ニシタイ 西葛西駅前タイムズ

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AD!Venture 2017.04.10 Hometown Mie

dummy-image This time on Ad!Venture's search to broaden horizons on Japan’s diverse localities, I reached out to Shiori-san to hear about her hometown in Mie Prefecture.
“When I entered Bigbeat, something I really wanted to do was support the livelihood of Japan’s countryside areas. Even around Tokyo there are so many charming areas that people just don’t know about. I want to do work that helps convey that charm to more people, to do something that gives back…
So, I’d be glad to talk about my hometown if you’ll listen.
Where are you from?
I was born in Tado, Mie Prefecture, and although it is now part of the city Kuwana, for the people that live there, it's still Tado.
When talking about Mie, it’s impossible to avoid Ise Grand Shrine, the shrine of Amaterasu. Out of the people that come to Mie, most of them come on Ise-Mairi, (pilgrimages to Ise Shrine), to visit the sanctuary said to house the Sacred Mirror. In Tado, though, it’s known that a true Ise-Mairi also includes Tado’s Shrine, Tado Taisya, because it houses Amaterasu’s son, who I believe is a rain kami. It's sang in one of our folksongs: to go to Ise without also going to Tado is a one-sided or fractured pilgrimage. 

Grand Tado Temple Steps

I don't think anyone learns this folksong explicitly, but many elementary school students at some point study Tado traditions and it comes up. I, personally, learned it for a sports festival around that age, for our “Furusato  (hometown) Program". While there were cultural things like, “expressions of Tado,” there was also a performance of taiko drums and bells. I played both, and we learned the song along with our instrumental parts. I think it’s called Ise-Ondo . *Note: this is possible, as the words of Ise-Ondo seem to differ slightly by area.

Saori-san with friends in front of Tado Temple Gate
What is your hometown known for?
I think Tado is most famous for its annual Tado Festival, a distinguishing feature of my hometown which takes place during the first week of May.
There’s this sharp incline in Tado and every year for three days, challengers from each area of Tado, there’s about 6, try up to 3 times to ride a horse to the top. Although risky, making it, traditionally, means that your area will be blessed with a good harvest.
Young men are the stars of this festival, usually only about 15 years old. They enter strict training from around February and then during Golden Week ride in front of the whole town. I have many friends who have participated as riders. Some of them did get hurt, and one friend even ended up with some fractures. The festival does have that "risk" side of its reputation. But, and I think there are many places like this with deep traditions, to participate and to win means you’re are a real Tado Man. There’s this energy at the festival because of that, and the turn out is pretty large.

Photo by Bong Grit – Traditional Festival of Japan (2005)  CC BY ND 2.0  
Since the festival is an old one, it has many long-standing practices, some of which can be a bit controversial. One is that women are not allowed in the project teams or to be directly involved in the festival workings. Once riders are chosen, they won’t even eat food prepared by women. Their fathers must prepare all their meals, including school lunches since the cafeterias employ women. When I was growing up, there were girls who would say that if they had been born a boy, they would want to participate. I’m not really one of those that think so, though. It looks rough.
No matter what, though, if you really think about it, Tado Festival is one of those events that really brings the area together. In my opinion, there is a worth in that.

In your own words, what is Tado like?
For me Tado, is…green. While Mie more broadly has a strong foresting industry, and a well-known port city, Yokkaichi, with factories and warehouses and boats, Tado is mostly agriculture and country side with lots of fields.

Beautiful Waterfall in Tado

In the Spring in particular, when I see Sakura trees in Tokyo, I get nostalgic for home. There was this road I used to travel down coming home from school, and there were all these trees. In Spring, they would all bloom with Cherry Blossoms. It’s not anything famous or well known, but when I see Sakura trees, it bring me back to Tado.

Sakura outside Bigbeat's Office in Kiocho. I wonder if these made Shiori-san nostalgic for home.

Did it feel strange moving to Tokyo?
I spent my college years in Kyoto, so it wasn’t such a big change. But, even saying as much, moving to Tokyo did shock me in one particular way: the trains. In Tado, I drove everywhere, even to get to the convenience store. But Tokyo has so many trains, and they come every five to eight minutes. There’s also so many people in Tokyo that the trains will fill up and you’ll have to wait for the next one. If you waited for the next train in Tado, you wouldn’t make it home. The train comes maybe once per hour.
Any places you recommend for visiting?
If I might recommend some places in Kuwana as a whole, I’d recommend first Nagashima Spa Land Amusement Park. The pool there has sea-water, which is something you don’t find everywhere. There are also like ten or fifteen different kinds of water slides, all of which makes it quite popular in summer. For winter, Nabana no Sato is great. It has Japan’s largest tunnel and the illumination there is beautiful. It’s nice for a winter date and people often travel from Tokyo to visit.

Illumination at Nabana no Sato
What about places to eat or food?
The food is great! But there’s actually not that many places to eat out in my hometown. I do have one restaurant I like to recommend, though. It's called GRAND HILL. They have handmade waffles, and the restaurant itself has an antique decor feel. It might not be as trendy as a word like “café” implies, but to me, those waffles are more delicious than most I’ve eaten in Tokyo. Maybe the countryside gives them something special.

Grand Hill Waffles
For other foods, I recommend lobster, spiny shrimp (isei-ebi), and Matsusaka beef. The last one is especially known throughout Japan. It’s said to be the most delicious beef you can find. You can eat it raw, but it's popular as sukiyaki or steak.
What about souvenirs?
A souvenir from my hometown? Is it okay to recommend something that might not be all that well-known? Well then, personally, although akafuku is good, there’s this mochi, called henba mochi  that is really good. Of course, akafuku and other more well-known omiyage are delicious, but henba mochi is…nostalgic. Many local people love it, and it has this delicious inner anko. It’s…not quite a soul food, but yeah, I guess, saying that, it’s something close.

Well, henba mochi  might not be available in Tokyo, but it is definitely available to order from Mie by phone. Unable to resist, order I did.

And in a strange sort of fateful timing, these seasonal sweets arrived just in time for our 2017 new employees' first day.

So, I called to Shiori-san and we passed the mochi around.

Everyone excitedly bit into their first taste of hometown Mie.

And the verdict?

"Call over Shacho, I think this could be bigger than Noneman. "

Although he wouldn't say one or another, he definitely looked like he enjoyed henba mochi a lot.

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