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Monthly Archives: January 2009

Tokushima Airport Extension Begins

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From the Tokushima Newspaper:

Nearly two kilometres away from the current terminal building of the Tokushima Airport in Matsushige is the site of planned construction for a new terminal building set to open in spring of the year 2010. It was here that on the morning of January 21, a ceremony was held to commemorate the start of construction.

Over 100 guests were present, including Vice Governor of Tokushima Prefecture Mr. Kimura, a representative of the Osaka Regional Civil Aviation Bureau, JAL, and other members of the company in charge of the construction project. After the symbolic breaking of the ground and a shinto blessing of the construction site, Vice Governor Kimura said, “Proper construction of the aiport is one of the main projects in the prefecture and we will support it to our fullest extent. This airport, the ‘Awa Odori Airport’ will serve as a means to promote Tokushima across the country.”

The new terminal, a three storey building of steel-framed reinforced concrete construction set to cover 8528m², will stand on the north side of the planned runway extension.

The first floor will have the lobby and check-in counter, and on the third floor will be restaurants, a waiting area, lookout and more. The second floor will be designated as office space.

Total construction costs, including construction, labour and parts is estimated at 30 billion yen, and will be completed in line with the opening of the extension of the runway to 2,500m (an increase of 500m).


The Awa no Tanuki Festival

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For those who have spent some time in Tokushima, you may have guessed that tanuki play a pretty big part in local culture. Not only is Komatsushima the site of a big tanuki battle, but there are statues and images of tanuki in the streets and in front of store windows as well. It comes as little surprise then that Shikoku is known as the home of the tanuki, and it comes as even less of a surprise that a place filled with tanuki stories and myths should have an event dedicated to them as well.

Awa Dancing at the Awa no Tanuki Festival

Awa Dancing at the Awa no Tanuki Festival

Tanuki Traditions
The Awa Tanuki Festival was first held in November 1978. Yet, in spite of the promising name, there are actually no real tanuki in attendance. Rather, the purpose of the festival is less to celebrate the furry existence of tanuki than as an opportunity to promote both local products and local talent, and to help draw visitors to Tokushima. It might actually be easier to think of it as the autumn version of the Hana Haru Festa, but with a lower emphasis on Awa Odori and with a lot more fur, fake though it may be.

The Tanuki Song

As with many other festivals and occasions in Japan, the Awa Tanuki Festival has its own song. The four verses of this rather light-hearted jingle can be heard now and then on TV around the time of the event, and at the festival itself (on loop, all day long…). The first verse goes a little something like this:

A strange sound in the middle of the night, koto koto koto koto koto koto, out behind the old shrine, “oh, it wasn’t me” they say, aha! it must have been the tanuki! koto koto koto koto koto koto, that’s right, the tanuki of awa.

Tanuki Stories
Komatsushima’s tanuki battle is not the only such folk story involving tanuki in Tokushima. In fact, there are  several folk tales featuring these mischievous little creatures.

For example, it is said in the Iya Valley that long ago a tanuki could be found near the embankment to one of the famous Iya Vine Bridges. When people would try to cross here at night, the tanuki would confuse the travellers by making it seems as though the bridge had split into two, making it impossible to cross. It was also said that tanuki in the area would fake cries of a woman in distress, drawing passers by to their aid only to find nothing. Similar tales can be found in Ishii, Yuki and other locations around the prefecture.

And of course, the Hayao Miyazaki fans among us are likely familiar with the movie Pom Poko, part of which was staged in Tokushima and tells the tale of tanuki fighting to keep hold of their traditional homeland against the advance of suburbia.

Hana Haru Festa

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Dancers perform an older, more traditional form of the dance at the main stage of the Hana Haru Festa in Tokushima City.

Dancers perform an older, more traditional form of the dance at the main stage of the Hana Haru Festa in Tokushima City.

While thoughts of Awa Odori most commonly conjure up images of those four hot and sweaty nights in the streets of Tokushima each year in August, there is another option available – the Hana Haru Festa.

Flowers and Awa Odori
In 2009 the Hana Haru Festa sees its 12th year running as one of the larger festivals held in Tokushima City throughout the year. Combining the usual festival fare of markets and local produce, the main defining feature of the Hana Haru Festa is that it provides the chance to see Awa Odori during the daytime, the only time in the year when this is possible!

However it is not all just about Awa Odori. The Hana Haru Festa is also home to a large stage area hosting local music and modern dance performances, live radio broadcasts, fashion shows and various other cultural displays run across the three days of the event.

The Shinmachi Bridge
The Shinmachi Bridge and Aibahama Park where the festival is located are places of some historical note for Awa Odori. In olden times, it was forbidden for people to dance outside of the district in town in which they lived. But people being people, ways around this ruling were found, and the Shinmachi Bridge was one of those. Back then, the bridge lay at the edge of two districts, and people from either area would come together to dance there and enjoy the festival together. Even now the Shinmachi Bridge is a major site for the dance as one of the main dancing stages.

All Year Long
Don’t forget, you can see Awa Odori all year long at the Awa Odori Kaikan found in Tokushima City. Not only can you see displays of the dance, but there is also a museum on the 3F (adults 300 yen, junior high school students and below 150 yen) and a library on the 2F (free).

The Big Hina Matsuri

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Every year in march, all across Japan people are celebrating girl’s day on March 3. The day is marked by the decoration of hina doll displays – large and elegant displays of dolls fashioned to look like members of royalty from ancient Japan. However, as you’ve likely guessed by reading thus far, Tokushima takes a somewhat different approach to this traditional festival.

The grand entrance to the Big Hina Matsuri display.

The grand entrance to the Big Hina Matsuri display.

The Big Hina Matsuri
Katsuura in the middle south-west of Tokushima is home to the Big Hina Matsuri, a long-standing festival in which hina dolls are collected from all across the country to be put on display. The ningyo bunka koryukan, home to the festival, now holds over 15,000 dolls and puts them on display each year during late February and on into march. As you can see in the photo (top right) the scale is really something, and you won’t regret going to take a look! I promise!

To those who fear that going to look at piles upon piles of dolls might not be very interesting, have no fear. The dolls may take the main stage, but there are other activities going on as well. Last year when I went to take a look, there was also traditional Japanese tea and sweets on sale, and a display by the local cheer leading team, amongst other performances from the local area.

Hina Dolls

A stack of hina dolls on display.

And of course, the dolls themselves are interesting too. Due to the collection’s growth over a very long period of time, there are many different kinds of dolls. Some are very new, while others are very old and have bits and pieces missing (one or two dolls sport very wild and interesting hairstyles). It is interesting to see how the style of the displays have changed over the year, as well as see the amount of detail and personality put into the construction of each doll. Each and every single doll is different in some way or another, which is almost hard to believe considering how many there are on display.

Size, too, differs from doll to doll. While the majority are quite small, there are also some large dolls as well, including some around one meter high that are sure to give anyone with a doll phobia nightmares for the rest of the week.

A Reason for Everything
The Big Hina Matsuri didn’t simple come about through the desire to collect hordes and hordes of dolls, however. In fact, the reason that dolls are sent here from all over Japan as opposed to simply being disposed of is part superstition and part respect for the craftsmanship put into making them.

Simply put, people find it difficult to throw away the dolls. They are not only expensive, but it is considered just cause for bad luck to rain down from the heavens on the offending person/s.

Hina Matsuri – The Song
You guessed it – the hina matsuri is no exception when it comes to traditional festival songs. Listen close next time you’re out shopping and you might just hear it!

Akari o tsukemashou bonbori ni, ohana o agemashou momo no hana, go-nin bayashi no fue taiko, kyo wa tanoshii Hinamatsuri.”

“Let’s light the lanterns, let’s set peach flowers, five court musicians are playing flutes and drums, today is the joyful Dolls’ Festival.”

Tokushima Multicultural Festival 2009

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Guest speaker Zoma Houn.

Guest speaker Zomahoun Idossou Rufin.

Sunday, January 25, 2009 is the planned date for the Tokushima Multicultural Festival. The Multicultural Festival to be held in Tokushima is a large-scale event based around the keyword of Multicultural Coexistence, a word gaining ever more importance in our society. The purpose of the event is to both help bring people in touch with the greater issues behind multiculturalism and to learn about its importance in their everyday lives.

Multicultural Stage (10:30-16:00)
* 10:30-12:00 International Understanding Forum.
* 13:00-13:10 A word from the sponsors.
* 13:15-14:30 Lecture and Talk Show.
* 14:45-16:00 Singing Contest.

Plaza of the World (10:00-16:00)
* Experience foreign cultures:

  • Photo session in national costumes. The first 150 people get a photo or a postcard.
  • Japanese culture experience (with tea ceremony, calligraphy, historical games and more).

* Introduction and exhibition of International Associations within Tokushima Prefecture.
* Stamp rally.
* Salon for multicultural exchange.

NB: Schedule may change without notice.

When: Sunday, January 25 from 10:00 to 16:00.
Where: ASTY Tokushima
Cost: Free!
Sponsor: TOPIA, Tokushima Prefecture, JICA.

For more information about the event, and how you can participate, call TOPIA at 088-656-3303, by fax at 088-652-0616, or by email at the following address: