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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Firefly Squid! Late night adventures in Toyama Bay

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.

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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.

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.

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.

 

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!

These last few months in Toyama

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.

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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.

 

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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.”

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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)

 

 

The year of the Toyama Marathon!

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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

Toyama Bay officially inducted as a member of the Most Beautiful Bays in the World

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

Countdown to the opening of the Hokuriku Shinkansen on March 14th, 2015!

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New Shinkansen model W7                                         Countdown display in Toyama Prefectural Office

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!

Source: (Article and image) Toyama Just Now