Tuesday, July 16, 2013

2013 Hyogo Special Goodwill Envoy Ceremony

Summer is back in Hyogo with a vengeance this year! I hope wherever you are, you are managing to stay cool.

Every year, returning JET Programme participants in Hyogo are invited to participate in the Hyogo Special Goodwill Envoy Project. After receiving an official certificate from Governor Ido at Hyogo House, Goodwill Envoys go on to promote Hyogo in their post-JET life - whether that's back in their home country or elsewhere.

Governor Ido addresses the new Goodwill Envoys

On a very hot June afternoon, a total of 20 new Goodwill Envoys gathered at Hyogo House for the official designation ceremony. First off, US CIR Liz Snell Okada did a great job of summing up the best of what everyone's favourite prefecture has to offer, including her own personal favourite spots. Next up, Fifth year ALT J.J Cappa gave a very memorable presentation on his time in Asago.

Finally, Ms. Yumi Yoneda, the Prefectural Government's PR specialist gave a very detailed presentation on Hyogo, finishing with the saying, "Ichigo, Ichie" which translates roughly as "treasure every encounter, for it will never again occur".

I'm sure every one of this year's Goodwill Envoys have met with some once-in-a-lifetime encounters during their time in Hyogo, so it was definitely a poignant line to finish on. 

Next up, the Goodwill Envoys received their official certificates from Governor Ido. With the gubernatorial elections coming up, Mr. Ido's schedule is hectic to say the least, so it was all the more meaningful that he took the time to attend the ceremony.

Suitably nervous, I gave my address as representative of the new Goodwill Envoys. As I said on the day, each and every one of the Goodwill Envoys should be immensely proud of what they have achieved here over the past one to five years.

Last of all, everyone gathered in the tearoom of Hyogo House for a brief tea party. Unfortunately, Governor Ido's schedule didn't allow him to attend for long, but it was a great opportunity for the Goodwill Envoys to talk with each other and the officials from the prefectural government. Ms. Yoneda also oversaw the filming of a brief interview with many of the new Envoys, which will go on to be shown at future orientations for new JETs.
And so that's if for another year! I'd like to wish all my new fellow Goodwill Envoys all the very best for whatever is in store for them after JET. Whether you're staying in Japan, heading home or JETting off (sorry) somewhere completely new, I hope you are able to share your experiences of Hyogo with as many of your friends and family as possible, so that even more lucky people can enjoy what this "Japan in miniature" has to offer.

All the best,

Ben Preece

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Perth Hyogo Prefectural Government Cultural Centre group comes to Japan (Part two)

After a jam-packed day taking in the sights at Awaji yumebutai, Naruto whirlpool cruise, Awaji Ningyo Joruri puppet theater, Awaji farm park and Kobe Shushinkan, two days later I accompanied the group on their trip to Himeji castle and Mt. Shosha.

Posing with the gate guards at Himeji Castle, the first stop of the day. 
Our volunteer guide showed us around the entire castle.

With Himeji Castle currently under renovation, visitors are able to use an elevator to go all the way up to the roof.

Here's the group trying out a tea ceremony at a tea house next to Himeji Castle. 
The tea house was right next to this great traditional garden. 

Finally, the group climbed Mt. Shosha in Himeji, home of the beautiful temple, Engyoji, which was the location of some the scenes in "Last Samurai" starring Tom Cruise. 

I was very happy to have had the opportunity to accompany the group on the Hyogo leg of their visit to Japan. Not only was it great to visit some of Hyogo's best attractions, some of which for the first time, I was very impressed with the group themselves, whose genuine interest in Japanese culture and language are a testament to the work of the Hyogo Prefectural Government Cultural Centre and the Hyogo-Western Australia relationship in general.

Perth Hyogo Prefectural Government Cultural Centre group comes to Japan (Part One)

Hi guys, UK CIR Ben here. Here in Hyogo, the sakura have come and gone, leaving us to enjoy a bright, warm May before the hot summer months begin.

With the end of my time on JET fast approaching, over the next few months I'd like to present you with some of the highlights of my time here, beginning with a visit from 15 members of the Hyogo Prefectural Government Cultural Centre in Perth, Western Australia, one of Hyogo's sister states.

The group, who arrived in mid-April this year, visited Hyogo prefecture as part of a two-week tour taking in some of the Kansai region's best sights and cultural attractions. The participants themselves came from a wide variety of backgrounds but all shared a passion for Japanese language and culture, many studying Japanese at the cultural centre. I was lucky enough to accompany the group during their trips to Awaji Island and Himeji. Here are some photos of their trip.
"Plants Museum of Miracle Planet", Japan's largest Greenhouse and the group's first stop
Enjoying the sea breeze on the Naruto whirlpool cruise 
...and here's the whirlpools!

Heading back to dry land.
Posing with Ebisu at the Awaji Ningyo Joruri puppet theater.

Finally, it was off to Kobe Shushinkan, one of Japan's finest Sake breweries. 
Here's the group enjoying a sake tasting session at the end of a long day's sightseeing.  Kanpai!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Hyogo Goodwill Envoy News Jan/Feb 2013 part two

Hello, everyone!

Brazilian CIR, Luciana here. Seeing as it’s still only February, I’d like to wish you all the best for 2013!

In Japan, the cold weather shows no signs of ending, but in my home country it’s summer right now – the exact opposite.  In Brazil, a four-day carnival is held every February (this year it was from February 9th through 12th).  Did any of you manage to watch it on T.V? It’s only short, but the fact that it has become this famous all over the world is amazing.  Seeing as these four days are a public holiday, we Brazilians often say that the New Year really starts after the carnival.

(Here in Japan,) you can enjoy the New Year atmosphere right up until February.  This month, I’d like to introduce somewhere in Hyogo where beautiful decorative lights will be on until February 17th.  I actually went to this particular place in August or September, but I’d love to go there again.

Kobe Municipal Fruit & Flower Park
Kobe Municipal Fruit & Flower Park is easily accessible from Kobe (JR Sannomiya) by local train, but I think bus is probably the easiest way to get tere.  Why don’t you try heading there on a sunny day?  It’s the kind of place that can be enjoyed as a family, with friends, in a couple or alone!  You can go there as a day trip, or stay at the park’s beautiful and spacious hotel if an overnight stay takes your fancy.

As the name suggests, the focus of this large, idyllic park is fruit and flowers. Different flowers bloom depending on the season, so make sure to take a look at the park’s “flower calendar”.  There are also loads of greenhouse plants, and you can see fancy cacti like the ones in these pictures.  You’re not limited to just taking pictures; if you are particularly fond of any of the flowers you see in the park, you can buy them in the shop.

The fact that you can try delicious fresh fruit right there and then is probably what I like best about this park.  It’s really great!

Fruit Picking
Why not try your hand at fruit picking? It’s all you can eat fruit for a separate fee, so you’ll be heading home feeling more than satisfied!  It’s worth noting that the times for each fruit are different.
Peaches – early August
Grapes – mid August – early September
Pears – mid August – early September

Hands-on sessions

Visitors to the park can take part in all sorts of hands-on taster sessions, for example, gardening, preserving flowers, flower pressing, pottery and making butter.  Outside the park, there is also a theme park aimed at children. Inside you’ll find slides, putt-putt golf, go-carts and much more.  It’s a huge park and you’ll no doubt see crowds of happy-looking children running around freely inside.  It’s definitely a great place for creating some happy memories! For when you get hungry, there are restaurants and a canteen so no worries there! But that’s not all:  What surprised me was the park is fully equipped with tables and barbecue facilities.  Using these, large groups can all eat together, which is a relief.  After lunch or dinner, if you still feel like getting some dessert, there are shops selling ice cream and sweets.  My personal recommendation is the wine and dried vegetable snacks sold at the shops.  These are all products made from fruit and vegetables grown in the park.  Knowing it was all grown on site makes it all the more delicious, don’t you think?

Hot springs & pool

The photos below are of the pools for adults and children respectively. There is also a hot spring.


The park also features a free monkey show, a sheep petting area, horse riding taster sessions and even an exhibition of beetles!  There’s also the chance to run around with your dog!  Why not give it a go?

Event Info

Upcoming exhibition: Ancient Remains of Hyogo, vol.5
Introducing results of investigative studies

This is an exhibition that publicizes the results of archeological excavations and artifact research carried out by Hyogo Prefecture.  The exhibition will feature select materials unearthed from ruins all over the prefecture from Paleolithic times to the Middle Ages and visitors can see the results of the latest studies carried out in this field.
Place: Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Archeology
Opening times: January 26, 2013 – April 07, 2013, 9:30 – 17:00. Closed Mondays, except      national holidays (closed following day). April Opening times: 9:30 – 18:00
Fees: Adults 200 yen
     University Students, 150 yen
     High School Students, 100 yen
     Junior High School Students and younger, free of charge.
Phone: 079-437-5589

Hyogo Goodwill Envoy News, Jan/Feb 2013, part one

Hi everyone, it’s been a while hasn’t it?  Korean CIR, Kim here, wishing you all a belated Happy New Year! (I thought it might be worth a mention that in Korea, where we celebrate the older Chinese New Year and the Gregorian one, we say “Happy New Year” twice a year.)

I used the Japanese end of year holiday period to go back to Korea and lo and behold, came back a year older.  I can imagine that there are plenty of you out there wondering how on earth this could happen so I’ll explain a little bit better.  In Korea, everyone gets one year older on January first every year.  Of course Koreans also celebrate their actual birthdays as well, but these are just parties with no other meaning; the day everyone grows older is January 1st.  People born on New Year’s Eve, like everyone else, get a year older on January 1st, the day after their actual birthday.  What has made me really happy is that while I’ve been living in Japan, I’ve been younger than if I was in Korea, which really makes me feel like I’ve gained something!

Even when I returned to the supposedly warmer Kobe from the -14 degree temperatures of Seoul, I had grown used to Korean style under-floor heating or Ondol, so every day is a battle against the cold.  Tired out, both mentally and physically from this battle, I went on a trip to an onsen (hot springs) as a present to myself.  Out of all the hot spring resorts located in Hyogo Prefecture, this time I chose Yumura Onsen.


Heading North on the Hamakaze!

From Sannomiya station in Kobe, I boarded the limited express train, Hamakaze and after a journey of around 3 hours, arrived at the station closest to Yumura Onsen, Hamasaka.  This train stops at Kinosaki Onsen and Kasumi, two stops famed for their hot springs and crab on the way to its final destination of Hamasaka.  As such, in winter it’s bustling with visitors from Hyogo and beyond with hot springs and crab on their mind.  Some may think that a traveling time of 3 hours is a little too much, but if you head out with good company and spend the time chatting at your leisure, the time will go by in a flash.

On the way to Yumura, this Matsuba crab waved a friendly claw from the platform of Kasumi station.

Hamasaka e yo-kinsatta!! or “Welcome to Hamasaka” in the local dialect.
From Hamasaka station, you can get to Yumura Onsen by bus or taxi.  I arrived on a Sunday, when there were only a few buses running, and went by taxi rather than wait. It was far, far more refined than I expected.  Feeling very excited I headed inside and was shown to a lobby with a view of a stylish garden. I ate tochimochi cake and drank green tea while waiting for the serving lady.

tochimochi and green tea, yummy!

After taking a short break in my room, I almost wanted to just stay chilling out right there, but seeing as I’d come all that way I got myself together and set out to the hot springs street.  First of all, I stopped off at Arayu, the symbol of Yuruma Onsen and boiled an egg from a nearby shop in the hot spring water.  I recommend having a walk around the area while you wait for your egg to boil.
Arayu, the symbol of Yumura Onsen

Let`s boil the eggs!

You can also enjoy the footbath, Ashiyu
I finished my walk and after enjoying my boiled egg snack, went back to my room to await the crab dinner I’d been looking forward to so much.

Wow! This crab is ex-shell-ent!

I’m really sorry to any hungry people out there!
It’s pretty much photos of different crab dishes from here on.
The course comprised seven kinds of starters made from crab, Matsuba crab from Hamasaka bay, complete with tag of authenticity, and then finally crab sashimi.  The whole course is crab, but with each different method of preparation comes different flavors so you’ll be able to enjoy it right to the end.

After this came crab miso soup and crab porridge; the crab dishes just kept on coming. But I can’t keep subjecting you hungry people to all these pictures of delicious food any longer so I’ll leave it there.  

Being pretty clumsy, I had a hard time scooping out all the crab from the shell, but to let me forget about that, let me just say the crab was tender, juicy and delicious.  I was perfectly content and full up!

This time, the weather wasn’t snow but rain, meaning that my dream of going in the outdoor hot spring in the snow did not come true.  However, on the way home the next day, I saw some really pretty snow covered scenery from the window of the Hamakaze so overall it was a lucky end to my trip.

Northern Hyogo is the perfect place to enjoy winter crab and the romantic atmosphere of hot springs.  I hope you all get to go there!


Hyogo Event Information
Kasumi Crab Thanksgiving Festival
Regional specialties, such as Matsuba crab and other seafood goods.
Fun games, competitions and much more!

Date: Sunday, March 3rd 8:30-12:00
Place: Shibayama Port (911-8, Okinoura, Kasumi-ku, Kami-Town)
Enquiries: 0796-37-0301

Hachi Kita Ski Festival 2013This event, held during the second half of the ski season can be enjoyed by families and groups as a chance to enjoy the winter snow.  At the main event, “Hachikita white tower” visitors can compete for lavish prizes such as LCD T.Vs in a competition to stack softball-sized snowballs as high as possible.  Firework displays
the night before create a fantastic atmosphere in the clear winter sky, contrasted against the white snow.

Place: Hachikita Highlands Ski Slopes
Enquiries: 0796-96-0732 (Hachikita tourism association)