Toyama Cup Speech Contest and the Toyama Film Festival

Originally written for the Vol.6-No.2 edition (June 1, 2012) of the Toyama Hot News e-newsletter.

First, we have some Oregon-related news. The grand prize winner of the 16th Toyama Cup Japanese Speech Contest (held in Portland) is Aleishea Yamaoka, a senior at Pacific University. As her prize, she will be visiting Toyama later this year. Congratulations to Aleisha, and we thank all of the participants, judges, and sponsors.

In Toyama, the Toyama Film Festival was held on May 19th, organized by Jon Dao, a third-year ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) on the JET Program. Films included submissions from outside Toyama as well as works by local JET participants. The room was packed, and the event brought in 49,100 yen for Make-a-Wish of Japan.


First Glaciers in Japan Discovered in Toyama

Originally written for the Vol.6-No.2 edition (June 1, 2012) of the Toyama Hot News e-newsletter.

Three snow valleys in the Tateyama Mountain Range of Toyama that were being studied by the Tateyama Caldera Sabo Museum have been scientifically recognized to be glaciers. This recognition was the result of the dangerous work conducted from 2009 to 2011, in which researchers risked their lives working in areas with high risk of falling into crevices and icy pits.

It was previously thought that the Kamchatka Peninsula of Russia had the southernmost glaciers in East Asia, but Tateyama now holds that distinction. Raicho (Rock Ptarmigan) that live in Tateyama are thought to be remnants of the Ice Age, and now seem especially interesting with the recognition of the glaciers.

Glaciers are defined as masses of snow and ice that continually flow over long periods of time, and must also be a certain thickness. Until now, it was believed that Japan did not have anything that fits the criteria.

The movement of the glaciers was measured between the end of August and October using GPS. Poles were drilled into the ice and their positions were measured over a couple months using high-precision GPS. In order to measure the thickness, electronic waves were shot into the surface, and then researchers used radars to measure the waves that bounced back off the bedrock.

In September 2009, an ice mass in the Gozenzawa ravine was measured to be about 200 meters wide and 23 meters thick on the upper side, and about 400 meters wide and 27 meters thick on the lower side. GPS measurements in 2010 and 2011 showed that the ice mass was moving at about 10 centimeters a month. The Gozenzawa ravine can be seen from the shrine at Oyama summit, at the end of a popular hiking trail.

San no Mado ravine holds a glacier of over 40 meters thick, and Komado ravine holds a glacier of over 30 meters thick, and both can move more than 30 centimeters in a month. Yearly movement is estimated to be approximately 4 meters, which would rival the smaller glaciers of Patagonia and the Himalayas.

This news has also been published in the English-language newspapers The Mainichi, The Daily Yomiuri, and The Japan Times.

Source (article and photo): Toyama Just Now

Tateyama’s Traditional Ceremony “Nunobashi Kanjoe” Recognized by UNESCO Japan

Originally written for the Vol.6-No.2 edition (June 1, 2012) of the Toyama Hot News e-newsletter.

“Nunobashi Kanjoe,” a ceremony performed in Tateyama, Toyama, has been registered in the 3rd “Heritage for the Future” list by the National Federation of UNESCO Associations in Japan, the first in Toyama Prefecture.

Nunobashi Kanjoe began in the Edo Period, when women were not allowed into the sacred mountain of Tateyama. Nuno-bashi (Nuno Bridge) symbolized the boundary between this life and the afterlife. The women wore white robes and crossed the bridge blindfolded. After reciting prayers, they crossed back over the bridge. This ceremony was believed to be a path for salvation.

The practice was discontinued in the early Meiji Period (1868-1912) due to the anti-Buddhism movement, but was recreated 136 years later, in 1996 at the National Cultural Festival. Thereafter, the ceremony was also performed in 2005, 2006, 2009, and 2011.

This past September, roughly three thousand spectators watched seventy participants from all over the country — mainly in their fifties and sixties – walked across the white cloth spread over the red bridge, accompanied by gagaku (traditional Japanese court music). At a joint event, the women’s group at Ashikura Temple provided local specialty foods such as rice cake and a stew of carrots, taro, and fried tofu.

The “Heritage for the Future” program was started in 2009 to impart cultural and natural heritage for future generations, and ten projects are selected each year. Last year, there were 33 applications from 22 prefectures. Nunobashi Kanjoe was praised for its originality, and the way the entire region has worked together to pass on traditions.

The next ceremony is scheduled for 2014.

The Tateyama Museum is open all-year (except New Year’s holidays), and visitors can learn about Tateyama’s traditional religions, history, and nature. The main exhibit areas introduce the nature and religions of Tateyama, and feature a mandala, dioramas, and films. Then, visitors can experience “heaven” and “hell” in the themed areas.

Source (article and photo): Toyama Just Now