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Originally written for the Vol.6-No.1 edition (April 13, 2012) of the Toyama Hot News e-newsletter.

In these uncertain economic times, Toyama Prefecture has released the 2010 Household Finance Survey Report for Toyama City. Toyama ranks third in the country for monthly average income per household with at least two people (615,372 yen) and first in disposable income (536,636 yen). Among interesting statistics on food expenditures, Toyama ranks first in the country in per capita spending on buri (yellowtail, a specialty of Toyama) for the 39th year in a row, pickled seafood for the 22nd year, and konbu (kelp) for the 51st year running.

The survey is conducted by Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications through the prefectural governments. Samples of monthly income and expenditures of households across the country give a picture of people’s lifestyles, and is a good resource for governments. Toyama Prefecture analyzed the numbers for 8,821 households in Japan against 104 households in Toyama City.

Taking a closer look at household income, the average earnings and/or public pension benefits from household members other than the primary income earner is much higher than the national average, and points to Toyama’s high percentage of dual-income and multigenerational households. Disposable income (total income minus taxes and insurance) has increased 8.4 percent compared to the previous year (national average: 1.3 percent increase). Average monthly household surplus (total income minus real spending) is the highest in Japan.

Many of the food expenditures reflect the local culture. Aside from the aforementioned seafood and konbu, Toyama also ranks 1st in Japan for expenditures on processed vegetables & seaweed (e.g. canned vegetables) and kiwi fruit. Toyama ranks second for eggplant, fresh shiitake mushrooms, picked daikon (white radish), and coffee beverages, and third in expenditures for mochi and deli items. Seafood and konbu consumption is high in Toyama because of the abundance of products from Toyama Bay and the history of konbu trade with Hokkaido. A possible explanation for the popularity in deli items is, again, the high number of dual-income households. Compared to national figures, the consumption of fish is higher than average and the consumption of meat is lower than average. Lowest-ranking food items in Toyama as compared to the rest of Japan include sugar, spaghetti, and eggs.

As for housing, based on average expenditures between 2008 and 2010, monthly rent is one of the lowest in the country, but home improvement and repair expenditures were the highest in Japan. These could be explained by the high percentage of home ownership in Toyama (78.3% for the prefecture, the highest in Japan).

Yearly spending money per household in Toyama is the highest in the country. Interesting figures include the fact that Toyama spends the most on cosmetic emulsions, and fifth most on public baths and hot springs.

Many statistics on Toyama Prefecture and its cities are available on the “Toyama Statistics World” website (Japanese only).

Source (article and photo): Toyama Just Now

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Originally written for the Vol.6-No.1 edition (April 13, 2012) of the Toyama Hot News e-newsletter.

Cherry blossom season is finally here. Did you know that Toyama Prefecture is a “Kingdom of Cherry Blossoms,” where you can enjoy the longest season of viewing a variety of cherry blossoms? The 3,000-meter elevation difference between Toyama Bay and the Tateyama Mountains allows Toyama to have a four-month blossoming season, from the “kinkimame-zakura” in mid-March to the “takane-zakura” in late July. There are even varieties that bloom from late October to early March, which means that cherry blossoms are in bloom somewhere in Toyama for a large part of the year. Furthermore, as Toyama is located in the center of the main island of Japan, both northern and southern varieties can be seen, including all nine wild cherry blossom varieties that are found in Japan.

In 2003, fifty “Top Cherry Blossom Locations in Toyama” were selected, and this past November, the list was updated to include seventy locations. Funakawa-beri (Funa riverside) in Asahi Town has about 280 “someiyoshino” (one of the most widely planted cherry blossoms), which people can enjoy along with the sights of tulip fields, rapeseed blossoms, and lingering mountain snow. At the Fugan Canal Park in Toyama City, different types of trees bloom in spring and late autumn. In Nanto City, there is a lone cherry bloom tree known as “Mukaino no Edohigan” that is estimated to be over a hundred years old. During the blossoming period, the tree is lit up at night for a magical atmosphere.

The Toyama Prefectural Botanical Garden, another of the “Top Cherry Blossom Locations in Toyama,” will hold its first Cherry Blossom Festival this year from April 13th to the 16th. The trees will be lit up at night, and there will be a special exhibit (through April 30th) featuring the eleven varieties of cherry blossoms that were discovered in Toyama, such as the “Nyuzen otomekiku-zakura,” discovered this past December, and the “Himi kujirokiku-zakura.” Also on display will be the sapling cultivated by a student from Chuo Agricultural High School, the only one of its kind in the world.

With so many options, there is no shortage of ways to enjoy cherry blossoms in Toyama!

Source (article and photo): Toyama Just Now

The original version of this article was written for the Vol.6-No.1 edition (April 13, 2012) of the Toyama Hot News e-newsletter.

I apologize for the long absence! It has been very busy around here.

An event that may be of particular interest to you was the JET Festival on February 19th. This is an annual international event organized as a joint effort by all the CIRs of Toyama (ten of us this year) here as part of the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Program. Of course, many ALTs (Assistant Language Teachers) on the JET Program helped out as volunteers, and also many others in the community lent a hand as well. There were stage performances, themed rooms, international treats, a kids’ corner, and booths – and we of course made sure to have a booth for Toyama’s sister state of Oregon! The Oregon booth was mostly staffed by my husband (raised in Oregon) and a local ALT from Ashland. We handed out many Oregon brochures and told attendees about the beautiful nature and rich culture in Oregon, and about the United States in general. It was all a very successful event.

Another thing I worked on that I wanted to share with all of you are the new “Toyama Brand” videos. They are short ninety-second segments about products that are endorsed by Toyama Prefecture, from firefly squid to Paro Therapeutic Robot. While I had nothing to do with making these professional videos, I did do the translations for the English subtitles. There are eleven videos, and they can all be viewed on YouTube.

We are finally getting cherry blossoms this week in Toyama, but this is an especially timely topic this year, as it is the 100-year anniversary of the 3,000 cherry blossom trees gifted to Washington D.C. from Tokyo.

Finally, we wanted to let you know that the 16th Annual Toyama Cup Japanese Speech Contest will be held in Portland this Sunday, April 15th. We wish all of the students the best of luck.