May 8

Posted by Benjamin Martin, a 5th year JET on Kume Island in Okinawa, publisher of the blog and author of the award-winning YA fantasy series Samurai Awakening (Tuttle).

Your first question is probably a lot like mine when I got my placement in Kitadaito. Where?

A lot of us on the JET programme end up in interesting locations that we’ve never heard of before. My first JET posting was on a small island, 320km east of the Okinawan mainland with a population of 550 people. I spent three years on Kitadaito and loved every(well pretty much) minute. A lot of what I learned there inspired my first two books Samurai Awakening and Revenge of the Akuma Clan. During my time on the island, I made a video for an event on the mainland.

The video was my first ever and I used school equipment which, combined with my limited experience produced a so-so video. I went back with a bit more practice and re-did the video, upgrading the quality where I could and adding new material from a visit last year. I hope you enjoy this digital look at Kitadaito Island.


Apr 29

JET alum’s “Man of Steel” passion project

An interesting passion project produced by videographer Patrick Lee (Nagasaki-ken, 2010-2012). More of his videos can be seen on his Youtube Channel. He can be contacted through Facebook and Twitter.

Here’s a little background from the WILL & TALE site:

Like many fans, we’ve been anxiously awaiting the release of Man Of Steel since it was announced a few years ago. Taking inspiration from diehard fans who created unofficial title sequences for films such as Adventures of Tintin and X-Men: First Class, we wanted to see how far we could go with this same idea. The result is a passion project – the culmination of many long nights and weekends over the past three months.

The story we developed is a take on our favorite superhero, Superman. We created a narrative of news anchors and eyewitnesses highlighting major events throughout Clark Kent’s life. It was important to have Clark’s story told by the world and show how he has impacted the lives of others.

Nothing in the video has been pulled from a video game or other movie footage. We created all the 2D/3D animations, compositing, articles, voiceover recordings, and more.

Apr 11

Advanced Chahan Recipe

Posted by Benjamin Martin, a 5th year JET on Kume Island in Okinawa, publisher of the blog and author of the YA fantasy series Samurai Awakening (Tuttle).

ChahanBy far my most popular post on More Things Japanese is my easy recipe for Chahan.  This time around, I wanted to share a slightly more time-consuming, but even tastier recipe for those of you who love Chahan.  As with my advanced recipe for miso soup, it is all made from scratch, including the dashi. This take on Fried Rice is a mix of the local flavors I’ve learned on small Okinawan islands, and a bit of flair from me as well. I hope you enjoy.


  •  5 cups water
  • 1 piece conbu
  • 1 cup packed bonito flakes
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 onion
  • 170g sausage
  • 1 pack mushrooms
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 package nirai
  • 1 cob fresh corn
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped nira (a scallion-like leaf)
  • 5 eggs
  • 1tbsp sake
  • 6 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 2tbsp mustard
  • 2tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp pepper



For detailed directions visit

Mar 27

Wesley Julian (Miyagi-ken, 2008-10) is now in Japan with a small film crew making a video that will share the story of JET alums and others who have made and continue to make a difference in Tohoku, Japan.  Below is a video update from Wesley regarding his Tohoku Tomo project:

Tohoku Tomo Update from Philip Holbrook on Vimeo.

Mar 21

Himeji Castle – Reconstruction

Posted by Benjamin Martin, a 5th year JET on Kume Island in Okinawa, publisher of the blog and author of the YA fantasy series Samurai Awakening (Tuttle).

IMG_8576Himeji Castle in Hyogo Prefecture is hailed as the most fabulous of Japan’s many castles. It is definitely the largest. I had the opportunity to visit Himeji for a half-day at the start of March in 2013. Himeji Castle is a UNESCO World Hertiage site.


Over the past several years, the main keep of Himeji Castle has been covered by a giant scaffolding that is essentially a building that encircles the high roof. The internal structure has been reinforced to prevent earthquake damage, while the plaster and roofing tiles have been replaced or reworked for water and fire proofing.


The last major restoration of the castle was completed in 1964.  This new reconstruction is similar to the first. When I visited the restoration work was nearly complete. I had the opportunity to travel to the top of the scaffolding and view the roof from the outside, a view that will disappear in 2014 as the scaffolding is disassembled and the main keep re-opened.  Despite the construction work, I found the grounds beautiful and interesting.  Though the inner keep is not accessible, much of the rest of the grounds were, including the West Bailey.  It was a great way to spend a few hours strolling through the castle grounds and trying to snap a few photos.

IMG_8236Throughout the grounds there are multilingual plaques describing many aspects of the history and culture of the castle including its reconstruction and maintenance.  Many crests of past lords who reigned at the castle, many worked into the roofing tiles.  In the Egret’s Eye View, I was even able to observe a live demonstration of the tiling work.  I’ve always found Japanese style tile roofs to be interesting, so it was great to see how they and the walls were actually put together.


Himeji Castle is located in Hyo prefecture at 68 hon-machi, Himeji, Hyogo.  Hours of operation are 9 am to 4 pm (September through April) and 9 am to 5 pm (May to August).  Closed December 29 and 30.  The Egrets Eye closes a bit earlier.

For more pictures from Himeji Castle please checkout my post at

Mar 19

Video: JET alum Australian professionals on why they love Japan

Posted recently to the JETAA New South Wales Facebook group by Sharon Van Etten.  Sugoi, NSW!

Check out these interviews with former JETs on JAMS.TV from the recent Shaberanaito event:

Japan For Me 01:  The Tohoku Region:
Japan For Me 02:  Sendai to Kagoshima:
Japan For Me 03:  Powder Snow and Onsen:

Thanks to everyone who participated.


Feb 21

JapanLocal: Japanese city mascots dance to “Call Me Maybe”

Hey, I just met you and…. this is crazy…. but here’s a video of Japanese city mascots dancing to “Call Me Maybe” ….. and I was wondering if any JETs were involved in making this video or if there are any JETs and JET alums who work(ed) in the cities that appear in the video.

Feb 5

2013 Sakura Festival in Kumejima

Posted by Benjamin Martin, a 5th year JET on Kume Island in Okinawa, publisher of the blog and author of the YA fantasy series Samurai Awakening (Tuttle).

IMG_2073January 26th marked the beginning of the 2013 Kumejima Sakura Festival.  Sakura (Cherry Blossoms) are an important symbol marking the change of seasons in Japan.  As the weather begins to warm, cherry trees sprout beautiful flowers in a range of colors from white to red.   Since Okinawa is so far south, cherry blossoms begin to arrive in January.  They work their way north through April.  During this time, people flock to areas with cherry trees to picnic, drive, and see the beautiful flowers and wildlife.You might have noticed the new header, a compilation of 3 shots taken of a Mejiro (Japanese white-eye) in cherry trees I caught the Friday before the festival along the Ara Forest path.

The Festival


As part of the sakura season, many locals often have festivals to support tourism, create entertainment for locals, and to simply celebrate the beautiful surroundings.  This year the Kumejima Sakura Festival took place on January 26th, a day of sun and generally great weather (I got sunburned in January.  It was also a little windy.)

IMG_1869On Kume Island, the festival takes place at Daruma Mountain Park in the western/central part of the island.  The festival was set up in a clearing surrounded by cherry trees.  After an opening ceremony, new cherry trees were planted for the future.  Arrayed around the clearing were many tents with local restaurants serving specialty foods.  This year, the restaurants competed in a competition to see which one had brought the most popular item.

There were several live performances from local groups including Nankuru Sanshin and the “Super Bridal Band,” as well as karate demonstrations and other entertainment.  The band I play with (Super Bridal Band started up a few years ago to play at my boss’s wedding, I joined a bit after moving here) just after the opening ceremony.   There’s a compilation video below of our set.


IMG_1903After we finished our set, I quickly jumped over to the 89.7 FM Kumejima radio booth to do my weekly Haisai English! show live from the event.  It was a lot of fun despite a few technical snafus from going on location.

For more on Sakura and this year’s Festival, visit

Jan 31

How Miso is Made – A Visit to a Local Factory

Posted by Benjamin Martin, a 5th year JET on Kume Island in Okinawa, publisher of the blog and author of the YA fantasy series Samurai Awakening (Tuttle).

MisoBeans Ever wonder what miso is?  If you’ve been to Japan or eaten at a Japanese restaurant, you’ve likely had or at least seen miso.  I remember my first time having miso soup.  I was in college trying out a little Japanese restaurant that had popped up just outside the UofA.  I was pretty green as far as Japanese food went so I ordered teriyaki chicken (I’m sure the chef was thinking all kinds of bad things about me).  Before the meal, a bowl of soup appeared.  It was a clear broth with some kind of brown particles floating in it.  I tried the soup, but the flavor was so different from anything I had eaten before.  I didn’t really enjoy it, but then it quickly grew on me.  Now, I look forward to miso, be it in my soup, as a glaze for fish, or in the middle of a rice ball.

I’ve studied Japan for a long time, and I’ve always translated miso as ‘fermented soy bean paste.’  Just like soy sauce, miso is made from soy, but it is only part of the story.  A few weeks ago, my island had its sangyo matsuri where I was able to meet one of the people who make miso here (Kumejima‘s miso is quite popular).  I was interested in the process so I wrangled a visit to the factory.

One of the first things I found out is that they don’t make miso all the time.  Traditionally, miso was something made at home.  Each family would make their own miso for their own use.  As with so many things, the miso making skills are fading with the convenience of store-bought foods.  Still, there are a few places that still do local miso.  Since it is a fermented product, the temperature is an important factor, thus miso can only be made in moderate seasons.  If it gets too cold, or too hot, the fermentation wont go on as well.

The process also takes more than three months.  At the small local factories, they make large batches two or three times a year as needed.  The rest of the time, they focus on other projects or on creating new items.


For more about how miso is made, including pictures, a walk-through of the process, and great miso based recipes, visit

Jan 7

LifeAfterJET: JET alum makes Korean gay rights public service announcement video

Patrick Lee (also known as Pat Leezy, Nagasaki-ken, 2010-2012) specializes in videography. His videos can be seen on his Youtube Channel. He can be contacted through Facebook and Twitter.

Here’s another interesting video Patrick recently wrote/produced/directed/edited while in Seoul. It’s a gay rights public service announcement set in Seoul. He also had the video translated in 5 different languages (English, Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, French). Click the Closed Captioning “CC” button to choose the language on YouTube.

Dec 24

“Introduction to the JET Program” video created by JET alum Eliot Honda

Here’s the latest video project by Hawaii-based JET Eliot Honda (Ehime-ken, Uwajima-shi), who previously created four videos about his JET town of Uwajima-shi as well as a video titled “Sister City Ties“:

Eliot says: “I finally completed the JET Program Introduction video. (Revised, hopefully audio and graphics look better.)”

Published on Dec 23, 2012

An Introduction to the JET Program.The Japanese Government, CLAIR, nor The JET Program had any involvement in the creation of this video. All information displayed in this video came from the experience I had over my three years on JET, as well as speaking with other ALTs throughout Japan. Your experience may differ, because as they say:”Every situation is different.”

For official documentation on the JET Program please visit these sites:

Wallpaper by Kevin Macleod
Sunshine by Kevin Macleod

Nov 29

NHK TV feature on “Live Your Dream: The Taylor Anderson Story”

NHK TV (English edition) recently aired a feature story on the premier screening of “Live Your Dream:  The Taylor Anderson Story,” a documentary produced by filmmaker Regge Life.

Here’s the link to the video:

Nov 26

JapanLocal: Tottori JET Anthony Lieven’s latest Misasa video – November 2012

Tottori JET Anthony Lieven has been creating new videos each month as part of a project that introduces his JET town of Misasa to the world.  With Anthony’s permission, here is his latest video:


Misasa Monthly Video 08 (November 2012) – Mount Mitoku Sanbutsuji’s Fire Festival from Red T-Shirt Guy on Vimeo.

Oct 3
Posted by Benjamin Martin, a 5th year JET in Okinawa, publisher of the blog and author of the fantasy novel Samurai Awakening (Tuttle).

The 2012 Kitadaito Festival was a two-day event in September marking an important time of community inclusion and tradition. The second day of the Festival was on the 23rd and, as in years past, featured sumo competitions as a traditional Japanese offering to the kami and ancestors of the village. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out my post on day one. Below is a video showing excerpts from the day, with more information and photos farther down. Enjoy!

Traditional Okinawan Dance

Sumo Competitions

The second day began in the morning on Sunday around 9:00. Villagers gathered again before the Daito-gu shrine. There, a Shinto priest led a ceremony blessing both the sumo ground and the people. New babies were also brought before the shrine by their parents so that the adults could ask for safe and prosperous lives for their children.

Shinto Priest and Sumo ring

After the ceremonies were complete, the villagers settled in to watch Edo and Okinawan Sumo competitions. Although Kitadaito is in Okinawan Prefecture, it was originally settled by people from Hachijo Island, which means the traditions of the island are a unique mix of mainland Japan and Okinawa. At the Daitogusai festival, both types of sumo take place. Pre-school through junior high students take part in edo style sumo.

… Read the rest and see more photos on!.


Sep 25

Torii Gate at Kitadaito Shrine

Posted by Benjamin Martin, a 5th year JET in Okinawa, publisher of the blog and author of the fantasy novel Samurai Awakening (Tuttle).

Every year on September 22 and 23 Kitadaito Village celebrates its largest Festival.  These dates mark the beginning of autumn.  Kitadaito, also known as north Borodino island, is a place of 12sq kilometers 320 kilometers east of the Okinawan mainland.  It is unique in that it was settled by residents of Hachijo Island (near Tokyo) but is part of Okinawa Prefecture.  Over the past 100 years the island has become a unique chanpuru (mix) of both cultures.

After graduating from the University of Arizona, I spent three years living and teaching on Kitadaito, and returned this year after more than a year on Kumejima.  It was great to re-experience old memories and make new ones as the festival has changed since my time there.  Watch the accompanying video for a chance to experience a few bits from this truly unique day.


Read more about the Kitadaito Festival on Ben’s blog —

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