A Local Perspective on Life in Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan.

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For St. Patrick`s Day – an Original Song (and a weekend of CANCELLED events in Tokyo)

Traditional Irish music for St. Patrick`s Day in front of Ars Halls in Tsukuba.

Traditional Irish music for St. Patrick`s Day in front of Ars Halls in Tsukuba. Part of the Tsukuba St. Patrick`s Day Festival that was held every year from 2008 to 2012. With the Japanese love of festive foods and decoration, Celtic music, beer and whiskey (and dressing up in costumes, among the young) it`s not hard imagining that some day this festival will be as big as Halloween (also of Celtic origin) which has gained widespread popularity here in recent years.

By Avi Landau

The Japanese love to celebrate! Despite having their own very full calendar of traditional annual events* – each involving distinct festive foods and decorations, they have also gone and adopted, with great enthusiasm, certain Western events – some involving special foods and decorations, and all requiring plenty of shopping! I`m talking about Christmas, Halloween, Mothers` Day, Father’s Day, the Japanese version of Valentine’s Day (in which women give gifts -mainly chocolate- to men) and its counter-balance: White Day (on which men return the gift, usually with something white in color, like cookies!)

The rise in popularity of these newer festivals is to a large part due to the promotional activities of certain business concerns: Cake makers, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Toys-R-Us, fancy Western-style restaurants and romantic hotels for Japan`s version of Christmas, Chocolate makers for Valentine`s Day ( former Prime Minister Abe`s wife Akie is the daughter of the former president of Morinaga, the big confectioner that first introduced Valentine`s Day to the Japanese), cookie-makers on White Day, snack-makers of all sorts for Halloween – and department stores and flowers shops for Mothers and Fathers Days. Years of concerted advertising campaigns have helped make these imported “special days” a part of everyone`s lives here in Japan. What helped make it so natural for the Japanese to adopt them though, is their natural love of seasonal foods and decoration.

It should come as no surprise then that certain enterprises (namely Guinness beer and all the pubs in Japan that sell it) as well as lovers of all things Irish (and there are quite a few in Japan – myself among them!), have tried to promote St. Patrick`s Day in Japan. And you know what, it seems to be catching on! In fact, there was supposed be a TWO-DAY celebration of things Irish in Tokyo this past weekend – in one of the city`s most exciting areas – Omotesando, where the fancy meets the solemn and the trendy (and where one of the most exclusive shopping streets meets the Meiji Shrine and the teen-fashion Mecca of Takeshita-dori). There were supposed to me events held in other cities as well. As you know, though, the coronavirus has had them all cancelled

However, I wouldn`t be surprised if in ten years St. Patrick`s Day became as big as Halloween (another festival of Celtic origin) is now in Japan – though oriented more towards young adults than children (with beer instead of sweet treats). They already have the Green tea, green ice cream, and green soft drinks (called melon soda) as well as a soft spot for the melancholy melodies that evolved on a green island (like their own), off the other end of the Eurasian continent**.

Sadly, St. Patrick`s Day festivities in Tsukuba have all but disappeared – perhaps because we are so near the big events in Tokyo.  From 2008-2012 we actually had our own Irish street festival here – and before that that, my band, The Tengooz, would always play a raucous St. Patrick`s Day Live at Corkheads and the other great pubs we used to have around here.

For those who remember those wild nights of drinking, dancing and comradery, I`d like to post a recording of a song that was always one the highlights of our show, a song that got everyone riled up into a frenzy – especially the members of the band!


Dancing to the Tengooz song "Inishmore"

Dancing to the Tengooz song “Inishmore”

It`s called Inishmore and its based on memories from a trip I took to the western part of Ireland.

Here are the lyrics:

INNISHMORE ( words and music by Avi Landau)


One year I had the notion

for to cross the wild ocean

over to the Emerald Isle

to ramble for a while


Among the wild flowers

and ancient stony towers

spinnin` yarns and telling jokes

with amicable folks


I spied her while I was inside a Celtic music store

I had a glance `twas enough I had to have one more

she headed west down to the ferry when she left the door

I followed her and sailed the waters out to Inishmore


When we pulled from the shore

I could see the cliffs of Moher

as majestic as can be

being pounded by the sea,

and then starboard seven miles

lay the three lone Aran Isles,

I don`t believe you`ve seen

so many shades of green

I hopped ashore and followed stone wall mazes over grass

I scoured the island everywhere – but couldn`t find the lass

the burning feeling that beguiled me soon began to pass,

I sat and stared out to the waters from a lonely wall on Inishmore


That`s me on the vocals

Jon Hicks on the drums

Hase G on bass

Kenya Sagara on trombone

and Tanaka on Guitar


Another special “Irish” memory for me in Tsukuba was running into Paddy Malone of the Chieftains just outside Nova Hall.

Have a Happy St. Patrick`s Day!

* Many of these Japanese traditional events originated in Tang China, were brought into Japan in the 8th century, and over the years took on a Japanese character of their own (long after having been forgotten in their native China : There is New Years (Sho-gatsu) with a wide assortment of festive decoration and cuisine, then January 7th for eating NANAGUSA GAYU, Setsubun in the beginning of February with its demon masks, bean-throwing and sardine-head door post decorations, the Hina Festival (Girls` Day) of March 3 and Boys` Day on May 5 – with their sometimes extravagant decorations and distinctive dishes, Tanabata of July 7 are the events of Chinese origin which are still celebrated by most Japanese. Besides these there are the uniquely Japanese events and regional and local events as well. So when I told you that the Japanese like to celebrate, I meant it!

The Nakadai Tumulus as first seen when approacing from the Hirasawa Iriguchi Bus-stop

Something that always makes me remember my trip to Ireland are ancient tombs such as this found in abundance in Japan (Nakada, Hojo, Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture). Go to this great site for pictures of ancient stone tombs and monuments in Ireland

** Because of their locations off their respective ends of Eurasia both Ireland and Japan became important repositories of continental culture that had been destroyed by invaders (the Visigoths, Franks, Angles and Ostrogoths, etc. in Western Europe and the Mongols in China). Monasteries in both these island countries preserved the learning and customs that were lost after the “barbarian” invasions on the continent.

23rd night stone

Japanese stone monuments that remind me of Ireland (Hojo, Tsukuba)

6th century tomb in Hojo, Tsukuba (Japan)

6th century tomb in Hojo, Tsukuba (Japan)