Sakura matsuri season is upon us. For JET returnees, this time of year hearkens back to picnics with friends or students. Copious amounts of alcohol under the pink shower of blossoms and maneuvering through crowded lines of vendors celebrating the coming of spring. Sakura season also brings out the finest Japanese talent in New York and no event worth mentioning would be whole without the beating heart of COBU.
You haven’t been following COBU around like a bloodhound? Shame on you. Don’t even know what a COBU is? Double shame on you. Fortunately, oneesan is here to clue you in.
Spearheaded by artist and visionary Yako Miyamoto, COBU is more of a statement in taiko than a collaboration. We are heard. We are seen. We are felt. We are here. A handful of iron women play tirelessly in perfect sync. A little humor, an appropriate smattering of sexy and a metric ton of showmanship make COBU a delight for audiences across the tri-state area.
This year’s Branch Brook Park performance in New Jersey was a staggering hit by COBU, showcasing the talent of their following, or deshi. Upstage, COBU performing members Micro Fukuyama and Haruna Hisada kept time and loudly cheered on the fledgling members as they demonstrated some of COBU’S trademark choreography and pulsing patterns. If you have ever witnessed a COBU show before, it’s easy to become dazzled by the performing members, but this showcase invited audiences to the notion that, hey, they can be a part of this rhythm, too.
Tom Baker (Chiba-ken, 1989-91) spent many years on the staff of The Daily Yomiuri. On April 1 this year, The Daily Yomiuri became The Japan News. The paper’s website includes a daily video introducing a few sample headlines from each day’s paper, and Tom is one of the presenters. His latest video appears below, and you can see more at the-japan-news.com or The Japan News’ YouTube page.
On April 17, members of the JET Alumni Association of New York (JETAANY) were invited to attend a reception at the Nippon Club for the Governor of Tokyo, Naoki Inose, who was in New York to drum up support for his city’s bid for the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics. Among the guests at the reception included Willie Banks, the three-time track and field Olympian, and world record holder from 1985-95 in Men’s Triple Jump. (Cool trivia: Banks speaks fluent Japanese.)
And on May 3, several JETAANY members, along with employees of CLAIR and the Japanese consulate, were on site to help Inuyama City Council Member Anthony Bianchi (Aichi-ken, 1987-91) and B. Bridges participants at the Japan Friendship Festival at Brooklyn Borough Hall Plaza. The B. Bridges program (short for “Brooklyn Bridge” as well as “Building Bridges” and “Be Bridges”) was created as a cultural exchange program by Bianchi and the administration of Xaverian High School, of which Bianchi is an alumnus.
“The idea for the B. Bridges exchange program was born 10 years ago at an event the Brooklyn Borough President, Marty Markowitz, held for me at Borough Hall after my first election, so it was great to be able to hold this, our Japan Friendship Festival: Inuyama Day at Borough Hall,” Bianchi said.
The program has sent close to 500 people from Brooklyn to Inuyama City and vice versa. This year, 40 participants came from Inuyama City to stay with families of students attending the school. On a beautiful sunny day, JETAANY members were able to help the group out at various booths which showcased tea ceremony, Japanese calligraphy, and traditional Japanese toys and wares.
“The cooperation of the Brooklyn Borough President’s Office, the Japanese Consulate of New York, the Japan Local Government Center, and the JET Alumni Association of New York were crucial to making this event successful,” explained Bianchi.
He added: “I was also proud of our B. Bridges members, as well as our exchange partners at Xaverian High School, who made great use of the opportunity. This, I believe, made the event a great experience for all those in attendance.”
This month’s highlights include:
Sunday, May 12, 10:30 a.m.
Now in its seventh year, Japan Day has won acclaim from New Yorkers from every walk of life, with Mayor Michael Bloomberg calling it an eagerly anticipated cultural event on the city’s calendar. For this year’s event, organizers are planning once again to have both the Japan Run (beginning at 8:00 a.m.) and the Japan Day Festival, emphasizing enjoyable activities for all ages that will deepen participants’ understanding and appreciation of Japanese culture—not to mention the food, drinks and snacks! Hosted by CNN national correspondent Sandra Endo, this year’s guest performers include Taiko Masala, Kylee, Yosakoi Dance Project 10tecomai, Chris Hart, and the Glory Gospel Singers.
May 16-June 2
La MaMa Experimental Theatre, 74 East 4th Street
$30 adults, $25 students/seniors
Deadly She-Wolf Assassin at Armageddon! is the latest music/theater and martial arts tour de force from collaborators Fred Ho and Ruth Margraff. A daring and imaginative homage to the 1970s Japanese raging cult manga and theatrical hit Lone Wolf and Cub (Kozure Ookami)—which has inspired many other adaptations and works in comic books and film over the past decades—Deadly She-Wolf explodes with a ferocious stylistic mix of Japanese Noh theater and modern-day anime and manga influences with unique multi-martial arts and sword fighting choreography and a glorious score fusing traditional Japanese music and soul-jazz. Raised as a weapon by a brutal conspirator, a young female assassin discovers that her target has spun the empire of Japan into crisis and ruin–and–is none other than her father. Torn between loyalty to her mission, her nation and her soul, she must face the unimaginable at the twilight of an imperial epoch.
For the complete story, click here.
By Preston Hatfield (Yamanashi-ken, 2009-10) for JQ magazine. Preston received a B.A. in English literature with an emphasis in creative writing and a minor in Japanese at the University of California, Davis. After spending an amazing year on JET in Yamanashi, he spent a year writing and interning with book publishing companies in New York. He currently lives in Marin County, where he continues to cover local Japan-related stories for JQ, and teaches English as a second language at an international school in San Francisco.
This April marks the forty-sixth time that San Francisco has hosted the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival. As one of the world’s top annual festivals of its kind and one of the largest Japanese American events in the country, the festival has made quite a reputation for itself, and each year it’s bigger and better. Whether you’ve been to Japan before and need a fix of your favorite street food, or you’re a newbie interested in exploring the culture, the NCCBF offers a comprehensive and top-notch Japan experience that includes traditional and modern elements.
If you’ve been to other festivals, you already know to expect tea ceremony demonstrations, doll exhibits, taiko performances, and cosplay competitions, but pay attention and you’ll also notice a powerful sense of community in every act and exhibit. Excepting a handful of wonderful guests from Japan (including this year’s Grand Marshal, renowned singer and actor Teruhiko Saigo), the NCCBF is put on wholly by the Bay Area’s Japanese American community, including some 300 volunteers, 50 organizations, schools, and groups, and is sponsored by a number of local businesses. In some respects, it’s their way of making a statement, as Allen Okamoto, co-chairman of the NCCBF, explains:
“One of the reasons I continue to volunteer with the festival is that Japantown is rapidly changing. The demographics of the community are changing with the intermarriage and lack of migration from Japan. I consider the festival as an institution the same as the Japanese language schools, the churches and other community organizations like the Japanese Community Youth Council, Kimochi, Inc. and the Japanese Cultural & Community Center. We are all continuing the culture and heritage of things Japanese.”
The festival has become something of a culture treasure here, and it’s no wonder. San Francisco, with a formidable but recently declining Japanese American population, is home to one of the last “true” Japantowns in the U.S., but some locals think that’s debatable. “I saw [at the festival] a hardworking community [bringing] culture and fun to Japantown, which for the rest of the year is slowly being eaten by non-Japanese businesses. Koreatown sometimes feels more appropriate,” said Bay Area resident and JET alum Mikeal Gibson.
News agency Kyodo News has recently been publishing monthly articles written by JET alumni who were appointed in rural areas of Japan, as part of promotion for the JET Programme. Below is the English version of the column from April 2013. Posted by Celine Castex (Chiba-ken, 2006-11), currently programme coordinator at CLAIR Tokyo.
Writer, director, and professor, Darryl Wharton-Rigby (Fukushima-ken, Kawamata-machi, 2005-07) hails from a family of poets and storytellers in Baltimore, Maryland. He has earned a BA in History from Ithaca College and a MFA in Film Directing from Chapman University. After being hired by MTV Films to write a screenplay based on the Japanese manga TokyoTribe 2, he moved to Japan and taught English in a small town in Fukushima. He shot his latest short film, Obon, in the town of Natori, which is one of the areas of Japan hardest hit by the earthquake and tsunami. He is now working on a documentary, Don Doko Don: The Yamakiya Taiko Club Story, about a group of young drummers who were displaced due to high levels of radiation in their community from the failed nuclear plant. He has earned awards and grants from the Urbanworld Film Festival, the Maryland State Arts Council, The Painted Bride Arts Center, the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame, and the Caucus Foundation for his work. He splits his time between Baltimore, Los Angeles and Japan where he currently lives, and credits his wife and three children as his ultimate muse.
A lifetime of happiness
One of the most satisfying and rewarding jobs in my life was working as an ALT in Kawamata in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan from 2005–2007. I have learned over the years that everything happens for a reason and that sometimes in life we are chosen to be at a certain place at a certain time.
I was 37 years old and living in Los Angeles, CA. I was living the life of a struggling filmmaker and needed a change, a break, from my career in film, television, and theatre. Since my first trip to Tokyo on a business trip for MTV I had been longing to return to Japan, because I knew there was more for me to learn and know about Japan. Applying for the JET Programme seemed the perfect opportunity.
From the moment I got accepted, life has moved at a rapid pace. I was placed in Kawamata, in Fukushima Prefecture, a quiet town with rice fields and rivers surrounded by mountains. My life in Kawamata was an adventure every day. I worked in two junior high schools, several elementary schools and kindergartens. It always brought a smile to my face, when I would hear students call my name, “Dariru-sensei!” I did my best to help the Japanese teachers in the classroom with activities and games. I got to know many of the students and could tell the ones who were enthusiastic towards learning English. Read More
Thanks to JET alum and journalist Olivia Nilsson for sharing this excellent JET-relevant opportunity. Posted by Kay Monroe (Miyazaki-shi, 1995 -97). Click here to join the JETwit Jobs Google Group and receive job listings even sooner by email.
Position: Reporter /Researcher
Posted by: The Yomiuri Shimbun
Salary: Approximate $40,000 with health insurance
Start Date: Immediately
Applicants should have a background in international relations, foreign policy or journalism. Attention to accuracy and the faculty to multitask effectively under daily deadline pressure is required. Ability to develop and maintain good sources, a strong work ethic and ability to take direction well and work collaboratively with others is essential. Japanese language skills are preferred but not necessary. Read More
Spring has sprung in the Big Apple, and that means one thing: a new season of sounds, colors, and spectacular performing arts to match the blossoming sakura trees throughout the city.
This month’s highlights include:
BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts Center Theatre 2, 199 Chambers Street
$50 general admission, $15 students (use discount code STU at Smarttix page)
A story of courage and personnel sacrifice of an American doctor and the Japanese medical staff who risked their lives following the devastating earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disasters that struck Japan on March 11, 2011, Hikobae is a fictionalized story based on recorded interviews with physicians and nurses from Soma City Hospital, a medical center in the Fukushima evacuation zone. Supported by the Tribute WTC Visitor Center, proceeds from the production will benefit the Momo-Kaki Orphan Fund, which supports children who lost their parents in the disaster. The theater piece will be performed in English and Japanese, with subtitles projected behind the actors.
BAM Rose Cinemas, 30 Lafayette Avenue
$13 adults, $9 children and matinees, $8 members
Part of BAMcinématek. For nearly three decades, the films of Hayao Miyazaki and the company he founded, Studio Ghibli, have revolutionized the art of animation. Miyazaki’s indelible style—which weds the uncanniness of Lewis Carroll and the epic grandeur of Akira Kurosawa—stands as a testament to the beauty and imaginative power of hand-drawn animation, conjuring richly realized worlds replete with mystical spirits and shot through with an abiding concern for the relationship between humans and nature. All films directed by Hayao Miyazaki and in 35mm.
Sunday, April 14, 7:00 p.m.
Best Buy Theater, 1515 Broadway
$25, $100 VIP meet and greet
Born in 1993 in Tokyo, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu attracted attention with her individual blog, and has been active as a model in Japan. A charismatic personality that represents the youth fashion of Harajuku, her smash single “PONPONPON“—released on her debut album shortly after she finished high school—became a big hit around the world, racking up over 46 million views on YouTube to date. Receiving plenty of attention as the symbol of kawaii (or “cuteness” in Japanese), Kyary Pamyu Pamyu makes her New York concert debut as part of her ambitious 10-country “100%KPP” tour.
For the complete story, click here.
Each month, current and former JET participants are featured in the “JET Plaza” section of the CLAIR Forum magazine. The May 2012 edition includes an article by Dr. Mark Williams, a former British English Teachers Scheme (BETS), the forerunner to the JET Programme. Posted by Celine Castex (Chiba-ken, 2006-11), currently programme coordinator at CLAIR Tokyo.
After graduating from the University of Oxford with a a BA in Japanese Studies, Dr. Mark Williams (Gunma-ken, Maebashi-shi, 1979-81) came to Japan to work as a member of the British English Teachers Scheme (BETS) in Gunma Prefecture. He moved from there to California to pursue a Ph.D. in postwar Japanese literature then joined the University of Leeds, UK, as a Lecturer in Japanese, to become Professor of Japanese Studies a few years later. He has just completed a 4-year term as President of the British Association for Japanese Studies and 5 years as Head of the School of Modern Languages and Cultures at Leeds and is currently on secondment as Vice President for Academic Affairs at Akita International University, Japan.
The Japan I Came to Know
Two Years in Gunma Prefecture
I participated on the British English Teachers Scheme (BETS) Programme for two years from 1979 to 1981. The BETS Programme was proposed by Nicholas MacLean and is also known as the MacLean Scheme. In Gunma Prefecture, I worked four days per week for two years at one base school each year (Maebashi Minami Senior High School my first year and Shibukawa Girl’s Senior High School my second year). The remaining day of the work week I spent visiting senior high schools throughout the prefecture, and I can say I likely visited every senior high school in the prefecture.
At the time, team-teaching classes were not as established as now, and no matter how enthusiastic, attempts to conduct entire classes in English were unfortunately often short-lived. The classes I conducted at the school I visited on Wednesdays were rich in variety resulting in a trial-and-error approach on my behalf. The several hundred-student school body would gather at once, and I would speak to them in English about my home country England, or explain the origin of English vocabulary words or the characteristics of the English language.
I was one of only a handful of foreigner instructors in Gunma Prefecture at the time. As such, I stood out greatly and even made front-page headlines in a local newspaper. My experience began with my arrival in Japan. The principal of my school came to meet me at Narita Airport, and we traveled from there to Maebashi Station. As soon as I exited Maebashi Station, I found myself surrounded by news reporters. One of them asked about my hobbies, and I replied “I enjoy music.” The headlines of the next morning’s newspaper reported, “New foreign instructor likes to sing.”
Each month, current and former JET participants are featured in the “JET Plaza” section of the CLAIR Forum magazine. The April 2013 edition includes an article by JET alumn Hannah Olivieri. Posted by Celine Castex (Chiba-ken, 2006-11), currently programme coordinator at CLAIR Tokyo.
Hannah Olivieri (Chiba-ken, Minami-Boso, 2008-11) is from Orange County, California and currently works for Otafuku Foods as a translator and administrative assistant. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from UCLA. In her spare time she does salsa dance, volleyball, boxing, poi, and classical piano, which she has been studying for nearly 26 years. She has even learned nihon buyoh, shamisen and koto while in Japan, where she spent 3 years in an ALT in a town of Chiba Prefecture. Currently, Hannah is serving as Co-President of the JET Alumni Association of Southern California where she works to promote cultural relations between Japan and the US on the local community level.
The Heart of Tradition
I remember very clearly the day I first set foot in what was to become my hometown while in Japan. I could hear the voices of the cicadas in the trees and the children playing nearby as I watched the rice in the fields sway gently in the afternoon breeze. Matsuo Basho’s summer haiku about the cry of the cicadas came to mind as I walked to school greeted by the students in the cool of the morning. It was as if coming to Japan was like a dream I had not yet awakened from.
Life in the countryside is something that only those that have experienced it personally can truly understand. I was able to take part in many traditional activities thanks to living far outside the limits of the big cities. As someone who studied anthropology in college, the ability to experience a new culture first hand was truly an exciting prospect. It was as if everything I saw became something tangible and jumped out of the pages of my textbooks to become something real right in front of me. Soon, my schedule began to fill up with activities like Japanese dance, koto and shamisen lessons, Japanese cooking, and flower arrangement, among other things.
Via JETAA DC. Posted by Kay Monroe (Miyazaki-shi, 1995 -97). Click here to join the JETwit Jobs Google Group and receive job listings even sooner by email.
Position: Associate Producer
Posted by: TV ASAHI America
Start Date: N/A
The Washington, D.C. Bureau of TV Asahi, a national Japanese broadcasting company (similar to ABC, NBC or CBS) is currently seeking candidates for a full-time Associate
The Associate Producer will assist the Bureau in its newsgathering, reporting, and production activities for news broadcasts in Japan.
- BA degree minimum; MA degree preferred
- English language fluency required, with strong oral and written communication skills; Japanese language ability a plus, but not required Read More
Released in conjunction with the New York International Children’s Film Festival March 15, From Up on Poppy Hill, the newest work from Studio Ghibli, is now playing at four locations in New York City.
Founded in 1985, the name Studio Ghibli (pronounced ji-blee) is based on the Arabic name for the sirocco, or Mediterranean wind, the idea being the studio would represent a new wind blowing through the industry. Today it is recognized as Japan’s most celebrated animation film studio thanks to the works of its co-founder Hayao Miyazaki, whose own Spirited Away is the highest-grossing film in Japanese history and the Academy Award winner for Best Animated Feature in 2003. (A recent poll conducted in Japan revealed the nation’s favorite Ghibli film to be 1988’s My Neighbor Totoro, claiming 24.3 percent of the vote.)
Co-written by Miyazaki and directed by his son Goro, From Up on Poppy Hill is a period piece that takes place in Yokohama 50 years ago, focusing on an innocent romance that blossoms between Umi and Shun, two high school kids caught up in the changing times. Produced in North America by GKIDS, the English-language edition features the voice talents of stars like Gillian Anderson, Jamie Lee Curtis, Ron Howard, and many more.
For showtimes and tickets for From Up on Poppy Hill, visit www.gkids.tv/poppyhill.
Position: Assistant Correspondent
Posted by: Chunichi Shimbun Group
Location: London, UK
Salary: £21,600 (plus reasonable travel up to London zone 5 and half yearly bonuses of £500)
Start Date: N/A
The Chunichi Shimbun Group is looking to recruit an Assistant Correspondent for our European Bureau based in London. Working in a team of two Correspondents and two Assistant Correspondents, you will assist the Correspondents in preparing articles to be published in Japan and handle bureau administration.
The European Bureau covers political, economic, cultural and sports news from the UK, Northern Europe, European institutions and Sub-Saharan Africa.
The group’s newspapers, The Chunichi Shimbun and The Tokyo Shimbun, are published twice daily in Japan, in Japanese, with a readership of over 4 million.
Flexibility is essential as although you will work mainly during office hours, you will occasionally be required to work overtime. You should also be willing to travel within Read More
By Renay Loper (Iwate-ken, 2006-07) for JQ magazine. Renay is a freelance writer and associate program officer at the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership. Visit her blog at Atlas in Her Hand.
Best known for his features like Doubles (about Japan and America’s intercultural children), After America…After Japan (about the migration of Americans to Japan and Japanese to America) and Struggle and Success: The African American Experience in Japan, Life opens the window for the viewer to glimpse the life of Taylor Anderson (Miyagi-ken, 2008-11) through personal accounts from her loved ones. Laced with emotional reflections, vivid photos and jovial home movies, the film walks the viewer through Taylor’s 24 years on earth and untimely end caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of 2011. In light of the tragedy, the film sends a message of hope, optimism and encouragement for all to follow their hearts.
The film is divided into chapters, beginning with the first, “She Took Her Time.” Jean Anderson, Taylor’s mother, reveals how in everything Taylor did, she did it at her own pace, including her birth: she was 11 days late. According to her father, Andy Anderson, Taylor grew up inquisitive, interested and easygoing, never letting anyone influence her decisions. Julia Anderson-Kerr and Jeffrey Anderson (Taylor’s sister and brother, respectively) shared what it was like to grow up with such a peaceful and patient sibling.
From as early as they could remember, Taylor was into reading, exploring and having fun. Growing up near Richmond, VA, she was first introduced to Japanese at Millwood Elementary School. Her teacher exposed her to the language, artifacts and clothing of Japan at an early age, and from that point on she was hooked. Unfortunately, when she moved on to St. Catherine’s High School, Japanese was not an option, so she continued to study on her own.
It wasn’t until her college years at Randolph-Macon College in nearby Ashland that Taylor had the opportunity to visit Japan. She traveled to Tokyo for a January course designed to expose students to the history of the city. Later that summer, Taylor taught at a Japanese language academy, where she was adored by all. It was because of Taylor’s contagious zeal for Japan that her childhood friends and classmates became interested in the country and culture as well. She exposed them to anime, manga and the films of Hayao Miyazaki, inspiring some of them to travel to Japan and explore it for themselves.
Each month, current and former JET participants are featured in the “JET Plaza” section of the CLAIR Forum magazine. The March 2012 edition includes an article by JET alumn Jessyca Wilcox. Posted by Celine Castex (Chiba-ken, 2006-11), currently programme coordinator at CLAIR Tokyo.
As the daughter of parents in the State Department, Jessyca (Wilcox) Livingston (Hokkaido, 2003-06) spent her early childhood years immersed in Japan and most of the rest of her youth abroad. After graduating from Rutgers University she worked as a Park Ranger/Ecologist with the National Park Service. Her affinity for Japan led her to return as a JET Program participant. Jessyca spent three years as an ALT in Urahoro-cho, an experience which deepened her love for Japan and its people. Upon returning the USA, she quickly got involved in her local JETAA chapter in the Rocky Mountain region and secured a job at the Consulate General of Japan in Denver as the JET Program Coordinator. Jessyca served as treasurer of RMJETAA from 2008-10, then served two terms as a JETAA USA Country Representative from 2010-2012. She has participated in several conferences ranging from regional to international during her service with JETAA. Jessyca currently serves on the JETAA USA Advisory Board to help to guide and ensure the success of JETAA USA at the national level.
Once a JET, Always a JET
My love affair with Japan started at age one when my family moved to the coastal town of Hayama in Kanagawa Prefecture. My father worked on the nearby navy base and my mother settled into domestic life in Japan while I ran around with the neighborhood kids. I learned Japanese, they learned that there were more than just one kind of people in the world and we all learned that having fun together didn’t depend on what you looked like or what language you spoke. Friendship transcended all of that. That was my first experience with grass-roots internationalization. It was years before the JET Program would be established.
My family moved on to live in other countries, but I was able to return to Japan on several happy occasions. My Japanese language abilities fluctuated, but my Japanese friends remained steadfast. I experienced both the rewards of articulating myself well and the embarrassment of stumbling through sentences and making ungraceful mistakes. Through it all, Japan remained a common thread in my studies and personal life. I studied Japanese in school because I understood it was a vehicle to stay connected to the people and place I loved.
I found the JET Program in a school hallway in the form of a poster. I wrote down the information and filed it away for my future. I knew it had a place in my life. When the time was right, I submitted my application, and waited. Read More