International Affairs

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.


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.



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.”


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)




Chloe Delzell became a Goodwill Ambassador of Toyama on July 8, 2015

Chloe Delzell, originally from Ashland, Oregon spent four years serving as an Assistant Language Teacher in Toyama Daiichi High School and finished her term this past July. Chloe was one of several teachers to be recognized for their contributions and named as honorary ambassadors of Toyama. Members of the Toyama Honorary Envoy will be expected to maintain and promote ties between Toyama and their home nations and regions. I caught up with Chloe after the ceremony to ask her about what brought her here, and hear her thoughts on the Toyama-Oregon relationship.

Toyama bound!

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Climbing Tongariyama my 1st year in Toyama

After studying abroad in Kanagawa and deciding that I would major in Japanese at my university, I figured that after graduating I would probably
want to come to Japan and work. That’s when I first heard about the JET Program. I couldn’t decide for the longest time whether I should apply but luckily my mom encouraged me to just go for it! So basically, long story short, my placement turned out to be Toyama. I knew nothing about Toyama at first, not even where it was in Japan – I turned to my Japanese friends and the internet for information. I began to feel better after learning that it is a prefecture full of nature, with mountains and the sea, and also that it is located relatively close to Tokyo and Osaka. My Japanese friends responded to all of my questions by telling me, “Mmm, kind of inaka (rural), but it looks like a nice place!” It was around that time that I also discovered about the sister-state relationship between Toyama and Oregon; suddenly it made a lot of sense that I was placed in Toyama.

Impressions of Toyama

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Oregon Booth during JET Fest 2013

I will never forget flying into Toyama Airport four years ago. I was feeling super nervous about meeting my supervisor and finally getting to the place where I would be living for the next year. I saw the river sparkling brightly through the window, and the greenery along the river bed was so vivid it just made me feel a lot calmer. When we walked off the plane, it was so hot I couldn’t believe it!

Now that four years has passed, I would definitely say that my impression of Toyama has changed. At first, I didn’t really know how much of a city Toyama had. Driving down the main street near my apartment I remember thinking how old and rustic (and rusty, haha) many of the shops were. But afterwards, I realized that Toyama’s downtown area really is a proper city with good transportation and most everything a person could want in their everyday life. Also, I always thought that I would move to Tokyo after leaving JET. But I’ve come to realize that I prefer the un-crowded lifestyle of the inaka; there is nature close by and you don’t have to live in a city that never sleeps to have fun.

About the sister state relationship

Thanks to the sister state relationship of Oregon and Toyama, I was able to discover such a nice place that manages to be reminiscent of home, while still being totally different. As a Goodwill Ambassador I definitely plan on continuing to try and wheedle friends and family to come and visit me. My Japanese friends who have come to Toyama are always surprised and say, “I didn’t realize Toyama was such a nice place!” I don’t know where I will be working and living next but to be honest I’d like to stay in Toyama or the Hokuriku area a little bit longer.

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Honorary Ambassadors with representatives of Toyama Prefecture.

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

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!

Originally written for the Vol.8-No.1 edition (April 15, 2014) of the Toyama Hot News e-newsletter.

2014 Toyama Cup Japanese Speech Contest

The 18th annual Toyama Cup Japanese Speech Contest will be held on April 27 from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the World Trade Center in Portland. Toyama Prefecture works with the Japan-America Society of Oregon (JASO) for this event ever year. College and university students studying Japanese in Oregon will be challenging themselves to give speeches in Japanese. The grand prize winner will be awarded a trip to Toyama!

The Toyama Cup Japanese Speech Contest is open to the public to watch free of charge. Please come and support local students in their journey toward mastering the Japanese language!

 For more information, please contact the Japan-American Society of Oregon (

2013 Speech Contest

Oregon Visit, March 9 – 14

From Sunday, March 9 to Friday, March 14, Mr. Koichi Aoyama, Assistant Director of the International Affairs & Japan Sea Region Policy Division, along with Ms. Taeko Yamamoto and I were in Oregon primarily to affirm contacts and promote the Toyama Cup Japanese Speech Contest.

 In addition to visiting Oregon colleges and universities (Lewis & Clark College, Willamette University, Oregon State University, Linfield College, Pacific University, Portland State University) and speaking with professors, instructors, and students there regarding the speech contest, we also paid visits to Business Oregon, the Japanese Consular Office, Travel Portland, the Oregon Department of Education, Sheridan Japanese School (see below), and the Japan-America Society of Oregon.

 Even with this busy schedule, we also had the opportunity to reconnect and share a meal with some of you who have ties to Toyama Prefecture, in a more casual setting. It was wonderful to see you!

 Thank you to everyone we met in Oregon, and we hope that you will continue to be actively involved in the sister state relationship.


Ms. Akiko Nakano Returns to Toyama

Just a couple of weeks after we visited Sheridan Japanese School, where Ms. Nakano –  the exchange teacher from Toyama Prefecture – was teaching Japanese language and culture, she completed her time there and returned to Toyama. In Ms. Nakano’s one and a half years in Oregon, she was able to visit many places in Oregon, experience American culture with her host family, act as an ambassador of Toyama in Oregon, make good friends, and inspire many students.

 While we are not able to send another exchange teacher to Oregon, we hope to stay in touch with the Oregon Department of Education to continue having sister state exchange opportunities in the education field.

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 at the Kurobe Dam

Bryan Takano at the Kurobe Dam

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.

By Bryan Takano

By Bryan Takano

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

(from left) Jun Mokudai (Oregon Japan Representative Office), Vice-Governor Terabayashi, Tim McCabe, Colin Sears

(from left) Jun Mokudai (Oregon Japan Representative Office), Vice-Governor Terabayashi, Tim McCabe, Colin Sears

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

Forest Grove Delegation's visit to the Toyama Prefectural Government

Forest Grove delegation’s visit to the Toyama Prefectural Government

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.)

Sheridan Japanese School students meet with Takaoka Minami High School students at Great Buddha of Takaoka

Sheridan Japanese School students meet with Takaoka Minami High School students at Great Buddha of Takaoka

Originally written for the Vol.7-No.1 edition (April 4, 2013) of the Toyama Hot News e-newsletter.

On March 14, 21 students (8th-11th grade), 2 parents, and 3 teachers from Sheridan Japanese School spent a day in Toyama as part of a longer trip around Japan. At Sheridan Japanese School, a charter school located in Yamhill County, Oregon, all students study Japanese language and culture. However, this was the first trip of its kind for the school.

The eager group arrived from Osaka by train in the evening of March 13. The next morning, Japanese Program Director Andrew Scott and two students met with Toshiyuki Hiyoshi, Director-General of the Tourism and Region Promotion Bureau. They discussed active sister state activities, including the teacher exchange program that has Ms. Akiko Nakano from Toyama currently teaching at Sheridan Japanese School. No one in the group had been to Toyama before, and the students also expressed their excitement at seeing tourism sights and of course, eating hard tofu. (Gokayama tofu is known for its extra firmness.)

Looking down at Ainokura Village, Gokayama

After this only “official business” of the day, the entire group was off to Ainokura, one of the villages of Gokayama, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While the snow was long gone down in the city, it still very much felt like winter in Gokayama. Since the valleys in western Oregon do not see a lot of snow, the students were delighted to see everything covered in white. Between learning from the volunteer guide about the history of this settlement hundreds of years old, with their buildings designed to withstand heavy snow, teenagers (and teachers!?) could also be seen throwing snowballs and sliding down snow-covered hills. This is certainly a side of Japan that many Western visitors never see.

Hiking down a snowy hill

Then, it was time to go to Gokayama Washi-no-Sato to experience traditional Japanese papermaking. At first they seemed a little confused at the idea of “making paper,” but everyone seemed to be having a fun time choosing decorative pieces for their handmade postcards and soaking their hands in the pulp! Hopefully, the students have a new appreciation for the process of making washi (traditional Japanese paper). While we unfortunately did not have a lot of time and had to move quickly through our activities of the day, it seemed that many students would have liked to spend more time in the gift store at Washi-no-Sato, which sells just about anything you could possibly want that is made out of washi, from stationary and home décor to business card holders and coasters!

We enjoyed lunch at the adjacent restaurant Furusato, with menu options that included soba, udon, fish, beef bowl, and tofu.

After lunch, we headed to Takaoka City to get a guided tour of Zuiryu-ji, a 350-year-old temple and a designated National Treasure of Japan. For many students, this was their first time at a Japanese temple, and they earnestly took in the historical wooden buildings with their detailed workmanship.

Next was a big highlight for the students: at the Takaoka Daibutsu (Great Buddha), some students from Takaoka Minami High School were eagerly waiting for their American friends. Takaoka Minami is the former school of Ms. Nakano currently teaching at Sheridan Japanese School, and the students had exchanged letters and handmade guidebooks. They had not expected to actually be able to meet in person, and they were thrilled to be conversing in both English and Japanese, each side trying out their second language skills.

We hope that all of our guests had a memorable time in Toyama, and enjoyed experiencing the varied landscapes and culture of Japan. We wish the students the best in their Japanese studies!