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To preserve our treasure: Ama culture

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Fishing technique of Ama has been designated as an intangible cultural asset of Mie prefecture.

23rd of January, 2014, Ama culture of Ise-shima Area took great first step to the registration for the UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage of the world.
The registration of this precious tradition is the strong intension of the Governor of Mie Prefecture, Eikei Suzuki, and this designation is the essential condition to accomplish his ends.
Not only young and passionate governor, but also Ama divers welcome that commemorative step.
Ama- diving is the unique culture which has been kept for 2000years, but this precious technique of skin- diving fishery by Ama-women is now facing to the aging problem and difficulty to find the youth who want to take over their profession.
Moreover, in spite of long term effort by Ama to preserve the source of the beautiful ocean, they are suffering from the decrease in marine products from their sea.
Mayumi Mitsuhashi, the president of Ama preservation Committee, says,”This is very good news for every Ama. Suppose, the way to the registration is going to be long, long way, but this designation can become the leads to let people know about Ama and get the young women to carry on our Ama culture.”
In these days, Medias from abroad has started paying their attention to Ama culture of our area.
One film Director in Portugal is longing to make a documentary film of Ama.
Claudia Varejao has already sent us a pile of her photos of Ama she took when she visited our area last September with her filming project plan.
Those photos moved me deeply, because I can feel her eyes, which are with great admiration to Ama women and deep respect to their attitude to the great nature.
Unfortunately, our local government has no financial support system, which is established in Portugal to help the artists.
However Ise-shima Film Commission, Shima-city, and Toba-city have been trying to help her project as much as possible so far.
 To let the world know about our proud culture of Ama, it is important opportunity to have an artist like her, because her documentary film will be shown in Europe and it definitely give the people far away from our city strong impression.
After all, people in our area are going to recognize once more that Ama culture deserves to be appreciated as a precious tradition.
Moreover, it will occur to us it is the very time to take an action to preserve it for next generations and we have to be aware of the approaching danger of extinction of Ama.
Everybody knows that it takes long time for a culture or an art to take root and bloom beautiful flowers.
What we should do now is to plant the seeds in our land.
And needless to say, we should be able to distinguish a tiny seed from a pebble.
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Check it out!!! “AKB48 Koisuru Fortune Cookie, Toba Version”

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You must have heard of Japanese idol group,AKB48. One of their hit numbers, “Koisuru Fortune Cookie” is nation- wide known among the various generations.
AKS Co.Ltd. , management company of AKB48, had made the PV that the employees of AKS were dancing with “Koisuru Fortune Cookie”.
They were not fabulous dancers, of course, but the atmosphere they enjoyed dancing in the familiar and favorite song, and the ordinary people’s rather than unskillful dances got the strong attention from AKB fans, media and people in Japan.
That was how it all started and the other companies, NPO groups, and community government got interested in making their own “Koisuru Fortune Cookie” PV as one of the ways to let the nation to know who they are, what they do or where they want to go.
Toba City Advertising Strategy Committee, organized by representatives from Toba Tourism Association, some hotels, some major tourism facilities like the aquarium, had made Toba version. In the PV, Okami-sans in Kimono (Okami-san is the head woman who is in charge of taking care of their customers in their Ryokans.), chefs of Japanese cuisine, oyster farmers, and even dolphins and a walrus are shown up and enjoying AKB dance.     
This PV is formally authorized by AKS and opened to the public at AKB48 official site.
The staffs of Toba Tourism section who were running around in the city for shooting the PVs for 25groups in 4days said,
“The view is over 12,000 times so far, we are really happy to know many people enjoy the Toba version “Koisuru Fortune Cookie”
Here is the URL of our PV down below.
Enjoy it!!!
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Bud and Carole Ann Bottoms visited Toba City

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Bud Bottoms is the sculptor of the Dolphin Family of the Friendship fountain in the city
of Santa Barbara. In our city, we also have a dolphin statue in the fountain in Sadahama-Higashi Park, sculpted by Bud Bottoms. (We call it the Dolphin Park in a friendlier way.) The statue is the symbol of friendship between two cities.
In the Dolphin Park, you can enjoy refreshing sea breeze from the sea just beside the park. Also, we have beautiful illumination lights at night. In summer, we sometimes had the beer garden in the park, both tourists and citizens enjoyed relaxing time in the fresh air and soothing sound of water by the dolphin fountain.
When Bud and his wife Carole Ann visited Toba city in this autumn, they went to the park with our mayor on the first day of their trip. The dolphin statue must have welcomed them with big smile!
Next day, they visited the Kadoya, former Hirono Residence to experience Tea Ceremony, a traditional Japanese culture which they are very interested in. The Kadoya is the house which the Hirono family had lived as a family of the village headman in Edo period. Toba city had started restoring the house in 2010, based on the picture which was taken in 19 century and had finished it in 2012. The Kadoya is the National designated tangible culture asset; visitors enjoy the atmosphere, the furniture, the room decorations and its classical Japanese garden which many seasonal flowers and trees are beautifully grown.
The professor of Tea ceremony, Ms. Chigusa welcomed them in her beautiful Kimono. Before the ceremony started, she had Carole Ann wear her Kimono. She looked beautiful in grayish pink Kimono and seemed that she enjoyed the touch of silk.
As tea ceremony started, Ms. Chigusa talked about the meaning of the red square cloth called FUKUSA,  FUKUSA is used like as a tea towel to wipe the tea equipments to keep them clean. Four corners of Fukusa mean east, west, north and south and two sides of the cloth mean the top and bottom of the universe. In the tea ceremony, to use FUKUSA means not only to clean up the tools, but also to purify the universe. Then, Bud told us about the painting in the Chumash Cave in Santa Barbara. The paintings of four dolphins go around Polaris. In the Native American culture, it says that the dolphins are to go around the world to protect peace. How interesting!
On Wednesdays, the tea ceremony experience for beginners is held in Kadoya.
If you would love to feel the touch of Japanese traditional culture, come to Kadoya!
Bud Bottoms URL:  http://budbottoms.com/
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The bridge of friendship between Santa Barbara and Toba

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On one day in August, I went to Chubu International Airport to send my niece back to her hometown.

On the way to the airport, I saw a girl who was crying sadly at the boat station. I recognized  she was a member of the exchange program,  and  wondered if she had just said good -bye to her friends leaving for Santa Barbara.

Her tears showed to me how wonderful the time they had spent together and how strong the bond they have got thorough the program.

Here are lovely essays from the students from Santa Barbara.The essays lively show us their wonderful experiences.

Please enjoy them!


The essays of Student Exchange 2013
Kardena Velasquez
I had a wonderful time in Toba. It was beautiful and a great experience.
I feel like I’ve learned a lot about the modern and traditional culture surrounding Toba. The food was delicious, and the scenery was amazing. Everyone was so kind and polite, it felt very safe. It came as a surprise how many privileges we were given, such as meeting the mayor, and all of the activities we did. While they were all memorable, one that comes to mind would be the sleep-over at Yu kun’s house. I feel as if we all bonded that day. We jumped into the ocean, went for a swim at the beach, had some delicious Ramen and freshly grilled seafood. We all had fun later that night playing games, and just having some good downtime. Another thing that comes to mind, would be all the shrines we visited. They were fascinating, along with the festivities that were happening at a few of them. It felt very peaceful. On the active side of things, I don’t think I will ever be able to forget canoeing 9Km. It was exhausting, but well worth it! One last memory I will share, would be wearing Karin’s mother’s Yukata. I felt very honored to be able to wear it.
This was my first time out of the country, as well as my first time away from home. I was a bit nervous at first, but the Yamamoto family made me feel very welcome and comfortable. I appreciate all that they have done. Kaori, my host mother, was very kind and patient. She was also fun and creative. The father, Yasutaka, was lively and fun. I enjoyed seeing his collection of figurines, model bikes and cars, along with small things from when Karin and Sakura were kids. While I didn’t see much of the grandfather, Yukihiro, he was high-spirited and had a good sense of humor. The grandmother, Mitsuko, was nice, had good stories, and amazing cooking. I enjoyed watching Sakura’s dance routines. I played some card games with the family throughout my stay. Last but not least, Karin is a very kind, sweet, intelligent, and good friend. She is very patient with my level of Japanese. I was very impressed with everyone’s English. I feel very lucky to have met her and everyone. I couldn’t think of a better place, or people to have spent time with. I hope to keep in touch with everyone, and to visit again when possible.
Stephen Taylor
The first thing I saw when I stepped off the boat at Toba was my host brother wearing the Fiesta T-shirt we had gotten him. I also had a copy of the T shirt and was wearing it myself. For the first time, he felt like a real brother.
I remember the second day we had the welcome party at the International Toba Hotel. I remember feeling so special because the city of Toba had put so much effort into making the American kids happy. They gave us two real pearl trinkets, and they prepared such a nice hotel for the party. 
There were chandeliers every five feet, beautiful ocean views, and Queen Elizabeth had stayed there--it was easily a five star hotel.
The dancing was amazing because it was so authentically traditional Japanese. I loved the drumming. It felt like I was playing the original drum set ever. When I struck down on the drum it felt like the drum hit back. 
The other highlight was the Spanish Village, where I went on my first huge roller coaster. We all really enjoyed the experience of just wandering around by ourselves.
I would really like to thank everyone who participated in this program in any way. I really could not have gone to Japan without everybody’s help.
Yu Nakamura was my compass. If it wasn’t for him I would have gotten lost so many times. If Yu hadn’t put so much effort into this program for me I would probably have been miserable. He learned so much English so he translated. He explained everything to me and how it worked. 
The biggest thing I got out of this was the great friends I made: American and Japanese. 
Owen Dawson
I had an awesome time in Japan. My host family was so nice and generous. It was very hot but everyone was so nice and polite and everything was clean. I had a lot of fun at the aquarium because there were so many cool sea animals. I also enjoyed the Spanish Village because of all the roller coasters. I had so much fun in Toba!
Regina Santos-Moreno

I had an amazing time in Toba and I wouldn't trade the experience for the world. My homestay family was so kind and understanding - I felt as if I were home. One of my favorite days was the day we went to Spanish Village. In the morning, we went to visit our homestay students' school. We met some of their friends and saw their classrooms. The school was very different than what I'm used to, so I enjoyed the experience. Later that day, we went to the observation point for lunch and to take some pictures. The food was delicious and the views were spectacular. No matter where we went, there was always something to take a picture of, smile at, or buy. After that, we went to a shrine (the atmosphere was very serene). I was very lucky - the families that hosted us always helped me with whatever I needed and they were patient about it too. Finally, at the end of the day, we got to Spanish Village. We were all really excited. Coming from Santa Barbara, I was very interested in seeing what the theme park looked like. I had a lot of fun, the rides were exciting, the people were patient and I loved the way everything was laid out.
I loved every single moment I spent in Japan and I was so lucky to have been a part of this program. I am very grateful to everyone who helped make this an amazing experience. I am especially grateful of my homestay family, who made me feel like I was a part of their family, and the other homestay families, who made me feel like I had known them for a very long time. I can't wait until I'm able to visit again!
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Kamishima island

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On the other day, Kamishima island was caught up in a maelstrom of the joy to welcome the famous actress Sayuri Yoshinaga after 49 years absence.  Kamishima island is a very small island with the population of 400 people, but on that day, about 2000 people visited the island to see the actress.

60 years ago, Yukio Mishima wrote his novel called “ Sound of Waves“ in this island far away from bustle of large cities. The novel was written about the young fisherman and ama diver in the island caring for each other. The sweet story of innocent young couple got popular in nation-wide and translated into English and introduced to the world. 
And this novel was also filmed 5 times, and Yoshinaga starred in the 2nd one. 
Though Yoshinaga had already established her reputation as famous actress when she came to the island to make the film, she was so friendly to the islanders; especially children were sticking around her to play with her. 
When Yoshinaga got into the island again, she said to her old friends, “I’m home.”
Simple, outgoing and kind islanders living in the grace of great nature seem to attract whoever once visited there.
Kamishima is full of grace of nature, though it doesn’t have any traffic lights, Movie Theater, McDonald’s nor the convenient things you see in big cities.
Islanders of all generations live like a big family and help one other. The traditions have been well kept, and young generations are trying to take them over to their children. Their warm character and the spirit of cooperation are are the treasures of this island
The unique landscapes of this island also attract many people.
As spots such as Yatushiro Jjnja Shirine, Kamishima Lighthouse, and Kanteki-sho Ruins are seen in the novel and the movie, many fans of “Sound of Waves” like to walk around the island to visit these sites and to think of the scenes they saw excitedly in the movie.
Not only fans but also hiking lovers visit there to enjoy the fresh sea breeze, blue ocean, blue sky, and beautiful scenery like Karst landscape. The beautiful contrast of the ocean blue and white rock of the weathered limestone is worth seeing.
In autumn, “Asagimadara,” the chestnut tiger butterflies are flying over the island for their migration. You can see them here and there in the island.
When the actress left the island, she said to the islanders, “I will be back.”
I must say she rediscovered the beauty of this island and the goodness of the islanders.
 Get tired of the noise of jammed traffic, thronged people, and dazzling neon lights??
Kamishima island is just there for you.

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