My former office, the Aizu Wakamatsu International Association, is offering some interesting activities to foreign residents this month. As a part of their "Japanese Culture Month", you can try out judo, zazen (meditation), kyudo (archery), ikebana, and shodo (calligraphy).
Aizu Wakamatsu is a historical city located in the north west of Fukushima Prefecture (one prefecture north of here). To get there by public transportation, you could take the new Tsukuba-Omiya highway bus to Omiya (80 minutes, 1100 yen, take the Tohoku Shinkansen to Koriyama (57 minutes, 6090yen), and then take the JR Banetsu Saisen to Aizu Wakamatsu (80 minutes, 1110 yen). The easiest way to get there by car is to take the Joban Highway from Sakura Tsuchiura to Iwaki and then the Banetsu Highway to Aizu Wakamatsu (about 3 hours, 5600 yen).
In fact, if you _really_ like trains, you might want to take the Tsukuba Express down to Kita Senju or Asakusa (if you want to get on at the first stop to make sure you get a seat) and then take the VERY SLOW train from there all the way to Aizu Wakamatsu. (If you plan it right, you might be able to get one of the trains that actually goes all the way from Asakusa to Tajima, so you will only have to change trains once on the way from Asakusa to Aizu Wakamatsu). This should only be attempted by people who are SERIOUS train lovers and who really want to get a top-to-bottom look at Tochigi Prefecture (skirting, but not actually entering Nikko).
I believe that the fall colours should be on full display at this time of the year, and since Aizu Wakamatsu is nestled in a bowl-shaped valley surrounded by mountains, the scenery should be rather impressive.
Aizu Wakamatsu has a reconstructed castle (Tsurugajo), several sake museums, a samurai house (bukeyashiki), a samurai school (Nisshinkan), a herb garden (Oyakuen), and a tall statue of a female Buddha (Kannon at Aizu-mura). You can also see Iimoriyama, the site of the famous story of the Byakkotai (White Tiger Brigade, a group of young men who fought in the Boshin Civil War) and a temple shaped like a double helix, so you don't take the same path up as you do down (Sazaedo). You can also try kirie (silhouette art) at Nakafuji workshop. If you have a car, you might want to make side trips to the Hideo Noguchi museum, the Five Coloured Lakes, the glass blowing museum, or the brewery in Inawashiro (in the shadow of Mt. Bandai).
I used to give tours of Tsurugajo and Iimoriyama. The notes from my tours are available online.
Even if you don't make it to one of the cultural events this month, I highly recommend a trip to this historic area of Japan.
Here are some more details about the culture month events in Aizu Wakamatsu. If you do decide to join one of the events, be sure to say that Shaney sent you!
November is Japanese Culture Month at the Aizu Wakamatsu International Association (AWIA). We are providing opportunities for anyone interested to try a selection of Japanese culture activities with no strings attached. Look below for your favorite activity!
Judo, Zazen meditation, and Kyudo (Japanese archery) at Nisshinkan in the former Kawahigashi Town.
November 12 (Sunday) from 1:30pm to 4:00pm. Fee: 1000 yen (fee includes the 600 yen entrance fee into Nisshinkan.) Please make your reservation before November 9th. (You can cancel for free before the 9th, after that a cancellation fee will apply. If we cannot get at least 10 people for this event, it will be cancelled.) Japanese people are also welcome, so invite your friends, girl/boy friends, and coworkers!
November 11th (Saturday) from 10:00am to 11:30am at the teacher’s house (directions will be given to those who make a reservation). Money for flowers: 1000 yen. Please call the AWIA before November 9th (after the 9th, cancellation fees will apply).
November 19th (Sunday) from 2:00pm to 3:00pm at the AWIA. Money: 300 yen. Please make your reservation before the 18th.
Come try a Japanese cultural activity this month!
For more information, see: Just the Fax (November 2006)
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