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 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.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.)
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.
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!
Originally written for the Vol.6-No.4 edition (August 23, 2012) of the Toyama Hot News e-newsletter.
We are having a very hot summer here, and even overnight lows sometimes never reach below 80F/27C. But summer is a time for festivals and fireworks everywhere in Japan, with over a dozen within Toyama Prefecture. And in Japan, even average, small-city fireworks are spectacular displays. This summer, I went to the Furusato Ryugu Festival in Namerikawa City and the Jantokoi Festival in Uozu City, which both had outstanding fireworks shows over the bay.
In sister state news, we have a major announcement: we are reinstating the exchange teacher program, which had been suspended for several years. Ms. Akiko Nakano of Toyama Prefecture will be spending the next year and a half in Oregon, teaching at Sheridan Japanese School! We are thrilled to have this development in sister state relations, and excited for Ms. Nakano and everyone at the school. We would like to thank Sheridan Japanese School and the Oregon Department of Education for all of their support.
Originally written for the Vol.6-No.3 edition (July 31, 2012) of the Toyama Hot News e-newsletter.
In Toyama Prefecture, we continue to be busy with international exchange endeavors! From July 9th to the 12th, we had the great privilege of hosting 13 American educators and 3 of their family members to Toyama as part of the U.S. Educators Program. This annual program is a major activity of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of New York (JCCI).
After visits to Tokyo, Hiroshima and Kyoto, the delegation came to Toyama Prefecture and experienced the history and culture here, including a visit to the historical village of Gokayama. I personally had the opportunity to visit Chuo Elementary School in Kurobe City with these American teachers and administrators, where we not only observed classes and met with the school principal but got to eat lunch with the students!
It was also an immense pleasure to be able to interpret for the delegation’s meeting with Governor Ishii, and also to simply spend time conversing with these amazing, dedicated educators. I have no doubt that this will remain one of the highlights of my time here as a CIR.
For more information about JCCI and the U.S. Educators Program, please visit their website.
The original version of this article was written for the Vol.6-No.1 edition (April 13, 2012) of the Toyama Hot News e-newsletter.
I apologize for the long absence! It has been very busy around here.
An event that may be of particular interest to you was the JET Festival on February 19th. This is an annual international event organized as a joint effort by all the CIRs of Toyama (ten of us this year) here as part of the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Program. Of course, many ALTs (Assistant Language Teachers) on the JET Program helped out as volunteers, and also many others in the community lent a hand as well. There were stage performances, themed rooms, international treats, a kids’ corner, and booths – and we of course made sure to have a booth for Toyama’s sister state of Oregon! The Oregon booth was mostly staffed by my husband (raised in Oregon) and a local ALT from Ashland. We handed out many Oregon brochures and told attendees about the beautiful nature and rich culture in Oregon, and about the United States in general. It was all a very successful event.
Another thing I worked on that I wanted to share with all of you are the new “Toyama Brand” videos. They are short ninety-second segments about products that are endorsed by Toyama Prefecture, from firefly squid to Paro Therapeutic Robot. While I had nothing to do with making these professional videos, I did do the translations for the English subtitles. There are eleven videos, and they can all be viewed on YouTube.
We are finally getting cherry blossoms this week in Toyama, but this is an especially timely topic this year, as it is the 100-year anniversary of the 3,000 cherry blossom trees gifted to Washington D.C. from Tokyo.
Finally, we wanted to let you know that the 16th Annual Toyama Cup Japanese Speech Contest will be held in Portland this Sunday, April 15th. We wish all of the students the best of luck.
The original version of this article was written for the Vol.5-No.7 edition (September 2, 2011) of the Toyama Hot News e-newsletter.
One of the best things I discovered in my five and a half years living in Oregon was a love for running. And as any runner in Oregon can tell you, there is an excellent running community there and more race options than it is possible to keep up with. I found the Run Oregon blog to be an indispensable resource, and I loved it so much that I began to occasionally write race recaps for them.
I promised to continue running and writing in Japan, and I would like to share some of my relevant pieces with you.