What's New at Hakkoda?    

Updated 10/14/08! Hiking on Columbus

The Japanese holiday; Sports Day and the American holiday; Columbus Day fell on October 13th this year. This gave us a chance to celebrate both with a Japanese/American community hike through the beautiful autumn scenery of Hakkoda.

The 18 of us started from the 300 year old Sukayu hot springs with blue bird skies and vivid autumn foliage above us. Pictures by Simon.

Winding our way through the lower & upper Ke-na-shi-tai marshes, the view increased proportionally with the elevation.

After stopping at the Odake mountain hut for lunch we continued the hike up to the crater of Mt. Ido (1550m) pictured above with Mt. Odake (1584m) in background, then over to Mt. Akakura and ending with a ride down the gondola with a breath taking view of Aomori City , the Tsugaru & Shimokita peninsulas and Mt. Iwaki.

Updated 10/8/08! Don't miss the Salmon Festival, October 25 - 26 in Rokkasho!

Updated 9/29/08! First snow falls while Simon's Tour (country) rocks the Beef and Garlic Festival!

First the fantastic news: Hakkoda and Mt. Iwaki had not only the 1st snowfall of the year, but the 1st mountain top snow covering (as the Japanese measure it). This is 16 days earlier than the annual average! A good omen for sure.

Now the other good news: The 23rd Takko Town Beef and Garlic Festival had a record turnout of visitors this year. Americans and their families were an evident part of the crowd and were able to enjoy the autumn weather, mouth-watering-melt-in-your-mouth beef and the hospitality of our local Japanese neighbors. It turned out to be quite an international affair as representatives from sister cities from the U.S. and Korea came as well.

For the third year in a row, I was able to get a group of base residents to volunteer to bring a bit of Americana to the festival. The Misawa Air Base Country Line Dancers were again a bit hit with the audience on Saturday afternoon. Meeting once and sometimes twice a week in the evenings for practices to hone their skills, these folk gave of their free time, family time, some coming directly from work or soccer practice and others being on call, all did their best to come when they could.

The result was a fantastic show howbeit a bit shortened by a passing shower, but still very well received by the cheering crowd. This year for the first time some of the children of the members also deftly danced some of the routines to the ohhs and ahhs of everyone!

I and some other members have received inquiries about doing some country line dancing on a regular basis on Misawa Base. This is being actively discussed and might be a reality very soon. If you would be interested in joining, email me at: bernard@infoaomori.ne.jp and I will keep you informed as decisions are made! In the meantime, enjoy a few of the pictures from the festival.

For those with advance tickets, organizers heated up the coals for do-it-yourself Bar-B-Q. Cooking it was almost as much fun as eating it!

Ladies and gentleman, I give you the the 2008 Misawa Air Base Country Line Dancers!

C(Back row L to R) Eric Holewinski, Karl Ackermann, Simon, Brian Brantley, Michael Stevens, Steven Deluna, Daryl Middleton. (Front row L to R) Ernie Holewinski, Mika Ogasawara, Angie Corrie, April Holewinski, Heather Adams, Eva Adams, Janet Winstead. Not shown: Toni Paulsen.

Updated 9/11/08! Simon's Tour goes to the Kunizakai (the Border) Festival in Lake Towada!

This past weekend 5 of us set out by mountain bike to make the 75km. trek from Misawa to Lake Towada.

Passing through a park located on both sides of the Oirase River (picture by Jim).

Staying off the main highway, our back country tour took us to beautiful scenery, wild flowers, and interesting scents. We lunched at the opening of the Oirase Gorge, then preceded down the 8km gorge where we saw all the waterfalls. Although I have been down this road by car hundreds of times seeing it by bike gave a whole different perspective.

Suzanne & Renee get up and close to one of the 15 waterfalls we road by!

When we reached the eastern shore of the lake and our legs started barking, we took a coffee break before heading down the home stretch to Yasumiya (the festival site) where we hit the onsen (hot springs) and dug into some delicious yakiniku, yakisoba and fresh cooked corn, not to mention the well deserved ice-cold beer!

Mike, Renee & Suzanne joking that we should take the triple-decked carnival boat the rest of the way to Yasumiya!

The lake borders on Aomori, Akita & Iwate Prefectures. The Kunizakai festival is the only place you can see the best festivals from each prefecture in one place...sort of like and all-star festival. I ran into a friend who was running the festival and he gave me a free press box pass so I was able to take some great pictures.

The highlight had to be the Kanto Lantern Festival from Akita. They balance 46 candle lit lanterns on 11 meter(33 foot) poles weighing over 100 pounds. What an unbelievable sight!

At the end of the evening, all the dancers, floats and performers converged for a raucous finale and the spectators were allowed to get-down,dance and get a close up view ending a fantastic night! See you there next year!


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