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No.197 (10/14/11)

Fish Are Jumpin' at the 28th Annual Rokkasho Salmon Festival

By Simon Bernerd

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. 29 and 30 at the Rokkasho Port. The event was established 27 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. 29 from 9:30 to 15:30 and Oct. 30 from 10:00 to 16:00. Events include rounds of salmon catching and salmon racing each day. The ankle deep pool is stocked with almost 1,500 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! By the way, there is free fish cleaning next to the salmon catch site.

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.

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 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.

Events take place rain or shine

Saturday, October 29
9:30 to 10:00 Free salmon ticket give away to the first 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 Ringo Musume (apple daughter) song & dance show (stage)
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)
13:00 to 13:30 Shochu (adult) and milk (kids) contest
13:30 to 14:00 Salmon Catch/ Salmon Race (2nd Round)
14:00 to 15:00 Sannohe Shachu Dance Show
15:15 to 15:30 Salmon Catch/ Salmon Race (3rd Round)

Sunday, October 30
10:00 to 10:40 Miyu & Gucchi stage show
10:00 to 16:10 Seafood and vegetable wholesale fair
10:00 to 14:00 Tsuri San Pei fishing contest
10:40 to 14:30 Miyu's booth: 100 yen charity face portraits
10:50 to 11:20 Hachiro Kuroishi stage show
11:00 to 11:30 Salmon Catch/ Salmon Race (1st Round)
11:30 to 12:10 Watari's famous Japanese artist imitation show
From 11:30 Beef Bar-B-Q
From 11:30 Mini Salmon egg on rice delicacy sale
12:10 to 12:40 Squid peeling/Nagaimo (Japanese yam) grating contest
12:40 to 13:40 Rock ShuS & Rokko Jazz Band Show
13:00 to 14:00 Gucchi outside clown performance show
13:45 to 14:15 Salmon Catch/ Salmon Race (2nd Round)
14:15 to 14:40 Salmon net pull. Remaining fi sh will be sold at a discount
14:50 to 15:20 Local fresh seafood market
15:20 to 16:00 Free Bingo tournament (get your cards early at the reception booth)

1. Salmon catching by pole. October 28th to 30th. Catch up to 3 fish 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 30th from 9:30 to 10:30
3. Save The Environment Experiments will be performed on the site October 29th and 30th 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 did! The dogs wrestle until one whelps and the match is over. Culturally accepted in Aomori, but probably not for the faint of heart.

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