Summer Festivals, and an Exchange Teacher to Oregon

“Tatemon” at the Jantokoi Festival in Uozu City

Originally written for the Vol.6-No.4 edition (August 23, 2012) of the Toyama Hot News e-newsletter.

We are having a very hot summer here, and even overnight lows sometimes never reach below 80F/27C. But summer is a time for festivals and fireworks everywhere in Japan, with over a dozen within Toyama Prefecture. And in Japan, even average, small-city fireworks are spectacular displays. This summer, I went to the Furusato Ryugu Festival in Namerikawa City and the Jantokoi Festival in Uozu City, which both had outstanding fireworks shows over the bay.

In sister state news, we have a major announcement: we are reinstating the exchange teacher program, which had been suspended for several years. Ms. Akiko Nakano of Toyama Prefecture will be spending the next year and a half in Oregon, teaching at Sheridan Japanese School! We are thrilled to have this development in sister state relations, and excited for Ms. Nakano and everyone at the school. We would like to thank Sheridan Japanese School and the Oregon Department of Education for all of their support.


Enjoy Theatre at SCOT Summer Season in Toga

Originally written for the Vol.6-No.4 edition (August 23, 2012) of the Toyama Hot News e-newsletter.

From Friday, August 24th through Sunday, September 2nd, SCOT Summer Season 2012 will be held at Toga Art Park in Nanto City. SCOT (Suzuki Company of Toga) is a theatre group led by Tadashi Suzuki and based in Toga, and will be performing King Lear, Greetings from the Edge of the Earth, and Cinderella. There will also be an experimental performance, Turandot: The Rise of Capitalism and the Decay of Common Sense, by young international actors who studied under the Suzuki Training Method.

King Lear, based on Shakespeare’s play, is a representative work of Suzuki. The elderly main character whose family ties had collapsed can do nothing but wait for death alone in a hospital. This play illustrates the possibility that anyone, in any time or place, could have a fate of loneliness and madness like King Lear.

Greetings from the Edge of the Earth premiered in 1991. This show takes advantage of the outdoor stage, and features magnificent fireworks against the grand nature of Toga.

Cinderella is the first work by Suzuki aimed at families, and is a modern re-telling of the classic fairy tale. A young woman who loves to write plays is treated badly by her father and half-sisters, but she receives encouragement from a kind woman and writes a play based on Cinderella. This is a story that tells the importance of working hard and keeping your hopes and dreams alive.

Turandot: The Rise of Capitalism and the Decay of Common Sense combines Puccini’s opera with traditional Italian masks. It has an Italian producer, and is performed by Chinese, Singaporean, Brazilian, Lithuanian, and Italian actors.

SCOT was born when the original group relocated from Tokyo to a converted traditional thatched-roof house in Toga in 1976. In 1982, they held the first international theatre festival in Japan, the Toga Festival. SCOT quickly gained international attention, and Toga came to be considered the “holy land” of world theatre. Currently, based in Toga Art Park situated within the inspiring artistic atmosphere of Toga, SCOT is always working on new theatrical art works. Aside from the annual SCOT Summer Season, they also host the Toga Theatre Competition, which is known as a gateway for internationally active theatre producers.

For more information about the Suzuki Company of Toga, please visit their website:

Source (article and image): Toyama Just Now

Artists from Around the World Gather at Sukiyakai Meets the World 2012

Originally written for the Vol.6-No.4 edition (August 23, 2012) of the Toyama Hot News e-newsletter.

Sukiyaki Meets the World, one of the largest world music festivals in Japan, will be held in the Fukuno area of Nanto City from Friday, August 24th through Sunday, August 26th. This festival began in 1991, and was named after Kyu Sakamoto’s international hit song “Sukiyaki” (known more popularly as “Ue o Muite Aruko” in Japan) as a vehicle for spreading culture. This 22nd event features fourteen carefully selected artists and groups that are sure to heat up the stage. In addition, there will be workshops, a parade, a symposium, and a food and shopping area.

One of the groups performing at the event is Gnawa Diffusion, a French/Algerian band that has reunited after five years. This band has a unique style of North African music, combining the clapping and calls of Gnawa music with reggae, hip hop, and rock music. Lead singer Amazigh Kateb was an influential figure in the democratization movement in North Africa.

Pernett brings new life into Colombian music, and will be in Japan for the first time. He makes liberal use of synthesizers and effects on Cumbia, which originates from a dance brought by African slaves. The traditional gaita flute is added for a different sound and rhythm.

The Sukiyaki Denki Box is an original Sukiyaki Meets the World group. Pernett teams up with Sakaki Mango‘s thumb piano, and Norihiko Yamakita’s percussion for a unique performance.

Oki is a musician of Ainu descent, and plays the traditional string instrument, the tonkori. With a contemporary sound that uses traditional Ainu music as a foundation, he has revived interest in Ainu music.

Kiwi & The Papaya Mangoes is what happens when Ainu, Okinawan, and other traditional Japanese music meets the world! This group from Tokyo makes use of shamisen, sitar, violin, accordion, bass, drums, and guitar for an eclectic sound.

The most iconic group of Sukiyaki Meets the World is the Sukiyaki Steel Orchestra, which grew out of this event in 1995. The steel drum puts audiences in a Caribbean mood for a light-hearted, danceable performance.

This event also strives to nurture music in the community. The Sukiyaki Parade on the night of Saturday the 25th will feature the Fukuno Middle School Marching Band and a variety of other local musicians. Workshops will be held on the 25th and 26th, where participants can learn Ainu folk songs called upopo, rediscover the traditional Japanese sensibility and its relationship with other Asian cultures, and experience Gnawa music or Columbian rhythms. The symposium on the 26th entitled “Will World Music Thrive in Japan?: The World to Nanto, and Nanto to the World” will feature some of the festival performers, including Amazigh Kateb and Oki.

Visit the website for more information (Japanese only):

Source (article and image): Toyama Just Now

U.S. Educators Program Delegation Visits Toyama

Originally written for the Vol.6-No.3 edition (July 31, 2012) of the Toyama Hot News e-newsletter.

In Toyama Prefecture, we continue to be busy with international exchange endeavors! From July 9th to the 12th, we had the great privilege of hosting 13 American educators and 3 of their family members to Toyama as part of the U.S. Educators Program. This annual program is a major activity of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of New York (JCCI).

After visits to Tokyo, Hiroshima and Kyoto, the delegation came to Toyama Prefecture and experienced the history and culture here, including a visit to the historical village of Gokayama. I personally had the opportunity to visit Chuo Elementary School in Kurobe City with these American teachers and administrators, where we not only observed classes and met with the school principal but got to eat lunch with the students!

It was also an immense pleasure to be able to interpret for the delegation’s meeting with Governor Ishii, and also to simply spend time conversing with these amazing, dedicated educators. I have no doubt that this will remain one of the highlights of my time here as a CIR.

For more information about JCCI and the U.S. Educators Program, please visit their website.

School lunch room, which is unusual in Japan, since most schools have students eat in their classrooms
Looking out into the courtyard

The 10th International Poster Triennial in Toyama

Originally written for the Vol.6-No.3 edition (July 31, 2012) of the Toyama Hot News e-newsletter.

The 10th International Poster Triennial in Toyama (IPT) exhibition is currently being held at the Museum of Modern Art and continues through September 3rd. With posters submitted, judged, and selected from all over the world, this is the only international public poster exhibit in Japan. The first event was held in 1985, and has been held once every three years. This year, a record 4,622 pieces were submitted from 53 countries/regions.

In the first screening in February, the jury panel selected 290 works for Category A (posters published since 2009) and 108 works for Category B (original unpublished posters). A second screening determined the prize winners. The poster exhibition consists of the 398 selected posters as well as works by judges, for a total of 422 works. From within Toyama Prefecture, there were 151 submissions from 40 artists, with 16 posters from 12 artists selected for the exhibition.

Many of the entrees this year drew inspiration from the Great East Japan Earthquake, and social issues such as those involving human rights, race, and the environment. The exhibit is brimming with an international atmosphere, and notable works include posters that use modern graphic design on the powerful strokes of Chinese characters.

Concurrent events include lectures by art directors Hideki Nakajima and Katsumi Asaba (both on the jury panel), and gallery talks by curators.

The “Toyama, City of Posters” project is also on-going through October 31st. A jumbo-sized official poster for the 2012 International Poster Triennial (by Kazumasa Nagai) is currently fixed on the Toyama Chamber of Commerce building, posters of past prize winners and works by members of the Toyama Art Directors Club are displayed in busy areas around the city center, and still other posters are placed in spaces such as hotels and even beer gardens!

Satellite exhibitions will later be held in Tokyo, Osaka, and Fukushima, with a focus on the top ranked posters from all ten events so far.

The Museum of Modern Art states, “Posters are said to be mirrors that reflect the times, so the ‘now’ of the world is communicated by looking at these works.”

The 10th International Poster Triennial in Toyama’s English website.

Source (article and image): Toyama Just Now