“Meeting with authority figures.” Nothing strikes more unreasonable terror into my heart than a good old-fashioned round table discussion with important people. And yet, that is exactly where I found myself on January 8th: I was one of two ILC Support Committee members (along with Dean Ruetzler) given the opportunity to discuss the ILC and internationalization with none other than Governor of Iwate Takuya Tasso.

Also participating were Professor Matsuoka from Iwate University, Professor Richter from Iwate Prefectural University, and two high school students from Morioka First High School: Ms. Sachiho Minakawa and Mr. Tatsuya Sato.

Anxiety! Suits! And yet: free cookies, and also the chance to speak to the head of the prefecture, not necessarily in that order.

From Governor’s Tasso’s beginning remarks, it was clear he was keeping close tabs on LC Newsline and ILC-related news like the ILC conference to be held in Morioka next December. He cited Dr. Takaaki Kajita’s Nobel prize and other recognition for Japanese neutrino research as part of a rising national interest and pride in our contributions to fundamental research, which makes it an especially good time for the ILC.

After the Governor’s remarks, we started our discussion.

During our talk, we examined education from many viewpoints. Professor Matsuoka pointed out that currently Japanese language education in Iwate is run by volunteers, which is problematic.

Dean suggested either forming an international school within Iwate or providing transportation for researchers’ children to the international school in Sendai. Governor Tasso responded that the prefecture was looking into ways to provide an international school education within Iwate without having to commute outside the prefecture.

Tatsuya and Sachiho had actually had been doing research on the ILC, as it is one of six topics students can choose to pursue at Morioka First High School.

Tatsuya was concerned that young people in Iwate won’t grow up proficient enough in English communication and science. He suggested strengthening science education in elementary and middle school and providing more opportunities to use English.

Sachiho, who has already visited and attended science camps at KEK and Kavli IPMU and wants to become a particle physics researcher, was excited about the ILC as an educational opportunity. Researchers from the ILC could give talks to the community, like Dr. Satoru Yamashita had recently done for Morioka First High School, deepening people’s understanding of science, English, and other cultures.


Governor Tasso had an interesting anecdote about Sachiho’s ideas. He was in middle and high school when the original Star Wars movies came out, and managed to join the official Lucasfilm Star Wars fan club. For the fan club fee (in US dollars, exchanged at a local bank), he received a member’s card and regular newsletters in English. This just goes to show, he said, the importance of having opportunities to use and learn English independently out of necessity. Science and computers are entwined with using the English language, so working with one would also naturally help strengthen English.

Speaking of English, Dean noted that it was important to improve English education so more people could use a minimum of English, and to have at least a few fluent speakers in key places like city halls, hospitals, and train stations.

Another topic discussed was disaster safety. Professor Matsuoka noted that in the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami, some international residents couldn’t understand Japanese evacuation announcements. We needed to make Iwate a place where anyone would know to evacuate without understanding the language. Rikuzentakata City is a forerunner in this regard, and Matsuoka said she hoped these kinds of efforts would spread throughout the prefecture.

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I also touched on disaster safety, and the importance of delivering information in multiple languages to all international residents, even those who don’t have the resources or awareness to seek out that information themselves. Too often information, if it’s provided, is provided on an “opt-in” basis like registering for a newsletter or liking a Facebook page. I feel we need “opt-out” systems to deliver information without requiring the recipient to work to find it.

Finally, we discussed tourism and promoting Iwate to the world. Professor Uwe Richter, who reported he would work with Iwate Prefectural University president (and former KEK Director-General) Atsuto Suzuki on the ILC after his retirement, outlined his proposal for promoting the use of horse-riding as a pastime in Iwate. Horse-riding is a big industry in countries like Germany and Austria. Iwate, with its historical connection to horses and lush nature is ideal for horse-riding, he argued, and could become a big industry here with an initial investment.

I suggested using the ILC conference to be held in Morioka next December as an opportunity to introduce some of the joys of life in Iwate, such as the hot springs, the sake, and the skiing. Perhaps we could provide suggested routes or events so participants could fully enjoy their time while they’re here.

Governor Tasso wrapped up with a statement that our discussion had reaffirmed his belief that preparing for international residents for the ILC was inseparable from making current international residents comfortable in their daily lives. He expressed his hopes for the ILC and the promising young people at our discussion.

I felt we had a valuable and productive talk, and was glad to have the opportunity to exchange ideas with and relay information to the head of our prefecture, as well as eat free cookies. I look forward to seeing how our discussion may have affected Iwate policy in the future!


~ 県政懇談会、「ILCと国際化」~ [10号]  トマス アンナ(奥州市)


達増知事の開会挨拶では、知事がLCNewslineや盛岡で開催されるILC国際会議などのILC関連ニュースをこまめにチェックしていることが分かりました。梶田教授のノーベル物理学賞や日本のニュートリノ研究が世界で認められていることなどを取り上げ、ILC にとっても良い流れができていると述べました。