It was great to meet you at Tainai Brett. Here's our report on the whole event.
Enjoy all !
It was with great excitement that I planned my trip to the Tainai Star Party, not only was I going to get to travel to Japan for the second time in my life, but I’d get to experience one of the largest star parties in the world from behind the scenes!
The journey there was on Cathy Pacific airlines via Hong Kong. Long haul is of course different to the short European hops us Brits generally get to do when travelling to the continent for vacations. Not only are the aircraft significantly larger, double isled, but the service is more of a throwback to the golden era of travel with inflight meals provided and a drink as much as you like bar along with seat back monitors for movies and games to play during the 9 hours to Hong Kong and then the additional 5 to Tokyo.
If you’ve never been to an Asian mega city Tokyo is tricky to explain. Imagine London or New York stacked on top of itself 5 times over; where everywhere is like Piccadilly Circus or Times Square and all the buildings have a nearly new quality. That begins to feel like how I felt in Tokyo. If you’d like to have some numbers put on it, Shinjuku station has over 200 exits! The department store comparison is that Daslu in São Paulo is known for having its own helipad; the shoe department inside Saks 5th avenue has its own zip code and Daimaru in Tokyo has all that plus its own skinkansen terminus! Japan is not as expensive as it used to be, but it’s not cheap either. But ignore the price, feel the quality! If you suffer from short arms it’s probably not your kind of destination!
Travelling to Niigata was straight forward. It’s a 2 hour ride on the skinkansen. Japan Rail offer a rail pass for foreigners which is tremendous value. 5 days travel within 14 days for USD 150. However you must buy this in advance via their website.
Tainai is a little known ski resort on the north side of Honshu prefecture. They also have an observatory nestled between the slopes and the summer golf course. This is the site of the star party. The nearest big city is Niigata. To get there you can either fly to Tokyo and then take a shinkansen train ride, or fly to Niigata and then drive. You will need a hire car as the nearest train station, Nakajo, is a 20 minute car ride. I’d chosen the Tokyo route specifically for the skinkansen experience and fortunately our translator was also our driver.
The Tainai star party is busy, many thousands of people go. If you book far enough in advance the hotel to get is the Royal Tainai Park Hotel opposite the golf course. The area between the telescope dome complex and golf course is given over to camping. If you want to get fully involved this is the place to pitch your tent. We had neither booked far enough in advance, nor the depth of pocket for a royal experience so we took a cheap option in Toyosaka, a small town about half an hour’s drive away. Thankfully this was the only real mistake of the trip. This was a budget hotel and cheap for a reason!
The star party goes non-stop for 2.5 days. As well as access to the custom built F8 60cm Ritchey-Chrétien telescope in the dome, there is a programme of events throughout so there is always something going on in addition to the star gazing and solar observing. There is a stage with live events and music. There is tennis and trekking around the resort for those who like active pursuits.
Don’t be intimidated or put off if you don’t speak Japanese. The Japanese are super friendly and won’t expect you to speak any. Whilst we did have the benefit of a professional translator, using a translate app on ours phones got us a long way. When you see what is on offer to look through you’ll just want to dive right in anyhow.
Observing wise this is a Bortle 3 site at an elevation of 200m, so it’s good but not amazing. The view from the dome is 360° and there are people on hand to operate the main telescope.
The big draw are the famous name Japanese manufacturers will all their high end kit. The nice thing is not only can you chat to the very people who design and make them, you get to compare the whole Takahashi and Vixen lines side beside and you also have people with crazy stuff like flatbed truck mounted Fujinon binoculars! As well as the big names you have people like Bino Techno who specialise in incredible binoculars and right in amongst it, keeping the British end up and literally flying the flag, was nPAE Precision Astro Engineering!
As well as the manufacturers there are many retailers who set up their shops with complete setups that you can try out for the duration of the event. There were some good bargains to be had. Any pair of binos in this box was just £23 (¥3000).
Laid out at the back of the exhibition stands was the food court selling a large range of Japanese fast foods and drinks. There is also an enclosed restaurant for those who don’t like the open air dining experience.
Niigata is famous for its sake and within the shinkansen station is a sake museum featuring over 100 different sakes to sample. It is great fun to try different varieties, just don’t get too drunk!
Overall the Tainai Star Party and Japan are a fantastic experience and come thoroughly recommended.
Edited by nPAE, 15 September 2019 - 07:34 AM.