and enjoy the use of a number of grills, benches, and tables all sitting under overhangs, which is a wonderful feature for the temperamental weather of the area. Cold water showers, and a laundry facility are also available to campers. There is even a garbage facility on the premises where all trash can be throw away in separate cubicles labeled in both Japanese and English. Bundles of firewood selling for 250 yen per bundle can be found in the manager’s office located at the edge of the site.

Driving further along the main road leads to a small cluster of stores and restaurants. Here one can buy souvenirs, enjoy a bowl of ramen, or stock up on local liquors, beer and snacks. The first segregated onsen is located here and can be enjoyed during its morning or evening hours. At the end of this little area is the Hotel New Yagen with its own onsen, a small souvenir shop, and delicious course meals for those who would rather stay in a room with a bed then camp outdoors.

Traveling further up will take you along a winding road provides a breathtaking view of the valley and river cutting through the rocks. Alongside the road are multiple wooden signs with kanjis marking the openings to small footpaths through the woods that run the length of the river. On some of these trails there are little openings to areas where tables and benches covered in moss, allow for picnics or nice little rest stops surrounded by trees and accompanied by the sound of the river below.

Right after exiting a tunnel, on the side of the road lays the first outdoor onsen. This co-ed hot spring actually has no name and is simple referred to as “yu,” meaning hot water. When it is darker it may be tricky to this spot, as it is fairly small and the only lighting is natural. But a narrow stone stairway leads down into its smaller top portion, which is hotter and somewhat maintained. A few more steps will take you to its lower portion that is cooler and completely natural. The bottom is uneven and covered in moss, making it slightly slippier and more pleasant if covered by a towel. However the view from this point is breathtaking and depending upon the time of day, one can enjoy either the sun or a moonlit sky full of stars.

To reach the last two onsens, just a five-minute drive further up the mountain will take you to the Kappa no yu onsen. This co-ed onsen is said to be the original onsen and is unmaintained (free). Parking into the gravely area next to a bridge will take you to the top of a stone staircase which ends at the rim of the onsen. There is a small wooden structure for changing, lined with wooden cubbies to hold personal items. To locals, the temperature is considered a little colder, but to others it is said to be just right. And this onsen is slightly lit during the evening, and open 24 hours a day. There is also no moss and the floor is leveled making for better footing.

The last onsen is actually across the street from Kapp-no-yu, called the Meoto Kapa-no Yu. This Onsen is state-funded and gender segregated, with a paved parking area and adjoining indoor cafeteria styled restaurant. For those who are looking for a well-maintained onsen with a great view of the valley, this onsen is perfect. One can sit back and relax while enjoying scenery of the woods and beautiful river below. Afterwards, the house specialty of hot noodles and ice-cold beer can be ordered to complete the experience. Souvenirs of fresh picked wild mushrooms or delicious homemade oden can be found at the entranceway food stand. So for those who would like to experience a wonderful combination of nature, outdoor activities and calming hot springs, check out Yagen valley. For more information, stop by the outdoor recreational center or ITT. Both provide directions and useful information that will make your trip to Yagen a memorable addition to your experience in Northern Japan.

Page Top


No. 125 (10/10/08)

Fish are Jumpin' at 25th Annual Rokkasho Salmon Festival

By Simon Bernard
Guest Writer

The village of Rokkasho, a fledgling community of about 12,000 residents, boasts two big attractions: a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant and the annual Salmon Festival along the Pacific Ocean.

Rokkasho is roughly 20 miles north of Misawa Air base making the event very accessible for service members and their families.

The Salmon Festival will be Oct. 25 and 26 at the Rokkasho Port. The event was established 25 years ago to promote tourism in the area. It has since grown to be the longest running salmon festival in Aomori. The festival takes place Oct. 25 from 9:30 to 15:45 and Oct. 26 from 10:00 to 17:00. Events include rounds of salmon catching and salmon racing each day. The ankle deep pool is stocked with almost 2,000 salmon for the festival.

To participate in the salmon catch (done by hand), people can purchase advanced tickets at Misawa ITT. Advanced tickets are cheaper than buying tickets at the event and tickets sell out every year so buy early.

In addition, the first 6 people that catch their salmon during each round can participate (for free) in the salmon race. Your will be able to race your salmon against the competition to win a prize!

Entrance to the festival is free of charge. For those catching by hand, it is recommended to bring your own wading boots and gloves. Many people prefer to participate bare-foot. A warm change of clothes is recommended because everyone who participates gets wet during the salmon catch.

Traditional folk dancers, popular bands and singers, and many other performers will be featured on the festival’s stage. Other events include seafood and vegetable wholesale markets, local delicacy mini sales, and bingo. You can buy a ticket at the site for the Beef Bar-B-Q and they will set you up will all you need to cook your own!

Free contests include a clam game where you try to get as many as you can into a plastic bottle with a small opening with chop sticks; sake (for adults) or milk drinking (for kids) contest trying to leave a winning amount in the glass, and a squid peeling /naga-imo (Japanese long yam potato) grating contest, fun for the whole family.

400 FREE SALMON WILL BE GIVEN AWAY TO THE FIRST 400 PEOPLE STARTING AT 9:30 SATURDAY MORNING! Line up at the reception/information booth to get a ticket which you can exchange for the salmon at 12 noon.

The festival is not for commercial purposes. The catch helps preserve local fishery resources. During the festival, local fishermen also catch salmon and extract their eggs. The eggs are hatched and released the following spring at the upper stream of the Oippe River. In three to five years, the grown fish make their way back to Rokkasho.

Salmon fishing in Japanese rivers is prohibited. The salmon used at the Rokkasho festival are all ocean caught, (not in the rivers like other salmon festivals) before they go in to the spawning (chum) phase, making them the freshest, best tasting salmon you can get your hands on.
This festival has more of a “blue-collar” atmosphere as the locals come out on Sunday morning to race their home-grown horses and wrestle their dogs for bragging rights. It has become quite popular and last year attracted thousands of sightseers. English speaking staff will be on hand around the festival to help you. For more information call Misawa ITT at 226-3555.

If you go:
Rokkasho Town is only a 45 minute drive north of Misawa Air Base. Go out the main gate, turn left at the first light and go straight until you hit the T at the Pacific Ocean. Turn left, you will now be on Rt. 338 going north. From the T go 21.9km and turn right at the light (there will be a convenience store on the left at this light). Follow this road 6.6 km and turn right (the sign will point to the Rokkasho Village Office) follow this road 6.6 kilometers and turn right (there is a small post office on the left). This road will take you to the festival site at the pier.

Rokkasho Salmon Festival Schedule of Events
Events take place rain or shine
Saturday, October 25
9:30 to 10:00 Free salmon ticket give away to the fi rst 400 people.
10:00 to 10:20 Opening ceremony
10:00 to 15:00 Seafood and vegetable wholesale fair
10:30 to 11:30 The Ichiro Kuroishi Comedy Dance Show
From 11:30 Do-it-yourself Beef Bar-B-Q starts.
From 11:30 Mini Salmon egg on rice delicacy sale
11:30 to 12:00 Shijimi Clam game (stage area)
12:00 to 12:30 Distribution of free salmon for ticket holders.
12:30 to 13:00 Salmon Catch/ Salmon Race (1st Round)
13:15 to 13:45 Sake(adult)/Milk (children)drinking contest
13:45 to 14:15 Salmon Catch/ Salmon Race (2nd Round)
14:15 to 15:15 Rock Shu-S concert
15:15 to 15:45 Salmon Catch/ Salmon Race (3rd Round)

Sunday, October 26
10:00 to 11:15 Torio the onchos Dance Show and RAB Utchan/Mika-chan live radio show
10:00 to 15:00 Seafood and vegetable wholesale fair
10:00 to 14:00 Tsuri San Pei fi shing contest
11:00 to 11:30 Salmon Catch/ Salmon Race (1st Round)
11:15 to 11:30 Gucchi the clown performance show (stage)
From 11:30 Beef Bar-B-Q
From 11:30 Mini Salmon egg on rice delicacy sale

Other Special Events
1. Salmon catching by pole. October 23rd to 26th. Catch up to 3 fi sh per day. Men 2000 yen, women and children 1000 yen. Bring your own pole and bait or rent at the site.
2. Children's Green Group will be giving away tree saplings and collecting donations. October 25th from 9:30 to 10:30
3. Save The Environment Experiments will be performed on the site October 25th and 26th starting at 10:00
4. Tohoku Strong Horse Iron Pull Competitions will be held on Sunday staring at 8:00 next to the festival site. Horses compete in different classes pulling up to 500 kilograms of weight on sleds up and downhill. An amazing sight!
5. Mastiff Dog wrestling will be held on Sunday starting at 8:00 next to the festival site. This is not what Michael Vick does! The dogs wrestle until one whelps and the match is over. Culturally accepted in Aomori, but probably not for the faint of heart.

Page Top


No. 124 (9/26/08)

Now & Then of Misawa City with Misawa Air Base by Nakai World Liquor Shop

By Arisa Brown
The Insider Staff Writer

This year the streets of Misawa City are decorated with blue and white flags as the bustle of numerous festivities are enjoyed by both American and Japanese citizens. Misawa is celebrating its 50th anniversary along with the existing bond of friendship between the city and Misawa Air Base. As can be seen by residents, much has changed through the years and many events have taken place leading to the ever-growing and improving city so that Misawa citizens and the American military preside together in harmony today.

In order to appreciate its current position as a flourishing city, it is important to look back at the beginning of the city's development and at the people themselves who attributed to its positive growth. Therefore, an interview with Mr. Nakai, currently the owner of Worlds Liquor, was requested by our staff. Mr. Nakai, who has been living in Misawa for the last 70 years, graciously agreed and sat down with us, recalling first hand accounts of what it was like to grow up in post WWII Misawa.

At that time, Misawa was a farming community rather than a city. There were no stores or restaurants as there are today. And unpaved roads were driven by horse-pulled wooden carts. The majority of buildings were houses with surrounding fields as far as the eye could see. When we asked Mr. Nakai about the reaction to American soldiers arriving and a permanent Air Force Base being established, he said that the initial reaction was fear. A rumor had gotten to Misawa before the Air Base did, saying that the American soldiers heading their way would kill all the men and take all the women of Misawa. The only way to be safe was to pack up their horse-pulled carts and flee to the mountains of Towada.

Mr. Nakai said that many believed that this might be true (though he did not). On the other hand, many did not. This led to the town being half-packed and the awaiting of the American soldiers・arrival. We then asked him what the first soldiers were like. He said that he distinctly remembers that they were all very young, and of African-American heritage. There were no Caucasian soldiers until a little later. He mentioned that he likes seeing the integration of the American military today. At that time Mr. Nakai was about 18 years old. He said that 2 years later he started working on the base. And by the time he took over his father's business of running a liquor store, he had worked at the commissary and the Base Laundromat.

Around that time, Misawa started to alter as it saw a growing demand for businesses in correlation to the needs of the soldiers and others moving into Misawa looking for work. The "shotengai" or market street, along White Pole Road is a result of the stimulation that the opening of the Air Base brought to the area. Then Mr. Nakai recalls that after the need for stores, the next businesses to boom were the bars. At one time there was a whole district strictly of bars catering to American soldiers. This area no longer exists, but when it did, it was segregated into bars serving either black soldiers or white soldiers, but not both. There was even a bar patrol that would make sure there were no mingling of soldiers of different colors and would pull someone out who was in the wrong bar. Mr. Nakai also mentioned that around this time cars started to appear in Misawa. Soldiers and officers of high rank would import cars from America and would try to drive them along the dirt roads of Misawa.

He then recalled that at that time, the Japanese businesses were not allowed to sell alcohol directly to American soldiers. This remained an issue for a while and was finally approved by both the Base and by Misawa City officials. When it did become allowed, Mr. Nakai sought to expand his selection of liquors to include things that could be considered exotic, interesting and original. He wanted Americans to see and try the many types of shochu and sake produced only in Japan. This proved a success which then encouraged him to continue improving his selection. A little while after liquor became accessible to American soldiers, the United States military started to allow families to accompany soldiers to Misawa Air Base. This caused an even greater change to the Misawa community as they soon realized that the next business that would be in demand were restaurants. Mr. Nakai says, thanks to families, we have restaurants in Misawa today. And, as the number of families expanded, it became necessary for housing to extend off-base. Therefore, clusters or neighborhoods of American-only houses were built by the Japanese "daikusan"or carpenters. He said that he had invested in some of these, and that at the time it was interesting to see how the Daikusan tried to make the houses differently to fit the needs of the American soldiers and their families. Misawa then continued to grow, streets became paved and businesses boomed. Mr. Nakai said that there were a number of issues that would arise having to do with Misawa City and the Air Base. But all in all, when these conflicts were resolved, the bond between the two only became stronger. Today we see the result of this right outside the main gate with the America Village project currently in progress. Misawa City is also planning future events in hopes of continuing to promote the friendship between Misawa Air Base and Misawa City.

Nakai Worlds Liquor stands at the top of their game as having the largest selection of liquors and tobacco in Misawa. Mr. Nakai, the current owner of Worlds Liquor has always tried to provide a wide selection of Japanese, American, and foreign beers and liquors for both American and Japanese customers. He is constantly researching what is popular, what may strike interest, and what he thinks his customers should try.

Right now his best selling beers are Corona, Miller Light, and Japanese Super Dry. He has been working on expanding his wine selection along with his European beer selection. Yet, he now wants to revert attention back to his selection of Nihonshu (Japanese liquor), including shochu and sake. He noticed that many of his customers can not tell the difference between the two liquors, and he wants to launch a series of tastings along with signs all written in English describing the taste and grade of each sake and shochu. He realizes that more and more of his America customers are enjoying traditional Japanese foods and sushi, which they would like to pair with a nice bottle of sake. Therefore he thought it would be helpful for them to do so if they could choose their own bottle of shochu or sake to go with a meal by reading a detailed description in English. So for anyone who is interested in discovering the world of Japanese liquor or anything not normally found in a supermarket, try visiting Worlds Liquors.

Page Top


No. 124 (9/26/08)

Japanese glass floats: from fisherman's tool to collector's item

By Robert Finley
The Insider Chief Writer

While perusing a local antique shop or the occasional bazaars held on base, you may have encountered an unusual item: a glass fishing float, ranging in all shapes, sizes, and colors. The Japanese glass fishing floats have a long and interesting history among fishers and hobbyists alike. Depending on the size, which could range from two to 20 inches, you could spend a good amount of money on these unique collectibles ? that is, if you don’t happen upon one that has washed up on a nearby beach.

Fishermen first used Glass floats in the mid-19th Century, in Norway. The trend made its way through Europe, Russia, North America, and Japan, where Japanese fishermen began using glass floats in the early 20th Century.

The glass floats were originally hand-blown by glassblowers, who often used recycled sake bottles to produce the floats. Air bubbles can often be seen in the glass, which is indicative of the expedited recycling process. Once the desired shape and size was achieved, the float was sealed with a “button,” which was marked with an identifying seal. Over time, wooden molds were used to produce the glass floats. The use of the wooden molds helps to distinguish between the hand-blown and the molded floats due to the rings imprinted on the floats that were created in molds. It was much more common for the larger floats to be made in molds than the smaller ones.

Fishermen would craft nets around the glass floats and use them while catching fish. Oftentimes, the floats would detach themselves form the nets, or the nets themselves would come free of their bindings and set the floats drifting out to sea. It is estimated that there are millions of floats still at sea, possibly stuck in the Pacific Ocean’s Kuroshio (Black Stream) Current.

As advances in fishing came along in the 20th Century, more durable, reliable materials began to be used by fishermen, and the glass float became obsolete. While that was the end of its practical use, a whole new life awaited these unique orbs.

Collectors from all over Japan and the West Coast of the United States have become addicted to finding new floats, which will wash up periodically on various beaches, returning from having been lost at sea. The Hokuyo Glass Company of Aomori, Japan, for example, has had some glass floats wash ashore on nearby beaches.

Traders have been known to pay hundreds of dollars for authentic floats from specific companies. Replicas are often sold as well, and can be distinguished by their lack of bubbles in the glass, and the lack of a company insignia on the float’s button. The floats are often displayed in baskets, gardens, or even with hand-painted images encompassing the entire orb.

The next time you are at the beach, enjoying the nice weather and relaxing as the cool ocean breeze makes its way ashore, keep an eye on the shore to see if perhaps a glass float is making its way back home.

Page Top


No. 123 (9/12/08)

What's at steak? Find out at the 23rd Annual Takko Town Garlic and Beef Festival 2008!

By Simon Barnard
Guest writer

garlics on strings You don't need a round-trip ticket back to the USA to enjoy country music, dancing and big slice of beef, just head out to Takko Town Saturday and Sunday, September 27th and 28th for their 23rd Annual Garlic and Beef Festival to enjoy Texas barbecue Japanese style.

Nestled in the foothills of Aomori's mountains just southeast of Lake Towada, Takko Town's delicious beef is known throughout Japan. Drinking natural spring water is just one of the secrets of the health of the high quality cows called Japanese Black.

BBQ Takko Town's other claim to fame is that they are the #1 producer of garlic in Japan. Because of this, they have established sister city relationships with other internationally famous garlic producing areas such as Gilroy, Ca. Monticelli, Italy and Seosan, Korea. Each year student and music exchanges take place. These community members also attend each other's festivals, giving the 2nd day extravaganza a very international flavor. Also this year, the Garlic Queen of Gilroy, California and her entourage will be on hand to meet you!

western dance Each October, the main event at the festival is the Yakiniku (Bar-B-Q) Party with Takko beef which you can season with specially produced garlic tare (sauce) to enhance the flavor. Taking place at the 2-2-9 DOME (pronounced ni-ni-ku, the same word for garlic in Japanese) just at the bottom of the ski lift, the indoor and outdoor venues means no matter what the weather brings, everyone can remain warm and dry!

garlic spitting contest There will be a lot of entertainment happening at the inside and outside stages. The lineup includes many games for children as well as a bouncy house. There will be country dance shows, garlic spitting contest, garlic sumo and garlic putting. Other shows include the Nanyadoyara Bon dance dating back 630 years, Takko Kangura dance and Yosakoi Soran dancers. There will also be a raffle each day for all advance ticket holders for the Bar-B-Q with lots of great prizes. English interpreters will also be available.

garlic sumo The entrance to the festival is free, but to participate in the Bar-B-Q you should buy an advanced ticket. This will insure you a big slice of the mouth watering Takko Beef. Advanced ticket holders will receive a Bar-B-Q set of beef and veggies for you to cook yourself. Do-it-yourself cooking areas will be set up at the site!

To get an advanced ticket, go to the Misawa ITT ($19) or the information booth at Shimoda Mall (2000 yen). If you are not able to get an advanced ticket, it will not be possible to get in on the Bar-B-Q. You can not buy a Bar-B-Q set at the festival this year. Misawa ITT will also have a shuttle bus from the base to the venue on Sat. Sept. 27th. Call 226-3555 for more information!

It goes without saying there will be a lot of booths selling many different kinds of great tasting Japanese foods and drinks. A group of country line dancers from Misawa Air Base will be on hand Saturday afternoon to get your feet slap-happy.

Again there will be lots of events for children as well! If after the festival you are still in an adventurous mood, you can drive the road up higher to the top of the ski lift for a breathtaking autumn colored view. There is also a yakiniku restaurant at the top there. Allow yourself some time so you can also visit the famous Miroku waterfalls by going back down to Rt. 104, turning right and driving about 20 more minutes.

Takko Town Garlic Festival 2008 Schedule
Be advised that by press time not all the times for the schedule had been finalized.

SATURDAY, September 27th
10:30 Opening Ceremony
11:00 Garlic Putting Contest/ Garlic Sumo/Garlic spitting contest
12:00 TBA
12:30 Kangura Dance
13:00 or 14:00 Misawa Country Line Dancers
14:00 Raffle
14:30 Naniyadoyara Dance 15:00 Close

SUNDAY, September 28th
10:30 Opening
11:00 Garlic Putting Contest/ Garlic Sumo/Garlic spitting contest
11:30 Garlic Queen paper/rock/scissors contest (pending)
12:00 Karaoke (pending)
13:00 Sano Shachu Dance
13:30 Takko Team Country Dance
14:00 Raffle
14:20 Yosakoi
Soran Dance
15:00 Close

DIRECTIONS
It takes about an hour and a half to get to Takko Town from Misawa Air Base. Go out the Falcon Gate -- also called the POL gate預nd start counting lights. Turn left at the 13th light to get on the Dai Ni (no.2) Michinoku Expressway. At the 1st toll booth, pay 250 yen and get a ticket. Get off at the 2nd exit called Hachinohe Kita (north). After paying the toll, go to the light and turn right. After 2.8km turn left onto the off ramp, go down to the light and turn right. Follow this road (you will go by the Hachinohe Fish Market on your left side) 4km. and turn right at the light (big pachinko parlor on corner), you will now be on Rt. 104. Go 14 km. (you will go through Nagawa Town, now known as Nanbu Town) and turn left onto Rt. 4. Go 13 km. and turn left onto the off ramp (you will be in Sannohe Town). Go to stop sign and turn right, you are back on Rt. 104. Go 9.3 km and turn right onto Rt. 21(this turn off is just past the 3 stoplights in Takko Town). Follow this narrow road 6.7km and turn left at the fork (right before this turn there is an English sign for Soyu mura) another 1.5 km up the road turn right and you will be at the Festival! To get to Miroku waterfalls: Go back down Rt. 21 and turn right on Rt.104 go 15.1km (you will pass a light at the 9km mark) and turn left at the sign for Miroku Falls, go another 5km park and walk 3 to 4 minutes over to the waterfall. Drive carefully.

Page Top


No. 123 (9/12/08)

What to do when the ground starts shaking

By Robert Finley
The Insider Chief Writer

Misawa residents were recently rocked awake by a reported 6.8 earthquake that struck just after midnight on July 24, leaving more than 200 people injured and causing at least one death. Many of the military personnel here at Misawa may have never felt an earthquake before, and after feeling one like this, may ask themselves questions such as: why do they happen so often in Japan? What should you do to prepare for an earthquake? What should you do during one? After one? Japan has the unfortunate luck of having been formed along the convergent boundary of the Pacific Plate’s western portion. Convergent boundaries are the boundaries between tectonic plates where one plate is being pushed under another in a process known as subduction (in Japan’s case, the Pacific Plate is being pushed under the Eurasian and Philippine Plates).

Subduction zones have been known to create strong earthquakes on land, and devastating tsunamis in the ocean. The portion of the Pacific Plate that Japan resides on is known as the Pacific Ring of Fire, for its frequent and infamous volcanic and seismic activity. It is estimated that 90 percent of the world’s earthquakes (and 80-plus percent of the big quakes) happen along the Ring of Fire. It is estimated that an average of 1,500 earthquakes occur each year in Japan, and it is not uncommon for these quakes to range anywhere from four to six on the Richter scale. The bottom line is if you’re going to live in Japan, you’re going to have to get used to feeling the ground shake every now and then. But fear not – disaster experts have compiled a checklist of things to do before, during, and after an earthquake.

The American Red Cross has an extensive checklist of measures people in earthquake-prone areas should take to prepare for a quake:
Develop an earthquake plan:
・Choose a safe place in every room – under a sturdy table or desk or against an inside wall where nothing can fall on you
・Practice DROP, COVER, and HOLD ON at least twice a year. Drop under a sturdy desk or table, hold on, and protect your eyes by pressing your face against your arm. If there's no table or desk nearby, sit on the floor against an interior wall away from windows, bookcases, or tall furniture
・Take a first aid class. Keep your training current.
・Inform babysitters and caregivers of your plan.
Eliminate hazards in the home by:
・Bolting bookcases, china cabinets, and other tall furniture to wall studs.
・Installing strong latches on cupboards.
・Strapping the water heater to wall studs.
Create a supply kit for the home and car, to include:
・First aid kit and essential medications.
・Canned food and can opener.
・At least three gallons of water per person.
・Protective clothing, rainwear, and bedding or sleeping bags.
・Battery-powered radio, flashlight, and extra batteries.
・Special items for infant, elderly, or disabled family members.
・Written instructions for how to turn off gas, electricity, and water if authorities advise you to do so.
・Keep essentials, such as a flashlight and sturdy shoes, by your bedside.
The Red Cross goes on to list what actions you should take during the quake:
・DROP, COVER, and HOLD ON! Move only a few steps to a nearby safe place. Stay indoors until the shaking stops and you're sure it's safe to exit. Stay away from windows. In a high-rise building, expect the fire alarms and sprinklers to go off during a quake.
・If you are in bed, hold on and stay there, protecting your head with a pillow.
・If you are outdoors, find a clear spot away from buildings, trees, and power lines. Drop to the ground.
・If you are in a car, slow down and drive to a clear place (as described above). Stay in the car until the shaking stops.
These tips should help you get through the worst of it. But what about after an earthquake hits? Here are some more helpful tips from the Red Cross:
・Check yourself for injuries. Protect yourself from further danger by putting on long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, sturdy shoes, and work gloves.
・Check others for injuries. Give first aid for serious injuries.
・Eliminate fire hazards. Look for and extinguish small fires. Turn off the gas if you smell gas or think it's leaking. (Remember, only a professional should turn it back on.)
・Listen to the radio for instructions.
・Expect aftershocks. Each time you feel one, DROP, COVER, and HOLD ON!
・Inspect your home for damage. Get everyone out if your home is unsafe.
・Use the telephone only to report life-threatening emergencies.

With this information on hand, you should be better prepared to weather the next big quake. To see what other disaster information the Red Cross has to offer, please visit their Web site at http://www.redcross.org/services/disaster/.

Page Top


No. 122 (8/26/08)

Sushi- A true food for food lovers

By Arisa Brown
The Insider Staff Writer

The history of Sushi
The sushi we see today can be traced back to China and other parts of Southeast Asia from as early as the 3rd to 5th Centuries B.C. At the time, sushi was not prepared as a fresh little morsel on a cute dish; instead, the word “sushi” was a method for preserving cuts of fish. Though the technique varied somewhat depending on the region or country, the main idea was to take pieces of a fish, or a whole fish, wrap it with salt and rice, press it with stones or a heavy lid, and then leave it underground for anywhere between one to three years! When ready, they would open the package, wipe off all the liquefied rice, and then eat only the fish. It is said to be an acquired taste and to have a smell similar to blue cheese.

It is unclear when the original fermented version of sushi made its way to Japan, but it is thought to have been around the 8th Century. When it did, it started to alter as it spread throughout Japan. Slowly, people started to shorten the time of preservation and eat sushi with rice. By the 1700s, there were actually many types of sushi made from fermented fish that could be distinguished by which city or region it came from. Styles differed as to the use of vinegar, the amount of time it was fermented, and whether or not it was made and presented in a box. At the same time, the greatest differences were between the sushi in Edo (today Tokyo) and Osaka, once the capital of Japan. Yet it was not until the early 1800s that a man named Hanaya Yohei created the closest version of the sushi that we eat today. The idea behind his sushi was to prepare it as a grab-n-go meal for the busy people of Edo city, and came to be known as “Edomae” or nigirishushi. Thanks to Yohei, citizens could stop at his road side stand and enjoy the freshest and easiest sushi for the first time in history.

Sushi then became a very popular food and could be found on street corners, in movie theaters, and at summer festivals. This did not change much until the early 1900s, when the first refrigerator was created and began appearing in Japan. This allowed for fresh sushi to be enjoyed by a larger population and for the opportunity for more variety. Today, older forms of sushi, such as Narezushi from the 8th Century, still exist and are enjoyed throughout Japan, but nothing compares to a fresh slice of fish on soft vinegared rice.

Some fun sushi vocabulary
Neta – sushi topping
Wasabi – Japanese horseradish
Gari – Vinegared ginger
Shoyu – Soy sauce
Shari – Sushi rice

Traditional vs. Modern Sushi
Sushi has definitely made its way around the world and back in the last 20 years. Though the first appearance of sushi in the United States was actually in the 1730 by a chef in California, it can now be found all across America in a variety of Japanese restaurants. It seems that not only are these little delicacies considered a trendy fun food, but their health benefits have also become recognized and approved by the American public. Yet the most interesting aspect of the phenomena is the fact that traditional sushi (called nigirizushi) has become more colorful and innovative in its ingredients and presentation than ever before! We now have the pleasure of eating thick rolls of sushi made from a variety of creative combinations of ingredients from both Japan and America. Who would have thought that raw tuna chunks would go so well with cream cheese or avocados? And as for traditional sauce, who would have thought that soy sauce would have met its match in a spicy sauce made from chilies and mayonnaise?

It can even be said that as sushi from the states (such as the California Roll) made its way back to Japan, sushi restaurants here became equally creative, and now cater to a younger generation of sushi lovers who like to see sushi such as salmon nigirizushi, with a tower of sliced onions on top and covered with a zesty marinade. Either way, both the modern and traditional versions of sushi still retain the elements of scrumptious flavors, fresh ingredients and healthy advantages. A true food for food lovers!

Page Top


No. 122 (8/26/08)

Napoleon Bonaparte
The Spiritual and Cultural Legacy
Special Exhibit at Aomori Museum of Art

By Chiho Tsukiashi
The Insider staff writer

napoleon“Impossible is a word to be found only in the dictionary of fools” is a famous quote of Napoleon, rendering his indomitable courage and intelligence. At Aomori Museum of Art, his special exhibit is being held until September 7. Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) is known as a French military and political leader who had a major influence on modern European history. He was a general during the French Revolution, an emperor of France, and a king of Italy.

Napoleon also made achievements in promoting art, culture, and education. During his Egyptian expedition, a research group consisting of 167 scholars and artists accompanied him and founded Egyptology. Their accomplishments include the discovery of Rosetta Stone, which led to the decipherment of hieroglyphs. In France, he established many museums and even opened the door of The Louvre to the public. He also revived the jewelry industry, which was weakened during the revolution. During his reign, Empire-style art, which was inspired by Roman Empire and ancient Greek art, flourished.

At the Aomori Museum of Art, visitors go under the Arc de Triomphe projected on the wall to enter the special exhibit on Napoleon. Around 100 pieces are displayed, including Napoleon’s portraits, belongings, and manuscripts. Breathtaking jewelries, quality china dishes with Egyptian designs, and other valuable articles are also there to be appreciated.

In the furthest room from the entrance, Napoleon’s downfall and death are featured. He was imprisoned and then exiled by the British in 1815, to an isolated island of St. Helena in the Atlantic Ocean. In 1821, he died at the age of 52 from stomach cancer (some claimed it was intentional arcenic poisoning). In spite of his will to be buried in Paris, he was buried in an unmarked tomb on the island. Nineteen years later, his body was returned to Paris and given its final resting place in a chapel there. His deathbed and funeral in Paris are described in displayed drawings. His deathmask is showcased, too.

Admission for the special exhibit is 1,000 yen for adults, 700 yen for high school and college students, and 350 yen for junior high school and elementary school ages. To see ongoing exhibits, it is 1,400 yen for adults, 900 yen for high school and college students, and 350 yen for junior high school and elementary school ages. Right now, they are showing pieces themed around the four seasons in Aomori. Koji Ishi’s glaswares and Kojin Kudo’s delicate paintings capture especially well the beautiful seasons of Aomori. Eight FREE tickets for this special exhibit will be given to the Insider readers on first-come, first-serve basis. Send us an email or call at 52-6672 to reserve your tickets (Two tickets per request). You will be asked to pick the tickets up at our office after making an appointment on Aug 29th, Sep 1st, 3rd or 4th between 10am and 4pm.

Page Top


No. 121 (8/8/08)

U.S. Army Japan Band plays Towada Civic Cultural Center

By Robert Finley
The Insider chief writer

u.s. army band The United States Army Japan Band is scheduled to perform at the Jazz & Pops Live 2008 concert Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2008, at the Towada Civic Cultural Center, Towada City, Aomori prefecture.

The doors open at 6 p.m., and the concert begins at 6:30 p.m. Songs scheduled to be performed are: Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music;” Phil Collins’ “Sussudio;” Harry Connick, Jr.’s “You Didn’t Know Me When;” Glenn Miller’s “In The Mood,” “Moonlight Serenade,” and “String Of Pearls;” Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World;” Duke Ellington’s “C Jam Blues;” Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish;” the songs “LA Samba” and “Sing Sing Sing;” and many more (this song list is subject to change).

Stationed at Camp Zama, Yokohama, the USARJ Band is comprised of 40 total members, belonging to eight different ensembles: the Concert Band, Ceremonial Band, Marching Band, Kanto Kings (also known as the Dixieland Band), Brass Quintet, Woodwind Quintet, Jazz Ensemble (also known as Flash Point), and 8 Ball (also known as Fusion Group).

According to the USARJ Band’s Web site, the band is the Army Component Command of the U.S. Forces Japan, which is part of the U.S. Army, Pacific. Band members had to endure a very stringent audition in order to meet the band’s high standards that it expects from its musicians.

The band was formed in 1941 at Camp Davis, N. C., as the 96th Coastal Artillery Band, and toured the West Coast for years, before moving to Japan after World War II. Since its move to Japan, the band has played an integral part in upholding the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, which was signed in 1960 and provides the basis for the U.S. and Japan’s security relations, according to their Web site.

Each year, the band and its ensembles play numerous events, concerts, and festivals all over Japan (such as the Tokyo Budokan and the Japanese Air Self Defense Force’s Marching Festival), as well as in other countries. Their Web site estimates that the band plays to about 3,000,000 people in these various venues annually.

The Towada Civic Cultural Center’s Great Hall will be the stage for the concert. Concertgoers can travel to the Towada Cultural Center by public transit or car. The Great Hall has a maximum capacity of 1,000 people.

Admission for adults is 2,000 yen (2,500 yen at the door), and 1,000 yen for children ages elementary school through high school (1,500 yen at the door). Children below elementary school age are not allowed. All proceeds are for the cost of transporting and promoting the band.

For advance tickets, contact The Insider office at 0176-52-6672(English services may not be available all the time.), or email the office at editor.insider@gmail.com, or visit Music Land in Misawa City. For more information on the Towada Civic Cultural Center, call 0176-22-5200, or visit The Towada Civic Cultural Center’s Web site at http://www5.ocn.ne.jp/~towada/.

Page Top


No.121 (8/8/08)

Wonderland 2008 takes over Misawa Aviation & Science Museum

By Robert Finley
The Insider chief writer

large dinasour The Misawa Aviation & Science Museum will be home to the exhibit Wonderland 2008 July 20 through August 24. The exhibit is host to a wide variety of ancient bones and remnants, both replicas and real, from all over the world. Fossils and molds of fossils from the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods that have been found in countries such as Japan, America, China, and Morocco are on display. Some of the ancient creatures on display are: Allosaurus Fragilis, Triceratops, Acrocanthosaurus Atokensis, and Sinosauropteryx Prima. A myriad of ancient insects frozen in amber are also on display.

fossil Information about each fossilized creature, mostly in Japanese, is posted along the walls above each exhibit piece. On the museum floor is a cast of the footprints of herbivores and carnivores, as well as plastic replicas of what their feet looked like in real life.

The exhibit’s main attraction, however, is its animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex. The robotic T-Rex stands 3/5-size scale to the actual average T-Rex size, and is presented in an artificial forest environment. The T-Rex roars and moves its head and arms as it looks for prey, and is sure to be a hit with dinosaur lovers.

Once you have finished walking through the main portion of the exhibit, visitors may also watch a 50-minute episode of Prehistoric Park in the AV Hall. Prehistoric Park is a six-episode educational mini-series that mixes fact and fiction. Real life ornithologist Nigel Marven stars as a time traveler who takes extinct animals from various eras and brings them to a zoo in present time. The film is dubbed over in Japanese, but the DVD available at the Museum gift shop is in available in English. A preview of all six episodes also runs in the main exhibit area.

The museum's gift shop also offers a wide variety of other dinosaur-related merchandise, as well as other fun items related to science and aviation.

Located at Kitayama 158 in Misawa (which is just six minutes from the Misawa Airport), the museum is home to a wide variety of exhibits, such as a full-scale replica of the first plane to fly non-stop across the Pacific Ocean, Miss Veedol, which is located in the museum’s Aviation Zone; and the lunar gravity and infinite space experience devices, which are located in the museum's Science Zone. The museum is open from 9:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. The cost of admission is 500 yen for adults, and 300 yen for high school students, and 200 yen for junior high students and below. Kinder/pre-school children or younger ones are free! For more information, please call the museum at 0176-50-7777 (English services may not be available all the time.), or visit http://www.kokukagaku.jp/english.html  or http://www.kamikita.asn.ed.jp/~ch/h16hr36web/eng/top.html.

Page Top


No.120 (7/25/08)

Osorezan - the borderland between the dead and the living

By Arisa Brown
The Insider staff writer

On the northern most peninsula, on the mainland of Japan, there is a place where the earth lays barren in a mist of white smoke and the world of the living is on the brink of the world of the dead. A limbo where souls of dead children, women, and beloved family members are thought to linger with the dissatisfaction of their deaths. This eerie and ancient place is Mt. Osorezan whose name literally translates to Fear or Dread Mountain. This mountain, located in Shimokita Peninsula National Park in Aomori Prefecture, is actually a group of volcanoes 879m-high and spanning 17km east to west and 25km south to north. The last occurrence of volcanic activity is believed to have occurred sometime between 10,000 to 20,000 years ago, with its first settlement by a monk named Jikaku in 862. Yet little is known about its early history, and what was recorded by worshippers and believers alike has long been lost to the corrosion of sulfuric gases, volcanic sediment and other natural elements.

When one visits this location, they are met with a landscape of crumbled volcanic rock, bubbling sulfuric pits, and gushing, howling winds, creating an unearthly wasteland with vapors of sulfuric gas rising in the air. No wonder it has become known throughout Japan as the borderland between the dead and the living. Yet this reputation was not always the designation known to native Japanese. At one time during the Tokugawa period, Mt Osorezan was viewed as a place of healing, due to its many hot springs along the base of the mountain and surrounding areas. Its name was also different and formally known as Yama no Yu or Usorian, meaning mountain hot spring, until the end of the eighteenth century. It was even believed that by bathing in these hot springs one could heal the wounds inflicted by a sword. Yet through time this changed with the introduction of religious beliefs, creating its existing image, the place of the spirits of the dead. Various records and investigations have illuminated its gradual transfer to a religious site. With the conclusion that sometime in the 1700s it became a place of worship to the believers of Jizo.

Jizo themselves are actually carved stone statues, usually small in size. They appear as child-like monks wearing robes and holding a staff with 7 dangling rings. Usually standing in groups no higher than knee level, with delicately serene faces, clothed with red bibs or decorative cloth, as a symbol of protection for children, travelers and women. For those with lost children they appear as figures which give succor and hope. These statues are a prevalent part of the scenery surrounding the Entsu-Ji Temple, the main attraction, sitting in the valley of the surrounding mountains. When entering this temple, founded in the 9th century, the entrance is guarded with six large Jizo statues wearing robes to hide and protect lost children. The area around the temple is also littered with colorful pinwheels, stuck into the ground and spinning at the mercy of the wind. Each pinwheel stands for a deceased or lost child and is placed there by parents or loved ones.

There is a worn stone path leading straight to the temple sitting in solace against a bleak, rocky background. One can then approach the front of the temple and throw coins into a wooden box to pray to their deceased loved one. However, it is believed by the Japanese that this is not a place to visit unless it is for the sole purpose of consoling dead relatives. That is why it is not recommended by many superstitious or elderly Japanese to visit this place due to its reputation and ties to religious beliefs. It was not even known nationwide until the end of WW2.

However, two times a year, festivals are held at the temple where the tradition of seeking the services of blind female oracles who are sought to talk to the spirits of the dead. These seers known as "itako" are the main attraction during the first festival known as “Itako Taisai” festival and apparently will be able to contact just about anyone that you would like to speak to.

For those of who are interested in visiting Mount Osorezan, the festival will be held on the weekend of July 19th. There are a number of accommodations around the mountain and actual lodging for pilgrimages at the temple. Restaurants can also be found near the temple and around the mountain. And if you would like to try a slightly stinky sulfuric bath, then there are a number of natural volcanic springs that one can bath in near the temple.

日本語で読む
Japanese Translation

Page Top


No.119 (7/11/08)

Light up your life at the Towada Lake Fireworks Festival!

By Simon Barnerd
Guest writer

towada lake fireworks festivalThe 43rd annual KOSUI Festival 2008 will take place at Lake Towada Saturday, July 19th and Sunday, July 20th. 湖水 (Kosui), meaning lake water, gives you the hint where the firework’s extravaganza will take place…from the middle of Lake Towada! Entrance is free!

Lake Towada is in a designated National Park and represents some of the best scenic beauty that Japan has to offer. There is a 44km (27 miles) route around the lake and an many observatories. There are small capes and inlets around the lake surrounded by cliffs, each exhibiting its own form of lakeside beauty.

The lake glitters an emerald green in the summer sun as it reflects the deep green of the forest on its shores. As day turns to night, the setting sun adorns the lake with an orange glow, which at night is replaced by beautiful reflections of light from the nearby hotels and inns. It is on this gorgeous venue that the fireworks will start at 20:00 both nights.

There are many ways you might consider to enjoy the festival. The close proximity to the base allows you to make it a day trip. It only takes about an hour and a half by car to the lake, but you can expect heavy traffic on the way back after the fireworks are over. You can avoid the late drive back on Sat. by taking the bus tour offered by Misawa ITT. Call 226-3555.

Another idea would be to make reservations at one on the hotels or inns. As all the rooms will be full during the festival, it would be wise to make reservations as early as possible. If you have a Japanese friend to help you, you can call 0176-75-2425. If you can not get a Japanese speaker to help, you can call Mr. Tamura at 0176-75-2111. He speaks enough English to help you find a place to stay. This phone number is only for making reservations not for festival information.

Lake Towada also has three campgrounds to choose from, some of which are located near to the docks where you can catch a ride on the sightseeing boats which can take you to the absolute best spots to see the fireworks.

Camp Utarube (turn left at the T when you see the lake, located between Nenoguchi and Yasumiya, the event site of the festival) is located close to Utarube docks on the east lake. The other two camp sites are Camp Oide located right across Yasumiya on the west lake where you can see the fireworks from the site itself and Camp Takinosawa on the north side of the lake which is near an observatory and is a short drive from the Ohkawatai docks.

Definitely the best way to see the fireworks is from one of the triple-decked sightseeing Carnival boats called Yu-ran-sen in Japanese. Boats leave from Utarube 18:30and Ohkawatai docks at 19:00 nenoguchi 18:30 for twilight cruise around the lake before getting to the fireworks site and then take you back. The fare is 1900 yen for the round trip. At the Yasumiya dock, boats start going out at 18:30 19:00, (the last one is at 19:50 if needed).  The fare is 1300 yen but the boats fill up very fast. It is highly recommended that you purchase your ticket as early as possible on the day you are going.

 

The main festival site is at Yasumiya, where you will find most of the hotels and stores. There will be concerts at the main stage at the Station Plaza every day and night. Nationally known bands will be performing.

Other events are also slated. There will be a flea market both days. Americans are encouraged to set up and you will be given a free booth. But you must register in advance. Call 0176- 75-2425 to register in English. Other events you can participate for free in include: Row boat races with prizes. Karaoke contests with prizes as well, please bring your own CDs. Trout fish catching contests by hand. Take home the fresh rainbow trout you catch!

You may also want to spend time water skiing, fishing in the lake, or hiking up Mt. Towada (the hiking trial starts behind the rose garden near Utarube). For the very adventurous, there is another short hike behind the shrine near the statue that goes down an 80 step vertical ladder to the lakeside. Or see if you can find all 15 waterfalls along the Oirase Gorge. Mountain biking all around the lake is also very exhilarating.

Whatever your pleasure, the Kosui Festival is one of the best times to make your trip to Lake Towada a memory of a life time!

日本語で読む
Japanese Translation

Page Top


No. 118 (6/27/08)

Cool Jazz and Hot Latin Salsa at the 2008 Nango Jazz Festival!

By Simon Bernard
Guest writer

nango jazz fest site The little sleepy village of Nango, located just southwest of Hachinohe, comes alive every July putting on the largest open-air jazz concert in Tohoku. This year on Saturday, July 19th, the villagers are celebrating the 19th annual festival, bringing in some of the best world renown jazz groups from all over Japan.

 

Small beginnings: It all started back in 1989 by the Nango mayor who was a great jazz fan! Inviting local groups from Aomori prefecture to do an indoor show, they realized from the response of the fans that they needed to expand. From 1990 on, they started having the shows outside and even built an outdoor amphitheater to hold the festival with Mother Nature surrounding the event.

Now thousands of jazz aficionados every year drive and bus in to Nango from all over Aomori, Iwate, and Akita prefectures and beyond to dig on the sounds of jazz and salsa. This year the times have been moved up to be more jazz fan friendly. The hot show starts from mid-day and goes on while the sun sets and continues with the cool sounds into the evening under the twinkling stars.

 

Luz Who’s coming? This year’s lineup should really appeal the all ages of jazz lovers. Starting at 12:00, the Hachinohe Institute of Technology’s University and High School jazz bands kick things off.

Next, Part 1: The Yasushi Ichihara Trio (drums, piano and bass) featuring Ms. Hikari Ichihara on trumpet and flugel horn. Debuting in 2004, this band plays all the best clubs in Tokyo and won the 2006 Jazz Disc New Star Award.

Now that you are warming up you should be ready for Part 2: The Taro Oyama Quintent (drums, piano, bass, alto & soprano sax). Winner of the Most Excellent Soloist Award at the Yamano Big Band Contest, Taro Oyama is considered by some as the best jazz drummer in Japan.

Now you are cookin' hot and ready for Part 3: The Yuichi Murata Orchestra. (piano, guitar, bass, drums, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones,  alto, tenor, & baritone sax, tuba and french horn!) These 12 guys will rock you into the cool evening with their big band sounds.
You are gonna need a break after this just to cool down!

 

After the intermission, Part 4 begins: The Malta Jazz Quintet Plus (alto sax, guitar, keyboard, drums and bass). A graduate of UC Berkeley Music School, Malta has played with jazz greats including Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton to name a few. Malta and his jazz fusion band is probably the best know jazz artist in Japan with 30 albums to his name.   Not hot enough for you? Do you need some salsa with those chips? Are you ready for the big finale? Part 5: No one else than Grammy Award winning Orquesta de La Luz - Salsa Caliente del Japón. This 11 member band features Nora on vocals (timbales, bongos, congas, piano, bass, trumpet, trombones) and will have you dancing and screaming encore until you lose your voice! If you do not believe me just google them on You Tube and see what you are going to miss if you don’t go!

Easy Directions: It takes less than one half an hour to get to Nango from Misawa Air Base. Go out the Falcon (POL) gate and start counting traffic lights. Turn left at the 13th light to get on the Dai Ni (No.2) Michinoku Expressway. At the 1st toll booth, pay 250 yen and get an expressway ticket. Continue straight (you will go past the Shimoda Mall and then the Hachinohe Kita interchanges), the expressway will merge with the Hachinohe Expressway as if you were going toward Tokyo. Get off at the next exit (Nango interchange), pay the toll. Go to the stop sign and turn right. Go about 1 and a half kilometers and the venue will be on the right next to the Kakko-no-Mori rest stop. Traffic control will guide you to a parking area.

The concert takes place regardless of weather. So take sun block or a rain coat or both! Umbrellas should not be brought in unless you plan on sitting all the way in the back so you do not disturb the view of the people in front of you!

Buy your tickets in advance and save money: Tickets are 4,500 yen in advance (5,500 yen at the gate on the day of the festival) for adults. 2,500 yen for senior and junior high school students, age 13 to 18 (3,500 at the gate). There is free admission for elementary school students and younger kids (12 and under)! Advance tickets can be bought at Misawa ITT on base. Student tickets are limited so buy early. Gates opens at 11:30.

This year again, Misawa ITT with have a bus that will leave from the base library and take you to the festival and back. This bus will fill up fast so reserve your seats early. Call 226-3555 for more information.

Tips from a veteran: There are no bad seats but if you want seats close-up, go very early and get in line with a cooler, meet the people in front and back of you, offer them a soft drink or beer. Once they know you, you can walk around until before the gates open then get back in line….or take turns waiting in line or bring some lawn chairs (put them back in your vehicle just before the gates open). Small camp chairs are OK but lawn and reclining chairs can not be bought in. Bring a blanket, get your seats and again meet the new people around you, then you can get up again! There are a lot of stalls selling all kinds of delicious food and drinks. There are also grassy knolls behind the semi-circle of seats where you can lay a blanket down and watch the show!

Can you camp or Bar-B-Q?
There are very limited tent spaces available to camp just outside the gate of the festival site near the field and track area. You will have to go EARLY Saturday morning if you want to get one. The tent sites are free but you must sign in first. Tents and tarps are not allowed in the festival site. Bar-B-Q-ing is only allowed around your tent if you are a signed in camper. You can not Bar-B-Q inside the festival site or make campfires anywhere.

This year should be the best Jazz Fest yet, get out and experience Aomori! See you there.

日本語で読む
Japanese Translation

Page Top


Insider Art & Design Co. Ltd.
email address

Copyright © 2008 All rights reserved.

inserted by FC2 system