John Manjiro featured in Next Musical
On June 11, the Botchan Theater in Toon City, announced that they planned to show their 16th musical from September lasting one year, called “John, My Love — Seven Years of Tetsu and John Manjiro”. It will be produced to mark the 180th anniversary from 1841, when Manjiro drifted at sea and ended up in the US. The heroine, Tetsu, will be played alternatively by six members from the popular AKB48 TEAM8, including Kaori Takaoka from Ehime, to attract new fans.
John Manjiro, a native of Kochi prefecture, was saved from a shipwreck and taken to the US in the mid-19th century. He learned American culture, navigation, and shipbuilding technology for 10 years and returned to Japan during the turbulence at the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate. He helped the government pave the way for Japan’s future. Tetsu, a daughter of a Japanese fencing master, was married to Manjiro at age 16 and died of an illness 7 years later. The story is told from a viewpoint of the wife. Manjiro is depicted from a different angle than his common image as an adventurer.
(June 12, Ehime Shimbun)
Thank You to Dolls for Having been Together
On June 10, a Buddhist memorial service was held at a temple in Matsuyama, to send dolls full of memories to the next world with gratitude. About 30 thousand dolls were brought in there, including hina dolls and stuffed toys.
The Shikoku branch of the Japanese Doll Association, which consists of doll shop keepers in the Shikoku region, designated June 10 as Doll Thanksgiving Day. This was the 40th service. Last year they skipped the ritual called otakiage, where they cast the dolls into a fire. The chief priest chanted sutra before lines of dolls and held a ritual to “pull the souls out of the dolls”.
Under the pandemic restrictions, more people cleaned up their houses and so more dolls were brought in than last year. One woman who brought in a doll said, “I couldn’t bear to throw it away with the garbage, because my child had cherished it.”
(June 11, Ehime Shimbun)
Notes; In Shinto or Japanese native religion, it is believed that everything in the universe has its own soul.)
New Flight Route Matsuyama-Sendai
IBEX Airlines Co., Ltd. announced that a new route between Matsuyama and Sendai would be launched on July 16 and operated until October 30. A Matsuyama/Sapporo route will also resume during the same period with one round trip each, per day.
According to IBEX, tourism and going home markets are expected to come back during that period, and if there are enough passengers, they will consider continuing to operate the flight after this period.
Even though the airline industry is still suffering heavily from the pandemic, IBEX decided on the route expansion because they said that passengers could be expected due to the vaccination, and that they are willing to contribute to an increase in the number of the nonresident population and to revitalize the local communities.
According to Ehime prefecture, ANA used to operate a flight between Matsuyama and Sendai, and terminated it in 1998. The prefecture has been requesting IBEX to open operation among the two cities as well as the one between Matsuyama and Sapporo after its recent termination.
Governor Nakamura said that he was very pleased with the restart of the two routes, and that he hoped that the pandemic will end so both routes would attract enough passengers, and that even new routes would be launched.
(June 11, Ehime Shimbun)
New Visitor Information Opened at Okaido
A new Visitor Information Center has opened on the Okaido arcade, the center of Matsuyama city. It aims to connect tourists and the local community by its strategic location where both tourism and commercial facilities coexist. It is planned to encourage people to come to Matsuyama after the pandemic by improving the environment to welcome foreign visitors as well.
The Ehime Matsuyama Visitor Information Center (Nickname: Dan-Dan Info) located on the 1st floor of the Mitsukoshi Department Store opened on May 27, 2021. It is operated by Machizukuri-Matsuyama Co., Ltd. Which is trying to revitalize the center of the city.
The design of the center was inspired by Matsuyama castle, and a big screen installed shows various tourist spots in the prefecture.
There is a designated area for shop/restaurant information where the comments written by the people who actually visited are displayed, as well as various brochures. A tax refund counter and an interpretation service are also planned.
Although Matsuyama castle and the stop for the tram are near Okaido, according to Machizukuri-Matsuyama, few tourists visit the commercial facilities in Okaido. It is hoped that the new visitor center could play a role to attract tourists there.
(June 8, Asahi Shimbun Digital)
Promoting Uwajima Barley Miso in Europe
To promote barley miso in Europe, the long-established miso store Ii Shoten (Tsurushima-cho, Uwajima City) participated in an online event sponsored by Mono Japan, an organization that holds exhibitions and sales of Japanese products in the Netherlands. Ii Shoten is now ambitious about further expanding their business from nationwide, where the popularity of miso is declining, to overseas.
Ii Shoten was founded in 1958, and they have been making barley miso in the traditional manner to preserve the natural fermentation process using barely grown in Ehime as the main ingredient and without additives such as artificial sweeteners and preservatives.
Tomohiro Ii (39), the third-generation shop owner is worried, “The number of people who make miso soup is decreasing, and barley miso may disappear.” According to the Japan Federation of Miso Industry Manufacturers, shipments of barley miso in 2020 totaled about 15,000 tons, which accounted for only 3.8% of all miso including rice, beans, and blends. Shipments of barley miso have been on a downward trend since the 6.5% in 2000.
In addition to lower consumption due to the declining population, fermented seasonings such as miso and soy sauce have been familiar to people since their childhood, which makes it difficult for them to try new products. Therefore, Mr. Ii sought overseas sales markets where miso is not well known, and has started selling in the United States and Australia so far.
He actively utilizes the shop’s social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram), and they caught the eye of a Japanese woman living in the Netherlands, who promotes Japanese fermentation culture, which led to her participating in the event held by Mono Japan. During the exhibition period, there was an online tour of the store’s miso brewery, and recipes using barley miso were introduced to encourage people to be more interested in the product.
“Soy sauce is already made locally and is on the market, but miso has a small distribution volume and variety. However, it was very popular this time,” said a representative of Mono Japan. The quantity of barley miso was limited, and it sold out before the deadline.
Washoku (Japanese food) was registered as an intangible cultural heritage by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2013. Japanese fermented seasonings are now attracting attention overseas because of people’s growing health consciousness. However, most fermented seasonings are rice miso. Mr. Ii said, “I would like to continue trying to stimulate interest in Japanese barley miso”.
(June 7, Ehime Shimbun Online)
Expanding Support for Taiwanese Pineapples
Matsuyama City staff called on their colleagues to participate in a bulk purchase of pineapples from Taiwan, which had lost a large sales market. They placed an order for about nine tons, and the pineapples arrived on June 3. Matsuyama City is developing further relationships with Taiwan such as signing a friendship exchange agreement with Taipei City in 2014.
The largest market for Taiwanese pineapples is China, but they stopped importing in March because pests were detected. Taiwan is trying to expand other sales markets.
Taiwan is also providing free pineapples for school lunch to local governments that are host towns for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. The Matsuyama City Board of Education is currently arranging to serve pineapples during the first semester at elementary and junior high schools in the city. Following the offer from Taiwan, the city hall staff decided they would add their support with a bulk purchase. From the end of April, they received orders for about 900 boxes (10 kg per box, six to eight pineapples).
Regular flights between Matsuyama and Taipei started in July 2019. The highest number of foreign visitors by country/region that year was from Taiwan at 63,200 according to estimates from Matsuyama City. However, due to the outbreak of Covid-19, flights have been canceled, and the training camp in Matsuyama for the Taiwanese judo representative for the Tokyo Paralympics has been canceled.
Katsuhiko Kubota, chief of the international exchange department, said, “Travel between the two countries is difficult for now, but we would like to deepen exchanges in various ways in anticipation of the end of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
(June 4, Ehime Shimbun Online)