WIT Life is a periodic series written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03). She starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some of the interesting tidbits and trends along with her own observations.
I spent the weekend here in Seattle for the purpose of running the local marathon, which I successfully completed this afternoon! Due to Seattle’s large Japanese-American population and their great influence, on previous visits I have taken advantage of cultural offerings such as the Uwajimaya shopping center (similar to our Mitsuwa), but I was excited to discover a new Japan-related restaurant this time around. I was pretty ravenous after running and craving something substantial, so on the way to the airport I found myself at Katsu Burger. It is in an area surrounded by several fast-food teriyaki joints, but not much else. However, once stepping into the shop you are greeted by a wide variety of Japanese memorabilia, as well as a map adorned with push pins indicating where customers have visited from. As you would expect of Chikyu no Arukikata bearing Japanese tourists, Japan was full from Hokkaido to Okinawa!
Katsu Burger bills itself as serving “Japanese-style burgers and beyond,” and all items Read More
After visiting Tokyo Skytree during my two-day trip to Tokyo I worked my way down to the new train station to work my way back into town. Many people had suggested the Asakusa area so I got off at the Asakusa station, just a few stops from the tower. I didn’t have any specific plans or maps but I quickly found my way to a highly populated area before the Senso Temple grounds.
Between the Kaminari (lightning) Gate and the Hozo Gate is a long street sided by stalls of small shops offering a wide variety of gifts and souvenirs. From the small train station I arrived at I ended up in the middle of the street. Despite the lack of special events there were tons of tourists and other visitors packing the small way. The reason for this oldest temple in Tokyo’s popularity was clear when the Hozo Gate and the main hall came into view just beyond.
The temple’s grounds are large and expansive, offering the traditional views most Buddhist temples offer, but with a variety of interesting things that make a visit there unique. Unfortunately, while I was visiting the skies were overcast, but I managed to snap a few photos while wandering the grounds. Before going I did no research or planning which made the exploration a bit more fun, even though I was quite tired after an entire day walking Tokyo.
One of the most interesting views was from just beyond Hozo Gate. There, you can glimpse Tokyo Skytree paired with the giant fiber sandals attached to the back of the gate. I found it an interesting mix of new and old. I definitely think a trip to Senso-ji is worth the time if you’re visiting Tokyo.
For more pictures from the trip visit MoreThingsJapanese.com
Updated with media coverage of the visit.
Boston and New York had the honor of hosting Kumamon’s North American debut last week! Who is Kumamon you may ask? The rosy-cheeked, sack-shaped bear is the official mascot of Kumamoto Prefecture in Kyushu. Voted the top “Yuru-kyara” (cuddly mascot character) in Japan, he has taken Japan by storm and sold more than $300 million worth of merchandise in 2012 alone.
Kumamon’s remarkable success in promoting his rural prefecture across Japan–there is even an exclusive “Kumamon Goods” store in Tokyo’s upscale Ginza neighborhood–is being studied in government offices and marketing departments across Japan. In fact, no less than the Wall Street Journal has published no fewer than three articles about the phenomenon.
If you’d like to learn more about Kumamon, including what he does every day, I recommend checking him out online:
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/kumamotodiary.en
Home page: http://kumamon-official.jp/
Kumamon accompanied Kumamoto Governor Kabashima during his visit to Boston on Novermber 12-13, which included giving a lecture at Harvard on “The Political Economy of Kumamon: A New Frontier in Japan’s Public Administration.”
Kumamon spent time with the Boston Red Sox’s mascot, Wally the Green Monster, for what was surely an important, high-level diplomatic meeting. The full itinerary of their Boston visit can be found here, here, and here. Media coverage of their visit includes:
The lovable bear and Governor Kabashima made their way down to New York on November 14, where they paid back the compliment with a visit the Wall Street Journal. Later they visited the Consul General’s residence, as part of a special reception to promote Kyushu. JET alumni from the New York Chapter of JETAA representing all of the prefectures of Kyushu were invited to the reception. In addition to presentations on Kyushu travel, tourism and shochu, Governor Kabashima introduced Kumamon. Guests dined on Kumamoto oysters and “ekiben” prepared by the chef from Hataka Tonton, and sipped shochu from the region. Kumamon and Governor Kabashima’s full New York itinerary can be found here. Media coverage of their visit includes:
Photos of JET alumni at Kyushu Promotion event at Consul General’s residence
Governor Kabashima is an interesting person. He was an “at-risk” student who grew up poor in Kumamoto. Against all odds, through hard work and dedication he ended up earning a PhD from Harvard and becoming a political science professor at University of Tokyo. His launch of the Kumamon public relations campaign is one of the great local promotion success stories of recent times.
Kabashima has also gotten a lot done in Kumamoto, including making some real headway in repairing Kumamoto’s troubled finances (he started by cutting his own salary), trying to resolve remaining issues related to Minamata disease, and blocking Tokyo’s plans to build a huge dam in the prefecture. A very good article about his life can be found here in the Asahi newspaper. The governor introduces himself and his views in two videos, here and here.
From the start, Kumamoto Prefecture and local communities have been dedicated supporters of the JET Program. Year after year, the prefecture has been near the top of the list in hosting the most JETs, hosting around 100 this year. I myself was a Kumamoto JET. I grew to love the prefecture while I lived there, and now consider it to be my “second home.”
I encourage everyone to take some time to visit Kumamoto while traveling in Japan. The prefecture boasts some of the best onsen hot springs in the country. Aso-Kuju National Park is one of the natural wonders of the world, with its giant ancient crater that is so large that an entire volcano and six towns exist inside of it (I lived in one of them!). Kumamoto Castle is one of the three finest castles in Japan. Beautiful parks and gardens, beaches and mountains, history and culture, Kumamoto has it all!
If you are a JET alum from Kumamoto, I encourage you to join the LinkedIn Group for Kumamoto JET alumni here. In fact, I encourage all alumni to join their prefecture’s LinkedIn Group. You can find yours here. It’s a great way to stay connected with other alumni from your prefecture.
I’m glad JET alumni had a chance to welcome Governor Kabashima and Kumamon to the U.S. Congratulations on the great success of their first U.S. tour together!
Saw the link for this posted by Eden Law to the JETAA Oceania Facebook group. Here’s a sample post:
“This blog Fukushima Live collects stories from people living in Fukushima Prefecture”
Hi everyone, my name is William. I’m one of the new CIRs here in Fukushima Prefecture, and am taking over for Lachie Tranter in the International Affairs Division. Lachie has kindly allowed me to continue his Fukushima Live blog. I hope to be able to continue to share with you all life in Fukushima, the challenges people here are facing, and many of the wonderful attractions the prefecture has to offer.
Recently I had the opportunity to travel around the Aizu Region here in Fukushima Prefecture. Aizu, the westernmost region of the three regions in Fukushima, is known for its rich history and sake-brewing industry.
The highlight of the trip was visting Ōuchi-juku. Located in the mountains of Minami-Aizu, Ōuchi-juku was a post town during Japan’s Edo period (1603 – 1868). It is famous for the traditional thatched buildings that line its main street, allowing visitors to experience the atmosphere of the Edo period here in modern day Japan.
Yes. This past week on Kume Island, children were sent screaming as a single wild lion went rampaging through a peaceful neighborhood. Well, it was mostly peaceful. Since it was the full moon and August 15th of the Kyureki calendar, there were also a bunch of people around banging gongs and playing music. There were also some creepy Hacaburo running around egging the lion on. Warned in advance that something might be going on, I showed up with some local friends just after sunset with my camera ready. What I saw shocked me, and soon my former students were running for cover… behind me.
By the end of the night no less than 5 children had been bitten. When asked, parents responded that they were overjoyed. One parent, while holding a screaming infant, smiled widely and talked about how smart he would be while neglecting to stop the lion from continuing its rampage.
For more on this story, visit MoreThingsJapanese.com for pictures and video.
The Ha-ri- races are a yearly event on Kume Island. This year they took place on June 12 at three locations around the island. This year I stuck to the Maja area where locals and students gathered together for a day of races and fun in the water.
While the races are the primary attraction, there is also generally a ball-toss game for the nursery school children and a tug-of-war. There are numerous races from both locals and school participants. At the Maja area, students from the local Nakazato Junior High, Misaki and Nakazato elementary schools, and students from Kumeshima High School all joined together in mixed and separate races.
This year I broke out my gopro to give you a closer look at participating in the Ha-ri- races. Thanks to a few friends and students who wore the camera along the way. Of course with plenty of water a few bucket wars broke out among the high school students, and not all of the boats made it back without a little extra water. Check out the video and pictures below, then come join us next year for this great event.
For more photos and video from this special event visit MoreThingsJapanese.com
Let’s Talk Japan is a monthly, interview format podcast covering a wide range of Japan-related topics. Host Nick Harling (Mie-ken, 2001-03) lived in Japan from 2001 until 2005, including two great years as a JET Program participant in Mie-Ken. He practices law in Washington, D.C., and lives with his wife who patiently listens to him talk about Japan . . . a lot.
In this episode, Nick speaks with JET Program alumni Chelsea Reidy and Elayna Snyder about their upcoming 900-mile bicycle tour of Shikoku’s famous 88 temple pilgrimage.
Listen to hear them describe their creative “Temple by Temple Project,” which they are funding through Kickstarter, and how they plan to share their adventure with others.
Maryland-based Ehime-ken JET alums Elayna Snider and Chelsea Reidy have put together an illustrated book of their “88 temple pilgrimage” by bicycle in Shikoku. They now have a Kickstarter page to help them raise funds to publish it and a wonderful video that explains what this is all about. Definitely worth a look. It’s hard to do justice in my own words, so click the link and watch and read for yourself:
Excerpts from the Kickstarter site:
There are 88 temples on Japan’s 88 temple pilgrimage. With two bicycles, a tent, notebooks and pens, plus a Rolleiflex, we will go to all of them. While we travel the 900-mile route, we’ll be collecting the materials needed to make 88 hand-bound versions of our illustrated book, Temple by Temple.
Elayna does the art, Chelsea does the words. A children’s book? It can be. A coffee table book? Sure. A book you have around and pick up from time to time? Yes! The idea and project did not come from any prescribed place of “Let’s make a kids book.” We are two people with varying ideas and skills and we combined them to make a book that describes the route, the temples, and this 1,200 year old pilgrimage which draws people of all different faiths and from all over the world.
Since the end of the rainy season early this year, the weather on Kume Island has been full of clear sunny days. While it makes for great sight-seeing and beach-going, it has been a hard year for farmers, with little or no rain to sustain critical crops. For the first time in 15 years, the island locals returned to their roots, asking for the help of the Chinbei, the name of the high priestess from the old Ryukyu Kingdom to come and pray for rain.
This rare ceremony began early on August 11th. The Chinbei and other priestesses (noro) met at Chinbei Dunchi on Kume Island. There, a sacred rock was encircled by rope to signify the presence of a kami. After offerings of rice, fruit, and sake, the noro poured water onto the rock while the Chinbei and other local representatives prayed. The Chinbei poured sake from a small cup, repeating the process until she felt the kami was satisfied.
Afterward, all the attendees were asked to participate in a tug-o-war competition outside the grounds. In addition to the physical offerings of sake, rice, and fruit, the offering of effort and strength signified by the competition was in offering to local kami. While competing, locals were sprayed and doused with water, and afterward danced in the simulated rain.
From Chinbei Dunchi, the priestesses and local leaders made offerings at two other shrines in the area. These shrines date back hundreds of years. One was a natural rock formation where a kami is thought to reside. The other was hidden away near the airport grounds where a concrete structure enclosed the sacred home of another kami. At both sites, offerings of rice, sake, fruit and prayers were put forth.
Immediately after the prayers ended, it began to rain. A tornado was even spotted, though it did not touch down. The farmers and local representatives happily returned to Chinebei-dun, the parched ground sated with the first short downpour in a very long time.
For more photos from this special event visit MoreThingsJapanese.com
Thanks to JET alum and JTC Denver Branch Manager Matthew Eccles for sharing this posting. Posted by Kim ‘Kay’ Monroe (Miyazaki-shi, 1995 -97). Click here to join the JETwit Jobs Google Group and receive job listings even sooner by email.
Position: Japan travel consultants
Posted by: InsideJapan Tours
Location: Boulder, CO
Start Date: N/A
InsideJapan Tours is a dynamic travel company. Formed in the UK, we also have an office in Japan and in 2010 opened our first US Branch in Boulder, Colorado. We now have a team of four, and are looking for a new travel consultant to help us grow onward and upward.
This position presents the perfect opportunity for a former JET to begin a career in the travel industry and use their knowledge and love of Japan. Boulder and the surrounding area is a fantastic place in which to live and work, and the Pearl Street location couldn’t be better!
For more information about the company, role, great benefits and to apply, please see our website:
As a JET, I keep track of my friends from my Japan days on Facebook. I started seeing posts by my fellow JETs for this cool e-book about crafting in Tokyo. Imagine my surprise when I realized that one of the authors, Angela Salisbury, was an old friend from high school!
I reached out to her to find out more about the book, crafting in Japan, and the JET crafting scene….
Rose: So, how long have you lived in Japan?
Angela: 3 years
Rose: Why did you move to Japan?
Angela: Adventure! The real answer? My husband’s job needed him in Asia, and we decided Tokyo was the place for us.
Rose: Is there an expat crafting scene in Tokyo? If so, can you tell me a little bit about it? Read More
WIT Life is a periodic series written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03). She starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some of the interesting tidbits and trends together with her own observations.
My current work brings me to Cincinnati, Ohio for the first time, so of course I sought out what Japanese connections exist. During my morning run along the Ohio River, I passed through the waterfront Theodore M. Berry International Friendship Park. Its entrance is marked by a colorful sculpture announcing the name of the park in various languages, but unfortunately the Japanese one reads ｢フレンドシッ」, missing its final プ.
It’s divided into different sections for each region of the world, so while there is not one for Japan itself, there is one for all of Asia. In this area, the walkway is marked by 菊 (kiku or chrysanthemum) and what looks like various crests. From what I could see on the website, it seems like there are sakura that Read More
It’s no secret that Japanese food is popular outside of Japan. Not only is the food in-country highly rated, but there are Japanese restaurants all over the world. A lot of people wonder, why is Japanese food so good? It’s a complex answer. Many will tell you it’s umami, others the care and thought put into food, and yet more that it’s the simplicity of the dishes that highlights natural flavors.
I’m not a food expert, but I think it’s a bit of all the above.
When I lived in the States, I never ate fish. Maybe it was because I lived in the desert and all we got were frozen or river fish. Whatever the reason, I’ve had an aversion to most fish since I was young. Then, 5 years ago, I got dropped on a little island in the Pacific, their second industry being fishing. Their food was fresh, delicious, and amazing.
A week ago I had a shrimp that was still moving a bit. And IT WAS SO GOOD. My family will tell you what large strides my palate has taken over the last five years. So why was that prawn tail I had so much better than any other shrimp I’ve ever had? How did a bit of still moving shrimp overcome 23 years of stubborn dislike?
Simplicity. The shrimp was peeled, and served with a bit of soy sauce. There were no other flavors to get in the way, no cross-contamination from sauce pans, pasta, or other fish.
Umami. The briny flavor combined with the bite of soy and the sweetness of the meat meant create that unique sixth taste that everyone raves about. It’s a balance easily lost when the simplicity is left out.
Quality. Kume Island is known for miso cookies, sugar cane, and white sand beaches, but it’s also home to many kuruma prawn farms. Kuruma Prawns are similar to tiger shrimp, but a slightly different species. They’re the kind of shrimp Jiro’s restaurant used in the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi.
So what makes Kume Island’s shrimp so good? Checkout the video below then head over to Kumeguide.com to learn more about Kume Island Prawns.
**Please note: At least 3 shrimp were harmed in the filming of the video and writing of this post. They were delicious.**
Kinjo Town surrounds the Shuri Castle area in Okinawa. While Shuri is impressive in its own right, there is much to see outside the Castle grounds. During this past Golden Week, I took a trip to the Okinawan Mainland, and a friend was kind enough to show me a few out-of-the-way spots. Through Kinjo Town runs the ‘Ishidatami’ or Rock Road, a walkway paved in history and adorned with interesting and beautiful flowers along the way. Follow along for a taste of Kinjo Town.
On the way to to our start, we passed one of Shuri Castle’s side gates. The area is full of steep roads and interesting places.
We also stopped at a nearby soba shop for lunch before beginning our walk. This Shisa is a traditional statue on Okinawan homes used to protect against evil spirits and bad luck.
The place we ate was very busy so we sat outside in an almost garden-like area where I found this purple flower.
For Lunch, I had soki soba, or noodles in broth topped with rib meat. It is another traditional Okinawan food.
Right at the start of our walk, we found these Hanging Heliconias. Conveniently there was a nearby sign that labeled the flowers along the route in English and Japanese.
This is the first of two springs we saw along the route. These were used for drinking and washing by the people of Kinjo Town. Spots like these were marked by small tiles with maps of the area.
These white and pink flowers were labeled as Sokei-Nozen, and hung above a wall.
The second spring was below the road level and had a pool in which crabs lived. In the second photo you can see where the water flows out at times.
About half-way along the path, right before a rather steep slope (or just after if you go the other way) there is a small rest house with tatami mats where you can take a load off.
Here’s a map of the area in Japanese with the various sites around Shuri marked. Check out part 2 for the walk north through the grounds along the rock road to the pond above Shuri. This article was originally posted on More Things Japanese.
Sanpo is Japanese for a ‘walk,’ and it’s a popular pastime here. From the bureaucratic samurai of the Tokugawa period who would wander among the cherry trees and write poetry, to modern office workers trying to keep fit, walking is still a much appreciated activity in Japan.
Japan is also a land with a rising elderly population. It has one of the longest life expectancies in the world. As communities and towns have ever older populations it is also becoming ever more important to promote fitness in populations that will strain public health services ever more if not kept healthy. One way municipalities can do this is by hosting events such at the one Kumejima Town hosts every January.
The 久米島のんびりウオーク or Kumejima’s Leisure Walk is a two-day yearly event, part of the larger Okinawa Marching league. Participants come from all over Japan. As a resident of Kume Island I attended this event first in 2011.
The first day offered 32km, 16km, and 5km courses and the second day offered 20km, 10km, and 5km courses. One participant was a 86-year-old who planned on completing the full 32km course!
Both days featured different courses through the island. Participants entered with a nominal fee, and were provided maps and completion certificates. Along the way stickers were awarded at checkpoints, and food stations were set up where walkers could rest and eat.
I did the 16km walk on the first day of the event. Walkers stretched together and announcements were made. As with many events there was an MC tapped for the event who extolled everyone to do a good job. The 32km group did the same about half an hour before, so everyone in the 16km group set off together.
Each group set off to the sound of a taiko drum performance. All along the way were supportive Japanese Flags with messages urging the participants on. These helped guide the walkers through the more remote areas. There were also tea and water stations along the way, with great views and interesting conversations.
One lady I talked to came all the way from Yokohama to participate. She said it was a great way to see more of Japan, while keeping in shape. She talked to me because her children live in the states and wanted to know why I was there. ^_^ All in all, it was a great morning/afternoon spent among Kumejima’s beautiful walkways. Do you want to visit new places and keep in shape? Let’s Walking!