Aug 22

JQ Magazine: Book Review — ‘Japan 365: A Drawing-A-Day Project’

"Using nothing more than the simplest tools at hand to capture the moment, the artist establishes a tangible reality that lends an urgency and authenticity to the work that would not be possible in a more polished and composed form." (J Muzacz)

“Using nothing more than the simplest tools at hand to capture the moment, the artist establishes a tangible reality that lends an urgency and authenticity to the work that would not be possible in a more polished and composed form.” (J Muzacz)

By Rafael Villadiego (Nagasaki-ken, 2010-13) for JQ magazine. A member of JETAA New South Wales, Rafael is a collector of words on a journey still searching for a destination, who has a tendency to forget, we are all sometimes like the rain…

“If you attach a reason to an adventure, it ceases to be one.” –Uemura Naomi, noted Japanese mountain climber and adventurer.

「冒険に理由をつけると、冒険でなくなってしまう。」植村直己

There is something timeless and romantic about the idea of the wandering artist. Drifting aimlessly down untrodden roads and stumbling across hidden paths. Going wherever the wind might take them and all the while sketching random scenes from daily life, in all its raw and unfettered glory.

Japan 365: A Drawing-A-Day Project by current Melbourne resident J Muzacz (Kyoto-fu, 2010-12) is a drawing-a-day project that sets out to capture this sense of artistic wonder, in a fitting meditation on contemporary Japan. A black-and-white reproduction of sketches produced with nothing more than a simple ballpoint pen and notebook, the project sets aside all pretension and gaudy artifice and pares everything down to its barest essentials and fundamental simplicity. It is especially gratifying to see some pieces scribbled on the back of old pieces of paper or second-hand timetables. Using nothing more than the simplest tools at hand to capture the moment, the artist establishes a tangible reality that lends an urgency and authenticity to the work that would not be possible in a more polished and composed form.

While by no means an artist myself, there is something to be said about living the dream: An errant dreamer recording the world as they see it unfold. However, such whimsical fancy fails to fully appreciate the hard work and dedication inherent to such an undertaking. Consciously choosing to actively produce a completed work of art, every single day, for a solid year, is no mean feat. Having it ultimately culminate into such a hefty tome worthy of sitting comfortably on any coffee table or bookshelf, and feeling the solid weight of it all in your hands, is nothing short of remarkable. Artist/writer Muzacz and his supporters must be heartily commended for seeing it to fruition.

Read More


Aug 22

【Exploring Unfamiliar Japan】We stayed in a 120-year-old Japanese home, here’s how you can too

Michelle Lynn Dinh (Shimane-ken, Chibu-mura, 2010–13) is an editor and writer for RocketNews24, a Japan-based site dedicated to bringing fun and quirky news from Asia to English speaking audiences.

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When European writer, Lafcadio Hearn, wrote about Shimane prefecture in 1894, he described a land steeped in tradition and nature. Since then, all of Japan seems to have ignored this sleepy area of the Chugoku region whose most recent claim to fame is having the country’s largest population of the elderly. But if Shimane prefecture is stuck in the olden days, the Oki Islands are lost in time. Lazily floating out at sea in what is technically Shimane, but is actually an entire world of its own, Oki is a forgotten gem tucked in a dusty corner of Japan. Rambling down the overgrown back roads, you’re sure to come across a wrinkled face and a hearty “konnichiwa,” a small experience that seems to have become a rarity in the always busy metropolises of this country.

It is in this uncommon place that we had the privilege of staying in a home that has stood for over a century. Join us as we share our experience staying at the Japanese guesthouse called Tsukudaya.

Join us on our island adventure here.


Mar 22

JQ Magazine: Book Review – ‘Cool Japan: A Guide to Tokyo, Kyoto, Tohoku and Japanese Culture Past and Present’

"Cool Japan focuses on giving an inside look into the enduring and captivating qualities of Japan’s culture and history and how it can be discovered by visiting Kyoto, Tokyo, and the Tohoku region." (Museyon Guides)

Cool Japan focuses on giving an inside look into the enduring and captivating qualities of Japan’s culture and history and how it can be discovered by visiting Kyoto, Tokyo, and the Tohoku region.” (Museyon Guides)

 

By Julio Perez Jr. (Kyoto-shi, 2011-13) for JQ magazine. A bibliophile, writer, translator, and graduate from Columbia University, Julio is currently working at Ishikawa Prefecture’s New York office while seeking opportunities with publications in New York. Follow his enthusiasm for Japan, literature, and board gaming on his blog http://brittlejules.wordpress.com and Twitter @brittlejules.

When was the last time you picked up a non-fiction book and felt like you were escaping to a faraway land? Cool Japan (Museyon Guides) is the special kind of guidebook that does just that.

The author, Sumiko Kajiyama, is a journalist and scriptwriter residing in Japan. Her other books include Ghibli Magic, The Man who Changed Animation Business, The Way of Work by Top Producers, and Important Things to Enjoy Your Work and Life.

In any bookstore you will find Frommer’s, Lonely Planet, and Fodor’s travel guidebooks. You may own a few already from trips you have taken in the past. While these guides are meticulously researched and written to suit a traveler’s needs, there is an inherent problem that they all have in common: over a relatively short amount of time, prices for services or goods can change, hostels can move or go out of business, and new ones can pop up in yet undiscovered places. For these reasons, and many that need not be mentioned, the Internet has become an invaluable tool for anyone planning a trip. Many digital communities of travelers have evolved for the exchange of current information. Furthermore, smartphones allow today’s travelers to access all of this information on the go.

So you may be wondering, why buy a guidebook at all? There are many reasons to buy the ones listed above, despite the weakness of having an ever-decaying reliability of information. Cool Japan is a special because it does not squander space listing information that may no longer be relevant by the time it gets into your hands, but instead Cool Japan focuses on giving an inside look into the enduring and captivating qualities of Japan’s culture and history and how it can be discovered by visiting Kyoto, Tokyo, and the Tohoku region.

Read More


Jan 29

2014 Sakura Season Kicks Off

Posted by Benjamin Martin, a JET from 2008-2013 in Okinawa, publisher of the blog MoreThingsJapanese.com and author of Revenge of the Akuma Clan
(Tuttle).

IMG_0952_1 Down in Okinawa the weather has been rather warm this year. This means that along the way we’ve had some great opportunities to view this year’s cherry blossoms as they begin to bloom from southern Okinawa and work their way north. On Kume Island, there are two great spots to see sakura throughout January. During the season’s peak we get lots of bees and mejiro coming to visit the sakura, not to mention tourists.

One of the biggest events surrounding the sakura  is the Sakura Festival. Though there are many throughout Japan, Kumejima’s is one of the first in Japan. Visit morethingsjapanese.com for more pictures from the Sakura Festival and for more cherry blossoms!


Dec 2

WIT Life #256: Seattle’s Katsu Burger!

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.20131201_163926

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


Nov 24

Senso-ji in Tokyo

Posted by Benjamin Martin, a JET from 2008-2013 in Okinawa, publisher of the blog MoreThingsJapanese.com and author of Revenge of the Akuma Clan
(Tuttle).

SensoTemple-12After 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.

SensoTemple-2Between 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.

SensoTemple-11The 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


Nov 11
JET alumni from JETAANY meet Kumamon and Governor Kabashima at the Consul General's residence

JET alumni from JETAANY meet Kumamon and Governor Kabashima at the Consul General’s residence

By Mark Frey (Kumamoto, 2002-2006), mark.frey@jetaanc.org

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 herehere, and here. Media coverage of their visit includes:

Japan Time article

Wall Street Journal article

Photos on Boston.com

FNN news video

Kumamon at Harvard video

Kumamon meets Boston Red Sox's Wally the Green Monster at Fenway Park

Kumamon meets Boston Red Sox’s Wally the Green Monster at Fenway Park

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

FNN news video

NHK video and article

Kumamon dancing at Consul General’s residence video

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.”

Aso-Kuju National Park, Kumamoto

Aso-Kuju National Park, Kumamoto

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!

To explore Kumamoto further, click here. The prefecture also has a great Facebook page here.

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!


Oct 2

CIR continues Fukushima Live blog: Stories from people living in Fukushima prefecture

FukushimaAizuSaw the link for this posted by Eden Law to the JETAA Oceania Facebook group.  Here’s a sample post:

Fukushima Live Blog

http://fukushimalive.blogspot.jp

“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.


Sep 25

Posted by Benjamin Martin, a JET from 2008-2013 in Okinawa, publisher of the blog MoreThingsJapanese.com and author of the award-winning YA fantasy series Samurai Awakening (Tuttle).

IMG_0710Yes. 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.


Sep 11

Posted by Benjamin Martin, a JET from 2008-2013 in Okinawa, publisher of the blog MoreThingsJapanese.com and author of the award-winning YA fantasy series Samurai Awakening (Tuttle).

IMG_8043The 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.

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IMG_8525This 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


Aug 26

 

 

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.

To learn more, check out their website, www.bigricefield.comand the Temple by Temple Project on Kickstarter

Enjoy!

Nick

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Aug 18

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:

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1042996508/temple-by-temple  

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.

 


Aug 15

Posted by Benjamin Martin, a JET from 2008-2013 in Okinawa, publisher of the blog MoreThingsJapanese.com and author of the award-winning YA fantasy series Samurai Awakening (Tuttle).

IMG_6904Since 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.

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IMG_6708Afterward, 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.

IMG_6780From 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.

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IMG_6874Immediately 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


Aug 10

Job: Travel Consultant with InsideJapan Tours (CO)

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
Type: Full-time
Location: Boulder, CO
Salary: N/A
Start Date: N/A

Overview:
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:
http://insidejapantours.org/Jobs/TCJob_details.html


Jul 26

Books: An English Language Guide to Crafting in Tokyo

TCG_cover_1000x1414Interview by Rose Symotiuk (Hokkaido 2003-2005) with Angela Salisbury, author of the Tokyo Craft Guide:

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


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