TOPICS November 2022

Ukrainian Singer Performed in Ehime

A Ukrainian singer, Natasha Guzy, visited the Shikokuchuo City Hall, eastern Ehime, on October 12, the day before she held a concert in the same city. To support Ukraine, she has been holding charity concerts in 47 prefectures in Japan since July. At the city hall, she introduced the sound of a bandura, a 63-string Ukrainian folk instrument. She said a rich culture and the kindness of the people are the attractions of Ukraine, and that getting as many people as possible to like Ukraine would lead to long-term support. In 1986, when her father worked at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, she was exposed to radiation at age six. While she was living as an evacuee, she started learning the instrument, when she was eight.

In support of Ukraine, Shikokuchuo City gives Ukrainian flag-colored ribbons made of traditional paper to those who donate to the country. The mayor said he hoped her concert would make people feel close to Ukraine.

(October 13, Ehime Shimbun)

Exchange Festa at Shikoku Korean School

On October 16, an exchange festival was held at the Shikoku Korean Elementary and Middle School, in Matsuyama, which is the only such school in the Shikoku region. The students performed songs and dramas. There were also open classes, special performances by a Korean theatrical company from Fukuoka and Hiroshima prefectures, and Korean food stalls.

Soon after WWII, in 1945, Korean language schools were established in various parts of the prefecture for Koreans who were in Japan so they could learn their own language and culture. This year marks the 77th anniversary of the founding of this school. There are a total of 9 students: 6 elementary and 3 middle school students.

This festa has been held since 2013 by the school and a support group in order to deepen exchange between the local people and raise awareness of the school activities. A leader of the organizing committee said, “I hope this event becomes an opportunity for us to understand each other.”

(October 11, 19, Ehime Shimbun)

National Travel Assistance Program Started

Since the National Travel Assistance Program, a discount program for domestic travel starting on October 11, “Ehimeguri Mican-Tabiwari” also started for travel to Ehime. People in the travel industry in the prefecture except a quick recovery, not only domestically but also internationally, from the decline in the number of tourists caused by COVID-19, since border security measures were also substantially loosened.

The discount program is planned to end at end of December. The Tourism and international division of Ehime prefecture hopes many visitors will come under with infection control measures.

International tourists will be also very much welcomed, although the Japanese government has not yet reopened reginal airports like Matsuyama for international flights except in some cases. An early reopening is essential for the quick recovery of tourism in the prefecture.

(October 11, Ehime Shimbun Online)

Further information (Only available in Japanese)

Ozu City a Winner in the 2022 Green Destinations Top 100 Stories Competition

Ozu City, Ehime Prefecture, and Shodoshima, Kagawa Prefecture, in two of the four prefectures of Shikoku, were selected as two of the 2022 Green Destinations Top 100 Stories winners. Ozu City was chosen for the first time while Shodoshima Town was chosen for the second consecutive year.

 The Green Destinations Top 100 Stories is announced annually by Green Destinations (Netherlands), a global nonprofit organization created to support sustainable destinations. As a prerequisite, each candidate destination has to meet at least 15 of the 30 criteria for sustainable tourism, and also submit a story. According to Tourism Shikoku, which helped the two sites, 10 areas were selected nationwide this year.

 Kita Management, a local association established in 2018, helped Ozu City apply for the entry. Ozu’s story is based on the theme of “the preservation and regeneration of heritage in a Japanese castle town.” In the story, the association introduced efforts to restore the town’s vigor by utilizing vacant old houses as hotels and shops in the historic townscape called “Little Kyoto of Iyo”, which had fallen into disrepair due to the declining population and other factors.

 As a result, the revival of its architectural heritage was perceived as indispensable for maintaining the local community. Kozo Takaoka, a director of the association, happily stated, “Ozu, a small, unknown city, has been recognized by the world. I think that certification is the start rather than the goal.”

(October 6, Asahi Shimbun Digital)

Further Information:

Promoting Women to Executive Positions

According to the results of a survey conducted by the Iyogin Regional Economy Research Center, Inc. (IRC) of women being promoted to company executive positions, the number of companies in Ehime which appointed more women as company executives than five years ago is only 10% for director and 20% for manager.

However, about one third of the companies promoted more women to chief, putting them on the executive track in the company. This can be translated as a slow rise in number of female company executives.

Half of the companies said that promoting women does not turn out well. There are several reasons, given by both the companies and the women employees. “The number of full-time female employees is fundamentally low” and “Training and empowerment programs for women have not been developed” are reasons given from the company side. “There are few women who desire to serve as an executive” came from the employee side.

The positive effects of appointing a woman executive are a better office environment for women employees, encouraging talented women to stay.

The survey was conducted in July, with responses from 193 companies based in Ehime.

(October 6, Ehime Shimbun Online)

Late Adventurer’s Dream Reaches His Alma Mater

The family of the late Hyoichi Kono, the adventurer from Ikata, Ehime Prefecture, published a picture book based on a children’s story he wrote. Kono was the first Japanese to reach the North Pole alone on foot. On October 13, the picture book was donated to Misaki High School (Ikata, Misaki), and about 700 copies of the book will be donated to elementary and junior high schools as well as nursery schools in Ikata.

Kono was born in 1958 in a town formerly known as Seto. He climbed Denali, the highest mountain in North America, and Aconcagua, the highest mountain in South America, and walked the Sahara Desert alone pulling a cart. In 1997, he reached the North Pole alone on foot. In 2001, at the age of 43, he died after falling into a crack in the Arctic Ocean ice while traveling from the North Pole on his way home to Ehime.

In the story left behind by Kono, the main character “Boku (I)” is on a journey, and the people and animals he meets on the way help him find himself by walking with them. In July last year, 20 years after Kono’s death, his eldest son Ryohei (29) came up with the idea of making a picture book to convey his father’s thoughts to children.

Ryohei edited the story based on Kono’s notes, and Kono’s wife, Junko (65), painted the watercolor pictures. The book was financed through crowdfunding on the Internet, and it was completed in April this year. In memory of Hyoichi, who died on his way home, the picture book is titled “Let’s Go Home”(Ouchi e kaero).

When Kono attended Misaki High School, he commuted the 17 kilometers each way by bicycle. Prior to the donation to his father’s alma mater, Ryohei gave a lecture titled “Learning from the adventurer Hyoichi Kono: Be yourself and dream”. He told the students the story of how Hyoichi came up with the idea of trying to reach the North Pole while crossing the hot Sahara Desert; he simply wanted to go to a cold place next time. Ryohei encouraged the students, saying, “I’m sure you sometimes want to run away from something you face, but I want you all to cherish your dreams”.

On behalf of the students, Rin Kajiwara, president of the student council, said, “We are proud to have Hyoichi Kono as our senior. We want to work hard towards our dreams”.

The 1,500 picture books printed are not for sale. In addition to the schools in Ikata, the plan is to donate the books to elementary schools in the prefecture. Ryohei said, “I hope students will read the book, page by page, while experiencing my father’s thoughts and feelings”.

(September 27, Asahi Shimbun Digital)

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