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Japanese students tour in the spirit of Ranald MacDonald

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014
~Edward Stratton; Reprinted from The Daily Astorian, Oct. 17, 2014

The “MacDonald’s Encouragement Study Fund”, in honor of historical English teacher and former Astorian Ranald MacDonald, sent over, from left standing, English instructor Mayumi Nakanishi and students Ren Miyashita and Takeru Oshima. Hosting and touring them around are Astoria High School student Bryce Nurding, second from right, Masaru Yatabe, Chairman of FOM, right, and Kaheawai “KK” Kaonohi, founder of the high school’s Japanese club.

The educational exchange between Astoria and Japan, foisted on the Asian nation 166 years ago by a native Astorian bent on leaving his whaling vessel and joining its relatively closed society, restarted earlier this week.

Honoring the spirit of Ranald MacDonald, an Astoria native and Japan’s first English teacher, the ’MacDonald’s Encouragement Study Fund’ sent two students and their English teacher from Rishiri Island to Oregon this past week. The group has been sightseeing around Portland and shadowing their host students at Astoria High School.

“I like talking, speaking English,” said Ren Miyashita, one of the two students visiting Astoria. “I’ve never been abroad before this time.”  Miyashita, in his second to last year of school, and Takeru Oshima, a senior, both come from Rishiri Island, located 12 miles west of northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. The island, reachable by ferry and one flight a day, boasts a population of about 5,100. Miyashita and Oshima attend Rishiri High School, which with a total of 93 kids is about 16 percent of Astoria High School’s enrollment. Rishiri Island also includes three elementary schools and two junior high schools.

“The whole objective is to internationalize the future generations of Rishiri Island by having a couple of students come over each year so they will be ready for life in a global world,” said Masaru Yatabe, chairman of the Friends of MacDonald.

MacDonald, who was born at Fort Astoria in 1824 to a Hudson’s Bay Co. fur trader, traded his wages on the whaler for a small boat and supplies and sailed toward Rishiri Island at age 24. Nearing some native Ainu fishermen, he pulled the plug, and in his sinking boat, he became a bona fide sailor in distress.  Originally imprisoned, MacDonald eventually started teaching Japanese scholars English. He became famous in Japan. Congressional reports note an interpreter asking incoming Commodore Matthew Perry, who forcibly opened Japan to trade with the U.S. in the mid-19th century, “Do you know Ranald MacDonald?”

Traveling Oregon

The 26-year-old Friends of MacDonald help guide the students and teacher on their trip. They started earlier this week in Portland with sightseeing trips to the International Test Rose Gardens and Multnomah Falls.  The group also met with the consulate-general of Japan in Portland, Hiroshi Furusawa. At the consulate, said Yatabe, Furusawa explained how Japan is trying to double the number of people in the Japan Exchange & Teaching Program, which sends young, college-educated English speakers to communities around Japan.

In Astoria for the past few days, Miyashita and Oshima have been attending sporting events, exploring the area and shadowing their host students, juniors Kaheawai “KK” Kaonohi and Bryce Nurding.  Kaonohi, who moved to Astoria from Bend, started a Japanese club at AHS, having traveled to Japan himself over the summer.  “I was part of the Japanese National Honor Society,” said Kaonohi, adding that his grandmother in Hawaii is originally from Japan.

Nurding, who’s hosted cyclists from Virginia and Sweden through hospitality exchange group Warm Showers, said he was contacted by Kaonohi and is always up for hosting and learning about different people and cultures.  Miyashita and Oshima take all the classes of their host students, including math, science, language arts and other classes as they expand their English skills. They describe their peers in Astoria as freer and more open to asking questions. Yatabe and Nakanishi said that students in Japan respect the teachers more and are much less likely to speak up, often to the detriment of their own social skills.

This is the second year of the exchange through the MacDonald’s Encouragement Study Fund. Last year, students Tatsuya Koujiya and Yuuki Komatsu arrived in Astoria with their principal, Hiroyuki Tsukamoto.  For 2016, said Yatabe, Kaonohi is trying to organize a similar trip to Rishiri Island, where he and Nurding can experience life there, although the effort will likely require raising the funds. “Then the exchange will be complete.”

On Friday, after attending the Astoria-Banks football game, the exchange group heads for a similar experience in Republic, Wash., where MacDonald died in 1894.

Students trace MacDonald back to Astoria

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014

Japanese teens learn about famous resident’s birthplace ~ By Edward Stratton, The DAILY ASTORIAN,  Oct. 9, 2013

Ranald MacDonald, an Astoria native born at Fort George, landed on the Japanese island of Rishiri 165 years ago, and became the first English teacher in Japan.  During October 2013, two students from Rishiri Public High School visited Astoria to improve their English skills and understanding of MacDonald’s birthplace. They departed for other locations in Washington before heading back to Japan.

Tatsuya Koujiya and Yuuki Komatsu, both 17, arrived in Astoria Oct. 6 with their principal, Hiroyuki Tsukamoto.

“The purpose of it is to encourage the students to learn English and nurture international-minded youth,” said Masaru Yatabe, chairman of the 25-year-old Friends of MacDonald and host and interpreter for the students during their visit to the U.S.

The Japanese newspaper Daily Souya reported Dec. 11 that the communities on Rishiri Island, namely Rishiri and Rishirifuji, established the MacDonald’s Encouragement Study Fund, encouraging students to learn English. One or two top students will be chosen each year from their English-language class and travel to Oregon and Washington to experience American life and encourage their English-language skills.

Tatsuya and Yuuki are the first recipients of the fund. They passed a standardized English test, wrote theses in Japanese about what their goals were during the visit and were interviewed by their principal, vice principal and English teacher.

Tatsuya, a senior at Rishiri, said he was hurt and unable to play for his school’s badminton team. So he looked into the study abroad fund and thought it would contribute to his future. Yuuki, who had never left Japan before, works part time at a restaurant and wants to improve his language skills for when he helps foreign customers.

Yuuki and Tatsuya moved in with the families of 15-year-old sophomores Clay Williams and Ben Williams, respectively (they are not related). They’ve been shadowing their hosts in class, visiting local tourist attractions and the MacDonald monument near Fort George. They also attended a 15-6 AHS junior varsity football victory in Tillamook.

Rishiri’s high school has 96 students compared with AHS’ more than 600. Yuuki said at first it was overwhelming, but that over time Ben and Clay have introduced him and Tatsuya to other students, and that they’ve been enjoying the last couple of days despite the language barrier.

“Anyone going to a new place would feel kind of … nervous and quiet,” said Ben Williams, who along with Clay Williams said their Japanese peers are particularly polite. “The language sometimes is a little bit of a problem.”

The relative freedom and individuality of AHS was something new to Tatsuya and Yuuki, who said their high school environment in Rishiri is much more controlled with a focus on group action.

“Sometimes we feel like we lack the structure, so it’s the meeting of the minds,” said AHS Principal Lynn Jackson about the differences.

The two students and their principal left for Spokane, Wash., this morning, bound ultimately for Republic, Wash., where MacDonald died in 1894. Yatabe said they’ll shadow more students at Curlew High School in northeastern Washington, pay respects at MacDonald’s graveside and visit Mukogawa Women’s University in Spokane, Wash.  Then they will spend two days getting back to Rishiri, traveling through Spokane, Seattle, Tokyo, Sapporo, Japan, and finally home.

***

Happy 2014 A Little Bit Late

Friday, January 31st, 2014

2014 is already approaching February! I sincerely hope the beginning of everyone’s year has been smooth and that you all are in good health and that the year ahead will be everything you want it to be.

2014年ももうじき2月を迎えようとしておりますが、FOM会員の皆様にとり、健康でスムーズな年初めであった事、そして残り11ヶ月余が充実した時になる事・・・を念じて居ります。

At 3:00 p.m. on October 6th, 2013 three Japanese – along with several Americans – were at Fort Astoria (Ft. George) National Historic Site. The three were gazing at the stone monument entitled “The Birth Place of Ranald MacDonald”. The scene was not unusual, but it was quite historic! 時は2013年10月6日午後3時、数人のアメリカ人に混ざって3人の日本人がFort Astoria 史跡公園を訪れていた。3人はその一遇に建つ「マクドナルド生誕の地」と刻まれた石碑に見入っていた。それ自体珍しい光景ではなかったが、それは大変歴史的な出来事であった。

Ranald MacDonald was born at Fort Astoria (Fort George) on February 3, 1824 the son of Archibald McDonald and Princess Sunday, a daughter of Chinook Indian Chief. In 1848, Ranald – a grown to be a strong 24 year-old sailor – succeeded in landing on an a small island in the Sea of Japan off northern- most Hokkaido. At that time it was generally regarded as an unattainable venture to enter Japan; however, with the careful planning of a “faked shipwreck”, Ranald was saved by Ainu people and the result was a successful landing onto Japanese soil. Soon after that, Ranald was arrested as an unlawful intruder and was transported to Nagasaki under “house arrest” at Daihian, where the translators of Dejima were taught English by Ranald. That is why Ranald is regarded as the first Native English Teacher in Japan. ラナルド・マクドナルドは、スコットランド人アーチボルド・マクドナルドを父に、チヌーク族族長の娘、プリンセス・サンデーを母とし、ここFort Astoria (Fort George) で1824年2月3日に産声をあげた。そして1848年、24歳のたくましい船員に成長したラナルドは北海道北端の日本海に浮かぶ利尻島への単独上陸に成功した。当時鎖国令を敷いていた日本への入国は無謀・・・と思われていたが、ラナルドは緻密な計画に従い遭難を偽装、かけつけたアイヌに救助され、結果的に目的を果たしたのだった。しかし、その後不法入国者・・・として幕府に捕えられ長崎へ護送された後、座敷牢大悲庵に幽閉されたが、そこで出島の通詞達に英語を教えた事が今日マクドナルドを「日本で最初のネイティブ英語教師」と位置付けている所以である。

The three Japanese at Fort Astoria were two students, Yuuki Komatsu and Tatsuya Koujiya of Rishiri High School and their principle, Mr. Hiroyuki Tsukamoto. The three had arrived at Portland International Airport a day earlier, October 5, 2013. So it was that 165 years since Ranald landed on Rishiri Island, three people from Rishiri came to visit Astoria, the birth place of Ranald MacDonald. There are only two towns on Rishiri Island: Rishiri-cho and Rishirifuji-cho. In December 2012 the citizens, the businesses and other groups in both towns got together and established “A Support Group for MacDonald Scholarship Funds” in order to support the only high school on the Island, Rishiri Senior High School. The objective is to send a few students annually to the US, in particular, to Oregon and Washington states, where Ranald had close ties – and thus encourage students to study English and assist students to acquire an International mind and etiquette”. The next few pages are copies of newspaper articles, photos and the comments by Yuuki-kun and Tatsuya-kun from Rishiri Senior High School:

Fort Astoria に居た3人の日本人は北海道利尻高校から前日(10月5日)ポートランド国際空港に到着した留学生の小松祐希君及び糀屋達也君と付添いの塚本宏之校長先生であった。オレゴニアン、ラナルド・マクドナルドが利尻島に上陸して以来、実に165年間を経た2013年に利尻島からの3人はラナルドの生誕地、アストリアへやって来たのであった。利尻島内には利尻町及び利尻富士町という2つの町が在るが両町の町民や企業、団体が島の将来の為協力し同島内唯一の利尻高校を支援し元気付けようと2012年12月に「マクドナルド奨学基金支援の会」を立ち上げた。その趣旨は毎年何人かの利尻高校生を米国(特にマクドナルドゆかりの地、オレゴンとワシントン州)へ短期留学させ、生徒達の英語学習欲を促し、同時に国際感覚養成に役立てるというものだった。 以下、小松君及び糀屋君のオレゴン及びワシントン州への第1回留学に関する新聞記事や写真、両君の感想等を掲載させて頂く:

ご報告: 2013年5月11日のFOM年次総会席上ご承認頂きました「FOMよりマクドナルド奨学基金    支援の会への寄付10口分として¥50,000」を実行致しました。

Report: We have donated 50,000 yen to The MacDonald Scholarship Fund in Rishiri Island from FOM General Funds per approval during the annual luncheon meeting in Astoria on May 11, 2013.

FOM Chairman 谷田部 勝/Masaru “Mas” Yatabe

* * * * *

朝日新聞 Asahi Shimbun

Asahi Shimbun

Our Overall Impressions

3年 小松 祐希/Yuuki Komatsu, Senior

僕は今回、アメリカ研修留学に行って本当によかったと思っています。 それは、たくさんの人に出会い、たくさんの事を学び、広く視野を広げることが出来たからです。ですが、1つ後悔をした事が在ります。それは「もっと英語の勉強をしておけばよかった」ということです。 アメリカでの生活の中で1番困ったのが「英会話」でした。あまり英語が話せなくても楽しく8日間をすごすことができましたが、ちゃんと英語が話せればもっともっと楽しく充実した8日間になったのかな。と思うととても悔しく思いました。来年度からもこの事業が続いて行くという事なので、次回の留学生には僕のように後悔をせず心からアメリカでの生活を楽しんできてもらいたいです。なので、学校での英語勉強の徹底をした方がいいと思いました。このような体験ができたのもマクドナルド奨学金支援の会の方々や利尻町、利尻富士町両町のご支援ご協力があったからです。今回学んだことを残りの高校生活、そして卒業後の学生生活に活かしていこうと思います。この度は、本当にありがとうございました。

I am truly glad that I went to America to study this time. It enabled me to meet many people, learn many things and gave me a broader perspective. However, I do have one regret: I should have studied English harder. The most troublesome thing for me was English conversation. It made me feel sorry when I realized the 8 days would have been a lot more enjoyable if I had had better command of English – even though those 8 days were fun days. I understand that this program will continue on to next year and beyond; I hope future participants will enjoy the experience fully and without regret. Therefore, it will be a good idea to make sure the student(s) study English seriously and with diligence. I was able to have this valuable experience because of the assistance and cooperation of the people of ‘MacDonald Scholarship Fund Support Group’ and the Towns of Rishiri and Rishirifuji. I intend to apply and utilize what I learned to the rest of my High School life and my life after graduation. Thank you very much.

2年 糀屋 達也/Tatsuya Koujiya, Junior

今回の留学研修は自分にとってとてもためになり研修となりました。初めてアメリカに行き、たくさんの驚きがありました。特に僕が印象に残っているのは、むこうの学校に行き、生徒と交流をした事です。言葉がなかなか通じない中、身振り手振りでコミュニケーションをとり、一緒に授業を受けたことが一番楽しかったです。又、ホームステイなどでは、一人で外国人の中に入っていって何日間か過ごしました。そのなかで困ったときにも自分でしっかり対処できたことにより、少し自信を持つことができました。今回の研修で日本とアメリカの文化の違いを体験したことで、日本にいただけでは感じることのできなかった世界観や視野をこれからの進路にいかしていきたいと思います。最後になりましたが、利尻町、利尻富士町のみなさん、そしてマクドナルド基金のみなさんには、ご支援いただき、このような機会を作っていただいたことに深く感謝します。来年ももし行く機会があれば、また行ってみたいです。

Studying abroad was a very good experience for me and visiting America for the first time gave me many surprises. I will always remember going to school in America and exchanging ideas with the students I met. The most enjoyable thing was to go to class together (with American students) even though we had language difficulty and had to depend on our hands and body gestures a lot for communication. I was alone among foreigners for a few days during the home stay, and I gained confidence in myself when I was able to work out a problem by myself. In the future I hope I can apply the worldwide perspective which I gained through experiencing the cultural differences between Japan and America during the study tour, experiences I could not have enjoyed had I stayed in Japan. Last, but not least, I would like to express my deep appreciation to the people of the Towns of Rishiri and Rishirifuji and the members of ‘MacDonald Scholarship’ funds. If I could go again next year, I would love to.

MacDonald Scholarship Established on Rishiri

Sunday, February 10th, 2013

The “Daily Souya” newspaper, dated Dec. 11, 2012, reports that a scholarship fund named “MacDonald’s Encouragement  Study Fund” has been established on Rishiri Island.  A committee to support and manage the Fund has also been formed with Mr. Kyoji Furukawa as its first President.  Since the beginning of 2012 the leaders of Rishiri Island held a series of meetings intended to get the ground work done for devising a scholarship fund which would benefit the students of the only public high school on the island and in particular to encourage them to study English.  One or two top students will be chosen from the  English-language class and will be sent to America – to Oregon and/or Washington – to experience American life and to further encourage their English language skills.  The program hopes to nurture the type of “internationally-minded person” who will become a human asset to Rishiri Island and will help to sustain the prosperous and happy life-style of Rishiri Island.  Committee members hope that this program will encourage more students to attend Rishiri Public High School [whose student body is in decline].  We at Friends of MacDonald happily and enthusiastically go “on record” in fully supporting the “MacDonald’s Encouragement Study Fund” and it’s exchange program.

For those of you who are interested in assisting this fledgling program by either donating funds or hosting a student from Rishiri – or both – please contact Friends of MacDonald at amm@friendsofmacdonald.com .

Spring Wildflowers of Rishiri Island

Thursday, May 31st, 2012
2012-05-06-kijimushirophotos by Eiji Nishiya

‘ kijimushiro ‘

Potentilla fragarioides is a member of the Rosaceae family that is native to China, Japan, Korea, Mongolia, and Russia.  The stem is boiled for use as a hemostatic in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).  D-Catechin has been isolated as the agent of action, being used to stem bleeding after childbirth.

2012-05-06-ezo-engosaku

‘ ezo-engosaku ‘  

Corydalis ambigua This plant is a perennial herb from the poppy family that grows in the deciduous broad-leaved forest. It blooms from April to May before other taller plants and trees start to bud. An array of colored flowers cover the forest floor in blue, purple, maroon and white. The flowers can be seen from the Maruyama Path leading towards Sapporo city mountain-climbing area, Asahikawa City, Niseko Town, Rishiri Town and many other places in Hokkaido. Chemicals present in Corydalis ambigua have been studied as potential ways to increase pain tolerance and for treating drug addiction.  It is one of the 50 traditional herbs used in Chinese medicine.

2012-05-06-himeichige

‘ hime-ichige ‘

Anemone debilis or Anemonoides debilis, sometimes called the European Thimbleweed, probably due to the shape of the seed cluster.  These flowers can be really small:

2012-05-06-himeichige-2this is tiny!

A pilgrimage …

Saturday, February 4th, 2012

RISHIRI: A Pilgrimage … I want to say right now that I love Rishiri Island.  A few FOM members have already written about their visits to various ‘Ranald-related places’ in Japan, and I was thrilled that, late in 2011, I got to go, too. This was a trip nearly two years in the making in part because of the sheer number of people and places we wanted to see while in Japan, but thankfully everything came together more or less as planned, and in late October we arrived at Wakkanai on the north-western tip of Hokkaido where we were met by our friend and long-time FOM member, Yamazaki-san, who, though he lives in Ebetsu, a suburb of Sapporo and a good 6-hour drive from Wakkanai, insisted on driving up to join us on the first leg of our journey – a two-day stay on Rishiri Island. It was our intent to spend time exploring Rishiri Island before catching the ferry back to Wakkanai and returning to Sapporo via Yamazaki-san’s car.  [More about this later…]

rishiri-ferry

Our passage from Hokkaido to Rishiri was uneventful – just the way most people like their ocean travel to be.  The Sea of Japan was calm as we stood out on the narrow, windy deck and watched the silhouette of Rishiri-Fuji grow larger and more detailed as we approached, commenting to each other that this was the same mountain peak Ranald set his sights upon as he struggled to maneuver his small, unwieldy boat closer to land on that long-ago July morning.  There are, in fact, real similarities between the appearance of Rishiri-Fuji and Mt. Hood – the mountain of Ranald’s childhood – although whether this had any effect on Ranald  [e.g., did he also see the resemblance between the two peaks?] only he himself could say.  In my own humble opinion, by the time he got close enough to Rishiri Island to make out the details, I would venture that Ranald really didn’t care what Mt. Rishiri looked like – he simply wanted to find a place to safely “castaway”.

Mr. Eiji Nishiya, the dedicated and enthusiastic curator of the Rishiri Town Museum, met us when we docked – camera in hand, of course.  [We know many good photographers, but I have to say that Mr. Nishiya takes his photography seriously, and I am always excited to open his newest emails to see what treasures he has sent us.]  Mr. Nishiya took us on a brief drive along the ocean before delivering us to our initial destination – a modest western-style, “beachside” hotel that served breakfast and dinner and had its own in-house ‘onsen’.  I’ve put the word “beachside” in quotation marks because, as far as I saw, there are no beaches on Rishiri Island, at least not the sandy kind; in fact, the shoreline reminded me very much of the Oregon Coast between the Sea Lion Caves and Seal Rock, where barely-eroded basalt flows meet the Pacific Ocean. Consequently, Rishiri felt very much like home to me [I grew up on the Oregon coast] and I spent much of the following days trying to convince Mr. Y. that it might be nice to immigrate to Rishiri sometime in the future.  Even the storm that moved in overnight could not change my mind . . .

We were awakened the next morning by the sound of wind and rain against our window, but we are Oregonians and a little wind and rain is nothing to us.  Mr. Nishiya was ready for us and by mid-morning we were happily rummaging through the Ranald MacDonald exhibit at the Rishiri Town Museum.  All three of us were impressed by the number and quality of the exhibits, ranging from artifacts of the Ainu First Peoples to the subsequent influence of the Japanese who eventually displaced them, a creditable natural history exhibit of common and indigenous flora and [stuffed] fauna, a section devoted to the local industry of fishing and sea-farming and – of course – a well-placed and very well organized area devoted to none other than Ranald MacDonald.  We could have easily and quite happily spent a few days examining Mr. Nishiya’s own private stash of MacDonald treasures, but arrangements had been made for Mr. Nishiya and Mr. Yatabe to give a brief presentation about Friends of MacDonald to the student body of one of the two island junior high schools – and we were all pleased and gratified that, once they had heard the incredible true story of Ranald MacDonald the First English Teacher in Japan, the kids were genuinely interested in and enthusiastic about “their” local hero.

Next we loaded into Mr. Nishiya’s car and drove around the whole, rocky island.  Except for the difference in temperature [and the lack of palm trees!] I could have almost imagined myself on Maui, again because of the abundance of basalt and ancient lava flows.  In fact, more than a few of the rocks had names – “Neguma no Iwa” [Sleeping Bear Rock] and “Jimmen Iwa” [The Rock Face] are just two examples. Mt. Rishiri is extinct – its last eruption is estimated to have been in 5830 BC – give or take 300 years – and erosion has produced an extremely rugged topography, but the wind and the waves have not yet been able to break all that basalt down into sand.  This includes Notsuka Cove, where it is believed that Ranald first set foot on Rishiri; marginally protected from the elements, it is still used today by local fishermen.  Like every other Pilgrim to that place, we stood and gazed out over the Sea of Japan and tried to imagine how it had been for him.  And then, again like the others before me, I bent down to pick up a rock – to bring back to Toroda as an offering, perhaps?  I found several, and even pocketed a couple, but something made me keep looking.  I was soon rewarded by a flash of turquoise between the wet stones – a piece of glass float, broken and tumbled by the waves.  Of course, Ranald never saw any glass floats while he was in Japan – Japan didn’t start using the glass floats until 1910.

macdonald-rishiri-monuments

Before visiting Notsuka Cove we went to see the monuments memorializing Ranald’s exploits.  The first has Ranald’s likeness and calligraphy of an excerpt from the novel “Umi no Sairei (海の祭礼)” (pub. 1986) by Akira Yoshimura (吉村 昭). The book became a sensation in Japan.  There has been some confusion about the larger of the two monuments: in photos it looks as though there are two separate stones, but it is an illusion created by the way the granite is polished.  This is, in fact, a single monument.  The second monument on the left in the photo has the following inscription by Professor Emeritus of University of Hokkaido, Jyukichi Suzuki (鈴木重吉名誉教授) [Prof. Suzuki was born on Rishiri Island]:

In 1848 ‘Kaei 1’ Ranald MacDonald born in Oregon reached ‘Notsuka’ pretending to be a shipwrecked sailar (sic). He felt deep racial connections with Japan across the Pacific although he knew of her total seclusion from the outside world.  Inevitable he was arrested and sent to Nagasaki via Soya and Matsumae.  During his imprisonment in Japan he did his best for mutual understanding and friendship between the two peoples transcending the language barrier.  Five years later when Comm. Perry came to force open the closed doors of Japan, MacDonald’s former students at Nagasaki Einosuke Moriyama and others played an important role as interpreters. Thus Ranald enjoys the honor of being the first formal teacher of English and indirectly a father of modernizing Japan.

rishiri-lion-danceLater that evening we were treated to a very private practice session of  a Kirin Shishi-Mai (麒麟獅子舞) conducted by some local residents, including Mr. Nishiya – who plays the Japanese bamboo flute.  During a short break in the practice one of the men looked at us and grinned broadly. “No ferry tomorrow, too stormy!” he said with a laugh.  “100% no ferry!”  We all looked at each other in disbelief – would they actually cancel the only ferry back to Wakkanai?  We had a plane to catch in Sapporo, and a tight itinerary to follow!  Luckily we managed to get the last two seats in the very rear of the daily prop-jet flight from Rishiri Island to Sapporo [which, we later found out, is also frequently cancelled due to weather]. Sadly, we had to leave Mr. Yamazaki behind, promising that we would indeed drive down the western coast of Hokkaido with him on another day. . .

Rishiri Winter 2012

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Mt. Rishiri new snow 2012 Jan

The last day of December 2011 – the day before the New Year of 2012 – the north wind blew off the cloud-cover over Mt. Rishiri and her rugged, snow-covered peaks appeared.   The people of Rishiri turned toward our beloved mountain and gave thanks for another year of vigor and vitality.

辛卯・平成23年の大晦日. 利尻山にかかっていた雲を飛ばして秀麗の姿をあらわした。たくさんの元気をくれた利尻山に感謝.

Rishiri Konbu Fishermen in Winter

“Farming” konbu in the middle of winter on Rishiri.

Konbu can grow 3-10 meters long in two years on the coasts of Rishiri Island; it is harvested and sun dried before being shipped. Only Konbu which has matured for two years is used for cooking [one-year-old konbu, called ‘water konbu’, does not contain the rich components needed for a good flavor].  Konbu has been a part of the Japanese diet since ancient times, and Rishiri konbu is considered by most Japanese people to be the “best”.

No Day Off - Winter on Rishiri

The winter winds blow from the northwest and bring snow to Rishiri.  The north wind is called “ai” and the northwestern wind is called “tama“.  When these winds blow, we on Rishiri Island exchange greetings:  “”Shibareru ne?” – “It’s cold, isn’t it?”  [A gross  understatement, I think. ~A]

The cold is quite severe and penetrates through clothing to chill the skin.  Still, it is necessary to remove the snow and ice from the boats, even on the coldest, most blustery days. There is never any rest for the fishermen of Rishiri.

北から北西の風が吹く利尻島. 北の風はアイ、北西の風はタマと言う。 この風が吹くと,「シバレルネ」が挨拶となる。 寒さが厳しく肌に凍みること。 吹雪いて船に積もった雪をとったり、時化で動かされる船を見たり,島人は真冬から船を守っている。

~ photos and comments by Eiji Nishiya

Indian Summer on Rishiri

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

Rishiri Semi

紫陽花とコエゾゼミ

二十日盆のあと、お寺の境内でみられる紫陽花。

島人はいつもは秋が来るというが、

最近は残暑を感じさせるコエゾゼミの鳴きが響くようになってきた。

Ajisai [ hydrangea aspera ] [and ko-ezo semi [ terpnosia nigricosta ]

After the 20th day of O-bon we often see hydrangeas in the temple yard [compound].  Islanders say that autumn is coming.  Lately, however, the sound of ko-ezo semi [cicada] makes us think that it is Indian Summer.

Rishiri Ajisai

Photos by Eiji Nishiya, August 2011

Summer on Rishiri Island

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

ハシブトガラス

めったに撮ることの出来ないハシブトガラス。

動きに敏感で、出来るだけ近づこうとしても、直ぐに飛んでしまう。

今回は珍しく、じっと動かないでいてくれた。

一羽でヤマグワの実などを食べていたので、私が離れるのを待っていたのだろうか。

愛嬌のある顔であると感じたが、敏感で人を襲うカラスとは思えなかった。

It is very unusual to see the HASHIBUTO GARASU [Corvus macrorhynchos]; she is very sensitive and cautious and flies away if you try to get close.  This time, however, she stood still for my photo – which is a rare occurrence.  Alone, she was eating the fruit of the YAMAGUWA tree, and paused, as if she were waiting for me to leave so she could continue with her feast.  Her expression was so innocent and charming – it’s difficult to imagine that she will attack humans.

HASHIBUTO GARASU photo by Eiji Nishiya

The YAMAGUWA [Morus bombycis] or wild mountain mulberry has a prehistoric connection to humans.  The use of mulberries has a long history in Japan, traceable to Jomon times. The fruit can be eaten or made into wine.  The tree flowers in April to June with leaves; false fruits ripen from red to black in June to July.  This mulberry is one of the most-common trees in Japan and is cultivated for feeding silkworms. The wood, hard and heavy, is used for furniture, cabinet work, inlaid works, and sculptures.

Japanese Mountain Mulberry

Early Summer on Rishirito

Sunday, June 26th, 2011

Rishirito torilis japonica

島に咲く花たち

いろんな花たちが咲き始めている。

島をまわる道路際には、シャク、エゾカンゾウ、チシマフウロがなど見られる。

のびてきている緑色の草の中に、群生している花たちを見つけて歩くことが楽しい。

海岸草原にはオレンジ色の花、エゾカンゾウが群生しています。

自然の花園の彩りは、いつも心を癒してくれます。

Rishiri Day Lily June 2011

Pure white Wild Carrot (torilis japonicus) and bright orange Ezo-kanzou [Day Lily] grow in colonies  in the meadows along the coast.  The natural colors of the flowers  always warm our hearts.

~~~ photos by Eiji Nishiya ~~~