Category Archives: Places to Go

places to go, things to do, festivals, events, etc.

Dancing Center Stage

August Abandon Afoot

More midsummer fireworks lie loaded on the launchpad, if that’s your thing – Mizunami has their display tonight, as part of their 54th annual Mino Genji Tanabata Festival (a month after most other observances), featuring teams of dancers and taiko drummers on stage for the 16th year now. It takes place Friday through Sunday in front of Mizunami Station. Everyone is invited to hop into the frenzy of the parade. There’s also a “clay objêt” Toudo Festa competition, in which teams have a frenetic 48 hours to sculpt clay into whatever their imaginations can conjur up.

You could consider Mizunami’s Tanabata fest with its dancing a warmup for Nagoya’s 15th annual Nippon Domannaka Matsuri, or Domatsuri for short, to be held from August 23rd to 25th. Some 23,000 dancers on over 200 teams from all over Japan and the world will carouse and compete for championship original folk dance honors.

The only rules, according to the official website, are “each dancer must hold a naruko, or clapper, and … a melody from a local folk tune of the participants’ home area must be incorporated in the music.” As with Mizunami’s revelry, they encourage the audience to join in the dancing as a means of cross-cultural communication, and welcome last-minute entries without reservation, so to speak.

And as long as we’re on the subject of Nippon Domannaka (the very center of Japan), it’s not just figurative talk when people speak of our central location, or the logistical benefits of relocating the national capital to Gifu to help alleviate congestion in Tokyo.

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Here’s a picture of Yasaka Station, the centralmost station in Japan, on the Nagaragawa Railway Etsumi-Nan Line. The diesel-powered single-car line, which you can use to get from Mino Ota on the Taita Line to Gujo (station photo below), also stops at the centralmost hot spring in the country, accessible directly from Manthatsamouthful Minamikodakaraonsen Station (station and spa are under the same roof). Of course the all-night trance-like dances at Gujo are for many a must-see, gotta-groove to thing this time of year as well…

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…as is, for those who can bear to watch, the bridge-jumping, river-plunging tradition on the river you may be able to view from this walkway. I think they jump from the bridge just a few steps to the left of where I took this photo.

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Points of Light

Toki has Bon dancing on Chuo Dori before and during its fireworks. Many people watching the dancing tonight seemed hardly interested in the skypoppers in the background. Among the various colorful yukata of both dancers and watchers were these robes I though depicted the swoopdown swallows I recently wrote about, until I realized they were great blue herons flying upward. Kind of Escherian, especially considering they both frequent the Toki River.

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Music for the dancing was performed by shamisen, shakuhachi bamboo flute and taiko players on a stage in the middle of the street, and emceed by a professional announcer.

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Rounded domes of fireworks patterns, lanterns, ceramic fuurin wind chimes, and, here, even a passing older gentleman’s white hair populated the evening’s floating world.

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On the subject of flashing points of light, I was hoping to show you photos of fireflies this summer, but they are even more elusive than I thought. Maybe next year.

And this is probably as appropriate a place as there’ll ever be for this indispensible nugget: After years of fruitless furtive roadbound glancing to see if anyone’s blinkers were in sync with mine (which futility led me to wonder if car manufacturers deliberately set every single car’s blinker timing differently so as to ensure each one stood out; two in synch and stacked in parallax could look like one, for instance), like a slap-happy syncopated lightning bug, I recently finally found visual harmony: a Suzuki Cervo ahead of me was flashing in unqualified perfect unison with my turn signal. Not some alternating in-phase, out-of-phase approximation. A lockstepped, serendipitous synchronicity, an amber alignment perchance mined from the same hunk of quartz somewhere in Brazil or backwoods Arkansas. It was sublime.

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And then, as the traffic light changed, like a fleeting fireworks trail or a fuurin bell’s fading ring, or summer itself, our do-si-do dance of light was gone.

Lots to Do

In case you’ve lost track, the weekend has an impressive lineup of events including:

  • The first of three live music Saturday beergardens tomorrow evening at the Sakazuki Art Museum in Ichinokura
  • A “machikon” beergarden atop a two-storey public parking lot in Tajimi to view the fireworks there on Sunday
  • A similar konkatsu (mixer) type affair at Secret Time Cafe on Saturday, where if you bring a date, there’ll be a special chance to enjoy Toki’s fireworks festival (not sure if it’s in their parking lot, but that would definitely be a nice spot); by reservation only. They’re still looking for takers last I heard
  • Something called Kokeizan Dining on Sunday, which sounds like a beergarden from one of Tajimi’s most scenic spots (advance purchase tickets required)
  • Neu Cafe, while itself closed after lunch Sunday, will be offering outside the shop draft beer, Okinawan food, curry, tandoori chicken sandwiches and more in the buildup to the fireworks
  • And of course Toki’s (Saturday) and Tajimi’s (Sunday) fireworks festivals with stalls set up all along the river (and Chuo Dori in Toki; Nagase Dori in Tajimi) all afternoon and evening; Tajimi’s festival is part of its Gozasse Natsu Matsuri

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These are just goings on I happen to be aware of. I’m sure there are plenty of others as well.

Quick Response

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This event took place on the banks of the Toki River in Tamiji Friday morning. From what I could see, it seemed to be a demonstration of the fire department’s typhoon/flood rescue capabilities, with people entering a mobile rain(bow?) simulator with umbrellas, rides in inflatable rafts, a cookout and Unagappa encounters.

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No sooner had they done this than Mother Nature obliged with a thunder-boomer deluge of her own. We do seem to have had more storms this summer.

Curious City

Wednesday was Morizo, today is Mozo, and tomorrow’s anybody’s guess, but probably a day off from the blog, given the publishing pattern I’ve come to adopt lately.

A Bustle in Your Hedgerow

Mozo. After years of only hearing about it, I finally got to Mozo Wonder City shopping mall in Nishi-Ku, Nagoya. I can see now why people sometimes seem to prefer it to other area retail options. As the website explains, with typical Japanese non-committal, open-to-interpretation ambiguity and flowery language, the concept is one of a murmuring, a tiny rumbling/trembling/rustling/fluttering/nudging; sensing the beginning of a movement (literal or figurative – again, it’s up to you), perhaps being on the cutting edge or being present at the birth or sprouting of a trend, indulging your curiosity and growing like Tajimi roadside vegetation in June. My description is beginning to get as overgrown as their concept page, or the ivy nurtured outside their buildings, but you get the picture. It’s got lots of cool stuff.

As it happens, I mainly went to see a movie at the theater there. Besides feature films, this playhouse shows things you might not see anywhere else. Case in point: Three Idiots, the highest grossing Bollywood film ever, showing three years after its release. It was quite the romp. Be warned, unless you speak Hindi, you’ll have to be quick on your toes. There is a 5% mix of English in the dialogue, but the subtitles are all in Japanese. Don’t worry if you don’t catch every detail; Just repeat to yourself: All Is Well, All Is Well. You’ll get it if you see it. No, none of the idiots are called Moe, zo.

I only had time to linger in a few stores. There’s a Village Vanguard with a better selection of architecture and interior design books than other “VillaVans” I’ve been to, and Kitano Ace natural peanut butter mother lode imported food store. The anchor store is Aeon. The whole place is having big sales through Sunday, and even the regular prices I saw were pretty good. There was a very healthy, but not smothering, throng of customers well into the evening. Roads there don’t tend to get jammed, but if you don’t go by car, you can get there on the Meitetsu Line, getting off at Kamiotai Station and walking five minutes.

Now Museum, Now You Don’t

Magritte, Chagall, et al.

Eyes for art whetted by the French masterpiece exhibition in May and June? You can get more of your fill of European paintings this month at the Menard Art Museum in Komaki.

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Among artists whose works you can experience will be Picasso, Matisse, Klee, Van Gogh, Monet, Kandinsky, Magritte, and (from my experience) Japanese female favorites Miro and Chagall.

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Regret, Chagrin, All In

In addition, just a regret to post – I was looking forward to this photo show at the Tajimi Culture Center, but confused the dates with those above. Guess the tiring toll of a busy week caught up with me.

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Hope I have another chance to check out this local nature photographer sometime. He looks interesting.

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Never Had a Chance

Update: On the subject of gone before you know it, I just learned of a cafe in Toki I must have gone by dozens of times without even knowing it was there, and now it’s gone, and been so nearly a year. From what I’ve heard, it would’ve been right at home in the blog, so I’ll cut it some belated bandwidth here, with my regrets and hopes for happier stories in the future. It went by the name of Iroha Shokudo, and was situated right beside Sun Mart supermarket between the Toki River and Route 421. They served curry and coffee, daring to bring a tad more cool to Toki. Business was too tepid to keep it going, unfortunately. Maybe someone else reading this can be inspired to carry on the gentrification journey, if you will.

Guides to Good Times in Gifu and Beyond

Sitting here at the counter at Neu, I pick up this magazine, and the first three pages I randomly open up are places I immediately recognize, though two of them I only went to once, five and nine years ago. Not bad. This has got my attention.

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I’ve never seen this magazine before, but it’s clearly a kind I like. Beautiful photography introducing area shops, inns, restaurants, cafes, hot springs…any way or place to spend quality leisure time. Every new season there’s a different theme. This summer the focus is on “the view out the window.” (The cover story is on summer fun, then and now).

Then Neu’s owner brings out another magazine, this one from the publishers of Cheek, highlighting cafes, bakeries and sweets shops in Gifu, Mie, Aichi and Nagoya, as well as Shiga, Nagano and Shizuoka. Again, irresistible photos and presentation make me want to head out and try as many of these places as I can.

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Actually, Neu appears in both of them, so their being here is no coincidence. Anyway, I’d say I’m sufficiently piqued that I plan to go out and pick up my own copies soon and do a little cafe-cruising, at least on paper. Both are available in bookstores, with Hitomi even in convenience stores. Cheek’s July issue, below, also checks out Gifu hotspots.

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Get to the Point

Vive la Live

If your Bastille Day plans have you going to our illustrious (prefectural) capital, mark your calendar for this live jazz event at a joint known as Point. Featuring DJ interplay, the new (for Gifu) style here promises to delight even non-jazz lovers. A capital idea.

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I don’t know any of the other acts besides Kotaro Hiramitsu’s Ordinary Stance Trio, but if they’re anything like him, it’s worth going to. I’ll most likely catch Hiramitsu’s quintet sometime in the next month.

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Make Your Old Art Prof Happy

If you enjoy seeing art, you don’t want to miss the nice collection of three centuries of masterpieces by French artists showing at the Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art at Aichi Arts Center in central Nagoya until June 23.

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The exhibition features 66 works spanning periods from Baroque and Rococo to Cubism, from Poussin to Picasso, all from the State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow. As such, it’s a good chance to review your art history knowledge from that college survey course you had to take. The significant changes in each period are outlined in Japanese, and audio guides explaining eack painting are also available in Japanese for 500 yen.

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One of the highlights is a captivating Renoir portrait being shown in Japan for the first time, visible on the poster and admission ticket above. The whole show was a pleasure to see. One painting that especially brought France and French painting home was one called (translation of Japanese) “Paris at Dawn” by Luigi Loir.

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Besides museums, the twelve-storey Aichi Arts Center has a performing arts theater, a library, spaces for contemplation, art shops and restaurants including a Wolfgang Puck Cafe.