Culture Class Goes To Mount Izumigatake (泉ヶ岳)
I was enrolled in a Japanese Culture class at Tohoku University while staying in Sendai. We had a little field trip one Sunday to visit an apple orchard, see local students perform cultural dances, and hike Mount Izumigatake.
Date: 2009-10-18 Sunday
Location: Mount Izumigatake (泉ヶ岳) and surrounding areas in Sendai
Duration: all day
Being in a Japanese Culture class that included field trips was perfect for a foreigner like me, who knew so little of anything Japanese.
Let’s jump right into it, shall we?
Our first stop on this field trip was a local apple orchard. We actually got to pick some apples and buy them at a low price. This was great, since the prices of fruit at the grocery stores are quite high. The apples were delicious. Some of the apples had stickers on them to keep certain areas more pale than the others, creating shapes or letters for aesthetics appeal. Tan-lines for apples, if you will.
Cultural Dances at Neno Shiroishi
Our second stop was the Neno Shiroishi community center (根白石市民センター), where we saw local elementary school and middle school kids perform traditional dances. The primary show was the Deer Dance (shishi odori 鹿踊), where people dress up as deer and dance to drums and flutes. It is a very traditional dance from Northeastern Japan, but there seem to be many origin stories and variations to the dance. The kids also performed other traditional dances, all of which involved very colorful and unique costumes. Unfortunately, I cannot remember the histories or origins behind the dances that I saw. The slow rhythm of the dances reminded me of Historical Dances in Europe, but I highly doubt the Deer Dance was invented for pleasure because it looked rather ceremonial. While the dances were somewhat repetitive (as is the case in most traditional dances), the middle schooler’s performances were very lively and energetic.
House at Mount Izumigatake
At last, we arrived at Mount Izumigatake. There was a very old, traditional-looking house at the foot of the mountain, and the owner greeted us and showed us in. It was a large wooden house with a straw roof with a few rooms, padded with tatami floors. Such style of housing was typical for the commoners (except for before the 17th century, when tatami was made only for nobles). In one of the rooms was a “mask” labeled Kama Kami (釜神), which I believe means the God of the Hearth or God of the Stove. I found it interesting because the mask was very old and looked nothing like a God, at least not a very happy God. It makes sense though, as searching online yielded results for “Kamado Kami,” who has a bad temper…
I also found a cool-looking, old pot that was hung from the ceiling, above a fire pit.
Hiking Mount Izumigatake
Mount Izumigatake is actually a small ski resort in the winter with a few chairlifts, and it is a good place for hiking after the snow melts. It’s almost like a mini Mount Zao. We saw many families on the hills having picnics and enjoying the weather. After riding the ski chairlift up the first big hill, we took some time to enjoy the grand view from the top. We then followed a guide and hiked through the woods and looped back to the parking lot at the bottom, near the wooden house. I wouldn’t say that hiking Mount Izumigatake is a must, but it definitely is a good place to visit for a quick getaway from Sendai.