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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.

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                    “Marathon for Beginners” class

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.

Countdown timer lighting ceremony (Takaoka Kojo Park)

                                   Countdown ceremony (Takaoka Kojo Park) 

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!

Source: (Article and image) Toyama Just Now

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Originally written for the Vol.6-No.3 edition (July 31, 2012) of the Toyama Hot News e-newsletter.

The 10th International Poster Triennial in Toyama (IPT) exhibition is currently being held at the Museum of Modern Art and continues through September 3rd. With posters submitted, judged, and selected from all over the world, this is the only international public poster exhibit in Japan. The first event was held in 1985, and has been held once every three years. This year, a record 4,622 pieces were submitted from 53 countries/regions.

In the first screening in February, the jury panel selected 290 works for Category A (posters published since 2009) and 108 works for Category B (original unpublished posters). A second screening determined the prize winners. The poster exhibition consists of the 398 selected posters as well as works by judges, for a total of 422 works. From within Toyama Prefecture, there were 151 submissions from 40 artists, with 16 posters from 12 artists selected for the exhibition.

Many of the entrees this year drew inspiration from the Great East Japan Earthquake, and social issues such as those involving human rights, race, and the environment. The exhibit is brimming with an international atmosphere, and notable works include posters that use modern graphic design on the powerful strokes of Chinese characters.

Concurrent events include lectures by art directors Hideki Nakajima and Katsumi Asaba (both on the jury panel), and gallery talks by curators.

The “Toyama, City of Posters” project is also on-going through October 31st. A jumbo-sized official poster for the 2012 International Poster Triennial (by Kazumasa Nagai) is currently fixed on the Toyama Chamber of Commerce building, posters of past prize winners and works by members of the Toyama Art Directors Club are displayed in busy areas around the city center, and still other posters are placed in spaces such as hotels and even beer gardens!

Satellite exhibitions will later be held in Tokyo, Osaka, and Fukushima, with a focus on the top ranked posters from all ten events so far.

The Museum of Modern Art states, “Posters are said to be mirrors that reflect the times, so the ‘now’ of the world is communicated by looking at these works.”

The 10th International Poster Triennial in Toyama’s English website.

Source (article and image): Toyama Just Now

Originally written for the Vol.6-No.3 edition (July 31, 2012) of the Toyama Hot News e-newsletter.

With the motto of “We Build the Future,” the World Festival of Children’s Performing Arts in Toyama 2012 is held from July 31st through August 5th in a variety of venues around Toyama Prefecture. From outside Japan, there are 17 groups participating from 17 different countries. From Japan, there are 16 groups from ten prefectures from outside of Toyama Prefecture, and 44 groups from within the prefecture. In addition to giving audiences a variety of performances from around the world, this is also a valuable opportunity for children to overcome language barriers to interact with each other and deepen international understanding.

The great appeal of this festival is that it gives people the ability to see a wide range of performing arts such as dance, drama, and musicals, by high-level children’s groups. Among the participants are groups from Iwate Prefecture, Miyagi Prefecture, and Fukushima Prefecture, who had to overcome disruptions and adversities as a result the Great East Japan Earthquake.

The 44 groups from Toyama Prefecture perform a diverse array of genres including western-style dance, drama, Japanese dance, brass band, traditional Japanese music, western music, physical expression, choir, folk song, instrumental music, sword dance, and opera. In the opening performance on July 31st, seven member groups of the Toyama Western Dance Association perform “WE ARE FRIENDS!” in a joint performance.

Among the notable performers from overseas is Bohemia Ballet from the Czech Republic, who is not only be performing “Ballet Gala” comprised of short pieces, but is also doing a joint performance of “The Little Match Girl” with Kasai Ballet of Toyama Prefecture.

Children Theatre Sorvanets is from Luchegorsk in Primorsky Krai, Russia, which is a sister region of Toyama Prefecture. The group is performing “Silver Hoof,” a Russian folktale.

The Yurungai Dance Theatre from Australia is made up of Aborigine youth. They are performing “The Little Black Duck,” which uses contemporary Aborigine street music to tell a traditional story.

For more information, visit the website (Japanese only).

Source (article and photo): Toyama Just Now

Originally written for the Vol.6-No.1 edition (April 13, 2012) of the Toyama Hot News e-newsletter.

In these uncertain economic times, Toyama Prefecture has released the 2010 Household Finance Survey Report for Toyama City. Toyama ranks third in the country for monthly average income per household with at least two people (615,372 yen) and first in disposable income (536,636 yen). Among interesting statistics on food expenditures, Toyama ranks first in the country in per capita spending on buri (yellowtail, a specialty of Toyama) for the 39th year in a row, pickled seafood for the 22nd year, and konbu (kelp) for the 51st year running.

The survey is conducted by Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications through the prefectural governments. Samples of monthly income and expenditures of households across the country give a picture of people’s lifestyles, and is a good resource for governments. Toyama Prefecture analyzed the numbers for 8,821 households in Japan against 104 households in Toyama City.

Taking a closer look at household income, the average earnings and/or public pension benefits from household members other than the primary income earner is much higher than the national average, and points to Toyama’s high percentage of dual-income and multigenerational households. Disposable income (total income minus taxes and insurance) has increased 8.4 percent compared to the previous year (national average: 1.3 percent increase). Average monthly household surplus (total income minus real spending) is the highest in Japan.

Many of the food expenditures reflect the local culture. Aside from the aforementioned seafood and konbu, Toyama also ranks 1st in Japan for expenditures on processed vegetables & seaweed (e.g. canned vegetables) and kiwi fruit. Toyama ranks second for eggplant, fresh shiitake mushrooms, picked daikon (white radish), and coffee beverages, and third in expenditures for mochi and deli items. Seafood and konbu consumption is high in Toyama because of the abundance of products from Toyama Bay and the history of konbu trade with Hokkaido. A possible explanation for the popularity in deli items is, again, the high number of dual-income households. Compared to national figures, the consumption of fish is higher than average and the consumption of meat is lower than average. Lowest-ranking food items in Toyama as compared to the rest of Japan include sugar, spaghetti, and eggs.

As for housing, based on average expenditures between 2008 and 2010, monthly rent is one of the lowest in the country, but home improvement and repair expenditures were the highest in Japan. These could be explained by the high percentage of home ownership in Toyama (78.3% for the prefecture, the highest in Japan).

Yearly spending money per household in Toyama is the highest in the country. Interesting figures include the fact that Toyama spends the most on cosmetic emulsions, and fifth most on public baths and hot springs.

Many statistics on Toyama Prefecture and its cities are available on the “Toyama Statistics World” website (Japanese only).

Source (article and photo): Toyama Just Now

Originally written for the Vol.6-No.1 edition (April 13, 2012) of the Toyama Hot News e-newsletter.

Cherry blossom season is finally here. Did you know that Toyama Prefecture is a “Kingdom of Cherry Blossoms,” where you can enjoy the longest season of viewing a variety of cherry blossoms? The 3,000-meter elevation difference between Toyama Bay and the Tateyama Mountains allows Toyama to have a four-month blossoming season, from the “kinkimame-zakura” in mid-March to the “takane-zakura” in late July. There are even varieties that bloom from late October to early March, which means that cherry blossoms are in bloom somewhere in Toyama for a large part of the year. Furthermore, as Toyama is located in the center of the main island of Japan, both northern and southern varieties can be seen, including all nine wild cherry blossom varieties that are found in Japan.

In 2003, fifty “Top Cherry Blossom Locations in Toyama” were selected, and this past November, the list was updated to include seventy locations. Funakawa-beri (Funa riverside) in Asahi Town has about 280 “someiyoshino” (one of the most widely planted cherry blossoms), which people can enjoy along with the sights of tulip fields, rapeseed blossoms, and lingering mountain snow. At the Fugan Canal Park in Toyama City, different types of trees bloom in spring and late autumn. In Nanto City, there is a lone cherry bloom tree known as “Mukaino no Edohigan” that is estimated to be over a hundred years old. During the blossoming period, the tree is lit up at night for a magical atmosphere.

The Toyama Prefectural Botanical Garden, another of the “Top Cherry Blossom Locations in Toyama,” will hold its first Cherry Blossom Festival this year from April 13th to the 16th. The trees will be lit up at night, and there will be a special exhibit (through April 30th) featuring the eleven varieties of cherry blossoms that were discovered in Toyama, such as the “Nyuzen otomekiku-zakura,” discovered this past December, and the “Himi kujirokiku-zakura.” Also on display will be the sapling cultivated by a student from Chuo Agricultural High School, the only one of its kind in the world.

With so many options, there is no shortage of ways to enjoy cherry blossoms in Toyama!

Source (article and photo): Toyama Just Now

Echo – an Unforgettable Elephant

Originally written for the Vol.5-No.6 edition (August 2, 2011) of the Toyama Hot News e-newsletter.

From Thursday, August 4th to Sunday, August 7th, the Nature Film Network will hold the 10th Japan Wildlife Film Festival in Toyama, with the Toyama International Conference Center as the main venue. This festival has been held in Toyama every other year since 1993, and is now considered one of the three largest nature film festivals in the world, along with the Wildscreen Festival in England and the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival in the United States.

This year, the festival received a record 459 submissions from 53 countries and regions. 35 films have been chosen to be shown on the big screen with subtitles or dubbing. Final award winners will be selected at the festival.

The films span a diverse range of regions and subjects. To describe just a few, “Echo – an Unforgettable Elephant” is a British film about elephants in Kilimanjaro, “Yanomami” is a Japanese film about an indigenous tribe in the Amazon rainforest, “Spirit of the Arctic” is an American film covering the different regions of Alaska, and “A Thousand Suns” is an American film about the rural farmers of the Gamo Highlands in East Africa. Other filmmakers are from France, Germany, Austria, South Africa, Hungary, New Zealand, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Taiwan, Korea, Estonia, and Belgium.

In commemoration of this 10th film festival, there will also be a “Best of the Best” compilation – eighteen films that have won awards in past years’ festivals.

An English-language website for the Japan Wildlife Film Festival is available: http://www.naturechannel.jp/Ehome.html.

Source (article and photo): Toyama Just Now

Originally written for the Vol.5-No.2 edition (April 22, 2011) of the Toyama Hot News e-newsletter.

The Mikurumayama Festival will be held in Takaoka on May 1st. Seven floats will parade around central Takaoka; each is unique and represents a different neighborhood. The famous metalwork and lacquer work of Takaoka can be seen in the beautiful floats. This festival’s origin dates back to when Maeda Toshiie received a carriage from the daimyo Toyotomi Hideyoshi. There will be a light-up exhibition of the floats on April 30th, the night before the festival.

On May 3rd is the Etchu-Yatsuo Hikiyama Festival in the town of Yatsuo in Toyama City. With a history that dates back to 1741, this festival is symbolic of the area’s traditional Edo-period culture. Six floats adorned with dolls, ornaments, and carvings are pulled around the hilly town. At night, the floats will be decorated with lit lanterns, and the festivities include a lion dance.

The Johana Hikiyama Festival has a 300-year history, and will be held on May 4th and 5th. Six dazzling floats will make their way around town, making distinctive creaking sounds.

Both the Mikurumayama Festival and the Johana Hikiyama Festival are designated Important Folk Cultural Properties of Japan.

Source (article and photo): Toyama Just Now