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.
Friday evening, July 23, is the time set for a gorgeous display of fireworks along the Kinu River in Mitsukaido. The fireworks are to be launched from the river bank just to the north of the route 354 bridge. Tel 0297-23-2111.
(probably Japanese English similar to "Gate Ball") is a water sport that is a cross between water skiing and snowboarding. There will be a major competition at Ushibori, the town at the opposite end of Lake Kasumigaura from Tsuchiura. The dates are July 23-25. Tel. 0299-64-2611.
Focusing on the mythical character "kappa" (river monster), this annual festival is directed primarily at children. Held on the east side of Ushiku Station, it runs two days, July 31 and August 1.
(Toad Festival) Sunday, August 1st. A portable shrine (omikoshi) shaped like a toad and weighing about 800 kg is toted about the area during a parade in the evening. Vendors of "toad's grease" chant their slogans during that time. A fireworks display will be held after dark. Tel. 0298-36-1111.
During the period from Aug. 6 to 8, the shopping area to the west of Tsuchiura Station will be holding its annual festival. Tel. 0298-24-2810.
Aug. 2-4. Named after the famous ruler who dressed as a commoner to go out and help his people, this festival is the main one held in Mito near the station. Big fireworks display on Aug 7th. Tel. 029-224-0441.
(10,000 lanterns) Held during the Obon holidays on August 15, this festival centers on the lighting of lanterns. Traditionally, lanterns were lit to help guide the spirits of the ancestors "home for the holidays" before they would be sent off again into the nether world for another year of wandering. The location is the Obatake Washi Jinja (shrine) in Niihari-Mura about 2 km west of the Tsuchiura Kita Interchange of the Joban Expressway.
If you are planning a trip to the pottery capital of Kasama, Aug. 16 is a good time to go (or to avoid, depending on your interests), and get some of the flavor of Festival ala Japan. tel. 0296-72-9222.
August 22, Tel. 0296-43-2111.
Literally meaning "rope fire", this traditional festival will be held twice, on the 23rd at the Takaoka Atago Shrine and on the 24th at the Obari Atago Shrine in Ina-machi, to the south of Tsukuba. tel. 0297-58-2111.
The giant fireworks display in Kashima is followed on September 1 by the "Happiness of the Gods" festival at Kashima shrine. This would be a great time to visit the KAshima Shrine, said to be the oldest in all of eastern Japan, dating back well over 1000 years.
The first weekend in September is the traditional date for the local Tsukuba Matsuri, and this year is no exception. Held Sept. 4th and 5th, 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.
Held Sept 13 at the Ichigonshu Shrine in Mitsukaido. Tel. 0297-27-0659.
One of the bigger local festivals is the Ishioka Matsuri held in mid-September every year. This year's festivities are from the 14th to the 16th, culminating in a grand parade in the center of town. This is probably the biggest local Matsuri, and is right at the end of the season. So, last chance until next year. Tel. 0299-23-1111.
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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