Beatiful autumn colors from Togakushi over the weekend.
While some of the mountaintops are already experiencing a spell of winter, Nagano’s valleys are finally enjoying the sights of autumn. Red, yellow and golden hues are descending from the highlands and a cool wind is blowing through the valleys.
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Participants' badge purchased by audiences, puppeteers and workers all participate in the festival to support the event
On August 5th, I went to Iida to see Iida Puppet Festa (festival) because when I was involved in making leaflets and a program guide of that famous international puppet event last year
, I became to be keen to see it.
The festival started as a tiny event in 1979 and now 430 shows are performed at 130 venues in the whole Iida area and 40,000 attendants enjoy them!
I watched a Cambodian traditional shadow puppet performance (Intangible Cultural Heritage designated by UNESCO), a Spanish performance by “stone puppets”, and other two free (you only need to have a badge in the right photo) performances by Japanese groups at a special stage in the Festa Central Park and in a hotel “Fringe theater”.
Cambodian traditional shadow puppet performance player
I was impressed that even the free small performances are very high-level. Children in Iida are very happy because they grow up while they watch and experience the festival every year. When they become adults, many of them will get involved as volunteer workers, audiences, and puppeteers. It is “tradition”.
I regretted a little that I couldn’t have time to see Japanese traditional puppet performances like bunraku, which are continuing to be performed more than 300 years and made Iida “the town of puppet”.
Supprise Performance of Puppet "Noisy" Parade, Held in Friday's Evening (photo by Festival Committee)
This event is held the 1st Thursday to Sunday in August (4 days) every year.
Next year 2013, a special “Asian Puppet Festival” is planned for 6 days with the ordinal Puppet Festival.
“Hanamomo Kaido(road)” is well-known for its beautiful “hanamomo” or ornamental peach blossoms. In the southern part of Nagano prefecture, ranging from Iida city in Ina valley to Nagiso village in Kiso valley, there are thousands of well-cared hanamomo trees.
They are usually at their best from April through early May, almost for a month. This year, because of the unseasonal cold weather in April, the best season started late April.
Hanamomo peach in Hirugami onsen-kyo
The photo above is taken in Hirugami onsen-kyo. It is a relatively new hot spa resort, the source of its hot water happened to be discovered in the trial boring to construct a national railroad through a huge mountain in 1973.
It would be fun if you spend some time on the riverbed of the Achi-gawa.
people enjoying themselves by the Achi (Achi-gawa)
The following is the hanamomo peach blossoms in area named Tsukikawa. You will be greeted by blossoms in crimson, pure white, rose pink , and most impressively, white blossoms tinged with pink. There are several paths lined with two thousand hanamomo trees in total, on which you can walk comfortably.
Hanamomo peach paths in Tsukikawa area, Achi
We visited Hirugami–onsen in southern Nagano prefecture(our province).
It is a quiet rural area along the river Achi–gawa and surrounded by calm mountains.
Though I am fond of onsen so much and had known many other hot spring resorts in Nagano as well as other areas in Japan, I can definitely tell you ”Hirugami” is at the top of my list in terms of water quality–alkaline sulfurous of PH 9.6.
The abundant waters of the hot springs are just crystal clear and velvety smooth. You will know what I mean as soon as you scoop some water out of the tub — you may even double-check if you have not any soap on your palms.
It is called ” Onsen of Beautiful Skin”
You will just relax soaking in the water with a slight smell of sulfur.
It is also good for diseases such as rheumatism and diabetes.
Here is some additional info on PH —
According to the following page, the highest onsen PH is 11.3 and the lowest 1.2.
Among the lowest are famous Kusatsu (Gunma) and Zao (Yamagata), and Hakuba–Happo onsen is among the highest.
Please refer to the following multi-language page for more info on Hirugami and some other hot springs in Nagano prefecture which are some of my other recommendations in terms its smooth water quality–
Tazawa onsen: http://www.mountaintrad.co.jp/nagano/tzw/hi0/guide.html,
Togura– Kamiyamada onsen: http://www.kamesei.jp/english/huro.html
Taiko Drum Festival at Matsumoto Castle
Leaflet of Taiko Drum Festival
will be held this weekend (July 30, 31) and Iida Puppet Festival will be held next week (August 4-7).
Taiko Drum festival is very popular among local foreign regidents and Iida Puppet Festival is now a large international puppet event (400 shows will be performed at 120 venues and 40,000 attendants will enjoy them!).
We made multilingual (English, French, Korean, Chinese, Thai) leaflets of the two events this year. You can get it in TICs, some hotels, and Narita Airport. Otherwise, you can download PDF files.
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I visited Shimoguri-no-sato on May 5th.
It is a very unique settlement in the eastern part of Iida city in South Nagano and I had wanted to visit there.
It is situated in a really deep valley and the steepest slope in the village is 38 degrees, so it is even difficult to stay standing up and go up by car. But local people live in houses, plow their fields and plant crops. The deep valley is known as “sun rises from the foot” and “the Japanese Tirol”.
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