Hello all, today’s post is a continuation of ‘Where Have I Been?,’ and I will be talking about my last couple of weeks here in Akita.
Art & Chestnuts
A couple weeks ago, on the 10th, I signed up for a local event with the club AUWA. The name of the club is a combination of ‘Akita’ and ‘Yuwa’. Yuwa is the neighboring town that the club works with to organize activities. For this event we visited an art exhibit and picked wild chestnuts, which we later used to make a meal. We met up at 9:30 am and walked about 45 minutes, up a hill to the venue; which gave me another opportunity to admire Akita’s natural beauty.
The exhibit, titled “Made in Yuwa: Yuwa’s Autumn Factory Exhibition” was held at the Katsura Landscaping Gardenersery. Once we arrived, we split into four smaller groups and, since there were different little art houses to visit, headed in different directions. Each art house belonged to one artists and it’s there that they presented their works and greeted visitors. All the artists of this exhibit were local Akita artists, who spoke to us in depth about their work and the process of creating their pieces.
One artist, Takahashi Tomoko, made beautiful decorative paper. We learned that her paper was made out of the tree bark of local Akita trees; Takahashi-san even explained the process to us in brief. The long process of making the paper includes boiling the bark for hours, dyeing it, and carefully stretching it out to dry.
Another artist, Akiyama Shoko, had two rooms full of pottery. She talked to us about the process, the materials, and her background. Akiyama-san attended an arts school for over 3 years to study ceramic making and pottery.
This experience was a rewarding one. I learned that all of these artists had lived in Akita at some point prior, and most had returned because they missed the area. I learned about how important these art forms are to Akita’s culture and modern commerce.
After a thorough tour of the exhibits, we left to pick wild chestnuts – which I had never seen or eaten before. I was surprised that they were nuts encapsulated in hard, spiky shells. I was also surprised that they were actually everywhere and we even picked some up on the side of the road, near forests and dense trees. We headed back to a shared house owned by AIU, located about 20 minutes from campus. There we relaxed, peeled the chestnuts, and played games while waiting for our meal to finish cooking.
What I love about AUWA events is that they keep the number of participants small, which allows for more intimate sessions with locals and each other. It provides a nice communal feel that allows friendships to form and good memories to be made.
Omagari Hanabi Matsuri, Daisen City
The weekend of the 14th, I was one of the lucky 30 students who were able to attend Daisen City’s Hanabi Matsuri, or Fireworks Festival. We were picked up, by Daisen City officials, on a charter bus. The ride to Daisen was about an hour. When we arrived at the city hall, the officials led us to our venue, which was about 20 minutes away on foot. Though the festival venue itself was quite large, the long alley of food vendors and the many people crowding the area made it feel small. On the lawn were numbered rows of seats, and we were lead to our section: A3. We were given 30 minutes to explore and purchase food. At 6:00 pm sharp, the show began.
I had heard that Japan had great firework shows, but I was still not prepared for the entertainment I experienced that night. For a little over an hour, we ooo-ed and ahh-ed at the colorful patterns that lit up the sky. Different sponsoring companies had fireworks displayed on their behalf, and even choreographed segments were presented, complete with music!
The show closed with a performance of the Lion King. That’s right – the story of Lion King told through music and fireworks! I was already sold, but this just sweetened the experience. Lion King is one of my favorite movies of all time and being able to watch a show based on it, made me feel closer to home. This trip taught me about the festival culture of Japan. Festivals are used to celebrate events like New Years and equinoxes. For instance, this festival was held to celebrate the beginning of autumn.
This upcoming weekend I will be visiting Odate, a neighboring city just north of AIU. I’m looking forward to learning more about Akita’s history and culture and I can’t wait to share what I learn with you all.
Until next time,