[Report] Toyama City Press Tour (Mar. 2016)

International Exchange

[Report] Toyama City Press Tour (Mar. 2016)

Press Tour Planned and Operated by Foreign Press Center Japan

Ahead of the G7 Environment Ministers Meeting to be held in May this year, a press tour was held to environmentally-friendly Future City Toyama to cover initiatives for converting local resources into energy used for agriculture and other purposes. This press tour was sponsored by Toyama City and Toyama Television Broadcasting, with planning cooperation by the FPCJ. Eight journalists participated in the tour, from China, Germany, Taiwan, the USA, and Vietnam.

Click here for further details on the tour

Click here for a log of real-time updates from during the tour

1. Nishinoban Micro Hydroelectric Power Station

Toyama City is surrounded by high mountains including the Tateyama Mountains, providing it with ample water resources that it is taking advantage of through micro hydroelectric generation. The journalists went to Nishinoban Micro Hydroelectric Power Station to cover how elevation differences in agricultural irrigation canals are being used to generate electricity. Maintenance Manager Mr. Hiroaki Tanaka of the Josai Irrigation Canal Land Improvement Association, which built and now maintain the power station, explained how the height of the waterwheel and the water level gate are automatically adjusted based on the quantity of water in order to consistently generate power. He also explained the goal of the power station: using the proceeds from selling the power generated to Hokuriku Electric Power Company to pay for maintenance of agricultural facilities, in order to reduce the burden on farmers. The journalists asked the city official and staff from Josai Irrigation Canal Land Improvement Association for details on how the micro hydroelectric power station and automatic water level adjustment worked.


2. Ushidake Hot Spring Plant Factory

In addition to its ample water resources, Toyama prefecture also has geothermal resources. The Ushidake Hot Spring Plant Factory uses heat from hot springs to cultivate egoma (Perilla frutescens), which is growing in popularity as a health food. With an aging population, the agricultural working population has decreased to one third of what it was ten years ago in the mountainous Yamada district. This egoma plant factory is intended to provide employment opportunities for seniors, and to stimulate the local economy by developing egoma into a local specialty. The journalists asked many questions, such as why they chose egoma as a specialty product instead of another plant, what merits there were in switching from growing rice to egoma, what the average age of employees was, and whether there were plans to export products overseas. The tour then filmed and photographed the egoma being cultivated in the plant factory and the process of extracting oil from its fruit.


3. Toyama Kankyo Seibi Co., Ltd.

 The tour visited Toyama Kankyo Seibi, where waste heat generated during the waste disposal process is used to generate electricity for climate control of greenhouses where tomatoes and flowers are grown. Managing Director Tsuyoshi Isono explained the background behind entering the agriculture business, how the waste heat is used, and the production methods for growing tomatoes with high sugar content. The journalists then had the opportunity to observe the plastic disposal plant with advanced separation capabilities that is the first of its kind in Japan, and also the final disposal site. While at a greenhouse where tomatoes are being grown, one journalist asked “Are consumers reluctant to buy tomatoes grown at a waste disposal site,” to which the Toyama Kankyo Seibi employee replied “We are using a special method so that the tomatoes do not directly touch the soil, and also we are very specific with the water used.” The journalists’ interest was clear from the variety of questions they asked, including sales numbers for the tomatoes and flowers, who bought them, and how the heat containers used for climate control in the greenhouses work.


4. Toyama City Glass MuseumDSC03164

The tour visited the Toyama Glass Art Museum located in the Toyama Kirari facility, which was designed by Kengo Kuma, the architect who made the design for the new National Olympic Stadium. The museum’s permanent exhibition includes breathtaking pieces by Dale Chihuly, a master of contemporary glass art, and the journalists photographed the museum intently.

5. Interview with Toyama City Mayor

DSC01616 The tour concluded with an interview with Mayor Masashi Mori about initiatives undertaken in the environmentally-friendly Future City Toyama. By building public transportation for a city layout that enables people to live without needing to drive, the population change from people moving to or from the city over the past eight years has remained positive. In response to the question “What aspect of Toyama City would you like to promote to the world at the G7 Environment Ministers Meeting,” the mayor responded “I would like people to learn about our initiative to shift from a car-based society to a society based on public transportation, and our use of renewable energy.” The journalists then ate supper with Toyama City officials, who spoke more about the city’s highlights.

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