Jan 16

JET Alumnus to Give Encore Lecture on Student Loan Debt in NYC


Writer, researcher, and JET alumnus Matt Leichter (Saitama-ken ’03-’05) will give an encore performance of his lecture, “College Education: Certain Debt, Uncertain Income.” It will again be hosted by the Henry George School of Social Science in New York City. The event date is Wednesday, January 29, at 6:30 PM. The location is not the school’s normal address; instead it will be at:

NYC Seminar and Conference Center

71 West 23rd Street (corner of 6th Ave.)

New York, NY 10010

Here is the lecture’s abstract:

Soaring costs for education, together with limited job opportunities and stagnant wage growth, place substantial financial and psychological burdens on students.

Noted columnist and researcher Matt Leichter reviews tuition inflation, cuts in public funding and the business of lending to students. Mr. Leichter will also propose reforms to the system of financing college education.

Space is limited; please register to attend by emailing hgs.billy@gmail.com.

Feb 8

Gemma Vidal (Okayama-ken, 2010-12) is a recently returned JET seeking work in licensing/merchandising (if it’s within the publishing industry, even better!). You can usually find her in her little web spaces Gem in the Rough and Peachy Keen (about her JET adventures) or training with San Jose Taiko.  If you know of any authors/aspiring writers you’d like to see featured in JET Alum Author Beat, just contact Gemma at gem.vidal  [at] gmail.com.

Thanks to Michael Gervais (2000-03) for notifying The Author Beat!

The Author Beat would like to introduce R. Michael Burns (Saitama-ken, 2000-03) to the stable of JET alumni authors! Michael was an ALT in Fukaya, Saitama and worked for the American Language School in Moriya, Ibaraki for a year and a half after his time on JET. He is currently a high school English teacher in Florida where he sponsors a creative writing workshop and a Japanese Pop Culture Club.

"Hokage and Mountain" by Kayla Greenberg

“Hokage and Mountain” by Kayla Greenberg

Interested in mythical stories set in medieval Japan? Michael’s Hokage series — “Shadows from Firelight”, “Demon-Fang”, and the newly published “Shadows and Hellfire” are available at Heroic Fantasy Quarterly. The series follows Hokage, a samurai and his kitsune companion, Sasa. I read “Shadows from Firelight”, the first in the series and I enjoyed it a lot! Although it’s short, it’s packed with magic and action that made me want to read more. I’ll definitely be checking out the rest.

If horror is more up your alley (alas not for me), “The River Child” is one of the stories compiled in the anthology Horror Library III. The tale follows a schizophrenic homeless man who thinks a kappa is killing people around him. Another short story, “The Door, the Lock, the Key” was recently re-published in the anthology An Uncommon Collection. Windwalkers is Michael’s first full-length published novel and it is a horror tale set in a fictional town in Minnesota. Here’s a summary:

When a nightmarish blizzard drives college students Nick Bookman and Robin Kelley to take shelter in a small-town Minnesota church, they are forced to confront the intimate secret that is tearing their friendship apart. The appearance of another storm refugee, Alicia Morgan, an attractive high school senior and self-described witch, arouses Nick’s interest and threatens to strain the old friends’ relationship past the shattering point.

Then one of the men trapped in the church disappears in the deep of the night, and his young daughter stumbles in from the storm babbling about monsters. Only Alicia recognizes the creature from the child’s tale for what it must be — a wendigo, an ancient spirit that embodies the hunger for human flesh.

Soon there’s no doubt — the windwalkers are on the hunt again, and the refugees discover that they must fight not only the menace that haunts the storm, but their own darkest desires. If they cannot control their hungers, their hungers will consume them — and they shall become wendigoes themselves. Only the strongest hearts among the strange band of storm refugees have any hope of surviving the long blizzard night…

You can purchase the book on Amazon.

If you would like more information on Michael’s works, drop by his website www.rmichaelburns.com. Welcome to the Author Beat Michael!

Jan 20

Gemma Vidal (Okayama-ken, 2010-12) is a recently returned JET seeking work in product licensing and copyright (if it’s within the publishing industry, even better!). You can usually find her in her little web spaces Gem in the Rough and Peachy Keen (her JET adventures) or training with San Jose Taiko.  If you know of any authors/aspiring writers you’d like to see featured in JET Alum Author Beat, just contact Gemma at gem.vidal  [at] gmail.com.


  • It’s less than a month until Robert Weston’s (Nara-ken, 2002-04) release of his new book, Prince Puggly of the Spiff and the Kingdom of Spud, and to mark the countdown he posted some of the artwork for the book. Victor Rivas is also behind the illustrations of Robert’s previous book, Zorgamazoo. Speaking of Zorgamazoo, it seems like we might be seeing this on the big screen! By the producers of Shrek no less! Congratulations on the film option Robert!
  • What’s going on in the Japanese pop culture arena? Take a look at Roland Kelt’s (Osaka-shi, 1998-99) blog on his brief picture post on Japan’s Comiket, the mecca of all things self-published. Looking at his website made me realize that it was Hayao Miyazaki’s 72nd birthday this month. Shame on me, I know.
  • Ari Kaplan, JET Alumni and author of Reinventing Professional Professional Services: Building Your Business in the Digital Marketplace, recently had his book translated into Japanese, which is under the title ハスラー プロフェッショナルたちの革新 . The translated book can be found at the publisher’s website. Here is what Ari had to say about his book being translated:

    The publication of the Japanese edition offered me the opportunity to express my gratitude for the remarkable experience I had almost two decades ago. I dedicated this version to the Hyogo Prefectural Board of Education, Kobe Kohoku High School (where I taught), and the head of the English department at my school, among others.


Until next time JET alumni!









Dec 15

Gemma Vidal (Okayama-ken, 2010-12) is a recently returned JET seeking work in licensing/merchandising (if it’s within the publishing industry, even better!). You can usually find her in her little web spaces Gem in the Rough and Peachy Keen (her JET adventures) or training with San Jose Taiko.  If you know of any authors/aspiring writers you’d like to see featured in JET Alum Author Beat, just contact Gemma at gem.vidal  [at] gmail.com. She would also like to express her deepest condolences to the community of Newtown, Connecticut.

  • Roland Kelts (Osaka-shi, 1998-99), author of Japanamerica wrote a special article for The Japan Times where he interviewed Pete Townshend, guitarist of The Who and discussed UK/Japan post-WWII similarities and Mr. Townshend’s recent memoir, “Who I Am”. You can find the article here. Roland Kelts also posted an interesting article on the possible decline of the pop culture phenomenon “Japan Cool”. That article can be found here at The Christian Science Monitor.
  • If you’re looking for some light entertainment, Young Adult book Guardian of the Dead’s New Zealand author Karen Healey self-published a collection of essays titled Teen Movie Times. In this collection she muses on teen movie “classics” such as Bring it On and Clueless. Who knows, maybe one of these movies can be used in one of your lessons?


Nov 14

Gemma Vidal (Okayama-ken, 2010-12) is a recently returned JET seeking work in licensing/merchandising (if it’s within the publishing industry, even better!). You can usually find her in her little web spaces Gem in the Rough and Peachy Keen (her JET adventures) or training with San Jose Taiko.  If you know of any authors/aspiring writers you’d like to see featured in JET Alum Author Beat, just contact Gemma at gem.vidal  [at] gmail.com

  • Congratulations are in order to Will Ferguson (Nagasaki-ken, 1991-94), author of Hitching Rides With the Buddha (f/k/a The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Japan), who was awarded the esteemed 2012 Scotiabank Giller Prize for his novel 419. You can check out the announcement on the Scotiabank Giller Prize website and read more about his novel and other works on Will’s own website. Congratulations again, Will!
  • What better way to warm up from the cold weather than a cup of sake! If you’re a fan of sake and live in Japan, check out John Gauntner’s (author of The Sake Handbook) annual Sake Professional Course 2013. It is a 5-day educational course which includes classroom sessions and visiting sake breweries in the Osaka/Kyoto/Kobe area. For more information about the schedule and registration, please visit the SPCJapan website. You can also download a free version of Sake: The Least You Need To Know, a quick start guide to sake here
  • Suzanne Kamata (Tokushima-ken, 1998-90), author of Losing Kei and fiction editor of Literary Mama announced that her latest Young Adult novel, Gadget Girl: The Art of Being Invisible will be published by GemmaMedia (cool name) in May 2013!  Gadget Girl follows the life of 14-year old Aiko Cassidy and her dream to become a manga artist. The story won the SCBWI Magazine Merit Award in Fiction. You can check out the book on her website or through Amazon, Powells, and Indiebound.
Gadget Girl cover
  • Japanamerica’s Roland Kelts (Osaka-shi, 1998-99) will lead a presentation titled, “Japan’s New Anti-Piracy Law and the Online Media Debate” with media lawyer David B. Hoppe and music journalist Steve McClure on November 14th.
  • Attention NY residents! James Kennedy (Nara-ken, 2004-06), author of The Order of Odd-Fish is holding a signing on November 27th at the Pittsford Barnes & Noble in Rochester at 7PM and presenting new material on November 28th at Writers and Books (also in Rochester with a $5 fee). Details can be found on James’ website and this site for the November 28th event. Go and show your support!
  • Want a chance to win a free book written by one of our own? Benjamin Martin (Okinawa-ken, 2008-Present), publisher of the More Things Japanese blog is giving away two personalized copies of his new book, Samurai Awakenings  which was just released last month! The giveaway ends on November 30th, so go to Goodreads and sign up! You can read JETwit’s own brief interview with Benjamin about his book.

“In a universe torn by war, two governments vie for power: the elemental Kingdom and the telepathic Hierarchy. Hierarchy women with animal bonds think nothing of sacrificing their beasts’ lives to protect themselves. Except sixteen-year-old Renagada. The bond with her carrion-eater bird Acha is two-sided, and she knows his mind as much as he knows hers. When Rena overhears her parents plotting to kill Acha because of superstition, she must leave her fiancé and home of sheltered luxury to flee with Acha into the desert. Peril awaits them at every turn, and someone is tracking them…”

And that’s all for this round of the Author Beat!


Jul 8

JETAA Philadelphia Subchapter rep Rashaad Jorden recently wrote the following article for the Japan Tourist website (a great example of JETs helping to promote “local” tourism for Japan):

Kamo Aquarium in Tsuruoka:  More wonderful water fun in Yunohama

(Click link to the article to see photos:  http://japantourist.jp/view/kamo-aqarium)

In a part of Tsuruoka renown for onsen and Yamagata Prefecture’s most popular beach, it’s quite fitting there’s another place where water brings out more fun. Only here animals are stars of the show.

Once threatened with bankruptcy, Kamo Aquarium in Yunohama has grown to become one of the country’s most popular aquariums, welcoming more than 220,000 visitors in 2011 (according to a June 2012 article on the Japan Times’ website). A remarkable number considering only 90,000 people visited Kamo in 1997, sparking rumors of the aquarium’s demise.

Much of the credit for Kamo’s revival goes to one creature: the jellyfish. Read More

Oct 5


JET Alum Author Beat is a new feature by Ling Tran (Saga-ken, 2009-11) intended to keep readers informed of what various JET alum authors are up to.  Contact Ling at jetwit [at] jetwit.com if you’d like to see something included in upcoming posts. She is also interested in providing exposure for aspiring authors/writers among alumni and current JETs – excerpts and updates are all welcome. 

  • Sam Baldwin Ono (Fukui-ken, 2004-06) hails from the UK and made a life altering decision when he decided to move to Fukui-ken through the JET Program. The quiet facade of inaka Japan gradually revealed its colorful nature, eventually leading Sam to share stories and insights in For Fukui’s Sake: Two years in rural Japan. Whether for reference (newbie JETs, holla!), nostaliga, or reflection – ESID aside – this book is available electronically. If you want to be notified of its hard copy release, click here. Visit the website For Fukui’s Sake  for details. (Fukui t-shirts are also available for purchase.)
  • Cartoonist Lars Martinson (Fukuoka-ken, 2003-06) has been busily settling into his new home and  schedule in Kameoka, Kyoto. He managed to fit in a brief post after a short hiatus. Eager followers can see how he is doing here – more substantial updates to come!



Apr 28

SCBWI Tokyo Translation Day 2010: Bringing Japanese Children’s Books to the World

Author Suzanne Kamata (Tokushima-ken, 1988-90) who also serves as the Publicity Assistant for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, shared the following:

“A day of presentations, critiques, and conversation for published and pre-published translators of Japanese children’s literature (picture books through young adult) into English.”

Date: June 12, 2010 (Saturday)
Time: 8:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.
Place: Yokohama International School, 2F Pauli Bldg
Fee: Advance Registration 3,000 yen SCBWI and SWET members; 4,000 yen non-members. At the door 4,000 yen SCBWI and SWET members; 5,000 yen non-members. 
For details, see: www.scbwi.jp

– “Once upon a Picture Book Translation,” with Arthur Binard, translator and author
– “The Making of the Moribito Books, Young Adult Fantasy Novels in Translation,” with Cathy Hirano, translator, and Cheryl Klein, senior editor at Arthur A. Levine Books 
– “Paths to Publication of Japanese Children’s Books in English Translation,” with Binard, Hirano, Klein, and expert representatives from Japanese publishing: Akiko Beppu, Editorial Director, Kaisei-sha Publishing Company; Rei Uemura, Chief Editor of Children’s Books, Tokuma Shoten; and Yurika Yoshida, President and CEO of Japan Foreign Rights Centre.

Plus a workshop led by Cathy Hirano:
“Translation of Japanese Children’s Books in Three Age Categories” 

Advance registrations and translations of short texts for the workshop must be received by Saturday, May 15, 2010. To register and request workshop texts, send an email to info@scbwi.jp

This event will be in English. Complete event announcement online:

May 2

Eric Baker (Fukuoka-ken, 2006-08) will be writing the Baker’s Dozen column as he  approaches the end of a year of travel and reconnecting. He will discuss his thoughts and experiences as he transitions back to working in the States after two years on JET.

Like many folks, I discovered JetWit through a JET friend. Joining the Facebook group, I began exchanging messages with Steven, our prescient leader, who suggested I start writing a few posts about my life as I, too, join the increasingly anxious fray of those looking for work. michigan-hand-ma

You may wonder how it came to pass that I’m starting these posts now, in May. I’m either ahead of the game for an ’09 JET or way behind for the group who finished in the summer of ’08. As you may have guessed, I’m the latter–I took a scenic western route returning from Japan to round out 2008. This year I’ve balanced my time between reading and fitness binges at “home” in Detroit, and with a number of week or two-long stints on the road, reconnecting with my diaspora of American friends, seeing how they live.

So far I’ve found value through the ups and downs of my deliberately gradual reentry. But while my old friends are well on their varied roads to success, evidenced in their shapely Apple and Ikea products and the flatscreen TV pandemic (when did that happen?), I turn 25 tomorrow, am living with my parents, and am increasingly in need of that pension refund. I check my account most days for that deposit, and in the meantime my 0% American Express keeps me afloat. But with my Nokia prepaid phone, goodwill cutlery and non-HD compatible 27″ JVC, I’m clinging to the fringes of social acceptance.

In fits and starts, I’m making the inevitable transition to commence thinking about and searching for my next job. I’ve missed most grad school deadlines, so that is eliminated for now. But most everything else is up in the air. Like my friends, I’m happy to move since—my pride in the Great Lakes (五大湖, anyone?) and ability to use my right hand as a map of my state aside—finding work in Michigan isn’t realistic right now. And for better or worse, I sometimes feel more socially isolated being temporarily back “home” than I did in my inaka hamlet.  I’m becoming antsy to really Read More

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