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Nozawa Onsen fire festival

Nozawa Onsen Dosojin Festival
The burning tower with a paper wishThis is one of the most famous and definitely most exciting winter festivals in Japan. Although it is not held in Matsumoto, it is not too far away. It is incredible and I think anyone in Matsumoto or interested in coming to Matsumoto should take advantage of our proximity to all this madness.

Small boy lighting a big fireExcessive sake drinking gets it all started and keeps it going. Last year I went after work and arrived quite late but was immediately greeted by old men with big bamboo buckets of sake more then eager to share.
Once everyone is good and sauced the flaming bundles come out into the street. This procession starts with young boys and small bundles starting small fires in the 18 meter wood shrine in the center of the crowd. Meanwhile, forty-two year old men sit on top of the shrine singing and chanting and twenty-five year old men defend the base from the torch-bearing villagers trying to burn the whole thing down. (both ages are concidered unlucky in Japan)

Final FlamesOver about an hour the flaming bundles get bigger and bigger and the bearers more and more inebriated as they walk through the crowd to the shrine. Last year there were so many people that policemen had to hold back the crowds that swayed back and forth towards the torches. The young men at the shrine taunted the touch bearers held on to ropes to stay vertical. The encounters between the two groups gets more and more heated and there are literally sparks flying everywhere. Finally the battle comes to an end, the older guys come down, the whole thing goes up in flames, and the crowd retreats cheering.

Report of Halloween in Matsumoto



Matsumoto hosted its first Halloween party on Saturday and despite the rain it was a huge success. Ghosts, witches and even Darth Vader showed up with umbrellas and we had a wonderful time. There were a variety of events like live music and dance preferences along activities to keep everyone busy including a cake walk were you could win a cake from Sweet bakery. There was also team of professional judges for many costume contests and a raffle with tons of prizes.
Since Halloween is one of the most popular holidays in the United States, we thought this would be a good opportunity to spread the word about Salt Lake City and the Sister City relationship with Matsumoto. The Salt Lake City booth displayed photos of Salt Lake, Halloween and the history of the sister city exchanges that take place between our cities. The booth had a spider web theme representing the web that connects us all and the community that is created through these international ties. The five current AETs from Salt Lake were also there in Halloween garb to answer questions and spread the love.

Nagano Prefecture Longitudinal Relay Race

A relay race of the length of Nagano Prefecture will start its second day in Matsumoto on Sunday November 18th. Fifteen teams of twenty-one runners will run from Nagano to Iida over the course of two days. Last year’s winning team ran the race in a combined time of 11 hours 44 minutes and 10 seconds. You can come cheer them on as they start their second day at Matsumoto Castle at 8:00 am on Sunday the 18th.

Fireworks Tonight!

Hanabi!!!Tonight (August 10th) Tsukama shrine will set off about 3,000 fireworks (hanabi) from 7:30-9:00. Tsukama shrine is across the Susuki-gawa River from Agatanomori Park. Apparently the best place to watch is from the shores or the river while enjoying a BBQ with your friends. Have a great weekend everyone!

What are those dolls in the windows?

Those two dolls represent two star-crossed lovers who can meet for only one night a year. This one night is called Tanabata, meaning “Seven Evenings” traditionally celebrated on July 7th using the lunisolar calendar (August 7th using our solar calendar). As legend has it, Orihime, meaning weaving princess, made beautiful fabric next to the river of heaven. When she meet her lover Hikoboshi, the crow herder star, they both stop working and spend all of their time together. This angers Orihime’s father (the sky king) so he separates them with the river of heaven and allows them to meet under the bamboo for only one night a year. This is the same night the stars Vega and Altair intersect along the Milky Way.
Tanabata is celebrated by tying wishes often written in the form of poems onto bamboo branches. It is believed that when the star lovers meet under the bamboo they will see the wishes and take them into the heavens with them. Matsumoto is famous for making Tanabata Ningyou, the dolls you now see in the windows.

Takigi Noh August 8th!!!

Noh, one of the traditional dramatic arts of Japan, and is famous for its masks and lavish costumes. Usually a Noh performance is given in a Noh theatre, on a Noh stage specially designed for the performance.
But every August in Matsumoto a special outdoor performance is given right in the inner garden of Matsumoto castle, starting in the early evening and continuing by lantern light after the sun sets. Noh plays are hundreds of years old and sung in their own peculiar way, and most Japanese audience members are just as lost as the foreigners in attendance as far as the dialogue goes. But the nighttime staging of the Takigi Noh gives the symbol-heavy and supernatural dramas give back a bit of the atmosphere that they once had, and the kyogen (“crazy talk”) comedies in between the two short Noh plays help relieve the tension with lots of physical comedy about drinking and getting the best of your feudal lord.
Date August 8th
Hours 5pm – 8pm
Place Matsumoto castle
Charge Free

MTB JAMBOREE

This weekend is the Mountain Bike Jamboree at Aokiko Ski Resort in Omachi. This is a great chance to play outside and meet new people. This is a big event with live music, DJ’s, a MTB freeride course, BBQ Party, a bunny hop show, a Downhill school, a sweetriders demo clinic, and much more!!
Sweetriders, a local Matsumoto group and wonderful friends of mine are putting on this event. Check out their site www.sweetriders.com for more details.

Happy Birthday Matsumoto

It’s Matsumoto’s 100th Birthday!!!!
The celebrations are going on all year, but today is the big day to get it all started. There will be special ceremonies and performances starting at 1 pm today at the Performing Arts Centre. Check out the events calendar for more details. 😉
Yesterday, Robert and Gwen Springmeyer (my parents) sat in the back of an open car waving as they drove through the streets of Matsumoto. They are here representing Salt Lake City, Matsumoto’s oldest Sister City. Nearly 30 years ago they came here on a similar mission to celebrate the Sister City relationship that was 20 years old at the time. They had such an exciting time here that the morning before they flew back home, they were married in Akanamia Jinja along the Metaba River right here in Matsumoto.
Since that day, they have organized and taken part in inumerable exchange programs between Salt Lake City and Matsumoto. The biggest of which it the Salt Lake City International Life School a summer exchange program that my mother organizes every year. Since it began, over 600 Matsumoto highschool students have gone to Salt Lake City, stayed in host families, practiced their English, rafted on the colorado river, slept under the stars, and riden through mountains on horse back.
The 27th International Life School will take place this year. It is open to High school students and mature Jr High school students. For more information please contact City Hall.

A coveted place to live

Spring is just gathering momentum here in Matsumoto. As I rode my bike to work this morning I saw buds on the trees and hints of green everywhere. It even smells like spring. This weekend I was able to spend another fantastic weekend in Hakuba just a short train ride away. Unfortunately spring is there too and the resorts got rained on over the weekend:sad:. One of my good friends has been living up there and was in desperate search for a job in Matsumoto because of its balance of urban life and proximity to the mountains. He is not alone I know many people that come to Matsumoto even to visit, and don’t want to leave.
He got lucky and found a job last week. If you are lucky enough to be living here, get out and enjoy it and let us know what it is that you love about this place!

Party!!!

The site is opening, and we are celebrating!:mrgreen:
The full-launching of this site including versions in Chinese and Koreans is on Friday March 16th. Since the very next day is St. Patrick’s Day, we are taking the opportunity to celebrate. Old Rock bar is kind enough to let us collaborate with them so it should be a good party. The festivities will begin at 7:30 at Old Rock bar on Honmashi street. There will be a 100 yen discount on Irish beer and for those of you that are festive and wear green you get a free shot of Irish whiskey or cream and if you don’t I’ll pinch you so watch out!!
Hope to see you there!
Liza


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