If you've been in Japan for a while, you might've heard the expression "Geijutsu no Aki." It means that Fall is the best season to enjoy or create art. (A similar expression is "Dokusho no Aki" and dokusho means reading).
Well, Geijutsu no Aki has certainly arrived in Kasama City! Kasama is known for its pottery, but a whole lot more is going on there! It only takes about 30minutes to get to Kasama from Tsukuba if you use the highway, or about an hour and a half from JR Joban Line Arakawaoki Station to JR Mito Line Kasama Station.
For those who love modern art, "Art Cocktail," (http://www.artcocktail.org/) which started on September 30th, will be the perfect event for you. It's kind of like a "gallery walk," but the artists are non-Kasama or Ibaraki natives who don't live in Kasama. The artworks are being exhibited in various spots in Kasama City such as a vacant store and a warehouse. The artworks at the warehouse were so well blended in with the surroundings it seemed as if they'd been part of the warehouse for a long time. This warehouse is also a cafe, so you can rest there as well.
According to their map, you are supposed to be able to visit all locations on foot in 2 and a half hours, but that doesn't include the time you spend getting lost and chatting with people you meet. I only got to visit few locations, and I think it wouldn't be easy to visit all locations in one day unless you are very determined. The map is a bit hard to understand, so please ask the volunteers at exhibition spaces for directions or look for the Art Cocktail 2006 posters (please see http://www.artcocktail.org/ for a picture of the poster).
Coming up soon are the Kasama Yaki(Ware) Fair, Takumi Workshop's Fall Kasama Fair and Inada Stone Festival that will be held during the 3-day weekend, which is from October 7th to 9th. Kasama Yaki Festival will be at and around Kasama Craft Hills in Kasama Geijutsunomori Park, and Takumi Workshop's fair is near the Craft Hills in the same park. I think this pottery fair is not as crowded as the one in November and in the Spring, but is still very popular. You can experience making pottery on a potter's wheel at the workshop during the fair. The Second Inada Stone Festival will be held at a very isolated location, so please see http://www.pref.ibaraki.jp/bukyoku/syoukou/kogi/kogihp/stone2006/stone_exh2006.htm for the location. It's near the Ishi no 100nen (100years of stones) Museum (http://www.city.kasama.lg.jp/ss_info/kasama/kankou/seeing/ishi100.html).
Any car lovers or self-proclaimed car maniacs reading this? The 10th Anniversary La Festa Mille Miglia (http://www.lafestamm.com/2006/) starts on October 14th, and the cars will drive through Kasama City on Tuesday, October 17th between 7:25 and 8:25 in the morning. I know, I know... but you can show up late for work every once in a while, can't you? This is also your chance to get a glimpse of Japanese TV stars like Panzetta Girolamo, Masahiko Kondo, Hikaru Nishida, and Masaaki Sakai. Unfortunately, the cars won't go through Tsukuba, and the street in front of Kasama Shrine is the closest "viewing spot" from Tsukuba. Other spots are in Ooarai and Kashima.
One of Kasama's major events is the Annual Chrysanthemum Festival (http://www.kasama.or.jp/english/index.html ) at Kasama Inari Shrine (http://www.kasama.or.jp/english/index.html). It starts on October 14th this year. According to the shrine's website: "Begun in 1890, Kasama Inari's Chrysanthemum Festival is Japan's oldest". I went to this festival last year, and I'd say it's worth going even if you or your kids are not into flowers! Admission is 700yen for high school students and up.
On Saturday, October 21st, a rakugo (traditional Japanese comical monologue or story-telling) show will be held at the shrine from 6:30PM and the doors open at 6PM. Please bring your own zabuton, or cushion. The same day admission is 3500yen, and advance tickets are 3000yen. However, only 200 tickets will be available, so please check with the ticket office soon if you are interested. Tickets are sold at the Pore Pore City (shopping center) service counter. Their number is 0296-70-1234. You'll see the big Jusco sign if you come to Kasama via route 50.
Another major event is the annual "Takumi no Matsuri," a pottery fair at Kasama Geijutsunomori Park . It starts on November 2nd and runs through Sunday, the 5th. There will be over 180 booths selling various Kasama wares and agricultural products. The fair is from 9AM to 4PM. This will be a perfect family event since a new children's athletic playground opened in July of this year. (See http://www.koen.pref.ibaraki.jp/park/kasamanews.php?ind=214)
The fair itself doesn't cost money to get in, but parking is NOT free during THIS pottery fair and the pottery fair in April-May.
An event I highly recommend is Yabusame, or archery on horseback on November 3rd, which is a national holiday. It will be held on the 260meter-long stretch of road by an elementary school near Kasama Inari Shrine. According to the Kasama Inari Shrine website, the reason this yabusame is being held at such an unusual location is because that's where the Kasama Domain's yabusame practice ground was located during the Edo Period, which was from 1603 to 1867AD. Please see the shrine's website (http://www.kasama.or.jp/english/index.html) for detailed information on yabusame.
The first yabusame will be from 10:40AM to 11:40AM, and the second one from 2:40PM to 3:40PM. However, the yabusame archers and those who are part of this event will be praying at the shrine from 10 to 10:30AM and 2 to 2:30PM, then move to the yabusame location. The archers and those who take part in yabusame will all be in the reproduced yabusame outfits from the Kamakura Period, 1185-1333AD, so just looking at them move from one place to the other is a very interesting event. It reminded me of "daimyo gyoretsu," or a feudal lord's procession, when I saw it last year.
This yabusame is considered to be one of three major yabusames in Japan, so many tourists arrive in large tour buses. The free city-run parking lots get packed with tour buses when they are already packed with regular cars, and I had a hard time finding a place to park last time. The area around Kasama Inari Shrine will be very crowded, so plan to leave home early.
Kasama, of course, is known for its pottery, so you can still enjoy various styles of Kasama Ware any time. Many pottery houses accept walk-ins who want to paint their own pottery (etsuke), make their owns dishes from clay (te-hineri which literally means twisting by hand) or make their own dishes from clay using the potter's wheel (rokuro). It takes at least 3-4 weeks to get your own Kasama Ware back, so if you want to make nice Christmas presents for someone special, visit the pottery house well in advance!
Artcocktail 2006 in Kasama
Takumi Workshop's Fall Kasama Fair
Second Inada Stone Exhibition
Annual Chrysanthemum Festival
Kasama Inari Shrine
La Festa Mille Miglia 2006
Annual Takumi no Matsuri
Kasama Geijutsunomori Park
3rd Inada Stone Festival
This time, the festival will be at the Geijutsunomori Park.
Kasama Antique Fair
Held at the parking lot of sake brewer in front of Kasama Inari Shrine.
Around 40 booths will be there every year.
Bugaku Festival at Kasama Inari Shrine
Kasama City's free excursion bus
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