Monthly Archives: November 2014

New monument commemorating Toyama Bay’s membership in the Most Beautiful Bays in the World club (Kaiwo Maru Park)

Originally written for the Vol.8-No.2 edition (Nov 28, 2014) of the Toyama Hot News e-newsletter.

The 10th World Congress of the Most Beautiful Bays in the World (MBBW) Club was held in Yeosu, Republic of Korea from the 16th to the 20th of October, 2014. Representatives of Toyama Bay joined 23 bays in attendance, representing 14 countries and 1 area. On the afternoon of Saturday the 18th, Governor Takakazu Ishii gave a presentation on Toyama Bay during the general assembly meeting, explaining about the natural beauty and resources of Toyama, as well as recent trends in tourism, and environmental projects being undertaken by Toyama. After the presentation, Toyama Bay and Al Hoceima Bay (in Morocco) were presented with diplomas conferring official membership, and became the 37th and 38th members. Our delegation was very proud to join prestigious members such as Mont St-Michel Bay in France, Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, California’s San Francisco Bay and the other beautiful bays that make up this club.

This association, recognized by UNESCO, was initiated by its three founding members in Vannes, the city of Morbihan Bay in Brittany, France, and officially began in Berlin in 1997. It was founded with the vision of bringing together people from bays around the world, in order to share information, help protect the environment and encourage sustainable development along with tourism. The association continues growing, and is currently working with the United Nations Environment Program in the elaboration of a “green passport” manual on good practices for tourists who visit member bays. President Galip Gur, from Bodrum, Turkey, was kind enough to speak with members of the Japanese media, and said that he was very pleased to have Toyama join the association. He stated that when he visited Toyama last spring, the view of the Tateyama Mountain Range over the ocean left a great impression on him, as did the kind reception from Toyama citizens. He further commented that he was happy that Governor Ishii was able to attend the World Congress, and expects for Toyama and other bays to use this club as a platform for starting new initiatives and building international relations.

Governor Ishii receives the certificate of membership at the World Congress in Yeosu, Korea

As part of the program, we were able to visit Odongdo Island and Sado Island; two of the 365 islands found in Yeosu bay.  As well, we toured EXPO 2012 facilities, the aquarium, and fish markets. Throughout the weekend, we were able to learn about the major efforts being made by the government of Korea and Yeosu Bay to conserve Yeosu’s marine ecology while continuing to promote development. We were also able to talk to many delegates from around the world, and learn about their countries and the projects they are pursuing. Members of the Toyama delegation felt that the world congress was a successful event, and we are excited to continue with environmental protection activities, sustainable development and international cooperation, as a member of the Most Beautiful Bays in the World.

Check out the official webpage


New Shinkansen model W7                                         Countdown display in Toyama Prefectural Office

Originally written for the Vol.8-No.2 edition (Nov 28, 2014) of the Toyama Hot News e-newsletter.

Half a century has passed since the idea of the Shinkansen (bullet train) was born. Finally, the dream comes true for those who have been waiting in Toyama! The express type “Kagayaki” will make 10 round-trip runs per day between Tokyo and Kanazawa, and the estimated time between Toyama and Tokyo is 2 hours and 8 minutes. This line will stop at Tokyo, Ueno, Omiya, Nagano, Toyama, and Kanazawa. The local stop type “Hakutaka” will make 14 round-trips per day between Tokyo and Kanazawa, and 1 round-trip between Kanazawa and Nagano. In Toyama Prefecture, the “Hakutaka” will be stopping at Kurobe Unazukionsen station, Toyama station, and Shin-Takaoka station. There will also be a shuttle type, “Tsurugi”, which makes 18 round-trips per day between Toyama and Kanazawa, and stopping at Shin-Takaoka station. The timetable is still being adjusted by Japan Railways, and a detailed timetable should be available about 3 months before opening.

When complete, the Hokuriku Shinkansen will connect Tokyo to major cities such as Nagano, Joetsu, Toyama, Kanazawa, Fukui, and reach all the way to Osaka, covering 700 km. Service between Tokyo and Nagano began in 1997, and on March 14th, 2015, service will extend to Kanazawa. The opening is accompanied by the unveiling of new car models, the E7 and W7 models (of the East Japan Railway Company and West Japan Railway Company, respectively). Each train will have 12 cars, and will be capable of maximum speeds of 260 km/h (about 162 mph). Currently, rail travel between Toyama and Tokyo takes an average of 3 hours and 26 minutes, so travel time will be cut down by about an hour and 20 minutes with the opening of the new line. The passenger capacity will also increase; the current 6 million round trip seats available per year will nearly triple, reaching over 17 million per year. It is expected that the number of passengers will increase greatly along the new line.

On September 10th, a countdown board was installed in the prefectural government building, which displays the number of days remaining before service begins. A countdown can also be found on the prefecture’s PR site for the opening of the shinkansen, and even the prefecture’s main homepage has an added animation of the shinkansen zipping across the page with the prefectural mascot “Kitokito kun” waving and holding a flag counting down the days. His message is “Hokuriku Shinkansen opening, only ______ more days!” He then zips by again, this time holding a flag with a different message promoting regional events that will change weekly. Press F5 to reload the page if you want to see him again!

Source: (Article and image) Toyama Just Now

Lauren Vicharelli (center) at a Tateyama with Abram and Kristina

Originally written for the Vol.8-No.2 edition (Nov 28, 2014) of the Toyama Hot News e-newsletter.

From the 24th through the 30th of August, Lauren Vicharelli came to Toyama Prefecture, on an all-expenses-paid trip as her grand prize for winning the 18th annual Toyama Cup Japanese Speech Contest. A graduate of Lewis & Clark Law School, Lauren spoke about large difference in the number of lawyers between the US and Japan, and speculated on cultural background as a possible reason why there are more lawyers in the US.

Lauren being interviewed by local television during her visit to the Toyama Prefectural Office

This was not Lauren’s first time in Japan; in fact, while studying abroad, she visited one of Toyama’s most famous areas, the villages of Gokayama. During her return to Toyama, she traveled with Kristina Nekesheva, the winner of the Japanese Speech Contest held in Vladivostok, Russia. I had the pleasure of meeting them both when they came to the Toyama Prefectural Office for a courtesy call and interview with local news organizations. Lauren never missed a beat while talking with prefectural officials and responding to questions for the television interview – needless to say, her Japanese language skills are very impressive!

During the week, I accompanied them on a trip to the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, which was the first time for all of us to see Kurobe Dam. Lauren also helped me out as a guest in my English class for prefectural employees, and later in the evening she put her singing voice on display in a karaoke session.

Lauren has mentioned that she intends to stay connected with sister state relations through the Japan-America Society of Oregon. Her visit was a pleasure for all of us here in Toyama, and we certainly hope that she will continue to play a role in promoting our sister state relationship!