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Monthly Archives: May 2015

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View from the Shinkansen platform at Toyama Station

Over two months have passed since the new bullet train line, the Hokuriku Shinkansen, began service in Toyama Prefecture. From Toyama Station, it now takes as little as 2 hours 8 minutes to arrive in Tokyo, and the amount of available seats has increased by almost 3-fold. The increased convenience of travel has been widely hailed as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to increase business and tourism in Toyama, and bring renewed energy to the area.

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The new Shin-Takaoka Station

While long-term effects of the Shinkansen’s arrival remain to be seen, there have certainly been many visible changes to Toyama already: namely, the recently completed new train stations. Both Shin-Takaoka Station and Kurobe-Unazukionsen Station opened on March 14th, the same day that Shinkansen service began. Shin-Takaoka Station is serviced by Hakutaka trains, linking the area to Tokyo in roughly 2 hours 40 minutes to 3 hours, as well as the Tsurugi shuttle service which runs between Toyama and Kanazawa. A regular ticket between Shin-Takaoka and Tokyo will cost 13,060 yen. The station is located a few miles to the south of the Takaoka Station, and offers convenient access to Aeon Mall, one of the area’s main shopping centers, as well as Takaoka’s National Treasure, Zuiryuji Temple.

Kurobe-Unazukionsen Station features the Hakutaka, with service to and from Tokyo (11,340 yen) in as little as 2 hours 15 minutes. As the name implies, this station is perfect for those interested in bathing in the hot springs at Unazuki Onsen. Both Shin-Takaoka and Kurobe Unazukionsen are spotless, modern stations with gift shops featuring local food products, sake, traditional crafts and more. They have brought a feeling of excitement to their respective regions, with hopes that increased travel to the area will invigorate local business.

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Streetcars depart directly from Toyama Station

Toyama Station continues as a central junction of transportation in the prefecture; local lines are now run by Toyama Ainokaze Railway, with Japan Railways managing the Shinkansen. Kagayaki is the limited express which brings passengers to and from Tokyo in a little over 2 hours (12,730 yen), and the Hakutaka takes a little bit longer but is 500 yen cheaper. Toyama’s new station was also unveiled on March 14th, coinciding with the opening and renewal of several stores. The brand new marketplace Toyamarché and several other restaurants and souvenir shops are located right in the new station building. Another convenient aspect of the new station is that Toyama’s streetcars now pull directly into the station, making for easy transfer. Although the new station is open and operating, construction is not over; the north exit will continue to undergo renovations, eventually connecting streetcars on the north and south sides of the station.

Click here for a fairly comprehensive English language explanation of the Hokuriku Shinkansen. While the regular prices listed for the Hokuriku Shinkansen may seem a bit on the expensive side, it is worth noting that the Japan Rail Pass allows visitors to Japan to use the Shinkansen at no additional cost. With 1, 2 or 3 week passes available, this is by far the cheapest and easiest way for visitors to travel in Japan.

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From Thursday, April 23 – Saturday, April 25, the Toyama General Manufacturing Industry Trade Fair 2015 was held in the Toyama Techno Hall, in Toyama City. The trade fair saw the State of Oregon Japan Representative Office participate for the first time, staffing a booth and giving a presentation.

The Toyama trade fair came shortly after Business Oregon held its annual Doing Business in Oregon seminar in Tokyo, in which a group of Oregon delegates traveled to Japan in order to promote the development of Japanese business in Oregon. Riding the momentum from that seminar, representatives from Business Oregon and the State of Oregon Japan Representative Office came to Toyama’s Industry Trade Fare, giving a presentation outlining the benefits of doing business in Oregon. Officials from Toyama Prefecture, including the Director of the International Affairs Division and I were in attendance for the presentation. It was a pleasure to see our friends from Oregon, and I certainly hope that exchange like this continues in the coming years!

The Toyama General Manufacturing Industry Trade Fair 2015 brought together exhibitors from around the world in the field of manufacturing technologies to promote economic exchange while introducing cutting-edge technology to visitors. Participants represented a broad spectrum of industries including machine tools, industrial machines, electronics, information technology, plastic molding, aluminum processing, textiles and pharmaceuticals.

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From Sunday, March 22 to Friday, March 27, Mr. Yasuki Yoshizawa, Assistant Director of the International Affairs Division, along with Ms. Keiko Sanno and I visited Oregon. We had several objectives while there; among them were to discuss possible exchange projects for the 25th anniversary of the sister state relationship, which is coming up in 2016. In order to discuss this and other ongoing projects, we visited Business Oregon, the Japan-America Society of Oregon, the Oregon Department of Education, Kokusai Semiconductor Equipment Corporation, Travel Portland, and the Japanese Consular Office. We had many constructive meetings, and intend to incorporate the new ideas and perspectives we gained as we continue planning for a way to commemorate the 25th anniversary of our friendship. In our meeting with JASO, we had a chance to discuss the Toyama Cup Speech Contest, which was held on Sunday, April 26th. The contest is held yearly and open to college/university students of all levels, so if you know anyone who might be interested in participating, tell them about it now so they can start preparing early for next year!

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Cherry tree commemorating the recent visit of the 32nd Toyama Prefecture Students’ Overseas Delegation to Sheridan Japanese School

Another goal for this trip was to make contacts with schools and educational institutions in order to facilitate further exchange in the field of education. We visited Beaverton High School, Portland Public Schools, Sheridan Japanese School, and Gilkey International Middle School in order to speak about our goals for incorporating student-to-student exchange as part of a lecture series to be held in Toyama schools, focusing on Oregon and the sister state relationship. In addition to middle and high schools, we also visited Oregon State University and heard a report from Portland State University, where a group of 38 college students from Toyama recently participated in a short-term study program. We received warm receptions from all, and valuable advice about how to promote educational exchange. I certainly hope that through our efforts, more Toyama students will have a chance to learn what a wonderful place Oregon is!

Our trip was not without a share of sightseeing! While in Oregon, we had the pleasure of visiting Cannon Beach and the beautiful Haystack Rock, as well as driving through wine country on our way back from Sheridan. We took in the panoramic view of Portland from Pittock Mansion, had beautiful weather on our last day allowing us to get a wonderful view of Mt. Hood while walking along the waterfront. Oregon truly is a beautiful state, and with its friendly people, beautiful landscape, and quality local food and drink, I could not help but think that it is an excellent match as Toyama’s sister state. Above all, I was left with the impression that a sister-state relationship is a relationship between people; I was very happy to meet so many passionate friends of Toyama on our last night in town. After a trip of many inspiring meetings, I am excited to get back to work, promoting the further development of this friendship. I hope to see you again soon!

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                                                Get-together with Friends of Toyama