July 23, 2008,08:57 +0900(JST) Yamagata Ginzan-Onsen Hot Spring Trip


I reported in a blog entry last year that my wife and I, with three couples of friends, enjoyed a two-day trip to Kushiro Marshland, Hokkaido, immediately after the shareholders general meeting.


This year, we organized and took a trip to Ginzan-Onsen Hot Spring in Yamagata Prefecture on July 5 and 6, immediately after the shareholders general meeting, as we did last year.
The four couples decided to make this one a “freewheeling” trip, in which we say whatever we feel, eat and drink as much as we like and play to our heart’s content. We understand each other’s positions and feelings very well. When we drank, we had endless things to talk about, maybe because we usually spend stressful days. I enjoyed the trip very much.
We take turns in organizing trips.


At Ginzan OnsenOur travel itinerary always includes a round of golf for the men, while the wives go sightseeing. For the rest of the itinerary, we visit places of scenic and historical interest together.


This journey’s main features were a stay at Ginzan Onsen, a hot spring resort with the atmosphere of the romanticism of the Taisho period (1912 - 1926), a trip to a silver mine site, which produced high-quality silver for 400 years, and a boat ride on the Mogami River, site of one of the most famous poems of haiku poet Basho: “Samidare wo / Atsumete hayashi / Mogamigawa (The summer rains / Gathering swift / Mogami River)” (In The Narrow Road to the Deep North).
The original version, with “cool (suzushi)” instead of “swift (hayashi),” was a greeting poem for his host at a linked verse party gathering in Obanazawa, where Basho had a long stay. Basho wrote this poem to express his appreciation for the host’s kind hospitality. In response, the host wrote a splendid poem depicting Basho’s stay as the gleams of fireflies: “Kishi ni hotaru wo / Tsunagu funagui (Fireflies at the riverside / Moored to a mooring post).”


Satonishiki cherry pickingWe also wanted to remain moored to the post longer, but we knew we could not do so.
The itinerary also included the Satonishiki (the famed variety of cherries) cherry picking and a visit to Risshakuji mountain temple, another site of a famous Basho’s poem: “Shizukasa ya / Iwa ni shimiiru / Semi no koe (The stillness / Seeping into the rocks / The chirping of cicadas).” To reach the main temple, visitors ascend 1,015 stone steps. The itinerary was very tight.
These destinations seem to represent the diversity of purpose of tours that travelers of about our age seek, which makes me smile a wry smile.


Me against the backdrop of the Ginzan RiverNow, I would like to briefly write about Ginzan Onsen.
The hot-spring town is located in Obanazawa City, the birthplace of the traditional Japanese folk dance song “Hanagasa Ondo.” Fourteen Japanese-style inns (three- or four-storied wooden buildings) line both banks of the Ginzan River, a clean stream five to six meters wide. In some of smaller inns, visitors can take a long stay for a hot-spring cure. At the fall of evening, gas lights are lit. I felt I had gone back to the romantic Taisho period by time machine. Of course, I have never experienced Taisho days. If someone asks me if I am sure, I will not be able to confidently answer “yes.” At least I can say for sure that the streets are not modern.


Even in the inn room, I could hear the clattering of wooden clogs on the stone-paved road as guests took strolls nearby inn, seeking the evening cool. In addition, the nostalgic croaking of kajika frogs helped stage a summer evening in a mountain town.
We stayed at Notoya Ryokan, the oldest inn in the hot spring area, on Saturday. We enjoyed watching till late at night the locals do a traditional Hanagasa dance on one of the bridges across the Ginzan River. This event is organized by the Ginzan Onsen Resort Association on weekend nights in summer.


This concludes my report on our “refreshment of spirit” tour.

January 28, 2008,09:42 +0900(JST) In Kurashiki-city


Some time ago, I had the opportunity to visit Kurashiki-city in Oakayama prefecture with my wife, for personal reasons. Kurashiki being not far from my home, it didn’t involve much travel, but on this first visit in 25 years I was impressed by the way the city of Kurashiki remained almost unchanged. I felt a strong sense of familiarity with Kurashiki, as I was able to identify what I saw there with fragments of my memory.


We enjoyed leisurely walks on Kurashiki Ivy Square tourist complex, in the city’s scenic historic area, and along the Kurashiki River. As we walked along the River, admiring old houses and storehouses with traditional white-plastered or square tile-covered walls, we felt as if – although this is a rather commonplace expression - we had been transported to the Edo period, hundreds of years ago. I truly admire those who are making constant efforts to preserve such a scenic traditional townscape.


Jean-d’Aaire,What I definitely wanted to do in Kurashiki was visit the Ohara Museum of Art. This museum, opened in 1930 as Japan’s first museum of Western Art, was named after its founder, a unique business leader, Magosaburo OHARA (second president of Kurashiki Cotton Spinning Company that is now Kurabo Industries Ltd.).


Upon walking through the front gate, visitors are greeted with Rodin’s impressive statue of Jean d’Aire from “The Burghers of Calais,” on the right in front of the main building. Upon entering the building, you’ll find El Greco’s “Annunciation,” so famous that it requires no further comments; other tableaux by Impressionists such as Cezanne, Monet and Renoir, and even some works by modern artists such as Gauguin, Matisse and Pollock. Most of the works of art in the museum’s superb collection were chosen by the discerning eyes of Torajiro KOJIMA, painter and friend of Mr. Ohara.


As I walked slowly through the museum appreciating the paintings one by one, it was as though I could sense, through those works of art, the strong, almost intense commitment that the late Mr. Ohara must have had to this place. He is known to have boasted of his insight, saying that his eyes could see ten years into the future. Yet, he had a strong sense of service to society, loved his employees like his own family and devoted himself to various cultural projects, including the Ohara Museum, and community activities. I felt that the museum visit enabled me to come into contact with the spirit of this great businessman.


By the way, after visiting the museum, you can nurse your tired feet in the adjacent café El Greco, savoring its delightful coffee and cake.


Kurashiki seems to me one of the few cities in the world that enjoy truly significant corporate community contribution. There are many words that express how corporations can serve society, such as CSR, philanthropy and mecenat, and it seems as if these words are used every day in every place of the world. In Kurashiki, corporate contribution is not just words, but it is authentic and can be seen in action and felt in spirit.

August 23, 2007,09:32 +0900(JST) A stay in temple lodging on Mt. Koya


Dear blog readers, did you have nice summer holidays? Even in mid summer, Japan can have largely varied weather conditions depending on where you are, because of the Archipelago’s shape, stretching long from north to south, and also depending on the day. Still, about this summer we can say nothing but that it’s been scorchingly hot. On August 16, the country set a new record high atmospheric temperature for the first time in 74 years, at 40.9 degrees Celsius, in Kumagaya City, Saitama Prefecture and Tajimi City, Gifu Prefecture. We can’t simply attribute this to abnormal climatic change, but we can say it’s been an extraordinarily hot summer.


As for my summer holidays, I went to stay on Mt. Koya with my family. Many should already know where Mt. Koya is, since it is designated a UNESCO World Heritage site: it is in the northeastern part of Wakayama Prefecture, some 1,000 meters above sea level. Mt. Koya is one of the sacred sites of Japanese Buddhism where the Great Priest Kobo (774-835) opened a monastic center. Kongobu-ji Temple and other sites are located there. My stay in this special place was a truly wonderful experience.


Walking slowly on a long, stone-paved approach to an inner temple, surrounded by rows of giant cedar trees and reflecting on the history engraved on old, moss-covered tomb stones on the temple premises, I almost lost the notion of time as I became totally relaxed and released from the busyness of everyday life.


We stayed in a temple lodging called Henjoko-in, which has a long and distinguished history. The temple itself was founded by the Great Priest Kobo, about 1,200 years ago, as the quasi-head temple of the Buddhist sect he started. Various cultural assets are still found there. During my stay, I took relaxing hot baths to peel away worldly grime and partook of delightful vegetarian meals and had a little bit of “prajna(wisdom) water” -- meaning sake (Japanese rice wine).


Detached from the world down below in this micro-cosmos of freshness and tranquility, for the first time in my life I took part in a daily practice consisting of Buddha image copying and sutra chanting in the morning. This experience enabled me to simply live each moment to its fullest and feel truly grateful for the gift of life.


For this great experience, I can never fully thank Mr. Y, who recommended this temple stay to me. Despite the intense summer heat that still lingers in the Kansai (western Japan) area, I was able to get back to work in great shape, physically and morally refreshed.

July 20, 2007,09:30 +0900(JST) Beauty of Kushiro Marshland


As I mentioned here the other day, at the recent shareholders general meeting we renewed our commitment to our duties before the shareholders and other stakeholders. Now that that’s over, and as I’d been very busy, with little private time, I decided to relax and go on a short trip to Hokkaido with my wife on the weekend immediately after the shareholders meeting.


Kushiro Marshland

We were four couples, ourselves and three couples of friends we often get together with; I truly enjoyed myself. It’s great to take time off from work like this from time to time. I’m really grateful to Mr. and Mrs. F, who took the initiative in organizing the trip.


We went to the Kushiro Marshland, which I visited for the first time. With very little background knowledge, we went to Lake Toro and traveled from Toro to Kushiro Stations on the sightseeing train “Kushiro Marshland Norokko.” I was told that “Norokko” means “noroi (slow) torokko (tram).” From this slow tram, which traveled at about 30 km per hour, we were able to admire the breathtaking beauty of the Marshland!


The mood of the Kushiro Marshland, with its ever-changing beauty, ranging from majestic to mysterious, won this place the title of Japan’s 28th (newest) national park and first designated wetland under the Ramsar Convention (the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat).


I had heard that the Japanese red-crowned crane depicted on the old 1,000-yen bill was based on a photograph taken on the Kushiro Marshland. Standing there and admiring the beautiful early summer plants was a truly moving experience.


On Day Two, the four men went to play golf. Perhaps you don’t have to go all the way to Hokkaido to play golf, but it was a great way to enjoy each other’s company in a very relaxed atmosphere.


The score? Let’s just say it’d be better not to go into specifics … This two-day trip was truly a physically and mentally refreshing break for us.

SUMITOMO ELECTRIC President CEO Masayoshi Matsumoto

Born in 1944 in Hyogo Prefecture, Masayoshi Matsumoto joined Sumitomo Electric in 1967. After serving as General Manager of Chubu District Office, Managing Director and Senior Managing Director, he assumed office of President and CEO in June 2004.

His leisure activities include jogging, reading and art appreciation. Also a seasoned athlete, he played baseball in junior high school and practiced judo in senior high school. In university, he threw the javelin competitively and participated in all-Japan inter-university competitions.

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