Canada-Japan 2001 Travelogue



In January 2001, members of the Canadian Rural Revitalization Foundation (CRRF) were invited to Japan by the Institute for Rural Revitalization In The 21st Century (IRR21). This visit was part of a 3 year collaborative project between IRR21 and CRRF researchers to compare policies, practices, and approaches to the question of rural community renewal in the face of increasing globalizaton of their economies. The Canada-Japan (CJ) collaboration includes participants from CRRF and IRR21.

Participating for CRRF were:
• Peter Apedaile - University of Alberta
• Bruno Jean - Université de Québec à Rimouski
• Ellen Wall - University of Guelph
• Greg Halseth - University of Northern British Columbia

Participating for IRR21 were:
• Tsuboi Nobuhiro - University of Tsukuba
• Mitsuhiro Nakagawa - Ibaraki University
• Tokumi Odagiri - University of Tokyo
• Masashi Tachikawa - National Research Institute of Agricultural Economics
• Takenori Matsumoto - University of Tokyo
• Mamoru Sawada - National Agriculture Research Center
• Hisato Shuto - University of Tsukuba
• Koji Kato - Utsunomiya University
• Junko Goto - National Agriculture Research Center
• Ken-ichi Yabe - Tokyo Metropolitan University

These photographs provide a brief "travelogue" of this visit. We offer these images as one form of thanks for all the kindness and generosity shown us. A special thank you goes to the members of the IRR21 team who showed us rural Japan, and to the people of Iitate and Awano.

Welcome to our excellent Japan Adventure ---- CJ2001



Jan. 20 depart Vancouver

Jan. 21 arrive Norita Airport, travel to Fukushima

Jan. 22 travel to Iitate

Jan. 23 Iitate visits

Jan. 24 travel to Awano

Jan. 25 Awano visits

Jan. 26 travel to Toyko

Jan. 27 Toyko workshops

Jan. 28 travel to Kyoto/Osaka/Nara region

Jan. 29-30 Kyoto/Osaka/Nara region

Jan. 30 @ 5 p.m. Depart Japan via Kansai Airport

Jan. 30 @ 2 p.m. Arrive Vancouver, Canada

Iitate Mun Bdry



Our CJ2001 Adventure started with the village of Iitate. After an overnight stay in Fukushima, we travelled to the rural town of Iitate. The municipal boundary of Iitate coincides closely with the watershed divide. Along the roadside at this divide were a number of shrines and markers. This was a wonderful gateway to a rural village.

Iitate Main Street


The main street through Iitate village passes several settlement clusters. The sidewalks are narrow and the buildings are close to the road because as much of the flat valley land as possible is dedicated to agriculture (mainly rice paddy fields).

Iitate City Hall

A focal point of our visit to Iitate was a series of meetings with local government staff and elected representatives. Both the staff and elected representatives were very generous with their time and gave us wonderful hospitality. This picture commemorates our meetings with Mr. Noria, Mayor of Iitate. Included in the photo, from left to right, are: Nobuhiro Tsuboi, Takenori Matsumoto, Ellen Wall, Mayor Noria, Greg Halseth, Mr. Sato from Iitate Local Government staff, and Hisato Shuto.

Iitate CivicCtr

The village of Iitate was well known for two things - agriculture and granite quarries. It is now working hard for recognition of its fine Iitate Beef - which is locally marketed through a beef store and a steak restaurant.

While several of Iitate's granite quarries have closed, the civic plaza of the Iitate Village Government Hall contains a number of beautiful statues and monuments. The civic plaza is a wonderful showcase for Iitate's granite industry.


The homes of rural residents always seem to hold pleasant surprises. In all of the homes we visited, people shared their table and their stories with us.

One of these homes in Iitate holds a spectacular doll museum. All of the Japanese dolls and other displays were created by the woman who invited us into her home - a woman recognized in Japan as a master of the doll making craft.

This picture centres upon a charcoal fireplace where our host made tea for the visitors. Note the intricate "fish" shaped pot hanger suspended above the charcoal.

Iitate Inn

Sometimes the only way to get a geographer to learn anything is to just hit him across the head with an atlas. Nobuhiro found this out when he showed Greg and Ellen some maps, charts, and aerial photographs of Iitate and the surrounding region. This photo was taken late one evening at the Iitate Inn.

Iitate dinner

One of the highlights each day of the CJ2001 visit was the meals. Most often at breakfast and dinner we were treated to traditional Japanese foods.

This photograph commemorates our first evening's dinner at the Inn in Iitate. These meals were all wonderful events - for the food, the presentation, the company, and the conversation.

We know we were lucky to be eating so well because many of the Japanese graduate students said they only got to eat such traditional meals on special occasions.


A quick snapshot of a place we got to know very well - the inside of our mini-bus which ws used to shuttle us back and forth between meetings and meals.

Shown from left to right in this photo are Bruno, Peter, the top of Fumi Hasebe's head, Ellen, and Masashi.

Greg is taking this photo from the front seat of the mini-bus. He got this special seat only because he kept asking the driver to stop for pictures and everyone got tired of him climbing over them to get in and out.

Awano Town Meeting

After the village of Iitate, our next stop was Awano Town. Awano is quite different from Iitate in part because it is larger and is much closer to Tokyo.

This photo commemorates our meeting with a group of representatives from local community associations. Together they form a coordinating secretariate among volunteer groups in Awano. We discussed all of the challenges and opportunities faced by volunteer groups in small places and found that we many of the challenges and opportunities are common to Japan and Canada.

Awano Community Development Group

Continuing our meetings with local groups and organizations, we visited with representatives of a volunteer Agricultural Committee. Established in 1998, this group was active in creating agricultural fairs, blossom festivals, and organizing some direct marketing by local producers. They have also worked with several local groups of women on different economic development ideas. In one case, a group of women established a restaurant, in another case a group of women established a cooperative to make extra money by selling baked goods. We were treated to some of their delicious bean cakes, still warm from the oven!

Awano Farmer's Market

One of the ways agricultural producers in Awano are adapting to new market pressures and opportunities is by moving into direct marketing. We were able to pay a visit to one such operation - a farmer's market founded through a local volunteer Agricultural Committee.

A wide range of local products such as vegetables and eggs was available. Awano's proximity to metropolitan Tokyo (approximately 100 km) means that there is a tremendous opportunitiy to tap into an urban market willing to pay a premium for "farm fresh" produce.

Awano Fr.Rest.

When in rural Japan, there is really only one thing to do ... go to the nearest French restaurant.

In Awano, a volunteer Agricultural Committee helped a group of six local women establish a restaurant. So the story goes that the women were interested in herbs and wanted to expand into commercial herb gardening. But how to market the herbs? They hit upon the idea of a restaurant in which their herbs could be showcased in the cuisine – and they then selected French cuisine as the best showcase. The restaurant is very popular and the herbs are marketed through the restaurant and through the restaurant's website.

Bruno gives the French cuisine "two thumbs up"!

The assemble group of traveling academics includes (from left to right) Fumi Hasebe, Greg Halseth, Masashi Tachikawa, Bruno Jean, Koji Kato, Peter Apedaile, Koji Soejima, and Ellen Wall.

Ken-ichi Yabe is hiding behind the camera lens ...

Awano City Hall

The meetings in Awano included the local government. The mayor and senior staff graciously welcomed us and spent an entire morning discussing our questions. Meeting with us are (clockwise from the bottom of the photo) the Mayor, Awano City Official, Awano City Official, Masashi Tachikawa, Koji Kato, Ken-ichi Yabi, and Koji Soejima.

Just outside of the picture is a bonsai tree which was in bloom. The room was filled with its delicate fragrance. Shown on the table are a series of maps produced by the local government showing land uses and development. Ah ... maps ... a geographer's dream ...

Awano Nagano

Our last stop in Awano Town was to visit a farmer in Nagano Valley. To get to Nagano Valley from the centre of Awano we had to drive over quite a high mountain pass. We had no fear of following a mountain road because Ken-ichi Yabe was driving the mini-bus. Ken-ichi was also getting very accustomed to driving a Canadian geographer around rural Japan. He instinctively stopped at this lookout because he knew I would want a photo. I did. Thus – this photo is courtesy of the good driving and instincts of Ken-ichi.

Awano Nagano2

In Nagano Valley, it was our great pleasure to visit with local farmer Mr. Omori. Mr. and Mrs. Omori hosted us in their home and made us feel very welcome with their generous hospitality. Their daughter was currently living in the United States and had sent Mr. Omori a number of souvenirs from the Green Bay Packers football team.

In this photo, Tokumi Odagiri is relaying our questions to Mr. Omori. The Japanese members of the research team did a tremendous, and patient, job in translations of questions and answers. We were always able to learn a great deal in a very limited amount of time.


One of our last, and most endearing, images of rural Japan will be the kerosene heater. We travelled to Japan in January 2001. While it was not a record cold winter, both Iitate and Awano were cold and there was a small amount of snow on the ground. In many of our meetings with community groups, the meeting rooms would be heated for use by a kerosene heater such as this one. The heaters did a fine job. While the room had a bit of a kerosene smell, there was an added bonus as placed on the top of all the kerosene heaters we encountered was a kettle for boiling water. Thus – not only did the kerosene heaters warm the room, they also yielded hot water for tea – very civilized indeed.

Temple University

The third stage of the CJ2001 visit was a day-long workshop in Tokyo. The workshop was hosted by the National Research Institute of Agricultural Economics. To get to the meeting, we took the train to a nearby station and then walked a short distance. I have not included a lot of photos of Tokyo partly because everyone has seen big urban places. But on that walk to the Research Institute we happened to pass by a temple. It was snowing in Tokyo that day (Tokyo does not get much snow each year) and the scene it created at the temple was quite marvelous.

So there you have it – a scene from the heart of Tokyo.

Tokyo Workshop

Our one day workshop in Toyko brought together the members of IRR21 who had been travelling with us through rural Japan and the visiting CRRF members to discuss a range of topics. These topics included our impressions from the site visits, the current status of our individual research projects, and the form of the collaborative C-J project product.

The meetings were hosted by the National Research Institute of Agricultural Economics (NRIAE). Besides the C-J people, others attending this meeting included Takashi Shinohura, Director General of NRIAE and our host for the workshop, Kenji Yoshinaga from NRIAE, Mitsuyoshi Ando from Ibaraki University, and Saeko Oshima from Japan Women's University.


In all of our rushing about in Tokyo we passed through many train stations. These stations often had many interesting features – including very well dressed young ladies in uniform staffing information booths. Another interesting feature was how the stations integrated with road transport systems – taxis, buses, bicycles, sidewalks. In moving between the train and surface systems you can always get something to eat because all the hallways and open plazas in the station seem filled with vendors selling prepared meals – ready to go in a box.

But the best thing about some stations is their bookstores. These bookstores sell not only popular books and magazines, but they also carry academic publications and policy discussion papers. In this station bookstore, Tokumi Odagiri shows off two of his books.

Golden Pavillion

The final stage of our CJ2001 expedition was to visit the Kyoto-Osaka-Nara region to experience historical and cultural aspects of Japan. Mitsuhiro Nakagawa was our gracious host for this glimpse into Japan's past.

One of the first stops was in Kyoto at the Golden Pavillion. Set on a large park, the pavillion's beauty is enhanced by the reflection of the small lake which surrounds its island.

Shortly after this photo, Mitsuhiro treated us to a tea and cake service in another part of the park. The five amigos in the photo are (from left to right) Greg Halseth, Bruno Jean, Koji Soejima, Ellen Wall, and Mitsuhiro Nakagawa.

Yasaka Shrine

Another cultural and historical stop in Kyoto was at a Shinto shrine. This photo is of a road heading towards the shrine. It is late afternoon and the setting sun highlighted the orange banners and lanterns lining the route. A feast of colour along an urban commuter roadway.


Hidden behind some newer office buildings in Kyoto is the beautiful Rokkaku-do shrine. There are many small features to this shrine which makes a wonderful respite from the urban world which now surrounds it.


A newer type of "shrine" found in many urban places in Japan – especially near train or subway stations – is the Pachinco parlour. Pachinco is a type of gambling which involves a variation on the slot machine. The Pachinco parlours are very crowded and have all the noise, lights, and bells which make such places overwhelming to the senses. Even from the outside, the bright neon colours at night are too much.


A much more reflective place to explore the aesthetic side of Japanese culture is in a garden. This garden in Kyoto is considered a masterpiece of classical Japanese garden landscaping. Trails, ponds, bridges, fencing, flowers, shrubs, and trees all link in simple harmony. A beautiful place for a walk.

Ryoanji Temple

I had often seen small Zen gardens which invite the viewer to see their own meaning in its symmetrical shapes. In my more rebellious youth I also remember trying to make out meaning in the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (my old Kawasaki KZ750 still runs very well). Well, now we had the opportunity to get to the roots of the Zen garden.

The Ryoanji Temple begins in a garden and a stop at a small fountain and wash basin.


The heart of the Ryoanji Temple is the Zen rock garden. The garden has a base of white pebbles raked into a pattern. It also has 15 large rocks set out in three clusters. The walls of the garden are made of clay boiled in oil – which over time leaches into unique patterns.

The garden was first developed in 1500-1525 by Soami. It is truly a unique place.

Nara Horyuji

Nara was once an ancient royal capital of Japan. Today, as a world heritage site, it is a massive complex in which one could spend days visiting rooms, museums, buildings, and gardens. This is a view across part of the complex.

Nara Horyuji2

Another site within Nara Horyuji. In this case, the focal point is a pagoda.

Nara Horyuji3

Some interesting roof lines in Nara Horyuji. Traditional wood with ornamentation, some more modern materials, and the satellite dishes.

Nara Horyuji4

A look across a water fountain and pond to a wall along a pathway. A very large and fascinating heritage site and a great way to end a visit to Japan.