November 06, 2007

Pottery, gyouza and jazz in Tochigi

It was up at dawn on Sunday and on one of the first trains of the morning to Hamamatsu-cho station to get on a tour bus headed for Tochigi prefecture. The trip would include a visit to Mashiko for the pottery festival and Utsunomiya for the gyouza and jazz festivals.

The bus pulled into Mashiko just after 9:30 and there was three hours to look around the festival stalls, which sounds like a long time, but in fact there were hundreds of stalls and plenty of interesting stuff to see.

A giant pottery tanuki (or raccoon dog), as seen outside many a Japanese eatery. There were hundreds of these on sale in all sizes.

A small pottery sofa at one of the smaller, trendier stalls.
Among the different souvenirs being sold to visitors was this pack of grasshoppers cooked in soy sauce (I think). As tempting as they looked, I decided to pass.

From there, the bus travelled for another hour before arriving in Utsunomiya where we had another three hours to enjoy gyouza (kind of pan-fried dumplings), which the city is fmaous for, and watch some live jazz. There were several areas around the city where gyouza stalls were set up, and after waiting in a long queue, you could get one portion (4 dumplings) for just 100 yen. Great stuff.

There were also four stage areas around the city where there were musicians playing jazz and soul music. The festival has been taking place for ovr 30 years and always features professional and amateut musicians from Tochigi prefecture. It was good fun, though with only three hours before the bus headed back to Tokyo, there wasn't really enough time to do it justice.

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