Jun 25

TED JETs: Roland Kelts on “The Core of Cool Japan: Sustainability vs. Stagnation”

Posted by Tom Baker


JETs tend to be interesting people. After all, every one of them has relocated to a different country at least once. It’s not surprising that many of them have also had other interesting experiences, some of which lead to insights that they end up sharing in TED talks.

This is part of an occasional series on current or former JETs who have given TED talks. Here is JET alum Roland Kelts speaking about “The Core of Cool Japan: Sustainability vs. Stagnation.”


Apr 14

Posted by Tom Baker


The 12th annual Japan Writer’s Conference will be held this year in Hokkaido, a new location for the event. The organizers are now seeking writers to give presentations on the weekend of Oct. 13-14 at Otaru University of Commerce in Otaru, Hokkaido. If you are a writer and would like to participate, contact details appear at the bottom of this post.

Each year, the Japan Writers Conference attracts English-language writers in a variety of genres and fields to share ideas on the art, craft and business of writing. And each year, a significant number of past and present JETs take part. These have included anthologist Suzanne Kamata, textbook author Todd Jay Leonard, travel writer Victoria Vlisides, short story writer Claire Dawn-Marie Gittens, novelists Benjamin Martin, Percival Constantine and Holly Thompson (the last of whom came to Japan in connection with the pre-JET MEF program), and journalists Elaine Lies and Tom Baker (the latter of whom wrote this post).

Past presenters have also included Australian poet David Gibley, “Slumdog Millionaire” novelist Vikas Swarup, “Cash Crash Jubilee” novelist Eli K.P. William, young-adult author Margi Preus, horror author Thersa Matsuura, and memoirist Leza Lowitz. The 2017 edition of “The Best American Mystery Stories,” edited by John Sandford, features a story by Karen McGee, who hosted the 2017 event in Tokyo. The host of this year’s event will be travel writer and textbook author Shawn Clankie.

Representatives of literary journals such as The Font and Cha have participated in past years, as have representatives of publishers including Fine Line Press and Isobar Press.

Run entirely by volunteers, the Japan Writers Conference is a free event open to all. Details on this year’s event can be found at http://www.japanwritersconference.org.

Writers interested in making a presentation at the 2018 conference are asked to contact organizer John Gribble at gribblej@gol.com. The deadline for presentation proposals is June 1.


Apr 14

TED JETs: Bruce Feiler on “Agile programming — for your family”

 

Posted by Tom Baker


JETs tend to be interesting people. After all, every single one of them has voluntarily relocated to a different country at least once. It’s not surprising that many of them have also had other interesting experiences, some of which lead to insights that they end up sharing in TED talks.

This post begins an occasional series on current or former JETs who have given TED talks. To kick things off, here is Tochigi Prefecture JET alum Bruce Feiler speaking about “Agile programming — for your family.”


Dec 24

JQ Magazine: Jamming After JET — Rural Island Alums Release New Albums

“Living in Japan exposes you to music you would not have heard otherwise. I owe most of my knowledge to availability of 100 yen records all over the country and the friendly record store employees that were eager to teach me about Japanese music.” (Courtesy of Eli Cohen)

 

By Greg Beck (Hiroshimaken, 2006-11) for JQ magazine. Greg is a writer, producer, home brewer, and Social Coordinator for JETAA Southern California and Arizona. A former news producer for Tokyo Broadcasting System in New York, he currently works freelance in Los Angeles. For more cinema reviews, follow him on Twitter at @CIRBECK #MovieReview.

Regardless of your placement on JET, music is a constant part of the experience. Whether it is karaoke parties with friends, music festivals like Fuji Rock, “live house” local performances, or simply singing Beatles and Carpenters with your students (over and over), all of us take something musical with us from our time on JET. But what about musicians who join JET? JQ reached out to two alumni from small islands off the coast of Kyushu, who have gone on to release their own albums, and hear from them how these unique records reflect that experience.

Eli Cohen (Kagoshima-ken, 2009-2010) runs the International Admissions department at one of the City University of New York’s institutions. He is also a DJ who started a record label, Alliance Upholstery. His new album, Tokyo Nights: Female J-Pop Boogie Funk —1981 to 1988, is a collection of music that fits into this genre.

If that sounds obscure, we thought so, too. Cohen explains: “In high school I was really into Japanese punk (Teengenerate, Guitar Wolf). This is where my interest in Japan started. As I grew older, I became very interested in Japanese music from the ’80s, as well as fashion and art from the era. Japanese people refer to this style as ‘City Pop.’ Outside of Japan, the term is a little vague and people often call this Japanese Boogie. The sound reflects the attitude and excitement of the bubble, bright and full of optimism,” adding that his favorite artist is Toshiki Kadomatsu.

Cultures of Soul Records (click image for audio samples)

Many JETs can probably relate to Cohen’s experience as a JET placed on a rural, island, both in the difficulties adjusting, and the unexpected opportunities. Having spent several years before JET living in Osaka and Tokyo, Cohen was placed in Minamitane, below the southernmost tip of Kyushu, which he describes as “a tiny town of about 8,000 people on the island of Tanegashima.” Before that, he says, “I had felt very little culture shock when I first moved to Japan as I had only lived in major cities. Tanegashima was my first taste of inaka life and a very unique and challenging experience.” While he admits, “The students were great but I prefer city life and was eager to return to Tokyo,” he also shared the following: “JAXA, the Japanese space program, is based in Minamitane. There was a bar in town appropriately titled Moon Bar. I would DJ there on occasion and tried to incorporate space themes into the sets.”

Read More


Aug 27

 

Posted by Tom Baker (Chiba, 1989-91).

The Japan Writers Conference is a free annual event for English-language writers, held in a different part of Japan each year. In 2017, it will take place in Tokyo at the Ekoda Campus of Nihon University College of Art on Oct. 8-9, the last two days of a Japanese holiday weekend.

There will be will be about 30 presentations by published writers of fiction, poetry, memoir, travel writing and more. Several of those writers are former JETs.

JET alumnae Susan Laura Sullivan and Suzanne Kamata, for example, will give a joint presentation on editing anthologies. Sullivan is the editor of the forthcoming anthology “Women of a Certain Age,” while Kamata’s published anthologies include “Call Me Okaa-san” and “The Broken Bridge.”

Kamata will also give a presentation together with Ann Tashi Slater on creative nonfiction.

.

JET alum and textbook author Todd Jay Leonard, whose many titles include “American Traditions,” will give a lecture on “The Ever-Changing Publishing Industry,” in which he will discuss traditional versus print-on-demand publishing, followed by a Q&A session.

Poet and novelist Holly Thompson, who first came to Japan in connection with the pre-JET MEF program, will present “Writing Picture Books: Nonfiction Opportunities.” Her published works include “The Wakame Gatherers.”

For details on those and the other presentations, visit www.japanwritersconference.org or follow @JapanWritersCon on Twitter.

The Japan Writers Conference, now in its 11th year, is completely volunteer-run, and admission is free.


Jul 15

JQ Magazine: Manga Review — ‘Kitaro and the Great Tanuki War’

The Great Tanuki War stands apart from the other Kitaro volumes because in this adventure, the stakes are higher than anything you’ve ever seen.” (Drawn and Quarterly)

 

By Julio Perez Jr. (Kyoto-shi, 2011-13) for JQ magazine. A bibliophile, writer, translator, and graduate from Columbia University, Julio currently keeps the lights on by working at JTB USA while writing freelance in New York. Follow his enthusiasm for Japan, literature, and comic books on his blog and Twitter @brittlejules.

A haunted house built on an ancient burial ground? That’s minor league. How about an entire nation built above an army of human-hating yokai who command a catfish large enough to cause earthquakes?

Shigeru Mizuki’s Kitaro and The Great Tanuki War is a manga volume that tells an epic tale pitting the titular character, Kitaro, against an army of tanuki and their powerful yokai allies. There are also a few bonus stories with Kitaro’s usual one-shot adventures. You may already be familiar with Mizuki’s famous character, but if you are not, you can brush up on his origin story featured in the first volume, The Birth of Kitaro, which JQ reviewed last year here.

This marks the third volume in the English collection of Kitaro stories published by the fine folks at Drawn and Quarterly. One of our very own JET alums, Zack Davisson (Nara-ken, 2001-04; Osaka-shi, 2004-06), has been doing his part to put Shigeru Mizuki’s timeless work on the map in the English-speaking world. He has served as translator for these Kitaro stories and also for Mizuki’s colossal four-volume manga history of the Showa period. Zack is a yokai expert in his own right and you can find out more about his career and JET experience in our vintage JQ interview with him.

As many consumers of Japanese media may already be aware, yokai are strange creatures or phenomena that originate in Japan and have become widely popular globally. Kitaro is a unique yokai who solves mysteries and fights for humans. The conflict between humans and yokai is often an issue of tension for him as he straddles both sides, but this conflict takes center stage in The Great Tanuki War, when an army of tanuki escape from their underground dwelling beneath the island of Shikoku (shout-out to our Shikoku JET alums!), to wage a war on the human residents of Japan.

Read More


Dec 29
"This graphic novel series arrests your attention, from the immersive quality of the art, to the highs of self depreciating humor, to the lows of isolation and despair that run through it. Those who have lived abroad will find a lot to relate to." (Top Shelf Productions)

“This graphic novel series arrests your attention, from the immersive quality of the art, to the highs of self depreciating humor, to the lows of isolation and despair that run through it. Those who have lived abroad will find much to relate to.” (Top Shelf Productions)

 

By Julio Perez Jr. (Kyoto-shi, 2011-13) for JQ magazine. A bibliophile, writer, translator, and graduate from Columbia University, Julio currently keeps the lights on by working at JTB USA while writing freelance in New York. Follow his enthusiasm for Japan, literature, and comic books on his blog and Twitter @brittlejules.

Everyone has felt out of place at some point in their lives. People who choose to live abroad sometimes make that their everyday. In Tonoharu, cartoonist and JET alum Lars Martinson (Fukuoka-ken, 2003-2006; Kyoto-fu, 2011-2016) illustrates a story exploring themes of human relationships through the experience of an English teacher in Japan on a journey of self-discovery. Told in three parts, the final volume was released in November and represents many years of work for Martinson that began to see fruition when he received the Xeric Grant for Comic Book Self-Publishers in 2007.

Tonoharu is a tale of several non-Japanese teachers of English living in the titular rural town outside of Fukuoka City, mostly from the viewpoint of a young American named Dan Wells. Wells feels out of place in Japan, but claims to have felt the same way back home without having the excuse of being a foreigner. The reader climbs in the back seat for an intimate road trip with him through his pursuit of purpose and success in his job and social life, privy to all manner of encounters from intimacy in the bedroom to traditional parades with locally made floats. In just one year, Wells encounters unique challenges in his work, frustrations with seemingly unrequited romantic interest for another American, confusion and alarm at the mysterious activities of other foreigners in Tonoharu, and worst of all, the inability to replace light bulbs in his apartment!

Tonoharu is full of quiet moments that when described may come off as unimpressive, but they are always captivating and powerful in the way the words and imagery captures the moodiness of imperfect exchanges between people that are not usually seen in glossier fiction. This quality is enhanced by a lack of narration—the framing story of Dan’s successor (also named Dan) features his narration, but in the main story the characters only express themselves by speaking to one another. Often the things they don’t say, their expressions and their body language, and the things they choose to say while alone, speak just as powerfully as the introspective autobiographical style of narrative-driven graphic novels such as Persepolis.

Read More


Oct 29

JQ Magazine: Nippon in New York — ‘We Are X,’ ‘Tonoharu,’ VAMPS, Momoiro Clover Z

 

By JQ magazine editor Justin Tedaldi (CIR Kobe-shi, 2001-02). Justin has written about Japanese arts and entertainment for JETAA since 2005. For more of his articles, click here.

From the silver screen to the stage to J-pop, November is just as colorful as the autumn leaves drifting through the air. Add these live events to the mix and you’ve got an irresistibly epic rundown.

This month’s highlights include:

Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival

Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival

Friday, Nov. 4, various times

We Are X

Alamo Drafthouse Downtown Brooklyn, 445 Albee Square West

$11

East Coast premiere! This award-winning documentary debuted at Sundance and SXSW earlier this year chronicles the back story of the hard rock band X Japan, as its star drummer Yoshiki prepares for a reunion concert at Madison Square Garden. While virtually unknown to U.S. audiences, Yoshiki has sold more than 30 million records overseas, where he enjoys an A-list following. Directed by Stephen Kijak (Stones in Exile) and produced by John Battsek (Searching for Sugar Man), We Are X includes testimonials from such high-profile X fans as Gene Simmons and Marilyn Manson. See Yoshiki and director Stephen Kijak in person for Q&A on Fri, 11/4 following the 7:30 p.m. show. Director Stephen Kijak appears in person for Q&A Sat, 11/5 following the 6:30 p.m. show.

Top Shelf Productions

Top Shelf Productions

Tuesday, Nov. 8

Tonoharu: Part Three

$24.95                                              

The long-awaited final volume of the critically acclaimed Tonoharu series from JET alum Lars Martinson (Fukuoka-ken, 2003-2006) rejoins Dan Wells several months into his tenure as an English teacher in the Japanese village of Tonoharu. As personal stresses push Dan to the breaking point, he decides to take an extended cross-country vacation to let off steam. His time away grants him a fresh perspective on his troubles, but upon his return to Tonoharu, Dan discovers that dramatic change has occurred in his absence. Will this upheaval render his new-found epiphany moot? With hundreds of beautiful, detailed illustrations that evoke 19th century line engravings, Tonoharu provides a nuanced portrayal of the joys and frustrations of living abroad.

© Hiromi Sonoda

© Hiromi Sonoda

Friday, Nov. 11, 8:30 p.m.

Sounds to Summon the Japanese Gods: Ko Ishikawa

Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street

$20, $15 Japan Society members. A limited number of Lobby Seats are available for purchase. Please call the box office at (212) 715-1258 to inquire.

Step into a space where otherworldly sounds abound. Led by Ko Ishikawa, master player of the sho (ancient Japanese mouth organ) and internationally active contemporary musician, this program offers selections spanning from medieval gagaku (Imperial Court music) to works by acclaimed music composer Mamoru Fujieda. Ishikawa will be joined by Kayoko Nakagawa on koto and Ami Yamasaki on voice for this musical soiree, which also incorporates the sounds of fermenting shochu (Japan’s distilled alcohol), a highly sacred beverage in Japanese mythology.

Read More


Sep 4

By Jon Dao(Toyama-ken, 2009-12) for his podcast Discussions with Dao. Jon works as a speech coach and personal trainer.


The third appearance by former Toyama JET Randy Higashi. Unlike most of the other returnees I know, Randy actually went back to Japan for another two year stint. In this episode, we spend a lot of the discussion comparing the two experiences. Be sure to follow Randy on Instagram and check out the Takkomachi Facebook Page!

Why go back again? (1:20)

Which stay in Japan was better– the first or second? (8:36)

 How does it feel to come back a second time? (10:10)

How can you tell going back to work in Japan is a good decision or not? (12:57)

Did you see unrealistic expectations and fandom of Japan from ALTs? (16:46)

The Japanese Office Culture (19:40)

Fan Question (24:40

Don’t Leave Your Cleaning/Packing Up Til the End (30:30)

Omiyage Again (38:02)

https://www.instagram.com/p/BAeJ7HqS7tt/


Aug 27

2016 Japan Writers Conference in Tokushima

Posted by Tom Baker (Chiba, 1989-91).

The Japan Writers Conference is a free annual event for English-language writers, held in a different part of Japan each year. In 2016, it will take place on the weekend of Oct. 29-30 at Tokushima University in Shikoku. A good number of current and former JETs always take part, and one of them is this year’s conference host: Tokushima University Lecturer Suzanne Kamata.

JWCSuzanne has written several novels and compiled several anthologies and is an editor for www.literarymama.com. She and three other published authors will participate in a panel called “Inspiring Fiction: Where do You Get Your Ideas?”

That panel is just one of about 30 presentations scheduled. JET alum and textbook author Todd Jay Leonard will give a lecture titled “Helpful Hints on How to Get Published in the EFL Market in Japan.” JET alum Elaine Lies, a Reuters journalist, will present “Food, Glorious Food,” a workshop on how to write evocatively about the emotional, sensory and nostalgic power of food. Current JET Victoria Vlisides, who writes for JapanTravel.com, will give a presentation called “Bust into the Japan Writing Scene.”

Poet and novelist Holly Thompson, who first came to Japan in connection with the pre-JET MEF program, will give two presentations. One is “Poems with Plot—A Narrative Poetry Workshop.” The other, with novelist Mariko Nagai, is a joint lecture on “Verse Novels Crossing Borders.”

For details on those and about two dozen other presentations, visit www.japanwritersconference.org or follow @JapanWritersCon on Twitter.


Nov 19

************

What do people do after JET? Here’s one great example.

On November 16, JETAA DC held the latest in their JET Talks series with a talk by JET alum George Rose (Fukushima-ken, 1989-91), former interpreter for Hideki Irabu and current Director of Pacific Rim Operations for the New York Yankees, not to mention former JETAA NY President.

Here’s a video of the talk. (Thanks to JETAA DC Vice-President Joy Young for passing this on!) Many great anecdotes including one about interpreting for Hideki Matsui on the Regis and Kathy Show. Plus, did you know that George played a role in helping the Yankees sign Masahiro Tanaka? Watch and enjoy!


Sep 25

***************

Bruce Feiler (Tochigi-ken, 1989-90), author of Learning to Bow  as well as several books on religion including Walking the BibleAbraham and Where God Was Born along with other popular books including The Council of Dads, and, most recently, The Secrets of Happy Family, can now add CNN commentator to his resume. He has been providing religion-related perspectives in live conversations with Anderson CooperWolf Blitzer and others.

Feiler-CNN-Pope

 

 

****************************

Feiler-CNN-AndersonCooper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To read prior JETwit posts about Bruce Feiler, please click here

For more regular updates, follow Bruce on Facebook:  www.facebook.com/brucefeilerauthor.

And Twitter:  www.twitter.com/brucefeiler.


Sep 5

JET alum Richard Fontaine featured in NY Times article on foreign policy of Republican candidates

Fontaine

JET alum Richard Fontaine (1997-98), President at the Center for New American Security, outside advisor to Jeb Bush, and former security advisor to Sen. John McCain

A great article on the foreign policy advisors to several Republican candidates, including JET alum Richard Fontaine–outsider foreign policy advisor to Jeb Bush and former security advisor to Sen. John McCain–who is featured and quoted extensively in the article.

“Between Iraq and a Hawk Base”

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/06/magazine/between-iraq-and-a-hawk-base.html?_r=0


Jul 20

1500px_OiraseStream_Hu

Posted by Eden Law, 2010-2011 ALT Fukushima-ken, President of JETAANSW.

As part of the drive to promote tourism to Japan (not to mention combining a long-held passion and dream), ex-JET Julius Pang introduced a Tohoku photography tour to showcase the beauty of Japan in autumn, in an area that sadly has become known for other things in recent years. Americans are especially well-suited to taking advantage of this tour package, considering how strong the US dollar is against the Australian (yes, Julius’s Australia-based company, Incredible Photo Tours, welcomes overseas clients), travel will be especially cheap, with accommodation, transport and food taken care of.

Starting from Tokyo, the tour goes to various places throughout Tohoku such as Zao Onsen, Sendai, Hiraizumi, Akita, Bandai, Aizu-Wakamatsu, Nikko, Naruko Gorge, Shirakami Sanchi, Hirosaki, Nyuto Onsen and Lake Towada. With the advantage of the inside knowledge of an ex-JET, and the expertise of a tour guide who has won awards for his photography, it’s a great tour package to consider for your next trip to Japan. Julius also has other tours, such as the Japan Classic Autumn tour, that does the classic route of Tokyo, Hakone, Himeji, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Miyajima, Okayama, Takamatsu, Mt Koya and Osaka.

For more information, check out the Tohoku Autumn Tour, or the Classic Autumn Tour at Incredible Photo Tours.


May 2

Justin’s Japan: VAMPS, ‘Monkey Business,’ AKB48 at Japan Day @ Central Park

AKB48 returns to New York for their debut performance at Japan Day @ Central Park May 10. (@AKS)

J-pop superstars AKB48 return for their first New York performance since 2009 at Japan Day @ Central Park May 10. (@AKS)

By JQ magazine editor Justin Tedaldi (CIR Kobe-shi, 2001-02) for Examiner.com. Visit his Japanese culture page here for related stories.

As spring continues and the weather continues to warm, New Yorkers can enjoy activities all over the city both indoors and out.

This month’s highlights include:

Friday, May 1, 8:00 p.m.

VAMPS

Best Buy Theater, 1515 Broadway

$35

Japan’s most daring rock band, VAMPS is fronted by vocalist hyde of L’arc~en~Ciel and guitarist K.A.Z of Oblivion Dust. Now touring in support of their latest album, Bloodsuckers (available on iTunes), VAMPS returns to take another bite out of the Big Apple for their first area performance since 2013.

Monday, May 4, 6:30 p.m.

Monkey Business: Japan/America Writers’ Dialogue in Words and Pictures

Asia Society, 725 Park Avenue

$15, $10 Asia Society members, $12 students/seniors

Join this annual conversation between contemporary Japanese and American authors in which Asia Society hosts an international dialogue, curated and moderated by the co-founders and editors of the Tokyo-based literary journal Monkey Business with writers who are featured in the latest edition of Monkey Business (#5), a unique, cutting-edge annual literary journal which showcases newly-translated Japanese as well as contributions from contemporary American and British writers.

Thursday, May 7, 6:30 p.m.

The Magical Art of Translation: From Haruki Murakami to Japan’s Latest Storytellers

Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street

$12, $8 Japan Society members, students/seniors

Since 1989, Jay Rubin has translated many of Haruki Murakami’s most successful and prize-winning novels, including The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Norwegian Wood and 1Q84. In this program, he is joined by Ted Goossen, translator of Murakami’s most recent U.S. publications, The Strange Library and Wind/Pinball: Two Early Novels, and co-editor of Monkey Business literary magazine, which showcases the best of contemporary Japanese literature for an international audience. They will discuss the unique challenges of translating modern Japanese literary works into American English, and vice versa. Rubin will also talk about his transition from translator to novelist vis-à-vis his debut novel The Sun Gods. Joining the discussion from Tokyo will be authors Aoko Matsuda and Satoshi Kitamura, and Motoyuki Shibata, friend and translating partner of Murakami. Author Roland Kelts, co-editor of Monkey Business, moderates the discussion. Followed by a reception.

For the complete story, click here.


Page Rank