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

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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

New Tourist Buses Make Getting to Toyama Destinations Easier for Visitors

Gokayama

Originally written for the Vol.7-No.2 edition (October 18, 2013) of the Toyama Hot News e-newsletter.

With an eye toward the opening of the new shinkansen (bullet train) extension to Toyama in spring of 2015, two new tourist buses began operating this month to make sightseeing spots easier to access.

The “Toyama Buri Kani Bus” (“Toyama Yellowtail Crab Bus”) will do one round-trip between Toyama Station and Himi (in western Toyama Prefecture) on weekends and holidays through March. A one-way trip takes 1 hour 25 minutes and costs 1,000 yen. It is also possible to only go as far as Shinminato (35 minutes) for 500 yen.

Himi is well-known for its fish, and the tourist bus arrives at Himi Banyagai, a mall/market with fresh seafood direct from nearby ports as well as sushi, Himi udon, and Himi beef. There is even a hot spring bath and footbath! On the way, bus passengers will pass over the Shinminato Ohashi – the largest cable-stayed bridge on the Japan Sea side of the country – and be able to enjoy views of Toyama Bay and the Sailing Ship Kaiwomaru. And from Amaharashi Coast on a sunny day, visitors can see the Tateyama Mountain Range towering over Toyama Bay.

Those going to Shinminato in Imizu City can walk around the canals of Uchikawa, visit the fish market at Fisherman’s Wharf, and see Hojozu Hachimangu (Shrine). There are also various reservation-only plans for both Himi and Shinminato that include lunch (3,000 to 5,000 yen total) featuring local specialties such as shiroebi (white shrimp), crab, and yellowtail.

The “World Heritage Bus” does four round-trips between Takaoka Station and Shirakawa-go (Ogimachi) in Gifu Prefecture, with stops in the villages of Ainokura and Suganuma within Toyama Prefecture. As with the “Toyama Buri Kani Bus,” the “World Heritage Bus” will also run weekends and holidays through March. Part of the route uses highways, making travel convenient. For example, it will only take 1 hour 15 minutes (1,200 yen one-way) from Takaoka to Suganuma, and 1 hour 55 minutes (1,800 yen one-way) to Shirakawa-go.

 Ainokura is a village of about 20 buildings in gassho-style, with traditional steep, thatched roofs designed for the snowy winters in this region. (Gassho means “hands in prayer,” and the architectural style resembles that shape.) Suganuma is a smaller village of about 9 gassho-style buildings. Both offer beautiful mountain village settings, and it is easy to forget even the passage of time. These historic villages were inscribed on the World Heritage list in 1995.

Another possible stop is Johana, known as the “Little Kyoto of Etchu (the old province before Toyama).”  The traditional streets around Zentokuji Temple are atmospheric, and include a weaving studio and the Johana Hikiyama Museum where you can see festival floats on display all year.

For more information on the “Toyama Buri Kani Bus,” visit the Toyama Chiho Tetsudo website (Japanese only): http://www.chitetsu.co.jp/?p=9362

For more information on the “World Heritage Bus,” visit the Kaetsuno website (Japanese only): http://www.kaetsunou.co.jp/new/sekaiisanbus.pdf

Source (article and image): Toyama Just Now

Run along an Ancient Trail from a World Heritage Village to a Woodcarvers’ Town

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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.

Visit the official Gokayama Doshumichi Trail Running Tour website (Japanese only): http://www.fields-co.jp/gokayama/2013/

Source (article and image): Toyama Just Now

Sheridan Japanese School Visits Toyama

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!

Enjoy Theatre at SCOT Summer Season in Toga

Originally written for the Vol.6-No.4 edition (August 23, 2012) of the Toyama Hot News e-newsletter.

From Friday, August 24th through Sunday, September 2nd, SCOT Summer Season 2012 will be held at Toga Art Park in Nanto City. SCOT (Suzuki Company of Toga) is a theatre group led by Tadashi Suzuki and based in Toga, and will be performing King Lear, Greetings from the Edge of the Earth, and Cinderella. There will also be an experimental performance, Turandot: The Rise of Capitalism and the Decay of Common Sense, by young international actors who studied under the Suzuki Training Method.

King Lear, based on Shakespeare’s play, is a representative work of Suzuki. The elderly main character whose family ties had collapsed can do nothing but wait for death alone in a hospital. This play illustrates the possibility that anyone, in any time or place, could have a fate of loneliness and madness like King Lear.

Greetings from the Edge of the Earth premiered in 1991. This show takes advantage of the outdoor stage, and features magnificent fireworks against the grand nature of Toga.

Cinderella is the first work by Suzuki aimed at families, and is a modern re-telling of the classic fairy tale. A young woman who loves to write plays is treated badly by her father and half-sisters, but she receives encouragement from a kind woman and writes a play based on Cinderella. This is a story that tells the importance of working hard and keeping your hopes and dreams alive.

Turandot: The Rise of Capitalism and the Decay of Common Sense combines Puccini’s opera with traditional Italian masks. It has an Italian producer, and is performed by Chinese, Singaporean, Brazilian, Lithuanian, and Italian actors.

SCOT was born when the original group relocated from Tokyo to a converted traditional thatched-roof house in Toga in 1976. In 1982, they held the first international theatre festival in Japan, the Toga Festival. SCOT quickly gained international attention, and Toga came to be considered the “holy land” of world theatre. Currently, based in Toga Art Park situated within the inspiring artistic atmosphere of Toga, SCOT is always working on new theatrical art works. Aside from the annual SCOT Summer Season, they also host the Toga Theatre Competition, which is known as a gateway for internationally active theatre producers.

For more information about the Suzuki Company of Toga, please visit their website:
www.scot-suzukicompany.com/en/.

Source (article and image): Toyama Just Now

Artists from Around the World Gather at Sukiyakai Meets the World 2012

Originally written for the Vol.6-No.4 edition (August 23, 2012) of the Toyama Hot News e-newsletter.

Sukiyaki Meets the World, one of the largest world music festivals in Japan, will be held in the Fukuno area of Nanto City from Friday, August 24th through Sunday, August 26th. This festival began in 1991, and was named after Kyu Sakamoto’s international hit song “Sukiyaki” (known more popularly as “Ue o Muite Aruko” in Japan) as a vehicle for spreading culture. This 22nd event features fourteen carefully selected artists and groups that are sure to heat up the stage. In addition, there will be workshops, a parade, a symposium, and a food and shopping area.

One of the groups performing at the event is Gnawa Diffusion, a French/Algerian band that has reunited after five years. This band has a unique style of North African music, combining the clapping and calls of Gnawa music with reggae, hip hop, and rock music. Lead singer Amazigh Kateb was an influential figure in the democratization movement in North Africa.

Pernett brings new life into Colombian music, and will be in Japan for the first time. He makes liberal use of synthesizers and effects on Cumbia, which originates from a dance brought by African slaves. The traditional gaita flute is added for a different sound and rhythm.

The Sukiyaki Denki Box is an original Sukiyaki Meets the World group. Pernett teams up with Sakaki Mango‘s thumb piano, and Norihiko Yamakita’s percussion for a unique performance.

Oki is a musician of Ainu descent, and plays the traditional string instrument, the tonkori. With a contemporary sound that uses traditional Ainu music as a foundation, he has revived interest in Ainu music.

Kiwi & The Papaya Mangoes is what happens when Ainu, Okinawan, and other traditional Japanese music meets the world! This group from Tokyo makes use of shamisen, sitar, violin, accordion, bass, drums, and guitar for an eclectic sound.

The most iconic group of Sukiyaki Meets the World is the Sukiyaki Steel Orchestra, which grew out of this event in 1995. The steel drum puts audiences in a Caribbean mood for a light-hearted, danceable performance.

This event also strives to nurture music in the community. The Sukiyaki Parade on the night of Saturday the 25th will feature the Fukuno Middle School Marching Band and a variety of other local musicians. Workshops will be held on the 25th and 26th, where participants can learn Ainu folk songs called upopo, rediscover the traditional Japanese sensibility and its relationship with other Asian cultures, and experience Gnawa music or Columbian rhythms. The symposium on the 26th entitled “Will World Music Thrive in Japan?: The World to Nanto, and Nanto to the World” will feature some of the festival performers, including Amazigh Kateb and Oki.

Visit the website for more information (Japanese only): www.sukiyaki.cc.

Source (article and image): Toyama Just Now