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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!

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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 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.

Originally written for the Vol.5-No.9 edition (January 13, 2012) of the Toyama Hot News e-newsletter.

Kan-buri (literally “cold season yellowtail”) fishing is synonymous with winter in Toyama Bay. This winter, the season officially started on November 26th, and by December 12th, 11,970 fish had been caught. The blue-green spines, fat silvery-white bellies, and stripes of yellow line the fishing areas. They average about 10 kilograms (22 lbs.) each, and some are over 15 kilograms (33 lbs.).

In order to heighten trust that the fish are the authentic famous kan-buri from Himi City, Toyama, certificates of sale by the Himi Fishermen’s Cooperative are stuck on each fish and shipped in blue boxes with a trademarked graphic. These measures were established beginning this season in order to counter the problem of fish falsely being sold as Himi kan-buri. It has now been established that the label “Himi kan-buri” can only be claimed for buri caught by fixed shore net within Toyama Bay and sold for auction at the fish market in Himi. In addition, even fish caught in Toyama Bay may not be certified if they are too small, ensuring a high quality for fish with the “Himi kan-buri” label.

Buri are known as the “King of Toyama Bay.” The Himi coast has the largest continental shelf in Toyama Bay, and is a good spawning ground for fish. Beyond this, there are deep sea valleys rich in plankton. Fixed shore nets are placed on the slopes, and they catch the buri that come here to feed on smaller fish. The buri are then immediately placed in ice to preserve freshness and flavor, and are speedily taken to the fish market to be sold. You could say that the good taste of “Himi kan-buri” is a result of special skills and techniques as well as the dedication of the people involved in the industry.

The buri of Himi has been famous since long ago in history. Maeda Toshiie (1539 – 1599) of the Kaga Domain used to order for the buri to be salted and sent to Kyoto (then-capital city). In the Edo Period, buri was sent to Shinshu (present-day Nagano) and Owari (present-day Aichi) for New Year’s celebrations on what was known as the “Buri Road.”

In Toyama, there is a custom for a new bride’s parents to gift a whole buri to their son-in-law’s family at the end of the first year of marriage. Half of the fish is then returned, and both families enjoy a single buri and wish for good fortune.

In a country famous for seafood, the fish in Toyama is especially well-regarded. We hope that you will be able to try some soon!

Source (article and photo): Toyama Just Now

Originally written for the Vol.5-No.5 edition (July 1, 2011) of the Toyama Hot News e-newsletter.

From August 18th through the 30th, the Wooden Sculpture Camp will be held at Zuisen-ji (Temple) in the Inami area of Nanto City. The theme is “Connecting the World through Wood Carving,” and this event has been held once every four years since 1991. However, this year’s sixth camp will be the first to occur at Zuisen-ji, the origin of the famed Inami wood carvings.

Participants this year include ten overseas woodcarvers, each from a different country from all over the world such as Hungary, Bulgaria, and Chile. There will also be three woodcarvers from within Toyama Prefecture, and two more from within Japan. Observation of the process from raw source wood to sculpture completion will be open to the public, and through the thirteen days of the camp, both the public and the artists will have an opportunity to deepen international understanding by learning about other countries’ peoples, traditions, and cultures. A unique feature of this program is that it is not a contest in a competitive format, but is truly a “camp” where the main goal is for invited artists as well as observers to be able to interact with different cultures.

The log that will be used is camphorwood, about 1.8 meters (6 ft.) long and 50 centimeters (20 in.) in diameter. Observers can take in the aroma of wood and watch from up-close the skilled artists work with chainsaws, mallets, and chisels, and feel the passion and thrill of wood carving. Zuisen-ji, the event’s location, was built in 1390 and is the largest temple in the Hokuriku region. The combination of this historic wooden structure and the artistic wood sculptures should be a stimulating environment for international cultural exchange.

The completed artwork will be on display at Zuisen-ji through September 4th, and at the Inami Cultural Center from September 7th through the 18th.

In addition, a large variety of events will be held in conjunction with the Wooden Sculpture Camp, such as a photo contest and an international cooking event. On August 28th, there will be an attempt to be listed in the Guinness World Records by building the world’s longest wooden bench of 621 meters. The current record is 613 meters (Poland), and “621” is significant in that this year is the 621st anniversary of the founding of the old Inami Town (independent before the 2004 merger).

The English-language website for the Wooden Sculpture Camp is currently under construction: http://camp2011.city.nanto.toyama.jp/english/.

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.

A million tulips of 500 varieties will be exhibited at the 60th Anniversary Tonami Tulip Fair, which begins today and runs through May 5th. The theme this year is “Bridging the Future with Tulips.” The main grounds will be Tonami Tulip Park, but there will be several off-site attractions as well.

From April 22nd to the 30th, there will be buses available from Tonami Tulip Park to the tulip farms. Toyama is the largest tulip producer in Japan, and the farms stretch for 7 hectares (17 acres).

Tonami Tulip Fair will also feature a Dutch-style garden modeled after the Keukenhof Garden in Lisse, Netherland, in acknowledgment of the sister city relationship between Tonami and Lisse.

The asteroid probe capsule “Hayabusa” will be exhibited at the Tonami Art Museum through April 25th. Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is also lending a variety of other equipment such as parachutes and heat shields that have actually been in space, along with models and photographs.

The Tonami Tulip Gallery, now celebrating its 15th year, will have special tulip collections. The new varieties of black tulips and the “International Exchange through Tulips” exhibition with tulips from around the world look particularly interesting.

For a more hands-on experience, visitors can try their hand at tulip arts and crafts, such as making flower baskets, handkerchiefs, pressed flowers, and gel candles. For those with a sweet tooth, there will even be tulip sweets such as cakes with tulip petal jam and tulip soft serve.

Source (article and photo): Toyama Just Now

Originally written for the Vol.5-No.1 edition (April 8, 2011) of the Toyama Hot News e-newsletter.

For Toyama, one sign of spring is the start of hotaruika (firefly squid) season. From April 9th to May 5th, sightseeing boats in the City of Namerikawa will take customers out to Toyama Bay for the opportunity to see the glow of firefly squid up close.

Firefly squid are a small species of squid that are only 4 to 6 cm (about 2 in.) long, and have over a thousand bioluminescent organs on their bodies that emit a magical blue-white light. Although they can be caught in other places, Toyama Bay is the only place where large numbers of firefly squid gather near the shore. Roughly 15 km (over 9 mi.) of this coast is designated by Japan as a Special Natural Monument.

The sightseeing boat leaves at 3:00am, and visitors are able to watch firefly squid being caught. When the squid come in contact with the nets, the stimulation causes them to emit light, creating a mysterious glow that spreads over the surface of the sea. On the way back, visitors can even see the beautiful sunrise over the Tateyama Mountain Range.

Another way to see the firefly squid is at the Firefly Squid Museum, which offers a firefly “show” that runs through late May. In their special water tank, a net is pulled to reveal living, shining firefly squid. There is also a spring where sea water from 333 meters (1000 feet) deep is pumped up, and visitors can directly touch firefly squid and other sea creatures.

Firefly squid are truly unique creatures and are not to be missed on a spring visit to Toyama.

Source (article and photo): Toyama Just Now