On February 20, 2006 the city of Mizusawa merged with the city of Esashi and the municipalities of Maesawa, Isawa and Koromogawa from Isawa District to form the new city of Oshu.
As of 2003, the city had an estimated population of 60,979 and a population density of 629.17 persons per km². The total area was 96.92 km².
The city was founded on April 1, 1954.
The educational system in Japan is based on the American system. Elementary and Junior High School is compulsory, while Senior High is optional. However, the majority of students continue their education in Senior High School.
In Mizusawa Ward there are eight Elementary schools and three Junior High Schools. All elementary and junior high schools in Mizusawa are public schools. There are four public Senior High schools and one private Senior High School.
High schools in Japan are where students begin to branch off and specialise in a particular field of study. This leads to a system of specialised schools whose curriculum focuses students towards a particular vocation. Mizusawa Koko (水沢高校)is an academic school and as such aims for its students to move on into further education. Mizusawa Shogyo Koko (水沢商業高校) is a Commercial High School whose primary focus is on practical business and IT skills. Mizusawa Nogyou Koko (水沢農業高校)is an Agricultural High School while Mizusawa Kogyo (水沢工業高校)is an Industrial High School.
As with the majority of Japan schools are publicly run. However, in the cities it is more common to find private schools, starting from elementary school to high school. In Iwate only one such private school exists in Morioka, Shirauri Gakkuen (nursery school to high school).
Assistant Language Teachers (ALT) Edit
Types of ALTs
There are two types of ALTs employed in Mizusawa Ward, Prefectural ALTs and Municipal ALTs.
Prefectural ALTs are employed directly by the Prefecture, in this instance Iwate Prefecture. While, municipal ALTs are employed by the Local Board of Education, which is in this case Oshu City Board of Education. Currently, in Oshu City there are five Prefectural ALTs and eight Municipal ALTs.
There are two JET Programme ALTs employed by Iwate Prefecture who teach at High Schools in Mizusawa. There is a further two JET ALTs that teach in Maesawa and Esashi respectively. All senior high school ALTs in Oshu City are Prefectural ALTs. Elementary and Junior High School
There are two private company ALTs employed by Oshu Board of Education who work solely in Elementary school. Three private company ALTs who work in elementary and junior high schools and three JET ALTs who also work in elementary and Junior High School in Oshu City.
Two out of the three JET ALTs are employed directly by Oshu board of Education and are therefore Municipal ALTs. Whilst one ALT is employed by Oshu Prefectural Board of Education and as a result is a Prefectural ALT.
The nearest airport to Mizusawa is Hanamaki Airport, which is a 30 minutes train journey from Mizusawa. Hanamaki Airport only operates domestic flights. For International flights the nearest airport is Sendai Airport in Miyagi Prefecture. It takes roughly 2 hours by bus to reach Sendai or by Shinkansen (bullet train) 49 minutes.
Mizusawa is located on the main JR line in Iwate. Conveniently, linking Mizusawa to other cities:
Morioka – 1 hour 10 minutes – 1,110円 Hanamaki – 30 minutes - 480 円 Kitakami – 20 minutes – 320 円 Ichinoseki - 23 minutes – 400 円
Shinkansen (Bullet train)
The Shinkansen Station is located between Mizusawa and Esashi and is called, surprisingly, Mizusawa-Esashi Shinkansen Station. The Shinkansen is a quick link to major cities throughout Japan, however it can be expensive.
Morioka – 29 minutes Sendai – 49 minutes Tokyo – 2hrs 56 minutes
To reach the station without a car can be a hassle. As a result many JETs choose to travel to a nearby combined Shinkansen/ JR line station using the JR line from Mizusawa Station. The nearest combined stations are Ichinoseki (going south) and Kitakami (going north). Otherwise be prepared to pay for a taxi (roughly 2000円).
There is a local JR bus service operating in Mizusawa. Buses also link Mizusawa to Esashi, Isawa and Measawa. These routes can be surprisingly expensive when considering the relatively small distance however. To reach Isawa, Esashi or Measawa will cost around 400円.
There is also a bus route to Sendai and Tokyo.
Sendai – 2 hours – 1,800 円 (buy tickets on the bus) Tokyo – 7 hours 30 minutes (night bus) – 7,900 円 (buy tickets in advance)
All buses stop at the front of Mizusawa station with the exception of the Sendai bus, which stops behind the station. Take the underpass to reach the other side and continue straight ahead to the first bus stop you see.
Cycling is a convenient and cheap way to reach anywhere in Mizusawa. To travel to the other component parts of Oushu will give you a good workout however.
Cycling is not recommended during winter as the amount of ice and snow makes it rather dangerous.
Estimates of times to reach component parts of Oushu: Central Isawa - 30-40 minutes. Esashi - 25-30 minutes Maesawa - 30 minutes
Mizusawa is a compact city and the majority of shops and restaurants can be reached on foot.
Liesure and Recreation Edit
Mizusawa is not a large city and thus lacks some of amenities things that are present in cities like Tokyo.
There are not many cultural attraction in Mizusawa itself, but there are a few places that are worth a look if you want a walk on a nice day.
Mizusawa Koen - Especially nice in spring due to it's abundant cherry blossoms. Plays host to an annual "nabe festival". Also contains a football pitch and running track for the more athletically minded.
Samurai House - An old Samurai house, well preserved with an adjoining museum, is worth a visit, albeit a short one. An interesting look at a traditional house and also a look at the Mizusawa of the Edo period. A short walk from the city hall. Open daily (except Sunday).
Bars and Izakayas
There are plenty of bars and Izakays in Mizusawa, especially on Eki Dori (the main street). Recommended is "Ajito", a favorite for parties and large gatherings. The food is good and plentiful and very reasonably priced.
Another favorite is "Royal Jamaican". The staff are very friendly and used to foreigners (they can also speak some English). The atmosphere is friendly and the food is good, especially the Jerked Chicken.
"Smackers" on Eki Dori is another favorite haunt for ALTs as well as the younger members of Mizusawa's population. The mood is very laid back, with an asian feel. The asian flavor is continued in the menu which specialises in Thai curries. "Smackers" also plays host to regular "Live Art" shows (look out for posters or flyers for exact dats) which are well worth a watch.
Asupia Asupia is the internationl centre of Mizusawa. It is at the centre of most of the international events that take place in Mizusawa. It has an English Library which is ever expanding and is an excellent source of help and advice for foreigners seeking travel tips, club information or general advice. It also plays host to Japanese classes (every Tuesday from 7-9. 500円).
Asupia also runs English classes for a wide variety of ages and levels. ALTs will often be called upon to help teach these classes, particularly during the school holidays. In addition to this the kindergarten and Elementary School level classes held on the weekend often involve ALTs.
Hibuse Matsuri April 29-30 - The festival consists of elementary school girls dressed in traditional kimonos. They are carried around the city on float while they playing traditional Japanese music. The festival is held to drive away evil spirits from Mizusawa, this originated after a great fire which destroyed most of the city. Also their are groups dancing throughout the day and night.
Mizusawa Matsuri August 8-9 - Obon festival. One can take part in this festival with Aspia International Center.
Sominsai Festival February 13-14 - This is one of the more unique and quirky festivals in Iwate and maybe even Japan. It consists of men wearing sumo dappers walking around the grounds of the Shrine (Kuroishi-Ji), which includes dunking themselves into an ice cold river. The festival takes place in the dead of winter and goes on for most of the night climaxing at seven in the morning, when the participants fight for a lucky bag.