Images from Around the World Gather in Toyama at the 2011 Japan Wildlife Film Festival

Echo – an Unforgettable Elephant

Originally written for the Vol.5-No.6 edition (August 2, 2011) of the Toyama Hot News e-newsletter.

From Thursday, August 4th to Sunday, August 7th, the Nature Film Network will hold the 10th Japan Wildlife Film Festival in Toyama, with the Toyama International Conference Center as the main venue. This festival has been held in Toyama every other year since 1993, and is now considered one of the three largest nature film festivals in the world, along with the Wildscreen Festival in England and the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival in the United States.

This year, the festival received a record 459 submissions from 53 countries and regions. 35 films have been chosen to be shown on the big screen with subtitles or dubbing. Final award winners will be selected at the festival.

The films span a diverse range of regions and subjects. To describe just a few, “Echo – an Unforgettable Elephant” is a British film about elephants in Kilimanjaro, “Yanomami” is a Japanese film about an indigenous tribe in the Amazon rainforest, “Spirit of the Arctic” is an American film covering the different regions of Alaska, and “A Thousand Suns” is an American film about the rural farmers of the Gamo Highlands in East Africa. Other filmmakers are from France, Germany, Austria, South Africa, Hungary, New Zealand, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Taiwan, Korea, Estonia, and Belgium.

In commemoration of this 10th film festival, there will also be a “Best of the Best” compilation – eighteen films that have won awards in past years’ festivals.

An English-language website for the Japan Wildlife Film Festival is available:

Source (article and photo): Toyama Just Now


Takaoka City Receives National Recognition as “Historical City”

Originally written for the Vol.5-No.6 edition (August 2, 2011) of the Toyama Hot News e-newsletter.

The Takaoka City Historical Preservation Plan has earned recognition from the Japanese government as a Historical City under the Historical Town Creation Act (Rekishi Machizukuri-hou). It is the first in Toyama Prefecture, and second in the Hokuriku Region. (The first was Kanazawa City, Ishikawa Prefecture, in January 2009.) There are now a total of 26 cities and towns with this “Historical City” designation. Combined with the opening of the Hokuriku Shinkansen (bullet train) scheduled for 2014, an increase in tourism is anticipated.

The Historical Town Creation Act, signed in November 2008, gives recognition to the historical preservation plans of the cities, towns, and villages, and supports projects that nurture local history and traditional culture.

Takaoka City, located in the northwest of Toyama Prefecture, is the prefecture’s second-largest city after Toyama City. During the Nara Period (710-794), Takaoka became the capital of Etchu Province, and the famous Man’yoshu poet Otomo no Yakamochi was once the governor. In 1609, Maeda Toshinaga, the second head of the Kaga Domain, built Takaoka Castle and developed the surrounding area. Soon after, Maeda Toshitsune further stimulated the area’s industry. Combined with the efforts of the townspeople, Takaoka grew to be a commercially successful city.

In present-day Takaoka, folk arts such as Takaoka copperware and lacquer ware have been passed down, and festivals such as the Takaoka Mikurumayama Festival and the Fushiki Hikiyama Festival continue to be celebrated. In addition, Takaoka retains historical architecture such as the National Treasure temple of Zuiryu-ji, and in the traditional Yamamachi-suji and Kanaya-machi districts.

With the financial support of the national government, Takaoka will be working on a total of 28 projects over the next ten years to preserve and improve the city’s historical legacy. The wide variety of projects include: maintenance repair work on Zuiryu-ji roofs, reconstruction of the observation tower at the Fushiki Weather Station Museum, building a road from the new shinkansen (bullet train) station (2014 expected completion) to Zuiryu-ji, construction of a Mikurumayama (festival float) Museum, and a survey of historical landmarks related to the Maeda clan.

Takaoka City hopes that residents will have more love and pride for the history of their hometown, and create a city that can better communicate to visitors about its history, traditions, and culture.

Source (article and photo): Toyama Just Now

A Busy Summer in Toyama

The original version of this article was written for the Vol.5-No.6 edition (August 2, 2011) of the Toyama Hot News e-newsletter.

The summer continues to be busy! In the first week of July, I volunteered as an “English Support” interpreter at the 2011 JCI (Junior Chamber International) Academy in Toyama. Not only did I have an opportunity for interpretation practice, I had the privilege of meeting interesting people from all over the world. Furthermore, I was able to experience Japanese culture myself in ways I had not before, such as observing the Zen Buddhism practice of “Zazen” and seeing a Noh performance. You can read more about the 2011 JCI Academy in Toyama here.

It is also a hectic season for the foreign community here in Toyama. This is the time of year for most people on the JET Program (which brings me here as well) to begin or end our contracting periods, so it is a time to say “good-bye” to old friends while welcoming new ones. In Toyama, we are changing over for more than 30 JET positions. There are so many welcome events that I can hardly keep track of them all, but I look forward to getting to know all the new faces here!

Finally, summer is truly the season of fun in Japan. Summer festivals featuring spectacular fireworks are held all over the country, and people are encouraged to travel this time of year. There was a large fireworks show last night (August 1st) in Toyama City, but unfortunately, I was unable to go as I was still on the train back from a short vacation (and 15k race) in the neighboring prefecture of Nagano! There is much to explore in this too-often-skipped middle region of Japan.