Fall is a time for festivals.
If you have young ones, you are probably trying to shape up a bit for the 運動会 (undoh kai)/Sports Festival at the local school. These are usually of interest only to the families of the students, but there are area festivals which have a wider appeal. The biggest is the University of Tsukuba 雙峰際 (Soho Sai). The problem with this 3-day event (Oct. 10-12) is that there are so many exhibits, lectures and restaurants that you really need three days to see everything. This is difficult for people like me who have trouble choosing and organizing. So the first thing I do is buy a program at the administration tent (between the 中央図書館 (Chuo Toshokan/Central Library) and 松見池 (Matsumi Ike/Pond)), and read it while enjoying a snack at the nearby (3rd floor) Indonesian restaurant.
Several years ago the Soho Sai was cancelled because of political trouble and (perhaps because of that) there is a disappointing absence of political or humanitarian displays. (Amnesty International and AIDS exhibits are exceptions.) But there is something for everyone: exotic fish tanks, gay bars, astronomy and computer exhibits, magic shows and even very silly Mr. & Miss Tsukuba Contests. The atmosphere is good and students are happy to explain their exhibits. Good fun.
FOOD Go hungry and enjoy a sitdown meal at the Russian or Thai restaurant. Or buy a choco banana, plate of curry, yakitori or milkshake from one of the stands lining the sidewalks while watching folk musicians, martial arts demonstration, or mini-concerts.
NOTE: looking over past brochures, I noticed exhibits/lectures by Toitsu Kyokai (Unification Church/Moonies) and Kofuku no Kagaku. I also noticed a lecture/exhibition by Aum Shinrikyo and their lawyer Mr. Aoyama.
The Tsukuba College of Technology has two campuses located on either side of the U of Tsukuba campus--the Division for the Hearing Impaired in Amakubo 4-chome (near the Higashi Odori) and the Division for the Visually Impaired in Kasuga 4-chome (north of the U of T Hospital, east of Coco's on the Nishi Odori). Both divisions will hold festivals on October 25th and 26th. If you're interested in how people can function in society despite a challenge, and want to have a good time, stop by. Shuttle buses will run between the campuses.
If you are interested in Design (especially Computer Assisted Design), Architecture, Mechanical Engineering, Electronics and Information Science, the DHI (Amakubo) may be your cup of o-cha. The DVI (Kasuga) also will have computer displays (demonstrating how blind or low vision people use computers) but these are more medically oriented. You can have a free health/strength test sponsored by the Dept of Physical Therapy or learn about the history of Eastern Medicine (and view the various needles) from the Dept of Acupuncture and Moxibustion. The Tai Chi Club will hold a demonstration at 2:30 on Saturday and you are welcome to join in.
The high point of the festival is the massage. A massage from a licensed professional can cost ￥2000ー￥5000 so the special Kasuga Sai price of ￥600 is a bargain. As this is very popular (and there's usually a wait) let me offer the following strategy. Upon arriving on campus, go straight to the main reception (1st floor of 5-story building) to pick up a program and sign in. Then run (don't walk or you'll be trampled by the ojii and obaa-chans) to 極楽堂 (Goku Raku Doh/Paradise) in Room 116 to get your name on the waiting list. Then wander around. Unlike the U of Tsukuba Festival, you'll be able to see everything (and eat or drink something from each stand) in a day.
While getting a massage you may want to mention my name. But a word of caution. Last year a friend of mine did that. The student who was massaging him didn't like me so he broke his arm!
Another enjoyable fall event is the Tsukuba Catholic Church Annual Bazaar on October 19th, 10:00-1:30. All are welcome. (The rumour that you must be able to recite the Hail Mary and name the last 4 popes is not true. Delicious foods from all over the world will be sold, as well as hand-made goods and used items. A high point will be an auction of valuable items.
The church is on the same street (and close to) as Hotel Suwa and Hanamasa Meat Pavilion and close to the Ushiku Gakuen Sen (Rte 408).
Tsukuba Women's University will hold its annual school festival on Oct. 25 & 26. Visitors can see examples of student's work and enjoy some of the cheap but delicious dishes that will be for sale in the courtyard adjoining the pedestrian path. On Sunday the 26th, weather permitting, there will be an outdoor concert given by the university brass band. (This will start at 11:30.)
Another outdoor attraction on the same day will be a performance of traditional Japanese drumming and dancing given by the well-known group, Tanaka-bayashi. This performance lasts about half an hour and will start from 2:00. Don't miss it!
Another event to look out for on the Sunday is the bazaar, which is selling mostly household goods at very cheap prices. For newcomers to Tsukuba, this will be a good opportunity to get some of the household items they might need. The bazaar will be located in the courtyard and will start from 10:00.
Tsukuba Women's University is located on Kita Odori at the pedestrian path. If you require further information, please e-mail Clive at email@example.com You can also phone on 0298-58-6336 (office hours, lunch time best).
October 25 is the day for the annual Gakuen Church Bazaar. Beginning at 12:30, there will be plenty of good buys on various donated items along with good food.
It seems there are a lot of bazaars and festivals happening on the same day, so you can really make the rounds on that last weekend. Even the Tsukuba City Festival, which up until last year was held on the first weekend in September, has now been moved to this same weekend. It will be held along the bicycle path between the Expo Center and Takezono Park. So enjoy making the rounds!
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