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Tuesday, June 17, 2008


You say Nebuta, I say Neputa

Undaunted by the current state of the dollar, John and Kate are planning to visit Japan this summer.

"We were thinking to go and see the big 'matsuri' festival of giant floats in northern Japan. But now we're told there are two. If this is true, which is the better bet to go and see?"

There are two festivals in August, both in Tohoku, but one is called Nebuta, the other Neputa. Easy to see why it might be confusing!

The Nebuta festival in Aomori is the most famed, and the most rowdy. Held Aug. 2-7, the massive and often fearsome-looking painted floats lit from within are dragged through the streets on the last three nights by hordes of wild young men (and increasingly, women).

Tourists tend to stand on the sidelines, but everyone else is very much part of the action.

The much quieter Neputa festival is staged in Hirosaki (which used to be the capital of the region until Aomori took over) from the first of the month until the seventh.

While Nebuta is dramatic, rowdy and frenetic — with thousands of dancers — Neputa is more visually entrancing.

The only problem at such short notice may be in finding accommodation, as many visitors book rooms months ahead. However, you can give it a try — or take a tent!

A fashion student writes: "I am coming to Tokyo from London, and have heard that there is a wonderful textile shop full of contemporary fabrics by Issey Miyake. Can you tell me where it is?"

The shop you are thinking of is Nuno. The fabrics are not designed by Miyake, but by his longtime collaborator Junichi Arai. Apart from bales and rolls of fabrics to buy by the meter, there are scarves, bags and a range of made-up garments. Staff are knowledgeable, cooperative and flexible. They will also run up and/or finish off items if asked nicely.

Nuno is in the basement of the Axis Building at 5-17-1 Roppongi, Minato Ward. Phone (03) 3582-7997, or mail nuno@nuno.com. An excellent Web site in English with maps and photographs of Nuno outlets across Japan and their activities (exhibitions, new books, etc.) is at www.nuno.com/Access/index.html

Frederick, who lives in Yamanashi Prefecture, writes (belatedly, but none the worse for that) in response to the reader in Lifelines (Sept. 4) who wondered if there was a cure to stop itching due to fleas.

"I have a good one that I learned from a customer while selling pest control contracts that included ridding homes of fleas. Having used it myself I can vouch for its effectiveness."

The solution, he says, is to go to a cosmetic shop that sells basic lotions, such as The Body Shop or Bare Essentials, and have them make you a blend with eucalyptus oil.

"For some reason, fleas don't like eucalyptus and will leave you be."

Send your questions, queries, problems and posers to community@japantimes.co.jp.

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