TOPICS October 2023

Farewell Meeting for late Kenzaburo Oe

On September 13, in Tokyo a memorial service was held for the late author, Kenzaburo Oe, from Uchiko Town, southern Ehime. He won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1994 and passed away in March this year at the age of 88. About 290 people attended, including writers and researchers who were close to him.

They reflected on the significance of Oe’s literature and his achievements in peace activities. One writer said, “Today is the winter for liberals. The wisdom, methods, healing, and prayers to survive such time are archived in Oe’s works. They are a great asset left to us.”

His son recalled, “My first memory of my father was of him being involved in social movements,” and said, “Civil movements are sometimes subject to ridicule, but my father said in an interview that it was valuable to have the right to demonstrate. To pay tribute to him, we should continue to raise our voices as citizens.”

(September 14, Ehime Shimbun)

Online Care at Prefectural Hospital

On September 14, Minamiuwa Hospital, in Ainan Town, southern Ehime, began offering online medical treatment by doctors from the prefectural Chuo Hospital (`Ken Byoin`) in Matsuyama. It is conducted once a month in the respiratory department that does not have full-time doctors.

From before, Doctors have been dispatched from Ken Byoin two days a month, so the number of consultation days has increased to three days a month in total. This helps deal with the shortage of doctors at Minamiuwa Hospital and increases access for local patients to receive medical treatment.

Online medical treatment is conducted using a dedicated web system that connects the consultation rooms of both hospitals via the 5th generation mobile communication system. Video calls and medical images can be exchanged in real time. A high-definition 4K monitor is also used to clearly display patients’ facial expressions and skin conditions.

(September 10, Ehime Shimbun)

How Clean should we Wash Plastic Waste?

“How much dirt should we remove from plastic waste?” “What is the balance with saving water?” Several posts were submitted to the Ehime Shimbun’s Special Report Team, regarding how to dispose of plastic containers and packaging from households, amid concerns about water shortages and recent moves to raise water rates. Waste separation rules vary depending on the municipality. The team asked Matsuyama City, which is trying to create a water-saving city, and Tobe Town, in response to a reader from there.

In both municipalities, there are separation rules for plastic containers and packaging, such as food trays and seasoning tubes, and any dirt is supposed to be removed before disposal. Regarding how much dirt should be removed, both municipalities said that it was difficult to set clear standards.

According to the Matsuyama City Cleaning Division, the basic rule is that plastic waste should have no food material attached such rice grains or leftover soup. If there is no food matter, it is alright only to rinse plastics using water left after washing the dishes. The official said, “We would appreciate it if you clean them because the quality of the recycled plastic improves, but we’re happy if you do as much as you can.” The Tobe Town official agreed that there is no need to use detergent to wash the plastic waste, and that it is okay as long as there is no visible food matter remaining. If it requires the use of a large amount of water to clean the item, it may be thrown out as combustible garbage.

(September 10, Ehime Shimbun)

Locally Brewed Sakes Awarded by Youth

The “Student Deli Sake Project in Ehime” a competition organized by students in Ehime University to judge locally brewed sake from the perspective of youth was held and six brands produced by four sake breweries were awarded.

The regional culture research club, consisting of 16 members, organized the event in cooperation with the Ehime Sake Brewery Association, for the 4th time. It aimed to create more opportunities to enjoy Japanese sake, although it is said that young people are drinking less Japanese sake. 24 brands from 11 breweries were entered.

In the selection process, six brands, which passed the first round of tasting by the research club members, were tasted by 125 students. They voted according to comments like “Would like to have another glass”, “Affordable price”, “Good label design”, etc.

<Sake Awarded>

“Students say It is really tasty!” Award

Ishizuchi – Junmai Ginjo Betsu Atsurae

Kyohina – Junmai Daiginjo Kakushi-ken

“Students say we would like to have another glass” Award

Dogo Kurazake – Botchan Ressha Fukugen Kinen

Ishizuchi – Junmai Ginjo Princess Michiko

“Students say I am going to buy it” Award

Kyohina – Daiginjo Utsukushiki Hibi

Hatsuyukihai- Junmai-shu Mon

(September 8, Ehime Shimbun Online)

The Minimum Wage in Ehime Increased

The Ehime Bureau of Labor announced that the minimum wage in Ehime has increased by 44 yen to become 897 yen per hour in accordance with the recommendation of the Ehime Regional Minimum Wages Council. It will come into effect as of October 6. The percentage of increase is 5.16% which is the highest since 2002 when the present regulation on minimum wage was enforced.

The minimum wage is the lowest hourly wage applied to all workers, including part timers. It is expected that about 30,000 people will be benefitted in the prefecture by this amendment.

Considering the revision of the minimum wage in the 2023 fiscal year, the Central Minimum Wages Council proposed 40 yen as a guide for the increase at the end of July. The regional council in Ehime began discussing the validity of the increase and decided to recommend 44 yen after consideration of the increase in the cost of living and the upward trend of the wages.

The average of increase of the minimum wage among the recommendations by Regional Minimum Wages Councils all over Japan was 43 yen, and the average minimum wage became 1,004 yen. The rate of increase is 4.5%. 24 prefectures, including Ehime, decided on a higher wage than the guide given by the central government. The highest is Tokyo which is 1,113 yen, and the lowest is Iwate at 893 yen.

(September 6, Ehime Shimbun Online)

Daily Flight to Seoul

Jeju Air, a Korean based LCC, increased the frequency of the flights between Matsuyama and Seoul to daily flights, up from five per week, from October 29. According to the prefecture, although the schedule has not yet been finalized, the same departure/arrival time every day is being considering for the passenger’s convenience.

The prefecture has been analyzing the trend in overseas travel out of Korea, and is using SNS to appeal to 20 and 30 year old Korean women who show a strong interest in traveling to provincial cities in Japan promoting Matsuyama as a convenient and compact city for both sightseeing and shopping due to the short distance between the airport and the center of the city.

Since the Jeju flights between the two cities, which were suspended during the pandemic, resumed on March 26, the passenger load factor has been high. The average factor has achieved 80%, and the rate of repeaters has exceeded 14%.

The prefecture recognizes the need to increase outbound travelers from Ehime to keep the daily service. The governor said that they would introduce Korea as a destination for school trips since it is important for the youth to experience a different culture.

The Incheon airport in Korea where the Jeju flight from Matsuyama arrives is an international hub airport, and Jeju Air operates many flights to various cities in Southeast Asia. It is expected to be used by business travelers and technical intern trainee since the daily flight service will be convenient for passengers who are going even further to destinations such as Bangkok and Hanoi.

(August 25, Asahi Shimbun Digital)