Archive for goshogawara

Exploring Shirakami Sanchi and Tsugaru with the Tsugaru Free Pass

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on July 24, 2010 by Zack

Summer is here in Aomori, and everywhere is getting busy preparing for many famous festivals like the Aomori Nebuta, Hirosaki Neputa, Goshogawara Tachi Neputa, and Hachinohe Sansha Taisai.

A lot of visitors to Aomori make great use of the Japan Rail Pass and the JR East Pass, but there is another great way to explore the Tsugaru region of Hirosaki, Goshogawara, and the surrounding locales with the Tsugaru Free Pass.

Tsugaru Free Pass

First thing you should be aware is that there are two different Tsugaru Free Passes, one is for 1500 yen for adults and includes unlimited use of the local JR lines, Konan Bus, Tsugaru Railroad, Konan Railroad, etc. The other version of the pass is the Tsugaru Free Pass Plus Shirakami, which is 3000 yen for 2 days of the same unlimited use with additional shuttle service to the virgin beech forests of the Shirakami Sanchi. Please note that transportation to Aomori City is not included in the area of the Tsugaru Free Pass.

A very popular but slightly remote destination for most travelers without an automobile, the Shirakami Sanchi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to remarkable virgin beech forests untouched since forming 8-10 thousand years ago in the mountains between Aomori and Akita prefectures. The Shirakami Sanchi is beautiful all year round, but the summer offers spectacular hiking and sights for visitors of all ages and experience.

Mount Iwaki is an impressive sight from the Shirakami Sanchi

Humbling encounters with ancient beech trees

Using the Tsugaru Free Pass (Plus Shirakami), in just about one hour you can go from the pristine natural beauty of the forest to..

a delicious dinner of local Tsugaru cuisine in Hirosaki, and if you go at the right time, (August 1-7) you can make it back to Hirosaki just in time to enjoy the Hirosaki Neputa Festival.

If you are looking to explore a bit of Aomori’s pristine natural environment and take in the captivating local festivals this summer, I highly recommend you take advantage of the Tsugaru Free Pass, which can be purchased at almost any JR Ticket Office or travel agent in Aomori, Akita, and Iwate prefectures.

Tsugaru Free Pass Website (Japanese only)

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Hands-on at Tsugaru Kanayama-yaki

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on June 17, 2010 by Zack

Aomori is no different from most other places in Japan with respect to the fact that it is home to an amazing local pottery culture. The most famous of which, is undoubtedly the Tsugaru Kanayama-yaki type of pottery nestled in the quiet mountainside of Goshogawara City. The pottery here is known for its deep earthy quality that ranges from hues of copper brown to a rusted iron red.

Kanayama-yaki Horse complete with Jomon patterns

The entire site houses several huge kilns, a gallery, classrooms, cafe, as well as many works of pottery on display amid many of the beautiful flowers in bloom in the gardens.

Gallery featuring a great selection of works for sale
Cafe Patata

If you arrive hungry, I recommend you try your hand at making your own pizza at Patata, the relaxing cafe on site. The cafe staff will guide you through the process, and you can choose your own toppings to create your own original pizza. Of course they also have some uniquely Japanese ingredients, such as shimeji mushrooms, corn, and mayonnaise, so why you are at it you might consider getting experimental.

Pizza Ovens
Fresh from the oven!

After a delicious lunch you can sign up for a hands-on pottery lesson Kanayama-yaki style. A friendly pottery instructor is available to help you through the process in making just about anything you want. With some patience and some perseverance you can have a wonderful cup or beer mug. After carving your name on the bottom, they will fire your creation in the kiln, however it usually takes about 2 months before it is ready. I was told that the mineral content and porous nature of the clay are said to enhance the flavor of the water or beer you put into the dish, I can’t wait to try it out.

Ready for the kiln

Pottery can actually be quite intense and tiring, especially if it is your first time, so you might work up an appetite for one of the many delicious desserts they have at the cafe. Highly popular, their ice cream is served with a garnish of freshly-ground coffee beans on the side, is a wonderful treat served in Kanayama-yaki dishes.

A sweet finish!

I highly recommend spending at least a few hours at Tsugaru Kanayama-yaki enjoying all there is to do here. Open all year round, from 9 am to 5 pm, Tsugaru Kanayama-yaki is a great way to spend a day in Goshogawara filled with creativity and delicious eats!

Tachi Neputa Festival in Goshogawara City

Posted in Goshogawara-city with tags , , on September 15, 2009 by Zack
For as long as I have been living in Aomori, people have been urging me to go and see the Tachi Neputa Festival in Goshogawara city. Tachi Neputa is famous for its illuminated three dimensional floats which are made out of paper and painted elaborately, much like the Nebuta Festival in Aomori, but the best thing is the size! The largest floats in the parade are over 20 meters (over 65 feet) tall! In fact, the name Tachi Neputa, (literally standing Neputa) refers to tall-standing composition of the floats.
Tachi Neputa is held every year for 5 days from August 4th to August 8th. It doesn’t matter if it is a weekday or not, the party still goes on! This year I went on the very last day, a popular day because the main floats stand facing one another and a popular Japanese singer from Goshogawara, Ikuzo Yoshi makes an appearance every year at his hometown’s festival on this last day. This year the last day also happened to be on a Saturday, making the festival extra packed with tons of onlookers.
<image1>
This is a bridge in the middle of the city which overs a slightly elevated view, the only catch is you have to wait until the road is closed to traffic and fend for a spot. If crowds aren’t your thing, I definitely recommend getting to Goshogawara earlier in the afternoon if you want to get a great spot. But don’t worry, even if you don’t manage to get a great spot, the major attraction of this festival is so huge that there isn’t really a bad spot in the whole city.
Once the sun has set and 7pm rolls around, fireworks go off signalling the start of the festival which continues for two hours until 9 pm. First the drums and flutes of the parade music begin and numerous floats, first small but gradually getting bigger, come out and make a circuit around downtown Goshogawara city.
If you go to the Hirosaki Neputa festival or the Aomori Nebuta festival you might notice how each festival has its own music and own cheer shouted out by participants. The cheer in the Tachi Neputa is “Yattemare” which means something close to “Go and get ’em!” which harkens back to the combative history of the festival, when fights would break out among competing floats and their members. I think it’s safe to say that Tachi Neputa also has one of the most energetic melodies out of all the festivals in the prefecture.
But back to the floats-this is just a sampling of what you can see:
<image2>
Scenes from Japanese mythology recreated in three amazing dimensions.
<image3>
While not terribly Japanese, it is still very cute nonetheless.
<image4>
And some floats are beautifully painted, making them a pleasure to photograph.
<image5>
Here you can get an idea of how much work goes into constructing a single float, from creating the framework, applying Japanese paper, and painting the paper. But don’t get too impressed just yet… I still haven’t shown you the big momma float!
And here it is…
<image 6>
Yes, it’s really that tall… For reference you can see it towers over the surrounding buildings of several stories in height, and even makes the utility poles seem like blades of grass as these floats galantly parade their way around the city.
<image7>
It’s really amazing to see how massively tall these floats are and how they can be supported by such a small base and moved around by people so gracefully. If you are photographer this is a definite must see festival in Japan. I filled up an 12 gigabyte memory card in just 2 hours!
I definitely recommend anyone visiting Japan during early August to come up and see Goshogawara’s Tachi Neputa Festival, and don’t forget to bring your camera!

For as long as I have been living in Aomori, people have been urging me to go and see the Tachi Neputa Festival in Goshogawara city. Tachi Neputa is famous for its illuminated three dimensional floats which are made out of paper and painted elaborately, much like the Nebuta Festival in Aomori, but the best thing is the size! The largest floats in the parade are over 20 meters (over 65 feet) tall! In fact, the name Tachi Neputa, (literally standing Neputa) refers to tall-standing composition of the floats.

Tachi Neputa is held every year for 5 days from August 4th to August 8th. It doesn’t matter if it is a weekday or not, the party still goes on! This year I went on the very last day, a popular day because the main floats stand facing one another and a popular Japanese singer from Goshogawara, Ikuzo Yoshi makes an appearance every year at his hometown’s festival on this last day. This year the last day also happened to be on a Saturday, making the festival extra packed with tons of onlookers.

Better to get here early so you can find a seat!

Better to get here early so you can find a seat!

This is a bridge in the middle of the city which overs a slightly elevated view, the only catch is you have to wait until the road is closed to traffic and fend for a spot. If crowds aren’t your thing, I definitely recommend getting to Goshogawara earlier in the afternoon if you want to get a great spot. But don’t worry, even if you don’t manage to get a great spot, the major attraction of this festival is so huge that there isn’t really a bad spot in the whole city.

Once the sun has set and 7pm rolls around, fireworks go off signalling the start of the festival which continues for two hours until 9 pm. First the drums and flutes of the parade music begin and numerous floats, first small but gradually getting bigger, come out and make a circuit around downtown Goshogawara city.

If you go to the Hirosaki Neputa festival or the Aomori Nebuta festival you might notice how each festival has its own music and own cheer shouted out by participants. The cheer in the Tachi Neputa is “Yattemare” which means something close to “Go and get ’em!” which harkens back to the combative history of the festival, when fights would break out among competing floats and their members. I think it’s safe to say that Tachi Neputa also has one of the most energetic melodies out of all the festivals in the prefecture.

But back to the floats-this is just a sampling of what you can see:

Scenes from Japanese mythology recreated in three amazing dimensions.

Scenes from Japanese mythology recreated in three amazing dimensions.

Well he isn't Japanese, but he is still very cute nonetheless.

Well he isn't Japanese, but he is still very cute nonetheless.

Some floats are beautifully painted, making them a pleasure to photograph.

Some floats are beautifully painted, making them a pleasure to photograph.

Here you can get an idea of how much work goes into constructing a single float, from creating the framework, applying Japanese paper, and painting the paper.

Here you can get an idea of how much work goes into constructing a single float, from creating the framework, applying Japanese paper, and painting the paper.

But don’t get too impressed just yet… I still haven’t shown you the big momma floats!

And here they are…

tachineputa6

Giants descend on Goshogawara

Yes, it’s really that tall… For reference you can see it towers over the surrounding buildings of several stories in height, and they even make the utility poles seem like blades of grass as these floats galantly parade their way around the city.

Behold the glory!

Behold the glory!

It’s really amazing to see how massively tall these floats are and how they can be supported by such a small base and moved around by people so gracefully. If you are photographer this is a definite must see festival in Japan. I filled up an 12 gigabyte memory card in just 2 hours!

I definitely recommend anyone visiting Japan during early August to come up and see Goshogawara’s Tachi Neputa Festival, and don’t forget to bring your camera, and maybe an extra memory card!