Visit to Nyuzen High School

IMG_1234This blog entry forms part of the “Toyama-Oregon Friendship Project”, in conjunction with the series of outreach lectures conducted by Abram Leon, Coordinator for International Relations with the International Affairs Division of Toyama Prefecture. The primary goal of the lectures is to raise awareness about the Toyama-Oregon sister state relationship by introducing information about Oregon and the history of exchange to students of Toyama Prefecture.

The blog entries aim to encourage students and members of the community in Toyama and Oregon to become more personally involved in the relationship. After each school visit, I will write an entry and encourage students and other readers to leave their questions and thoughts in the comment section, as well as respond to the questions and comments of others. In this way, I hope to get a new generation interested in communication across cultures and the wonderful friendship between Toyama and Oregon.

Visit to Nyuzen High School

On Wednesday, October 21st, I had the chance to visit Nyuzen High School for my ongoing Toyama Oregon Friendship class. I was scheduled to speak in front of 118 second-year students, the largest group I have had thus far, and as such I was a little bit nervous. It was my first time making the journey out to the town of Nyuzen, and I admired the beautiful vistas of the mountains, which seem to grow taller the farther east you travel along the bay. Ms. Hirose, the current JET program supervisor drove me out to the school, and on the way she mentioned that she had taught English in Nyuzen High School for 8 years prior to being transferred to her current job. Excited about returning to her former workplace, she was greeted warmly by the staff as we entered the school, and laughed and chatted with teachers as we were shown into the principal’s office for tea.

We spoke with Principal Satoshi Kanda about the relationship between Nyuzen and Forest Grove, and about the exchange visits which are held annually between the areas. I was already aware of the delegation which had visited this past July, including Forest Grove Mayor Peter Truax, but I was happy to hear that every year a few students from Nyuzen also participate in the visits. I learned that two students from Nyuzen High School and eight junior high students were chosen to visit Oregon from October 29th to November 6th, with a group led by Nyuzen’s Mayor Haruhito Sasajima. I firmly believe that these are the sort of experiences that awaken interest across cultures and help us to grow as people.

When the class began, I was faced with a large room full of high schoolers, some bright eyed and excited, some looking quite sleepy after lunch. Doing my best to keep the energy up, I explained about Oregon’s weather, landscape, food, and schools. Students seemed to enjoy participating through quizzes about Oregon facts, and were also very interested when showed a video about the Japanese immersion program at Richmond Elementary School. I did find that students seemed hesitant to speak when I asked for their opinions; the larger the group, the more that students seem to feel embarrassed speaking out. Near the end of the class, I asked the students: “Who is more responsible for learning, the student or teacher?” After having them think about it for a bit, I told them my point of view, that whether one is learning a language or any other subject, in the end it is up to the individual to do the learning. No one else can do it for you! With that in mind, I encouraged students to take responsibility for their own learning, and not rely on their teachers too much. With so many resources available today via the internet, investigating things that interest you is easier than ever! I hope that this blog will also be a way for students to put their English or Japanese skills into practice, and learn more about Toyama and Oregon.


このブログは、富山県国際課の国際交流員アブラム・リオンによる出前講座とともに、「富山オレゴンFriendship Project」の一部となります。講座の目的は主に、富山県とオレゴン州の友好関係についての認知度を上げるため、オレゴン州の情報や友好関係の歴史、交流に貢献している人たちを紹介することです。


                             Kobayashi Sensei








Opportunity for students of Japanese: Toyama Cup Japanese Speech Contest



Every year, in conjunction with the Japan-America Society of Oregon, Toyama Prefecture sponsors a Japanese language speech contest for college and university students in the state of Oregon. The Toyama Cup Japanese Speech Contest first began in 1996, commemorating the 5th anniversary of the sister-state relationship between Toyama and Oregon. Students who compete will not only improve their Japanese and public speaking abilities, but also stand to win prizes, with the grand-prize winner getting an all-expenses-paid trip to Toyama Prefecture! The winner will spend a week enjoying the beautiful scenery and wonderful food of Toyama, as well as meeting locals and taking part in a variety of hands-on experiences. See JASO’s webpage for more details and information about how to register.

In order to give prospective participants an idea of what to expect, I am sharing the experiences of Lauren Inaba, the 2015 winner below. I hope that this serves as an inspiration and reminder; the next winner could be you!

I was able to tour the Nanto area with Lauren and Anya, the Russian winner of the Vladivostok Japanese Speech Contest, during their stay in Toyama this past September. We had a wonderful time visiting Zuisenji Temple, making our own Japanese paper, seeing the historic villages of Gokayama, and making our own toasted rice crackers! I asked Lauren to send me a review of her experience after her trip… Here it is!

How was the speech contest?

I entered the speech contest for the second time after my study abroad. The first time I had competed in the speech contest it was in a different division and it was more about the experience of doing a speech contest. This time I was more interested in hearing everyone else’s speeches. My speech was about one of my own experiences in Japan; I knew I wanted to speak about an experience that made me laugh, and have fun with the speech – I didn’t want to be serious the entire time if I didn’t have to be. I chose to speak about my first time at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, during the beginning of my study abroad. In short, I made a cultural mistake and got scolded by an older Japanese lady, who had mistaken me for a Japanese girl from Japan. It caused me to wonder about how differently the situation might have turned out if she had instead thought of me as a foreigner, and what it would have been like if I were a male.

First impression of Toyama

IMG_8573My first impression was when I saw the Toyama station on my first day. For some reason I had expected a smaller station and figured Toyama would be more country than city. However, what stuck out most in my trip to Toyama were my interactions with everyone and the conversations we had. Sometimes it was about differences between Vladivostok, Toyama, and Oregon, other times it was about topics such as the pros and cons of having the appearance of a foreigner in Japan compared to having the appearance of a Japanese.

I was aware that Japan is full of historic and beautiful places to see, and Toyama is no exception. Tateyama was breathtakingly beautiful, and I was able to compare the giant cedar trees to the giant redwood trees in Oregon. During my visit to Gokayama, I was impressed by the uniqueness of the gassho-style houses, and that it is the only World Heritage site in Japan that is maintaining not only a historically and culturally significant place but a lifestyle – people still live within the houses in the village and have been maintaining them, changing the thatching every twenty years. I became interested in doing things one could only do in Toyama, so I tried the white shrimp, the masuzushi, and even a bit of Toyama sake.

What was the highlight of the trip?

I have a hard time picking one highlight as I felt that there was a highlight from each day of my trip. I did enjoy spending a day with the students just walking around, talking and relaxing at Kansui Park after shopping in Toyama city. I am very glad I chose to do a home-stay during the trip. I had done a home-stay before, but talking until late into the night with my host mother about anything out of the blue and watching the news in the morning with my host father when I woke up too early were priceless moments to me.