In a few years’ time, researchers will begin moving to Iwate and the rest of the Tohoku region from all over the globe to work with the ILC (fingers crossed). What will it be like to be a newcomer to the area?

 Dean Ruetzler is a long-time resident of Iwate and member of the ILC Support Committee. He recently moved from Morioka City to Oshu City, which is part of the proposed ILC site, and he has shared with us some experiences that perhaps some of you reading right now will have in the future.

I am not new to Japan. I have been a resident of Japan for seventeen years now. Nor am I unfamiliar with Iwate: I have spent all my years in Japan in “Rock Hand” prefecture. Morioka, where I have spent fourteen of those years, is also quite familiar to me. At times I feel like I know the city, as we say in English, “like the back of my hand”, “inside out”, “back to front” or whatever other similar idiom you choose.

I am not really unfamiliar with Oshu City either, I have been visiting it, for various reasons, for years. I am familiar with the city’s major landmarks, buildings, and business, especially those where foreigners tend to congregate.

However, knowing a few popular places is still an “outsider’s” viewpoint. An “insider” will know every shortcut while driving, which cleaning service gets your shirts the cleanest, where you can go to get the best pizza and cheapest gasoline for your car, and probably has the JR Tohoku line departure and arrival times memorized. They have the knowledge of a long term resident, not just someone who visits once or twice a month.

Being not just the “outsider” that my foreign origin bestows me in Japan, but an “outsider” among the foreign community also, I am frequently asked “What do you think of Oshu?” sometimes even by my fellow foreigners. It is a question that as my years and familiarity with Morioka passed, appeared with less and less frequency.

That said, a few things are starting to really stick out in my mind about Oshu, especially when juxtaposed with the prefectural capital, Morioka:

  1. Oshu is a quiet place. Morioka is not Tokyo, but the hum of traffic on Route 4 (a large national road), construction, road repair, and occasional siren in Morioka make the tranquility of Oshu stand out.
  2. The sunsets are incredibly scenic. The frequently clear skies, an undisturbed horizon to the west, and the Ou Mountains casting their shadows produce some sunsets that are nothing short of resplendent. Only the sunsets I saw in Finland with the different coloring of the sky due to its northern placing can compare.
  3. Once you get out of the area surrounding Route 4, it gets rather pastoral. I grew up in a dairy town of 2,500, so I think that is a great thing. I really enjoy my drives to work that take me out to rural Esashi. The scenery is awesome, and on a clear day you can see Mt. Iwate.

However, you may be picturing “the countryside”, “the sticks”, or whatever other moniker you choose to add to rural abodes across the globe. Monikers that evoke images of Jed Clampett ”Huntin’ for some food”, cows lazily munching in pastures, mud-covered pigs squealing, fiddles-a’-playin’, and perhaps even tractors working the fields and weary workiers eating beans from a kettle over a starlit campfire.

That is not a complete depiction of Oshu. It is, after all a municipality of over 100,000 that is just lucky enough to be near such pastoral beauty. A two minute walk from my apartment will get me to a noodle shop, DVD rental store, laundromat, and a drug store. Multiple gas stations, supermarkets, convenience stores, and even a dry cleaner, health club, and home center are all within a five minute drive. Another five minutes in the car and I’m in the city center with its assortment of stores, restaurants, and other amenities.

As I further delve into my surroundings, I do find that while Oshu may be a bit of a “rural” city, it is certainly not lacking for what makes my daily life convenient. We are after all, talking about living in one of the world’s biggest economies and more developed countries. In fact, I have learned a great place to get a nice imported European rye straight off the shelf, with assorted imported treats and staples all waiting to give me a moment of familiar “comfort” and indulgence.

Don’t let the rice paddies fool you: it’s got huge box stores too. Conversely, don’t let the bullet train station and chain stores fool you, it has some great history and scenic beauty to it. I suppose it all is how you look at it. However, keep yourselves open to the possibility of having the best of both worlds, as I am learning day by day. I look forward to exploring, seeing, and enjoying much more of Oshu.



【ILCサポート委員会】 ディーン・ルーツラー


私は、日本に住んで17年になりました。岩手を知らない訳でもありません。その17年間はずっと岩手で過ごしました。そのうち14年を盛岡で暮らし、自分の庭のようによく知っています。(ところで、英語には「手の甲のように知っている “like the back of my hand”」という決まり文句があります。)





1 奥州市は静かなところです。

2 奥州市の夕暮れは非常にきれいです。

3 国道4号から離れると田舎の風情があります。