Live from Japan

Sneak Peek at Interviews: Life in Iwate

| 5 February 2015

The first time I heard that there was something called an ILC that might come to Iwate, it was maybe 2011 or 2012 and I was drinking coffee at Esashi bus station in Oshu City taking a break before walking over to teach an English class. There was a poster on the wall in Japanese talking about something I didn`t quite understand, though what I could understand sounded so science fiction-y that I was kind of skeptical it wasn`t some kind of cult.

A few years later, not only have I established that the ILC is not a cult, but for my new job I have been tasked with assessing the future needs of ILC-related personnel and trying to reach out in English via Facebook and other platforms to show people what life here is like, among other things

So here you are, presumably wondering what kind of life you would lead if you came here. To provide a more balanced picture than just my personal experience, we decided to provide some different points of view about life in Iwate on the  Oshu ILC website. So far there are six interviews with non-Japanese Iwate people who come from three different countries.

One thing every person had in common, by the way, were the words used to describe the Iwate people: friendly, kind, helpful, and hospitable. Local children here are making posters about the ILC with multicultural people holding hands, so you definitely don`t need to worry about not being welcomed.

Here are some sneak peeks from the interviews:

What advice would you have for ILC researchers or other related workers new to Iwate?

Uday, from Bangladesh, PhD student in veterinary medicine living in Morioka:

Buy a used car. “Here the used cars are very cheap. It has a Japanese engine, so you can rely on the condition, though it is old.” Uday has had his car for one year, and say he hasn`t had any problems with the car. “For 30 to 40 man yen (around $2500-$3300 US or 2000-2800 euros), you can buy a car. It is very cheap, I think.”

Hazel, from the Philippines, living in Takizawa:

“Having a smartphone is really convenient. There are translation applications, and map applications. I think those are important.” Also, because it`s easy to get lost in Japan and it can be difficult to get back on track, Hazel recommends doing your research before heading out. ” Before they go to places, I think they should understand fully where they are going and how they will get there.”

Mulu, from Ethiopia, plant genomics and breeding researcher living in Kitakami:

Make an effort to get out of the house and into the community, despite your hard work schedule. “If I have to advise someone moving here, it`s that they should make an effort to just go out. I know that researchers tend to have their own personal time, that’s the nature of the research, but I think people should break out of that and be more interactive with people. It really helps a lot.”

What would you want to share about Iwate with people new here? What are some of the best things about Iwate?

Father Miguel, from Mexico, Catholic priest living in Morioka:

“I love the nature, and I love the history, and I love the beautiful buildings. So when I have friends who are coming, I just take them around the city to see the rivers and the parks we have, where you can have walks. I also take them to the mountains, to show them how we enjoy the ski season.”

Mulu, from Ethiopia, plant genomics and breeding researcher living in Kitakami:

Winter in Iwate has one big advantage: the sun stays out. “The European winter is so depressing. It`s always dark, and the days are so short. Here, even if it`s minus 10, deep snow, there`s sunshine. It`s kind of dry. It`s amazing. To have sunshine on snow? It`s so beautiful. I think that part of Iwate is so nice. That rarely happens [in other places], so people should really enjoy that.”

Cecelia, from the Philippines, part time worker and active volunteer living in Shiwa:

Cecelia sent lots of pictures with her interview, wanting to share the beauty of life here with everyone.

Blue skies over Northern Japan. Image: private

When I first arrived here, I was amazed by the beautiful natural surroundings and the abundant agriculture of the region. The place is so peaceful nice to walk around and enjoy the fresh clean air. Image: Cecilia














To read the complete interviews, see the Oshu ILC website at:


About the author

Anna Thomas is the new ILC Internationalization Coordinator working at Oshu City ILC Promotion Division. She`s been in Iwate since May 2010. Here are some of the things she enjoys about life here: squeaky snow during snowshoe walks, weird antisocial squirrels with long ears, the singing baked yam truck, local superheroes, affordable national health care, tip-free excellent customer service, and an environment so safe people leave the keys in their cars. Also sake.


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