Memories with Guests into Books

Ms. Hirayama, who runs a guesthouse in Miyakubo-cho, Imabari, northern Ehime, has compiled her nine notebooks containing messages and illustrations from her guests, and photos she took of them into two books.

Her guesthouse opened in 2006, when her eldest son’s family moved to Matsuyama. She turned their two-story house into a guesthouse to make her dream come true. Since then, she has had her guests write in Japanese and English in the notebooks.

The guesthouse has been used by cyclists and inbound tourists who come to the Setouchi Shimanami Kaido, including about 20 nationalities. Ms. Hirayama wants guests from overseas to enjoy the Japanese atmosphere by letting them wear kimono and serving them local fish her husband catches. She speaks very little English, but her body language makes up for it.

Before she turned 80, she wanted to record the history of her guesthouse and asked a printing company to bind the books. She ended up with two 300-page books.

Due to the coronavirus, the number of guests dropped sharply for a while, but it is gradually increasing. She hopes to show it to guests if they come to stay again.

(January 18, Ehime Shimbun)

The Number of New Year’s Card

The Shikoku regional office of Japan Post announced the number of New Year’s card delivered on January 1st. It was 10.66 million, a decrease of 14% from last year (12.41 million). This phenomenon occurred all over Japan, including the three other prefectures in Shikoku.

The total number of New Year’s card delivered on New Year’s Day in all of Japan is 882 million, a decreased of 14.3% from last year (1.03 billion).

(January 14, Ehime Shimbun Online)

Additional Information: The largest number of New Year’s card issued was 4.459 billion in 2003, although it was 1.676 billion in 2023. The number has declined for the past 14 years. This is attributed to the rise of SNS and concerns for SDG’s.

43.4% Accepting Employers Over 70

According to a report released by the Ehime Labor Bureau on the present status of employment for the elderly in Ehime as of June 1, 2022, 43.4% of the companies located in Ehime have systems extending the age of retirement to people of 70 and above. This shows a 3.4 point increase from last year, and 4.3 points more than the national average.

The bureau analysis showed that the labor shortage prompted an increase in the extension of the retirement age when the Act on Stabilization of Employment of Elderly Persons was revised in April 2021 and has been widely incorporated since then.

The report reflects the responses from 2,656 companies employing more than 21 people in Ehime. 133 out of 2,656 are large enterprises employing more than 301 people, and the rest are medium and small enterprises employing 21 to 300.

1,153 companies have introduced the system which enables employees of 70 and above to continue working: 60 large and 1,093 medium and small companies.

44.7% already retain employees over 65 and above, which is 4.0 points more than the national average.

4.4% has terminated the retirement age system, an increase of 0.3
points from last year’s survey and 4.0 points more than the nation average. The companies which set the retirement age at 65 are 22.0%, 66 to 69 are 2.0%, 70 and above are 2.5%.

(January 12, Ehime Shimbun Online)

Additional Information: The purposes of the Act mentioned above are to promote the stability of employment and to promote the welfare of older persons, as well as to contribute to the development of the economy and society, by taking comprehensive measures designed to promote employment security for older persons by raising the retirement age. It promotes the re-employment of older persons, and securing opportunities for work for those who retired.

Donating Wells to Cambodia

Make money by collecting iron and other scrap metal. The purpose is to donate wells to Cambodia. To help children living in a disadvantaged environment, Minoru Hirose (71) drives his pickup truck collecting unwanted treasure in his local area. Hirose, a farmer from Uwa-cho, Seiyo City, started his “lifework” in 2016.

About 30 years ago he visited Brazil and saw children who could not go to school because their parents had no money or interest in education. He long wanted to be of some help, which inspired him to get involved in volunteer activities.

Since 2007, he has collaborated with a group in Matsuyama City to collect musical instruments such as recorders and keyboard harmonicas from elementary schools in the prefecture and donate them to Cambodian children, which made them happy. However, there were no music classes and those musical instruments were used just as toys. Gradually, he began to think of ways to help that would be more directly related to people’s daily lives.

Following the advice of the Tokyo-based non-profit organization, Association for Supporting Cambodia in the 21st Century, of which he has been a member for about 20 years, he decided to start an initiative to donate wells using the funds he accumulated by selling bicycles and empty cans to dealers.

In 2016, he started his own activities in the Uwa area of Seiyo City. Over the seven years since then, he has managed to raise about 2,000,000 yen, averaging about 35 yen per kilogram of scrap iron, and donated eight large hand-pump wells, each costing about 200,000 yen.

He says, “Old iron that is difficult to dispose of like frying pans could bring a smile to someone’s face.” Although collection is limited to the city, he is asking for help. For further inquiries, please contact Mr. Hirose at 090 (1573) 9135.

(January 10, Ehime Shimbun Online)

Cambodian Judo Team Visits Ehime

The Cambodian national judo team visited the Ehime prefectural office on January 6th, and reported to Governor Tokihiro Nakamura about their training camp. Their head coach is Mr. Hamada, aged 67, who is from Uwajima, western Ehime.

In May, the Southeast Asian Games, the largest sports festival in the region, will be held in Cambodia. Last October the country asked Mr. Hamada to be their coach in order to do well in the Games. He had served as a coach for the Japanese national team. He said, “We have a goal of winning a gold medal. I chose Ehime as the site of the camp instead of Tokyo, because the prefecture is familiar to us and has judoists on various levels who can give our team members lessons.

The Governor encouraged them, saying, “A Ukrainian sumo wrestler won a gold medal at the U.S. tournament after training in Ehime.” The training camp started at the end of last year and will last until March 9. They train mainly with the Tokiwa Dokyokai Club in Matsuyama, and occasionally practice at high schools and other places. The team includes two Ukrainian players who were evacuated to Cambodia.

(January 7, Ehime Shimbun)

Ozu City Advances to Finals of World’s Sustainable Tourist Destination List

Ozu City (Ehime) was selected for the first time last year as one of the World’s 100 Sustainable Tourist Destinations and this year as one of the final six districts in the culture and tradition preservation category. The city was invited to a ceremony in Berlin in March.

The 100 selections are announced every year by Green Destinations (Netherlands), an international certification organization that evaluates regional sustainable tourism efforts. Kita Management, the local association submitting Ozu city’s application, will participate in the ceremony.

Ozu is known for its historic townscape called Iyo’s Little Kyoto, but the city has been suffering economically due to the declining population. Kita Management is trying to invigorate the area by using old, vacant Japanese-style houses as hotels and other facilities.

(January 7, Asahi Shimbun Digital)