Finally summer is here! To start my summer in Japan I go to Tagajo Ayame Matsuri (Tagajo Iris Festival). The festival took place on the location of Tagajo castle, or whats left of it. Like Sendai Castle which is the capital of Miyagi prefecture, Tagajo castle was already ruined. Tagajo castle built on 724 and had been rebuilt for 3 times since then. The castle mainly served as military base of the northern part of Japan (Tohoku area). It was burned down on 780 due to rebellion, rebuilt, but then destroyed again at 862 due to tsunami 😦 During Edo period, Tagajo castle was under control of Date Clan of Sendai.
This place being interesting sites for japanese history and literature enthusiast since the location and the castle visited by some Japanese famous poets. The glory memoirs of Tagajo can be found through Basho travel diary: Oku no Hosomichi (The narrow road to the deep North). Basho is a Haiku (Japanese poet) master. He visited Tagajo at 24th June 1689 as deducted from his travel diary. The Tagajo Ayame Matsuri were held every years started on 24th June, to commemorate the day Basho came to the city.
Tagajo was easy to reach, I took 15 minutes JR train from Sendai Station through Senseki Line. I stopped at Kokufu Tagajo Station and paid 240 JPY for the train fare. Just outside the station there were small tourism information center. They had lots of tourism brochure and some of them were available in English (Yayy!). The Festival location was only 5 minutes walks from the station. They had 21,000 metres square garden full of iris. I had a friend who is a big fans of Iris flower so I took a lot of picture there. The festival also had lot more to offer for the visitors. I tried the small japanese tea party for 300 JPY. They give me a serve of Japanese green tea. I like the bitter taste of Japanese green tea but if you not used too it you can still enjoy it together with the sweets served together with the tea. The organizer of the tea party using traditional clothes and they let me take a picture with them after the tea party 😀
What I love from this festival is they not only had lot of food stalls but also activities you can join in. I made a bookmark with dry-pressed flower (for free!) and also a scraped an amulet necklaces from some kind of stone (sorry I forget the name of the stone, for 150 JPY). After that me and my friends had lunch while enjoying the performer on stage. I saw a lady sing “let it be” in Japanese version with such beautiful voice and also a shishi taiko (lion percussion) which is a percussion performance from a group wearing a lion costumes, thought its looks more like a wolves for me :p
The venue of Tagajo Iris Festival
After enjoying the festival we still had some times before going back to sendai. Actually there’s lots of interesting things to do in Tagajo but we decide to go to the site of Tagajo castle and Kase Numa, a man-made lake used as rice field reservoir on Edo period. The castle site was only 5 minutes walks from the iris garden and you can enjoy the scenery along the walk. Iris flower is not the only star during this time, I found lots of hydrangea there. Hydrangea is one of my favorite flower so I don’t mind walking at all, instead I stop several times to take a picture of the flower. What left of the castle was only the stone foundation of it, but it is said on 1300th celebration of its foundation they will start the reconstruction of the south gate. The castle site had lot of sakura (cherry blosson) and ume (plum) tree so I bet it will be worth to visit on Spring as well.
Site of ruined Tagajo castle and surrounding area
To go to kase numa we need to walk another 20 minutes. We try to follow gmaps from my phone when we see a forest on our left side. Thank God one of my friend can read japanese properly when he found a wooden board written as “Kase Numa entrance” pointed at the forest, it was a shortcut I guess. I found it creepy at first since the small wooden board kind of compromising but the forest looks so mystical and it is much more interesting than walking side by side with the cars. We had a pleasant time at kase numa, I wish I bring a picnic stuff here. We take a rest and I made a flower crown from the wild flowers I found there. I learned how to make it from the local kids 😉
Since it almost start to raining we ended our Tagajo day trip there. Walk back to kokufu-tagajo station and took train to Sendai Station. The day was really worth spend and it only cost me 480 JPY for transportation! LOL