Many people want to experience the real traditional Japan with its culture and customs that one cannot find by looking at a temple in Kyoto, so I came to Ugo town in Akita Prefecture. This small but rich town offers different traditional events not just for one day, but many. I have joined the 10 day experience. For starters, I get to live in this town for the duration of the event. And this blog is about day 1 and 2.Day 1;
Coming from Akita city it is about a one hour drive (where transport is offered). The morning of the arrival I was assigned a guide that lead me to the house I would stay for the 10 days. The house is huge, 4 separate sleeping rooms, a huge bathroom and a living room, already feels like I want to stay here. After dropping off the bags we went to meet primary school students during their break and start our local tour around the town. Learning about how the kids grow up in the area going on hikes around the mountain to find specific foods and to learn about which are not edible and for me to learn how this town remains sustainable.Following the school event we went for a local Ugo Soba lunch. Now, I am not an expert on soba, but I am one about eating and this soba was definitely one of the best I have had so far in Japan. Perfectly cold for the summer heat.As today was the start of the experience it was a relaxed day followed by a meeting with the organizers about the plan for the coming days. After the meeting around 3pm I was given some time off to wander around the town for myself a little and organize myself at home before having dinner with some of the local people that would be tagging along this experience.
This day began at 9am as the start of the experience in Ugo town. When travelling to Japan one always thinks of technology and anime and forgets that one can actually enjoy travelling while meeting the local people and learning what the local people do and what makes them so interesting. So today I went to learn about dyeing clothes, especially kimonos. A simple process that when you want to do something amazing becomes extremely difficult. I had never imagined dyeing clothes would be this difficult yet creative at the same time. I ended up using chopsticks in order to make a design as well as a marble and a toothpick. Definitely a chance for people to let their creativity go wild.After receiving as a present the dyed cloth we went for sashimi (raw fish bowl) for lunch before heading to the mountain walk. For any nature enthusiasts, Ugo is definitely a town to enjoy life’s most precious things, nature. You might get a chance to see the Japanese giant hornet along the tracks. Depending on the season, for me it was spring, you get to see different insects as well as enjoy a picnic in the mountains next to various lakes. You can take a break along the tracks, having to eat and drink and simply enjoy. The tour guide explained about the sustainable life that most Ugo people lead by giving back to nature what they take. You will never see a lack of nature in Ugo.The night event at 7pm is perhaps the most beautiful event that Ugo can share with the world and can only be found here, the Bon Odori dance. The dance began around 700 years ago during the Kamakura period to pray for a good harvest. The steps might look very easy but even for someone that dances latin music, this was actually quite difficult. However not impossible. Although usually in actual presentations it is the women that partake in the dancing wearing amazing unique clothing, the men are also allowed to join in the dancing.With the help of my amazing master in the picture above I was able to get the hang of half of that day’s dance performance. Consequently, one can also join the people playing the drums instead of the dancing. One thing you will hear people from Japan say is Akita Bijin (Akita’s Beautiful) meaning the Japanese know that Akita has the most beautiful girls from Japan and I can you that saying lives up to its name. So don’t get distracted while dancing, you might find yourself not actually moving at all. The dance takes around 30 minutes to complete. In the summer in September there is the Ugo Town Bon Odori festival where you can experience a full blown out dance event of the town famous all around Japan.Written by Alan Roberto T