The Kurobe Gorge, Splendid in the Fall

There are many beautiful fall sights to enjoy in Toyama, but none may be as thrilling as a train ride through one of Japan’s deepest gorges while surrounded in shades of green, yellow, and red. The Kurobe Gorge Railway was originally created to bring materials up the Kurobe River to create dams for hydroelectric power generation, including the Kurobe Dam , but it now remains open to everyone as a popular tourist attraction. The operation dates change every year depending on the amount of snow, but the railway is usually fully opened from the end of April to the end of November.

Shin Yamabiko Bridge

The Kurobe Gorge Railway starts at Unazuki Onsen, a hot springs town tucked in the valley at the beginning of the gorge, and runs 20 kilometers to Keyakidaira, the final stop in the gorge where the Babadani River meets the Kurobe River.

Train Window

In the fall, the train passes through four stations, each with their own spectacular views, hiking trails, and amazing colors. At its deepest point, the gorge is 2000 meters deep, flanked by mountains reaching over 3000 meters above sea level, making it the deepest V-shaped gorge in Japan.

Atobiki Bridge

The Kurobe Gorge is one of Toyama’s most popular sightseeing spots in the fall. To get there, take the Toyama Chiho Railway line to Unazuki Onsen station from Dentetsu Toyama Station, near Toyama Station, or from Shin-Kurobe Station, near Kurobe-Unazuki Onsen Station. Both Toyama Station and Kurobe-Unazuki Onsen stations can be reached from Tokyo using the Hokuriku Shinkansen bullet train which opened in 2015.

Meiken Onsen

You can find more information about the Kurobe Gorge and visiting Toyama at the websites below.

Toyama Tourism Information

http://www.kurotetu.co.jp/en/

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Graham Morris, Executive-Director of the Japan-America Society of Oregon, Visited Toyama Prefecture

Graham Morris, executive-director of the Japan-America Society of Oregon, paid a visit to Toyama on November 12th. In the morning, he gave a presentation about Oregon to the group of students from Kosugi High School who will be visiting their sister school, the International School of Beaverton. After that, he tasted some of the best sushi Japan has to offer: Toyama Bay Sushi.

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Following this amazing lunch, he had a meeting with Yasunori Yamazaki, the vice-governor of Toyama Prefecture, in presence of Mr. Yoneda, the chairman of the Japan-America Society of Toyama. All three reaffirmed the friendly ties that bind Toyama and Oregon and will work towards more cooperation and exchange in a multitude of fields, including education and industry between our two regions in the future.

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Later, Mr. Morris visited Hokusei Products, one of the companies from Toyama that is currently implanted in Oregon. The company brings Japanese lifestyle products to Oregon and is part of the many links between Oregon State and Toyama Prefecture. He finally took off using the Shinkansen bullet train for a smooth ride back to Tokyo in just over two hours. This completed a full day of exchange and friendship between Toyama and Oregon.

A word from JASO:

The Japan-America Society of Oregon is a Portland-based non-profit that works to strengthen the US-Japan relationship. As Oregon’s Sister State, working together with Toyama Prefecture is especially important to us. If you’d like to join us in our efforts to make a fuller, stronger friendship between Toyama and Oregon, please let us know at info@jaso.org. Thank you!

 

The winner of the 2018 Toyama Cup Japanese Speech Contest visited Toyama Prefecture!

Originally written for the Vol.12-No.3 edition (October 9, 2018) of the Toyama Hot News e-newsletter.

The Toyama Cup is a Japanese speech contest held every year in Portland in cooperation with JASO (the Japan-America Society of Oregon) to recognize the fruits of Oregon students’ Japanese studies. It first began in 1996, commemorating the 5th anniversary of the sister-state relationship between Toyama and Oregon. Jack Glenn from Willamette University won the Grand Prize for this year’s 22nd Toyama Cup, held on April 22nd. His prize included a week-long trip to Toyama where he visited the many sites that make our beautiful prefecture famous.

 

Jack’s stay in Toyama lasted from July 22nd to July 29th and he visited the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, the Toyama Prefectural Museum of Art and Design, as well as the Historic Villages of Gokayama World Heritage Site.

Courtesy Call

On July 23rd, Jack visited the Prefectural Government Office and paid a courtesy visit to Mr. Kurahori, Director-General of the General Policy Bureau. We hope that he will use his experience here in Toyama to become a bridge between Toyama and Oregon, as well as between Japan and the United States. As a symbol of this hope, Director-General Kurahori conferred Jack the title of “Toyama Honorary Friendly Envoy.”

Kurobe Dam

After his stay in Toyama, Jack said that he would never forget the spectacular scenery of the Tateyama mountain range and the Kurobe Dam, and that the Toyama Bay Sushi was the best tasting seafood he had ever had in his life. According to him, Toyama has many experiences that simply cannot be had in Tokyo or Osaka, and since it is packed with all of the things that make Japan great, everyone should visit Toyama at least once in their lifetime.

Gokayama Washi

We hope that Jack’s experience will drive exchange between Toyama and Oregon, and we look forward to welcoming the next speech contest winner!

For more information, please visit http://jaso.org/toyama-cup-2/

Photo Source: Toyama Speech Contest Winners

The 2018 Toyama Cup Japanese Speech Contest

Originally written for the Vol.12-No.2 edition (June 18, 2018) of the Toyama Hot News e-newsletter.

The Toyama Cup is a Japanese speech contest held every year in Portland in cooperation with JASO (the Japan-America Society of Oregon) to recognize the fruits of Oregon students’ Japanese studies. It first began in 1996, commemorating the 5th anniversary of the sister-state relationship between Toyama and Oregon. Jack Glenn from Willamette University won the Grand Prize for this year’s 22nd Toyama Cup, held on April 22nd. His prize includes a week-long trip to Toyama where he will visit the many sites that make our beautiful prefecture famous. Jack will be coming in July, and join the many other Grand Prize winners who have made the trip from Oregon to Toyama over the years, continuing to build the bridge of friendship between our two regions. We look for new participants every year so if you happen to know someone who would be interested, encourage them to apply next year! For more information, please visit the JASO website here.

The Theatre Olympics and the Most Beautiful Bays in the World Club Congress are coming to Toyama!

Originally written for the Vol.12-No.2 edition (June 18, 2018) of the Toyama Hot News e-newsletter.

2019 will be a big year for Toyama on the international stage. Toyama Prefecture will host the 9th Theatre Olympics from August 23rd to September 23rd 2019. The Theatre Olympics is an international fair of theatre arts, established in 1993 in Delphi, Greece, by Suzuki Tadashi, Theodoros Terzopoulos, and other world renowned directors and playwrights. In addition to showcasing the world’s highest level of performing arts, the Theatre Olympics also conducts workshops, symposiums, and educational programs. World famous theatre director Suzuki Tadashi will be the artistic director for this 9th edition.

 

Three main venues have been selected for the Theatre Olympics: the Toga Art Park of Toyama Prefecture in Nanto City, and the Unazuki International Hall “Selene” and Maezawa Garden Amphitheater, both in Kurobe City. The open air theaters surrounded by a lush natural environment are an ideal way to appreciate both art and Toyama Prefecture’s beautiful mountains.

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Speaking of nature, and beauty, Toyama Bay was selected in April as the host for the 2019 Most Beautiful Bays in the World Club Congress. Toyama’s environmental efforts, natural beauty, and rich culture were highly praised by the assembly during this year’s congress in La Baule, France. The Congress will be held in Japan for the first time from October 16th to October 20th 2019 at the Toyama International Conference Center. The program has not been released yet but I am sure it will be packed with excursions to show to the best of Toyama Prefecture to the delegates coming from all around the world.

 

Toyama will be in the spotlight in 2019, and Toyama Hot News will keep you updated!

 

Photo Source: Toyama Just Now 857

Firefly Squid! Late night adventures in Toyama Bay

The firefly squid (hotaruika in Japanese) are one of the more famous parts of Toyama Bay. One can barely escape the posters with cobalt blue lines during a visit to Namerikawa City. Being able to see the real thing, however, is an entirely different problem. The firefly squid stay deep in the bay during the day, and only rise up at night, throwing themselves onto the shore between March and June. This means that trying to catch a glimpse of the creatures may lead to sleepless nights waiting for small lights on a beach.

Fortunately, the city of Namerikawa organizes tours where tourists can go out at sea in a pleasure boat and watch the fishermen as they collect the firefly squid from the fixed fishing nets, a traditional way of fishing in the region with a history of over 400 years. 2 other CIRs and I embarked in our section manager’s car at 1:30 am to participate in this tour and see the firefly squid with our own eyes.

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After a quick information session in the Hotaruika Museum shop, where many souvenirs and foods are sold during the day, we walked out to the fishing port at 3 am for a ride on the pleasure boat. It was a chilly March night, but everyone aboard the boat was excited, from kids to grandparents, and everyone in between.

We arrived in front of the first fixed net system just in time to see the boat’s crew start reeling it in. The boat floats sideways into the net as the fishermen pull it and move the catch towards the edge, where another boat waits. Once the two boats are close enough, the fishermen use hand nets to scoop the firefly squid out of the fixed net system, all while leaving bycatch in. The tour goes by two fixed nets before bringing the tourists back to shore.

We only caught a peek at the light at the first net, but the second net is where the magic came to life. The glowing squid were creating a line around the net, and everyone was excited to catch glimpses of the blue light. For around twenty minutes, we watched the fishermen gather the squid with hand nets before placing them in boxes. The unmistakable bright blue of a few squid seemingly flying in the air was an amazing spectacle. One man threw a few squid towards us, which the children gleefully caught and started playing with. One even got some ink on his fingers before he threw it back out to sea.

 

The season is still early, and so far there haven’t been many firefly squid rising up to the surface, but that may mean the bulk will come later! I’m very glad I was given the chance to see this natural phenomenon first hand, and hopefully I’ll get to see it again!

These last few months in Toyama

In October 2017, the state of Oregon held a trade mission to Asia, led by Governor Kate Brown and Alexis Taylor, director of the Department of Agriculture. The trade mission’s objectives were to create and maintain precious relationships across the Pacific Ocean. During this trade mission, a “Friends of Oregon Reception” was held in Tokyo on October 11th. As Oregon’s sister-state for over 25 years, Toyama Prefecture sent Public Enterprise Administrator Hidetoshi Sunuma as well as International Affairs Division section manager Kawamura and myself to greet the Oregon mission.

Photo with the governor

Mr. Sunuma was able to have short discussions with Governor Brown, as well as Chris Harder, the director of Business Oregon, and Amanda Welker, Global Strategies Officer for Business Oregon. The reunion was warm and friendly, reflecting the relationship between the sister states. The reception featured food from Oregon, and all the participants received bottles of wine from a Willamette Valley vineyard.

 

During the reception, Mr. Sunuma had the opportunity to talk about the Toyama Museum of Art and Design that had opened on August 26th, 2017 in Toyama City, overlooking Kansui Park. Affectionately called TAD, the brand new museum features a world-class modern art collection with pieces from Picasso, Miró, and Toulouse-Lautrec,104006_05 as well as design collections, from posters to chairs. TAD is also home to the Onomatopoeia Rooftop, a collection of play equipment for children designed by Taku Satoh, inspired by the sounds used in onomatopoeias. The museum is an architectural marvel, and its wide glass windows give a panoramic view of the breathtaking Tateyama mountain range.

 

TAD’s first opening exhibit was called “LIFE-In search of paradise,” and explored the meaning of life in 8 chapters: Innocence, Love, Daily Life, Emotions & Ideas, Dreams, Death, Primitive, and Nature. This exhibit included powerful works from around the world, and my favorite was March of the Clowns by American artist Albert Bloch.

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The second opening exhibit just came to a close and was called “Art and Design, dialogue with materials.” Focusing on art and design, this exhibit included a piece called COLOR OF TIME by French architect and designer Emmanuelle Moureaux, which became extremely popular on Instagram, with its hallway of colored digits. This event also coincided with the International Hokuriku Kogei (artisan crafts) Summit and showcased some of the works submitted to its Worlds Kogei 100 competition.

 

Kogei, which roughly corresponds to artisan crafts in Japanese, have always been a very important part of the history of Toyama. Takaoka Metalware and Inami Woodcarving are some of the more famous crafts in Toyama Prefecture, but one cannot forget Shogawa Woodturning, Ecchu Washi (traditional Japanese paper), and Takaoka Lacquerware. These time-honored traditional crafts and techniques are still alive and well, and the International Hokuriku Kogei Summit held in Toyama honored that sentiment.

 

On November 30th, 2017, the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry designated Ecchu-Fukuoka Sedge Hats as a traditional craft. These hats were made in the area centered around Fukuoka, a town in what is now Takaoka City, starting in the 15th century, and were used all over the country by farmers seeking protection from rain and sunlight. Today, 80 people still create these sedge hats but most are in their 70s and 80s, worrying about the lack of apprentices who would be able to continue the tradition.

 

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Kogei and the Ecchu-Fukuoka Sedge Hats still have a future. “This national designation as a traditional craft is not just a decoration,” asserts Ecchu-Fukuoka Sedge Hat Promotion Association Chairman Satoshi Takata. “It means that the country has endorsed this craft as deserving to thrive. I want us to use this opportunity to challenge ourselves to develop new products and find new markets. We will evolve, taking into account the times and the demand, while protecting the good things about traditional techniques.”

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Finally, on a personal note, I was able to meet officials from Oregon for the first time during the trip to Tokyo for the Friends of Oregon Reception. I hope to one day visit the state, and I am looking forward to helping relations between Toyama and Oregon in the future!

 

Source (Reference Articles and Photos): Toyama Just Now (818, 838)