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Archive by month

The 23rd UN Conference on Disarmament Issues – in Matsumoto: Memorial Event.

The Hisen/Tomoiki Film Festival is being staged at the Performing Arts Centre next to NHK on Eki-mai Dori (walk up the main street from the station for 10 mins, on your right, opposite Coco’s restaurant).

This is an NPO event which friends of mine are involved with promoting. Here is an English version of the flyer.

Pray for Peace/Symbiosis

Hisen/Tomoiki Film Fest, July 30-31

I believe there is a March for Peace on the 27th, incidentally, making its way from the park by Buena Vista hotel to the castle from 6pm.

Matsumoto rocks M5.5

A quick post from very near our epicentre to reassure everyone that despite a rather large quake at 8.16 this morning, and a strong aftershock five minutes later, our beloved city is still here!

There were several shakes yesterday evening  (four during one of my classes was a bit much) which kind of warned us something bigger might be coming. we are still copping a few aftershocks.

I haven’t had time to trawl the news or touch base with many folks yet, but I can say that the neighbours are chattier than usual, and people are checking out their buildings for cracks. Some masonry fell off a few older buildings that I could see, but to all intents and purposes it is business as usual this morning.

Please bear in mind this is not an official report – I do know people from overseas check here when they see a wild headline on overseas media or catch a rumour on FB . Proper update later, if there needs to be one.

Fear ye not – quake update (local)

We are wondering how we can best relay information to you that we are coming across, and the situation here in Matsumoto.

Basically, nothing has changed at all since the last post. Streets are a bit quieter – I wish they’d turn off street lights etc – the extremely brave operators in the Fukushima plant need every ounce of juice they can get.

It is minus four here tonight. Last night we had light snow here. It was bitterly cold, even with a heater on. How they are managing in shelters with fuel and food in very low or no supply we cannot imagine. We are putting up with our own quakes here from time to time. In my previous 20 years here, I can remember feeling two; one was the 1995 Hanshin (Kobe) event. This week? Lost count.

The natives here are being staggeringly calm. I whinge about the place and the way things are or aren’t done sometimes (my wife says ‘too much’…). If anything, people are being even more polite. Would this happen at home?

Everyone is concerned about radiation, of course. Some sensational claims are being bandied about; everyone has an opinion. Personally, I am watching the British Chamber of Commerce Japan on Facebook, and listening to what the scientific experts are calmly explaining on BBC. Quite a lot of people are more than fed up with CNN etc. I’m afraid I do not have an opinion about Japanese media because I do not understand enough Nihongo.

See for yourself what levels are in Nagano. Matsumoto is lower, and further west. Let Google auto-translate the page for you.

Your messages are helping us all keep a positive attitude here. We appreciate all your thoughts and prayers.

And “Don’t Panic”. We are all still here. Waiting for refugees to get here.


Earthquake news

On behalf of all of ‘us’, thank you to all of ‘you’, for your messages here & concerns. We are as shocked about ongoing developments on the NE coast as anyone else.

Matsumoto has not been damaged by the major earthquake last Friday (March 11th) nor by the subsequent aftershocks off/near the east coast. The city did feel a jolt 4am Saturday (March 12th) from the quakes which struck on the Nagano/Niigata border.

We cannot advise anyone about travel to/around here or Japan. Suggest you contact your travel agent, follow advisories from your government, and watch the TV. Your information as likely as up to date as ours. Anyone visiting will be warmly welcomed as ever. It is mostly business as usual. No one is panicking. Spring is in the air.

If you are concerned about Fukushima & the unfolding nuclear power plant situation, so are we. However, the wind has been backing from the west throughout.

So far, we are not scheduled for power cuts. This should mean trains run on schedule, but please check locally before you set off.

I think the petrol stations have now sold out locally; if not, they will do soon. Friends in Niigata are already reporting no fuel, and shops bare-shelved, restaurants closed. That is not so here. Yet.

Transport links to the south are unaffected as far as I know. Tokyo is experiencing power cuts which are affecting train services there.

Phones. Not reliable. If you need to make a call, keep trying. If not, assume the system is just overloaded. Facebook is proving it might be worth $64bn and a movie after all. Accessible even if phones not working/power fails. Search #matsumoto on twitter, if anything does change that will be the first outlet.

The local English teaching community is offering to take in any families wishing to flee to safer ground. If you are worried about friends elsewhere, please send them our way or to this link on Facebook We expect our students & local community will already be making similar offers.

Our hearts are breaking to see the carnage wrought further north and east. We all feel a bit useless right now.

Thank you again for your concern. On behalf of all of us locally,  Jim G

Inside Iraq – pediatric oncologist’s view

I got this email today about an event which deserves a wider audience:
Dear Friends,
I’d like to invite you to learn a bit of what is actually happening in
recent days in Iraq. Dr. Lika’a Alkazayer, a pediatric oncologist
(children’s cancer doctor) from Iraq, now studying and working at
Shinshu daigaku, will be giving a presentation describing the situation
“on the ground” there.
Dr. Lika’a resisted leaving Iraq because she wanted to help her
patients, but after several people she knew were murdered, and she was
told that she would be next, she accepted an invitation to do research
here in Japan.
She will be presenting a slide show and talk, in English with Japanese
translation at Ohte Kominkan in Matsumoto, on Sunday the 14th of
November from 2:00 PM. There will be tea and some Iraqi food served,
and there is an attendance fee of Y500.
Ohte Kominkan is just south of Matsumoto Castle, just behind the Tourist
Information Center, which is only about 50 meters from the south
entrance to the castle.
If you have any questions, or if you need more help on locating the
kominkan, please contact me offlist. This is an International Handshake
Hope to see you there!


A quick note to publicise the fact that Shinshu JALT (our local branch of the Japanese Assoc. Language Teachers) will be hosting the prestigious Pan-SIG Conference up the road at Shindai (Shinshu University) May 21st, 22nd, 2011.
The theme is Fluency, and fuller details will be posted at a later date.
Enquiries to Mark Brierley

No swimming

There’s a well known, yet secret, open-air swimming pool in Matsumoto. It’s in Kiri – not far from the (Shinshu) University. It’s really cheap – it’s a city-owned pool – and you are not likely to have your swim disturbed by eg other swimmers or heaven’s forbid – “children”.
Don’t bother going to this open air pool. You are not allowed to wear sun cream – you are told to wash it off before you get into the pool. So if you do go, put your cream on before you arrive and have a very casual rinse before plunging in (you MUST shower before entering).
Parents. There is the very real likelihood that the idiotic staff there (city employees) will not believe you when you are challenged about the likelihood of your children not taking a dump, passing number 2s, having a poo or whatever you want to call the call of nature. The manager actually lifted the dresses of our pre-school children to inspect their underwear. He would make any American visitors very rich, I think? Sue, Grabbit & Runne.
You see, this is a very special swimming pool. It is allergic to people, especially children, having fun in it. Can you believe, children might pee in the water? I was shocked at this news – but with a bit of research I discovered something called ‘chlorine’ which can be put in swimming pool water to kill whatever nasties might be introduced. I think Japan has an acute knowledge of what fishing nets can be used for? With a bit of imagination they could also be used for other purposes, if a child might be so unlucky to have an accident in the water?
The day I tried to take our 3-year-olds there, sum total ONE swimmer, FIVE staff (very busy lolling in their a/c office). Glorious sunny morning, mid-summer. There is even a special little pool – about 8 inches deep. Uninfected with children. I think it is called a ‘paddling pool’. Apparently the idea is that children play it it to gain confidence with water. I think any parent taking their kids there would pretty much expect that said pool might not be 100% H2O.
Oh, even if you do comply with the entry rules, you have to get out every 20 minutes for an obligatory rest – even if you just got in. Suncream on? Nope!
“It’s Japan” & “Those are the rules”.
Love this town, but there aren’t half some jobsworths.

Summer drums

Matsumoto castle proudly sets the stunning backdrop for city’s annual two-day drumming festival. Once again this year, the weather co-operated and spectators were rewarded with a rich and varied set of performances.
Groups young and old took part, professional and journeymen participants. The event runs like clockwork (what else would you expect!) and is popular for all ages – kids sneaking into the front of the front rows or even sneaking up to the stage and catching a first class view. Having said that, some of the drums are so big, you really have to stand back a bit!
This year a ‘first’ was seeing a masked performer play a drum while actually standing on it. Another crowd pleaser was the showman ‘drumming’ with kendama – a traditional Japanese toy. He started off small, jamming with a drummer & a flautist, before his finale with a six-foot version.
Locals and tourists alike enjoyed the spectacle – four hours of drumming each evening for free, as the sun set behind the Alps/Castle/stage. Just the right setting to sit and have a beer or two with your friends, let the Japanese culture soak in once again.
Sorry, no no decent photos – had my hands full!
I added some photos. (Andy)

Display of healthy sustainability

Not to sure about the title of this event!
Bakers, farmers, foot masseurs, shoe fitters, fortune tellers of various ilk, musicians, aromatherapists, artists…in all 35 specialists are coming together to present what they are doing to improve our life experience. It’s interactive – so hands on and chance to chat with participants. You can have a trial of various things for a minimal fee, and be able to buy fresh bread, organic veg etc.
Will be held this Saturday (21st)10:00-16:00 & Sunday (22nd)10:00 – 17:00 at Nakamachi Classic Kan – the biggish old Japanese kura/warehouse set back from the road (Nakamachi St) on the right hand side as you wander away from the town centre.
Shamisen performance on Saturday, Gospel singing Sunday. Sorry, don’t know times.
Entrance is free. Ask for Chiaki Misawa if you’d like a bit of an explanation in English. Enjoy!

An interview with Gubernatorial candidate, Takeshi Matsumoto

The noisy election season is about to begin; the election for the next Governor of Nagano prefecture will be held in August. Don’t be alarmed if a white van with loudspeakers blaring drives past you and ladies with white gloves on wave at you from within…
Matsumoto-san in interview with JG
So far, two candidates Abe Shuichi (the former vice-Governor) and Takeshi Matsumoto (director of Chihiro Museum) have announced their candidacies. Local politics, and even national politics, is a spectator event at best for even long-term residents; England will win the football World Cup before we get a vote.
Visitors could care even less I am sure. In the past, official opinion could be interpreted as reciprocal! Times they are a changing.
Candidate Takeshi Matsumoto gave me an hour of his time last week to talk about himself, his beloved Chihiro Museum, and his plans to shake things up a bit should he win the election.
The interview is unedited, in English, and available to listen/download at Podbean or here, or on the podcast player here where you can also read my feelings about Matsumoto-san’s policies.
I think it’s great that a candidate for Governor can express himself competently…and in English. I look forward to sharing the views of other candidate(s) if they are ready & willing to make themselves available.
What are your comments on Mr. Matsumoto’s policy ideas?

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