Paul Rusch Festival

Experience an American County Fair right here in Japan

 By Rey Waters   Aug 15, 2016

I had previously mentioned Paul Rusch in an article about American Football in Japan. He was dedicated not only to sports, but also to agriculture, education, and volunteerism in the Yatsugatake area. 

In 1925 Dr. Rusch came to Japan to help rebuild the Yokohama WMCA after the devastating earthquake of 1923. He stayed on as a professor at Rikkyo (St. Paul’s) University in Tokyo and as a missionary for the Episcopal Church.

In 1938 he built a youth camp in Kiyosata (Seisen Ryo), which eight years later became KEEP (Kiyosato Educational Experiment Project). Today there is a vocational school, church, clinic, and experimental farm. In 2002 KEEP started an International training program with JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) beginning with trainees from Central and Eastern Europe.

Dr. Rusch left Japan briefly during WWII and returned as part of General McArthur’s staff to help with reconstruction.

Born in Indiana and raised in Kentucky he committed his life to Yatsugatake-Kiyosato. He introduced Jersey dairy cows and a variety of crop growing techniques. The annual county fair was established in 1954 and ran for 20 years and in 1988 it was re-started as the Yatsugatake County Fair (Paul Rusch Festival). 

Dr. Rusch had a motto “Do Your Best” that appears on the inside of the entrance gate. He promoted community involvement and helped the residents overcome the many changes in farming technology. 

Dr. Rusch was awarded the Third Order of the Sacred Treasure by the Japanese Government in 1956 for his lifetime contributions in helping Japan and her people recover from the effects of natural disasters and war.

On my first trip to Yatsugatake I had the pleasure of touring the Paul Rusch Memorial Museum (0551-48-5330) and the American Football Hall of Fame. After exploring the museum our friend walked us over to the Jersey Hut for some delicious ice cream made from Jersey cow milk.  

In the evening we ate at the Rock restaurant and sampled several different types of locally brewed Touchdown beers. The food was German oriented and very good. However, I have some sad news: the Rock had a fire a few weeks ago and was burned to the ground including the brewery. They do plan on rebuilding, but it will be some time before opening back up. 

On our next visit we attended the Yatsugatake County Fair (Paul Rusch Festival). It was almost like I was back in the states. The sister region of Madison County, Kentucky, participated with arts/craft tents, information tents, and food booths.

Many of the food booths offered barbeque, corn on the cob and other foods associated with a County Fair. Almost all of the food ingredients came from locally grown produce. 

There were all types of hand made crafts, quilts, clothing, farm animals, vegetable stands, hayrides, a John Deer Tractor parade, and a full schedule of events.  There is even an American Football experience field.

I observed an older American gentleman carving a whistle, met several of the people from Kentucky, watched a stage show with square dancing, and listened to a very good Japanese group playing bluegrass music at its best. 

Today not only does the U.S participate, but many other countries from around the world are part of an international exchange program.

If you have never experienced a real County Fair then Yatsugatake is the place to go.

It is held in front of Seisen-Ryo, Kiyosato, Hokouto City, Yamanashi. The dates for 2016 will be Saturday October 15 and Sunday the 16th.  Both days it opens at 10 a.m. 

The easiest way by train is to take the Super Azusa Number 5 (reserved) from Shinjuku to Kobuchizawa and then the Koumi line to Kiyosato. (Approximately 2.5-hour trip) From Kiyosato Station, there will be a free shuttle bus to the fair grounds, from 9:00 am till 16:50 on Saturday/ 16:20 on Sunday..

Experience a real country fair, an event you will not want to miss!

Written by Rey Waters
JapanTravel Member

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Cathy Cawood 8 months ago
Thanks for this great article! I went here at non-festival time and saw posters advertising the festival, so it's interesting to see photos of it taking place.