The Sanada Jumangoku Festival

October 11th, 2017 by
Category: Events, Information, Sightseeing

Several of the parade’s participants pose for a morning photograph.

On Sunday, Matsushiro celebrated their annual Sanada Jumangoku festival. Taiko performances, artillery displays, and traditional dances were held at the castle before a procession of Sanada clan warriors paraded through the gates. History lovers from around Japan came to participate in the event, bringing beautifully crafted suits of paper armor with them.
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Happy Harvest Moon, From Nagano’s Top-2 Moon-Viewing Spots

October 6th, 2017 by
Category: Information, Outdoor Activities, Seasonal Topics, Sightseeing

The Harvest Moon is spectacular to see from anywhere in the world, but Nagano Prefecture has 2 locations that are particularly famous for viewing the moon:  Matsumoto Castle and the Obasute terraced rice fields in Chikuma City.

Matsumoto Castle has a ‘tsukimi-yagura’ (moon-viewing tower), from where you can see the moons three-fold:  one in the sky, one reflected in the moat, and one reflected in … well, any guesses where?

 

(Picture courtesy of Keener-san)

 

At the Obasute rice fields, the number of moons you can see doesn’t stop at 3.  The terraces are known as “Tagoto-no-Tsuki” meaning the moon reflects in the individual rice fields.  I think you need some of the local sake in order to see that properly.  (Oh, there’s a hint for the answer to my question!)

亀清旅館さんの写真 亀清旅館さんの写真 亀清旅館さんの写真

Picking Grapes in Early Autumn

October 4th, 2017 by
Category: Cuisine, Experience, Information, Outdoor Activities, Seasonal Topics

One of Nagano’s original grape varieties, Nagano Purple!

One of the joys of early autumn is harvest season, when fruit hangs low on the tree and is ripe for picking. During September and early October, you can pick grapes in vineyards throughout Nagano.

There are a wide variety of grapes to choose from. You’ll be surprised by the different flavors of Delaware, Niagara, and Steuben grapes, as well as the monstrous size of Kyoho and Nagano Purple. Don’t forget fan favorites like Shine Muscat!
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Visitors From All Over the World Experience Japanese Culture in Matsumoto

October 3rd, 2017 by
Category: Events, Experience

Last month, Nakamachi Street in Matsumoto put on a lively, hands-on “Japanese Culture Experience” event where visitors could try all sorts of traditional Japanese crafts and activities. Over 150 international tourists and foreign residents came over the course of the two-day event making Nakamachi one lively place to be!

The main event venue: Nakamachi’s Kurassic-kan

To add to the atmosphere, the main activities were held at the beautiful Kurassic-kan, a former sake brewery that was turned into community center. Here, visitors eagerly learned how to fold origami into intricate shapes, write their names in Japanese characters using calligraphy brushes, and enjoyed the grace of the Japanese tea ceremony. Outside in Kurassic-kan’s plaza, Matsumoto’s resident ninja taught kids how to shoot down imaginary enemies with ninja blowgun darts and the city’s one-and-only rickshaw puller offered people shorts rides and photos on his rickshaw.

Learning the traditional tea ceremony

Writing Japanese characters with a brush and ink

Taking a ride around Matsumoto on the rickshaw

Matsumoto’s resident ninja

Visitors also got to try wearing yukata/kimono (thanks to Matsumoto’s Hanakomichi kimono rental service), bang out thundering drum beats with the big taiko drums set up outside, play with all kinds of old-fashioned toys like stilts and kendama, and even taste Nakamachi’s specially brewed sake!

That’s still not all — several shops in Nakamachi had their own activities like trying on geta (a traditional Japanese form of footwear), local food and drink tastings, and trying out the shamisen. One shop taught people how to play a traditional geisha game called konpira fune-fune which is a simple yet challenging concentration game where players must tap a saucer and pillow in the correct pattern along to the beat of shamisen music.

The konpira fune-fune game in front of the Itoya shop

Giving the “take-uma,” a.k.a. stilts, a try

Personally, I went to the event on both days, and even though I’ve been living in Japan for a few years now, I still got to try many new things: Kimono, rickshaw rides, geisha games, ninja blowguns… But, although all the activities were engaging and fun, perhaps the best part was meeting new people from all over the world and interacting with the Matsumoto locals! I met a cyclist from Andorra (that tiny country between Spain and France) who had bike all the way from Aomori, a photographer from India, tourists from Egypt, and a researcher from England.

In the end, the whole event became more than just an event about sharing Japanese culture — it was a great international culture exchange opportunity for everyone! Let’s just hope we see more events like this in Matsumoto and other places in Nagano in future 🙂 Thank you Nakamachi!