There we were: surrounded by scientists from around the world as they studied our booth. What, exactly, was a PR booth for the Tohoku region doing at the IEEE NSS/MIC Conference about radiological technology? And in Strasbourg, France, of all places?

And just what, exactly, is “Sobacchi?”

Dr. Atsuto Suzuki, Sobacchi, and the rest of the staff at the Tohoku ILC Promotion Council booth

Dr. Atsuto Suzuki, Sobacchi, and the rest of the staff at the Tohoku ILC Promotion Council booth

The IEEE Nuclear Sciences Symposium and Medical Imaging Conference happens once a year and gathers physicists, medical specialists, and researchers from numerous fields for cross-discipline exchange and presentations. For the NSS portion, former KEK Director-General and current Iwate Prefectural University President Atsuto Suzuki gave a presentation at the opening plenary on Japan’s involvement with international research, in particular the ILC. For many in attendance, this was their first time hearing of the project. Sensing a prime opportunity to publicize the Tohoku area, the Tohoku ILC Promotion Council teamed up with the Iwate Prefectural Government to set up a booth in their exhibition space.

“What,” pointed guests to the booth, “is that?”sobacchi

The first thing most people noticed was Sobacchi…the mascot of Iwate Prefecture. Our little plush toy joined a foam Higgs-kun in being the belles of the ball, as there truly is a mascot for everything in Japan. As many of you know, Higgs-kun was created by the good folks at KEK to represent the Higgs boson. Sobacchi, and his four brothers, represent Iwate and its various regions as the Wanko Brothers: that’s right, five little anthropomorphic cup-kids! (Wanko means cup in Iwate dialect.)

It wasn’t just Sobacchi that proved to be a selling point. The Tohoku ILC Promotion Council had a number of films specially produced to showcase both Tohoku and our commitment to the ILC project. There were large maps and information on Tohoku companies involved in the accelerator industry. And we had 5 intrepid guides to take people on a virtual tour of the region. Luckily, our visitors were already quite knowledgeable about Japan. “You will have sold me on Tohoku as soon as you tell me what Ghibli movies are set there,” said one of my favorite visitors to the booth. (As it so happens the prologue of Princess Mononoke and the whole of Spirited Away are influenced by various regions in Tohoku).

The booth at IEEE

The booth at IEEE

Common questions at the conference

What’s the schedule for the ILC? Is it still being planned? Is it decided to be built?
The international scientific community wants to build it in the Kitakami site, and we in the local area welcome the project. However, the Japanese national government (in particular, MEXT) is currently deliberating on the project, with a decision to be made by 2018.

How come you’re building it in such an earthquake-prone area?
It’s a valid question – if people know of Tohoku at all, it’s because of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. Have no fear: the granite bedrock of the Kitakami candidate site is extremely stable, and the ILC will be safe from earthquakes in its tunnel underground. For reference, there is already an earth tides measurement station in another tunnel in the mountains. The 2011 earthquake, a massive 9.0 magnitude event, caused absolutely no damage or effect to the measurement devices.

A mural of the ATLAS detector at CERN

A mural of the ATLAS detector at CERN

This wasn’t just a trip to sell Tohoku to Europe. We also visited CERN in Geneva to tour the international science facility thanks to our wonderful guide, Akira Yamamoto, Asian Director for the ILC). You could just imagine how a similar facility might be built in the Kitakami mountains of Iwate.

Of course, both Geneva and Strasbourg have been international cities for decades, but even so, I saw that we would just need more if we wanted to be ready for the ILC. More multilingual signs, more English-speaking staff, more staff knowledgeable in visas and government paperwork. Better transportation – the trams and trains were amazingly efficient and numerous. And the cafeteria at CERN! It had gluten-free products.

It was all great to see and report back to the rest of our staff here. This is the level of service that people will expect from the ILC facility, and we in Iwate are excited to take on the challenge.

Another thing: One of our members had never actually been abroad before, but he became the most international out of all of us. At IEEE, he was the one who ran around to people walking the fair, and led them to our booth. He showed you don’t need to have worked abroad or live a cosmopolitan life in a big city to relate to people from around the world. In fact, I think he showed the spirit of Iwate and Tohoku the most out of any of us. So while we need more language resources in general, we can never forget that the best ambassadors of the area are the people who were born and raised here.

Thanks to Sobacchi, we made quite a few new fans of Tohoku and Iwate, as well as learned some new things that may help Iwate in the future.

Life in Geneva, Strasbourg, and Iwate

How would life be different, if you lived in Iwate? For me, a first-timer to Europe, I was intrigued by the differences found in life in France! Here’s some of the things I noticed – how about you?


No ticket gates! You buy your ticket beforehand and get it time stamped. Then a train attendant will be around shortly to check it. In Japan, you always need a ticket to get through the electronic gates, and you never need to show it on the train.


Even if the products are different, morning markets happen no matter where you go! (Below) Ferney-Voltaire market in France near Geneva, (Right) Mikoda market in Morioka City, Iwate Prefecture


English almost always accompanies French/German/Alsatian on the signs. Even without English, it was easy enough to guess the meaning of things.


Left, Strasbourg Cathedral. Right, Chuson-ji Temple at World Heritage Hiraizumi, Iwate.


These two cultures are more alike than they seem at first. Both have traditional houses that were home to both people and horses. The painted furniture reminded me of Iwate lacquerware. And both are quite agricultural.





岩手県 和山アマンダ

私たちはブースの出展で、世界各国からの研究者たちに取り囲まれました。会場は放射線技術に関する国際会議「2016 IEEE NSS・MIC」。なぜ、遠いフランスのストラスブールで、東北地方を紹介するブースを出展したのか。


IEEE NSS/MICの国際会議は、毎年1回開催され、物理学者、専門医など、様々な分野の研究者が集まり、交流や発表を行います。放射線を利用した基礎研究に関するシンポジウム「NSS(Nuclear Science Symposium)」の開会式では、元KEK(高エネルギー加速器研究機構)機構長の鈴木厚人岩手県立大学長がILCを始め、日本が国際協力の下取り組んでいる研究について発表しました。出席者の中には、ILC計画を初めて知った方もいたでしょう。東北地方をアピールする絶好の機会と捉え、東北ILC推進協議会が岩手県と協力し、会場の展示スペースにILCブースを出展したのです。