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.
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!
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.
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.
Ryoushi no Oyatsu, (fishermen’s treats)
Namerikawa Hotaruika Boat Tour
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.
A fisherman scooping out firefly squid from the net
Two fishing boats with the fixed net between them
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.
Firefly squid around the net!
The pleasure boat
A firefly squid in a child’s hand
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!
Originally written for the Vol.9-No.1 edition (Feb 3, 2015) of the Toyama Hot News e-newsletter.
Scheduled for November 1st of this year, Toyama Marathon 2015 will be a full marathon on the largest scale held in Toyama Prefecture up to date. Held during the same year as the opening of the Hokuriku Shinkansen and marking the first annual “Toyama Marathon”, this will certainly be an event to remember. Part of this event’s allure is the scenery; the catchphrase for the marathon is “Mountains, ocean and towns – run along the beautiful Toyama Bay!” Contestants will feel the tradition and culture of the area as they run past harbor towns and experience the amazing natural beauty of the bay and Tateyama Mountain Range.
In addition to the full marathon, there will be 10K, 5K, 3K and 2K races as well as a wheelchair 10K, ensuring that all runners can participate. It promises to be a grand sports event for all Toyama citizens, regardless of handicaps or age. Of course, participants from outside the prefecture are welcome to come and share in the excitement, finding energy from supporters along the way as they get a taste of Toyama’s air and scenery.
The marathon hopes to attract around 12,000 participants. While general entry begins in late April, from the beginning of April early entry begins in categories for Toyama citizens, domestic tour entry, and Toyama Marathon supporters. The entry fee for the full marathon will be 10,000 yen, and will include a commemorative T-shirt as a gift for participants. Other races will cost between 1,000 and 3,000 yen, and participants will receive a commemorative towel.
Let’s see what is in store for the marathon course! Starting in the Takaoka area, runners will make their way through the beautiful coastal area of Imizu and finish out their 42.195 km in Toyama. In Takaoka, runners will be seen off from the beautiful greenery and stunning moats of Takaoka Kojo Park, the former site of the Takaoka Castle. In Imizu runners will have a chance to look out over Toyama Bay, a member of the Most Beautiful Bays in the World, before crossing Shinminato Bridge, the largest cable-stayed bridge on the Sea of Japan coast. Since the bridge is normally only accessible to vehicles, this rare experience is sure to leave an impression on participants! Finally, in the Toyama area runners will pass Toyama’s streetcar lines on their way to the finish line at Kansui Park. Connected to the Fugan Canal, Kansui Park is an oasis in the middle of the city which celebrates Toyama’s cultural connection to water.
Along the route, events are being planned to cheer on contestants. Gorgeous floats including Takaoka’s Mikurumayama and Shinminato’s Hikiyama will be on display, and traditional cultural practices such as the gallant yabusame (archery on horseback) and Genpei Taiko drumming will excite the crowd and lead the cheers. In addition, junior high and high school student orchestras will add to the energy with their performances. All of this support from Toyama citizens is sure to help runners find their strength and push through the fatigue.
As the marathon approaches, preparation is already in full swing. On October 26th, 2014, nearly a year before the marathon’s scheduled date, a rally was held around Takaoka Kojo Park. The event included the starting of a countdown timer and a mini practice run. As well, “Marathon for Beginners” classes were held in summer and fall last year. Not only did participants learn about running form and breathing techniques, they also motivated each other, pledging to finish the marathon.
For those in Oregon interested in participating in the marathon, a representative said that event details and information on how to enter should be available in English on Toyama Marathon’s official homepage by the end of March, so make sure to check the site at that time!
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!
Originally written for the Vol.7-No.2 edition (October 18, 2013) of the Toyama Hot News e-newsletter.
2013 Toyama Cup Japanese Speech Contest Winner Visits Toyama
Bryan Takano, winner of the 2013 Toyama Cup Japanese Speech Contest (organized by Toyama Prefecture and the Japan-America Society of Oregon) held in April, visited Toyama Prefecture from July 7 – 11 as his grand prize. Bryan is a current student at Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon.
This was Bryan’s first time in Toyama, and he visited sightseeing spots such as the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, Kurobe Gorge, and the villages of Gokayama. In the high mountains of Tateyama, we were even lucky enough to spot a pair of raicho (rock ptarmigan), the elusive prefectural bird. With Bryan’s interest in art, he also especially enjoyed making his own washi (traditional Japanese paper) in Gokayama and visiting the Great Buddha of Takaoka.
Oregon Tourism Seminar Held in Toyama
On September 10, Greg Eckhart of Travel Oregon, Jeff Hammerly of Travel Portland, and David Penilton of America’s Hub World Tours were in Toyama to give tourism presentations to two different groups: educators working in local schools interested in offering overseas trips, and local travel agents and tour operators.
Among the most memorable points made in these presentations was that Oregon may lack the more typical theme parks sought by tourists, but has “real” amusements such as hiking and skiing on mountains or rafting on rivers. The speakers also shared examples of a few Japanese magazines that featured Oregon to illustrate the state’s increasing appeal and recognition in Japan.
Tim McCabe, Director of Business Oregon, Visits Toyama
Tim McCabe, Director of Business Oregon, and Colin Sears, Business Recruitment Officer, paid a visit to Toyama on September 20. On their brief visit, Mr. McCabe and Mr. Sears met with Vice-Governor Satoshi Terabayashi and then visited the Kurotani Corporation headquartered in Imizu City in Toyama Prefecture. The company opened Kurotani North America Inc. in Portland in August 2012.
Mayor Peter Truax Leads Forest Grove Delegation to Nyuzen
Mayor Peter Truax led a delegation of both city officials and community members from Forest Grove, Oregon to Nyuzen Town in Toyama Prefecture. Forest Grove and Nyuzen have been sister cities since 1988. This year, the delegation visit was timed for the 60th anniversary of Nyuzen’s incorporation, and the visitors from Forest Grove participated in the celebrations. During their stay in Toyama Prefecture from September 30 to October 4, the delegation members visited points of interest in Nyuzen such as the Swamp Cedars of Sawasugi as well as surrounding sightseeing areas such as the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route. Each night was spent with local host families.
The Forest Grove delegation also came out to visit the Toyama Prefectural Government located in Toyama City on October 2. They met with Toshiyuki Hiyoshi, Director-General of the Tourism & Regional Promotion Bureau.
Toyama Exchange Employee Currently in Oregon
Junichi Nakayama, an Assistant Director of the Environmental Policy Division of the Toyama Prefectural Government, has been in Oregon since September 29 for a three-week study period visiting various state agencies and other offices relevant to environmental policy issues. Visits include the Department of Environmental Quality and Oregon State University, spanning many areas of the state including Portland, Salem, Corvallis, and Coos Bay.
We would like to thank everyone involved for their support, especially Business Oregon for arranging appointments and coordinating the program from the Oregon side.
(Update: Mr. Nakayama arrived back in Toyama on Sunday, October 20.)
Originally written for the Vol.7-No.2 edition (October 18, 2013) of the Toyama Hot News e-newsletter.
Trail running, with its way of allowing runners to sense the dirt and fallen leaves beneath their feet and to challenge themselves on hills, has recently been gaining popularity in Japan.
On October 19 and 20, the Gokayama Doshumichi Trail Running Tour will be held on the historical trail between the temples of Gyotokuji in Gokayama and Zuisenji in Inami, all within Nanto City, Toyama Prefecture. The course is about 30km and runs through mountains roughly 1,000m (3,280 ft.) tall. The event is a preview of the Gokayama Doshumichi Trail Race (tentative name) that will be held in October 2014 as part of the celebration events commemorating the 10th anniversary of Nanto City’s incorporation.
Doshumichi is an old path that is said to have been used for many years by Akao Doshu (1462 – 1516), the founder of Gyotokuji Temple and a disciple of Rennyo, in order to study at Zuisenji Temple. The trail passes through many mountain ridges.
A local group called “Doshumichi-no-kai” researched this road and began maintaining the trail about five years ago, clearing the overgrown path and installing approximately sixty signposts. The Trail Running Tour begins at Gyotokuji, enters the trailhead by the World Heritage Village of Suganuma in Gokayama, runs along mountain ridges, and then arrives in Inami, an area known for its tradition in woodcarving. Along this “backbone of Nanto City” there is a marker for the geographical center of the city. The trail also passes through beautiful beech forests, and if they are lucky, runners will be able to enjoy autumn colors.
On October 19, event participants can participate in a one-hour hike in Gokayama, a lesson on Doshumichi and trail running, and a dinner party. On October 20, runners divide into groups led by guides and run the Doshumichi. Next year’s main event will be a timed race, but this year’s run is not timed.
Visitors also have a variety of sightseeing opportunities. The main gate of Gyotokuji Temple has an unusual thatched roof. The adjacent Doshu Itoku Kan houses treasured items associated with Rennyo and Doshu. Next to Gyotokuji is the Iwase family residence, a 300-year-old house that is the largest gassho-style house in Gokayama and nationally recognized as an Important Cultural Property. Suganuma itself is a very small riverside village of only nine houses, but has two museums and opportunities to taste life in traditional Japan.
Originally written for the Vol.7-No.1 edition (April 4, 2013) of the Toyama Hot News e-newsletter.
On Sunday, June 23, cyclists will be able to race toward the clouds along the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route in the mont-bell Tateyama Alpine Hill Climb 2013. This event is organized by an executive committee composed of members from Toyama Prefecture, Tateyama Town, and the Toyama Cycling Federation.
The Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is usually closed to personal vehicles for nature protection purposes, and this is the first time a cycling event open to the public will be held there. One of the aims is to create further promotional appeal for the Alpine Route as a sports tourism destination.
There are two options for the Tateyama Alpine Hill Climb: a “long course” and a “nature ride course.” The “long course” traverses 22.3 km (13.9 mi.), and begins at Bijodaira Station (977m/ 3,200 ft. elevation) and finishes at Murodo (2,450m/ 8,040 ft. elevation). The route climbs 1,473 m (4,833 ft.) at an average 6.6% incline, offering a challenging ride for advanced cyclists. The “nature ride course” is 7.6 km (4.7 mi.) and climbs 520 m (1,706 ft.) at an average 6.8% incline from Midagahara (1,930m/6,332 ft. elevation) to Murodo, and is geared toward less experienced cycling enthusiasts and mountain aficionados.
On the “long course,” participants will be able to see the dramatic change in scenery from Tateyama cedar and beech forests to small alpine plants. The “nature ride course” begins with magnificent views of Midagahara and Dainichidaira, which are recognized as important wetlands by the Ramsar Convention. A unique feature of the Tateyama Alpine Hill Climb is that unlike most hill climb events in Japan that simply go through forests, this event offers sweeping mountain views. In addition, participants may even see snow toward the end of their rides; along Yuki-no-Otani on the approach to Murodo, walls of snow 6 to 7 meters (20 to 23 ft.) usually still remain around this time of year.
Start time for the “long course” is 5:30 a.m., and 6:00 a.m. for the “nature ride course.” The event is scheduled to end at 8:00 a.m., and regular buses between Bijodaira and Murodo will be suspended for the duration of the event. The participant limit is 100 people per course. “Long course” registrants need to present a record of a previous cycling event.
The entry fees are 50,000 yen for the “long course” and 55,000 yen for the “nature ride course,” and include one night accommodation, two meals, and bicycle transportation back, and bus transportation.