Tag Archives: Oregon


On June 12th – June 14th, 2016, a delegation of 11 people representing the State of Oregon’s government and economic spheres visited Toyama Prefecture to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the sister-state relationship. The delegation was led by Chris Harder, the director of Business Oregon, and also included Oregon Metro Council President Tom Hughes, as well as representatives from the Oregon Department of Agriculture, Portland General Electric, the City of Beaverton Economic Development Division, and South Coast Development Council, Inc. The delegation’s visit included regional tours and meetings, with one of the highlights being a Sunday visit of Toyama’s famous Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route, where deep fields of snow remain well into summer.

On Monday, June 13th, the delegation had a full day of meetings with Toyama businesses and government officials. In the morning, I accompanied the delegation on the way to business meetings, along with Ms. Sanno from the Toyama Prefecture International Affairs Division. The first item on the agenda was to visit Hokusei Products, a Takaoka City based company which deals in aluminum and other metals, and produces pharmaceutical packages and lifestyle products. Delegation members listened intently to a presentation on the company’s latest activities, the most exciting of which include the IMG_0377recent founding of Hokusei North America, which has been partnering with Business Oregon and the State of Oregon Japan Representative Office as they work to promote Oregon products in Japan and Toyama’s local products in Oregon and across the US. President & CEO Shotaro Tomita and Hokusei staff members gave an informative and well-prepared presentation in English, and also showed their local pride by playing a video promoting the city of Takaoka.

From Hokusei, the delegation went to Nousaku to check out their famous tin products and tour the workshop. While inspecting the facilities, delegation members were able to see how craftsmen and women work meticulously to create Nousaku’s fine caste metal wares. The back room, with its thousands of unique molds was a sight to be seen, and almost everyone left with something to take home from the showroom. The delegation also had a chance to meet with Mr. Nousaku himself, and hear a bit about how the company has innovated on traditional metal casting techniques to create modern, artful wind chimes and uniquely artistic baskets that have made it to markets in New York and Paris.

After a delicious lunch of Toyama Bay Sushi, the delegation visited Toyama City Hall, and then came to the Prefectural Office in order to make a courtesy call to Vice-Governor Satoshi Terabayashi. During the meeting, the vice-governor welcomed the delegation, and expressed his excitement that Toyama Prefecture and the State of Oregon had reached an important milestone of 25 years of friendship.

Later that evening, a reception was held in celebration of the 25th anniversary of Toyama-Oregon friendship. The delegation joined local representatives of Toyama’s business sector, along with Toyama government officials and JET Program assistant language teachers working in local schools who hail from Oregon for delicious food and good conversation. Toyama’s Public Enterprise Administrator, Mr. Hidetoshi Sunuma began the evening by speaking about his recent trip to Oregon this past April. There was also an address by Mr. Hisayashi Ono, president of the prefectural assembly, who mentioned Toyama’s recent role in hosting the G7 Environmental Ministers’ Meeting, and called for IMG_2699further partnership between Toyama and Oregon share as leaders in environmentally-conscious policy. Afterwards, Chris Harder introduced the Oregon delegation, and Metro
Council President Tom Hughes gave a toast. It was a lovely evening, which included delicious local food and sake, as well as lively discussion and a performance of a traditional performance, the Owara Kaze-no-Bon folk dance.

After a full day and a lovely evening that brought Toyama and Oregon even closer, the delegation went back to Tokyo the next morning on the new Hokuriku Shinkansen to continue their activities. As was mentioned during the celebration, Toyama-Oregon relations have seen 25 years of fruitful exchange; we here in Toyama are looking forward to 25 years more!





6月13日(月)は、県内企業視察や県政府への表敬訪問など、多くの行事が盛り込まれていました。県国際課の参納さんと私が訪問団に同行し、高岡市にあるアルミ製品・各種パッケージ・デザイン製品を扱うホクセイプロダクツ株式会社を訪問しました。訪問団は、Hokusei North Americaがオレゴン州政府駐日代表部と協力し、オレゴン州の商品を日本に輸入することや、富山の工芸品などをオレゴン州と米国でマーケット開拓を行う取り組みなど、ホクセイのアメリカでのビジネス展開についての発表を興味深く聞き入りました。代表取締役の冨田昇太郎氏やスタッフの英語での素晴らしいプレゼンテーションとともに、高岡市のPR動画も流し、地域に対する誇りを伝えました。






IMG_1350This blog entry forms part of the “Toyama-Oregon Friendship Project”, in conjunction with the series of outreach lectures conducted by Abram Leon, Coordinator for International Relations with the International Affairs Division of Toyama Prefecture. The primary goal of the lectures is to raise awareness about the Toyama-Oregon sister state relationship by introducing information about Oregon and the history of exchange to students of Toyama Prefecture.

The blog entries aim to encourage students and members of the community in Toyama and Oregon to become more personally involved in the relationship. After each school visit, I will write an entry and encourage students and other readers to leave their questions and thoughts in the comment section, as well as respond to the questions and comments of others. In this way, I hope to get a new generation interested in communication across cultures and the wonderful friendship between Toyama and Oregon.


Visit to Oyabe Otani Junior High School

On Tuesday, November 10th, I spoke about Oregon and the Toyama-Oregon sister state relationship in front of a group of 83 Oyabe Otani JHS 1st year students. While my supervisor Ms. Sanno and I drove out to Oyabe, I revised my presentation again on my laptop. Thinking about how to communicate with my youngest audience yet, I decided to try to make the slides less wordy and focus more on the interactive sections of the lecture. As we approached the school, I was surprised by its unique architecture: my first impression was that the school looked like something out of a European fairy tale. The huge gate and clock tower stood out against the surrounding fields, sharply contrasting with the Japanese-style farm houses nearby. Ms. Sanno explained that the entire area is actually famous for this architecture, and in fact, Oyabe is nicknamed the “Märchen town”, referring to the German word for fairy tale!

We entered the school to find a quite normal interior design, and were quickly greeted by the school principal and Ms. Matsuda, the teacher in charge of the organizing the lecture. As we walked through the school, and I was impressed by how outgoing the students were, greeting me as I walked past their classrooms. When we reached the lecture hall, I was surprised to find that it was a completely empty room with no place to sit, but Matsuda sensei informed me that students would be bringing their own chairs. As I waited for the kids to arrive, I put on some music and spoke a bit with Matsuda sensei about the kids and my ideas for the blog entries. I was also able to speak to ALT Tim Chakaodza, who had nothing but good things to say about the kids and the community. Motivated by his enthusiasm, I felt ready to get started!

When the kids came in carrying their chairs and smiling, I could tell that they were an energetic and fun group. They lined up their chairs in tight rows towards the front, their faces shining with excitement and expectation. As I went into my talk, I was happy to find that they were happy to participate, raising their hands, answering questions and even laughing at my jokes! I used English in certain parts, but also explained in Japanese in difficult sections – the students were very active and friendly, even helping to finish my sentences when I forgot words in Japanese. Near the end of class, when I asked them to work together and think of questions for people living in Oregon, they asked some of the most interesting questions of any group yet. Although I tried to answer a couple of their questions, I told them to actually ask people in Oregon. They responded with puzzled looks… “How can we talk to people in Oregon?” At that point I told them about the Toyama Hot News blog, and encouraged them to use resources like Facebook and online videos to search for information they are interested in.



このブログは、富山県国際課の国際交流員アブラム・リオンによる出前講座とともに、「富山オレゴンFriendship Project」の一部となります。講座の目的は主に、富山県とオレゴン州の友好関係についての認知度を上げるため、オレゴン州の情報や友好関係の歴史、交流に貢献している人たちを紹介することです。









Every year, in conjunction with the Japan-America Society of Oregon, Toyama Prefecture sponsors a Japanese language speech contest for college and university students in the state of Oregon. The Toyama Cup Japanese Speech Contest first began in 1996, commemorating the 5th anniversary of the sister-state relationship between Toyama and Oregon. Students who compete will not only improve their Japanese and public speaking abilities, but also stand to win prizes, with the grand-prize winner getting an all-expenses-paid trip to Toyama Prefecture! The winner will spend a week enjoying the beautiful scenery and wonderful food of Toyama, as well as meeting locals and taking part in a variety of hands-on experiences. See JASO’s webpage for more details and information about how to register.

In order to give prospective participants an idea of what to expect, I am sharing the experiences of Lauren Inaba, the 2015 winner below. I hope that this serves as an inspiration and reminder; the next winner could be you!

I was able to tour the Nanto area with Lauren and Anya, the Russian winner of the Vladivostok Japanese Speech Contest, during their stay in Toyama this past September. We had a wonderful time visiting Zuisenji Temple, making our own Japanese paper, seeing the historic villages of Gokayama, and making our own toasted rice crackers! I asked Lauren to send me a review of her experience after her trip… Here it is!

How was the speech contest?

I entered the speech contest for the second time after my study abroad. The first time I had competed in the speech contest it was in a different division and it was more about the experience of doing a speech contest. This time I was more interested in hearing everyone else’s speeches. My speech was about one of my own experiences in Japan; I knew I wanted to speak about an experience that made me laugh, and have fun with the speech – I didn’t want to be serious the entire time if I didn’t have to be. I chose to speak about my first time at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, during the beginning of my study abroad. In short, I made a cultural mistake and got scolded by an older Japanese lady, who had mistaken me for a Japanese girl from Japan. It caused me to wonder about how differently the situation might have turned out if she had instead thought of me as a foreigner, and what it would have been like if I were a male.

First impression of Toyama

IMG_8573My first impression was when I saw the Toyama station on my first day. For some reason I had expected a smaller station and figured Toyama would be more country than city. However, what stuck out most in my trip to Toyama were my interactions with everyone and the conversations we had. Sometimes it was about differences between Vladivostok, Toyama, and Oregon, other times it was about topics such as the pros and cons of having the appearance of a foreigner in Japan compared to having the appearance of a Japanese.

I was aware that Japan is full of historic and beautiful places to see, and Toyama is no exception. Tateyama was breathtakingly beautiful, and I was able to compare the giant cedar trees to the giant redwood trees in Oregon. During my visit to Gokayama, I was impressed by the uniqueness of the gassho-style houses, and that it is the only World Heritage site in Japan that is maintaining not only a historically and culturally significant place but a lifestyle – people still live within the houses in the village and have been maintaining them, changing the thatching every twenty years. I became interested in doing things one could only do in Toyama, so I tried the white shrimp, the masuzushi, and even a bit of Toyama sake.

What was the highlight of the trip?

I have a hard time picking one highlight as I felt that there was a highlight from each day of my trip. I did enjoy spending a day with the students just walking around, talking and relaxing at Kansui Park after shopping in Toyama city. I am very glad I chose to do a home-stay during the trip. I had done a home-stay before, but talking until late into the night with my host mother about anything out of the blue and watching the news in the morning with my host father when I woke up too early were priceless moments to me.













Originally written for the Vol.8-No.1 edition (April 15, 2014) of the Toyama Hot News e-newsletter.

2014 Toyama Cup Japanese Speech Contest

The 18th annual Toyama Cup Japanese Speech Contest will be held on April 27 from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the World Trade Center in Portland. Toyama Prefecture works with the Japan-America Society of Oregon (JASO) for this event ever year. College and university students studying Japanese in Oregon will be challenging themselves to give speeches in Japanese. The grand prize winner will be awarded a trip to Toyama!

The Toyama Cup Japanese Speech Contest is open to the public to watch free of charge. Please come and support local students in their journey toward mastering the Japanese language!

 For more information, please contact the Japan-American Society of Oregon (

2013 Speech Contest

Oregon Visit, March 9 – 14

From Sunday, March 9 to Friday, March 14, Mr. Koichi Aoyama, Assistant Director of the International Affairs & Japan Sea Region Policy Division, along with Ms. Taeko Yamamoto and I were in Oregon primarily to affirm contacts and promote the Toyama Cup Japanese Speech Contest.

 In addition to visiting Oregon colleges and universities (Lewis & Clark College, Willamette University, Oregon State University, Linfield College, Pacific University, Portland State University) and speaking with professors, instructors, and students there regarding the speech contest, we also paid visits to Business Oregon, the Japanese Consular Office, Travel Portland, the Oregon Department of Education, Sheridan Japanese School (see below), and the Japan-America Society of Oregon.

 Even with this busy schedule, we also had the opportunity to reconnect and share a meal with some of you who have ties to Toyama Prefecture, in a more casual setting. It was wonderful to see you!

 Thank you to everyone we met in Oregon, and we hope that you will continue to be actively involved in the sister state relationship.


Ms. Akiko Nakano Returns to Toyama

Just a couple of weeks after we visited Sheridan Japanese School, where Ms. Nakano –  the exchange teacher from Toyama Prefecture – was teaching Japanese language and culture, she completed her time there and returned to Toyama. In Ms. Nakano’s one and a half years in Oregon, she was able to visit many places in Oregon, experience American culture with her host family, act as an ambassador of Toyama in Oregon, make good friends, and inspire many students.

 While we are not able to send another exchange teacher to Oregon, we hope to stay in touch with the Oregon Department of Education to continue having sister state exchange opportunities in the education field.

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

2013 Toyama Cup Japanese Speech Contest Winner Visits Toyama

Bryan Takano at the Kurobe Dam

Bryan Takano at the Kurobe Dam

Bryan Takano, winner of the 2013 Toyama Cup Japanese Speech Contest (organized by Toyama Prefecture and the Japan-America Society of Oregon) held in April, visited Toyama Prefecture from July 7 – 11 as his grand prize. Bryan is a current student at Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon.

This was Bryan’s first time in Toyama, and he visited sightseeing spots such as the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, Kurobe Gorge, and the villages of Gokayama. In the high mountains of Tateyama, we were even lucky enough to spot a pair of raicho (rock ptarmigan), the elusive prefectural bird. With Bryan’s interest in art, he also especially enjoyed making his own washi (traditional Japanese paper) in Gokayama and visiting the Great Buddha of Takaoka.

By Bryan Takano

By Bryan Takano

Oregon Tourism Seminar Held in Toyama


On September 10, Greg Eckhart of Travel Oregon, Jeff Hammerly of Travel Portland, and David Penilton of America’s Hub World Tours were in Toyama to give tourism presentations to two different groups: educators working in local schools interested in offering overseas trips, and local travel agents and tour operators.

Among the most memorable points made in these presentations was that Oregon may lack the more typical theme parks sought by tourists, but has “real” amusements such as hiking and skiing on mountains or rafting on rivers. The speakers also shared examples of a few Japanese magazines that featured Oregon to illustrate the state’s increasing appeal and recognition in Japan.

Tim McCabe, Director of Business Oregon, Visits Toyama

(from left) Jun Mokudai (Oregon Japan Representative Office), Vice-Governor Terabayashi, Tim McCabe, Colin Sears

(from left) Jun Mokudai (Oregon Japan Representative Office), Vice-Governor Terabayashi, Tim McCabe, Colin Sears

Tim McCabe, Director of Business Oregon, and Colin Sears, Business Recruitment Officer, paid a visit to Toyama on September 20. On their brief visit, Mr. McCabe and Mr. Sears met with Vice-Governor Satoshi Terabayashi and then visited the Kurotani Corporation headquartered in Imizu City in Toyama Prefecture. The company opened Kurotani North America Inc. in Portland in August 2012.

Mayor Peter Truax Leads Forest Grove Delegation to Nyuzen

Forest Grove Delegation's visit to the Toyama Prefectural Government

Forest Grove delegation’s visit to the Toyama Prefectural Government

Mayor Peter Truax led a delegation of both city officials and community members from Forest Grove, Oregon to Nyuzen Town in Toyama Prefecture. Forest Grove and Nyuzen have been sister cities since 1988. This year, the delegation visit was timed for the 60th anniversary of Nyuzen’s incorporation, and the visitors from Forest Grove participated in the celebrations. During their stay in Toyama Prefecture from September 30 to October 4, the delegation members visited points of interest in Nyuzen such as the Swamp Cedars of Sawasugi as well as surrounding sightseeing areas such as the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route. Each night was spent with local host families.

The Forest Grove delegation also came out to visit the Toyama Prefectural Government located in Toyama City on October 2. They met with Toshiyuki Hiyoshi, Director-General of the Tourism & Regional Promotion Bureau.

Toyama Exchange Employee Currently in Oregon

Junichi Nakayama, an Assistant Director of the Environmental Policy Division of the Toyama Prefectural Government, has been in Oregon since September 29 for a three-week study period visiting various state agencies and other offices relevant to environmental policy issues. Visits include the Department of Environmental Quality and Oregon State University, spanning many areas of the state including Portland, Salem, Corvallis, and Coos Bay.

We would like to thank everyone involved for their support, especially Business Oregon for arranging appointments and coordinating the program from the Oregon side.

(Update: Mr. Nakayama arrived back in Toyama on Sunday, October 20.)

Originally written for the Vol.6-No.5 edition (January 21, 2013) of the Toyama Hot News e-newsletter.

Toyama Cup Japanese Speech Contest Winner Visits Toyama

Aleishea Yamaoka and Vera Valieva (winner of Japanese speech contest in Russia) at the historical village of Gokayama

Aleishea Yamaoka and Vera Valieva (winner of Japanese speech contest in Russia) at the historical village of Gokayama

From September 19th to the 24th, Aleishea Yamaoka, the winner of the 2012 Toyama Cup Japanese Speech Contest held in Portland in April, visited Toyama Prefecture as her grand prize.

Aleishea was able to take in many of the famous places in Toyama Prefecture. She traversed the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route and witnessed the powerful water release at Kurobe Dam, wandered among the traditional thatched-roof villages of Gokayama, and relaxed with her feet dipped in a natural riverside hot spring in the Kurobe Gorge.

Aleishea and Vera at Mikuriga-ike (Mikuriga Pond) in Tateyama

Aleishea and Vera at Mikuriga-ike (Mikuriga Pond) in Tateyama

Aleishea also greatly enjoyed sampling the unique local foods, including “black ramen,” masu-no-sushi, and especially tofu ice cream!

Now a graduate of Pacific University in Forest Grove, Aleishea is currently in graduate school at Saga University.

Toyama-Oregon Employee Exchange Program

Ichiro Miyazaki with Metro Council President Tom Hughes and Chief of Staff Andy Shaw

Ichiro Miyazaki with Metro Council President Tom Hughes and Chief of Staff Andy Shaw

Mr. Ichiro Miyazaki visited Oregon as an exchange employee from November 5th to November 23rd, 2012. Mr. Miyazaki is currently an associate director of the Tourism Division at the Toyama Prefectural Government, and supervises the Toyama Film Commission. In his 12 working days, he visited such diverse agencies and offices including Oregon Film, Travel Oregon, Travel Portland, the Portland Development Commission, Metro, and Business Oregon, who coordinated the program from the Oregon side.

The visit was very informative and was a way for Toyama Prefecture to learn much about innovative work done in Oregon, but it was also a valuable opportunity for cultivating cultural exchange and strengthening social ties between Oregon and Toyama, and the U.S. and Japan.

We received an outpouring of support from employees of receiving offices, volunteers, and old friends with ties to Toyama. Mr. Miyazaki was even kept busy during evenings and weekends, and was able to attend Blazers games, meet many members of the local Japanese-American community, and of course, enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner.

Thank you very much for all of your support. Offices took time out of their busy schedules to receive this visitor from Japan, interpreters worked long hours as volunteers, and Toyama supporters who had never even met Mr. Miyazaki before were proactive in making him feel welcome. We appreciate everything you have done to make this employee exchange visit successful.

Sheridan Japanese School Exchange Teacher Update

Akiko Nakano with students

Akiko Nakano with students

Ms. Akiko Nakano arrived in Oregon on August 28th, 2012. Although she is an English teacher in Toyama, she is currently teaching Japanese language and culture classes at Sheridan Japanese School. Recent cultural activities included introducing to students how New Year’s is celebrated in Japan, and exchanging New Year’s cards.

Ms. Nakano lives with a host family, and she is very thankful for the kindness that her host family has shown her. She has been able to participate in many family activities, including skiing and going Christmas tree cutting! Other parents of the school have also been generous, inviting Ms. Nakano to dinners at their homes.

In addition to her duties at school, Ms. Nakano assists in sister state activities. In December, she attended the Emperor’s Birthday event hosted by the Japanese consulate, and was in charge of the Toyama Prefecture booth. Through these sister state activities, Ms. Nakano has gotten to know many former Oregon State employees invested in the sister state relationship, including many who had spent time in Toyama as exchange employees.

Akiko Nakano with Oregonian friends at Emperor's Birthday event

Akiko Nakano with Oregonian friends at Emperor’s Birthday event

Ms. Nakano says of living in Oregon, “The vineyards are beautiful; the scenery in Oregon is really beautiful. My host family takes me skiing at Mt. Hood. The change in seasons is very lovely, and I feel that it is a great privilege to be living in Oregon.”

“Tatemon” at the Jantokoi Festival in Uozu City

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.