TOPICS January 2024

A Vivid Record of a Pre-War Hometown by a Local Journalist

A collection of essays, written between 1936 and 1941 by Seido Soga (1879-1959), a journalist from Seiyo City, southwestern Ehime, titled Furusato Monogatari (Tales of my Hometown) was published on October 31. Soga was born in the mountainous district in Seiyo City, and studied at Waseda University. After working at the Historiographical Editorial Office of Tokyo Imperial University, he returned to his hometown and worked as a reporter for the Iyo Nichiinichi Newspaper and the Osaka Mainichi Newspaper Matsuyama branch.

The book contains about 200 essays he contributed to the Ehime Sunday Newspaper. He recorded his hometown’s customs, annual events, and nameless farmers who supported the village community. One essay says, “Grandpa Takazo was cultivating quite a large field, while constantly developing another field. He dug up the ground with a pickaxe and built a stone wall all by himself, turning it into a magnificent field.”

These essays were written from before the Shino-Japanese war to right before the outbreak of the Pacific War. As Japan moved toward war, the once good quality of journalism began to deteriorate, being strictly controlled by the government. Soga cast a critical eye on the situation in which young people from rural areas were being sent to the battlefield one after another, in ‘bulletproof’ vests called “sen-nin-bari,” stitched by 1,000 women with their prayers, without any scientific basis they would protect them. He wrote, “Thus, all the young people in the village will end up becoming soldiers. Rural areas will suffer from a lack of energy and labor, and agriculture will eventually have no choice but to decline.” This kind of criticism in the point of view from the peasantry cannot be made by urban journalists.

His grandson, Ken Soga aged 76 collected his articles for many years and compiled them into a booklet in 2011, with the hope that this serves as an opportunity to reconsider the appeal of the area where the population is drastically declining. Recently, a professor emeritus at Waseda University, Taketoshi Yamamoto aged 83 from Yawatahama City, found the value of the collection of essays and published it. When he visited Seiyo City in early December, he said, “I want the whole country to know about it. Now the fields cultivated by farmers are covered in barren bamboo thickets. Even so, the pride of people in the area left behind by Soga and other predecessors continues to live on.” For inquiries, please contact Bunsei Shoten at 03-3811-1683. Their website is

(December 15, Ehime Shimbun)


Repaired Wheelchairs to Ukraine

Students belonging to the Voluntary Youth Social Worker (VYS) club in Niihama technical high school will send 20 wheelchairs to Ukraine. The wheelchairs will be dispatched with their hope of world peace.

Six members of the VYS club contribute to social welfare facilities by collecting unusable wheelchairs from facilities and individuals, repairing and then donating them to the facilities as their club activity.

Mr. Daiki Hijikawa, a teacher in charge of the club, heard about the “Japan Wheelchair Project for Ukraine” through his friend, which is a citizen organization to dispatch wheelchairs to Ukraine, and introduced it to the club members. Then they decided to donate the repaired wheelchairs in their stock through the project.

Mr. Takatsuka, a deputy club manager, said that it was their great pleasure that they could send the wheelchairs which they repaired to the people suffering and in need, especially in Ukraine. Mr. Koizumi, another club member, said that the people in Ukraine have been suffering for a long time. He hopes to support the people there and that the war will be over soon.

They sent 20 wheelchairs on December 10. It is expected for the wheelchairs to leave Japan for Ukraine by the end of 2023.

(December 10, Ehime Shimbun Online)


Kuma Ski Land Has Opened

The ski season has come to Ehime. Kuma Ski Land, located in Kuma-Kogen-cho, started its 2023/2024 season on December 8, which was the earliest in the prefecture. Many skiers celebrated the opening. According to Kuma Ski Land, they made a 60 cm snow covering for the ski course, 610m length and 15m width, by using snowmaking guns and snow groomers. It is planned to be in operation until March 10, 2024, and 50,000 skiers are expected to visit in the season, 3,000 more than the last year.

For further Information;

(December 8, Ehime Shimbun Online)


Flight to Taipei Resumes

Ehime prefecture announced that Eva Air (a Taiwan carrier) would resume flight service between Matsuyama and Taipei on March 6, 2024.

There will be two flights a week, the same as before the suspension. The number of international flights to/from Matsuyama airport including the ones to/from Seoul and Busan will be 12 a week, the most there has ever been.

The flight between Matsuyama and Taipei launched in July 2019, and it had been suspended since February 2020 due to the pandemic. Even after the pandemic, the shortage of pilots caused a delay.

Governor Nakamura visited the HQ of Eva Air in 2022 and asked for the resumption of service. As a result, 16 chartered flights were operated in the spring and fall this year. The number of flights will increase during the Sakura season, March 20 to April 30 in 2024, since the Japanese cherry blossom are very much appreciated by the Taiwanese.

The prefecture determined to offer an intensive promotion in Taipei to inspire people to travel to Matsuyama, and to support travel agencies in promoting products and school trips using Eva Air to encourage Japanese to fly to Taipei.

The economic effect generated by these flights is calculated to be 6,800 million yen a year.

(December 8, Asahi Shimbun Digital)


Iyo Railway to Roll Out New Train Cars in 2025

Iyo Railway announced the introduction of new “7000 series” train cars for suburban trains starting in 2025. This introduction of its own new train cars will be the first in 67 years, with an investment of approximately 3.9 billion yen to replace its current aging fleet.

Two sets consisting of six cars are scheduled to start operation in February 2025 and six sets consisting of 18 cars by 2027The exterior is the same as the current design, painted in the orange symbolizing Ehime. The stainless-steel body has a streamlined design, conveying a modern image.

Wheelchair spaces provided inside the cars ensure accessibility. A screen above the door displays the next stop and destination as well as advertisements, removing the need for hanging advertisements. Destination information and announcements will also be provided in English for the increasing number of foreign tourists.

The new train cars should significantly improve environmental performance, with power consumption reduced by 50% compared to the current “700 series” trains that have been running since the late 1980s. The new cars will also be equipped with regenerative brakes that use the braking force to generate power and return it to the overhead lines.

(December 7, Yomiuri Shimbun Online)


Matsuyama City to Introduce “Familyship System” for Sexual Minorities

Matsuyama City plans to introduce a system by the end of next fiscal year to officially recognize the relationships of sexual minority couples. Katsuhito Noshi, Mayor of Matsuyama City, announced the plan in response to general questions at the city council on December 1st.

The city did not introduce the system earlier because public opinion on the matter was divided. However, the national government enacted the “LGBT Understanding Promotion Act” in June this year to increase understanding of sexual minorities. The city council’s citizen welfare committee also proposed the introduction of the system and the development of support structures.

In response to questions on introducing the system during the general session on that day, Mayor Noshi answered, “We are considering introducing a familyship system that could allow partners and children to be registered as family members regardless of same-sex or opposite-sex relationships.”

In Ehime Prefecture, Imabari City and Ozu City introduced a “Partnership Affirmation System” in April this year that recognizes relationships between sexual minority couples. However, both cities are not disclosing the number of people who have used the system so far because it could lead to the identification of individuals.

(December 2, Asahi Shimbun Digital)


Ehime seen by an American in Meiji Era

The Ehime SGG Club Matsuyama Branch, a volunteer interpreting group, recently translated a journal written by an American English teacher at Matsuyama Middle School (now Matsuyama Higashi High School) during the Meiji era, and published it as “Twenty Months Spent in Japan” by Sofusha Publishing for 1000 yen. A member of the club accessed the original book in the possession of an American university as a PDF file, and nine members translated it. With 35 chapters in total, it vividly depicts the state of Matsuyama and the way people lived at the time, introducing his experience of walking around Matsuyama Castle and the Ishite River, as well as the customs of each season.

The author, Henry Gabriel Hawkins (1866-1939), came to Japan in July 1892 (Meiji 25) when he was in his mid-twenties, and worked there until the spring of 1894, shortly before Natsume Soseki came to teach. According to the journal, in those days Matsuyama had a population of about 40,000 in 225 districts, and there were 26 public baths, which were used by about 5,000 people every day. It records that Dogo Onsen sold some 2,900 tickets in one month. The autumn festival left a deep impression on him, and he described the portable shrine ramming in Dogo with surprise, saying, “Ah, the crowd is going crazy,” “The police is of little help,” and “Even the priest can’t protect the portable shrines from the mob-like frenzy of the carriers.” When he visited the Rakan limestone cave in Nomura-cho, Seiyo City, on a school trip, he rode his bicycle to Kumakogen-cho, and then walked to the cave. He also visited Beppu Onsen and Mt. Aso in Kyushu, southern Japan, showing his range of activities was wide.

There are many anecdotes about his encounters with people who once were samurai, depicting the atmosphere of the samurai world still remaining. He apparently brought back English compositions written by his students and included three of them in the journal. According to the member who translated it, the compositions showed a high level of English proficiency of the students. The group leader Nanae Tamura said, “This is a valuable record of how Japan in Meiji and the culture of Matsuyama were seen in the eyes of people from overseas.” For inquiries, please contact Sofusha Publishing at 089-953-3153.

(November 29, Ehime Shimbun)

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