Previous summer special issues of the Alien Times give plenty of suggestions for summer activities for those spending part or all of the summer in Tsukuba. In this issue, we will only briefly list some of the more prominent festivals and other basic information. If you need more detailed information, take a look at last year's edition. You can find copies at the library and the Information Center next to Nova Hall, a good place to ask for information anyway.
Gion Matsuris Galore
There are numerous "Gion Matsuri" scheduled for late July. "Gion Matsuri" are Shinto festivals usually taking place in the evening hours and centering around the portable shrines carried of rolled along the street. Information as to exact times and locations are not given in the Japanese listings, and so you may want to have a Japanese speaking friend call ahead for details. Foreigners who have not seen these celebrations find them an interesting bit of Japanese culture, and you have plenty to choose from. Other festivals are also included here.
The first weekend in September is the traditional date for the local Tsukuba Matsuri, and this year is no exception. Held Sept. 2nd and 3rd, a number of interesting booths are set up and various cultural events take place through the 2 days. If the other festivals mentioned here are not something you want to take the time and effort to go to, this is your back-up option. It's always located along the central bicycle path and adjacent parks, and so it's not hard to find.
There are several regular pools in Tsukuba, but the really great spot is the Sanuma Sun Beach Swimming Center (0296-43-6661) in Shimotsuma, about 40 minutes northwest of Tsukuba. It has a large pool complex with giant slides, "rivers", waterfalls, wave machines and the works. Admission and rentals for tubes are quite reasonable, so families can have a "funtastic" time without spending lots of money. Admission is ´1000 for adults, ´400 for junior high and elementary school age children, and ´200 for small children. The season extends from July 20 through Aug. 31.
If you are up for a drive to the beach, up north along the coast, there are the Oarai and Ajigaura beaches east of Mito. These beaches are good for swimming, body surfing, and lots of fun. They do tend to be crowded, but the facilities are good. The Oarai Beach also has a large fresh water pool next to the beach. Admission to it is 620Y for adults and 310Y for kids.
In Oarai, there is the large Oarai Aquarium (029-267-5151), which has dolphins, seals, penguins, etc., along with local crustaceans and fish. There are entertaining dolphin and seal shows as well as sea life displays. Oarai is famous for seafood, and you can purchase some edible souvenirs to remind you, though perhaps just briefly, of your time at the beach.
Other beaches line the entire eastern side of Ibaraki, too numerous to list here. If you drive along the coast, you can, of course, stop anywhere you can pull your car over and walk along the beach looking for shells. More likely, however, you'll find a lot of chunks of styrofoam, pieces of wood, and a variety of other junk washed up by the tide. These sections of beach, are for obvious reasons far less crowded than the public beaches that have facilities and there is no charge. If you don't mind driving home without being able to take a shower, then you can take a dip most anywhere. It is much safer, of course, to use a public beach with life guards and changing facilities. Parking lots there, however, generally charge 700Y or so per car with a similar charge per adult for use of the facilities (less for children)
The International Women's Network (IWN) is a group of women who enjoy chatting with people from all over the world. We hold a monthly potluck dinner where we exchange information about the local community while eating a variety of foods. No reservation is needed to attend the potluck. Just bring one dish of food and show up at the meeting. Newcomers are always welcome! Take advantage of this unique opportunity to enjoy the international city of Tsukuba with us!
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